By Spike, Regular Contributor
There are 97 Neutral cards from the Classic and Basic sets that didn’t make the cut for the Core Set. I’m going to sort them into how impactful they were, and then take a look at the important ones that are leaving.
Keep in mind that I’m going by the last few expansions when I talk about cards seeing play, so some cards I toss in the never played categories probably saw (and will see) play in Classic, or early expansions.
Scroll down to Category Three if you don’t care about the lists of useless cards and memes (sorry, Gruul, Patriarch, Rager, Ogre, etc), and Category Four if you want more in-depth analysis of playable cards.
Category One: Didn’t see non-meme play
Sorry, meme lovers. Angry Chicken, Ancient Watcher, Bloodfen Raptor, Frostwolf Grunt, Mana Wraith, Alarm-O-Bot, Arcane Golem, Dalaran Mage, Ironforge Rifleman, Ironfur Grizzly, Demolisher, Raging Worgen, Razorfen Hunter, Scarlet Crusader, Silverback Patriarch, Thrallmar Farseer, Tinkmaster Overspark, Ancient Mage, Dragonling Mechanic, Gnomish Inventor, Magma Rager, Mogu’Shan Warden, Oasis Snapjaw, Ogre Magi, Silvermoon Guardian, Stormwind Knight, Booty Bay Bodyguard, Darkscale Healer, Fen Creeper, Silver Hand Knight, Spiteful Smith, Stampeding Kodo, Stormpike Commando, Venture Co. Mercenary, Archmage, Argent Commander, Boulderfist Ogre (yeah, yeah, good stats for cost, I know), Frost Elemental, Hogger, Lord of the Arena, Priestess of Elune, Sunwalker, The Beast, Xavius, Core Hound, Ravenholdt Assassin, War Golem, Gruul (I KNOW, JEEZ, FUULS), Nozdormu, Onyxia, and Deathwing are all, by today’s standards, irredeemable garbage in their current forms. Sorry. Some are good memes, some are mildly interesting, but at the end of the day… they aren’t good.
Note: after I wrote this, Arcane Golem’s un-nerf was announced. It may see play in Wild.
Out of the 97 rotating Neutrals, 51- over half- are practically unplayable. Goes to show how much power creep has advanced.
Category Two: Borderline Useless
These are the cards that have quite possibly seen some fringe play, or as part of some oddball deck, or simply aren’t completely useless options for new players.
Wisp, Goldshire Footman, Murloc Raider, Shieldbearer, Young Dragonhawk, Armani Berserker, Mana Addict, Master Swordsmith, Pint-Sized Summoner, Emperor Cobra, Harvest Golem, Imp Master, Shattered Sun Cleric, Tauren Warrior, Wolfrider, Abomination, Frostwolf Warlord, Nightblade, Reckless Rocketeer, Windfury Harpy, and Ysera- they’ll be missed.
That’s another 21 cards.
Category Three: Not Completely Useless
Exactly what the name says. Cards that aren’t completely useless or have seen a little play.
Still not notable enough to include images, though.
Hungry Crab was always nice to have around, just in case Murlocs became overpowered… but even during Murloc Paladin, Ramp Paladin, and Murloc Shaman’s recent peaks, it didn’t really see play.
Leper Gnome was decent for Aggro until it was nerfed. It’s still not horrible, just not good enough to see play.
EDIT: Leper Gnome is being un-nerfed. It’s probably borderline playable now.
Lightwarden was part of the first meta deck I ever built fully- Heal Zoo Warlock during The Witchwood. I’ll miss it, but it didn’t see recent play otherwise.
Faerie Dragon was always an option for Aggro decks, especially once Dragon synergies were printed. During Descent of Dragons, the Dragon Face Hunter lists that used it tended to be decent at worst, and it’s seen play in a few oddball Rogue decks (as a decent, aggressive 2 drop), but never was popular.
Sunfury Protector was a decent budget option for Zoo decks to extend the game a little bit longer and sneak that last bit of damage in. Never bad, never great. Like most cards here.
