Spellstone Overview: Mage, Rogue, and Paladin
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.
Mage: Ruby Spellstone
Similar to Priest’s Diamond Spellstone, Mage’s Ruby Spellstone plays well to the class’s strengths. For 2 mana, the Lesser Ruby Spellstone will add 1 random Mage spell to your hand. When you play 2 Elementals with the Spellstone in hand, it gets boosted to 2 random spells, then to 3. It will bolster the already powerful control Mage archetypes and give Exodia Mage much more flexibility, so naturally, like the Diamond Spellstone, it concerns us.
The difference is the Ruby Spellstone requires players to build their deck around it. The Spellstone gives the Exodia Mage archetype much more flexibility in finding random spells to complete the quest, but the downside of filling deck slots with Elementals seems like a fair balance.
Exodia Mage enjoys a fringe spot on the standard ladder tier list right now. Its favorable matchups against Priest and Druid are noteworthy, but unwinnable matchups against Hunter and Tempo Rogue balance its appeal. All this could change in the new meta, when Kobolds and Catacombs gives Mage the potential for an Exodia-style OTK without the quest. The new Leyline Manipulator — a 4/5 body with a powerful Battlecry — will be an auto-inclusion in decks that run the Ruby Spellstone.
But Open the Waygate and the Spellstone may not be necessary. More concerning than the influence of the Spellstone on current archetypes is the OTK Leyline Manipulator will allow Exodia Mage players to pull off without jumping through the usual hoops of the quest. The combo is as follows: Copy two Sorcerer's Apprentices with Simulacrum and reduce their cost to 0 with Leyline Manipulator. Summon these, Archmage Antonidas, and cast two Molten Reflections on the Sorcerer’s Apprentices for infinite Fireballs and (if you’re quick enough) an OTK. This will allow players to remove the quest and its components to include sorely needed anti-aggro tools. So while the Spellstone may be used in both Control and Quest Mage, we will need to see how the meta responds to a Mage capable of OTKs sans quest first. That will determine how the Ruby Spellstone sees play.
Rogue: Onyx Spellstone
Rogue’s Lesser Onyx Spellstone is a whole lot like Assassinate, and will likely be sought after in Arena if drafts contain a few Deathrattle cards already. For 5 mana you can destroy 1 random enemy minion. Playing 3 Deathrattle cards will upgrade the effect to 2 random enemy minions and again to 3 random enemy minions.
This effect is powerful, but it’s requirements leave us skeptical. There are so many existing archetypes for Rogue it seems odd that Blizzard would push the Deathrattle package on players. Tempo Rogue and Miracle Rogue have clear, powerful win conditions as it is, and Miracle Rogue now has a few secrets to help protect it until it produces said miracle. So can you jam enough Deathrattle minions into a Tempo or Miracle deck without fully committing to the N'Zoth, the Corruptor win condition? Probably not. Do you even want to? With tools like Vilespine Slayer, nah, probably not.
Does a N’Zoth Rogue seem like it can outmatch the other archetypes. Unlikely. What would go into that build? Perhaps some bounce effects for N’Zoth, the new secrets, and Valeera the Hollow. The dream would be playing N’Zoth and Shadowstep to bring it back to the hand, Valeera on the next turn, followed by double Onyx Spellstone to wipe out six random minions and recover from the tempo loss. The viability of all this happening and leading to a win condition in a meta full of Razakus Priest and Jade Druid? Also unlikely.
Worth mentioning: Kingsbane does count toward Spellstone activation, which, with some creative deckbuilding, could mean more space for better cards and minimal cost for a high-reward effect. Combining the Onyx Spellstone, Kingsbane, and Cavern Shinyfinder may offer players enough consistency to be included in Miracle Rogue, which already excels at drawing cards. But only time will tell if there’s room for them.
Paladin: Pearl Spellstone
If the new meta allows Paladin decks to compete, it’s hard to imagine such a deck neglecting to include the new 2-mana Lesser Pearl Spellstone. It summons a 2/2 Spirit with Taunt, but upgrades to a 4/4 and then a 6/6 as you restore health in increments of 3. It offers immense value, but also a sort of flexibility the other classes don’t get. While we would rather not, playing a 2/2 with Taunt on turn 2 versus an opponent that relies on early board presence is a fine play in a pinch.
Murloc Paladin and Control Paladin can find space for this card, surely, considering its many weapons and healing effects. Healing for 4 health with one Truesilver Champion, for instance, will allow players to protect their Murloc Warleader with a 4/4 for 2 mana. In Control Paladin, the options to heal skyrocket: Ragnaros, Lightlord, Ivory Knight, Wickerflame Burnbristle, Uther of the Ebon Blade, Lay on Hands, Forbidden Healing. From Kobolds and Catacombs, the Spellstone gets one useful tool: the new Benevolent Djinn will guarantee players at least one upgrade, restoring 3 health to your Hero at the end of your turn.
There isn’t much to be said of the Pearl Spellstone, compared to the others. It’s a great card, offering a lot of value and little downside to building your deck around it. It fits snugly into familiar Control paladin archetypes and will likely be experimented with in faster Murloc Paladin builds. What might frustrate players, though, is the comparatively small impact the Pearl Spellstone may have next to others. In the reveal video, Blizzard did express their desire to create flexibility in how players used this new mechanic, and the Pearl Spellstone accomplishes just that.