The Last Stand

Last Updated: April 17, 2016

This is the twelfth 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 6Part 7Part 8Part 9,Part 10 and Part 11.

Change is in the Air

The Whispers of the Old Gods set (referred to as TOG hereafter) is upon us, or will be within a few sleeps.  Over the past few weeks I've been grappling with several directions in which to take not only my FTP account on the US server, but also this article series.  When I started out my plan was fairly simple: create a new account, spend not a dime on packs but create a collection that would have broad support for all the classes (rather than focussing on a handful of favourites), hopefully one good enough to progress toward a legend rank.  As I have a young family and a full time occupation, my time would unfortunately be limited to 6 wins per day, which would directly influence the amount of time I could dedicate to playing arena.  So instead, as much as possible I would earn those 6 wins in ranked play unless the cards I had opened for the class or task required of the daily quest would lead to too much frustration due to a too high rank, in which case I'd swallow my pride and hit up the casual room. I employed several tactics over the course of this series, such as re-rolling unfavourable and 40g daily quests in order to increase the value of each win, avoiding the generally weak Goblins vs Gnomes set (GvG), and saving my dust for legendary minions only.  Although I twice relented and spent my dust on lesser rarity cards from GvG, I only did so when it was clear that the cards gained would be more valuable to my collection than any single legendary minion I had not yet acquired.  All told I opened almost 130 packs of cards from Classic, GvG and The Grand Tournament (TGT), and acquired through gold 4 wings of the Curse of Naxxramas (Naxx), 2 wings of Blackrock Mountain (BRM) and all 4 wings of League of Explorers (LoE) at the average rate of around 9 days per wing. Throughout this series I have urged FTPers to stick with the Classic set, and happily the changes to be implemented with the Standard format strengthens the reasoning behind that philosophy.  Classic, and the Basic set obviously, will be ever-present in Standard.  Therefore as much effort should be put into Classic as possible initially before branching out, because the sets one branches into are only going to have a shelf life of a maximum of 2 years unless one plans to take the Wild format seriously.  Since I have never been a fan of supporting things that are 'out of print' I will stick purely with the cards that are legal in Standard, and that brings me to the first bridge: what should I do with the cards I have that will rotate to Wild?

Out with the Old

Contrary to my initial statements I now intend to disenchant every card that is not standard-legal.  This does indeed mean I will lose a significant amount of the value that I spent in obtaining the vast majority of these cards (in dust, gold and time), but at the same time I have been blessed with good fortune on this account by opening classic set legendary minions roughly twice as often as expected (and, hopefully, long may such fortune continue!).  My impression is that the amount of dust that will become available will allow me to create a strong foundation for the future. To be dusted: Goblins vs Gnomes: Dr. Boom, Mal'Ganis, 2 Glaivezooka, 2 Unstable Portal (one golden), 2 Muster for Battle, 2 Shielded Minibot, Seal of Light (golden), Velen's Chosen, Goblin Auto barber (golden), 2 Imp losion, 2 Clockwork Gnome, Explosive Sheep, 2 Piloted Shredder, Antique Healbot. Curse of Naxxramas: Baron Rivendare, Loatheb, Maexxna, Stalagg, Feugen, and playsets of: Nerubian Egg, Deathlord , Wailing Soul, Sludge Belcher, Poison Seeds, Webspinner, Duplicate, Dark Cultist, Anub'ar Ambusher, Reincarnate, Voidcaller, Death's Bite, Undertaker, Zombie Chow, Haunted Creeper, Mad Scientist, Nerub'ar Weblord, Unstable Ghoul, Dancing Swords, Stoneskin Gargoyle, Spectral Knight. If the dust gained from disenchanting these cards follows the current rarity-based values, the  total dust accumulated is as follows: Legendaries (7 x 400 = 2800) + Epics & Golden Rares (1 x 100 = 100) + Golden Commons (2 * 50 = 100) + Rares (13 x 20 = 260) + Commons (43 x 5 = 215) = 3475 dust.  I currently have 1195 dust on hand, amounting to a total of 4670 dust. In addition I have saved all my gold since completing LoE wing 4, leaving me with 1075 in the bank - enough essentially for 11 packs of the new set.

