One Night After Karazhan
by Jordan “TheJordude” Hong Tai
Only a week after the completion of One Night in Karazhan, we’re already seeing many innovative and refined decklists performing well on ladder and the tournament scene. Karazhan has done a good job in supporting many classes, giving big boosts to Hunter, Druid, and Shaman for example. However some classes still seem to be left behind, such as Priest. Let’s go through each class, and examine why some classes are becoming more powerful in the current meta, why some are falling behind, and if there is some potential that is yet to be found or is yet to be available.
Druid has been seeing a lot of play among pro players and ladder post Karazhan, placing it as a Tier 1 class at the moment. However, Beast Druid, with the new support of Enchanted Raven and Menagerie Warden, is not the dominant archetype as many had predicted. Though the deck did get the right support it was looking for, it is too reliant on getting a strong curve, and if that curve is disrupted or the game gets drawn out, the deck falls behind. Regardless, Beast Druid can still be a Tier 2 deck simply due to the fact that Menagerie Warden is an insane swing value card when played on curve following a Druid of the Claw or Stranglethorn Tiger. It seems Beast Druid will always be at Tier 2 at best, and if there is anything the deck needs for support, it’s having some late game or card draw so that it does not fall so far behind from a bad curve or running out of resources.
The type of Druid many have been more focused on and has been producing stronger results through tournaments, even piloting to #1 Legend, is Malygos Druid. With the release of Arcane Giant, a powerful tempo card, the old Yogg-Saron Token Druid has evolved to include the Malygos-and-Moonfire combo for unexpected burst damage. The inclusion of Malygos makes perfect sense as a win condition, as there were already a lot of spells in the deck for Yogg-Saron, Violet Teachers, and now even Arcane Giants. Unlike Beast Druid, Malygos Druid does not run out of gas, has a comeback mechanic in Yogg-Saron, and has multiple win conditions through tokens, tempo, and burst. Malygos Druid also has a more balanced matchup across the field, being able to take down control and aggro.
Midrange Hunter still seems to be the best archetype for Hunter post Karazhan. Pure Face Hunter is just simply worse than Aggro Shaman and has been hurting since the lost of Mad Scientist, and Yogg-Saron/Secret Hunter has not proved to be consistently strong enough in competitive play. Kindly Grandmother and Barnes have been the biggest support for Hunter in pushing the deck from a low Tier 2 deck to high Tier 2. Before Karazhan, Midrange Hunter was a decent pick as Call of the Wild and Savannah Highmane were very powerful cards, but the deck still lacked luster as it had to play lower quality low drops such as Huge Toad and King Elekk, compared to the previous Haunted Creeper, Mad Scientist and Piloted Shredder. As a result, the deck struggled fighting for early board against Zoo, Shaman, and even Warrior, a class which it was favoured against in the past. With the inclusion of Kindly Grandmother, Hunter has a minion that can survive early cards like Fiery War Axe and Possessed Villager, and Barnes can be a huge blowout if you roll a Savannah Highmane or Infested Wolf. Because of the new deathrattle supports, Hunter now has a stronger board presence and has a greater chance to snowball their lead into the win, similar to what it could do post GVG. Finally Hunter has come back in power level to keep those pesky Warriors in check.
A card to look out for in Hunter is Cloaked Huntress. This card has great synergy in decks built with a lot of secrets, and can often get big tempo swings or have an insane combo with Lock and Load. Huntress is not only limited to Lock and Load decks, but also has potential in Hybrid or Midrange Hunters that just want to include a few secrets like Freezing Trap or Snake Trap. If these type of Hunters move away from the deathrattle core, we can see Cloaked Huntress and some secrets work their way in the Hunter meta.
The new cards from Karazhan mainly fit into the Tempo Mage archetype, as Freeze Mage did not receive anything for synergy and Reno Control is still too janky. Babbling Book has been approved by all prominent Tempo Mage pros as it is a 1/1 body that cycles a spell, which most of the time is useful and adds to the Yogg-Saron count. Firelands Portal, thought to be only good in arena, has been seeing a lot of competitive use, as it both deals with a threat and spawns a body which on average is of value. Players have taken different routes on approaching the Tempo build, either going more spell-heavy or focusing more on minions. From what we currently see, the spell-heavy build has been performing better, as the spells can be used for utility in gaining tempo, increasing the power of Yogg-Saron, or by having burn to finish off the opponent. Spell-heavy Tempo Mage has the removal to deal with aggro and midrange, and also a lot of fuel to burn down control, placing the deck as a solid Tier 2 option. Thijs recently hit #1 Legend with a slower build that features Medivh, The Guardian for extra value.
