Below I have written a guide detailing my predictions for the upcoming cards in the Forged in the Barrens set. Similarly to Trump, I will be grading each card from 1 to 5 stars, meaning:
5 Stars: Staple in a Tier 1 deck or a staple in multiple Tier 2 decks.
4 Stars: Occasionally used in a Tier 1 deck, a staple in a Tier 2 deck, or a staple in multiple Tier 3 decks.
3 Stars: Occasionally used in a Tier 2 deck, a staple in a Tier 3 deck, or a staple in multiple Tier 4 decks
2 Stars: Sees at least 1% of play in a Tier 4 deck or has seen some amount of tournament success.
1 Star: Fails to maintain a 1% playrate in Diamond or above.
I have tried to avoid watching other people's card reviews beforehand, so you can be confident that the opinions below are my own and not tainted by anyone else's perception. Enjoy.
Fury (Rank 1) – 5 Stars: Seriously? They hyped up the removal of Twin Slice just to include a card which is frequently better than it? I’m not a huge demon hunter hater myself, but man, this thing is going to be really annoying for the next two years…
Razorboar – 4 Stars: This is the first in a long line of 4s I’m going to give to Demon Hunter’s deathrattle cards. Simply put, Razorboar is absolutely busted and is comparable to Nerubian Egg in the value it provides. Demon Hunter doesn’t have much in the way of Deathrattle synergy, but this is more than good enough to make the class interested.
Vile Call – 1 Star: If we look at the cards that have been successful with Il’gynoth, all of them do not require much setup beforehand: Felscream Blast deals its damage immediately, and you can play Aldrachi Warblades early and keep it out until you need it. This card, like Insatiable Felhound, can only combo with Il’gynoth if the minions it generates stick, and that’s just not reliable enough.
Razorfen Beastmaster – 4 Stars: Another great card that allows for more mana cheating. This card is dependent on good 4-mana deathrattles to function well, but fortunately the neutral section has one I’m quite intrigued by.
Sigil of Silence – 1 Star: While this spell is cheap, silence effects typically only work well when they are immediate. You don’t want to be waiting around for the effect, so there’s not much you can really do with this.
Tuskpiercer – 5 Stars: A 1/2 weapon which draws a card? For one mana? This card’s power level is comparable to Ancharrr and it will see play not just in Deathrattle Demon Hunter, but also in any deck which runs even a small number of deathrattle cards. Obscene.
Sigil of Flame – 3 Stars: Reminds me of Imprisoned Observer, but the effect is faster, stronger, and cheaper (with no body, sadly). This could easily fit into any slower Demon Hunter deck; the only question is how playable those decks will be. I predict there will be at least one which will pick this up.
Vengeful Spirit – 4 Stars: Extremely good when the Outcast effect pops off, but the curve of a potential Deathrattle deck makes it a little awkward to get out of your hand. Still a good card but not quite as game-breaking as it looks at first glance.
Death Speaker Blackthorn – 4 Stars: It’s Captain Hooktusk, but cheaper, and Hooktusk wasn’t around when Taelan Fordring was around to tutor her. I was initially skeptical of Deathrattle synergies working out, but this card is more than good enough to justify building around, and the class is getting some other great cards which work well with it.
Kurtrus Ashfallen – 3 Stars: A significantly improved version of Illidari Felblade which could fit in if Outcast synergies are strong enough in Demon Hunter. With Kor’vas, Illidari Studies, and Gan’arg Glaivesmith, this could be a legitimate direction for the class.
Demon Hunter Class Summary
Forged in the Barrens Ranking: 5th
Year of the Phoenix Ranking: 3rd
Overall Ranking: 4th
Demon Hunter has had a great first year, but this hasn’t come without a cost: most of its premier, meta-defining archetypes have suffered multiple nerfs since then. However, there’s room for further optimism. Aggro Demon Hunter is losing almost nothing from rotation and the cards that it got in Barrens should be respectable replacements. Those bored of this archetype can give Deathrattle Demon Hunter a shot, since this deck also shows promise and potentially could be even stronger (but my money is on Aggro as the better deck). Either way, Demon Hunter should be in a healthy spot: a strong, competent class, but far from being the meta-breaker it used to be
Pride's Fury – 1 Star: Reminds me of Adapting Spores which never saw play. It’s too reliant on having a board set up, and its effect is far from game-winning when it pops off. All in all, a very sad replacement for Savage Roar.
Thickhide Kodo – 3 Stars: Pretty bland and uninspiring. It’s really not that much better than TAZDINGO, which doesn’t see any serious play at all. So why does it get three stars? Well, there’s an upcoming card which we really, really want to run, and it’s looking for serviceable taunt cards. This might fit the bill.
Thorngrowth Sentries – 1 Star: It’s not a terrible card, but it just doesn’t do enough. The Taunt Druid synergies that the class is getting overall aren’t particularly amazing, and this is never a card that you’d want to run without some clear synergies. It does work well in Gibberling Druid, but I suspect the loss of Savage Roar will be a deathblow to that deck.
Living Seed (Rank 1) – 1 Star: The base form is bad, the 5-mana form is barely passable, and the final, 10-mana form, is…slightly above average? This doesn’t even come close to making a Beast Druid deck viable, and it might not even make the cut if such a deck existed. In all fairness, considering that Druid is the ramp class, it makes sense that its Rank card is one of the worst of the bunch.
Mark of the Spikeshell – 2 Stars: This would be a lot better if Druid had a good 1-mana Taunt minion to target this with (think Enchanted Raven to the original Mark of Y’Shaarj). As it is, I don’t think it makes the cut in any Druid deck. I could be totally wrong here, but I think it’s too awkward.