In with the Core

What follows is a list of what I consider the core Classic set cards.  I believe that they are indispensable additions to any collection and should never be dusted unless one has excess quantity or the card is nerfed.   The cards listed under 'vital' are essential to their class or the strategy they engender and therefore will appear in most decklists for that class or strategy.  Those in the "useful" section are more of a "nice to have" variety or are key in secondary strategies.  I have added the quantities of these cards that I own on my FTP account in parentheses, and instances where I've added "/1" after the quantity indicates that one only really needs one copy of that card (though having a second might not always be a bad thing!). Druid.  Vital: Force of Nature (0), Ancient of Lore (0), Keeper of the Grove (2), Wrath (2), Druid of the Claw (2). Useful: Cenarius (1), Ancient of War (1/1), Nourish (1/1), Power of the Wild (2). Hunter.  Vital: Eaglehorn Bow (2), Unleash the Hounds (2), Savannah Highmane (1), Freezing Trap (2), Explosive Trap (2). Useful: Snake Trap (0/1) Mage.  Vital: Archmage Antonidas (1), Ice Block (2), Blizzard (1), Mana Wyrm (2), Sorcerer's Apprentice (2), Mirror Entity (2), Ice Barrier (2). Useful: Pyroblast (0/1), Ice Lance (2), Cone of Cold (2) Paladin.  Vital: Tirion Fordring (1), Lay on Hands (1/1), Aldor Peacekeeper (2), Equality (2), Divine Favor (2). Useful: Avenging Wrath (0/1), Noble Sacrifice (2), Redemption (2), Repentance (2), Argent Protector (2) Priest.  Vital: Auchenai Soulpriest (2), Cabal Shadow Priest (0/1), Circle of Healing (2). Useful: Thoughtsteal (0), Shadow Madness (1/1), Holy Fire (2/1), Inner Fire (2) Rogue.  Vital: Blade Flurry (2), SI:7 Agent (2), Eviscerate (2), Preparation (0). Useful: Edwin vanCleef (0), Shadowstep (2), Cold Blood (1), Conceal (2) Shaman.  Vital: Al'akir the Windlord (1), Doomhammer (1/1), Lightning Storm (1), Lava Burst (1/1), Feral Spirit (0), Mana Tide Totem (2/1), Earth Shock (2), Lightning Bolt (2). Useful: Unbound Elemental (2), Stormforged Axe (2/1) Warlock.  Vital: Lord Jaraxxus (0), Doomguard (2), Void Terror (2/1), Power Overwhelming (2), Flame Imp (2), Siphon Soul (2/1), Shadowflame (1/1). Useful: Bane of Doom (0/1). Warrior.  Vital:  Grommash Hellscream (0), Shield Slam (1), Brawl (1/1), Armorsmith (1), Cruel Taskmaster (2), Slam (2). Useful: Gorehowl (0/1), Frothing Berserker (1), Battle Rage (2), Inner Rage (2). Neutral.  Vital: Sylvanas Windrunner (1), Ragnaros the Firelord (1), Ysera (1), Alexstrasza (0), Bloodmage Thalnos (0), Doomsayer (0), Sea Giant (2/1), Molten Giant (0), Mountain Giant (1), Big Game Hunter (1/1), Knife Juggler (2), Sunfury Protector (2), Defender of Argus (2), Azure Drake (0), Wild Pyromancer (2), Abusive Sergeant (2), Leper Gnome (2), Ironbeak Owl (2/1), Acolyte of Pain (2), Dire Wolf Alpha (2/1), Loot Hoarder (2), Worgen Infiltrator (2), Earthen Ring Farseer (2), Argent Squire (2). Useful: Leeroy Jenkins (0), Harrison Jones (0), Malygos (0), Baron Geddon (0), The Black Knight (0), Faceless Manipulator (1/1), Blood Knight (0/1) , Secretkeeper (1), Ancient Watcher (1), Arcane Golem (2), Coldlight Oracle (2), Injured Blademaster (0), Mind Control Tech (1/1), Twilight Drake (2), Violet Teacher (2), Gadgetzan Auctioneer (1), Sunwalker (2), Southsea Deckhand (2), Harvest Golem (2), Cult Master (1/1), Dark Iron Dwarf (1/1), Dread Corsair (2), Spellbreaker (1/1).

Combining it All

From that extensive list above it can be seen that I own the following breakdown: Legendaries (7), Epics (12, plus Far Sight and Murloc Warleader), Rares (57, plus 15 not listed, such as Crazed Alchemist), Commons (92, plus 40 not listed, such as Faerie Dragon).  As can be seen, in terms of quality this collection is very strong in all areas outside the Epic cards.  My excess epics (from the roughly 25 opened) and rares (where I also opened roughly twice as many as I currently own) have been dusted along with the extra legendaries (especially the two extra copies of Al'Akir) to have 7 top drawer legendaries [plus Dr. Boom and Mal'Ganis] rather than the 6 at random one could expect from opening as many packs as I have.  I could create a touch more dust by disenchanting the cards not listed above or of which I own an excess (ie have 2 copies when 1 will usually do), but I'll rather wait to see what Whispers of the Old Gods brings before doing that. Comparing with the lists above I need the following rarity of cards to create a "perfect" base in the Classic set: Legendaries (10, of which 4 are vital), Epics (17, of which 12 are vital), Rares (14 of which 8 are vital), Commons (3 non-vital).  The decision of which epics to craft would definitely depend on the new set as well as changes made to the Classic set (for instance Force of Nature and Big Game Hunter are rumoured to be among the roughly twenty cards that will be altered or nerfed), but the key point is that up to 11 of the 12 vital epics are within reach of the dust total mentioned above depending on the number of lessor rarity cards I choose to craft.  Given that I don't own Lord Jaraxxus, Alexstrasza, nor any copies of Doomsayer, it would seem that I could easily overlook the 3 giants I am missing as well, bringing the 'vital' epic count down to 8: 2 Force of Nature, 2 Ancient of Lore, Cabal Shadow Priest, 2 Preparation, and Shield Slam.  If I stuck with those, and dusted 2 of the 40 commons that I'll probably never use, I could craft all 14 of the missing rares and the Thoughtcasts too.  Naturally this would imply that I have made a decision to not pursue any giant-based strategies (eg Handlock) or Freeze Mage for the time being, but one has to be realistic and accept that 130 packs and 2800g (4 adventure wings worth of gold) is never going to be enough to cover all bases.  If Force of Nature is indeed nerfed because its presence results in a game that only lasts 8 or 9 turns at a time when Blizzard just released a host of cards costing 10, then I'd craft a pair of Doomsayers instead.

And then...?

Once this process is complete I would not need to focus anymore on the Classic set.  I have all the cards in LoE, and outside Flamewaker everything I would want from BRM (I've opened very little TGT, so the remainder of BRM, which deals almost entirely with the Dragon theme, is largely irrelevant to my collection).  This means I could entirely dedicate my effort on TOG; gold, dust, and time.  With the gold I have on hand I could buy 11 packs of the new set (and get C'Thun and a playset of Beckoner of Evil thrown in for free), which will allow me to start with 58 new cards immediately.  I will build decks for each class using ALL these cards first; basically take 30 cards from TOG (all the class cards for the hero, plus as many neutrals as necessary), shuffle them together and hit the ladder.  This will almost certainly meet with immediate failure, but if you're not prepared for failure you'll never be prepared for success.  As they say in football, "Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn". I should fairly quickly get an idea of the obvious duds, as well as get a feel for how each hero interacts with the new cards.  Then I will begin to supplement them with basic set and/or commons from the Classic set until I have something vaguely playable.  Obviously, some decks will display a total lack of synergy or power, and there will be fairly obvious solutions from among the rarer parts of my collection or the adventure sets (for example, every Hunter deck wants playsets of Knife Juggler and Eaglehorn Bow).  But my goal is to build decks that rely almost entirely on TOG for their strategy and card count. My reason for doing this is twofold:

  1. Many of my readers will not have a collection as strong as mine, especially if they started after me, didn't spent 10 hours a day playing and stuck to the tenets of FTP.  As such, if I decided to build a Druid deck around a new theme in TOG, but backed it with the standard core of playsets of Force of Nature, Ancient of Lore, Azure Drake, Savage Roar, Keeper of the Grove, Wrath, Innervate and Wild Growth, plus a single Ancient of War and Emperor Thaurissan, then what exactly have I achieved?  That's 60% of the deck (which can be found on any Hearthstone website) and everyone knows that Druid is all about dealing 16 damage or keeping a strong minion in play in order to kill the opponent on turns 7-9 with FoN/Roar.  It really doesn't matter what the other 12 cards are...  If I instead present a deck that uses the ramp spells but little else, and even if the deck has a win rate approaching 50% at rank 17/18 at least I can show which cards interact nicely and can suggest replacements or improvements from the earlier sets because I would have been able to test them due to the collection I have assembled.  I can show the weak deck and the stronger deck together, where before I could only show the stronger deck many months after having provided improvement tips rather than actual proof with the first version.  Furthermore, anyone deciding to follow exactly in my footsteps as outlined in this article will have someone doing much of their play-testing for them.
  2. I wish to challenge myself.  I want to really explore the new set the way I did when I started playing; trying all the cards because they were all I had, and week by week seeing not only my decks improve but also my skill at playing the game and reading my opponent.  Lately I have just been bashing out the daily rewards and moving onto something else, to the extent that, after going 0-3 at rank 17 with my Hunter deck I took a moment to look at the deck I was playing, blinked several times wondering what the heck I'd been thinking when I built it, made a few common sense tweaks, and promptly went on a 5 game win streak.  That would not have happened had I been paying attention.

Got my Eye on You

To finish I'd like to present a few cards that I'm going to hope I will open in my first packs.  These appear to have direct synergies with existing cards and therefore caught my attention immediately, though some might just be "nonbos" (combos that either don't work even though it seems they should, or are game-losing mistakes when played). Infest.  With Unleash the Hounds written all over it, Infest is what Ball of Spiders always wanted to be.  The latter wasn't terrible by any means, but at 6 mana didn't affect the board nearly enough.  Infest on the other hand takes the superior board position or minion count generally held by the Hunter and turns it into free cards of random beastiness.  As a spell it also compliments Lock and Load.  It might not make it into every Hunter deck, but it looks a solid choice at this stage. Call of the Wild.  Dealing 5 damage for 8 mana, providing a 5/4 Taunt and a 2/4 support minion, all of which are beasts for Kill Command, Hunter just got a late game card worth having.  It's been something of a running joke that despite Hunter having more class legendary minions than anyone else none of them are truly playable and not just because of their casting costs.  This epic shows more the power level needed by such a costly Hunter card and mid-range Hunter gained a necessary arrow.  Only one will be required. Demented Frostcaller.  A riff off Flamewaker, this appears an extremely strong card at first glance, though the 4 cost might inhibit it.  Mages sometimes struggle to contain the weapon-bearing classes, but this little guy could make them work a bit harder. Steward of Darkshire.  Probably better in Wild due to its combo with Muster for Battle, I can see Blood Knight and even Hobgoblin making returns, at least initially.  It probably wont live long enough for Stand against Darkness, but that doesn't mean people won't try! Forbidden Shaping.  Really interesting card.  I'm not convinced such randomness suits Priest in a way in which the class can take advantage (much like other efforts like Resurrect and Confessor Paletress), but there will be those games where it produces something the opponent cannot deal with.  How often that happens will define the card's true value.  If you're always going to wait until you have 9 mana before casting it, maybe you should just be playing the legendary minion you want instead of trusting to the fickle RNG. Thistle Tea.  Cheaper than Sprint there will be decks that get huge advantage out of this - oh look, 3 copies of Eviscerate or Gang Up.  Does that mean it's good or merely different?  Time will tell. Xaril, Poisoned Mind.  Looks very good indeed, and all the Toxins are solid.  4 mana to gain two toxins and force the opponent to lose a card or 3 health seems like a good deal to me. Thing from Below.  Does Shaman need a mid-game but inexpensive 5/5 taunt?  If it does, then great!  But right now I'm not sure it does so I'd love to test it. Ravaging Ghoul and Blood Warriors.  I'm sure I don't need to add Grim Patron to the list.  Blood Warriors looks the pick of the set so far to me. Twilight Elder.  If C'Thun works it will be because of this guy.

Feedback

I would love to hear your feedback on my choice of direction.  Do you think this will help my fellow FTP Journeymen?  Would it be better if I just went for the legend rank, even though my current belief is that I don't dedicate anywhere near enough time to the game to get there?  Should I rather talk about and play Arena?  Please leave your comments and suggestions below, and until next time may you topdeck the card you need when you need it most.

