Over the course of nearly one and a half years of Hearthstone, we’ve been through a lot of changes. Decks have risen and fallen, Metas have changed more swiftly than Reynad’s mood changes and cards that used to be super OP were nerfed into the garbage that they are today (RIP Illidan, you’ll always have a special place in my heart). But these changes did not occur all of a sudden, they usually had a very common reason within Trading/Collectible Card Games: New cards were released. New cards that were either so good that they made older cards obsolete or turned long forgotten decks into meta-stomping beasts. So without further ado, here I list my personal Top 8 of Neutral cards that have severely changed the meta at their point of release and possibly beyond:
8) Sludge Belcher
Sludge Belcher is one of these cards that the moment it was released, it simply made older cards look useless. At the time, Sen’Jin Shieldmasta was the arguably best Taunt card available other than taunting your own minions using Defender of Argus or Sunfury Protector. But Sludge Belcher is simply worth a lot more than a Shieldmasta, since for one Mana more you get another 1/2 Taunt that appears after the Sludge Belcher itself died, making it less vulnerable to for example a fireball in comparison as well. Sludge Belcher since has become a staple card in most Control Decks, whether it’s Control Warrior, Mid-Range Paladin or Ramp Druid. A card that shifted the meta slightly more into a control direction, being the bane of every Facehunter and Zoolock player out there.
7) Piloted Shredder
Another card that made previous 4 drops, namely Chillwind Yeti, completely disappear from every deck. Not only did it have an amazing synergy with Combo Druid, allowing them to trade a minion and still get another small force in case Combo goes out, but it was also highly recommended in most Mid-Range decks: It trades nicely and gives you a board advantage. It’s strength within the then appearing Mech Deck archetype can’t be dismissed either, with MechMage dominating the ladder for months. You know, when that 3 Mana Piloted Shredder drops, that you are in a bad bad spot.
6) Zombie Chow
I don’t like Zombie Chow. I hate playing cards that have a drawback. But it’s just so damn good when played in Control decks. Not only was it highly effective against the back-then all-apparent Zoo decks, but it also worked well against decks like Midrange Paladin or MechMage. The trading potential was enourmus and it gave decks that needed time to build up their forces enough breathing room to do so exactly that. I genuinely think that without the introduction of Zombie Chow, Facehunter, Zoolock and every other Aggro deck would be well more represented on ladder – even more so that they already are.
5) Dr Boom
Now this one is a pick that some of you might find obscure. Earning himself the cynical title of “Dr Balanced”, Dr Boom is seen as the go-to Legendary at the moment. Rightfully so, because it fits in pretty much every popular deck, whether it’s heavy control or Aggro, chances are the deck is most likely running this goblin and his broken bombs (That always hit you in the face for 4). But I don’t even think it’s that broken of a card, it simply fitted well in that 7 Mana spot that many decks were failing to fill, with the exception of Ramp Druid. Here’s a list of good neutral 7 Drops: Dr Boom, Troggzor the Earthinator, Baron Geddon (Only playable in Control Warrior really). Sadly for Troggzor, Dr Boom just took the cake, and due to him being played in almost every deck changed the meta in the way that people played more tech cards like Big Game Hunter or Mirror Entity to deal with it.
4) Antique Healbot
I think this card is highly underappreciated. Before the release of GvG, the predominant decks on ladder always were Zoo-type decks, either Hunter or Warlock, and they reigned the ladder for season after season. But GvG did not only bring some Mech decks with it, but this sweet card as well: All of a sudden Handlock were not vulnerable to Skill Commands when hiding behind their ridiculously huge taunts. Mid-Range Paladin greatly appreciated the extra heal to get some time until that game-saving Lay on Hands. And even the good old Freeze Mage made a reappearance, stronger than ever. For me this card, and the fact that a card got nerfed that we will discuss later, are a huge reason as to why Zoo fell a LOT in terms of popularity during the early seasons of GvG. Of course the Mechs did initially become a strong counter, but this card gave established decks the breathing room they needed. To quote Luke Winkie in his article about the importance of Antique Healbot, he said: "I’ve complained before about how the new Goblins vs. Gnomes cards haven’t led to a more diverse meta, and that’s still true in the larger scale, but it’d be insane to say the Antique Healbot hasn’t made an impact."
3) Mad Scientist
Back when the Starving Buzzard was nerfed into the abyss, Hunters fell into a huge pit of sadness that they might’ve never recovered from. Luckily, Naxxramas brought this card with it, that enabled hunters (and Mages) to play their quite broken secrets with barely any downside: You get a 2/2 minion that trades decent with most creatures AND a free secret? That’s what you call value! All of a sudden you saw the rise of Freezing Trap in particular which turned out to be one of the most lethal weapons for the MidRange Hunter.
You might look at today’s Undertaker and think to yourself “Man, that card sucks!”, and you’d think rightfully so! But back in the day, when Blizzard hadn’t nerfed the card yet, this card was broken. You think Midrange or Facehunters are annoying now? God bless your innocent soul. This card was one of the main reasons as to why Face or MidRange Hunter were able to secure the top spots for several months, and due to its nerf Hunter fell into a bit of a crisis too. A card that changed the meta twice, once at release and once it got nerfed, and boy, I don’t miss it one bit.
1) Emperor Thaurissan
The only card from BlackRock Mountain that made this list, but at least it took the well deserved first place. Now, let’s take a look at the most current Meta Snapshot powered by Tempostorm, shall we? We find the following list of Decks in the Top 5: Patron Warrior, Malylock, Mid-Range Hunter, Control Warrior and Oil Rogue. Now four out of these five decks regularly play this card, and in the case of two of these decks, Thaurissan is the reason this deck has become so viable in the first place. I genuinely think that without Thaurissan, there would not be a Patron Warrior, at least it would be far from being so strong as it is right now. Now these are the decks that are currently seen by many as the top five decks, but nevertheless Thaurissan is still played in pretty much every deck that requires some sort of combo or plays with a lot of cards in hand. Put Thaurrissan in handlock? Works amazing. Want to play a strong Combo Druid? Gotta get that Thaurissan. Want to revive the good old Freeze Mage? Better run Thaurrisan for that sweet, sweet value. The reason as to why Thaurissan made first place isn’t because it’s a superb staple card, but because it enabled the arguably strongest deck in the current Meta to exist. It completely turned the Meta, that used to be heavy on either complete Aggro like Facehunter or complete Control like Control Warrior, and put it in a spot where even something like Malylock can become the second strongest deck within a season. Thaurissan, to me at least, is the card that changed a Meta the most so far. Let’s see whether he’ll be able to defend his spot when the next expansion comes around.