Descent of Dragons: Initial Thoughts

Explore our initial thoughts of the upcoming Hearthstone expansion, Descent of Dragons.

We’re halfway through card reveal season, and we’ve also seen slightly less than half of the upcoming set. Descent of Dragons is beginning to take shape, and we have an idea of what to expect from this expansion.

Descent of Dragons is the third and last expansion of the Year of the Dragon. In the past, we’ve seen December expansions differ in their power level quite substantially.

Kobolds & Catacombs was one of the strongest expansions ever, and as a result, it completely changed the meta upon release. However, the issue with significant power creep is its detrimental effect on the April rotation. It was difficult to keep the game fresh in the following Year of the Raven as the format was overshadowed by extremely powerful Year of the Mammoth cards. Many of the K&C cards were subsequently nerfed as a result. Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, in the prior year, was also a very powerful December expansion, and its “sins” lingered throughout the next year.

In contrast, Rastakhan’s Rumble might be one of the most forgettable expansions, as it may have been the weakest December set. The purpose of its low power level was to set up a healthier rotation in April, and Rise of Shadows did feel fresher as a result. However, Rastakhan’s Rumble created little excitement and had relatively little impact on the game upon its release. This forced Team 5 into making an unprecedented two balance patches during its timeline in order to “shake things up” and push out some of the most persistent and dominant strategies.

All signs point to Descent of Dragons’ power level resembling that of Kobolds & Catacombs. Some of the cards that have been revealed should be absurdly powerful, and in this article, we’ll explain why.

Hero Cards are back, and more consistent than ever?

While DoD shares many similarities with K&C, its cornerstone card takes a page out of Knights of the Frozen Throne, which was another expansion responsible for the high-power level of Year of the Mammoth. Death Knights were a commercial success. They were extremely marketable and fun to play, initially, but they were so powerful that they warped the format until they rotated out. As we’ve also seen with Dr. Boom, which was released a year later, hero cards can be very difficult to balance. When they carry persistent resource generation, damage and/or removal, they threaten to completely take over late-game strategies.

Galakrond will be released as a hero card for the five “villain” classes (Rogue, Priest, Shaman, Warrior, Warlock), in five different forms. What makes him different from previous hero cards is the Invoke mechanic, which resembles the C’Thun mechanic to some degree. Each time you play an Invoke card, Galakrond’s hero power effect is triggered, and invoking Galakrond twice will upgrade his form to have a more powerful battlecry once he’s played. Upgrading him once will double his battlecry effect. Upgrading him twice will quadruple his battlecry effect and equip you with a 5/2 weapon as well (essentially, an Arcanite Reaper). No Galakrond carries the kind of oppressive hero powers that some of the Death Knights did, but where Galakrond really shines is its fully upgraded battlecry.

Galakrond’s scaling is designed to greatly encourage the utilization of Invoke cards, which are notably weak by themselves. Its final form is ridiculous for every class, while its two weaker forms are nothing to write home about for 7 mana. You will want to run as many Invoke cards as possible, to make sure you will be able to play his fully upgraded form consistently. Remember that to fully upgrade Galakrond, you must Invoke him 4 times, which means you will likely need at least 8 copies of Invoke cards in a deck. Each class seems to be getting two Invoke cards, and we’ve also seen two Invoke neutrals. It looks planned out.

Shield of Galakrond

It’s important to note that each class is also getting a card that can activate after you’ve invoked twice, further incentivizing Invoke cards. So far, all of them look like extremely powerful payoffs.

Fate WeaverUmbral SkulkerVeiled Worshipper

But what makes Galakrond truly ridiculous and worth building around will be its consistency. Imagine having a card that specifically draws your death knight on curve. Sounds overpowered as hell, doesn’t it?

Oh, we’re getting it as a 6 mana 6/6?

Kronx Dragonhoof

And if you’ve already drawn and played Galakrond, it’s a Kalimos on steroids?

We hear you loud and clear, Blizzard.

In our comprehensive card preview, we plan to dig deeper into each Galakrond and discuss their strengths. Right now, we see great potential in all of his forms. Two of them carry hero powers with significant late-game resource implications (Priest, Rogue), while the other two are more focused on gaining incremental initiative (Warrior, Warlock).

Dragon synergy is off the scales

This was promised to be a dragon-themed expansion, and it’s delivering on its promise. Some of the dragon synergy cards that have been revealed push the limits on what’s fair. As a first example, just look at some of the Dragon Breaths that have been revealed, which are spells that provide a bonus if you’re holding a dragon.

