Tribes in card games have always communicated a base mechanic in every card game. They serve as an indicator to make other mechanics work only for a specific group of cards while conveying lore, fantasy and a certain feeling to decks they are crafted with.
What evolution has brought so far
In Hearthstone, tribes are called minion types and showcase common threats in the Warcraft universe. In the early days of the game, fighting with or against Murlocs, Dragons, Beasts, Demons and Pirates felt right since many players came from a World of Warcraft background. The Hunter and Warlock class fantasy, in particular, was built around some of them, but building specific tribe-related decks was still considered a challenge back in the day.
Luckily, many cards were added during several expansions and adventures, giving both developers and players the opportunity to experiment with old and new minion types. The Mech was introduced with Goblins vs Gnomes, and Journey to Un’Goro brought the Elemental type to the game, opening countless avenues for creative deck builders. Even Frost Lich Jaina, one of the new Hero cards, heavily encourages deckbuilding around Elementals as a specific minion type.
In the current meta-game, tribe-related archetypes are as present as never before.
This is mainly due to Team 5 narrowing down the design around minion types: In vanilla, tribes stood out to be groups of cards with a certain theme; for example, low-health and low-cost Murlocs increased in power when played in large numbers, while Dragons represented the original Warcraft fantasy of truly legendary creatures and their most powerful magical abilities
The addition of high-value and synergy cards over time caused all minion types to evolve what deck-builders call a package. These groups of cards form a solid base for a lot of decks, may it be across classes or class-specific.
The most known is the “pirate package”; after the release of Patches the Pirate, one of the most influential cards in 2017, many decks with weapon-based Pirate synergy evolved around the unique 1-drop.
Looking at this evolution, minion types will certainly keep on defining the meta-game after future card releases. But one central question remains:
What minion types does Team 5 have in store for us in the near future?
The Undead - Forsaken but not forgotten
One of the most obvious additions would be an Undead minion type. Numerous undead creatures have lingered around since the release of Hearthstone, one of their most prominent members being Sylvanas Windrunner, leader of the Forsaken. Sylvanas and the story of the Undead heavily influenced the Warcraft universe more than once in one way or the other, making them an integral part of the indefinite clash between Horde and Alliance.
While the introduction of an Undead tag may seem highly logical at first, many challenges would arise with it. Over 100 minion cards show Undead art, may it be Forsaken, Scourge, banshees, zombies or ghouls. Assuming that synergetic effect cards would get released with the introduction of this tribe, turning all these cards into Undead would require a metric ton of rebalancing
A way to approach this result in another way bigger issue: You could reduce the number of cards turning into Undead, but who decides what cards to change? It is no secret that Team 5 follows their own rules in terms of fantasy and lore, but this “solution” feels like the tallest of tasks with the current tools of Hearthstone game design. However, it would not be the first time that the developers found a non-conventional way around a specific problem, so there is always hope
A great indicator for future developments around a possible Undead minion type is the large number of Undead-themed cards that have been released with the latest expansion Knights of the Frozen Throne.
The Blood Elves: Children of the Third War
Wait, Blood Elves are in Hearthstone? Yes, they are, and they come in numbers! About 40 minion cards show Blood Elf art and could be used to form a new minion type.
The once great race that almost got completely obliterated during the Third War plays a key role in Warcraft lore. It went so far that Blizzard decided to make them a playable race in WoW, a back-then highly controversial change. A lot of the current Blood Elf minions have been in the meta at some point such as Spellslinger or Sunfury Protector. With a tiny bit of synergy-based card support, these minions could make a solid comeback.
Looking back at the number of Blood Elf cards, similarities to the Elemental minion type are clearly present: There were more or less than 40 Elemental cards before Team 5 decided to add a whole bunch of new Elemental synergy and the Elemental minion type itself, and the same could happen to the beloved Blood Elves. Not to mention that the storyline around Kael’thas, Lor’themar and the Sin’dorei would fit into the more serious tone of the last two expansions Journey to Un’Goro and Knights of the Frozen Throne.
Expect the Unexpected
Besides more obvious choices like Undead and Blood Elves, many other minion types could come up on the horizon in the future. For example, both Pandaren and Naga minion cards are currently present in the game, and they surely would be able to convey great storytelling as we can already see in World of Warcraft.
In the end it all comes down to the tribe being in harmony with the flair of the corresponding expansion; Pirates fit the more thievish and stealthy theme of Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, while Elementals supported the supernatural and evolutionary fantasy of Journey to Un’Goro.
Minion types build the foundation of a high-quality card game, and creative additions like Pirates and Elementals could take Hearthstone’s gameplay and deck-building to new heights. Let’s just hope it’s not Kobolds next!
Julian Bischoff is a freelance writer for Hearthhead. In the past, he's written for Esports Heaven, Red Bull Esports, and ESL.