The Path Travelled

Last Updated: November 12, 2015

This is the eighth part of the Free to Play Journeyman Hearthstone Guide Series. Be sure to check out the other articles in the series here:  Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7.

The Best and Worst of Times

I did not fall off the face of the world, nor did I quit Hearthstone in the lengthy interval between this instalment and the last.  A friend and I tried to put a bit more effort into reaching legend on the EU server, which cut down on my time to play my FTP account and especially to write these articles or plan new decks.  I just did the bare minimum to complete daily quests and the Tavern Brawl on the US server. Sadly, the mid-month dismantling of Patron Warrior caught both of us out; my friend who was relying on it to climb the ladder, and I who had spent dust crafting Handlock (Patron's natural foil) leaving both of us a reliable source of wins short (we don't have such amazing collections that we can build just anything).  We also both had real world time sinks that got in the way of the grind, and towards the end of the month had largely given up even though the goal was probably still within reach. Meanwhile on the US server, at the start of this season it was clear that other people had not stopped spending money on this game in the interim.. Yes, the coin was also golden, in case you were wondering, and yes, I did go on to win, because Blizzard's favourite customer (aka my opponent) forget that only playing 1 threatening card a turn isn't going to get you anywhere.

Taking Stock

During this period I have opened a total of 41 packs with my FTP account: 31 Classic, 1 Goblins vs Gnomes (Arena reward), and 9 The Grand Tournament (TGT).  Initially I planned to alternate the oldest and newest sets, but I realised that although the environment had certainly changed with TGT's introduction, the true value in the set was limited to a fairly small subset of cards.  The chances of hitting these specific cards was quite small, whereas the average deck contains far more cards from the Classic set.  So I went back to opening exclusively Classic packs.  However I did get a golden Lock and Load and a Dreadsteed from the TGT packs (which otherwise contained mainly King's Elekks and Light's Champions), so I did get some niche value.  I'll discuss this below. I also planned to play more Arena, and started out with 2 runs of 10 and 3 wins respectively.  But the problem was simply the amount of time this took.  The 10 win arena run took me almost four days to play, for instance; let's just say my life is not cut out to join in with the pro's by starting a fresh FTP account and reaching legend by the end of the season. Despite all this my luck in opening cards on this account never wavered.  I opened 3 legendary minions in those 41 packs, including 2 in a pack for the second time, but unfortunately 2 of the 3 were Al'Akir the Windlord, which I already owned!  I guess this card is the poster child of my account now.  The other was Archmage Antonidas, dripping with irony after I had made comments about never crafting it.  I guess owning the card is a choice that has now been made for me, and in the absence of better options I'd be an fool to not build a deck around it.  Pride only gets one so far, after which it only gets in the way.  I disenchanted swathes of my collection each time I got the extra Al'Akir, as the 400 dust provided me with enough to craft a legendary each time. First I crafted Sylvanas Windrunner as a generally useful "goes in any control deck" card, and then Mal'Ganis as he is a powerful minion for any Warlock strategy relying on demons, and I happened to open 2 Doomguards around the same time.  Mal'Ganis is also a card in the Goblins vs Gnomes (GvG) set, which I do not plan to purchase, so it would need to be crafted anyway.  Other cards I considered crafting at the time were: Ysera (don't have enough support for it), Vol'jin (another GvG card on the horizon, but my Priest is already my best class by some distance), Tirion Fordring (which I'd only craft once I already had Ysera, because the dragon is more generally useful), and Justicar Trueheart (one of the most played legendary minions in TGT).  