By Spike, Regular Contributor
The Wailing Caverns mini-set has now been out for about a week, and in all honesty it’s pretty mediocre. Most of the cards are mediocre at best or would require currently nonexistent synergies, and the nerfs to First Day of School and Hand of Ad’al may honestly impact the meta more than 34 of the 35 mini-set cards- at least in Standard. However, this is for Wild, so…
If you’re looking for decks, check out my Comprehensive Wild Tier List, featuring over a hundred decks, a lot of which have decklists, card substitutions and overviews, from meta to memes. It hasn’t been updated for Wailing Caverns yet because I like to make sure that it’s as accurate as possible and not based on just a week of data, but it’ll be updated soon and should be mostly correct at the moment.
First, on the nerfs to First Day of School and Hand of Ad’al- both of them are pretty small, but it seems to be enough to bump Handbuff Paladin down a few spots on the tier list. Painlock is now most likely the top deck, and the S Tier/Tier 1 decks (Painlock, Secret Mage, Handbuff Paladin, and Raza Priest) are now fairly comparable. I’m guessing Handbuff Paladin will drop First Day of School now that it’s 1 mana add 2 1-cost minions to hand simply because it’s slow, perhaps slotting in Bluegill Warrior instead. However, Hand of Ad’al is likely to stay- with the deck’s focus on Charge and Rush minions, the Attack buff and draw are the selling points, and even with a smaller Health buff it’s still a stellar card.
As far as Wailing Caverns goes, I think that, though it’s a much weaker mini-set than Darkmoon Races was, a little over a third of the cards are likely to see some viable play, and a few of them will become meta. One card in particular is likely meta-defining (even only a day into the new meta, as I write this bit, it’s proving that already).
First up, just a quick look at the cards that will probably see no non-meme play whatsoever.
Demon Hunter’s Taintheart Tormenter would be an amazing card in Warlock. A big Taunt with a permanent double Cult Neophyte effect is plain good- if cheated out.
Unfortunately, DH has only three ways to cheat out big Demons- Raging Felscreamer, Fel Summoner, or Skull of Gul’dan. Skull of Gul’dan is a gamble on what you draw and kind of a pain in the butt to take advantage of with expensive cards, as it’s 6 mana itself, has to be Outcasted, and doesn’t provide enough of a discount to allow you to drop big cards. Fel Summoner likewise comes down too late (you can’t even cheat it out with Death Speaker Blackthorn), and Raging Felscreamer doesn’t provide enough of a discount to really get a Big Demon down early. As such, Big Demon DH is just a super slow deck without any real payoff, plus DH doesn’t have the stall tools it would need for such a slow deck. Great card if cheated out, in a class that can’t cheat it out early enough.
Likewise, Druid’s Deviate Dreadfang is also way too slow. It’s 8 mana for a subpar statted Beast that only activates its effect when specifically Nature Spells are played, and the effect is mediocre. In Ramp Druid, it could be useful, but I’d rather just play big minions that have immediate impact than a minion that requires even more effort to squeeze any use out of.
Hunter got shafted this mini-set. Two of its cards are absolutely, irredeemably horrible. Either could be buffed and still not see play. Venomstrike Bow is perhaps the worst Weapon Hunter has ever gotten, up there with Piranha Launcher and Gladiator’s Longbow. In a class that doesn’t heal, a Weapon designed to clear 2 big/high impact minions by smacking with your face is bad. Ridiculously bad. Poisonous Weapons are fairly counterintuitive by design, and this one is expensive for its number of swings. I’m not sure it’d see play even at 2 mana.
Sin’Dorei Scentfinder is slightly better, but still clocks in as one of the worst cards in the mini-set. Even assuming you trigger its Frenzy, say with Wound Prey, the turn it goes down, it’s a 4 mana 1/3 summon 4 1/1s with Rush at best. That’s not good at all, especially in a class designed to be aggressive.
Mage manages to avoid this section, more on that later.
Paladin got one bad card, one decent card, and Party Up! Party Up! is terrible. Seven mana summon 5 2/2s with random effects. The effects are a gamble, and of the eight, four or five of them are close to useless in an aggressive deck that’d actually want to flood the board. Unless you’re using it as a stall, decks that flood the board with tokens don’t really want Taunt or Poisonous. For Paladin, Spell Damage is irrelevant, and honestly so is Lifesteal. Then there’s Stealth, which is largely pointless on a 2/2 that comes down Turn 7. So, approximately 62.5% of the time, you’ll have a 2/2 that’s pretty useless.
