Before going any further, I should start with a confession (I seem to do that with a lot of articles, I blame my anxiety). I was SUPER into Hearthstone. Hell, at one point in my speckled past I used to cast Hearthstone games. I never thought it was a game I’d enjoy, but something about the charm and polish put into the cards and tables and satisfaction felt when seeing your opponent explode into a thousand pieces just won me over. I dedicated a large part of 2017 to the game, unlocking many legendary cards and viable decks. But in 2018, something happened. A thick layer of dust was thrown over the polished exterior of Hearthstone, tarnishing the adoration I had previously felt.
See, in 2018 The Witchwood expansion launched and introduced the concept of Odd and Even decks, with two legendaries, Baku, The Mooneater and Genn Greymane, providing incredibly powerful decks if your deck had nothing but odd or even cards in them. Everyone, including myself, was very excited about this concept. It was an entirely new direction to take with deck building, entirely new concepts to play with, but that quickly changed. See, Baku and Genn kinda ruined the game for me. The meta became dominated by decks that were incredibly fast and difficult to play against and the whole game just became an exercise in frustration. So I dropped off it, sought new things to put my time into. I swore it off, saying I wouldn’t return.
So when I was told I’d be reviewing Rise of Shadows, I was initially cautious. This game I had banished from my life due to the anger it filled me with may finally be able to pull me back in. When it was announced that Baku and Genn were being removed from the current standard rotation and moving to wild, my caution grew to anticipation. Rise of Shadows isn’t just an expansion, it’s the start of a new Hearthstone year, meaning that all the great cards released in 2017 would be rotating out of standard too. This fundamentally changes the meta as new deck recipes are concocted and tested, no-one really sure of what’s gonna be Rank 1 material.
I am so pleased to say that Rise of Shadows has successfully yoinked me back into Hearthstone. The new cards introduced has breathed new life into what was very becoming a stagnant, repetitive experience. Not only have the oppressive decks like Odd Paladin and Odd Warrior seen a huge nerf, but entirely new decks are also starting to Rise out of the Shadows, and oh boy are they a fun experience.
My personal favourite at the moment has to be Murloc Shaman, an incredibly aggressive deck that sees the new Shaman card, Underbelly Angler, create an unprecedented amount of value, meaning that for the first time in a very long time, Shaman is a playable class. In fact, I would go so far as to say that nearly every class has a powerful deck at their disposal. From the crossed-fingers of Bomb Warrior, to the underhandedness of Thief Rogue and the speed of Token-Hand Druid, it seems like there’s something for everything.
Except Priest and Paladin. Despite both having very viable decks in previous expansions and Odd Paladin dominating the game for the better part of a year, the set rotations and the new cards have hit these two classes extremely hard. Priest is known for having one of the weaker Classic Sets and despite Silence Priest seeing some play, it just can’t hold up against the faster or more heavily control-based decks. Paladin on the other…well, I’m not gonna say it was intentional because that would be speculation, but I’d like to think that Blizzard was well aware of how Paladin had become and decided to bring the Doomhammer down on Uther. Heal Paladin and Secret Paladin have seen some amount of play, but again they just run out of juice far too quickly to ever contest the likes of Control Shaman or Minion Mage.
From the packs that Blizzard provided me, I’ve been able to make a Bomb Warrior, a Tempo Rogue, a Zoo Warlock and a Murloc Shaman and I’ve been having a blast with all of them. The community is abuzz with different discussions on how to optimise decks and which cards are “broken” that it feels like the excitement is back to where it was. It’s too early to tell with the Rise of Shadows will be as good if not better than the Journey to Un’goro expansion back in 2016 (the meta that many players consider to be one of the most enjoyable in Hearthstone’s 5 year lifespan) but in the past week, it’s certainly become fun again.
I don’t feel that horrible sense of frustration because I lost to a deck that is nigh unstoppable or because all of the classes I enjoy just don’t have the resources to play. It feels like this could be the beginning of a new chapter for Hearthstone, the light at the end of a dark tunnel, and I’m very excited to see how bright it can get.
Last Updated: April 15, 2019