Ultimately I felt Mal'Ganis was more suited to my collection. Here then is my current card list, decklist and critique by class, including the Adventure Sets: Neutral Wisp, 2 Abusive Sergeant, 2 Argent SquireClockwork GnomeGadgetzan Jouster, 2 Leper Gnome, 2 Lowly SquireSecretkeeperSouthsea Deckhand, 2 Undertaker, 2 Worgen Infiltrator, 2 Zombie Chow, 2 Amani BerserkerAncient Watcher, 2 Bloodsail RaiderCrazed AlchemistDire Wolf AlphaExplosive SheepFaerie Dragon, 2 Haunted Creeper, 2 Ironbeak Owl, 2 Loot Hoarder, 2 Mad Scientist, 2 Nerub'ar Weblord, 2 Nerubian Egg, 2 Sunfury Protector, 2 Unstable Ghoul, 2 Wild Pyromancer, 2 Youthful Brewmaster, 2 Acolyte of Pain, Golden Arcane GolemBig Game HunterColdlight Oracle, 2 Dancing Swords, 2 Deathlord, 2 Earthen Ring Farseer, 2 Harvest GolemMind Control TechRaging Worgen, 2 Stoneskin GargoyleTauren WarriorBaron Rivendare, 2 Cult Master, 2 Dread CorsairSpellbreaker, 2 Twilight Drake, 2 Wailing SoulFeugen, 2 Grim PatronLoatheb, 2 Sludge Belcher, 2 Spectral KnightStalaggStampeding Kodo, 2 Argent CommanderEmperor ThaurissanGadgetzan AuctioneerHoggerMaexxnaSunwalkerSylvanas WindrunnerDr. BoomRagnaros the FirelordMountain Giant. Lacking: Knife Juggler, 2 Azure Drake, 2 Defender of Argus, 2 Violet Teacher, 2 Piloted Shredder, Arcane Golem, giants and legendary dragons. Appraisal: Strong base with duplicates of most of the best commons and all the necessary non-dragon Legendary minions.   Druid Living Roots, 2 NaturalizePower of the Wild, 2 Wrath, 2 Poison SeedsSoul of the Forest, 2 Keeper of the GroveAncient of WarCenarius. Lacking: Force of Nature, 2 Ancient of Lore, 2 Druid of the Claw. Appraisal: Some way to go before being really competitive as the missing cards are vital, but the depth of neutral Legendary minions means a ramp strategy deck can never be truly weak. Current decklist (ramp strategy): 2x: Innervate, Wild Growth, Wrath, Loot Hoarder, Savage Roar, Harvest Golem, Swipe, Chillwind Yeti, Keeper of the Grove, Sludge Belcher 1x: Living Roots, Gadgetzan Jouster, Big Game Hunter, Loatheb, Emperor Thaurissan, Hogger, Sylvanas Windrunner, Ancient of War, Dr. Boom, Cenarius   HunterWebspinnerBear Trap, 2 Explosive TrapFreezing Trap, Golden Lock and Load, 2 Quick Shot, 2 Snipe, 2 Scavenging HyenaDeadly ShotPowershot, 2 Unleash the HoundsSavannah Highmane. Lacking: Eaglehorn Bow, 2 GlaivezookaSavannah Highmane, Freezing Trap. Appraisal: Hunter needs weapons to succeed regardless of strategy, and without Knife Juggler to combo with Unleash the Hounds the class is desperately short of a midgame.  From the Hunter perspective this collection can only be considered weak. Current decklist (spell-focussed, fun deck): 2x: Hunter's Mark, Arcane Shot, Webspinner, Explosive Trap, Quick Shot, Unstable Ghoul, Wild Pyromancer, Animal Companion, Acolyte of Pain, Sen'jin Shieldmasta, Sludge Belcher 1x: Bear Trap, Lock and Load, Deadly Shot, Powershot, Big Game Hunter, Gadgetzan Auctioneer, Savannah Highmane, Dr. Boom   Mage Ice Lance, 2 Mana Wyrm, Golden Unstable PortalFallen Hero, 2 Sorcerer's Apprentice, 2 Duplicate, 2 Ice Barrier, 2 Ice Block, 2 Mirror Entity, 2 Cone of ColdEthereal Arcanist, 2 Dragon's BreathArchmage Antonidas. Lacking: Blizzard, 2 Flamewaker, 2 Effigy, Pyroblast as well as the support provided by Mechanical YetiDoomsayer, Azure Drake, and Alexstrasza. Appraisal: Having all the relevant "older" secrets, especially the play-set of Ice Block, as well as Antonidas, this collection is almost good enough to play any non-Mech strategy.  However, the cards missing are so vital to their individual strategies that none can be seriously attempted right now. Current decklist (secret Antonidas, never played):  2x: Arcane Missiles, Mana Wyrm, Frostbolt, Mad Scientist, Sorcerer's Apprentice, Arcane Intellect, Mirror Entity, Fireball, Water Elemental 1x Mirror Image, Clockwork Gnome, Unstable Portal, Duplicate, Ice Block, Polymorph, Ethereal Arcanist, Loatheb, Sylvanas Windrunner, Flamestrike, Archmage Antonidas, Dr. Boom.   