Even if you want to flood the board, there’s no incentive to run Party Up! After all, Silver Hand Recruits exist, and they’ve got better and more consistent synergies that are actually useful (gaining Divine Shield, buffs), plus they’re generally cheaper.
For Priest, Against All Odds is actually a really interesting card. Combined with Wave of Apathy, it’s going to destroy the opponent’s entire board.
Thing is- it’s 5 mana and only hits Odd attack minions. Even though those are common in Wild, you’d usually rather just play Mass Hysteria at 5 mana.
Rogue’s Water Moccasin is trying really hard to be the worst card in the mini-set. 3 mana for a 2/5 Stealth minion is flat out bad, and even though it can have Poisonous, it only has it if you have no other minions. In Rogue, an aggressive class that often tosses a few minions on the board at once, it’s just terrible design. I’d actually rather play Patient Assassin.
Even without the caveat, a 2/5 with Stealth and Poisonous isn’t all that great for 3 mana.
Shaman and Warlock didn’t get any atrocious cards.
Warrior comes close to no cards in this category, but Kresh, Lord of Turtling is just… really pointless in Wild. It’s not even a bad card in all honesty, it just doesn’t really fit into any decks. It’s too understated for Big Warrior, it can’t be played in Odd Warrior, and there aren’t really any other decks that need the stall.
Meeting Stone, Archdruid Naralex, and Selfless Sidekick are all pretty bad. Selfless Sidekick is way too expensive for the effect, while Archdruid Naralex is slow and has no immediate impact- a death sentence in Wild. Meeting Stone has some potential, but I’d rather just play a good curve than a fairly useless 1-drop that creates a curve.
So, of the 35 cards, I’ve just dismissed 11 as near useless in Wild. That still leaves 24 cards that are playable… or does it?
Thing is, even if they’re not entirely useless, there’re a few cards I don’t think will have potential to see meta (or even viable off-meta) play.
First off, DH’s Sigil of Summoning is mediocre even in Token DH. In Wild, most Token DHs tend to be built in an aggressive fashion, and a card that only pays off with a defensive set of Tokens a turn later is too much of a risk. If the Tokens had Rush it would likely be a different story, but for now it’s just a tad slow. Likewise, Felrattler is kind of slow even in Deathrattle DH, which is more stats-focused and not reliant on small AoE on a stick.
Hunter’s Serpentbloom, though adorable, is likewise slow. Beast Hunter is a deck that depends on overwhelming the opponent with Beasts to the dome, not especially value trading. Sure, it’s a cheap board clear when combined with Dreadscale, but that destroys every minion in play but Dreadscale. Not worth it in Beast Hunter, and probably not in any Hunter.
Paladin’s Seedcloud Buckler will see play in probably one deck- the weird version of Odd Paladin that runs a Divine Shield package. Interestingly enough, it would probably be better if it weren’t so generously statted. The fact that the Divine Shields only come down 2 turns after playing it wrecks its viability- every Paladin deck that really cares about Divine Shields has other ways to get it, that don’t involve a long wait.
Rogue got a disruption card in Savory Deviate Delight, and it’s actually not bad. It’s a 1 mana, 1 card combo disruptor, and the “drawback” gives you either a Pirate or Stealth minion, both of which have synergies in Rogue.
So, if it’s decent, why wouldn’t it see play? Quite simply, due to the hitting a random minion and the chance of ending up with something useless, it’s 2-way disruption that will harm you just as much as your opponent in most Aggro and Midrange matchups. Personally, I wouldn’t tech a 1 mana card that’s dead or near dead against a large portion of the meta, especially considering that most Combo decks are pretty weak right now (Malygos, Mozaki, Flamewaker and the new Immunity Warlock are the notable ones). It’s a tech card through and through, just unfortunately pretty much unplayable if you aren’t in the matchup you teched for.
Shaman got a pretty weird tool in Perpetual Flame. It’s capable of clearing most Aggro boards in the first few turns, but the Overload and recasts mean that you won’t have mana next turn if you play it early, and that’s really bad against Aggro.
In the late game, it doesn’t matter, and even in the midgame you won’t always retrigger it. Unfortunately, I think that having a dead turn right after a board clear makes the card useless in the Wild meta.
Warlock’s Final Gasp is Mortal Coil for Aggro decks. Thing is, Mortal Coil was never useful for anything but slow decks, and even with a more aggressive payoff, Aggro decks don’t really care about dealing 1 damage to a minion. Surem you can ping your own to trigger the effect, but still, you’d rather play a good one-drop than require a lucky board state to roll for a potentially mediocre two-drop.
Devouring Ectoplasm is actually pretty good. 3 mana for 5/4 of stats, 2/2 of that having a random keyword, and the only drawback being a need for the 3/2 to die. However, outside of DRDH and maybe the Aggro version of Deathrattle Hunter, Deathrattle doesn’t mean much, and most Aggro decks have better options for 3-drops that synergize with their decks more. Even DR Priest would rather not run it so that their Bad Luck Albatross or Shadowed Spirit Rally! 3-drops are stronger.
That’s eight more cards knocked for a total of 16 that haven’t yet been knocked. Now is where I start looking at cards in earnest. These first 4 are probably playable, but I don’t think they’ll be meta.
Lady Anacondra is a greedy option for Celestial Alignment Druid. You don’t care about her in the Big or Giants versions, so the only really important variation that cares about her at all is the Malygos list.
In that deck, she’s okay, I suppose? You already run multiple ways to pull off the Malygos combo post-Alignment, and she doesn’t matter much pre-Alignment. Her main use is, of course, ramp- both Biology Project, Nourish, and Overgrowth are all Nature Spells, and guaranteeing enough mana to pull off the combo next turn is nice. Other than that, you run a bit of Nature stall with Spreading Plague and Oaken Summons, but Lady Anacondra is all in all pretty single use. I expect her to be experimented with, but ultimately I don’t think she’ll be consistent enough.
Well, it’s definitely an interesting concept, Freeze Mage. Shattering Blast is an excellent card paired with either Varden Dawngrasp or Frost Nova for either a 6 mana destroy all enemy minions or 7 mana same effect plus a 3/3 body, but even a smaller Spell works well with it. Freezing Potion, Snap Freeze, Brain Freeze, or Ice Lance followed by Shattering Blast are 3 or 4 mana destroy a minion of your choice (though Freezing Potion doesn’t hit friendly minions), while Ray of Frost combined with it can be a pair of targeted removals for 5 mana. You can’t forget that Flurry exists, and 3 mana to destroy 1/2/3 random enemy minions is pretty fantastic.
Overall, a good card with synergies that’s certain to be a big deal in any Freeze Mages that pop up. However, Freeze Mage’s viability is shaky at best, and even the new cards from the mini-set may not be enough to make it work, though the other 2 are way better.
Elemental Shaman is not a great deck in Wild, and this plus Primal Dungeoneer is not enough to change that. Most aggressive Shamans would rather run Tunnel Trogg as a 1/3 1-drop, and so Wailing Vapor doesn’t have much of a place in Wild.
I’m sure that Elemental Shaman will pop up with the buffs and the amazing two new cards, but even this amazing 1-drop isn’t nearly enough to boost it into the meta. Maybe it’ll see some testing as an off-meta deck, and I’m sure it’ll do okay, but the deck lacks the insane payoffs of slower decks and the speed of Aggro.
This is another really, really good card without a home. 2 mana 3/4s are good, as exhibited by Totem Golem, but most Warrior decks other than Odd Warrior (which can’t run this for obvious reasons) are focused on either Pirates, Rush minions, Menagerie, DMH or big minions, and this isn’t any one of those.
Menagerie doesn’t want it for sure, nor do DMH decks. For the Rush and Menagerie decks, most of them run either Sword Eater or ways to tutor out a Ringmaster’s Baton. However, this doesn’t have a way to be buffed by Ringmaster’s Baton, and by the time Sword Eater is down the extra stats don’t matter that much.