Ancient Brewmaster saw a small amount of play in Combo decks that wanted to repeat Battlecries, as well as in Caverns Below Rogue on occasion.
Cult Master saw play in some Murloc and Token decks as draw. Pretty subpar, though, and Voracious Reader being printed basically killed its sliver of viability.
Harrison Jones was a cool Weapon hate card, but Acidic Swamp Ooze did a cheaper job and Kobold Stickyfinger usually had a better bonus attached.
The Black Knight was Taunt hate. Useful to some extent when the meta centered on slower decks, but I can’t really recall it seeing play except in Even Paladin and the rare Highlander list. It’s a tad too expensive to be good. At 4 or 5 mana, it probably would have seen more play.
That’s another 9 cards. Up to 81, so only 16 left that were actually viable.
Category Four: Cards That Saw Play
To start, Bloodsail Corsair is one card that hasn’t really seen Standard play recently. However, when Pirate decks crop up and there’re Weapon-based decks in the same meta, it’s playable. Currently, it sees play in some Wild Aggro Druid and Pirate Warrior lists, because it’s simply not bad stats attached to a Pirate for synergy’s sake (mostly Patches), plus an effect that’s always going to hurt an opponent who’s using a Weapon. All in all, just a solid card. It rotating isn’t a major deal, though.
Grimscale Oracle saw steady play in Murloc decks. It was never a standout card, and generally stopped seeing play once there were a few good Murlocs printed- but it was always alright. Getting it from Fishflinger or Underbelly Angler, perhaps Underlight Angling Rod, was never horrible- a cheap Murloc that buffs Murlocs is kind of great to have in the mid to late game, even if it wasn’t a card you’d necessarily put in your deck. It isn’t a huge loss, but Murloc decks have less filler options now- though Murloc Warleader going bye-bye is probably going to destroy them.
Knife Juggler was always an option for Token/Zoo decks, even though you usually had better 2-drops. It hasn’t seen much recent play, but was always borderline playable. Also being un-nerfed.
Blood Knight may seem like an odd inclusion, but so were the decks it saw play in. Odd. Odd Paladin, Odd Rouge, and on occasion he popped up in other decks, usually in a small package with Argent Squire. Always solid to buff even once or twice, and clearing out opponent Divine Shields was also an interesting option.
Last, Captain Greenskin. He’s not even a loss to most classes, but Rogue (and, to a much lesser extent, Warrior and Paladin) will miss the curve-topping Weapon buffs. He saw play in some Odd Rogue lists, and has cropped up in variations of just about every Pirate list (that runs Weapons) and, of course, Aggro or Tempo Rogue lists with Weapons such as Hooked Scimitar or Self-Sharpening Sword. Sad to see him go, but Toxicologist is in the Core Set, so Weapon buffs still exist, at least.
Category Five: Good Cards
Exactly what the name implies. Cards that not only saw play, but saw it fairly consistently and as part of good decks.
Southsea Deckhand was a very multiuse card. For the sake of synergies, it was a cheap Pirate with a decent effect, while for Aggro decks that ran Weapons (or just Rogue decks in general) it was a 1 mana 2/1 with Charge. Doesn’t get much simpler for a strong 1-drop, and he’ll be missed… but sees a ton of play in Wild (Odd Rogue, Kingsbane Rogue, some Cutlass/Scimitar/Self-Sharpening Sword lists, some Aggro Druid lists, Pirate Warrior, some off meta decks, maybe a few meta decks I’m forgetting).
Doomsayer was the high risk, high reward Control tool for a while. Twisting Nether that triggers next turn on a 7 health body is pretty sweet for 2 mana, and when Mage had board freezes or Priest/Warrior could put up a big Taunt, it triggered fairly consistently… until the Aggro decks it was meant to counter sped up to the point of easily smacking 7 damage, at which point there were just better options for Control.
Also, Rush existing was not a good thing for Doomsayer’s viability.
