Last Thursday, the fifth and final wing of Hearthstone’s newest adventure, Blackrock Mountain, was released. With the release of this final wing, the “Hidden Laboratory,” the remainder of the 31 cards from this mini-expansion have become available for play in constructed and arena game modes.
Completing today’s wing grants players four (count ’em!) new dragon cards, an additional dragon-conditional-battlecry card, and one new class card (this time for Paladin). All six cards seem impressive at first glance, but three in particular stand out the most: Volcanic Drake, Blackwing Corruptor, and Solemn Vigil.
Volcanic Drake is a 6/4 for 6 mana, which at first seems dreadfully awful. Why play this card? The devil is in the details! Volcanic Drake’s battlecry reduces its mana cost by the number of minions that died the turn that it’s played, meaning that if a Paladin trades three recruits into three other small minions, the Volcanic Drake can be played for free! Sure, its a dream play, but based on the couple days Volcanic Drake has been out in the wild, it very well could be played in such a situation, and more frequently than one might initially think.
Blackwing Corruptor is, like Blackwing Technician, a decent card that becomes an amazing card if the condition of having a Dragon-card in hand when played is met. A 5/4 for 5 mana is pretty poor value (why not play Loatheb, or Shieldmaiden instead, for example, which both have 5/5 stats). However, Blackwing Corruptor has the upside of dealing 3 damage to anything on the field, much like Shaman’s Fire Elemental. In a dragon deck, Blackwing Corruptor has a ton of potential for creating a massive tempo swing, and looks to be a card that every dragon-themed deck needs at least one of.
Finally, Solemn Vigil is earned from beating the Paladin class challenge, and comes with a really cool effect. The card itself draws two cards from the deck (much like Arcane Intellect), but differs in its mana cost. Solemn Vigil starts at 5 mana, but costs one less per minion that dies the turn the card is played. Much like Volcanic Drake, Paladins should be able to manipulate the board in ways that will allow Solemn Vigil to be played on the cheap (with the dream being zero mana!).
The other three cards released during this final week are Drakonid Crusher, Dragonkin Sorcerer, and, of course, the almighty Nefarian himself.
Drakonid Crusher is, at worst, a Boulderfist Ogre with one-less toughness. At it’s best, however, it’s a 9/9 for 6 mana. Are there other, better 6 drops? Sure. Sylvannas and the much more recent Emperor Thaurissan seem like obvious choices. But for those lacking expensive Classic Set legendaries who need an extra slot that Thaurissan won’t fill? Drakonid Crusher seems to be the obvious choice.
Dragonkin Sorcerer seems to have somewhat less use currently in competitive play. On one hand, heroes like Priest and Paladin could base buff decks around the dragon, but it seems a little gimmicky to actually be effective in the long term when laddering. Simply put, it seems like the superb 5/6 Hungry Dragon should fill this 4-mana slot 90% of the time over this card.
Finally, last, but far from least, is Nefarian, the final boss of the adventure, akin to Kel’Thuzad from Naxxramas. In terms of the actual final boss of Blackrock Mountain, Nefarian is a bit of a pushover, and this seems to carry over to his card to an extent. While getting two spell cards upon summoning him seems great at first, the reality is, RNG decides which cards the player will receive, meaning that versus Warrior, a player could get two Shield Slams, or against Rogue, two Blade Flurries, with no way to use either card. Additionally, Nefarian is weak to Big Game Hunter, making him a sub-par dragon when compared to Ysera or the slower Chromaggus. Add the fact that Nefarian costs a whopping 9-mana, and he’s a pretty tough sell. Regardless, it’s possible that the son of Deathwing will find a home in certain decks, but for now, he seems like a pretty underwhelming addition to the Blackrock collection.
After several days of playing Hidden Laboratory’s four bosses and unlocking the final wing cards, finishing the final class challenge, and finishing heroic mode (and earning the coveted Nefarian card-back), it has become incredibly apparent that the current Hearthstone meta-game is changing rapidly. Just like the post-release periods of the two prior expansions, Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes, playing Hearthstone with all 31 of Blackrock’s new cards is exciting and feels fresh.
No single hero is dominating, except for the excruciatingly frustrating Hunter class and its face-aggro deck archetypes. New decks are constantly being listed online for both PvE and PvP scenarios, which is fantastic, as it means that plenty of different varieties of decks have become possible thanks to Blackrock’s focus on dragons and on trading minions to gain value for cards such as Solemn Vigil and Dragon’s Breath. Blizzard seems to be committed to providing new expansions for Hearthstone in order to see it evolve, much like its other IPs.
However, the release of Blackrock has also made it abundantly clear that Hearthstone is heading towards a fast-paced, aggressive play-style that may be off-putting to newcomers and frustrating for players who like to play the slower, control archetype decks.
Will the meta stabilize with time to allow slower, control Dragon decks to see play? Even as a daily Hearthstone legend, I have an answer that will provide little to no solace: I haven’t the faintest idea. Time will tell.
For a full list of the cards being added through the Blackrock expansion, check out the thumbnails below: