When the Journey to Un’Goro expansion was first released for Hearthstone, everyone seemed to be pretty hyped about all of the quests. They all looked really cool, and really powerful, and would provide a ton of new decks to a meta that had been dominated by Tunnel Troggs for months. But after trying them out, most of the quests were… Meh. It turned out that the Rogue quest, which many thought would be weak, was actually rather strong. Other than this and the Warrior quest, and kind of the Priest quest none of the other quests have really found a spot in the meta (yet). Possibly the weakest of them is Lakkari Sacrifice, the Warlock quest which requires you discard 6 cards, and rewards you with the Nether Portal, which is a permanent board fixture that spawns two 3/2 Imps every turn for the rest of the game. It has a number of problems with it, which I’m going to talk a bit about, but it also has a lot of potential with just a few card additions.
First thing’s first, the reward is really slow. It’s probably the slowest reward. Even Jungle Giants, which is slow because you don’t get the effect until you draw minions, can be sped up by saving draw mechanics until you play Barnabus. The best you get out of it is 6/4 of stats per turn, which is also distributed in a way that makes it fairly easy to clear. It’s kind of like a shitty version of the Jaraxxus hero power, which is super valuable, but only if you aren’t under a lot of pressure.
This problem is coupled with the nature of most of the discard minions and spells that exist in the game right now. The discard mechanic generally offers really high value for a low mana cost, to make up for the negative effect. This means that most of these cards are particularly strong when trying to establish early board control and pressure. The reward, though, is tooled almost exclusively to a control play style, since it is so slow. So you have to stuff your deck with a bunch of strong tempo cards, but still play a control style, which is counter-intuitive.
The next problem is that there isn’t really a way to build your deck around the reward. Shamans can take extra draw out of their deck because of the free cards from Megafin; Hunters can add a ton of beast synergies to work with the Raptors from Queen Carnissa; Rogues get to stuff their deck with cheap minions because they don’t need to worry about stats after playing the Crystal Core. When we compare this kind of stuff with Lakkari Sacrifice, you see there isn’t much synergy to be had. You can add buff cards to your deck, but Warlock buff cards tend to suck a bit. Or you can add things like Void Terror, which partially compromise the value of the free minions since you have to destroy them.
The final problem is consistency. While there are sometimes ways to manipulate it, discard effects are always random. Here’s a few things that can really swing a game based on what is discarded:
- You discard your best play for the next turn. The card that you played for tempo this turn screws up your tempo for the rest of the game. This is especially bad if your opponent already has an answer for your tempo play, like Shadow Word: Pain for your Lakkari Felhound.
- You don’t discard Silverware Golem, or Clutchmother Zavas, forcing you to play these cards without the tempo advantage they offer, making them much weaker.
- You discard your late game win condition. This makes it more difficult to play cards which used to be staples in control Warlock decks, like Jaraxxus or Alexstrasza.
- You discard other cards with discard effects, so that you can’t even complete your quest. Anyone who’s played Warlock knows the curse of having two Doomguards in your hand. Basically Murphy’s Law applied to the Warlock class.
What cards you discard has a very polarizing effect on the game. If you discard the wrong cards, you might just lose. If you discard the right ones, you’ll snowball the game, and probably win before the quest even becomes relevant
Now, unlike a lot of Hearthstone players, I am actually perfectly happy to see that some quests are weak right now, while some quests are strong, because we have to remember that more cards will be coming. The quests are going to be around for 2 years. If the Warrior and Rogue quests are strong right now, they won’t be getting as many tools to fit their quests as the other classes’ quests. Which means there is room to produce some really cool cards that synergize with the Warlock quest. I have a few ideas for some that I think could push the warlock quest into relevance, and I even went through the effort of making custom Hearthstone cards on this website. Just to entertain people on the Internet.
Note that I’m not a professional game designer, and cards like this may well have balance issues that I haven’t considered. I’m not begging for these cards to be added in the next expansion – I’m just trying to have some fun thinking of creative designs for new cards. Also, while we’re on the topic of disclaimers, I know very little about Warcraft lore, so the names of the cards can essentially be ignored, the rarity gems (apart from legendary) were pretty much random, and also I stole all the artwork. Links to them are in the captions.