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The Last Stand

Last Updated: April 17, 2016

This is the twelfth 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 6Part 7Part 8Part 9,Part 10 and Part 11.

Change is in the Air

The Whispers of the Old Gods set (referred to as TOG hereafter) is upon us, or will be within a few sleeps.  Over the past few weeks I've been grappling with several directions in which to take not only my FTP account on the US server, but also this article series.  When I started out my plan was fairly simple: create a new account, spend not a dime on packs but create a collection that would have broad support for all the classes (rather than focussing on a handful of favourites), hopefully one good enough to progress toward a legend rank.  As I have a young family and a full time occupation, my time would unfortunately be limited to 6 wins per day, which would directly influence the amount of time I could dedicate to playing arena.  So instead, as much as possible I would earn those 6 wins in ranked play unless the cards I had opened for the class or task required of the daily quest would lead to too much frustration due to a too high rank, in which case I'd swallow my pride and hit up the casual room. I employed several tactics over the course of this series, such as re-rolling unfavourable and 40g daily quests in order to increase the value of each win, avoiding the generally weak Goblins vs Gnomes set (GvG), and saving my dust for legendary minions only.  Although I twice relented and spent my dust on lesser rarity cards from GvG, I only did so when it was clear that the cards gained would be more valuable to my collection than any single legendary minion I had not yet acquired.  All told I opened almost 130 packs of cards from Classic, GvG and The Grand Tournament (TGT), and acquired through gold 4 wings of the Curse of Naxxramas (Naxx), 2 wings of Blackrock Mountain (BRM) and all 4 wings of League of Explorers (LoE) at the average rate of around 9 days per wing. Throughout this series I have urged FTPers to stick with the Classic set, and happily the changes to be implemented with the Standard format strengthens the reasoning behind that philosophy.  Classic, and the Basic set obviously, will be ever-present in Standard.  Therefore as much effort should be put into Classic as possible initially before branching out, because the sets one branches into are only going to have a shelf life of a maximum of 2 years unless one plans to take the Wild format seriously.  Since I have never been a fan of supporting things that are 'out of print' I will stick purely with the cards that are legal in Standard, and that brings me to the first bridge: what should I do with the cards I have that will rotate to Wild?

Out with the Old

Contrary to my initial statements I now intend to disenchant every card that is not standard-legal.  This does indeed mean I will lose a significant amount of the value that I spent in obtaining the vast majority of these cards (in dust, gold and time), but at the same time I have been blessed with good fortune on this account by opening classic set legendary minions roughly twice as often as expected (and, hopefully, long may such fortune continue!).  My impression is that the amount of dust that will become available will allow me to create a strong foundation for the future. To be dusted: Goblins vs Gnomes: Dr. Boom, Mal'Ganis, 2 Glaivezooka, 2 Unstable Portal (one golden), 2 Muster for Battle, 2 Shielded Minibot, Seal of Light (golden), Velen's Chosen, Goblin Auto barber (golden), 2 Imp losion, 2 Clockwork Gnome, Explosive Sheep, 2 Piloted Shredder, Antique Healbot. Curse of Naxxramas: Baron Rivendare, Loatheb, Maexxna, Stalagg, Feugen, and playsets of: Nerubian Egg, Deathlord , Wailing Soul, Sludge Belcher, Poison Seeds, Webspinner, Duplicate, Dark Cultist, Anub'ar Ambusher, Reincarnate, Voidcaller, Death's Bite, Undertaker, Zombie Chow, Haunted Creeper, Mad Scientist, Nerub'ar Weblord, Unstable Ghoul, Dancing Swords, Stoneskin Gargoyle, Spectral Knight. If the dust gained from disenchanting these cards follows the current rarity-based values, the  total dust accumulated is as follows: Legendaries (7 x 400 = 2800) + Epics & Golden Rares (1 x 100 = 100) + Golden Commons (2 * 50 = 100) + Rares (13 x 20 = 260) + Commons (43 x 5 = 215) = 3475 dust.  I currently have 1195 dust on hand, amounting to a total of 4670 dust. In addition I have saved all my gold since completing LoE wing 4, leaving me with 1075 in the bank - enough essentially for 11 packs of the new set.