Razormane Battleguard – 5 Stars: Comparable to Foxy Fraud, but with the added upside of being able to repeat the effect if it sticks. The taunt minions you play will help the card stick, and even if it doesn’t, it’s such a good deal that I can’t imagine Druid failing to make this work.
Celestial Alignment – 2 Stars: It’s so cool that I wish I could give it a higher rating, but unfortunately it looks like a meme. Paying 7 mana to do nothing is quite punishing, and the payoff isn’t amazing enough to justify it. On the bright side, it really messes up Lorekeeper Polkelt!
Druid of the Plains – 1 Star: Good stats for the cost but doesn’t have the synergy it needs to be viable. Beasts in Druid haven’t been good outside of Guardian Animals, and this can’t be pulled with that card.
Guff Runetotem – 4 Stars: I could see this really popping off. There’s a lot of cheap Nature spells that will work well with this (Innervate, and I assume Nature Studies, are the two best examples). This could work in a token deck, but I think it could also work in ramp-focused decks as well.
Plaguemaw the Rotting – 1 Star: Oh dear. Cards which rely on having a board to function have traditionally not been good unless their effect is game-winning. This card requires BOTH sides to have a board (and your board specifically needs Taunt minions), but the effect is laughable for the required setup. This is one of the worst legendaries in the set and it will be shocking if it sees any play.
Druid Class Summary:
Forged in the Barrens Ranking: 8th
Year of the Phoenix Ranking: 8th
Overall Ranking: 10th
Druid’s prospects look grim. It’s currently kept alive by Token decks, but without a powerful win condition in Savage Roar, those decks will die out after rotation. What does it get to replace them? We have Razormane Battleguard, an incredibly strong card for a weak archetype, and what else? Ever since the Guardian Animals nerf, ramp strategies have done poorly in any meta which is even slightly aggressive, so what can the class do?
Pack Kodo – 1 Star: Contrary to what I suspect the general opinion will be, I believe a Beast Hunter deck will be playable after the rotation. However, the deck really doesn’t want to run beasts which don’t directly synergize with handbuffs, so this will not make it in.
Piercing Shot – 2 Stars: This is coming into Standard at the completely wrong time. Face Hunter is losing a lot of the cards which previously made it viable, and this isn’t good enough to stop the bleeding. It’s too bad, because it would be a pretty solid addition if the archetype was still good.
Wound Prey – 4 Stars: I like it quite a bit; when compared to Springpaw, it looks pretty good. Hell, some would argue it’s better since it deals the same damage for less mana. The only problem is the lack of obvious synergies in the set to demand this card’s inclusion (except maybe Barak Kodobane),
Prospector's Caravan – 2 Stars: Hunter has quite a few cards which could make this work. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t strong enough to make the final cut. Its effect is slow, and there are quite a few cards in the meta which can instantly kill it when played on curve.
Sunscale Raptor – 5 Stars: This is the third expansion in a row Hunter has gotten an insane 1-drop, and this is likely better than the other two. The card has great synergy with the plethora of handbuffs available to the class, and at worst, it’s a 1 mana 1/3 with an upside. Should be a no-brainer inclusion.
Tame Beast (Rank 1) – 4 Stars: Really clever design choice here: Druid, the class which ramps the easiest, gets the weakest Rank card, while Hunter, a class which rarely makes it to Turn 10, gets the strongest one. Fortunately, it doesn’t need to wait until Turn 10 to summon a 4/4 beast with Rush, which is pretty good on its own and gets even better when you take a look at one of Hunter’s legendaries…
Kolkar Pack Runner – 1 Star: Man, this card is so weird. They do realize that Unseal the Vault is rotating, right? I mean, Blood Herald will be happy to see Hunter players trying to summon lots of tokens, but I can’t imagine a functional archetype which is interested in this. Am I missing something?
Warsong Wrangler – 4 Stars: Unlike beast buff cards of the past, this one can choose which beast gets buffed. That dramatically improves the consistency of buffing the right target, and it also means we have a little bit more leeway to run beasts which don’t directly synergize with buffs (such as, say, Helboar).
Barak Kodobane – 3 Stars: This card obviously offers excellent value. However, it’s still unlikely to see play in the upcoming meta because if we look at Beast Hunter, it doesn’t have many 1 or 3 cost spells that it wants to run, and if we look at other Hunter archetypes…well, how much chance do those have of really seeing play? A great card to look at for the future, but I think attempts to add suboptimal cards to Beast Hunter to justify Barak will be unsuccessful.
Tavish Stormpike – 5 Stars: This was a card I was initially unsure of due to its awkwardness, but upon further reflection, I think the class has enough good beasts to make this a good win condition. It’s a great way of getting the buffed cards in your deck out on the field, and if it sticks for a turn, your opponent will be in a world of pain.
Hunter Class Summary
Forged in the Barrens Ranking: 4th
Year of the Phoenix Ranking: 10th
Overall Ranking: 7th
Hunter is coming into the new year with the worst Year of the Phoenix cards, so it’s understandable that some will dismiss the class. Now, at the risk of overestimating Hunter’s beast synergies for the third time, I can actually see a real deck emerging, and some of the cards in the core set heavily support the archetype as well (Dire Frenzy, anyone?) Hunter’s not going to be one of the strongest classes, but if it’s playable, then I’m exited for it.