The first card is aimed at protecting other cards in your hand from being discarded. The card text is “If you discard a card while this is in your hand, discard this card instead.” This kind of effect raises some difficult balance questions. On the one hand, it cannot be overstatted for its mana cost, because otherwise it would be overpowered for decks that don’t focus on discard mechanics, but if its stats are lacklustre then it doesn’t present the player with the interesting choice of whether to play it or keep it in one’s hand.
Ultimately it seemed like giving it a more specific use would be a better way to balance it. As a 6 mana 1/9 with taunt, it fills the role of dealing with the “board flood” style of decks quite well, and adds survivability against early-to-mid-game aggression, but it kind of sucks in other circumstances. It also fits with the theme of a servant willing to sacrifice himself (or herself). This should make for interesting choices in at least a few matchups. If you’re up against an aggro deck that might kill you on turn 7, you might have to drop this and risk discarding Jaraxxus later. Or if you’re in a really slow game versus a control Priest, then you might as well save it to protect your win conditions, since playing it risks great value from the likes of Cabal Shadow Priest or Potion of Madness.
The next card is a card that is almost a staple in other card games, and has a similar version in other classes. A 3 mana spell with the effect: “Discard your entire hand. Draw a card for each discarded card”. I decided on 3 mana because it is somewhat comparable to Divine Favor, Arcane Intellect, or Thoughtsteal, although somewhat more polarizing. An alternative version could have the effect: “Discard 3 cards. Draw 3 cards.” This makes it a better Arcane intellect in some cases, but carries the risk of discarding important cards. Additionally, because it has no impact on the board, it fits better into a control deck than a tempo-based deck, so it fits with the quest much better. In fact, if you’re willing to chuck your entire hand, you can complete the quest in a single turn, while also potentially getting rid of cards that suck for the particular matchup you’re in. I’m not quite sure if this card is too powerful, but I think an effect like this would be awesome, and would help Warlocks a lot in general.
Good discard synergies will only get you so far, however – more synergies with the Imps summoned from the portal is important as well. Something like this might work. A 6-mana 5/4 with battlecry: give a friendly minion +1/+1 for every card you’ve discarded this game. It’s difficult to judge how strong this effect would be, but I think it’s fine for it to cost very little mana, because you’re basically replacing a card with 2 points of stats, which isn’t much. Keep in mind that once you’ve activated the Nether Portal, this card is guaranteed to give at least +6/+6, which is a hell of a lot of value. At that point you can use your imps to trade with Jade Golems in the late game if you need to.
Finally, a legendary card along the same lines as Cruel Dinomancer. A 9-mana 6/6 minion with the following text: “This card cannot be discarded. Battlecry: return all cards you discarded this game to your hand.” At 9 mana, it’s a very slow card, and with only a 6/6 body it does not have a huge impact on the board immediately, but it potentially provides a massive resource advantage in the late game. In that respect it is similar to N’zoth, but since N’zoth puts your Deathrattle minions back on the board, it would be somewhat weaker. Also, the effect of not being discardable is strong, but it can also give your opponent a lot of information.
One of the issues with discard decks currently is that you are more vulnerable than most control decks to fatigue, since you eat up more of your cards, and life tap to make up for it. This card allows you to use your hero power less to preserve your life points, which is a significant change to how Warlock is normally played. It also provides a really awesome combo with Deathwing in the late game, clearing the board, completing Lakkari Sacrifice, and dropping a 12/12 threat, without the usual loss of resources. And before you think, “that’s way too strong”, remember it still costs 5 mana to play the quest – you can’t do it in the same turn as playing this, making it a very slow, but very valuable, combo.
Once again, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that some of the Quests are essentially unplayable on release. These cards will be around in Standard play for the next 2 years, with some 500 additional cards being added before they are rotated out. That’s a lot of room to add synergies for weaker quests, and counters to strong ones. Imagine if all 9 quests were super strong on release, and ended up dominating the meta game for 2 years. Personally, fuck that. Blizzard has a great opportunity to vary the strength of existing cards with new expansions, and I am excited to see what they come up with. For now though, if you want to play Lakkari Sacrifice in a deck, maybe try beating your head against a wall instead. You’d probably make just as much progress on the ranked ladder.