Predictions. Hearthstone’s community has always liked predicting things. Themes of the upcoming expansions, new features that will be added into the game, as well as the strength of the revealed cards from the new set. The last one will be the focus of today’s article. Considering that it has been over a month since Knights of the Frozen Throne was released, I think that it’s a good time to compare the pre-release rating of cards to how they turned out to be. While I have to agree that community gets better and better at predicting the card’s power level with every new expansion, there are still a lot of mistakes, which can be fun to look at in hindsight.
In each one of those cases, I’ll try to compare the general community rating to the current playability and perceived power level of cards. Keep in mind that I’m talking about community ratings here, not the ones cast by pro players in their set reviews. As much as rating of average player might be influenced by the pros, they are different in many cases. Another thing you need to remember that in each one of those cases, there were – obviously – outliers. Hearthstone is a game played by millions of players, which most likely means that every card was rated correctly by someone somewhere. But that’s not the point of this comparison – I’m trying to be objective and take the average community rating, including the votes on different big Hearthstone sites, posts from official Hearthstone forums and even the /r/hearthstone Reddit discussion to see how well-received some of the cards were.
P.S. I’ve been making those articles ever since Whispers of the Old Gods and there was always a comment along those lines: “But I’ve got those cards right, they weren’t underrated/overrated!” – That’s great for you! It means that you’re better at rating cards than most of the Hearthstone’s community. But in this case, we’re not looking at the opinions of individuals.
Underrated cards are the cards that were rated significantly lower before the expansion, as compared to their actual strength. In this context, "underrated" doesn't necessarily mean the cards that turned out to be very strong, it's mostly about the difference in their initial reception and their power level. If a card was rated as very good (8/10) and it turned out to be broken (10/10), that's not really an underrated card. However, if a card was rated as one of the worst in the expansion (1/10) and turned out to be above average (6/10), that's an underrated card.
Back to Top5. Bolvar, Fireblood
I'm starting underrated cards with Bolvar. Clearly, people weren't sold on the whole Divine Shield synergy decks, and for a good reason - those aren't good right now. However, people have misjudged power level of Bolvar as an individual card, putting synergies aside. He was rated as one of the worst Legendaries (if not for the Prince Council, he would be worst in some of the polls), below Legends like Moorabi or even Archbishop Benedictus. While in reality, he's a pretty solid card. Not meta-changing, not auto-include, but he found its place in Murloc/Midrange Paladin and is staying in multiple lists a month after the expansion. Why people were wrong about him? Well, they didn't think about the Paladin's curve. Right now, in Standard, Paladin has no solid 5-drop (besides Finja, the Flying Star in Murloc decks). But the class has very powerful Turn 6 (Spikeridged Steed), so they want a 5-drop that will stick so they can buff it on the curve. As it turns out, a 7 health minion with Divine Shield is great at doing that - sticking to the board. While the 1/7 Statline is not significant, if the Divine Shield survives, it can kill something for free after buffing it. And if the Divine Shield is gone, it's still a solid buff target.
And in reality, it's not even that hard to make it a 5/7, considering that those Paladin decks also run cards like Righteous Protector, Wickerflame Burnbristle or Corpsetaker. Taunt + Divine Shield means that the opponent simply can't ignore them and Bolvar gets +2 every time something is popped.
The truth is that this card still isn't exceptional, but it's played in one of the solid meta decks, so it's definitely better than expected.
Back to Top4. Bring it On!
10 armor for just two mana. I remember opinions about this card to be pretty wide, from "this is complete trash" to "this is completely broken." But generally, the community has called this card bad. And I understand them - after all, reducing cost of cards in your opponent's hand is not really a great way to win the game. However, we need to look at the context of the class before really judging the card and that's what some people (including me) failed to do. This card would be terrible in Druid, which has no way to answer all those cheap minions. But it's Warrior we're talking about - a class with variety of removals - weapons, single target, AoE. While normally 2 mana discount might mean a flooded board, it's not always the case against Warrior. The fear of Brawl is too big and opponent is very likely to sit with a hand full of discounted minions, basically giving up on all the potential extra tempo.
