In this article, DjBigRuss continues to look at some of the current minion tribal themes in Hearthstone, while examining how viable they are for competitive play.
Welcome back to my analysis on the current state of tribes in competitive Hearthstone. Last week, I took a look at the history and current state of Beasts, Mechs, and Dragons. This week, I am going to be taking a look at Murlocs, Pirates, and Demons. As I stated in the previous article, I believe most tribe decks take several sets before they become fully competitive, but some are already seeing high level play today.
In the early days of Hearthstone, Warlock Murlocs were one of the more powerful “all-in” aggro decks in the game. The deck was so effective because the key minions in the Murloc tribe all cost between 1-3 mana, you could rely on health buffs from Coldlight Seer, Murloc Warleader, and pre-nerf Blood Imp to protect your board from AoE, and you could take advantage of pre-nerf Soulfire and then Life Tap to refill your hand. Needless to say, after the nerfs to Blood Imp and Soulfire, the deck suffered because of it.
Murloc Tidecaller used to be a very intimidating early game minion when very few decks ran early drops, or answers to them. As more cards have been released however, the power level of all the 1 and 2 drop Murlocs has decreased. The Murloc deck really relies on Coldlight Seer and Murloc Warleader in order to be effective. The problem with that reliance is some games you won’t draw either of those cards, or you won’t have Murlocs on the board when you draw them. The low health of Murlocs makes them extremely susceptible to pretty much any AoE spell without a buff from Seer or Warleader, making Murlocs one of the riskiest decks to play in the game.
As I’ve already stated, time has not been kind to Murlocs. The only tribe support cards they have received since launch are Siltfin Spiritwalker, Neptulon, and Puddlestomper. Puddlestomper has been a decent fit in the existing Warlock Murloc deck. Siltfin Spiritwalker has seen absolutely no competitive play, and is pretty much a worse version of Cult Master. It’s certainly not a reason to play Shaman Murlocs over Life Tap in Warlock. Neptulon has seen play outside of the Murloc theme as a pseudo late game draw 4 in Midrange Shaman. Murlocs are not in a good position in the current format, and I hope the next expansion brings the support they need to be competitive again.
Pirates are a very interesting tribe in the game because they have some solid support cards in their arsenal, but there really aren’t that many Pirates in the game yet. There are only 7 Pirate minions currently in Hearthstone, and of those only Dread Corsair, Southsea Deckhand, Southsea Captain, and Captain Greenskin are notable for competitive play. Speaking of competitive play, the only time that Pirates have made a major splash on the ranked ladder was when Xixo hit Legend with Pirate Rogue back in January.
Weapon Classes like Rogue, Warrior, and Paladin really benefit the most from the Pirate theme. Outside of a pure Pirate deck, Dread Corsair is seeing play in Patron Warrior, Southsea Deckhand is appearing in Aggro Paladin and Oil Rogue, and Captain Greenskin has previously been included in Midrange Paladin. Ship’s Cannon and Southsea Captain are the main support cards for the Pirate theme going forward. Captain’s Parrot is interesting because it is one of the first tutor (get a specific type of card from your deck) cards in Hearthstone. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it show up in decks in the future if more powerful Pirates are released.
Overall, Pirates aren’t very strong right now because there just aren’t enough of them. They struggle at times because some of the support cards require you to have a weapon, and some of them require you to have a Pirate. Once Pirates get more support, and stronger cards in future sets I wouldn’t be surprised if they field a competitive tribal deck, but right now they are one of the weaker themes in Hearthstone.
Demons are the only tribal theme that I’ve discussed so far that is class specific. Demons are the perfect example of how well a tribal deck can work after it gets support in expansions and subsets. Back in beta, individually powerful demons such as pre-nerf Blood Imp, Voidwalker, Flame Imp, and Doomguard all saw play outside of the Tribal theme in aggressive decks. Demonfire was used sporadically as early removal or a buff for the previously mentioned early game Demons. Lord Jaraxxus was used and still is used primarily as a finisher for Handlock decks.
To summarize, Demons, while powerful on their own, weren’t really being used together in a tribal Demon deck. The addition of Voidcaller in Naxxramas, Imp-losion and Mal’Ganis in GvG, and Imp Gang Boss in Blackrock Mountain has changed all that. These cards have changed the main “Zoo” archetype from a more aggressive deck to a more combo oriented “Demon Zoo” build. These new cards make it very difficult for the opponent to keep your board clear, and they all synergize very well with one another. ModernLeper described this very well in his “A Brief History of Zoo” article last week.
Another big change to Demons was the buff to Bane of Doom that occurred when Blackrock Mountain was released. Prior to that, Bane of Doom could only summon Blood Imp, Voidwalker, Flame Imp, Dread Infernal, Succubus, or Felguard. Now it can summon any collectible Demon, and creates the potential for huge tempo swings when you get something like Doomguard, Lord Jaraxxus, and Mal’Ganis. Demons have become a very powerful theme, and it is very difficult to find a competitive Warlock deck that doesn’t contain at least one Demon minion.
Most of the tribes have yet to see their theme fully realized in Competitive Play with the exception of perhaps Demons and Mechs. I didn’t include Totems in my analysis because there aren’t enough of them to really discuss. My hope is that future expansions and subsets continue to support existing tribes, while introducing new ones. One of the things that I like about tribes in other card games, is that they have unique mechanics to further differentiate one from another. We haven’t seen too much of that so far in Hearthstone, and my guess is it’s due to Blizzard not wanting to introduce too many keywords or mechanics early on in the game.
Let me know what tribe you hope gets the most support in next expansion in the comments below, and as always thanks for reading!