If you are logging onto Hearthstone for the first time in awhile, you may not recognize the game. We are officially a month into life on the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan and the 132 new cards introduced in the set have had arguably the largest impact of any expansion on the game as we have seen. This new meta has fostered an environment pirates run wild and face is definitely the place.
A Pirate's life for me
That is right, a glorified Stonetusk Boar is having a level of dominance on the Hearthstone meta rivaling the likes of Mysterious Challenger and Dr. Boom. If you have played any ranked games, you certainly have seen Patches the Pirate, the seven-eyed swashbuckler shot out of a cannon and into your face. Combined with the likes of the Small-Time Buccaneer, Patches has turned any deck that has the ability to play a weapon on Turn 2 into a Tier 1 aggro deck. Whether it is Pirate Warrior, Jade Shaman or Miracle Rogue, Patches is a staple of these new pirate decks while also being the worst card to have in your hand to start the game (given that the card's effect necessitates this card being in your deck at all times).
Kazakus might be the new MVP of Reno decks
Although Reno Jackson gets all the glory in the Reno Decks, Kazakus is giving the explorer a run for his money when it comes to determining the MVP of these decks. When word first got out that Blizzard was releasing a card that lets players create their own spells, the community did not know what to expect. After a month of testing, the spells are as incredible as anyone could have hoped. The fact that you can create a 1, 5 or 10 mana spell gives you the game-changing flexibility to thrive in any possible situation. Also, the utility of all the spell options means that no matter the mana cost of the spell you choose to make, you will get plenty of bang for your buck. Whether it is a last ditch effort with a Polymorph while summoning a 8/8 demon or just clearing the board while also striking the opponent's face, Kazakus has just the right spell for you.
Thrall is still king of Hearthstone
2016 was an interesting year for the Shaman class as it went from laughing stock of Hearthstone (yes, it was even worse than priest) to the most dominant class in the game in a matter of weeks. This was a result of the incredible cards the class received, especially in Whispers of the Old Gods expansion, as the class keeps receiving gifts from Blizzard. With the combination of the Jade Golem mechanic, new powerful weapons, healing cards and strong pirate synergy, Thrall is sitting comfortably as the most powerful class in Hearthstone. 2017 is off to a great start for Shamans already.
Rise of the Reno Mage
When all 132 cards of the new set were released, the Hearthstone community was in agreement that the Mage class got ripped off. No new cards were valuable in competitive play, and Mage fell in popularity as a result. After seeing how Reno Warlock became one of the most, strongest decks in Hearthstone, people started experimenting with Reno Mage. The deck has been growing in popularity and is now seen as a Tier 1 deck both on ladder and in competitive play. This is a great example of how quickly the fortunes of a class can change after an expansion. People just needed to get bored of playing pirates to find out the true power of Mage.
Hunters and Paladins have gone extinct
It seems like just a couple months ago that Hunters were the most toxic deck on the ladder and Paladins were able to control the game until they Murloc'd you to death in one turn. Those days are well in the past as the two classes are extremely rare sights here in the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan meta. The hand-buff mechanic that Blizzard introduced to the Grimy Goons family (Hunters, Paladins and Warriors) have been an absolute bust as none of the cards are used in competitive play with any regularity. Paladins have hope that the Murloc deck can make a comeback, but I wouldn't recommend playing it to climb the ladder. The saddest part of it all though, is the fact that Hunter can't even put together a toxic Face Hunter list anymore as pirates just don't fit into a solid Hunter list.
Most Surprising cards
Second-Rate Bruiser: Originally seen as a fringe tech-card, this situational taunt is a staple in each Reno deck, and is a great tool to victory in this hyper-aggressive meta. Your opponent having 3 minions on board has become increasingly common with the rise in pirates and a 3 mana, 4/5 minion always makes for awkward trades.
Dirty Rat: At first being the definition of a high risk-low reward card, Dirty Rat has turned into an incredible tool to interrupt your opponent's strategy. Whether it is pulling out a card to negate their battlecry, setting up a Mind Control Tech or just bringing out a minion you want to kill right away, Dirty Rat can ruin your opponent's day.
Kun, the Forgotten King: The big surprise with this card has been the combo decks that people have created around Kun. Whoever thought to Avaina into Kun to refresh your crystals and set up a one-turn kill is truly an evil genius. Although the deck hasn't quite made it into the competitive scene, the creativity and style points are off the chart.
Most Disappointing cards
Dragonfire Potion: Priest fans (the elite few remaining) were very happy with the cards that the class received, especially Dragonfire Potion as it served as the board clear that desperately needed. But then Patches and his pesky band of pirates started to dominate and this card became much too slow, resulting in players rightfully going back to good 'ol Holy Nova. This is still a strong card, just not in this meta.
Kabal Crystal Runner: Although hopes were never high on this card in the competitive scene, the fact that it was never even experimented with is disappointing. Even with all the Thing From Below comparisons, people have come to the harsh conclusion that this card is bad and Secret Mage will never be a thing.
Dispatch Kodo: I could have just put the entire Hunter class into this category, but then we'd be here all night discussing the class' ineptness. Dispatch Kodo's failure is most disheartening because its effect, along with Rat Pack's, were the lone hopes for Handbuff Hunter to work and it never even came close. Hunter is in a rough place right now and this Kodo can't help.
With such a shakeup present just a month into the life of Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, a breath of fresh air has been injected the game and ushered in a whole new era of piracy. The brightest part of this new meta is that while the pirates are certainly everywhere, there are enough other strong decks in place that bring a balance to the game and keep things as even as can be. Raise a glass to balance!