The year of the Mammoth has gracefully shambled into extinction inline with their non-fiction counterparts and the year of the Raven has dawned upon us; and with it comes The Witchwood, Hearthstone’s 8th expansion set featuring 135 new collectible cards. As the first set of the year and cycle, the introduction of Witchwood has predictably resulted in enormous upheavals in the Hearthstone metagame, having effected the removal of 3 card sets (Whispers of the Old Gods, One Night in Karazhan, and Mean Streets of Gadgetzan).
While some may bemoan the removal of their favorite decks and cards, others are rejoicing at the change of pace and perhaps indulge in the glimmer of hope for their favoured class or playstyle to finally top the charts.
Full archetypes have been rendered absolutely obsolete with canyon-wide gaps left behind from the loss of signature cards such as N’Zoth the Corruptor, Jade Idol, and Kazakus. However, with the meta starting on a clean slate, the rising prominence (or dominance really) of even and odd decks, and exciting new mechanics: echo and rush, there is really no better time to start your Hearthstone career anew!
Players are refunded the full crafting cost (in Arcane Dust) of any copies of formerly Standard cards they possessed at the start of every year or cycle, so returning players will likely have some fuel to burn without even having to spend a single dime.
To help ease you guys back into the current meta, here are the top 5 Witchwood decks after 2 weeks of letting the theorycrafting storm settle:
One of the premier Hearthstone streamer, Kripparian, has pointed out that the first set of the year is often the weakest in comparison of the two that follows and signs have thus far pointed towards the continuation of this scaling power format. Of course, Blizzard has always managed to surprise us somehow or other, so anything could happen! Either way, it seems that aggro decks are still highly relevant and Paladins after finally getting some serious screen time as one of the big boys, remains as the reigning champion.
1.) Even Paladin
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Even Paladin is a deck that most prominently heralds the meta-shattering changes Witchwood has brought to Hearthstone. It is of a mid-range variant with relatively simple goals: swarm the board, contest with efficient removals, buff your minions, and run your opponent out of answers.
Born from embracing Genn Greymane, which restricts the deck to be built revolving about even-cost cards in exchange for Hero Power being one-cost, the deck’s primary strength is the ability to weave in additional minions most turns while still having access to a powerful card pool.
You exploit your cheapened hero power to build momentum from Turn 1 itself, flooding the board with help from the likes of Drygulch Jailor, Call to Arms, and Saronite Chain Gang. Once sufficient paper cuts have been assembled, they can then be powered up into high-value minions for a massive punch in the face by stuff like Lightfused Stegodon, Sunkeeper Tarim, and Silver Sword.
As if that isn’t enough, your poor opponents will still have to worry about large and sticky threats like Val’anyr, The Lich King, and Tirion Fordring. Meanwhile Consecration, Truesilver Champion, and Avenging Wrath provides the necessary support to contest the board with.
Cubelock is a deck conceived during the Kobolds and Catacombs expansion around the end of 2017. It is mainly a control deck but is accented with significant combo elements, taking the best from both worlds with: strong removals, tons of taunt, healing, great cycling/draw, and insane burst damage potential.
The deck is still relatively new and complicated, you control the board with Defile, Hellfire, and Doomsayer while drawing with your Hero Power and cards like Mortal Coil or Kobold Librarian before leveraging on mighty combos to end the game.
Penalties for playing demons are bypassed through the use of cards like Possessed Lackey which recruits a Demon directly onto the board or Skull of the Man’ari which plays a Demon from your hand automatically at the start of each turn.
The primary offensive combo involves hitting Doomguards with Carnivorous Cube, followed by the use of Dark Pact to destroy the Carnivorous Cube and summon 2 additional copies of Doomguard for 10 additional damage will usually finish your opponent off. If they are still alive after that, you have Death Knight Bloodreaver Gul’dan to raise all destroyed Doomguards for another round of the pain train.
3.) Odd Paladin
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Paladins were dominating the meta for the most of the previous Standard year. It was most apparent last expansion, when Murloc Paladin and Dude Paladin took turns on the top of tier lists. People figured that the situation might stabilize in Witchwood with Paladins not really getting a lot of toys to play with but boy are they wrong.
The introduction of Witchwood heralded two new archetypes to Hearthstone: Odd-cost decks built around Baku the Mooneater and Even-cost decks built around Genn Greymane. Funnily enough, Paladin is in a good position to take advantage of either model, allowing both variant to dominate the existing meta.
Take advantage of the constant stream of two 1/1 Silver Hand Recruits per Hero Power use in addition to strong 1-drops like Argent Squire, Righteous Protector, and Lost in the Jungle to really swarm the board and snowball on any advantage gained from maintaining heavy aggression with cards like Level Up!, Unidentified Maul, Blessing of Might, Raid Leader, Fungalmancer and Stormwind Champion for potentially huge swings.
Although Divine Favor helps with refills after the initial push, like with most aggro decks, Odd Paladins will fall off quickly as the match approaches mid-game as it does not have any sticky late-game plays and answers.
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Having proved itself across Journey to Un’goro and Kobolds and Catacombs after overcoming initial resistance to the archetype, Murlocdin has become an increasingly popular meta-choice with its aggressive strategy and huge mid-range swings.
Somewhat of a combination of Odd and Even Paladin, Murlorcdin is an aggressive mid-range deck leveraging on the Murloc tribal synergy. While not as popular as its colleagues, Murlocdin has managed to maintain its position through its unique flavours stemming from the diverse host of Murlocs involved. A fun deck to climb the ladder with for sure!
Swarm the board with murlocs from early to mid game through Hydrologist, Murloc Tidecaller, and Rockpool Hunter, maintaining board control or pressing the advantage using Call to Arms, Knife Juggler, and Coldlight Seer. Once a good amount of murlocs have been ensembled, the finishing blow will come from Gentle Megasaur, Murloc Warleader, and Sunkeeper Tarim. If things get too tough, Divine Favor and Vinecleaver will be there to help close the deal.
5.) Spiteful Druid
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Like other Spiteful Summoner decks, Spiteful Druid wants to cheat out big minions by having Ultimate Infestation as its only spell in the deck. It is a minion-heavy tempo deck designed to be exceptionally efficient against slower archetypes, relying on board presence to survive aggro and tempo opponents. It is a relatively new kind of archetype for the hero, and one which looks beyond cards like Innervate and Wild Growth for inspiration when it comes to cheating out big minions.
The early game will be a relatively tougher period for Spiteful Druid in comparison to others of its kind; survival against aggro will be mostly reliant upon both taunt and unimpressive but cheap minions as zero of the usual Druid removal spells shall be included to guarantee good Spiteful Summoner procs. On the bright side the deck includes many supporting cards that can leverage on these cheap but unimpressive drops by buffing them into kingdom come utilising the likes of Prince Keleseth, Crypt Lord, Cobalt Scalebane, and Fungalmancer; plus if things are going south REALLY quickly, the deck usually runs two copies of Mind Control Tech.
From there, it’s just a simple matter of playing Spiteful Summoner to reveal the 10-mana Ultimate Infestation, spawning a free 10-mana minion. The Year of the Raven rotation has made Spiteful Druid a lot stronger. All of the really punishing 10-mana Spiteful summons have been removed and although you can no longer proc Deathwing, Dragonlord, Y’Shaarj, Rage Unbound, the other three Old Gods, and a couple of other sub-optimal hits, the worst you can possibly do now is get Emeriss and Sea Giant . For 6 mana, 12/12 stats across two bodies isn’t to be taken lightly, and literally striking gold with Deathwing, Tyrantus, or Ultrasaur is more likely to happen than not.
Visuals: Blizzard Entertainment