Breath of Dreams

Pre-nerf Wild Growth that also draws a card. We can’t overstate how nutty this card is. Ramping without the drawback of card disadvantage has already proven to be extremely powerful thanks to Ultimate Infestation in the past, and now we could be revisiting the power of ramp through Breath of Dreams and Overflow.

Candle Breath

Drawing 3 cards for 3 mana in a class that also has Preparation? If Rogue didn’t have questionable dragon synergy (for now), we’d be confident that this card would become one of the strongest draw engines in the game.

Lightning Breath

Shadow Bolt is a playable card in Hearthstone. It isn’t the best card, but it has seen play numerous times in the past. Dealing 4 damage for 3 mana is fine, but this is a Shadow Bolt that essentially turns into a Flamestrike in the early game. Nuts.

Unconvinced about the spells? How about the dragons themselves?

Emerald Explorer

A 6-mana taunt with really good stats for its cost (a 4/8 taunt is better than a 6/6 taunt in most scenarios). If this card had no additional text and no tribal tag, it would be a pretty strong arena card. But this is a dragon that discovers a dragon with no stat penalty and no condition. Emerald Explorer is the definition of an overtuned minion.

Malygos, Aspect of Magic

Another card with barely any stat penalty with the option to discover 1 out of 9 completely broken versions of Mage spells. Malygos can offer anything you could possibly want in a Hearthstone game: value, card draw, damage, removal, and AOE. It doesn’t do so with perfect consistency, but you should always have a good option to choose from.

Crazed Netherwing

Warlock needs help, so it’s getting a bigger Duskbreaker for 5 mana. To be more precise, it’s getting a 5 mana 5/5 that casts Hellfire, which is a 4-mana spell. That’s bonkers.

There are other good dragons out there, and we’ll obviously talk about them once we see everything that this tribe has to offer, but it’s easy to see the extent to which dragons in this expansion are pushed.

It’s harder to find the bad cards in this set

Several other cards also have the potential to become extremely influential. Some of them are nearly guaranteed to be extremely powerful, while others depend on how the rest of the set pans out.

For example, Necrium Apothecary is a massive push towards Deathrattle Rogue decks. This archetype has never been a successful mainstay in Hearthstone, but it’s never had Necrium Apothecary before!

Necrium Apothecary

A 4 mana 2/5 that draws a card is already pretty good but drawing a specific type of card while gaining its deathrattle makes it incredibly powerful on the surface. We’re not sure Deathrattle Rogue will be a thing, but if it becomes a thing, it will be because of this card.

Amber Watcher

This minion didn’t even need to be a dragon to be good. It’s strictly better than Antique Healbot, a card that has seen widespread play and still sees play in Wild. Unlike Healbot, Amber Watcher’s heal is targeted, and it has 4 extra stats to its body. It’s just good, no questions asked.

Valdris Felgorge

We really don’t know what to say about Valdris Felgorge. When this card was revealed, we thought it was a prank. It’s a 7 mana 4/4 that draws 4. Even if you completely forget about its unique effect on our hand size (which could bring back a Handlock type of deck), it’s extremely powerful and not comparable to any card of its cost. Does anyone remember that we’re playing a game in which Ancient of Lore got nerfed?

Dragonqueen Alexstrasza

Evil classes may have received Galakrond, but Explorer classes haven’t been left behind. Dragonqueen Alexstrasza offers one of the strongest late-game cards we’ve seen, guaranteed to generate a huge tempo swing that is also likely to provide you with valuable resources. The fact that it’s a dragon is a cherry on top. There’s just no subtlety when it comes to the strength of this card: it’s just very clearly, very powerful.

Conclusion: Descent of Dragons will be nuts

For better or for worse, this expansion is going to change the game. After Standard format was crippled by the overwhelming force of Evolve, Wild cards will go back to where they belong and make way for a new set that may rival the best cards Wild has to offer.

If the first half of this set is any indication of what will be revealed next, it’s one of the safest calls we’ve ever had to make. Descent of Dragons could be one of the strongest expansions ever released.

Stay tuned for more cards, and more content from us.

5 Comments

  1. I hate the new direction the game is taking. All of these overpowered cards are going to destroy the game and next year’s expansions will either need to be even more overpowered to stand any chance of seeing play, or suffer the same fate as the year of the raven expansions.

  2. I hope not, this is one of the few remaining bastions for serious analysis about constructed play. I’m glad they’re focusing on what they know and are good at.

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