Spellstone Overview: Hunter, Druid, and Warlock
You should get used to hearing about Spellstones, the new mechanic Blizzard believes will radically influence the deck-building process for all nine classes — whether you are modifying an existing archetype or conjuring something novel.
When Kobolds and Catacombs drops, each class will have a unique Spellstone card to play with. Each unleashes a powerful effect in keeping with the theme of the class. The Hunter Spellstone summons beasts, the Mage Spellstone adds random spells to your hand, and so on. When you hold the Spellstone in hand and meet certain conditions, its effect becomes more powerful and remains its original mana cost. This upgrade can happen twice. By this time, theoretically, the upgraded Spellstone effect will be worth the cost of building your deck in part around it. These powerful new cards are Rare, too, so two can be included in each deck for only 200 dust.
Some specific interactions are still unclear, but that didn’t stop us from dreaming of the effect that Spellstones will have on existing decks, the archetypes they may well spawn, and insane combos to try on December 7th. So in the lead up to Kobolds and Catacombs, indulge us in a bit of speculation, then let us know how you plan to spend those first few experimental days trying to beat Razakus Priest.
Hunter: Emerald Spellstone
This might be the expansion that allows Hunter to change its stripes, so to speak. For years Hunter decks have relied on sticky minions and Beast synergy to push tempo and finish the opponent quickly. Secret Hunter saw a bit of a spotlight in recent months, but the Kobolds and Catacombs expansion seems ready to cater to that archetype more.
Two cards stand out: the Lesser Emerald Spellstone and Rhok'delar. The Spellstone summons two 3/3 Wolves (yes, Beasts) for 5 mana. This is a fine if slow effect on its own, but by merely playing a secret players can add to the wolf pack: it summons three 3/3 wolves after you play a Secret with it in hand and four 3/3 Wolves after you play another. Despite the obvious, on-curve weakness to Hellfire, Abyssal Enforcer, and the new Duskbreaker, that’s a lot of stats for not much mana, after committing resources you would have committed in a Secret Hunter anyway.
Rhok’delar, meanwhile, means to advance a whole new Hunter archetype — one that eschews the sticky Beasts we’ve come to expect in favor of powerful spells. And probably still plays Yogg. The 4/2 legendary weapon fills your hand with Hunter spells, synergizing with the Secret Hunter archetype itself, the new Spellstone, and the unpredictable Old God (though you would need to draw Yogg-Saron, Hope's End before benefiting from Rhok'delar’s Battlecry). I was skeptical of this idea when it first crossed my mind because the Spellstone seems slow and card draw will continue to be a problem. But seeing it in action during the reveal stream Monday has me excited to try something entirely new.
Druid: Lesser Jasper Spellstone
Druid’s Lesser Jasper Spellstone, like Paladin’s Lesser Pearl Spellstone, offers flexibility in lieu of flash. It deals 2 damage to a minion for just 1 mana, but deals 4 to a minion after you gain 3 armor with it in hand, and bumps to 6 damage when you gain another 3 armor. The armor does not need to be gained at once, either. When you gain 1 armor via the hero power, it reduces the required armor on the Spellstone by 1.
Also like the Pearl Spellstone, the Jasper Spellstone fits nicely into any of the currently popular Druid archetypes. Miracle Druid especially would love to use a 1-mana 6-damage removal spell. And both Big and Jade Druid will likely welcome extra, cheap removal to sustain them into the late game. This will not spawn new archetypes, but it will be welcome in nearly any Druid deck.
Kobolds and Catacombs gives Druid a few new means to upgrade their Spellstones: Oaken Summons, Branching Paths, and Barkskin — which fits spectacularly in Miracle Druid. All of these cards upgrade the Spellstone on the spot, leaving your Malfurion the Pestilent able to melee down smaller targets while you bolster the Spellstone for cheap spot removal when you need it.
Again, this Spellstone will not break the meta. That much is clear. But it is a good card, flexible enough to be played at any stage of the game in both Miracle and Jade Druid — not to mention the Taunt Druid with Hadronox, Astral Tiger, and Ixlid, Fungal Lord we saw during the reveal.
Warlock: Amethyst Spellstone
Warlock players have long been split into two camps: Control and Zoo. But with cards like Voidlord and Skull of the Man'ari, Kobolds and Catacombs might add Demon Warlock to the factions vying for dominance and warrant a resurgence of Mal'Ganis.
A lot has to go right for this to happen, but a few things already have. New, powerful Demons like Vulgar Homunculus and Voidlord are defensive minions that don’t happen to also throw the game (looking at you, Lakkari Felhound). Skull of the Man'ari, if it can evade the opponent’s weapon destruction tools, solves the tempo problem of playing expensive minions like Voidlord. Last, a card the capitalizes on the masochistic nature of many in the Warlock set: the Amethyst Spellstone, which offers a cheap spot removal tool to accompany Siphon Soul in control decks and replace it in faster ones.
It deals 3 damage to a minion and has Lifesteal, and any time you take damage from your cards — not Life Tap — it upgrades, first to 5 damage and then to 7. At 4 mana, the Amethyst Spellstone won’t inspire new archetypes on its own, but it’s cheap and effective enough to be including in nearly anything, news that will delight anyone wondering if Blizzard had forgotten about self-damage synergy after creating Floating Watcher. The new Dark Pact spell will help Warlocks flirting with death to stabilize in the mid-game, too. All these supporting cards, the flexibility of the Spellstone, and the sheer power of its effect will make this one of the best of the set, and an auto-include in control variants.