As for the Freeze Mage players, even though the deck has yet to evolve with any new inclusions to the deck, it is still a strong deck to play. Every card in the set does not pose a significant threat for the Freeze Mage to handle, so the matchups are more or less the same.
Something to look out for in the future of this class is Control Mage variants such as Reno, Control, and Dragon. Currently these decks are on the edge of being playable, missing a few support cards. Reno Mage can fill up twenty to twenty five cards easily, but missing the last few slots of having solid options and without the Warlock lifetap, it makes more sense to play Warlock for the hero power and better one-of options. Control Mage is similar to Reno, except it exchanges the burst of heal for more consistency. Medivh’s Valet and and Avian Watcher are worth noting as they both work extremely well with the Ice Block sitting on your board throughout the game, to guarantee the benefits of their battlecries. Dragon Mage can also benefit with Medivh’s Valet as the deck will run Ice Block. Dragon Mage also got good support from this set with Netherspite Historian, Book Wyrm, and The Curator being solid control cards.
Paladin has probably received the most potential from Karazhan, as the new cards support all of its archetypes. Time will tell which Paladin archetype is superior, however people are testing with Murlocs, N’Zoth, and Dragons.
From my testing, I was personally inclined toward Murloc Paladin. With the addition of Ivory Knight, the deck received additional healing and the potential to grab extra utility from the discovered spell. The Curator has also supported the deck quite nicely. Before Karazhan, it sometimes had inconsistent draws and trouble finding the combo it needed to clear the board, or murlocs when you had your Anyfin Can Happen ready in your hand. The Curator fixes all these problems. Not only does it thin down the deck to get closer to assembling your combo, it finds specifically the murloc, the dragon (often Azure Drakes, which cycles even more), and the Stampeding Kodo to combo with Humility or Aldor Peacekeeper. The card also fits well into the missing 7 Mana slot and is a strong taunt, which the deck was lacking. Overall, the deck has become much more consistent and has solid matchups across the field aside from Freeze Mage.
N’Zoth Paladin, similar to Murloc Paladin, has received Ivory Knight for added healing and utility as well as being able to use The Curator if the deck is tuned to it. The strongest addition is Barnes, with an insane high roll potential for Ragnaros or the deathrattle Legendaries Tirion, Sylvanas, and Cairne. N’Zoth Paladin has been more popular as a tournament deck choice, where it fits into a specific strategy. As the deck does well against control and midrange, it can sometimes struggle against aggressive decks as it relies on having board clears and heals to stabilize against those matchups, which often does not happen and the hand is too clunky. This is the reason why you do not see it often on ladder, as most of the matchups will be against aggressive ones.
Dragon Paladin has yet to be discovered or touched by many players. Nightbane Templar is a great aggressive or midrange card, however Netherspite Historian and Book Wyrm have more of a late game strategy. Because of the latter cards, Paladin looks like it can work better at the midrange strategy, having tempo gains through Aldor Peacekeeper + Book Wyrm, and Dragon Consort. The main reason why Dragon Paladin has yet to make an impact on the meta is mainly due to Murloc and N’Zoth Paladin just being safer and stronger options. Over time we will see how players evolve Dragon Paladin and if it can match up to the superior Murloc and N’Zoth builds.
Let’s cut it here for now and give you guys a break… in part 2 we will look at the remaining classes and how they have changed or what their potential is from the result of Karazhan!
About the Author
Jordan Hong Tai, also known as "TheJordude", is a developing player for compLexity Gaming. For over a year he has enriched the coL.HS squad with his presence while becoming a fierce grinder on ladder and a threat in every collegiate competition. Apart from his business studies and the ladder grind, the youngster from Vancouver, Canada is a warrior in Open tournaments, a coach and the organizer and host of local tavern get-togethers. Monthly he delivers though-provoking pieces like for compLexity Gaming and other outlets. Follow him on: