Hearthstone’s Blackrock Mountain Adventure: First Look, Analysis & Predictions

The first glance at the Blackrock Mountain Hearthstone adventure out of PAX East just a few hours old, we’ve seen less than a sixth of the 31 new cards, and it’s surely far too early for any sort of meaningful analysis.

But who cares, we’re going to do it anyway.

This first-look analysis from Vicious Syndicate is going to follow three main points – 1) What are our big-picture take-aways from the announcement, 2) Initial impressions and analysis of the first five revealed cards, and 3) Our predictions for what the rest of the set is going to bring.



Point #1: DRAGONS!  

Hearthstone players have long been speculating about when that seemingly “meaningless” keyword of “Dragon” on the classic-set cards would come into play, and there were even some expressing frustration that Naxxramas and GvG contained no new dragon cards (nor any Dragon synergy).

With Blackrock Mountain, all of us dragon-lovers will apparently get some sweet satisfaction with both some new dragons and new minions that key off of the dragon keyword.



Point #2: “I’ve got THAT beast in my sights, too”

As expert gamer Brian Kibbler pointed out here Big Game Hunter is still an issue. The little 4/2 three-drop has meant instadeath to anything with more attack than a Kel-Thuzad since the game launched.

This means that in six big 9 and 10-drop dragon legendaries, only two of them don’t die instantly to the BGH nuke (that we know of so far…)

There’s hope, but it’s still enough to dampen our enthusiasm a bit.

(Still… DRAGONS!)


Point #3: It’s an adventure!

These cards are all going to be arriving in your April collections via single-player adventure rather than through packs or arena prizes, just like Naxxramas.

This has two implications. First, that these cards will be ubiquitous as they will be available to all with enough skill to beat the AI (think back to the explosion of Sludge Belchers and Loathebs into decks after Naxx).

Second, because these rares, epics and legendaries will be easier to come across than those in the classic or GvG sets, there’s the potential for it to level the playing field somewhat for those just starting to play the game or who insist on staying FTP.


Initial Card Analysis

Dark Iron SkulkerDark_Iron_Skulker


5 Mana, 4 attack, 3 health


Battlecry: Deal 2 damage to all undamaged enemy minions.



Just on the vanilla test, Skulker loses on stats, with only 7 points of attack and health on a 5-mana cost. In particular, with only three health, it will die to a lot of standard class removal right after being played (Fiery War Axe, Rockbiter Weapon, Frostbolt, etc.)

That being said, its battlecry effect is essentially a backstab applied as AoE to all your opposing minions. It could be a useful tool for a class that has relied for AoE on relatively weak damage spells (Fan of Knives) or the weapon/Blade Flurry combination that requires additional cards, such as Poisoned Blade or Auto-Barber, to have much of an effect…and leaves you without a weapon.

Skulker, by contrast, is one card with an immediate, beneficial effect. Keep in mind, though, it doesn’t touch minions already plinked. If that control warrior has already run Whirlwind to activate Armorsmith and Acolyte, you’re stuck with an over-costed card.




Grim Patron


5 Mana, 3 attack, 3 health


Whenever this minion survives damage, summon another Grim Patron.



Again, just looking at vanilla, Grim Patron is even worse than Skulker with only 6 stats for 5 mana.

That card text, though, is intriguing and probably has lots of expert deckbuilders considering the possibilities.

Consider a warrior tossing a couple of Whirlwind spells into this minion. Not only would you spawn Grim’s brother (get it? Brothers Grim? See what we did there?), but if you then put out a second Whirlwind, you’d trigger not only the first Grim Patron, but also the second, for four total (Granted, with two of them quite damaged).

Any card that can plink your own minion for 1 or, less suitably, 2 damage will likely get some experimentation. Or simply running this minion into a bothersome 1 attack, 3 health minion will offer some instant value. Expect to see some experimentation with this card across classes, but Mages (because of hero power) and warriors (because of existing self-damaging tactics) are the most likely suspects. Priest may also try this one out, as they can run Grim into a minion and have it take up to two damage, make a clone, then heal it up again.

In any case, kudos to the Hearthstone team on making a fun card with mechanics that really reflect the lore they’re trying to represent – namely, that of a huge bar brawl.



Hungry DragonHungry_Dragon


4 Mana, 5 Attack, 6 Health


Battlecry: Summon a random 1-Cost minion for your opponent


Hooray! Our first new dragon card.

On vanilla stats, Hangry (as I’m arguing he should be called) is an incredible card with 11 points of stats for 4-mana and BGH-proof to boot. It’s easily the best of the cards we’ve seen so far.

You can’t have your cake and burn it to a smoldering crisp, too, though. You’ll also be summoning a random 1-mana card for your opponent.

