What were the best Hearthstone cards released in 2016?

Hearthstone's Year of the Kraken is nearly over. There are just a few more months before the next set comes out and the game begins its next transitional period. We've already taken a look back at the year that was including a rundown of the plethora of balance changes and reviewing some of the best video content and highlights. But in the end, it's the cards themselves that truly matter.

Last year we started the tradition of picking our annual Card of the Year, [Ed. note: This post was made on the old Hearthhead and ported over by a program, so you'll have to excuse formatting issues]. 2015's Card of the Year Award went to Emperor Thaurissan which many expected thanks to his tremendously powerful effect.

This year we're doing things a little differently. We've had our panelists pick the best card from each class and the larger group of neutral cards as well as designating their top three overall. This way, each class gets some love regardless of what kind of year it has had while we still get a look at the bigger picture. We'll be running down all of these before ultimately detailing how we arrived at the best card released in 2016.

This Year's Panelists

We reached out to a plethora of professional players and streamers and nine answered the call to take part in this year's selections. We'd like to thank them for taking the time to fill out our form and helping us select this year's winners.

As a note, we previously selected three cards from each class and five neutral cards to make up our nominees, but we did leave an open option for write-in candidates. Though we do talk about them in the results section, if you missed those and would like to read those prior to seeing the results, you can find them here:

 

Twitch - @FalconePunch55

Twitch - @LG_Fr0zen

Twitch - @Frodan

Twitch - @bmkibler

Twitch - @Kripparrian

Twitch - @LotharHS

Twitch - @G2Rdu

Twitch - @G2Thijs

Twitch - @TrumpSC

 

Best Druid Card

Druid hasn't done too terribly for itself in 2016. It started off roughly with the loss of Midrange Druid thanks to the first wave of card nerfs including Force of Nature, which it heavily relied upon for damage, and Ancient of Lore which doesn't offer nearly as much value now that it only draws one card. But it quickly found a home among the Yogg-Saron, Hope's End leading Spell Druid that occasionally ran Malygos for added burst. Yogg too has since been nerfed which left the class as a whole reeling. Unfortunately, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan and Jade Druid wasn't the answer Druids were looking for, but there's no debating that the class got some really solid cards this year.

Nominees

 

Write-Ins

 

Winner: Fandral Staghelm

 

Best Hunter Card

The Year of the Kraken has been a declining year for Hunter. 2016 was dominated by the likes of both Midrange and Face Hunter, but going into this year it was primarily the former that remained relevant. Shaman simply did aggro better and did it with more troublesome minions too.

But that didn't stop the class from being relevant. Call of the Wild was a highly controversial card following release. Some thought it was too much of a swing, almost like a Force of Nature that stuck around afterward, but also offered Attack buffs to minions of yours that were already on the board. Others, including pro players, thought it was highly overrated and that very well may have been the case. Following its nerf from eight to nine mana, Hunter actually surged in popularity as Secret Hunter emerged following One Night In Karazhan. Sadly the archetype and the class as a whole has declined to the point that it now makes up less than two percent of the meta according to ViciousSyndicate.

Nominees

 

Write-Ins

 

Winner: Call of the Wild

 

Best Mage Card

Mage came into 2016 in an okay position. Tempo Mage was starting to do better as a result of the League of Explorers and Freeze Mage was finding comfort in Forgotten Torch as an extra source of removal and later in the game, damage. But the numbers just weren't there to push the deck over the edge. While it performed well in competitive play, ladder was a bit of a different story.

That said, it slowly grew in strength throughout the year thanks to overall solid cards and while it may have initially disappeared after Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, it's quickly rebounded as one of the more popular Reno Jackson archetypes.

Perhaps the story of the year for Mage is the strength of the class in the Arena. Though it may have since been unseated as the queen of the classes thanks to a few key bans like Faceless Summoner, it's still tremendously strong due to the amount of value each card brings to the table.

Nominees

 

Write-Ins

 

Winner: Firelands Portal

 

Best Paladin Card

Paladins have not had a great year. The Standard rotation was particularly rough on them, removing the "perfect" curve of Shielded MinibotMuster for Battle, and Dr. Boom. With those gone and the many tools added to the likes of Warrior and Priest, Control Paladin dwindled out. Since then players have been trying to create new archetypes relatively unsuccessfully. Aggro Paladin, Hand Buff Paladin, the list goes on and on. Even Secret Paladin made a resurgence for a time, however brief.

Only Anyfin Paladin really stuck around and it was largely due to the cards Blizzard released this year and it's no coincidence that all three of this year's nominees came from that archetype. However, there's no denying the strength of Ragnaros, Lightlord. It's a huge body with a significant heal and while the others may also be impactful, they aren't nearly as good.

Nominees

 

Winner: Ragnaros, Lightlord

 

Best Priest Card

Priests have struggled a lot this year. Too many of their cards were quirky or situational, something Blizzard says was intended, but admits they never quite congealed together. Luckily, One Night In Karazhan brought a good card or two with it, namely Priest of the Feast, but it was much later in the year that the class finally received its time to shine.

With many key Dragons set to rotate out this Spring, Blizzard took a bit of a risk and put out a couple of synergistic cards that might normally be a bit overpowered otherwise. Drakonid Operative and Dragonfire Potion were the apparent missing ingredients to make Dragon Priest good and the archetype has done well since then.

Interestingly enough, many think Reno Priest with a side helping of dragons is actually the strongest archetype in the class right now.