You really want to get this down on turn 2 or 3 at the latest, and not many Weapons are viable and cheap enough for that. Pirate Warrior often runs N’Zoth’s First Mate, but you can’t rely on having it on Turn One to trigger Man-At-Arms. MAA isn’t a Pirate, so he’s pretty useless later in the game, too. If he were a Pirate, he’d see play, but for now… he’s just a good card with no home. Even if a deck were to run Whetstone Hatchet, which Pirate Warrior just might, it isn’t worth it… Hatchet one Turn One this on Turn Two means no Patches until Turn 3, and no Pirates on board until then either.
Next up, a few more cards that are likely to see off-meta play. All of them are excellent in their respective decks, just that their decks aren’t amazing decks overall.
Fangbound Druid is a really nice card for Hadronox Druid. Despite being an iffy Oaken Summons pull, it’s still not a bad one, and discounting Hadronox is always welcome. Plus, for the sake of any other synergies, it’s a Taunt, and a well statted one at that.
Since Hadronox can be tutored with Living Seed, the discount will hit Hadronox fairly consistently. This card may warrant 2 copies of Living Seed alongside it to guarantee its discount lands, just because cheapening Hadronox to combine with Naturalize and a Carnivorous Cube on, say, Khartut Defender or Scrapyard Colossus all in one turn is pretty darn strong. Also, Thickhide Kodo… exists. It sees play in the weird Reno Taunt Druid, but seems bad in the regular version.
At some point, I’m sure this card will be a strong piece of a meta deck. Currently, I’m considering it for Even Mage due to how strong it would be to, say, drop Varden Dawngrasp on a board of 3 enemy minions and drop a 5/5 alongside him to more than make up the tempo loss, or something like Ice Walker+ Reckless Apprentice or Ice Walker+ Spirit of the Dragonhawk+ Hero Power, which would normally be stall and a slow move, could have Floecaster dropped alongside it to gain tempo.
You can find a list and a few card substitutions for Even Mage here, and if you want Floecaster, just drop the Fireballs for it. If you’re really all in on it, you could also try also dropping the Runed Orbs and a Dirty Rat for a second Starscryer and 2 copies of Flurry.
I really like this card, and it’s just plain strong. A zero mana 5/5 that becomes zero mana by stalling? Yeah, making up the tempo that you usually lose from stalling is really good. Decks that can stall without losing Tempo (Kingsbane before the Leeching Poison nerf, Secret Mage, Raza Priest, the original iteration of Jade Druid) are almost always top decks. From a core gameplay perspective, developing while your opponent can’t do anything about it is just insane. It’s that simple.
Just because I want to wrap up this tangent, if you want proof of that, compare some games on the far sides of the spectrum- Pokemon TCG and the duo of Legends of Runeterra and Yu-Gi-Oh!
In Pokemon, developing when your opponent can’t do a thing about it is a really, really big advantage. That’s the only reason some decks will give up the chance to attack first and to play some of the strongest cards in the game, simply so they can develop before the opponent has a say.
In Legends of Runeterra, and Yu-Gi-Oh to a lesser extent, you can interact with the opponent’s game state via your own cards during their turn. Yu-Gi-Oh allows certain spells to be cast ahead of time and activated during your opponent’s turn (like Secrets in Hearthstone, except not with a sole focus on interrupting the opponent), while Legends of Runeterra has its turns pan out in multiple stages, allowing you to respond to certain kinds of spells and develop your own board during the opponent’s turn. This makes the developing without an opponent’s response much less likely.
Yes, I’m a card game geek. Deal with it. If you’re reading this article, I assume you are too, so let’s pretend we just had a moment or whatever and get back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Wait a second, isn’t this an amazing Secret in a class that has multiple ways to cheat it out?
Well, sort of. The thing is, in most scenarios, this is a really unwieldy Secret. You generally would want to play it when there’s just one big minion on board so the opponent can’t just ram a 2/1 or something into it and make it near useless. That doesn’t synergize well with Paladin’s cheating out Secrets.
On top of that, against the vast majority of big minions, I’d rather use Reckoning. Just flat out destroying the minion is better, even though it’ll deal its damage first. Plus, any “aura” effects on board won’t just pop up again after a Reckoning (e.g. Warhorse Trainer on a Silver Hand Recruit or Murloc Warleader for Murloc decks), while they will with Judgement of Justice. On top of that, Judgement of Justice is way easier to play around.
Yes, Secret Paladin exists. It’s just not good. In fact, it’s pretty bad.