Oasis Ally – 4 Stars: I’m going to make a bold prediction: Secret Mage is going to be the best Mage deck after rotation. Furthermore, this is a great secret for it to run, as it synergizes well with Game Master, an upcoming neutral minion, and the Freeze package.
Refreshing Spring Water – 2 Stars: This is a great buff for Spell Mage, a deck currently stuck in Tier 4. Will it be enough to make the deck a competitive threat? Not really; Spell Mage is losing a lot to the rotation and it will need more than this to keep up. In other decks, the effect is far to inconsistent to ever be worth considering.
Runed Orb – 4 Stars: A solid replacement for Frostbolt. If Spell-Damage decks continue to exist, they will pick this up in a heartbeat, but even if they don’t, the card is good enough as a standalone to potentially warrant inclusion.
Flurry (Rank 1) – 3 Stars: Not a bad value for the cost, although this will only really see play with the help of cards like Glacier Racer. It compares favorably to Cone of Cold and has synergy with the legendary, so it’s not unthinkable that a Freeze package will make it into a deck at some point.
Reckless Apprentice – 1 Star: I wanted to believe in this archetype so bad, which is what makes this rating so painful to give. This card is mediocre on its own, which means it’s reliant on having a Fallen Hero in play or having played a Wildfire or two beforehand. The tragic thing is that this is one of the better cards that the archetype received.
Rimetongue – 1 Star: This card is rather awkward to set up, and the payoff for each Frost spell played is lackluster. Mage just doesn’t have enough cheap Frost spells to justify putting this in your deck.
Arcane Luminary – 2 Stars: Remember Cyclone Mage? That deck could have really used a card like this, but now it’s long gone, and many of its most important pieces (such as its namesake) are rotating. Mage just doesn’t have the card generation that it used to have.
Wildfire – 1 Star: You’re spending 2 mana to do nothing. Remember how bad Dinomancy was? This is even worse because the “upgraded” hero power is dramatically weaker. If a Hero Power focused deck is forced to run cards like this, that’s already a massive warning sign.
Mordresh Fire Eye – 1 Star: Theoretically, this could be a decent win condition for Hero Power Mage. The thing is, it’s slow, difficult to set up, and it doesn’t win you the game even after being played. It’s not really good enough on its own, either.
Varden Dawngrasp – 4 Stars: A versatile card which puts the original Frost Nova to shame. It’s perfectly fine as both a standalone and a piece of the Freeze Mage puzzle. We all know how oppressive AoE freeze effects are. There’s no reason to think this card won’t be just as oppressive.
Mage Class Summary
Forged in the Barrens Ranking: 9th
Year of the Phoenix Ranking: 5th
Overall Ranking: 9th
Unfortunately, the rotation will be crueler to Mage than most other classes. All of its key archetypes will be losing cards which are crucial to how they perform. Its new set doesn’t inspire much confidence (get it? Inspire?) and while the Freeze cards look decent as a package, they can’t singlehandedly carry a deck to success. Maybe its secret archetype can survive losing its Uldum cards and coast by into playability? I don’t know, it’s kind of a long shot.
Galloping Savior – 4 Stars: The effect is rather hard to trigger, which ironically makes it function excellently in decks with Cannonmaster Smythe and Northwatch Commander. However, the payoff isn’t super impressive: compare it to Rat Trap and it appears underwhelming. Paladin wants secrets, but this might suffer the same fate as Open the Cages last expansion; I can’t guarantee that it’s good enough to make it in.
Invigorating Sermon – 4 Stars: Expensive board-wide buffs like this can be hard to set up, but Silver Hand decks are good at flooding the board, which should help a lot. The hand and deck buffs are rather slow but will be very oppressive over time.
Knight of Anointment – 3 Stars: Pretty good value in any deck which runs a decent number of Holy spells. Because Paladin currently has so many great options available to it, it is unlikely a deck focusing on Holy synergies will materialize, but this could still see play as a standalone.
Northwatch Commander – 5 Stars: A 3/4 which draws a card is great value, and the relative ease of getting secrets in play will help this along quite well. It's a bit weaker when played on Turn 4 or later, and your opponent might proc your secrets ahead of time, so it would be nice if there was some way of cheating a secret out on the turn we play this...
Soldier's Caravan – 4 Stars: Most of the caravans are pretty bad, but this one feels like the benefit is worth the risk of it suffering removal: Two silver hands on the board can be leveraged to great effect. Add that to the fact that Paladin has recently received a ton of support for the Silver Hand archetype while losing very little (IIRC Air Raid is the only significant loss), and the deck should be pretty clean.
Sword of the Fallen – 5 Stars: Secrets in Paladin weren’t looking so hot until this card showed up. The ability to cheat out THREE secrets from your deck is busted beyond belief. This card will be instrumental in bringing the long-ignored secrets to the forefront of the class.
Conviction (Rank 1) – 5 Stars: This card is monstrously good for Silver Hand decks. One of the major issues with the archetype in Darkmoon Faire was the lack of a good way to leverage the Silver Hands into something truly threatening, since there weren’t many good ways to buff them. At 5 mana, this card offers +6 attack on the board if you have two minions, which is easy to achieve. Conviction gives the Silver Hands some sorely needed aggression.
Veteran Warmedic – 1 Star: This card is fairly clunky and, while many Holy spells are cheap, it requires significant setup to be worth the effort. It’s not horrible; it’s simply outclassed by the many better options available to Paladin.
Cannonmaster Smythe – 5 Stars: What an interesting effect! Losing the secrets temporarily isn’t a huge downside, and the benefit from playing this is very large. This card will easily make it into any deck which runs a lot of secrets, and there’s plenty of incentive to do so.
