By DjBigRuss

In this article, DjBigRuss starts to look at some of the current minion tribal themes in Hearthstone, while examining how viable they are in competitive play.


It’s hard to believe, but it has been 7 months since Goblins vs Gnomes was released, and 2 months since the last wing of Blackrock Mountain came out. A recent announcement let us know that we will find out about some upcoming content on July 22nd. Before any new cards are announced, I wanted to look at the current state of tribal theme decks in Hearthstone. Tribal theme decks are a big part of most CCGs and TCGs, and sometimes it can take multiple sets of cards for a minion theme to become competitive. Hearthstone is still a fairly new game with a limited card pool of only two major sets and two subsets, so it can be expected to take some time before most tribal themes are fully fleshed out.




Beasts have had an interesting history in competitive Hearthstone. In the early days of Beta, Beast Hunter emerged as one of the first combo decks in Hearthstone. It had cheap combo pieces, cheap card draw, and was very hard to counter. In fact, it was too good, and started the first of many changes to Unleash the Hounds and Starving Buzzard. Despite those changes, Hunters still have a solid Beast foundation for decks in the future with cards like Savannah Highmane and Animal Companion.

Recently, Midrange and Face Hunters have become the go-to decks for Hunters in competitive play. Since the release of Naxxramas and the introduction of Webspinner and Haunted Creeper, Midrange Hunter has found a lot of success splashing a few Beasts with cards like Kill Command and Houndmaster. Face Hunter is less concerned with including Beasts and more concerned about finding cards that deal the most damage. A few players have attempted pure Beast decks focused around cards like Scavenging Hyena and Snake Trap, but they haven’t seen a lot of success lately.

Goblins vs Gnomes added Call Pet, King of Beasts, and Druid of the Fang for Beast support, and none of them have had a major impact on the competitive format. The inclusion of Druid of the Fang is interesting because it suggests more Beast support might come to Druid in the future. There really aren't enough good neutral Beasts to support a competitive Beast Druid list at the moment, so I'm hoping more of those are coming soon as well. Overall, I think Beasts have a good foundation of cards, and I expect Blizzard will continue to add to the Beast theme in the future.




The biggest tribal theme to come out of Goblins vs Gnomes was Mechs. Every class got some Mech support, and many of the neutral Mech minions have made a big impact in competitive play since release. The two classes that have benefitted the most from the pure Mech theme have been Mage and Shaman.

Pro players recognized the power of Goblin Blastmage as soon as it was spoiled, leading to a lot of experimenting with Mech Mage as soon as GvG released. Snowchugger is probably one of the best mech minions in the game because it locks down weapon classes that don’t have direct removal for it, and it trades favorably with most early game minions.  It was discovered very quickly that spare parts from cards like Clockwork Gnome, Tinkertown Technician, and Mechanical Yeti work very well with Archmage Antonidas as well. Mech Mage has been less popular since Flamewaker gave Tempo Mage a boost in viability, but you can still expect to run into it on ladder every once in a while.

Mech Shaman was overshadowed by Mech Mage when GvG came out, but it has found just as much success in tournaments and on the ranked ladder. It has more burst than Mech Mage with cards like Whirling Zap-o-matic and Powermace threatening a lot of damage very quickly. It’s also less reliant on the late game, and more focused on flooding the board with threats. If you run into a Shaman right now on ladder, there is a good chance it will be of the Mech variety.

Overall, Mechs are one of the strongest tribal themes in Hearthstone because of the sheer amount of solid cards and support they got in GvG. Cards like Piloted Shredder, Annoy-o-tron, Shielded Minibot, and Mechwarper have become a staple in a lot of competitive decks today. It will be interesting to see if the next big expansion adds any new Mechs to an already strong lineup.




The final minion theme I will be looking at today are Dragons, which are also the newest tribal theme to get support. Before Blackrock Mountain, Dragon synergies were non-existent, and Dragons were only included as strong minions, (Azure Drake, Twilight Drake) or late game finishers (Ysera, Alexstrasza). When Blackrock Mountain was released, it introduced the “If you’re holding a Dragon…” mechanic, encouraging deckbuilders to include Dragons as the main theme for a deck. Did the Blackrock Expansion bring enough support to Dragons to lead them to the forefront of competitive play? 

When many players (myself included) saw Dragon Consort for the first time, we assumed the card would put Dragon Paladin on the map as the go-to class for the tribal theme. However, as time went on, players started to realize that including many high cost Dragon minions in Paladin, left them with very few options to deal with aggressive decks. For this reason, Dragons have become more of a supplement to a lot of classes instead of the main theme of the deck, and Dragon Paladin has yet to make a strong competitive showing.

The big winners of the Dragon theme in Blackrock Mountain so far have been Nefarian, Blackwing Corruptor, and perhaps the most surprising Malygos. Nefarian has become a solid late game draw option for control decks even if it's stats aren't great for the cost. Blackwing Corruptor has become the main support card for Dragons in competitive play. It has decent stats for it’s cost and provides tempo when you are able to use it’s ability to kill a minion. Malygos has seen a lot more competitive play recently in Warlock, Rogue, and even Priest. A big reason for this is Emperor Thaurissan, but the inclusion of Malygos often leads to Dragon support being added as well.

The most successful competitive decks that include Dragons right now are Malygos Warlock and Control Dragon Warrior. Both of them are seeing a lot of high level play at the moment because they have solid class options for dealing with early game minions, and are still able to include Dragons as a supplement. Overall I feel like Blackrock Mountain was a good starting point for the Dragon tribal theme, but they will need more early game help and more support cards in future sets if a pure Dragon deck is going to be successful.


Final Thoughts


I hope you enjoyed this overview of some of the tribal minion themes in Hearthstone. Next week I am planning to continue this series and take a look at the history and current state of Murlocs, Pirates, and Demons. Feel free to leave any feedback in the comments below and thanks for reading!

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