Novice Engineer was a cheap body that cycled. A part of Combo decks simply for the draw, and one that will be missed… except that the quintessential Combo card is leaving, so realistically doesn’t matter that much. Control decks sometimes played it, but it wasn’t exactly the most popular card in those lists.
Wild Pyromancer leaves as Equality is buffed… probably a good thing. Another Control staple that allowed for a cheap board clear while doing other things (like healing, for instance). Most notable for the glory days of Northshire Cleric in Standard where Cleric+Pyromancer+Circle of Healing would draw a card for every minion in play, all for 3 mana.
Questing Adventurer is a rather newly popular card. Seeing play in Rogue, which already wants to play and replay card after card every turn, I’ve also seen it pop up in some Demon Hunter lists- because, you know, it’s almost like buffing a minion by a huge amount just by dumping your hand every turn, which you do anyways, is good. Who knew?
Dread Corsair is another Weapon synergy Pirate. This time, if you’ve buffed your Weapon even a little or had a big Weapon to begin with, it’s a free 3/3 with Taunt. Which is ridiculously good in Aggro mirrors and passable most of the time.
I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t want a free 3/3?
However, Weapon decks aren’t always spectacular, so Corsair has drifted in and out of the meta, quite appropriately for a Pirate.
Twilight Drake is a fascinating card. Generally played in slow decks (most notably Handlock), it’s just a big body attached to a Dragon. That’s all.
I think that’s self-explanatory enough.
Alexstrasza is probably the most important card leaving that’s over 3 mana. It saw play in a ton of Control decks, either as healing or as a setup for a 2TKO. The new version, Alexstrasza the Lifebinder, is likely better in nearly every scenario, though.
Still, 15 damage or healing to 15 on whichever Hero you choose is pretty darn nice.
Lastly, Sea Giant. A card that saw play in a ton of board flood decks, but somehow was too slow for a lot of Aggro decks. Saw play in Evolve Shaman for the guaranteed big body, but not much other play in the last year or two that I can remember.
Category Six: The Cards That Created Archetypes
Only two cards. Both were really big deals.
I’m really going to miss Murloc Warleader. I love Murloc decks, and seeing Warleader go is going to potentially destroy their chances of being viable. The board-centric decks featuring Murlocs usually demanded Warleader as a finisher, and adding to that (if I remember correctly) Scalelord and Tip the Scales are both leaving.
It does look like Forged In the Barrens has at least two (maybe even 4) new Murlocs in the reveal schedule, so maybe we’ll get some cool new Murlocs? Toxfin, Murmy, Fishflinger, both of the Classic Attack buff Murlocs, and the entire Shaman Murloc package are rotating, so Murlocs in Standard are going to be a bit sparse otherwise… Crabrider and Imprisoned Sungill are pretty sweet, though.
I just realized how many Murlocs were in Saviors of Uldum, Descent of Dragons, and Rise of Shadows- about 10 total. That’s just a quick count, though, so could be a little more or less if anyone feels the need to check.
Malygos was THE Combo card. Druid, Rogue, Mage- discount Malygos/Spells, or refresh mana, or just bounce a cheaper Malygos and proceed to spam damage Spells to face. Love it or hate it, it enabled a ton of OTKOs over the years.
Now, it’s time to say goodbye. I propose we have a line of silence in the article,
It’s there, WordPress will probably remove it for formatting purposes, but it’s there.
Honestly, I think we’re saying adios to Combo decks outside of Mage (the new Legendary in the Core set looks pretty interesting), with both Malygos and the majority of Charge minions rotating. Maybe someone will find a way to combo with ETC again? Bloodsworn Mercenary is leaving, but there’s always a chance for a new copy card.
I’m hoping that ETC doesn’t get broken again, though.
At any rate, there’re my thoughts on the cards that didn’t make the Core Set. For once, I don’t think I’ll be proven wrong… because the cards are leaving Standard.
Anyways, so long.