Then, the card is a great way to stabilize after you've already run your opponent out of cards. When you play it vs an Aggro deck that's holding just a single card, even if that's a minion, it doesn't really matter. You've just gained 10 armor and they won't have a way to punish you for that. The only downside of this card is that it's really bad versus Combo-oriented cards. Let's say that you play against a Mage with Archmage Antonidas or Priest with Prophet Velen. Those are some of the cards you really don't want to discount.
Even though right now the card doesn't see much play, it's mostly because of the current state of the Warrior class. Slow Warrior decks aren't in a good spot, and the meta isn't very kind to them. However, I expect to see more of this card in the future.
Back to Top3. Strongshell Scavenger
While it's hard to say whether this card will see play after the nerfs to Innervate and Spreading Plague, I have to say that it still surprised me. General opinion about it was "below average" or maybe "average." I mean, it has a 2/3 body and situational effect. Giving your Taunts +/2/+2 is great, but how many Taunts can you have on the board at the same time?
I think that one of the reasons why this card was underrated was because people have seen it as a 4-drop. And I have to say that it's really a poor 4-drop. Unless you get a perfect Druid of the Swarm -> Crypt Lord -> Scavenger curve, then it's rather poor. However, in reality, it's more of a combo card than something you want to play on the curve. And, thanks to the Spreading Plague, the combo potential is really, really high.
If you were playing in the current meta, you understand that summoning three or four Taunts with Spreading Plague is nothing uncommon. Especially if you deliberately stay behind on the board to force the card to have a bigger impact. Let's say that you summon four Taunts and then play this card. For just 9 mana and 2 cards, you summon 4x 3/7 Taunt and a 2/3 body. At 10 mana, you can also weave in an extra Mark of the Lotus to get 4x 4/8 Taunt and a 3/4 minion. That's a crazy swing, and it's not that hard to achieve at all. Actually, things like that happened in nearly every game as Midrange Druid. While the deck was considerably weaker than both Jade Druid and Aggro Druid, it was still a solid Tier 2 deck, and Strongshell Scavenger was one of the main reasons for that.
Even with a nerfed Spreading Plague, the card might still make a comeback in the board flood meta, or when Druid gets more Taunts to buff.
Back to Top2. Prince Keleseth
To be completely fair, I think that each one of the Princes was underrated. Each one of them has seen at least some play. I still think that Taldaram is mostly a Wild card, and it will activate some crazy combos in the future, Valanar is quite popular in Rogue, but it's Keleseth who is the most played one. Prince Keleseth was among the lowest rated cards in the expansion. I mean, putting no 2 mana cards into your deck is a huge disadvantage. While the effect is great, it's not consistent enough too see play, right? Not exactly.
The thing about Keleseth is that some of the decks really don't have 2 mana cards they absolutely have to play. The three most popular Keleseth decks are Handbuff Paladin (the only 2 mana card it really collides with is, well, a handbuff - Grimestreet Outfitter), Zoo Warlock (which can do really fine with tons of 1-drops instead of 2-drops, Dire Wolf Alpha would be a nice addition, but it's not absolutely necessary) and Aggro/Tempo Rogue (Eviscerate would be helpful, maybe even Sap, but Rogue can not run any 2-drops thanks to the class Hero Power anyway).
So in the end, the sacrifice each of those decks made was not that huge, but the advantage of getting an early Keleseth is significant. From my experience, Keleseth on Turn 2 usually means that I win the game. Getting him few turns later is also great. And when I don't get him at all, I'd obviously prefer to have some of those 2 mana cards, but they aren't as important.
Just yesterday, Kolento hit Legend with Tempo Rogue running Keleseth. You can check out the VoD here to see the true power of the card. It sees play right now, and it will definitely see play in the future.
Back to Top1. Malfurion the Pestilent
And the number one underrated card is the most played Death Knight Hero in the current meta. I have to say that the general reception for DK cards was really good - they were all rated at least average, with a few of them in top 10 cards of the expansion. However, Malfurion the Pestilent was the lowest rated one alongside Deathstalker Rexxar. I have to say that the Druid's current state as the strongest class definitely has something to do with the DK Malfurion's Hero Power. However, that's not entirely the reason why this card is played.