Nominees

 

Winner: Drakonid Operative

 

Best Rogue Card

Rogue has actually had an eerily similar trajectory as Priest this year. It's always been there, perhaps a bit more viable as a whole thanks to Miracle Rogue, but since its strength largely depends on the meta it's come and gone throughout the year. 

Questing Adventurer was an interesting innovation to spice things up again and it did really help the archetype along. But it was Counterfeit Coin which really gave it life as the class continues to climb in popularity.

That said, you can't underestimate a random class card and a one-mana 1/1 which activates not only Combo effects but grows your Edwin VanCleef.

Nominees

 

Write-Ins

 

Winner: Swashburglar

 

Best Shaman Card

You probably know what we're going to say about this class. 2016 was very much the year of Shamans. It dominated in every shape and form whether that be Aggro, Midrange, or even Control. All three have been either viable or among the best archetypes out there consistently throughout the year.

This was so true in fact that it received multiple nerfs including Rockbiter Weapon and Tuskarr Totemic. Despite this, the class has continued to top the charts with very few exceptions throughout the year and even when it was finally decrowned, it eventually bounced back to the top and remains there to this day.

There are a few key cards that people like to blame for this and all three are nominees, but it's ultimately the most aggressive of the three that comes away with this year's victory.

Nominees

 

Winner: Spirit Claws

 

Best Warlock Card

Honestly, it's been a bit of a weird year for Warlocks. Zoolock reigned supreme for the longest time before it was overtaken by the more aggressive Discardlock and then eventually both were entirely replaced by Renolock. So despite having a solid year, all things considered, it's ended up in a very monochromatic position which doesn't exactly feel great for Warlock players as a whole.

Each of these three archetypes was helped along by a single keystone card and all three were nominated in what has ended up being the closest results across all classes. Our panelists seem to think that the class reached new heights thanks to Discardlock and as a result, Malchezaar's Imp ekes out the victory.

Nominees

 

Winner: Malchezaar's Imp

 

Best Warrior Card

Warriors may have lost Patron Warrior more than a year ago, but it has remained strong since then. This came to a head after Whispers of the Old Gods as Dragon Warrior took control of the meta. It quickly fell off in the short period between expansions while the adventure cards helped bolster its competition, but the class as a whole would resurge thanks to some super aggressive cards in Mean Streets of Gadgetzan.

Ultimately, though, there were no cards that had as much of an impact on the class as Ravaging Ghoul did and this is easily proven by our panelists who were entirely in agreement that Ghoul was simply the best Warrior card this year.

Nominees

 

Winner: Ravaging Ghoul

 

Best Neutral Card

Legendary minions are usually among the best neutral cards year after year. 2015 had a small exception in the form of Grim Patron, but in the end, it lost out to Emperor Thaurissan.

We had a tough time rounding up this year's nominees, especially with Blizzard's focus on the Old Gods and how impactful the most powerful trio was early on in the season. While C'Thun probably reached higher heights than N'Zoth, the Corruptor, it's the latter that won our nomination simply because it will continue to shape the meta over the next 365 days.

And then we had the Small-Time Buccaneer problem. Which part of the Patches the Pirate duo is more powerful? A potential 3/2 certainly seems strong, but so does a charging 1/1 that helps thin your deck. In the end, we went with the latter and this year's panelists agreed with us, selecting it as the strongest neutral minion released this year.

Nominees

 

Winner: Patches the Pirate

 

 

 

 

Hearthhead Card of the Year

We asked each panelist to select their top three overall cards to help us determine what single card would ultimately claim the title of Card of the Year. Each one was assigned a point value of three, two, and one for first through third places, respectively.

Panelists were given the chance to offer extra input if they desired. Some chose to do so on a card by card basis, which you can find under each of their picks, while others just had a more generic comment that is located under their picture.

Player

First Pick Second Pick Third Pick




  "An insane powerhouse, dismantling Azure Drake in its 5 drop slot (although both are being played in Priest)." "For bringing true agro to the table (and not just curving out agro-midrange)" "Insane value, small amount of RNG but yet requiring a very skill demanding decision making."
"All allowed ridiculous swings that create insane tempo and game ending board states."      
"Unfortunately, the biggest impact this year was made by another wave of superior one drops."      
  "Singlehandedly stops any other board control decks without from becoming tier 1, free 1 mana 1/1 charge is too hard to overcome." "Flexibility of this card vs aggro and control is just too powerful, although I don't think the deck will be playable once Reno rotates." "Overall I don't think this card is over the top broken but most of the time it gives you a 25% roll to win the game on the spot the following turn."
  "Created a powerful proactive reason to play a Reno style deck in any of the three classes." "Singlehandedly returned Priest to relevance." "The reason behind the dominance of both Midrange and Pirate Aggro Shaman."
  "Big flexibility & decision making." "An excellently powerful card for a weak class." "A fascinating different way to play.

2016 Card of the Year - Patches the Pirate

Dean Ayala would be proud. After being delayed set after set, Ayala's favorite card finally hit the live servers in December and it's certainly changed the meta.

Despite dominating for a good part of the year and clearly being one of the most controversial cards released, Yogg-Saron ended up barely making the top five. Indeed it was Patches, Drakonid Operative, Spirit Claws, and Kazakus, respectively that made up the top four. That's a pretty solid group overall, with each of them really pushing one archetype over the edge, but Patches became a staple across pretty much any deck that wanted to have a thinner deck or simply be aggressive and that's a large part of why it was selected as this year's winner.

Once again we'd like to thank each of our panelists for their insight and help in selecting this year's winners. We also extend our appreciation to our community that continues to stick with us as we work on the website and look forward to everything that 2017 holds.