There are few things as much of a killjoy as a stale meta in a multiplayer game. Ideally, each game feels unique in its own way, and at least over time the meta changes. Hearthstone’s Witchwood expansion ushered in the Year of the Raven and was supposed to bring a completely new meta to the game. However, as Vicious Syndicate founder Ohad Zach and pro player Sebastian ‘Xixo’ Benterdiscussed, the meta feels quite boring. Has The Witchwood made such little impact? And if so, how come?
A good indicator of an expansion’s influence is of course the competitive scene, with players bringing the decks and line-ups they deem strongest. Let’s take a gander at a couple of the most popular decks European players are bringing to the upcoming HCT Playoffs, and find out how much of an influence The Witchwood has actually been so far. (You can find all deck lists here)
Mind Blast Priest finds itself as the most popular deck amongst the European competitors, in spite of the criticism it has received from many, saying the deck is “overhyped”. When looking at Mind Blast Priest’s list there are only two cards included from The Witchwood: Divine Hymn and Scaleworm. Pivotal cards against aggressive decks, certainly, but the other 26 cards you face are all too familiar. The next popular deck in line, Control Warlock, tells a similar story with only Voodoo Doll and Lord Godfrey being included as extra removal. The latter of those two can be found in Cube Warlock lists, albeit in the vast minority of iterations. Some Spiteful Druids include one,maybe two Druid of the Scythe’s in what’s an otherwise nearly unaltered list from a month ago.
“How many archetypes has the Witchwood actually given birth to?”
It’s a repetitive theme where Witchwood cards seem to have polished existing lists or filled in gaps that were left after the Standard rotation. But how many archetypes has the expansion actually given birth to?
Taunt Druid is high up the list as a ‘Mind Blast Priest’ killer, but only has Witching Hour as a staple inclusion. Just below that we find Even Paladin, Dude Paladin in disguise, with the card core to the deck (Genn Greymane) also being the only card of The Witchwood in the lists. Quest Rogue, slayer of slow decks, includes Vicious Scalehide as its sole representative of Witchwood’s 135 cards.
Mammoth-sized footsteps to fill
Of course, The Witchwood’s influence is relative to the impact other expansions in Hearthstone have made. More specifically: to those that are still in Standard rotation, the Year of the Mammoth’s ones. And that’s quite the predecessor to have to live up to. Journey to Un’Goro, Knights of the Frozen Throne and Kobolds and Catacombs all explored vastly new, build-around mechanics that reshaped the meta completely. And although the premise of Witchwood’s “Start of the game” mechanic certainly holds potential, Standard’s currently shallow card pool makes it hard for classes to fill the gaps left by Genn Greymane and Baku the Mooneater with viable alternatives.
“Although the Year of the Mammoth felt as a great year for Hearthstone, yet again it’s becoming clear that the power-increase of cards has been too steep.”
The mechanics alone won’t do it, however. The power level of the Mammoth’s expansions certainly needs to be taken into account too. And that power level seems to be the largest culprit. Although the Year of the Mammoth felt as a great year for Hearthstone, yet again it’s becoming clear that the power-increase of cards has been too steep. Shadowreaper Anduin, Spiteful Summoner, Call to Arms… These are just a handful of the cards that still dominate the meta, all of which came out last year. And then we’re leaving out thesix cards Kobolds and Catacombs gave to Warlock, giving birth to its two dominant archetypes.
The Witchwood has taken a large step back in terms of card power. A good thing initially, as the first expansion of a rotation should be the least powerful. You do want the following expansions to change the meta, after all. But from the looks of it now Witchwood is a near-forgettable expansion, and players will be asking themselves at the end of the year: “Which wood?”
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.