The thing about Malfurion the Pestilent is that it probably offers most of the flexibility among Hero cards. Starting with your initial choice - you can put 2x 1/5 Taunts if you need to protect your minions or life total, or you can play 2x 1/2 Poisonous if you anticipate a big minion coming down on the next turn (or if there is one already on the board and you need to kill it). Then, the Hero Power itself is also a choice. You can gain Attack to put pressure or clear the board, or you can gain Armor if you need the defense. No other DK Hero is as flexible and serves as many purposes.
Another thing is that Malfurion the Pestilent is among the cheaper DK cards. Yes, it costs 7 mana, but six other Hero cards cost 8 or more. When looking at that mana cost, we also need to consider the fact that Druid has access to Ramp - gaining a single Mana Crystals means that you can get it out a turn earlier, and it's not uncommon for Druids to get 2 or 3 extra mana in the early game. You often end up dropping this DK Hero around Turn 4-5, when its impact is even higher.
So all in all, Malfurion the Pestilent is now a Druid staple and even after the class gets nerfed a bit in the upcoming patch, it will still be played in all the non-Aggro lists and will still be powerful. And while one could argue that this is not the best Hero card (I think that Shadowreaper Anduin takes that spot), it certainly didn't deserve the poor ratings it got before the expansion.
Similarly to underrated cards, overrated ones are basically the cards that were rated significantly higher before the expansion when you compare them to how they turned out to be. And again, it doesn't mean that all of those cards are trash tier and will never see play. It's just that expectations about those cards were way too high.
Back to Top5. Drakkari Enchanter
This is pretty curious. Drakkari Enchanter was rated really highly by the community, being in top 25 highest rated cards on sites like HearthPwn or HearthstoneTopDecks. And I really have to wonder why. I would kind of understand it if Emperor Thaurissan was still in Standard, but without it?
While it's hard to question that this card has high potential, it's only a supplementary card. Its power is directly tied to the power of cards with "end of turn" effects. And the thing is, power of that card in Standard right now is pretty low. The best ones - like The Lich King or Ysera are too expensive and can't be combo'd with this card. And to be honest, it's not like an extra card from Lich King or Ysera would make a huge difference outside of the most greedy matchups (and in those, you'd rather play something else than a 3 mana 1/5). Sure, you can draw two cards with Mana Tide Totem, but you can't expect both of those to survive for long, which makes it a 3 mana 1/5 with a situational "draw a card" (because honestly, there are no other cards to combo it with in Shaman). There are some other minor combos like the one with Mana Tide, but they're pretty much all not even worth mentioning.
Ever since I saw this card, I've thought about it as an extra Emperor tick. In combo decks, having an extra discount on all of your cards might be huge and even might activate some of the more powerful combos. And since it's easier to fit than something like Faceless Manipulator (for which you would need to have a Coin), it will definitely see some play in Wild decks in the future. But in Standard? In the average scenario, you get something like an extra card or 1 AoE damage on a 3 mana 1/5 body, which isn't even good. And it's a vanilla 1/5 if you have nothing to combo it with.
Back to Top4. Dead Man's Hand
This is another interesting case. I have to say that I have probably underrated this card a bit (giving it 2 out of 5), because I didn't honestly think that Fatigue Warrior would be even slightly relevant. But the general reception of this card was overwhemingly positive. It was 8th highest rated card on HearthPwn and got 4.3 score on HSTD. I've also seen a lot of comments calling it a very powerful card. In a similar way, Archbishop Benedictus was also rated way higher than it should, but it still got mainly "average" ratings, compared to good/very good ratings this card got.
And I think that I know the reason why. People seem to heavily overrate the effects that add extra cards into your deck. In a similar way, they overrate the impact of the cards that remove cards from the deck (but more about it later). But the truth is, that unless you build your deck specifically around getting to fatigue quickly, it doesn't really matter. Even in a Control vs Control matchups, only a small part of the games get to fatigue and out of those, a lot of them are decided by that time anyway and the fatigue is irrelevant. And all the games vs Aggro, Midrange etc. which are always the majority of the meta will never even get to the fatigue.
Like I've mentioned, this card is relevant only in the decks that want to cycle through their deck and get to fatigue as quickly as possible. We have some very weird Warrior builds right now, like Fatigue Warrior (where fatigue is one of the main win conditions in slow matchups), Blood Warriors/Giants Warrior and even the N'Zoth Warrior which goes infinite by shuffling N'Zoth time and time again. However, the truth is that all of those decks are very gimmicky. The strategy is somehow viable, and it might get a bit better after the upcoming nerfs, but the meta is never really favorable for such decks.
Is Dead Man's Hand somewhat viable? Yes, it is. Is it a very interesting card? Sure. But is it one of the better cards from the expansion? Definitely not.
Back to Top3. Fatespinner
Fatespinner was rated a bit lower than the last card, but the initial reviews still put it pretty high up on the list. Generally gaining good reviews, like 4/5, 7/10 etc. the card was one of the highest rated Druid cards (Ultimate Infestation was an unquestionable #1, but then it was either Fatespinner or Druid of the Swarm). And I'll be honest with you - I haven't seen it a single time since the expansion was out.
I have no doubt that Fatespinner's effect is one of the most interesting ones in a whole expansion. It turns one of the most simple mechanics in the game ("Choose one") into something much more complicated and adds another layer of strategy, but it's not played.
Not only did Druid get much better tools in this expansion, but a 5 mana 5/3 is a rather bad stat line, even for such an effect. And the thing is, that it's actually easier to tell which one your opponent has picked than it might seem in theory. The effect is difficult to guess only in a relatively close board states, and in those board states either of the effects won't likely make a huge impact. If one or the other player has a significant board advantage, this card is pretty easy to see through. Not to mention that Silence is a very common tech in the meta, and it makes the card pretty useless.
What seemed to be one of the coolest cards in the whole set has, sadly, seen no play. I hope that we'll see some Fatespinner shenanigans in the future, just like I hope that Blizzard won't get discouraged and will introduce more unique mechanics like that in the upcoming expansions.
Back to Top2. Uther of the Ebon Blade
Uther of the Ebon Blade was the #1 rated Hero card by most of the people and it was definitely in the top 5 cards of the expansion for them. It's definitely a solid card, but just solid. Not meta-changing, not gamebreaking, just good card to play in Control Paladin. And that's all. The initial impact of the weapon is nice, but the upgraded Hero Power is not a huge deal. Unless you gather all Four Horsemen on the board at the same time, they're just +1/+1 over recruits, and other Hero Powers of high cost DK's are much more powerful in comparison. I mean, sure, if you DO get all four, you just win the game, but that's incredibly unlikely. Unless you run a combo variant, with Burgly Bully and Auctionmaster Beardo, but to be completely honest, the normal version is probably just better. The combo is still very inconsistent, as you need to get at least two extra Coins and there is no guarantee that you will get even a single one. If Bullies are killed with minions or weapons, not with spells, you get nothing, and so you can't OTK your opponent. The combo variant of Control Paladin was one of the most discussed decks pre-expansion, with many people predicting that it will be completely broken and basically a more consistent, good version of the Quest Mage. But that's far from being the case. Maybe in Wild it's more consistent, or better, but in Standard it's far from that.
The card is still a staple in Control Paladin. Even though the deck is not in a great spot right now, it will probably get some play in the future. But even in a perfect deck, it's still only a good card, removing it from the list won't make a huge difference. It's not like some key cards that you simply have to play for the deck to do well.
So in the end, as much as I like Control Paladin, I have to say that this card was heavily overrated by the community.
Back to Top1. Gnomeferatu
After looking through the initial reviews and ratings of this card, I could say only one thing: color me surprised. One of the highest rated cards of the expansion, being called broken right from the start by a majority of the Hearthstone community. For me, it was like the whole HS community would suddenly start praising River Crocolisk as one of the best cards in the game. Something I certainly didn't expect.
