The middle-child is often the problem. It’s a weird phenomenon that’s been observed in families all over the world: Out of three siblings, the one born in the middle seems to be the most troublesome of the bunch, often acting out in a bid to receive the respect given to the eldest or the leniency given to the youngest. And I know it’s a bit of a stretch to extend this familial metaphor onto Hearthstone but I’ve already boarded this roller-coaster and the bar’s been slammed shut so you might as well prepare yourself for the ride. With Blizzard’s promises to offer up three expansions to Hearthstone a year, the very often follow a similar routine.
The first expansion fundamentally changes the game as it happens when the old sets rotate out, dramatically shifting the meta and the last expansion usually offers up some of the year’s most consistently powerful cards as they’re often not in the rotation as long as sets released earlier. The middle expansion…well, it kinda just exists a lot of the time sometimes for better or worse, and that’s what Saviors of Uldum strikes me as.
The second expansion within a Hearthstone year usually serves as a massive power-spike to the game. Since no cards are rotating out, the existing decks only receive even more tools to achieve their win conditions while weaker classes get some new options but usually not enough to compete with those decks that are already Tier 1. Saviors of Uldum has seen the release of 135 new cards, the return of Quests (a favourite mechanic of mine), the re-introduction of the League of Explorers and Reborn, a new keyword that’s all about minions sticking to the board. We’ve had the expansion for just under a week at this point and it’s already pretty clear how this expansion is affecting the game. Reborn is a stupidly powerful ability, Quests are negligible at best and the League of Explorers? Better in memory than in practice.
Now, it’s difficult to try and review a Hearthstone meta while it’s still being established but I’m fairly confident that with the many hours I’ve plugged into the game and the many more I’ve spent researching the state of the game post expansion release, the surprises are few and far between. Control Warrior, which dominated the last meta is still the most successful deck thanks to it receiving some of the best cards in the expansion with Restless Mummy and Armagedillo providing an almost unprecedented amount of board presence in the mid to late game. It’s the return of Taunt Warrior, perhaps one of the most powerful decks in Hearthstone’s history and while it certainly doesn’t have the consistency of Quest Warrior, it still has enough removal to ensure those big boys stay around long enough to build a compelling.
It’s no surprise that Taunt Warrior has grown even more powerful considering one of the newer decks to come out of Saviours of Uldum, Murloc Paladin. As many were expecting, Tip the Scales has given Paladin an easy way to flood the board with synergistic minions and played in conjunction with Prismatic Lens provides an early game tempo swing that is almost unstoppable to all decks except Warrior and Mage, who at this point almost have a monopoly on effective board clears. Just as Aggo Paladin was seemingly a thing of the past, Uther storms back into the fight with a gang of murlocs at his heel just to remind everyone how frustrating it can be to die on turn six.
As for the Quests, well it doesn’t seem like they’re being used all that much. After the mixed reception of Ungoro’s Quests, it seems like Blizzard intentionally made them a lot weaker than many people were expecting. Open the Waygate and Crystal Core both proved incredibly frustrating for players due to how impossible they were to play around while most of the other quests were hardly ever utilised. Now, it seems like none of the Quests are being used. The most I’ve encountered are Druids getting their Quests complete with relative ease and Priests achieving mixed results with a slower playstyle. It seems that Blizzard has almost taken the design philosophy of making every Quest more intrinsic to the classes that play them, making them easier to complete through organic play but far less effective. What results is a meta where decks are never built around the Quests within them which may prove to be a blessing in the long haul, but for the time being they feel like any other Spell Card which isn’t how you want your legendary cards to feel.
See, it’s the middle child syndrome. While Saviors of Uldum has added some interesting new mechanics and cards into the game, it was never going to shake things up in any meaningful way. What is does instead is solidify the meta further, making good decks better and making bad decks just slightly more playable. While this is in no way a bad thing for ongoing players, it’s definitely not a great place for newcomers or returning players to drop back in considering the many, many expensive cards needed to make fully optimised decks.
Last Updated: August 12, 2019