No big deal, you say, but consider some of the perfectly good 1-mana cards out there. You may be doing the bloodlust angry yell the first time you summon a priest their third Northshire Cleric, give a warlock some much needed protection, or spawn a Timber Wolf for a hunter with a board full o’beasts.

That’s not to mention: We still don’t know what amazing one-drop minions we’re doing to have in this new adventure. It’s possible there’s a yet-unrevealed card that’s the perfect counter to Hangry.

RNGsus save us…

One additional point to make is that at 4 mana, it likely will fit nicely into a mana-curve slot between Faerie Dragon (2 mana) and Azure Drake (5 mana) for dragon decks that don’t want or need the mechanics of the Twilight Drake.

Of course, as we learn more about the Dragon synergy cards, his initial perceived value may go up or down, but at first blush… you want this card.



Blackwing TechnicianBlackwing_Technician


3 Mana, 2 Attack, 4 Health


Battlecry: If you’re holding a Dragon, gain +1/+1


This is first of our dragon-synergy minions we get to look at, and it seems likely to become an excellent staple card in any dragon-based concept.

At 2/4, it’s decent card just on vanilla, and the 4 health means it may be more difficult to remove with some of the more standard early methods that deal out 3-damage (although there’s plenty of 4-mana cards that will take this one out, such as Death’s Bite, Truesilver Champion and Fireball).

But wait! There’s more!

If you are holding a dragon in your hand, you now have 8 points (!) of total stats for 3 mana, and also push it out of the range of most opponent’s 4-damage options (You’ll still die in a fireball).

The one possible drawback here is what it communicates to your opponent. You might as well shout, “Hey! I’ve got a dragon I’m going to play anytime now!”

Depending on the meta, that might not matter. Then again, it may give your enemy a heads up of just how to counter what’s coming (and, given that we have a 6-mana spread between when it’s played and when the big 9-mana legendary dragons can come out, your opponent could have quite a while to draw into a good defense).

Again, it’s worth mentioning how well this could curve out in a dragon deck (For example: Faerie, Technician, Hangry, Azure).



Rend BlackhandRend_Blackhand


7 Mana, 8 attack, 4 health


Battlecry: If you’re holding a Dragon, destroy a Legendary minion


This one card more than any of the others led to some cheers at PAX East, and it’s not hard to see why that’s a natural first reaction: “Destroy any Legendary? Awesomesauce!”

Give it a little bit closer look, however, and you realize that with Rend, you’ll just be wishing again that you could dust soulbound cards.

First, on raw vanilla you’re losing ground to make up for the battlecry with just 12 points of stats on 7 mana. That might not be so bad – after all, you should expect to sacrifice stats for impressive effects – if it wasn’t for the distribution. With 8 attack, it’s got a huge BGH bullseye on it, and on the other end, a plethora of cheap cards can deal out 4 attack before you can even see Blackhand do more than nuke a legendary.

Also, while at first glance this may seem a great leveler (card anyone can get fairly easily that destroys all the Richie-riches with every legendary card made? You’re going down, pretty boy), you quickly realize that at lower levels the legendaries are not nearly so common as at high-level play.

Beyond that, you don’t always want an enemy legendary to die. Consider dropping this if the only legendary on the board is an opponent Sylvanas… or Tirion…or Cairne… or Dr. Boom… or…

It might not always be outright negative, but the opponent will still have the benefit of the instant effects. You could, of course, trigger your own Sylvanas, for example, but there are cheaper and more efficient ways to work that out.

Finally, let’s not forget: you don’t get any benefit from the battlecry at all unless you have a dragon in hand. That’s no guarantee, especially if you’re stuck topdecking.

Some top-tier streamers will probably try it out in decks, but only to “prove a point” (and in so doing, lead countless new players down a bad path). In tournament play and ladder, I think its stats and vulnerabilities will lead pros to look in other, more reliable directions first.

Still, wouldn’t it be nice to take out a Kel-Thuzad from behind taunt with a single card?

You can’t see me, but my expression is wistful.




Predictions are always risky business. Remember the mediocre enthusiasm Undertaker received on first reveal?


It largely depends on what cards work together, what counters are also coming in the set that we haven’t seen yet, and how the card mechanics play out in actual practice.


Still, we can say a few points with some confidence:

-Expect more dragons, more dragon synergy, and fire-based minions, such as elementals.

-There will be a new (probably more directly active) Ragnaros Legendary and a Nefarian Legendary with the Dragon keyword.



A few other educated-guess predictions would be:

-We will see more of the “bar brawl” mechanics that Grim Patron hints at.

-We will see Dragon keyword minions in the 6-8 mana range. Most likely at 7, and possibly others on either side.

-We will see a 1/1 for 1 mana whelp minion with Dragon keyword that’s collectible.



Enjoy the speculation, try to remain calm, and remember that April is less than a month away.