But, if you're still one of the people thinking that it's a good card, let me explain it quickly. The effect simply doesn't matter the majority of the time. Burning a single card in your opponents deck is not relevant as long as it's a key card in their deck, a card that's necessary for their victory. So, burning an Archmage Antonidas vs Quest Mage is great, or burning a Shadowreaper Anduin vs Highlander Priest is great. However, the thing is that most of the decks DON'T run a single card that's absolutely necessary to perform their game plan, and if they do, it's usually only a single card out of 30. So in the best case scenario, you have like a 1 in 30 chance vs some decks to maybe not even win the game on the spot, but gain a huge advantage right from the start. That's the good part about the card. But here comes the bad part. Against the decks that run no key cards, the effect is completely irrelevant. Burning any single card vs Pirate Warrior, or vs Aggro Druid, or vs Murloc Paladin doesn't really matter. I mean, you can be happy with "Oh, I burned Spikeridged Steed," but so what? Yes, the card is good, but so is every other card in their deck. It's basically like moving a random card to the bottom of their deck. Then, even against the combo decks, the decks that this is supposed to counter, most of the time it's simply bad. Yes, burning Archmage Antonidas vs Quest Mage is a huge win. Burning Sorcerer's Apprentice is good, but not an auto-win (because of Simulacrum). However, burning any other card basically brings them closer to their win condition. You're actually actively helping them to get to their win condition. Which basically means that most of the time this card is doing more harm than good.
Yes, it's a good highlight card. Yes, you will sometimes hit the jackpot and burn the right card and win the game. But on average, you're playing a vanilla 2 mana 2/3, which is - obviously - not something you would want to put into your deck. Like I've mentioned before, it seems to be a part of a bigger problem with how people judge the cards. Effects that add extra cards to your deck, often dilluting it, are rated highly. I remember a lot of people saying that Prince Malchezaar is a great card, because it makes your deck better. Right now everyone can probably tell that it's not the case, as it has never seen any serious play. In this expansion, both Dead Man's Hand and Archbishop Benedictus were rated much higher than they should be. On the other hand, people assume that burning cards has a huge impact on the game, while in reality, most of the time, it has none. An older example here would be Fel Reaver, where a lot of people decided to cut it from Aggro Druid (which obviously used two copies), because they didn't want to burn their own cards. However, in reality, it was often just a vanilla 8/8 for 5, it was even better than the current Bittertide Hydra. Similarly, this expansion a minion that burns cards from your opponent's deck is one of the highest rated ones (this one), while minion that burns cards from your own deck is one of the worst rated cards. Keening Banshee, while certainly not an exceptional card, doesn't deserve to be on the absolute bottom. In most of the decks, it's better than Chillwind Yeti, which is not a great 4-drop, but it's still somewhat playable, especially when on budget. And yet it got worse ratings than cards like Wicked Skeleton or Venomancer, which are absolutley unplayable. The reason why Banshee sees no play is that even a 5/5 for 4 is not good enough to play, even if it was vanilla with no negative effect. However, it's just a below average card, not absolutely the worst card from the expansion.
I hope that after this long rant those of you who were sill not convinced that Gnomeferatu is not a great card will understand it now. I'm not saying that it's absolutely useless, if a Warlock deck would ever have fatigue as its win condition, this card might be solid. But I really don't think that Warlock is a great class to run Mill/Fatigue decks, considering that its Hero Power is basically doing exactly opposite of what they would want.
That's all, folks. While there were some more underrated/overrated cards, I've tried to keep the list down to five in each of the categories. Later choices would mostly be the controversial cards (the ones that received both good and bad reviews), and the top five should illustrate well enough the things that community still has problems with judging correctly.
Like I've mentioned at the start, there is a trend showing that community gets better and better at rating the cards. It's the fifth expansion I'm doing this kind of article for, and the number of misjudged cards is getting lower and lower. Of course, those will never fully disappear - even pros that have thousands of hours of experience are not always correct.
And how about you? Did you rate those cards correctly? What were other cards you've personally underrated or overrated? Let us know in the comments!