Cariel Roame – 4 Stars: I can see the potential here. Even if Roame doesn’t stick for a second swing, an Emperor Thaurissan effect is clearly very enticing. Libram Paladin will greatly appreciate additional mana discounts, and I don't think this is redundant with the Aldor cards. Looks very nice.
Paladin Class Summary
Forged in the Barrens Ranking: 3rd
Year of the Phoenix Ranking: 1st
Overall Ranking: 1st
Paladin is an embarrassment of riches. Ashes of Outland and Scholomance Academy gave it two of the strongest sets it has ever received, and while the Silver Hand cards from the Darkmoon Faire haven’t made an impact yet, the additional support from the Core Set might push it into playability; and not only that, Soldier’s Caravan is easily the best “caravan” card and should help the deck quite a bit. If Librams and Silver Hands both fail (they shouldn’t), the class also has great Secret synergy available, with Sword of the Fallen and its triple-Mad Scientist effect screaming to be played. In exchange for all these great new cards, Paladin is only losing its infamously bad Year of the Dragon sets (still, RIP Ramp Paladin). The class looks so, so good and it should be extremely oppressive for the next four months.
Desperate Prayer – 4 Stars: This card is a huge buff for virtually all Priest archetypes. Control decks don’t care about healing the enemy’s face and they’ll gladly take the healing, whereas any deck running Xyrella will be thrilled at the prospect of dealing up to 10 damage to all enemy minions. An absolutely phenomenal addition to Priest’s arsenal.
Devouring Plague – 1 Star: 3 mana for 4 damage is a very bad trade and tacking on Lifesteal doesn’t do much to help that. Think of how bad Soul Cleave is; this isn’t much better, and even the life-gain synergies Priest has won’t cause this to see play.
Power Word: Fortitude – 3 Stars: This is a pretty good card in a fairly weak archetype. While the synergies with Sethekk Veilweaver are obvious, spell-heavy Priest decks have failed to make an impact in the Darkmoon Faire meta, and when you see the other cards the deck is getting, it will become apparent that this isn’t changing soon.
Lightshower Elemental – 5 Stars: Dang, this card is overtuned. 8 health to all friendly characters? And it’s not even understatted? And it has taunt? This is a card so good it will easily be a buildaround for the new Heal Priest archetype, and it will probably see play even if that archetype doesn’t pan out (but it probably will).
Soothsayer's Caravan – 1 Star: This is a minion in a deck which really wants to be running spells instead, and not a particularly good one at that. This card is so weak if removed on the turn it’s played, and it’s especially horrible when you’ve fallen behind. The payoff if it sticks to the board? A single randomly generated spell. This isn’t even close to worth the effort.
Void Flayer – 2 Stars: Another minion designed for a spell-centric deck. This is a little bit better than Soothsayer’s Caravan, but it’s still not amazing even when you have 5+ spells in hand.
Condemn (Rank 1) – 4 Stars: An excellent board clear for Priest. Control decks are comfortable playing the long game, so the 5 and 10 mana forms will frequently become relevant. We all know how good Breath of the Infinite is, and this card is usually going to be just as good, or even better.
Priest of An'she – 4 Stars: This is a pretty good payoff card, although it would be significantly worse if Desperate Prayer didn’t exist. Unlike the other Heal Priest cards, this probably won’t see play outside the archetype because standard Control-focused Priest decks don’t care about big piles of stats, but the Heal Priest deck should be strong enough to warrant a 4-star rating regardless.
Serena Bloodfeather – 3 Stars: This is the card that Natalie Seline whishes she could be. If you play it against any large minion (let’s say an 8/8), then you’ve just summoned a 5/5 which debuffed an enemy minion for 4/4, and this is all for 2 mana. Now, this card is fairly weak against aggressive decks with small minions like Aggro Rogue, which means it’s a meta-dependent choice which isn’t always going to be amazing. However, when it pops off, it’s a great tech card.
Xyrella – 5 Stars: So, uh, Flamestrike is a card which is priced at 7 mana, and it doesn’t come with a body. With a simple Flash Heal, this can do Flamestrike’s job at a 3 mana discount, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because if you need more damage, you can stack other healing cards before playing Xyrella. And then, of course, there’s always Desparate Prayer, which can singlehandedly deal up to 10 damage to the entire enemy board for four mana. This is easily one of if not the best legendary cards in the expansion and there’s no scenario in which Priest sees play but doesn’t find a way to make this work.
Priest Class Summary
Forged in the Barrens Ranking: 2nd
Year of the Phoenix Ranking: 7th
Overall Ranking: 5th
Priest is getting a really cool set with both some obviously broken cards along with a few that I think are being slept on hard. Priest isn’t known for big minions, but I think cards like Darkspear Berserker, Hecklefang Hyena (yes, really), and Priest of An’she promote a tempo-based Heal Priest deck which can control the board while turning the damage dealt to your hero into a positive. If that doesn’t work out, Priest still has possibly the best new legendary in Xyrella, and it can always go back to the tried and true Control playstyle.
Efficient Octo-bot – 4 Stars: Four health can be tricky to deal with on Turn 2, and the mana cheating offered by Octo-bot will make your Field Contact combos so much easier to set up. You can also play mindgames with your opponent with this card: If dropped on an uncontested board, it might make your opponent reluctant to play 3-attack-or-less minions in order to avoid triggering the effect.