Paladin Blessing of WisdomNoble SacrificeRedemption, 2 Repentance, 2 Equality, 2 Argent Protector, 2 Divine FavorAldor PeacekeeperTuskarr Jouster. Lacking: Shielded Minibot, 2 Muster for Battle, Aldor Peacekeeper, 2 Seal of Champions, 2 Murloc KnightLay on HandsAvenging WrathQuartermaster, 2 Mysterious ChallengerTirion Fordring, as well as support from Knife Juggler. Appraisal: This Paladin collection is miles off being competitive as there are so many cards core to the class missing, never mind the influx of key cards from TGT (particularly Murloc Knight and most obviously Mysterious Challenger). Current decklist (card advantage): 2x Blessing of Might, Abusive Sergeant, Argent Squire, Equality, Haunted Creeper, Ironbeak Owl, Wild Pyromancer, Divine Favor, Acolyte of Pain, Truesilver Champion, Blessing of Kings, Consecration 1x Noble Sacrifice, Aldor Peacekeeper, Big Game Hunter, Cult Master, Loatheb, Dr. Boom   PriestCircle of Healing, 2 Silence, 2 Inner Fire, 2 Resurrect, Golden LightwellVelen's Chosen, 2 Dark CultistMass DispelShadow Madness, 2 Auchenai Soulpriest, 2 Holy Champion, 2 Lightspawn, 2 Holy Fire, 2 Temple Enforcer. Lacking: 2 Thoughtsteal, 2 LightbombVol'jin, 2 Light of the Naaru, support from Injured Blademaster. Appraisal: This collection is strong enough to move away from the Build-a-Monster strategy towards control.  To properly compete however the collection needs to fill out with Blackrock Mountain and TGT cards plus Ysera for a dragon build. Current decklist (Auchenai control): 2x: Circle of Healing, Power Word: Shield, Northshire Cleric, Zombie Chow, Wild Pyromancer, Shadow Word: Death, Dark Cultist, Auchenai Soulpriest, Holy Champion, Holy Nova, Sludge Belcher 1x: Shadow Word: Pain, Velen's Chosen, Deathlord, Shadow Madness, Sylvanas Windrunner, Dr. Boom, Ragnaros the Firelord, Mind Control   Rogue ShadowstepCold Blood, 2 Conceal, 2 Blade FlurryEviscerate, 2 Gang Up, 2 Perdition's BladeSI:7 Agent, 2 Anub'ar AmbusherShado Pan RiderKidnapper. Lacking: More than it has. Appraisal: Almost any class card improves this collectionwhich is largely unplayable - and Rogue is a weak class to boot having gained nothing since GvG. Current decklist (hope and pray):  2x: Backstab, Deadly Poison, Blade Flurry, Sap, Kobold Geomancer, Loot Hoarder, Fan of Knives, Earthen Ring Farseer, Gnomish Inventor, Sludge Belcher 1x: Eviscerate, Bloodsail Raider, Perdition's Blade, Harvest Golem, SI:7 Agent, Chillwind Yeti, Loatheb, Shado-Pan Rider, Spirint, Dr. Boom   Shaman 2 Earth Shock, 2 Forked Lightning, 2 Lightning BoltDust DevilStormforged Axe, 2 ReincarnateLava BurstLightning Storm, Golden DoomhammerThunder Bluff ValiantAl'Akir the Windlord. Lacking: Lightning Storm, 2 Feral Spirit, Mana Tide Totem, 2 Azure Drake, 2 Piloted Shredder, Defender of Argus, other totem goodies from TGT Appraisal: A fairly solid base from which to build, but unfortunately Shaman requires help from every set and even then lacks real punch.  Short answer: there will be much crafting required going forward. Current decklist (deathrattle): 2x: Earth Shock, Rockbiter Weapon, Abusive Sergeant, Flametongue Totem, Haunted Creeper, Loot Hoarder, Nerubian Egg, Hex, Harvest Golem, Chillwind Yeti, Fire Elemental 1x: Stormforged Axe, Baron Rivendare, Doomhammer, Bloodlust, Loatheb, Sludge Belcher, Dr. Boom, Al'Akir the Windlord   WarlockPower Overwhelming, 2 Blood Imp, 2 Flame Imp, 2 DemonfireWrathguardVoid TerrorDreadsteed, 2 Voidcaller, 2 DoomguardFloating Watcher, 2 Siphon SoulMal'Ganis. Lacking: Imp losion, 2 Darkbomb, 2 Imp Gang BossShadowflameLord Jaraxxus, synergy with Knife Juggler and Defender of Argus. Appraisal: A solid start to a demon or Zoo strategy, but a long way to go for Handlock. Current decklist (demonsteeds): 2x: Mortal Coil, Power Overwhelming, Abusive Sergeant, Flame Imp, Leper Gnome, Voidwalker, Haunted Creeper, Ironbeak Owl, Nerubian Egg, Voidcaller, Doomguard 1x: Dire Wolf Alpha, Harvest Golem, Void Terror, Baron Rivendare, Dreadsteed, Loatheb, Dr. Boom, Mal'Ganis   WarriorInner RageShield Slam, 2 Battle RageCommanding Shout, 2 Slam, 2 Cruel TaskmasterBashFrothing Berserker, 2 Death's BiteArathi Weaponsmith Lacking: Anything that doesn't go into Patron Warrior, a common failing of the Warrior class as the only other viable strategies involve huge numbers of Legendary minions and Epic rarity cards. Appraisal: Par for the course for early Warrior collections, possibly even above-par. Current decklist (Patron-lite): 2x: Inner Rage, Execute, Whirlwind, Fiery War Axe, Battle Rage, Slam, Cruel Taskmaster, Unstable Ghoul, Charge, Shield Block, Acolyte of Pain, Death's Bite, Grim Patron 1x: Shield Slam, Frothing Berserker, Raging Worgen, Emperor Thaurissan

The Grand Analysis

One of the keys in making the decision to stick with opening Classic packs was a study of the TGT cards regularly played in top decks.  Naturally, fringe cards that are certainly playable do not make this list, such as personal favourite Sideshow Spelleater, but when analysing a set it is necessary to know the percentage of cards that will always be played.  Please feel free to discuss this list and my omissions in the comments section. Varian WrynnRhoninChillmawConfessor PaletressJusticar Trueheart, Mysterious ChallengerThe MistcallerMukla's ChampionNexus Champion SaraadRam WranglerThunder Bluff ValiantCharged HammerDreadsteedGormok the ImpalerHoly ChampionMurloc KnightSavage CombatantTwilight GuardianBashBurgleEffigySeal of ChampionsArgent HorseriderDreadscaleEydis DarkbaneSpellslingerTuskarr TotemicBear TrapAlexstrasza's ChampionDarnassus AspirantDruid of the SaberKing's ElekkTotem GolemWyrmrest AgentFlash HealLiving RootsBuccaneer. At first glance that seems like a lot of useful cards, but when you take away the Legendary and Epic cards you're left with only 25, which is less than a fifth of the set, suggesting that even at the outset the chances of getting more than 1 or 2 playable cards per pack is quite low.  With only 130-odd cards in total duplication is high, as evidenced by my opening 4 King's Elekk's in my first 3 packs (all of which were disenchanted when I crafted Sylvanas as I initially did not rate the card very highly). The other major consideration is that the primary achievement of TGT is to make dragons as a strategy completely viable via Twilight Guardian and Chillmaw, with further class support in the shape of Wyrmrest Agent and Alexstrasza's Champion.  But in order for one's collection to be "dragon ready" one needs to have committed fully to Blackrock Mountain (BRM) and be ready to craft (or already own) Ysera.  For my collection, where I avoided the final 4 wings of BRM, this big drawcard of TGT is somewhat lost.  As such the decision to remain committed to opening Classic packs was fairly simple to make. It is also well known that I dislike the GvG set in general.  That does not mean there are no useful cards from it of course.  Omitting cards from the set that I already own, as well as a few that are mere "nice-to-haves", here is a breakdown of the cards I will need: Antique HealbotTinker's Sharpsword OilPiloted ShredderCrackleDarkbombFlamecannonGlaivezookaShielded MinibotShrinkmeisterClockwork GnomeImp losionMuster for BattleUnstable PortalLight of the NaaruLightbombQuartermasterCoghammerVol'jin, and possibly Neptulon.

To Craft or not to Craft

That is indeed the question.  Now that my aims in crafting legendary minions boil down to Ysera, Justicar Trueheart and various class legendaries, is it not time to address the immediate short-comings of my collection?  Adjusting for quantities on the list of GvG cards, it will cost 1420 dust for all the commons and rares, and 1600 for the epics.  Which is to say the same cost as 2 legendary minions.  Right now I can disenchant not a few borderline unplayables and get up to 435 dust.  Given that the majority of the necessary crafts there are for Paladin, it's tempting to go for a play set of Muster for Battle and Shielded Minibot, but in truth my paladin collection needs so much help it might be better to just wait, especially since it is a class that relies so much on a) Knife Juggler, and b) epic rarity cards from all sets. So my plan is to get the necessary Mage cards: 1 each of Unstable Portal, Clockwork Gnome and Ancient Healbot (180 dust), which will give me enough to tinker with (and the Healbot is useful in several classes).  Add to this play sets of Piloted Shredder, Shielded Minibot and Glaivezooka (240 dust), which would leave me with 15 dust.  While I know that few Hunters run 2 Glaivezooka once they have 2 Eaglehorn Bow, I don't think 40 dust will be worth crying over when I eventually cut 1.  The remaining cards on that list could then wait until I open specific cards from the Classic set, especially Knife Juggler.

Summary

Right now I'm rank 15 almost purely on the strength of the Warlock and Priest decks, though it should be noted that other than Hunter I always play Ranked so I have *those* days where I'm playing a deck that isn't good enough and all I'm facing are good, solid decks.  I believe crafting those missing GvG cards should allow me to raise my usual end of season reward box rank 13 to 12 or even 11, and will allow me to play Hunter in Ranked once more. Am I still an FTP journeyman?  I'd say "Yes", as I've not achieved anything of note with the account as such.  I have a strong collection, albeit one with gaping holes, and I believe my failings in progressing beyond rank 10 have more to do with dedicating too little time to the game and being quite frequently drawn away from the computer mid-game leading to an unnecessary loss.  But I don't want to make excuses (says he having done so already - lol); this collection deserves much better than a mere top 20% ranking month after month. As always, please feel free to comment or criticize below and thank you for your time.

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The Path Travelled

Last Updated: November 12, 2015

This is the eighth part of the Free to Play Journeyman Hearthstone Guide Series. Be sure to check out the other articles in the series here:  Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7.

The Best and Worst of Times

I did not fall off the face of the world, nor did I quit Hearthstone in the lengthy interval between this instalment and the last.  A friend and I tried to put a bit more effort into reaching legend on the EU server, which cut down on my time to play my FTP account and especially to write these articles or plan new decks.  I just did the bare minimum to complete daily quests and the Tavern Brawl on the US server. Sadly, the mid-month dismantling of Patron Warrior caught both of us out; my friend who was relying on it to climb the ladder, and I who had spent dust crafting Handlock (Patron's natural foil) leaving both of us a reliable source of wins short (we don't have such amazing collections that we can build just anything).  We also both had real world time sinks that got in the way of the grind, and towards the end of the month had largely given up even though the goal was probably still within reach. Meanwhile on the US server, at the start of this season it was clear that other people had not stopped spending money on this game in the interim.. Yes, the coin was also golden, in case you were wondering, and yes, I did go on to win, because Blizzard's favourite customer (aka my opponent) forget that only playing 1 threatening card a turn isn't going to get you anywhere.

Taking Stock

During this period I have opened a total of 41 packs with my FTP account: 31 Classic, 1 Goblins vs Gnomes (Arena reward), and 9 The Grand Tournament (TGT).  Initially I planned to alternate the oldest and newest sets, but I realised that although the environment had certainly changed with TGT's introduction, the true value in the set was limited to a fairly small subset of cards.  The chances of hitting these specific cards was quite small, whereas the average deck contains far more cards from the Classic set.  So I went back to opening exclusively Classic packs.  However I did get a golden Lock and Load and a Dreadsteed from the TGT packs (which otherwise contained mainly King's Elekks and Light's Champions), so I did get some niche value.  I'll discuss this below. I also planned to play more Arena, and started out with 2 runs of 10 and 3 wins respectively.  But the problem was simply the amount of time this took.  The 10 win arena run took me almost four days to play, for instance; let's just say my life is not cut out to join in with the pro's by starting a fresh FTP account and reaching legend by the end of the season. Despite all this my luck in opening cards on this account never wavered.  I opened 3 legendary minions in those 41 packs, including 2 in a pack for the second time, but unfortunately 2 of the 3 were Al'Akir the Windlord, which I already owned!  I guess this card is the poster child of my account now.  The other was Archmage Antonidas, dripping with irony after I had made comments about never crafting it.  I guess owning the card is a choice that has now been made for me, and in the absence of better options I'd be an fool to not build a deck around it.  Pride only gets one so far, after which it only gets in the way.  I disenchanted swathes of my collection each time I got the extra Al'Akir, as the 400 dust provided me with enough to craft a legendary each time. First I crafted Sylvanas Windrunner as a generally useful "goes in any control deck" card, and then Mal'Ganis as he is a powerful minion for any Warlock strategy relying on demons, and I happened to open 2 Doomguards around the same time.  Mal'Ganis is also a card in the Goblins vs Gnomes (GvG) set, which I do not plan to purchase, so it would need to be crafted anyway.  Other cards I considered crafting at the time were: Ysera (don't have enough support for it), Vol'jin (another GvG card on the horizon, but my Priest is already my best class by some distance), Tirion Fordring (which I'd only craft once I already had Ysera, because the dragon is more generally useful), and Justicar Trueheart (one of the most played legendary minions in TGT).  Ultimately I felt Mal'Ganis was more suited to my collection. Here then is my current card list, decklist and critique by class, including the Adventure Sets: Neutral Wisp, 2 Abusive Sergeant, 2 Argent SquireClockwork GnomeGadgetzan Jouster, 2 Leper Gnome, 2 Lowly SquireSecretkeeperSouthsea Deckhand, 2 Undertaker, 2 Worgen Infiltrator, 2 Zombie Chow, 2 Amani BerserkerAncient Watcher, 2 Bloodsail RaiderCrazed AlchemistDire Wolf AlphaExplosive SheepFaerie Dragon, 2 Haunted Creeper, 2 Ironbeak Owl, 2 Loot Hoarder, 2 Mad Scientist, 2 Nerub'ar Weblord, 2 Nerubian Egg, 2 Sunfury Protector, 2 Unstable Ghoul, 2 Wild Pyromancer, 2 Youthful Brewmaster, 2 Acolyte of Pain, Golden Arcane GolemBig Game HunterColdlight Oracle, 2 Dancing Swords, 2 Deathlord, 2 Earthen Ring Farseer, 2 Harvest GolemMind Control TechRaging Worgen, 2 Stoneskin GargoyleTauren WarriorBaron Rivendare, 2 Cult Master, 2 Dread CorsairSpellbreaker, 2 Twilight Drake, 2 Wailing SoulFeugen, 2 Grim PatronLoatheb, 2 Sludge Belcher, 2 Spectral KnightStalaggStampeding Kodo, 2 Argent CommanderEmperor ThaurissanGadgetzan AuctioneerHoggerMaexxnaSunwalkerSylvanas WindrunnerDr. BoomRagnaros the FirelordMountain Giant. Lacking: Knife Juggler, 2 Azure Drake, 2 Defender of Argus, 2 Violet Teacher, 2 Piloted Shredder, Arcane Golem, giants and legendary dragons. Appraisal: Strong base with duplicates of most of the best commons and all the necessary non-dragon Legendary minions.   Druid Living Roots, 2 NaturalizePower of the Wild, 2 Wrath, 2 Poison SeedsSoul of the Forest, 2 Keeper of the GroveAncient of WarCenarius. Lacking: Force of Nature, 2 Ancient of Lore, 2 Druid of the Claw. Appraisal: Some way to go before being really competitive as the missing cards are vital, but the depth of neutral Legendary minions means a ramp strategy deck can never be truly weak. Current decklist (ramp strategy): 2x: Innervate, Wild Growth, Wrath, Loot Hoarder, Savage Roar, Harvest Golem, Swipe, Chillwind Yeti, Keeper of the Grove, Sludge Belcher 1x: Living Roots, Gadgetzan Jouster, Big Game Hunter, Loatheb, Emperor Thaurissan, Hogger, Sylvanas Windrunner, Ancient of War, Dr. Boom, Cenarius   HunterWebspinnerBear Trap, 2 Explosive TrapFreezing Trap, Golden Lock and Load, 2 Quick Shot, 2 Snipe, 2 Scavenging HyenaDeadly ShotPowershot, 2 Unleash the HoundsSavannah Highmane. Lacking: Eaglehorn Bow, 2 GlaivezookaSavannah Highmane, Freezing Trap. Appraisal: Hunter needs weapons to succeed regardless of strategy, and without Knife Juggler to combo with Unleash the Hounds the class is desperately short of a midgame.  From the Hunter perspective this collection can only be considered weak. Current decklist (spell-focussed, fun deck): 2x: Hunter's Mark, Arcane Shot, Webspinner, Explosive Trap, Quick Shot, Unstable Ghoul, Wild Pyromancer, Animal Companion, Acolyte of Pain, Sen'jin Shieldmasta, Sludge Belcher 1x: Bear Trap, Lock and Load, Deadly Shot, Powershot, Big Game Hunter, Gadgetzan Auctioneer, Savannah Highmane, Dr. Boom   Mage Ice Lance, 2 Mana Wyrm, Golden Unstable PortalFallen Hero, 2 Sorcerer's Apprentice, 2 Duplicate, 2 Ice Barrier, 2 Ice Block, 2 Mirror Entity, 2 Cone of ColdEthereal Arcanist, 2 Dragon's BreathArchmage Antonidas. Lacking: Blizzard, 2 Flamewaker, 2 Effigy, Pyroblast as well as the support provided by Mechanical YetiDoomsayer, Azure Drake, and Alexstrasza. Appraisal: Having all the relevant "older" secrets, especially the play-set of Ice Block, as well as Antonidas, this collection is almost good enough to play any non-Mech strategy.  However, the cards missing are so vital to their individual strategies that none can be seriously attempted right now. Current decklist (secret Antonidas, never played):  2x: Arcane Missiles, Mana Wyrm, Frostbolt, Mad Scientist, Sorcerer's Apprentice, Arcane Intellect, Mirror Entity, Fireball, Water Elemental 1x Mirror Image, Clockwork Gnome, Unstable Portal, Duplicate, Ice Block, Polymorph, Ethereal Arcanist, Loatheb, Sylvanas Windrunner, Flamestrike, Archmage Antonidas, Dr. Boom.   Paladin Blessing of WisdomNoble SacrificeRedemption, 2 Repentance, 2 Equality, 2 Argent Protector, 2 Divine FavorAldor PeacekeeperTuskarr Jouster. Lacking: Shielded Minibot, 2 Muster for Battle, Aldor Peacekeeper, 2 Seal of Champions, 2 Murloc KnightLay on HandsAvenging WrathQuartermaster, 2 Mysterious ChallengerTirion Fordring, as well as support from Knife Juggler. Appraisal: This Paladin collection is miles off being competitive as there are so many cards core to the class missing, never mind the influx of key cards from TGT (particularly Murloc Knight and most obviously Mysterious Challenger). Current decklist (card advantage): 2x Blessing of Might, Abusive Sergeant, Argent Squire, Equality, Haunted Creeper, Ironbeak Owl, Wild Pyromancer, Divine Favor, Acolyte of Pain, Truesilver Champion, Blessing of Kings, Consecration 1x Noble Sacrifice, Aldor Peacekeeper, Big Game Hunter, Cult Master, Loatheb, Dr. Boom   PriestCircle of Healing, 2 Silence, 2 Inner Fire, 2 Resurrect, Golden LightwellVelen's Chosen, 2 Dark CultistMass DispelShadow Madness, 2 Auchenai Soulpriest, 2 Holy Champion, 2 Lightspawn, 2 Holy Fire, 2 Temple Enforcer. Lacking: 2 Thoughtsteal, 2 LightbombVol'jin, 2 Light of the Naaru, support from Injured Blademaster. Appraisal: This collection is strong enough to move away from the Build-a-Monster strategy towards control.  To properly compete however the collection needs to fill out with Blackrock Mountain and TGT cards plus Ysera for a dragon build. Current decklist (Auchenai control): 2x: Circle of Healing, Power Word: Shield, Northshire Cleric, Zombie Chow, Wild Pyromancer, Shadow Word: Death, Dark Cultist, Auchenai Soulpriest, Holy Champion, Holy Nova, Sludge Belcher 1x: Shadow Word: Pain, Velen's Chosen, Deathlord, Shadow Madness, Sylvanas Windrunner, Dr. Boom, Ragnaros the Firelord, Mind Control   Rogue ShadowstepCold Blood, 2 Conceal, 2 Blade FlurryEviscerate, 2 Gang Up, 2 Perdition's BladeSI:7 Agent, 2 Anub'ar AmbusherShado Pan RiderKidnapper. Lacking: More than it has. Appraisal: Almost any class card improves this collectionwhich is largely unplayable - and Rogue is a weak class to boot having gained nothing since GvG. Current decklist (hope and pray):  2x: Backstab, Deadly Poison, Blade Flurry, Sap, Kobold Geomancer, Loot Hoarder, Fan of Knives, Earthen Ring Farseer, Gnomish Inventor, Sludge Belcher 1x: Eviscerate, Bloodsail Raider, Perdition's Blade, Harvest Golem, SI:7 Agent, Chillwind Yeti, Loatheb, Shado-Pan Rider, Spirint, Dr. Boom   Shaman 2 Earth Shock, 2 Forked Lightning, 2 Lightning BoltDust DevilStormforged Axe, 2 ReincarnateLava BurstLightning Storm, Golden DoomhammerThunder Bluff ValiantAl'Akir the Windlord. Lacking: Lightning Storm, 2 Feral Spirit, Mana Tide Totem, 2 Azure Drake, 2 Piloted Shredder, Defender of Argus, other totem goodies from TGT Appraisal: A fairly solid base from which to build, but unfortunately Shaman requires help from every set and even then lacks real punch.  Short answer: there will be much crafting required going forward. Current decklist (deathrattle): 2x: Earth Shock, Rockbiter Weapon, Abusive Sergeant, Flametongue Totem, Haunted Creeper, Loot Hoarder, Nerubian Egg, Hex, Harvest Golem, Chillwind Yeti, Fire Elemental 1x: Stormforged Axe, Baron Rivendare, Doomhammer, Bloodlust, Loatheb, Sludge Belcher, Dr. Boom, Al'Akir the Windlord   WarlockPower Overwhelming, 2 Blood Imp, 2 Flame Imp, 2 DemonfireWrathguardVoid TerrorDreadsteed, 2 Voidcaller, 2 DoomguardFloating Watcher, 2 Siphon SoulMal'Ganis. Lacking: Imp losion, 2 Darkbomb, 2 Imp Gang BossShadowflameLord Jaraxxus, synergy with Knife Juggler and Defender of Argus. Appraisal: A solid start to a demon or Zoo strategy, but a long way to go for Handlock. Current decklist (demonsteeds): 2x: Mortal Coil, Power Overwhelming, Abusive Sergeant, Flame Imp, Leper Gnome, Voidwalker, Haunted Creeper, Ironbeak Owl, Nerubian Egg, Voidcaller, Doomguard 1x: Dire Wolf Alpha, Harvest Golem, Void Terror, Baron Rivendare, Dreadsteed, Loatheb, Dr. Boom, Mal'Ganis   WarriorInner RageShield Slam, 2 Battle RageCommanding Shout, 2 Slam, 2 Cruel TaskmasterBashFrothing Berserker, 2 Death's BiteArathi Weaponsmith Lacking: Anything that doesn't go into Patron Warrior, a common failing of the Warrior class as the only other viable strategies involve huge numbers of Legendary minions and Epic rarity cards. Appraisal: Par for the course for early Warrior collections, possibly even above-par. Current decklist (Patron-lite): 2x: Inner Rage, Execute, Whirlwind, Fiery War Axe, Battle Rage, Slam, Cruel Taskmaster, Unstable Ghoul, Charge, Shield Block, Acolyte of Pain, Death's Bite, Grim Patron 1x: Shield Slam, Frothing Berserker, Raging Worgen, Emperor Thaurissan