In with the Core

What follows is a list of what I consider the core Classic set cards.  I believe that they are indispensable additions to any collection and should never be dusted unless one has excess quantity or the card is nerfed.   The cards listed under 'vital' are essential to their class or the strategy they engender and therefore will appear in most decklists for that class or strategy.  Those in the "useful" section are more of a "nice to have" variety or are key in secondary strategies.  I have added the quantities of these cards that I own on my FTP account in parentheses, and instances where I've added "/1" after the quantity indicates that one only really needs one copy of that card (though having a second might not always be a bad thing!). Druid.  Vital: Force of Nature (0), Ancient of Lore (0), Keeper of the Grove (2), Wrath (2), Druid of the Claw (2). Useful: Cenarius (1), Ancient of War (1/1), Nourish (1/1), Power of the Wild (2). Hunter.  Vital: Eaglehorn Bow (2), Unleash the Hounds (2), Savannah Highmane (1), Freezing Trap (2), Explosive Trap (2). Useful: Snake Trap (0/1) Mage.  Vital: Archmage Antonidas (1), Ice Block (2), Blizzard (1), Mana Wyrm (2), Sorcerer's Apprentice (2), Mirror Entity (2), Ice Barrier (2). Useful: Pyroblast (0/1), Ice Lance (2), Cone of Cold (2) Paladin.  Vital: Tirion Fordring (1), Lay on Hands (1/1), Aldor Peacekeeper (2), Equality (2), Divine Favor (2). Useful: Avenging Wrath (0/1), Noble Sacrifice (2), Redemption (2), Repentance (2), Argent Protector (2) Priest.  Vital: Auchenai Soulpriest (2), Cabal Shadow Priest (0/1), Circle of Healing (2). Useful: Thoughtsteal (0), Shadow Madness (1/1), Holy Fire (2/1), Inner Fire (2) Rogue.  Vital: Blade Flurry (2), SI:7 Agent (2), Eviscerate (2), Preparation (0). Useful: Edwin vanCleef (0), Shadowstep (2), Cold Blood (1), Conceal (2) Shaman.  Vital: Al'akir the Windlord (1), Doomhammer (1/1), Lightning Storm (1), Lava Burst (1/1), Feral Spirit (0), Mana Tide Totem (2/1), Earth Shock (2), Lightning Bolt (2). Useful: Unbound Elemental (2), Stormforged Axe (2/1) Warlock.  Vital: Lord Jaraxxus (0), Doomguard (2), Void Terror (2/1), Power Overwhelming (2), Flame Imp (2), Siphon Soul (2/1), Shadowflame (1/1). Useful: Bane of Doom (0/1). Warrior.  Vital:  Grommash Hellscream (0), Shield Slam (1), Brawl (1/1), Armorsmith (1), Cruel Taskmaster (2), Slam (2). Useful: Gorehowl (0/1), Frothing Berserker (1), Battle Rage (2), Inner Rage (2). Neutral.  Vital: Sylvanas Windrunner (1), Ragnaros the Firelord (1), Ysera (1), Alexstrasza (0), Bloodmage Thalnos (0), Doomsayer (0), Sea Giant (2/1), Molten Giant (0), Mountain Giant (1), Big Game Hunter (1/1), Knife Juggler (2), Sunfury Protector (2), Defender of Argus (2), Azure Drake (0), Wild Pyromancer (2), Abusive Sergeant (2), Leper Gnome (2), Ironbeak Owl (2/1), Acolyte of Pain (2), Dire Wolf Alpha (2/1), Loot Hoarder (2), Worgen Infiltrator (2), Earthen Ring Farseer (2), Argent Squire (2). Useful: Leeroy Jenkins (0), Harrison Jones (0), Malygos (0), Baron Geddon (0), The Black Knight (0), Faceless Manipulator (1/1), Blood Knight (0/1) , Secretkeeper (1), Ancient Watcher (1), Arcane Golem (2), Coldlight Oracle (2), Injured Blademaster (0), Mind Control Tech (1/1), Twilight Drake (2), Violet Teacher (2), Gadgetzan Auctioneer (1), Sunwalker (2), Southsea Deckhand (2), Harvest Golem (2), Cult Master (1/1), Dark Iron Dwarf (1/1), Dread Corsair (2), Spellbreaker (1/1).