Silverleaf Poison – 2 Stars: This card could end up a lot better, but it has to compete with the draw engines of Greyheart Sage and Swindle, and as a result it might not see play. It is also heavily reliant on the success of Swinetusk Shank, another card of dubious quality.
Wicked Stab (Rank 1) – 5 Stars: Rogue games are frequently not going to make it to 10 mana, so we have to ask ourselves: Is the 5 mana variant good enough? The answer is an unambiguous “yes”; Eviscerate has been in so many Rogue decks over the years and this is a version without the Combo requirement.
Field Contact – 4 Stars: The card draw is superior to the card generation Whirlkick Master offered, which helps make up for the higher cost. Anyone who was afraid Combo Rogue was going to die after rotation will be glad (or upset) to see this card.
Oil Rig Ambusher – 4 Stars: 4 mana for 4 damage and a body is a great deal, but the condition is quite steep and it will suck to draw this early. Fortunately, the class has Secret Passage, which should help this card out the way Plot Twist helped Keli’dan the Breaker see play.
Paralytic Poison – 1 Star: Weapon Rogue is an extremely selective archetype with a lot of great cards to choose from. Most of these cards severely outclass Paralytic Poison, since you don’t want to be attacking minions with your weapon; you want to go face instead.
Swinetusk Shank – 2 Stars: It seems like a no-brainer inclusion, but Weapon Rogue already has Self-Sharpening Sword, which is so much better and also not reliant on bad/mediocre poisons to churn out the damage. Weapons are not something you want to have too much of, which means there’s a good chance this doesn’t pass the test of viability.
Yoink! – 1 Star: It’s very cute, but it doesn’t do nearly enough to justify running. Most of the available hero powers are mediocre and not in-line with your game plan (the only ones you really want are the Hunter and maaaaaybe the Warlock one), and Rogue has so many good cards available to it that it will never consider fooling around with this.
Apothecary Helbrim – 2 Stars: Poison-based decks don’t appear to be particularly strong, especially if they’re forced to run mediocre cards like this. The poison pool isn’t terrible, but it still has some cards which you don’t want to put in your deck, so I suspect it will be best to forgo this entirely.
Scabbs Cutterbutter – 5 Stars: That’s a crapton of mana-cheating. Scabbs is Foxy Fraud on steroids and he will be able to trigger some insane tempo plays. A double pre-nerf Preparation effect is absolutely nothing to scoff at, so if I had to pick one nerf candidate out of the entire set, it would probably be this card.
Rogue Class Summary
Forged in the Barrens Ranking: 6th
Year of the Phoenix Ranking: 2nd
Overall Ranking: 3rd
Rogue doesn’t need much from this set to continue to dominate, and fortunately it did end up scoring a few great cards in the mix of mediocrities. The biggest questions going forward for Rogue’s two best archetypes are: will Aggro Rogue be able to shake off the nerf to Nitroboost Poison, and will Combo Rogue be able to survive the loss of some great cards? In both cases, the answer will probably be “yes”, and Valeera should still remain a top contender in the Barrens meta.
Arid Stormer – 1 Star: This is highly dependent on activating the elemental ability to succeed, since a 2/5 on its own is very weak. Elementals as a tribe have a pretty terrible track record of seeing play due to the awkwardness of the way they work, and this isn’t impactful enough to change that.
South Coast Chieftain – 4 Stars: The payoff isn’t anything spectacular: a 3/2 which deals 2 damage is just OK, not amazing. But unlike, say, Arid Stormer, it’s also relatively easy to activate, and the next card will make it dramatically easier to do it on Turn 2…
Spawnpool Forager – 5 Stars: What an excellent one-drop! You can almost think of it as a 1 mana 2/3, and it gets even better when you realize how nicely it curves into South Coast Chieftan. It can even be used in non-Murloc decks to decent effect.
Earth Revenant – 3 Stars: Unlike the other Elemental cards, this could work just fine on its own in a control deck. Of course, this means if Control Shaman fails to make an impact, this will likely spend the next four months sitting on the bench. The success of that archetype is highly questionable, especially with so many of its best cards rotating out.
Nofin Can Stop Us – 4 Stars: Savage Roar for Murloc decks, but even better due to the stat buffs being permanent. Remember that Blessing of the Ancients saw play at 3 mana, so even without the Murloc buffs, the baseline isn’t horrible. This is going to be a great finishing blow for the deck to deliver.
Tinyfin's Caravan – 2 Stars: This is probably not good enough for Murloc Shaman. It’s not aggressive at all, and the benefit from having it stick a turn is fairly minor. Card draw is good, but it’s not this good.
Chain Lightning (Rank 1) – 3 Stars: Solid control tool, but this is even more dependent on Control’s success than Earth Revenant. It has quite a lot of synergy with Shaman’s Spell Damage set, but those cards are designed more for aggro, not control.
Lilypad Lurker – 1 Star: This has got a really cool design and artwork, which is why I’m not thrilled to rate it so low. As a removal card, it is highly dependent on the opponent’s board and frequently cannot be played even when the condition is fulfilled. It is weak as a standalone, and Shaman does not have a good reason to run many Elementals. All in all, a massive disappointment.
Bru'kan – 3 Stars: There's quite a few good Nature spells that Shaman has in its arsenal which could make this viable. The problem we run into is that Spell Damage synergies in Shaman have been a failure up until this point. Could this see play as a standalone? Possibly. However, it will probably not be meta-warping enough to define a new archetype, and that's a shame.