The Grand Analysis

One of the keys in making the decision to stick with opening Classic packs was a study of the TGT cards regularly played in top decks.  Naturally, fringe cards that are certainly playable do not make this list, such as personal favourite Sideshow Spelleater, but when analysing a set it is necessary to know the percentage of cards that will always be played.  Please feel free to discuss this list and my omissions in the comments section. Varian WrynnRhoninChillmawConfessor PaletressJusticar Trueheart, Mysterious ChallengerThe MistcallerMukla's ChampionNexus Champion SaraadRam WranglerThunder Bluff ValiantCharged HammerDreadsteedGormok the ImpalerHoly ChampionMurloc KnightSavage CombatantTwilight GuardianBashBurgleEffigySeal of ChampionsArgent HorseriderDreadscaleEydis DarkbaneSpellslingerTuskarr TotemicBear TrapAlexstrasza's ChampionDarnassus AspirantDruid of the SaberKing's ElekkTotem GolemWyrmrest AgentFlash HealLiving RootsBuccaneer. At first glance that seems like a lot of useful cards, but when you take away the Legendary and Epic cards you're left with only 25, which is less than a fifth of the set, suggesting that even at the outset the chances of getting more than 1 or 2 playable cards per pack is quite low.  With only 130-odd cards in total duplication is high, as evidenced by my opening 4 King's Elekk's in my first 3 packs (all of which were disenchanted when I crafted Sylvanas as I initially did not rate the card very highly). The other major consideration is that the primary achievement of TGT is to make dragons as a strategy completely viable via Twilight Guardian and Chillmaw, with further class support in the shape of Wyrmrest Agent and Alexstrasza's Champion.  But in order for one's collection to be "dragon ready" one needs to have committed fully to Blackrock Mountain (BRM) and be ready to craft (or already own) Ysera.  For my collection, where I avoided the final 4 wings of BRM, this big drawcard of TGT is somewhat lost.  As such the decision to remain committed to opening Classic packs was fairly simple to make. It is also well known that I dislike the GvG set in general.  That does not mean there are no useful cards from it of course.  Omitting cards from the set that I already own, as well as a few that are mere "nice-to-haves", here is a breakdown of the cards I will need: Antique HealbotTinker's Sharpsword OilPiloted ShredderCrackleDarkbombFlamecannonGlaivezookaShielded MinibotShrinkmeisterClockwork GnomeImp losionMuster for BattleUnstable PortalLight of the NaaruLightbombQuartermasterCoghammerVol'jin, and possibly Neptulon.

To Craft or not to Craft

That is indeed the question.  Now that my aims in crafting legendary minions boil down to Ysera, Justicar Trueheart and various class legendaries, is it not time to address the immediate short-comings of my collection?  Adjusting for quantities on the list of GvG cards, it will cost 1420 dust for all the commons and rares, and 1600 for the epics.  Which is to say the same cost as 2 legendary minions.  Right now I can disenchant not a few borderline unplayables and get up to 435 dust.  Given that the majority of the necessary crafts there are for Paladin, it's tempting to go for a play set of Muster for Battle and Shielded Minibot, but in truth my paladin collection needs so much help it might be better to just wait, especially since it is a class that relies so much on a) Knife Juggler, and b) epic rarity cards from all sets. So my plan is to get the necessary Mage cards: 1 each of Unstable Portal, Clockwork Gnome and Ancient Healbot (180 dust), which will give me enough to tinker with (and the Healbot is useful in several classes).  Add to this play sets of Piloted Shredder, Shielded Minibot and Glaivezooka (240 dust), which would leave me with 15 dust.  While I know that few Hunters run 2 Glaivezooka once they have 2 Eaglehorn Bow, I don't think 40 dust will be worth crying over when I eventually cut 1.  The remaining cards on that list could then wait until I open specific cards from the Classic set, especially Knife Juggler.

Summary

Right now I'm rank 15 almost purely on the strength of the Warlock and Priest decks, though it should be noted that other than Hunter I always play Ranked so I have *those* days where I'm playing a deck that isn't good enough and all I'm facing are good, solid decks.  I believe crafting those missing GvG cards should allow me to raise my usual end of season reward box rank 13 to 12 or even 11, and will allow me to play Hunter in Ranked once more. Am I still an FTP journeyman?  I'd say "Yes", as I've not achieved anything of note with the account as such.  I have a strong collection, albeit one with gaping holes, and I believe my failings in progressing beyond rank 10 have more to do with dedicating too little time to the game and being quite frequently drawn away from the computer mid-game leading to an unnecessary loss.  But I don't want to make excuses (says he having done so already - lol); this collection deserves much better than a mere top 20% ranking month after month. As always, please feel free to comment or criticize below and thank you for your time.

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