The Whispers of the Old Gods expansion for Hearthstone has been released nearly a month ago now. The expansion introduced 134 new collectible cards, and divided the Constructed format into two types: Wild and Standard. On one hand, the Wild format is identical to what Hearthstone players were previously accustomed to. On the other hand, the Standard format restricts playable cards to sets released in the current and previous years. This restriction means dominant cards, such as Loatheb and Dr. Doom, from the sets Curse of Naxxramas and Goblin vs. Gnomes are out of rotation. With the departure of two entire sets, and the introduction of another, the power balance within Hearthstone has shifted tremendously. In this article, I will discuss the Top 5 Neutral Legendaries in the Standard Format as of this current date. Please keep in mind that the list is purely based upon my experience playing Hearthstone and observation of the competitive scene. Your Top 5 list may greatly vary.
1. N’Zoth, the Corruptor
Coming in first is an Old God, and it’s none other than N’Zoth, the Corruptor. Despite many Deathrattle minions leaving the rotation, such as Sludge Belcher and Piloted Shredder, N’Zoth’s Battlecry is still a game-changing effect. As long as a minion with an impactful Deathrattle has perished on your side of the board, N’Zoth can be considered as a robust play. For example, Tirion Fordring is included in a Control Paladin deck-list 100% of the time, and for great reasons. Not only is Tirion a 6/6 with both Taunt and Divine Shield, he gives his player a 5/3 Ashbringer upon death. Now, what’s worse than dealing with a large body with defensive abilities that continue to make an impact after death? That’s right, fighting TWO of them! Further consider the scenario in which Cairne Bloodhoof and Sylvanas Windrunner are also revived. Simply considering the prospect annoys and frightens me at the same time. N’Zoth is also incredibly versatile because it may be played by various classes. Some examples of class-specific minions that synergize well with N’Zoth are Savannah Highmane, Shifting Shade, and Undercity Huckster.
2. Sylvanas Windrunner
Briefly mentioned previously is the second-place holder, Sylvanas Windrunner, the Banshee Queen. Many players were shocked to discover that Sylvanas was not included in the Basic and Classic cards that were nerfed recently by Blizzard. Sylvanas has always been a stable 6 mana minion because she forced opponents to make awkward and difficult decisions. Defeating Sylvanas is easy because she merely has 5 health, but doing so with minions alive on the opposing side of the board comes at a consequence. Upon death, Sylvanas will take control of a random enemy minion. The two most common approaches with handling Sylvanas is to either kill Sylvanas while insuring no minions survive, or ignore Sylvanas while only playing minions that aren’t too detrimental to lose. Either way, Sylvanas slows the momentum of her enemies. With the meta favoring Control decks more than previously, and the introduction of N’Zoth, Sylvanas has further increased in popularity and power.
3. Emperor Thaurissan
A surge of Control decks puts Emperor Thaurissan third on this list. Thaurissan has always been an easy choice in Control decks because the more cards a player holds, the stronger Thaurissan’s effect becomes. If Thaurissan is played with a full hand, that’s an entire 9 mana cost he’s reducing across the board! This mana reduction is especially important for Freeze Mages because it increases their potential nuke damage within a turn. While unlikely to occur, Thaurissan has the ability to let Mages do more than 30 damage in a single turn, after only applying his ability once; therefore, reducing Freeze Mages’ dependence upon drawing Alexstraza. Thaurissan’s usefulness continues after his ability occurs for the first time. If his opponent cannot kill him, Thaurissan will continuously reduce mana costs, usually resulting in an easy win if allowed to persist. If killed, that means Thaurissan has either forced his opponent to trade minions or exhaust a removal card. Either scenario is simply a bonus after the initial turn.
4. Brann Bronzebeard
My pick for the fourth spot may be a surprise to some, but it’s the one and only, Brann Bronzebeard. Brann saw a huge increase in play when Whispers of the Old Gods first came out because everybody was trying out C’Thun decks. As C’thun decks slowly died in popularity, so did Brann; however, I believe Brann has many strong points. With a low cost of 3 mana, Brann can easily be played on the same turn as minions with Battlecry effects; therefore, immediately influencing the game. To see the true extent of Brann’s ability, we have to examine cards with Battlecry effects, and how Brann empowers them. For example, Twin Emperor Vek’lor is a 4/6 minion with Taunt, and costs 7 mana. He has a Battlecry ability that summons Twin Emperor Vek’nilash, who is identical to him, as long as the player’s C’Thun has a minimum of 10 attack. By himself, Vek’lor is already a great card, provided his Battlecry takes effect. With Brann’s help, the player will receive three 4/6 minions with Taunt, and a 2/4 Brann Bronzebeard, for a combined low cost of 10 mana. The play is even better if Brann is successfully protected behind his Taunt walls. Some other minions that work with Brann are C’Thun buffing minions, other minions with additional effects provided C’Thun has at least 10 attack, and minions with the Discover ability.
Finally, Alexstrasza, the Life-Binder, swoops in at fifth. With many other prominent neutral legendaries left, the fifth position was the hardest one for me to decide. I finally decided on Alexstrasza because she can be reasonably played in nearly all Control decks, and enables Freeze Mage. The power to set an enemy from near maximum health to 15 health, or the player’s health from a dangerously low amount to 15, cannot be underestimated. Control decks win by controlling the board with efficient cards that have high value. Their goal is to stall the game until the end-game phase begins, where they can unleash their high-cost, but also deadly, cards. They typically do not inflict much damage onto the other player until that end-game phase; therefore, when they play Alexstrasza, can easily pseudo-inflict at least 10 damage to their opponent. 15 health is also an almost 100% guaranteed kill-threshold for Freeze Mages by the time they can play Alexstrasza.
Well, that’s all folks! Now that you’ve seen my list of the Top 5 Neutral Legendaries in the Standard Format and my reasoning behind each choice, let me know in the comments below if you agree with me or not. If not, why? What cards would you include in your list? I’ll be sure to check back and read your opinions!