Shroud of Concealment, like Free Admission, probably won’t be played for its effect in most decks, but instead because it tutors two minions. There are a few Rogue decks that actually play Elven Minstrel, which is more expensive and less effective. Shroud of Concealment is just a straight upgrade.
I’ve seen the idea floated to use Shroud of Concealment in Spellsbane Kingsbane, Mill, and Quest Rogue, and nah. All three of those already draw enough, and you don’t care about the Stealth for any of them. I think it may see play in Odd Rogue for draw purposes since the deck doesn’t have much draw, and maybe Malygos Rogue to try and tutor combo pieces, but though it’s a good card Rogue doesn’t really need it in Wild right now. Sad but true.
This is a ridiculously cool card. It can be used as removal, it activates Pain synergies, it’s Even-costed, and it has a dinosaur on it. In Warlock, that’s like… 3 points in its favor and also dinosaurs.
So, the thing is, I don’t think this will pop up in Painlock. Painlock doesn’t care that much about removal of 3-4 drops (because that’s where the value of this is), and it has more efficient self damage options.
Where it will pop up, I believe, is in Even Warlock. Specifically a variant of Evenlock running Darkglare. If you recall, I decided against using Darkglare in my Evenlock list due to not enough synergies, but now I’m considering it. Evenlock loves the early removal, and the pain, well, no pain, no Darkglare triggers, right?
If you missed my look at Evenlock, you can find it here.
How dare you review the cards not in class order! Yeah, deal with it. Just checking to see if you’re still awake and paying attention.
Devout Dungeoneer is kind of pointless in Wild. For obvious reasons, you don’t want it in Big Res Priest, any Priest decks running Rally! (APM Priest, Deathrattle Priest, etc.), or any sort of Wall/Combo Priest. I don’t think you especially want it in Raza Priest, because you don’t care that much about tutoring any particular spell and a lot of your spells are Shadow instead of Holy (a good analogy for Raza Priest if I’m being honest). My list runs 16 spells, and maybe 5 of them are Holy? So, you aren’t tutoring specific spells, you’re taking an approximately 1/16 gamble, you’re going to miss the discount 60-70% of the time- but hey, it’s card draw, and Raza Priest needs that. I’m sure it’ll be experimented with.
Whetstone Hatchet is an excellent card. A 1 mana 1/4 Weapon is already good value, and the fact that your minions in hand will get a buff every time you swing is also nice.
Like a lot of the better mini-set cards, there’s just no deck that really wants it. There are few decks for Warrior that want Weapons, and they’ve all already got what they want. Odd Warrior obviously doesn’t want an Aggro card, same with DMH, Mill, and other Control Warriors. The Rush Warriors, be they Rush synergies, Galakrond, Menagerie Rush, or whatever either have better ways to buff or would rather use Ringmaster’s Baton. That leaves Pirate Warrior, which really doesn’t want to run it because it messes up your Turn 2 or Turn 3 Ancharrr or Outrider’s Axe. So, basically, it’s an excellent card but doesn’t have enough particular synergies to be worthwhile.
It does curve into Man-At-Arms, though, which is cool. I never hated the idea of 1 damage and buffing a random minion in hand twice then dropping a 2 mana 3/4 afterwards.
The last of the “probably viable” cards, Mutanus was heralded as one of the top mini-set cards by a lot of players.
Thing is, he’s slow. Sure, he disrupts Combo decks, and he can get rid of some big pieces of Control and Highlander decks, but Wild doesn’t have many top decks that care about him.
Ignoring the new Soul Stealer Warlock, which generally is going to do its utmost to pop off before Mutanus can go down, there are pretty much no top tier decks in Wild where Mutanus matters. Aggro decks don’t care, Handbuff Pally is a little faster than Mutanus, Painlock is faster, pretty much every top 10 deck except Raza Priest and maybe Mozaki Mage just doesn’t care about a turn 7 greed play.
So yeah, Mutanus is a bit too slow for Wild, though still not a horrible tech for slow decks.
As an aside, why did Blizzard print almost enough Murlocs to make Murloc Shaman good in Standard again, then only print a super slow one in the mini-set and leave them to die? Wild Murloc Shaman is good, but it isn’t insane to the point where you shaft Standard.
So, we’re now down to just four cards, and one of them is broken. Yay. Starting with the worst of them, let’s go!
Mozaki Mage. Maybe. I run 26 copies of spells in mine, and of those, 10 are Frost spells, meaning 5/13 of the time you get the upside, which isn’t horrible.
You’d probably be replacing either Runed Orb or Arcane Intellect with the Dungeoneer, which makes the odds a little better- 5/12, nearly half the time. However, the real draw (pun intended) of the card is tutoring a spell- but Mozaki Mage already draws a lot, so I don’t know if it needs the Dungeoneer.
I expect the Dungeoneer to see play in Reno Mage simply because every spell is a big deal to draw, plus getting the spells out of your deck allows Dragoncaster and Book of Specters to shine, but there’s the downside of Tortollan Pilgrim no longer casting them. If you’ve managed to get Luna’s Pocket Galaxy out via Dungeoneer, you probably don’t need Pilgrim to snag it anyways, though.
As an added bonus, of the half dozen (ish) spells commonly played in the deck (Devolving Missiles, Flame Ward, Ice Block, Potion of Illusion, Book of Specters, Luna’s Pocket Galaxy itself, and Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron for the truly evil), you usually play only 5-6, and one of those is always Ice Block. Since you will usually have somewhere around 4-5 spells in deck playing Frostweave, you tutor a spell with a 20-25% chance of a bonus, which is amazing.
Xyrella sees pretty much no play in Wild despite an amazing effect with a similar activation condition, but Cleric of An’she is just better. It’s cheap, so for just 3 mana you can combine it with your Hero Power, and the effect is probably better. Shadow Visions is a Priest staple, and this is Shadow Visions on a stick.
This slots right into Raza Priest. I think that Big Priest will pass (duh, you don’t want to resurrect a 1/2, and the more aggressive Deathrattle and APM Priests will too because it dilutes Rally!, but the off-meta slower Priest decks such as Wall Combo will almost certainly adopt it.
There’s only one deck that wants this, and it flat out loves it. That would be Reno Shaman, recently a fairly popular deck.
The deck already runs Sandbinder, and may continue to use it because it doesn’t want to drop Ice Fishing, Devolving Missiles or Plague of Murlocs/Volcano, all not Nature spells, to make Dungeoneer 100% consistent. The deck loves every one of its spells, and assuming you cut either Plague of Murlocs or Volcano for Dungeoneer, you should have about a 4/7 chance to draw Glacial Shard or Zephyrs in addition to a nice spell. You could even cut Devolving Missiles and slot in another Nature spell such as Earth Shock, Landslide, or Maelstrom Portal to make the chance of drawing an Elemental 5/7, which is good enough for me- or even cut Sandbinder for a sixth Nature spell, for a 75% chance of also drawing Zephyrs/Glacial Shard. The only question is if Nature spells are good enough in the deck.
Plus, as a Battlecry, Shudderwock repeats it, and drawing cards with Shudderwock is nice.
Here it is, folks. The best Wild card in the mini-set and the most absolutely broken card in a while. Combined with Violet Illusionist or alternatively Mal’Ganis, you can play every single card in your deck for free, and with Warlock’s impressive draw (Backfire, Plot Twist, Hand of Gul’Dan, Sense Demons, and Free Admission, to name a few), you can realistically empty your deck in one turn. Personally, I think that as opposed to Big minions, the Mecha’Thun variant is better, and in all honesty I think it’s a top 5 deck, on par with the likes of Painlock, Raza Priest and Secret Mage.
The card is just plain broken in Wild, and deserves just as much of a nerf as the last couple of broken Warlock decks, Tiller OTK and Sniplock.
Well, that’s all for now. I should be writing more frequent articles in the coming weeks, as well as updating the Comprehensive Wild Tier List with more deck lists, overviews, and guides. I actually updated a couple of lists today, so there should be some small changes.
The next two big projects are a gigantic deck archive that should have all the decks on the tier list in a far easier to read format, as well as a look at which Wild Legendaries are worth crafting, safe Dusts, and such. I do mean all Wild Legendaries, all 500ish of them, so be ready for that!
On top of that, I think I might start writing occasional articles on other games such as Legends of Runeterra too, so… yeah, if you like CCGs and want to read content on them, I’ll be doing my best to deliver a lot of it at the highest quality I can muster.