In an ideal world all Eaglehorn Bows, Death’s Bites and Truesilver Champions would belong in a museum. Personally, I think that Blizzard have plenty of room to manoeuvre regarding the weapon mechanic in future releases, but at this precise moment the format is dominated by classes that love slinging blades and projectiles at one another.
Usually I’m more than happy to allow opponents to head-butt my minions to trade away life total for board presence, but the meta has now evolved to a point where weapons and weapon removal are at a premium and that’s all down to The Grand Tournament’s impact and making paladin a tier one pick in any player’s eyes.
As with any other card game, the objective is to adapt or perish. A prime way to adapt in Hearthstone is the game’s in built answers to the common problems that developers saw coming through testing and re-testing. The answers provided to us by the lovely folks at Blizzard are Acidic Swamp Ooze and Harrison Jones.
In these cards, Blizzard have facilitated our desire to adapt rather than perish in the form of two cards at opposite ends of the spectrum. One caters to the more low-curve aggro players and the other to more of a midrange answer, but these cards are not mutually exclusive to either philosophy as Harrison Jones can cater to those aggro players by offering a quick refuel. It’s the refuel ability I’d like to look a little deeper into in this breakdown of a weapon heavy meta.
Harrison Jones is a 5 drop 5/4. This stat line offers versatility and a sturdy backbone whilst offering the player the opportunity to trade well should it survive (Again, more on that later). Harrison’s Battlecry destroys your opponent’s weapon, you then draw cards equal to the destroyed weapons remaining durability.
The general purpose of a weapon is to provide an immediate impact with burst damage or a tempo-swinging trade. The idea behind a mained Harrison in this format is to provide the player to immediately reverse the swing and provide options for future turns through drawing more threats.
Hunter has been relevant in every format since.. Well, since beta. Harrison offers versatility here through answering Eaglehorn Bow. Yes, it can answer a Glaivezooka also, but Glaivezooka is usually seen very early.
The twist in the hunter match-up is that the tempo swing coming after a Harrison is usually much larger. You have the ability as the opponent to trigger the traps with admissible threats before committing mana, and then hitting the newly refreshed (or in some cases buffed) Eaglehorn Bow. The body of Harrison then becomes an offensive weapon in itself, cutting the opponent’s turn six first-pick play in Savannah Highmane. At best Highmane would be two 2/2 hyenas with a Harrison on the board threatening the trade.
The tempo swing generated in the previously mentioned points can be calculated through following the trail of cards back. The most frequently encountered trap used in hunter is Freezing Trap. From an investment of five mana the hunter player will go -1 through the trap resolving and the opponent losing nothing from their original plethora of options. The swing with the Bow would usually hit a 2 mana minion, netting them a 2 mana gain with the prospect of gaining more the turn after. Post trap, the Harrison would net you a +3 in cards through destroying the weapon, drawing two and further mana and gains would be made in the subsequent turns following the Harrison which would demand an answer as turns before would be invested in setting up the weapon trap combo. The dream here would be to see a Kill Command being used to alleviate the pressure. All in all, the Harrison would directly affect a minimum of 8 mana in your favour, and dependant on the cost of the beast being used to enable the Kill Command, you could stand to gain even more!
While always being a fairly relevant class, paladin has enjoyed a lot more exposure recently through players utilising Mysterious Challenger. As a result, the meta is in a spot where weapons play a huge role.
The use of Harrison here comes in a few forms. In it’s most basic, it can be used to alleviate the pressure of a Truesilver Champion. Yes, nailing a Truesilver isn’t optimal, and basically reads “Destroy a 4/1 creature, draw one” But utility is key here. Harrison can be played in direct response to Muster for Battle. Whilst in this scenario, you aren’t offsetting the cost of the Harrison in a big way, but you are netting an average of 3 cards whilst hitting a one for one with the weapon that offers an implied trade route for the remaining recruits, leaving a residual 5/1 on the board after this gain.
Harrison comes into it’s own when faced down by Tirion Fordring, You can slowroll the Harrison if you are in a position where if the opponent plays Tirion you lose the game. The value here comes in a swing which generates minimal advantage when compared to an answer to Muster, but optimal playability where the opponent may be in a position where the Ashbringer spawned by Tirion becomes their win condition. If you can deal with the Tirion, the Ashbringer being destroyed will usually draw you two cards and hit that ever present one for one. This swing can win games alone, as Tirion costs eight mana and usually a turn of set-up.
We all know the pain of the turn 2 “Win axe” and that isn’t anything Harrison can help mitigate. That one we will all have to just suck up and play an Ooze should it all get too far out of hand. It’s Death’s Bite that Harrison deals with effectively.
In the Patron Warrior matchup, the Whirlwind triggers are priceless, and a way of setting these up is playing Death’s Bite turn four and using a charge, setting up a 4 health trade and a Grim Patron trigger turn five. Timing is everything in the match-up against patron with practically all widely played Hearthstone decks. The ability to play Harrison turn five to disrupt this line of play is a sure fire way of buying turns whilst having a body able to endure a Patron wave and give you plays coming out of the other end of it. Alongside this Harrison works equally as efficiently against the control match-up with the ability to cut the Deathrattle before a Grommash Hellscream is played, and to a lesser extent mitigate the impact of a Gorehowl.
Warlock.. Yes, Warlock!
More a throwaway point or a cherry on top, Harrison is actually viable in the Handlock match-up also! Picture the scene; Jaraxxus has just been played and he has his now seven durability weapon active. Harrison now reads “Mitigate 21 damage, draw 7 cards and summon a 5/4 Relic Hunter” For five mana!
From those seven cards you could find Big Game Hunter to deal with Giants, Antique Healbot to give you a leg-up and threats of your own. Granted, 6/6 2 mana INFERNO tokens are something else to deal with but who doesn’t love a +7?!
In summary, I believe that Harrison Jones is an extremely strong pick for any class in the game today and the single card tempo swings that Harrison creates when played correctly can swing any match-up in your favour. Harrison received a score of 4 out of 5 from our council here at Team Metaminds in an article that can be found here and Harrison in his own right deserves in the museum that he is always banging on about, on display for all players to admire.