Combining it All

From that extensive list above it can be seen that I own the following breakdown: Legendaries (7), Epics (12, plus Far Sight and Murloc Warleader), Rares (57, plus 15 not listed, such as Crazed Alchemist), Commons (92, plus 40 not listed, such as Faerie Dragon).  As can be seen, in terms of quality this collection is very strong in all areas outside the Epic cards.  My excess epics (from the roughly 25 opened) and rares (where I also opened roughly twice as many as I currently own) have been dusted along with the extra legendaries (especially the two extra copies of Al'Akir) to have 7 top drawer legendaries [plus Dr. Boom and Mal'Ganis] rather than the 6 at random one could expect from opening as many packs as I have.  I could create a touch more dust by disenchanting the cards not listed above or of which I own an excess (ie have 2 copies when 1 will usually do), but I'll rather wait to see what Whispers of the Old Gods brings before doing that. Comparing with the lists above I need the following rarity of cards to create a "perfect" base in the Classic set: Legendaries (10, of which 4 are vital), Epics (17, of which 12 are vital), Rares (14 of which 8 are vital), Commons (3 non-vital).  The decision of which epics to craft would definitely depend on the new set as well as changes made to the Classic set (for instance Force of Nature and Big Game Hunter are rumoured to be among the roughly twenty cards that will be altered or nerfed), but the key point is that up to 11 of the 12 vital epics are within reach of the dust total mentioned above depending on the number of lessor rarity cards I choose to craft.  Given that I don't own Lord Jaraxxus, Alexstrasza, nor any copies of Doomsayer, it would seem that I could easily overlook the 3 giants I am missing as well, bringing the 'vital' epic count down to 8: 2 Force of Nature, 2 Ancient of Lore, Cabal Shadow Priest, 2 Preparation, and Shield Slam.  If I stuck with those, and dusted 2 of the 40 commons that I'll probably never use, I could craft all 14 of the missing rares and the Thoughtcasts too.  Naturally this would imply that I have made a decision to not pursue any giant-based strategies (eg Handlock) or Freeze Mage for the time being, but one has to be realistic and accept that 130 packs and 2800g (4 adventure wings worth of gold) is never going to be enough to cover all bases.  If Force of Nature is indeed nerfed because its presence results in a game that only lasts 8 or 9 turns at a time when Blizzard just released a host of cards costing 10, then I'd craft a pair of Doomsayers instead.

And then...?

Once this process is complete I would not need to focus anymore on the Classic set.  I have all the cards in LoE, and outside Flamewaker everything I would want from BRM (I've opened very little TGT, so the remainder of BRM, which deals almost entirely with the Dragon theme, is largely irrelevant to my collection).  This means I could entirely dedicate my effort on TOG; gold, dust, and time.  With the gold I have on hand I could buy 11 packs of the new set (and get C'Thun and a playset of Beckoner of Evil thrown in for free), which will allow me to start with 58 new cards immediately.  I will build decks for each class using ALL these cards first; basically take 30 cards from TOG (all the class cards for the hero, plus as many neutrals as necessary), shuffle them together and hit the ladder.  This will almost certainly meet with immediate failure, but if you're not prepared for failure you'll never be prepared for success.  As they say in football, "Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn". I should fairly quickly get an idea of the obvious duds, as well as get a feel for how each hero interacts with the new cards.  Then I will begin to supplement them with basic set and/or commons from the Classic set until I have something vaguely playable.  Obviously, some decks will display a total lack of synergy or power, and there will be fairly obvious solutions from among the rarer parts of my collection or the adventure sets (for example, every Hunter deck wants playsets of Knife Juggler and Eaglehorn Bow).  But my goal is to build decks that rely almost entirely on TOG for their strategy and card count. My reason for doing this is twofold:

  1. Many of my readers will not have a collection as strong as mine, especially if they started after me, didn't spent 10 hours a day playing and stuck to the tenets of FTP.  As such, if I decided to build a Druid deck around a new theme in TOG, but backed it with the standard core of playsets of Force of Nature, Ancient of Lore, Azure Drake, Savage Roar, Keeper of the Grove, Wrath, Innervate and Wild Growth, plus a single Ancient of War and Emperor Thaurissan, then what exactly have I achieved?  That's 60% of the deck (which can be found on any Hearthstone website) and everyone knows that Druid is all about dealing 16 damage or keeping a strong minion in play in order to kill the opponent on turns 7-9 with FoN/Roar.  It really doesn't matter what the other 12 cards are...  If I instead present a deck that uses the ramp spells but little else, and even if the deck has a win rate approaching 50% at rank 17/18 at least I can show which cards interact nicely and can suggest replacements or improvements from the earlier sets because I would have been able to test them due to the collection I have assembled.  I can show the weak deck and the stronger deck together, where before I could only show the stronger deck many months after having provided improvement tips rather than actual proof with the first version.  Furthermore, anyone deciding to follow exactly in my footsteps as outlined in this article will have someone doing much of their play-testing for them.
  2. I wish to challenge myself.  I want to really explore the new set the way I did when I started playing; trying all the cards because they were all I had, and week by week seeing not only my decks improve but also my skill at playing the game and reading my opponent.  Lately I have just been bashing out the daily rewards and moving onto something else, to the extent that, after going 0-3 at rank 17 with my Hunter deck I took a moment to look at the deck I was playing, blinked several times wondering what the heck I'd been thinking when I built it, made a few common sense tweaks, and promptly went on a 5 game win streak.  That would not have happened had I been paying attention.

Got my Eye on You

To finish I'd like to present a few cards that I'm going to hope I will open in my first packs.  These appear to have direct synergies with existing cards and therefore caught my attention immediately, though some might just be "nonbos" (combos that either don't work even though it seems they should, or are game-losing mistakes when played). Infest.  With Unleash the Hounds written all over it, Infest is what Ball of Spiders always wanted to be.  The latter wasn't terrible by any means, but at 6 mana didn't affect the board nearly enough.  Infest on the other hand takes the superior board position or minion count generally held by the Hunter and turns it into free cards of random beastiness.  As a spell it also compliments Lock and Load.  It might not make it into every Hunter deck, but it looks a solid choice at this stage. Call of the Wild.  Dealing 5 damage for 8 mana, providing a 5/4 Taunt and a 2/4 support minion, all of which are beasts for Kill Command, Hunter just got a late game card worth having.  It's been something of a running joke that despite Hunter having more class legendary minions than anyone else none of them are truly playable and not just because of their casting costs.  This epic shows more the power level needed by such a costly Hunter card and mid-range Hunter gained a necessary arrow.  Only one will be required. Demented Frostcaller.  A riff off Flamewaker, this appears an extremely strong card at first glance, though the 4 cost might inhibit it.  Mages sometimes struggle to contain the weapon-bearing classes, but this little guy could make them work a bit harder. Steward of Darkshire.  Probably better in Wild due to its combo with Muster for Battle, I can see Blood Knight and even Hobgoblin making returns, at least initially.  It probably wont live long enough for Stand against Darkness, but that doesn't mean people won't try! Forbidden Shaping.  Really interesting card.  I'm not convinced such randomness suits Priest in a way in which the class can take advantage (much like other efforts like Resurrect and Confessor Paletress), but there will be those games where it produces something the opponent cannot deal with.  How often that happens will define the card's true value.  If you're always going to wait until you have 9 mana before casting it, maybe you should just be playing the legendary minion you want instead of trusting to the fickle RNG. Thistle Tea.  Cheaper than Sprint there will be decks that get huge advantage out of this - oh look, 3 copies of Eviscerate or Gang Up.  Does that mean it's good or merely different?  Time will tell. Xaril, Poisoned Mind.  Looks very good indeed, and all the Toxins are solid.  4 mana to gain two toxins and force the opponent to lose a card or 3 health seems like a good deal to me. Thing from Below.  Does Shaman need a mid-game but inexpensive 5/5 taunt?  If it does, then great!  But right now I'm not sure it does so I'd love to test it. Ravaging Ghoul and Blood Warriors.  I'm sure I don't need to add Grim Patron to the list.  Blood Warriors looks the pick of the set so far to me. Twilight Elder.  If C'Thun works it will be because of this guy.

Feedback

I would love to hear your feedback on my choice of direction.  Do you think this will help my fellow FTP Journeymen?  Would it be better if I just went for the legend rank, even though my current belief is that I don't dedicate anywhere near enough time to the game to get there?  Should I rather talk about and play Arena?  Please leave your comments and suggestions below, and until next time may you topdeck the card you need when you need it most.

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