Firemancer Flurgl – 4 Stars: So now we’re giving Shaman its own Altruis. Cool. Granted, this is less flexible since it only works with murlocs, but the cheaper cost makes it easier to combo, and anyone who remembers Aggro Demon Hunter knows how good the effect can be when it gets a combo going. With additions like this, Shaman won’t be too upset to lose a lot of its good murloc cards; the replacements are fantastic and will really help the archetype make an impact.
Shaman Class Summary
Forged in the Barrens Ranking: 7th
Year of the Phoenix Ranking: 9th
Overall Ranking: 8th
Shaman’s got some good things going for it, but none of the cards are particularly mindblowing and it’s relatively weak Year of the Phoenix sets mean it has quite the hole it needs to climb out of. Murloc Shaman seems decent, but there’s not really a whole lot else that the class has to work with, so it’ll be shit out of luck if the fishmen can’t pull through. Control Shaman also feels like a long shot and is not an archetype I realistically expect to succeed. All in all, a rather disappointing predicament for Thrall.
Grimoire of Sacrifice – 2 Stars: “Destroy a friendly minion” effects, similar to “discard” effects, have typically only worked out in aggressive decks; think Grim Rally and the new Ritual of Doom. The only deck I could imagine running this is Galakrond Warlock, which is rotating out before this can make an impact.
Imp Swarm (Rank 1) – 1 Star: On curve, this card is very bad, and the 5 mana form isn’t really worth the wait. This is only truly good enough for constructed Zoo decks at 10 mana, and those decks usually try to end the game before then. If Deathmatch Pavillion was too slow, I don't see how this ends up working out.
Kabal Outfitter – 4 Stars: Seems like a decent card for Zoo Warlock, albeit not a game-breaking one. Deathrattle buff effects are typically pretty weak, but Battlecry buffs are quite good, and the combination of the two should push this card into viability.
Apothecary's Caravan – 3 Stars: I’m not too keen on the Caravans, so it’s ironic that this turns out to be one of the stronger cards in the Warlock set. The effect is strong enough where I could legitimately see it being worth the risk of it failing to stick, and Warlock has some great one drops that it would love to cheat out.
Blood Shard Bristleback – 1 Star: Warlock loves powerful healing, and this will usually get us more than the baseline of 6. The problem is that it comes with a condition, and that condition requires turning our deck into garbage. Intentionally fatiguing ourselves is not going to be a viable strategy.
Soul Rend – 2 Stars: Five damage to all minions is a lot, and it’s not unthinkable that this sees play in a more generic control deck instead of Fatigue Warlock. The problem is the drawback: what happens when you burn your Tickatus or whatever other win condition you’re running? Even in Fatigue Warlock this is a problem, since there’s no guarantee Neeru Fireblade won’t be burned as well. Ultimately, this is likely too risky to see play.
Altar of Fire – 1 Star: So, when building a successful archetype, there are cards which are strong enough for us to want to build around, and then there are cards which we reluctantly play for the synergy. Altar of Fire is about as far into the second category as you can get: Warlock isn’t going to be winning any fatigue races, so the “upside” is usually never relevant, and the card has basically no other redeeming qualities. Even if the archetype it is designed for sees play (it won’t), this card is so bad it will stay firmly in your collection and likely never leave.
Barrens Scavenger – 1 Star: This card, on the other hand, is a great example of the first category. Its power level is on par with Bladed Lady, and the condition is even easier to set up within the archetype it was designed for. Unfortunately, that archetype is shit, and outside of it, the card is dead until the very end of the game.
Neeru Fireblade – 1 Star: Chef Nomi was playable because he typically won you the game instantly when played. Neeru’s effect is designed to grind the opponent out, but this doesn’t work at all when you’re fighting against the fatigue clock. An infinite portal of imps sounds excellent in theory, but the reality is you’re only going to be living for a few more turns after this is played, and the bottom line is it’s not fast enough to function as the oppressive win condition it’s supposed to be.
Tamsin Roame – 3 Stars: This would probably get a higher rating if it could combo with Twisting Nether, but alas. Fortunately, there are still a few decent spells we can work with. Drain Soul is a great standalone spell and we’re happy to have another free copy, while Siphon Soul is mediocre on its own but very powerful with this card. Throw in Mortal Coil and Grimoire of Sacrifice, and this could be a decent addition to Control Warlock.
Warlock Class Summary
Forged in the Barrens Ranking: 10th
Year of the Phoenix Ranking: 6th
Overall Ranking: 6th
Warlock hasn’t received a single set this bad since Rise of Shadows; hell, this one might even be the worst set it’s ever gotten. So is the class going to die? Not necessarily; Zoo Warlock is staying mostly intact throughout rotation, and Warlock also has Soul Fragments and Tickatus to work with. Control strategies are admittedly a little questionable, so Warlock’s present situation is similar to Shaman’s in that it has one good aggressive deck as its best shot of meta-relevance.
Bulk Up – 4 Stars: I think, for the first time in quite a while, a Taunt package actually has a realistic change of seeing play in Warrior. What’s nice about Bulk Up is that it also provides card generation along with the buff: you can kind of think of it as similar to Scavenger’s Ingenuity (and it’s even better if the Taunt minion has already been buffed). A very respectable addition.
Stonemaul Anchorman – 1 Star: I was ready to give this a high rating until I realized Frenzy could only trigger once. That change prevents this card from becoming an efficient draw engine and instead renders it a mediocrity. Warrior didn’t run Big Ol’ Whelp, so why would it run this?
