Blizzard kindly gave us the opportunity to evaluate the ‘March of the Lich King’ cards that have been revealed today and produce an article that discusses these new additions and their potential. Of course, we will also be discussing the entire set in our ‘Comprehensive March of the Lich King Preview’ closer to the launch of the expansion, just before our theorycrafting article.
Note that earlier than that, we will have a ‘Comprehensive Death Knight Core/Path of Arthas Preview’ as a bonus article. Overall, there’s a lot to look forward to reading!
Undead Swarm Druid
First, let’s investigate the Undead Swarm package in Druid which was revealed earlier today by Chunge.
Lingering Zombie might be the highlight card of the package. It’s possibly the stickiest 1-drop in the history of Hearthstone! Three bodies in a single 1-drop requiring three damage sources to clean off the board. It’s also an Undead throughout, which means it’s a fantastic enabler for the Tribe’s signature synergy: “If a friendly Undead died after your last turn”.
And Druid was given a class-specific 2-drop that looks like a perfect fit for Lingering Zombie in Nerubian Flyer, which was already revealed at the expansion’s announcement.
So, Druid is encouraged to incorporate the tribe in a new or an existing archetype. The three other cards of the package provide us with further direction of how it may look like.
Wither is a removal/buff hybrid card that becomes increasingly potent with a wide board. Elder Nadox transfers a single minion’s attack value to all other friendly minions, making it a potential finisher for a board centric deck. Unending Swarming is a massive reload tool that requires the development of a high number of cheap minions to realize its potential.
The message is clear. Druid wants to flood the board aggressively, while possessing longevity through Unending Swarm to present more threats following an opponent’s board clear.
Note that there is absolutely no requirement for these cards to be played in an Undead deck. Lingering Zombie is likely a staple in current Herald of Nature Aggro Druid. Wither, Elder Nadox and Unending Swarm can similarly work in any board flooding deck. Unending Swarm could even work with Scale of Onyxia in Ramp Druid! That gives the cards a lot of flexibility to be successful in the future too.
But looking into the Undead tribe, would it be a good fit for an aggressive Druid deck running current and newly added tools? We’ve listed some of the best candidates for such a deck.
There is certainly potential here. Foul Egg is a card that Druid has multiple ways of buffing, such as Mark of the Wild. Infected Peasant and Vrykul Necrolyte are strong Unending Swarm enablers since they produce two bodies. The stickiness of the tribe means Flyer and Flinger should have an easy time activating. An aggressive Undead deck also has synergy with Hawkstrider Rancher, which could become a big deal in the aggressive strategies of multiple classes. Watch out for this one.
There are some question marks though. High minion density means there is far less space available for Nature spells that could accommodate Herald of Nature, the best card in current Aggro Druid. This could become less critical if Rancher replaces its role, but it remains to be seen whether the Scourge can take priority over Nature in the archetype.
It’s time to look at the Arcane package in Mage which was revealed just an hour ago by LanguageHacker.
It all starts with an innocent looking spell that was revealed in the announcement of the expansion: Arcane Bolt. With its Manathirst ability, it upgrades to a 3-damage spell on turn 8. Turns out that Mage can generate more Arcane Bolts thanks to Arcane Wyrm and Arcsplitter. We can have up to 8 of them without needing random discover effects.
Arcane Wyrm is a solid early body to contest board alongside the generated Bolt. Arcsplitter is slower since it’s a deathrattle and has far worse stats, but it gives you 2 Arcane Bolts. So, what are we doing with all these Bolts? The answer lies in the final two cards.
Oh boy! Vexallus makes our Arcane Bolt essentially deal twice the damage, while Magister’s Apprentice makes all our Arcane Bolts cost no mana. This means that on turn 8, we can play Vexallus, Magister’s Apprentice and a bunch of Arcane Bolts for quite a bit of burst damage. Each Arcane Bolt deals 6 damage, so we can deal 30 damage with 5 Bolts. Sounds nice but this doesn’t strike us as a reliable finisher in a Renathal world. We need to assemble far too many combo pieces in hand to make it work. Dealing 40+ damage means that our hand needs to contain 9 specific cards!
Spell Damage could help here, as it buffs an Arcane Bolt twice if it’s fired with Vexallus. A Bloodmage Thalnos played with Vexallus, and Apprentice makes every Bolt deal 8 on turn 9.
We’re getting warmer now but wait… there is one card from the new expansion that already created so much reaction on its reveal and could be the final piece in the puzzle.
It’s all coming together! Bonelord Frostwhisper can be played once we’re close to assemble a finishing combo, allowing us to play Vexallus for no mana. This frees up mana to spend on a Guild Trader, or even two of them alongside an Apprentice. One Guild Trader with Vexallus makes each Arcane Bolt deal as much damage as a Pyroblast! Two Guild Traders and we’re looking at 14 damage per Bolt. The amount of damage can potentially reach Phylactery Warlock territory very easily, something that no deck can reasonable stay out of range of, not even a Blood Death Knight or a Control Warrior. This also puts less stress on us hoarding enough Arcane Bolts to kill the opponents. We will often just need 3 and use the rest for survival.
So how does an Arcane Mage may look like? We got you covered, with a shell that looks like the perfect fit for this package in terms of card draw and survivability.
The additional redundancy of two Guild Traders as well as Bloodmage Thalnos makes it very difficult for the opponent to prevent our combo through disruption effects. Other strong candidates include Arcane Orb and Siphon Mana, though they don’t seem to be extremely necessary. Magister’s Apprentice does Siphon Mana’s job more reliably as a finisher, and we can use one Arcane Bolt to activate Multicaster. Where Siphon Mana could help with is hand space issues if the deck ends up running into them. Redundancy of the combo or survivability could be reduced to fit other cards in.
So, there you have it. Mage might have one of the most anticipated combo decks in the format. Is Vexallus the new Mozaki? Will it outclass Wildfire and Magister’s Dawngrasp’s stability and flexibility? We’ll find out on December 6th.
You better be there.