A meta analysis of the Descent of Dragons Standard format in Hearthstone, and why Shaman Galakrond still owns the whole set.

It’s been a rough year for Hearthstone, Blizzard’s virtual collectible trading card game based off the World of Warcraft universe. With a wandering fanbase after with the retirement of rockstar streamer Disguised Toast, and a huge fan backlash on the esports end after a pro pulled a political stunt live on the air and got smacked for it, gaming bloggers have begun to ask if Hearthstone is losing its way.

What Blizzard Entertainment needs for Hearthstone is a rebound back to its former glory. The latest expansion release of Hearthstone is Descent of Dragons, and what Hearthstone got from that was a… eh, meh, OK, we guess. It’s sorta fun, but the new Battlegrounds mode is still the main attraction to the game right now. But it’s not like Descent sent people running out in the streets to get their friends to try Hearthstone again.

It isn’t for lack of power. Far from it! Descent is the most stupidly overpowered set we’ve seen in awhile. After its December 10th, 2019 release, every previous meta deck suddenly became casual overnight. There is no room for leisure decks here. For a general overview, let’s throw in a Kripparian review:

The Saga of Galakrond Shaman

Meanwhile, Shaman’s Galakrond shot to an insane 58% winrate in one week, forcing Blizzard to pull the fastest nerf patch in recent memory to tone it down.

Galakrond Shaman decklist

Even after the nerfs, Galakrond Shaman is still competitive.

It’s because the evoke power on Shaman’s Galakrond is nuts.

Shaman Galakrond cards

Leaving aside when he comes out, every time you invoke it, it spawns a 2/1 body with rush. Along with the neutral invokes, Shaman also gets Corrupt Elementalist, which invokes twice. With other battlecry-repeat cards – already proven powerful with Shaman’s Corrupt the Waters quest – you can win the whole game with 2/1 invokes even if you never see Galakrond.

  • Corrupt Elementalist costs one more mana, highly relevant.
  • Sludge Slurper got nerfed down to a 1/1, which is laughably irrelevant to the deck.
  • Faceless Corruptor got nerfed down to a 4/4 – since Corrupter can work with an invoked 2/1 or even one of Shaman’s totems in a pinch, that’s relevant.
  • Mogu Fleshshaper is bumped up to 9 mana! Not exactly core to the deck’s strategy either.

Honestly, if I were in charge of Blizzard nerfs, I don’t know what I’d do. You can’t nerf neutral cards without hurting other decks too. The real power is in Galakrond’s invoke for Shaman, a free 2/1 rush with every invoke is what needs nerfing, and all collectible trading card games hate to nerf the showpiece of a set right after it’s released.

Compare to the other four Galakrond classes: Rogue gets a lackey to hand, Warrior gains 3 weapon-attack for the turn, Priest gets random cards to hand, and Warlock gets two 1/1 imps… with nothing. It’s so unfair, everybody’s forgotten that Galakrond is actually a retread of the same idea from the Whispers of the Old Gods expansion…

C’Thun… C’THUN… C’THUUUUUN!!!

Miss him yet?

I Was Told There Would Be Dragons In This Set?

Oh yeah, almost forgot, this set was supposed to focus on dragons. It’s kind of in the name there.

Yes, granted, Galakrond is, technically, a dragon, but we’re not expecting that. We were thinking more like, you know, more than one dragon.

There are some good dragon tribal options in the current meta, but it’s not like we haven’t seen dragon tribal forced before.

You know who’s the top-played dragon tribal card as of this writing? Take a guess? Firetree Witchdoctor!

Yeah, basic neutral that’s been in the game for a year.

Followed by Twilight Drake, from Classic. And then finally one of the new cards, Scalerider, played mostly because he zaps something on battlecry. Those are played in 12% of decks. So far, the legendary dragon that I’ve seen played the most is good old Alexstrasza, Classic set again.

Asking how the dragons in this set are going, take this as a sign that they’re just a tad underwhelming. They’re all pushed down while Galakrond decks or the answers to them take center stage. Right now besides Shaman’s various options (including the big G in tier 1), top tier 2 decks are Hunter face variants, the pirate deck that Warrior always plays every other expansion, a deathrattle contraption for Rogue, and a few second-string Galakrond contenders for the other classes.

Face Hunter
Pirate Warrior
Deathrattle Rogue

This is a great meta you’ve set up for the Descent of Dragons meta, Blizzard! You know, it’s just missing one thing… A DRAGON DECK!

Interesting Curveball Decks

Well, if you’re looking for fun stuff and don’t mind poking along with a lower-tier deck, the Standard format does have some options. Here’s a few to try out:

  • Highlander Dragon Mage – Highlander decks are pretty fun all around, which makes for one more idea Blizzard has successfully ripped from Wizards of the Coast’s Magic: the Gathering. This is one of the more viable ways to actually, you know, play dragons.
  • Pure Paladin – An interesting innovation in constrained deckbuilding, Paladin has a card that rewards you for being all-righteous, with no neutral minions. Not only interesting, but flavorful for its class too. Sometimes Blizzard accidentally does that.
  • Plot Twist Warlock – Who believe that Warlock Plot Twist is still playable right now? Sure, it’s piddling around in the 40% winrates, but opponents will never see it coming.

Lacking that, just homebrew something with Galakrond! There has to be several other decks you can build around Galakrond that nobody’s tried yet.

Overall Summary for Descent of Dragons

Blizzard blew the “dragons” part, and didn’t really shine on initial set balance either. The set is hugely OP, dragons or not. Even the spells and lesser minions are ramped up. But this set is still a wee bit of a letdown, because it’s not really packed full of interesting strategies. It’s “play big stompy things that invoke the even bigger, stompier Galakrond,” and the rest is really just decks that are carried more by previous sets. The impression most players seem to have is “average.”

 

About the author

Penguin Pete

Penguin Pete

Geek tribal bard for the Internet, before "geek" was cool. Linux power user, MTG collector, light saber owner, cult movie fanatic, comic book memer, video gamer, Unix beard currently measures six inches.