Whirling Combatant – 5 Stars: Absolutely crucial addition to Enrage Warrior. It’s reminiscent of Risky Skipper in that its effect can have an enormous benefit if you know what you’re doing, but at it’s baseline, it’s a respectable removal tool.
Conditioning (Rank 1) – 3 Stars: I’m a little skeptical here, but the existence of Mor’shan Elite prevents me from rating it any lower. Without the prospect of buffing your Elites, the card seems quite weak, since the 2 mana form is awful, and at 5 mana it’s just OK.
Outrider’s Axe – 5 Stars: Finally, just what Warrior has desperately needed: a good Weapon. Outrider’s axe is obviously very good when it draws three cards, and we know from Ancharr just how oppressive a weapon attached to a draw-three effect can be. The only issue with this card is that it competes with Warrior’s strong arsenal of weapons, many of which already cost 4 mana, but I have faith that this will come out on top. I mean, do you really want to use Reaper’s Scythe over this?
Warsong Envoy – 4 Stars: A 1/3 for 1 mana is serviceable enough, but the Frenzy effect means it can be intimidating even later in the game. With 3 or more damaged characters, the effect provides a huge buff which means this humble one-drop can end up dealing an impressive amount of damage. The only issue with this card is the anti-synergy with the legendary: that alone could cause this card to be cut from the deck.
Mor’shan Elite – 5 Stars: So, let’s imagine a hypothetical worst-case scenario when not a single one of the handbuff effects is playable in Warrior. This is still a 5 mana 8/8 with Taunt, with the only condition being your hero needs to have swung his weapon this turn. Weapons have been a crucial part of the class’s identity for a long time, and the class has several great 4 mana cards to get the job done: Reaper’s Scythe, Sword Eater, and now the new Outrider’s Axe.
Rancor – 3 Stars: Definitely one of the weaker AoE effects in a class rife with AoE, but its synergy with Frenzy prevents it from being ruled out. If this kills an average of 3 minions, you can think of it as “deal 2 damage to all minions, and gain 6 armor”, which seems just barely good enough.
Overlord Saurfang – 3 Stars: There are some good Frenzy minions that we can resurrect with Saurfang, but it does encourage us to forgo the smaller ones like Warsong Envoy. The deckbuilding restriction isn’t too severe, but in order to get enough good resurrections, we will likely have to run suboptimal cards such as Taurajo Brave or Stonemaul Anchorman, and that’s not inspiring much confidence.
Rokara – 1 Star: The best way to evaluate this card is to think of it as a 3 mana Power of the Wild with a 2/3 Rush attached. That seems passable at first, but the problem is that this card is in Warrior, which isn’t a token class and doesn’t really want to flood the board. Now, it doesn’t strictly NEED a board to work, and it can buff Rush minions that enter play along with it and survive. Unfortunately, most Rush cards don’t have a lot of health, and the ones that due are typically expensive and difficult to combo with. Easily one of the most overrated cards in the entire set.
Warrior Class Summary
Forged in the Barrens Ranking: 1st
Year of the Phoenix Ranking: 4th
Overall Ranking: 2nd
How fitting that a Barrens-focused expansion would be giving Warrior such an excellent set. The Frenzy mechanic seems designed specifically for this class since the tools available to Warrior are the best for abusing the mechanic. Furthermore, Warrior is drawing from excellent cards in its previous sets which have synergy with a Frenzy-focused build; we all know how good Bloodboil Brute and Grommash Hellscream are already. Top it off with one of the best weapons in the meta combined with the busted Mor’shan Elite, and Warrior appears as if it will continue the excellent performance we’ve seen from it over the past year.
Barrens Trapper – 3 Stars: This could make the cut in Deathrattle Demon Hunter. What’s interesting about this one is that the cost manipulation can allow Razorboar and Razorfen Beastmaster to cheat out higher-cost minions than they normally could.
Crossroads Gossiper – 5 Stars: Any deck which runs secrets will strongly consider picking this up. Fortunately, we’ve got four classes, all with respectable secret synergy, so this card has a great chance of seeing play.
Darkspear Berserker – 4 Stars: I can see two good applications for this card. The first is in Deathrattle Demon Hunter as something big you can cheat out, and the second is in a Heal Priest deck which plays self-damage cards with upsides so that it can heal easily.
Death’s Head Cultist – 5 Stars: It’s like a cheap Khartut Defender. A very good defensive option to counter aggro, and the Deathrattle synergy doesn’t hurt either. A variety of decks will be interested in this.
Far Watch Post – 2 Stars: I have to say I’m quite skeptical of Watch Post decks. The watch posts are weak individually, and this card in particular is so bad that it might not see play even in the archetype it was designed for. 4 health can be tricky to remove on Turn 2, though, so this could make it in as a good Turn 2 play.
Gold Road Grunt – 1 Star: Possibly the worst Frenzy minion in the set. It’s easy for your opponent to play around, and we typically don’t want to self-damage it for the effect.
Gruntled Patron – 2 Stars: This feels like too large of a downgrade from Grim Patron for it to be worthwhile, a card which might not even see play if it were around today. It will likely be experimented with and found to be lacking.
Hog Rancher – 1 Star: A vanilla effect which doesn’t offer enough to be Constructed-worthy. We have better options as far as beasts are concerned.
Injured Marauder – 2 Stars: This might make it into a Heal Priest deck, but Priest doesn’t have an enormous amount of cards which heal minions, so it could just sit on the shelf.
Kindling Elemental – 1 Star: A huge buff for elemental decks. Is it enough to make them viable? Not even close.
Lushwater Murcenary – 4 Stars: Great payoff for having a Murloc on the board, which will be easy for Shaman to do on Turn 2. Also perfectly fine later in the game, though less impressive at that point.
Lushwater Scout – 4 Stars: The attack buff is great for Murloc Shaman. Rush is also fairly decent, although it is more of a defensive ability so it’s not as good as it could be.
Oasis Surger – 3 Stars: Looks like a passable card for Hunter, but not one it would be thrilled about running. Handbuffs improve it quite a bit, and the damage to the hero is exactly what Hunter wants to be doing.
Peon – 1 Star: The value is alright, but I think it is outclassed by Wandmaker. The slightly higher health typically isn’t going to compensate for the unreliability.
Ratchet Privateer – 1 Star: This card would be much better if Ancharr was still playable. As it is, the various other weapon buffs that Warrior and Rogue have at their disposal outshine this.
Razormane Raider – 3 Stars: Looks pretty bad until you realize that, when played on an empty board with a followup like, say, Cruel Taskmaster, this becomes a good replacement for Kor’kron Elite. However, your opponent’s board must be empty, or this becomes unreliable, and that could kill the card.
Sunwell Initiate – 1 Star: One of the weaker Frenzy minions. 4 health on Turn 3 isn’t too difficult to remove, and it’s not a card you want to self-damage for the effect.
Talented Arcanist – 2 Star: Spell Damage decks don’t look particularly great, but this card is very nice in them. Unlike most other SD cards, you can just drop it on two and you don’t need to worry about it “sticking” or anything like that, which is great because SD deck often struggle to come up with earlygame plays.
Toad of the Wilds – 3 Stars: Druid and Shaman have a lot of Nature spells, so this could work out fine. The problem is that the decks which would be interested in an early Taunt are probably not going to be top-tier contenders, but it’s a good card regardless.
Venomous Scorpid – 5 Stars: Emperor Cobra is off crying in a corner somewhere. Vulpera Scoundrel also had a similar effect, but without poisonous, and that card saw some play. This should be able to worm its way into some decks just fine.
Burning Blade Acolyte – 3 Stars: Very enticing pull for Death Speaker Blackthorn. When combined with Barrens Trapper, Razorfen Beastmaster can drag it into the field too.
Hecklefang Hyena – 3 Stars: Some might be quick to dismiss this as pack filler, but I don’t think so. It’s like Vulgar Homunculus without the Taunt, and
Horde Operative – 2 Stars: Interesting tech card, but it depends on Secret decks being a huge part of the next meta, and while there will probably be one or two good ones, that isn’t enough to put a 3 mana 3/4 into a Constructed deck.
Mor’shan Watch Post – 3 Stars: Easily the strongest of the watch posts. When placed on an unchallenged board, your opponent will be strongly encouraged to use a spell to deal with it. If not, they’ll have a lot of trouble removing it since the minions the watch post summons can remove the opponent’s minions played.
Taurajo Brave – 3 Stars: Six mana is quite a large investment for a single target removal, especially one which requires another card to combo with it. The only class which can make use of this is Warrior, which would love to resurrect this with Saurfang.
Barrens Blacksmith – 4 Stars: That is an extremely powerful Frenzy Effect. Any deck which cares about buffing the board will try to make this work, although the fact that you need to damage it is quite the challenge for any class that isn’t Warrior.
Crossroads Watch Post – 2 Stars: Pretty good in conjunction with with Mor’shan Watch Post, although it does require a board to already be setup to function. That alone could prevent the card from making a dent in the meta.
Primordial Protector – 1 Star: Is the return of Spiteful Summoner decks upon us? I doubt it, the high cost of this card means you’ll have to wait a while for the payoff, and that’s going to give you trouble compensating for the extreme deckbuilding condition. Remember how bad Spiteful was at 7 mana? This is even more expensive.
Southsea Scoundrel – 1 Star: The main issue with this card is that your opponent will have access to the card you discover before you do, which explains why the stats are higher than average. I don’t really see a deck that would be interested in this: maybe if Rogue had some thief/pirate synergy, it could work, but right now it doesn’t.
Spirit Healer – 1 Star: I’m not confident that playing this and stringing together a chain of Holy spells is going to be a playable strategy in any class. Its viability depends both on having a good board and Holy spells ready to go in hand, and that level of setup strikes me as excessive.
Blademaster Samuro – 4 Stars: This is fairly reliant on Handbuffs to succeed, and Warrior and Hunter can provide them. Because of its high health, the Frenzy effect can easily trigger after attacking a minion, which is excellent for preventing your opponent from building a board.
Kargal Battlescar – 3 Stars: And, topping off the watch posts, we have this excellent win condition. Watch post decks are going to be highly reliant on drawing this, but fortunately its high cost means we can tutor it with Taelan Fordring.
Kazakus, Golem Shaper – 5 Stars: Forgoing the other 4-cost cards in order to build a golem is frequently a winning trade for a lot of decks, and the golems you can create are often enough to decide games. The “summon a copy” ability in particular feels very overtuned and is frequently going to be the best pick.
Mankrik – 3 Stars: Could work in decks with lots of card draw. I’m a little skeptical because the payoff isn’t amazing, and the card can be very slow if you don’t draw the 3/10 in a timely fashion. Because its power level is highly dependent on the timing, this could end up preventing the card from seeing widespread play.
Shadow Hunter Vol’jin – 4 Stars: This is already seeing some play, and there’s no reason to think it will stop anytime soon. A single target “removal” attached to a minion with the potential to break combos is excellent, and we have the proof just by looking at the last meta.