Today we behold the armies of Stormwind as we dig a little deeper into one of the cards hyped about most by the Hearthstone community in the build-up to The Grand Tournament; Varian Wrynn.
The first thing that strikes any player about Varian is the mana cost. At a seemingly hefty ten mana, you would expect (rightfully so) that this one card will win you the game. The ten mana cost line offers very slim pickings in Hearthstone with the other options being Pyroblast, Mind Control, Deathwing, Frost Giant and Sea Giant. Each of the aforementioned cards (With the exception of the giants which technically cost less than ten) all have game finishing possibilities. The options available to players on this cost line previously were “Deal ten damage”, “Take control of an enemy minion” and “Go all-in with one Minion and hope they aren’t holding an answer” with regards to Deathwing anyhow.
These cards all completely turn the game on it’s head at the cost of an entire turn worth of mana. They can all be played into viability through Mana manipulation with card such as Emperor Thaurissan, Innervate, Wild Growth and in some super-rare eventualities Unstable portal – But that’s another story for another day, but today we look into the swings that Varian sets up.
This cost is generally put on cards to incentivise players to build decks around a card with a specific goal in mind – Resolve this card and win the game.
In regards to stats there are eight cards in the game currently that stand alongside Varian, These being; Dr. Boom, Flame Leviathan, Gruul, Neptulon, Prophet Velen, Rhonin, Force-Tank MAX and War Golem. To compare these all would be widely redundant, so we will focus on the extremes of the 7/7 spectrum. In this respect we look at War Golem and Dr. Boom. The major consideration to be made in this comparison is the two extra 1/1 bodies that can cause between one and four damage upon death, effectively making Dr. Boom a 9/9 minion that deals 2.5 damage twice. This in itself makes it strictly better than War Golem. In that respect, how does Varian Wrynn stack up against Dr. Boom?
Breaking down Varian’s text into Layman’s terms it reads; Summon a 7/7, Draw three cards, summon any that you find. The variable in this is the chance to miss minions entirely. A way to mitigate this is to build the deck with early game spells that can be utilized and play massive late game threats that if drawn and put into action by Varian, flip the board entirely and create a game state where immediate and decisive action is demanded through efficient trades or a big AOE swing.
Naturally, the deck that fits this profile is Control Warrior. This list mentioned above is the list I have been finding some success with on ladder this season; The premise of the deck is the same as any other Control Warrior list, just with the potential to swing a board at the tip of a hat through use of either copy of Brawl or Varian himself.
The tempo swing generated by Varian itself when played can be huge as detailed in this example;
Upon playing Varian here, It gained me a net 9 Mana in the form of Baron Geddon and Cruel Taskmaster. Granted, the Taskmaster didn’t stick around due to the effect of Baron in the end phase, but Varian put a clock on the game wherein the baron needed immediate attention, as if it were to survive taunt free it would win the game the following turn, which it did. The Varian also offered me the option of a Shield Slam to clear the board of a taunt the turn after.
One thing to consider here is that Varian does not trigger the battlecries of the allies he finds. The trick to an effective Varian is to take stock of what has already been played, and to play the Varian when odds are in your favour. Varian finding cards such as Ysera and Sylvanas is spectacular, and easily swings the game in your favour as 25 mana worth of minion has been played in one turn, feeding you with a Dream Card as a kicker at the end of the turn whilst exerting massive pressure on the opponent to find an answer to this swing in their next turn through fear of taking 17 damage.
Another facet in Varian’s army is that Grommash Hellscream is a very real possibility to emerge from the deck, without the need to wait any longer and being able to charge directly at the opponent the turn it is revealed. When paired with a Death’s Bite, Varian has the ability to deal 14 damage the turn it's summoned through putting out the cry to Grommash and enabling him to be enraged through the Deathrattle of Death’s Bite.
Whilst the limitation of battlecries can become problematic, the minions summoned by varian in the case of Dr. Boom and Alexstraza become free 7/7 and 8/8 sticks, and who doesn’t love a freebie?!
As a result of Control Warrior gaining this new “Burst” or “Tempo swing” machine, the deck has become more relevant than ever, and Control Warrior has several strong match-ups on the ladder, making a strong choice to ladder with this season.
The Freeze Mage Match-up is in my opinion the single most unbalanced matchup in the game at this current moment. The Freeze Mage mentality is to play Alexstraza on curve and combo out the turn after. Magni and Garrosh have in-built mechanics to ensure that this shouldn’t be a problem through use of their hero power alongside cards like Armorsmith and Shieldmaiden. Varian fits well into this line of play, as after the AOE blasts from the freeze mage player leaves resources very limited. With Varian in the deck however, a player can sometimes over-extend into those spells, encouraging the opponent to waste them early, just for Varian to trot in on horseback, telling Jaina to Behold the armies of Stormwind before beckoning his huge buddies into play to swing the game right back in the Warrior’s favour.
Usually a coin-flip, the Handlock matchup again can be turned on it’s head by Varian Wrynn. After using your mulligan to find answers to the early Giants and Drakes, you will find your resources depleted and your options limited. And again the advantage generated by Varian can (And usually does in this match-up) flip the game on its head by providing you at the very least with new options to push forward in the game whilst presenting the opponent with a 7/7 stick to answer, as in Handlock games, the free giants are the sweetest, so chances are by turn ten that Varian has the ability to end the game himself, Siphon Soul and Big Game Hunter being the premium answers to the gentleman in question.
Understanding the intricacies of playing Varian in these match-ups puts you in great stead as this knowledge can be applied to various other match-ups where tempo and tempo-swings to that point are massive in the way the game plays out.
The key to playing it is knowing what has come before and effectively planning for the eventualities that still lie in wait in the deck, putting you in the best position to
In summary, ten Mana for a 7/7 that reads “+3” is a great deal in any card game, and Varian is a great resource for any avid Control Warrior player, or players new to the archetype. Whilst not being vital, gazing upon the armies of Stormwind is sure to present your opponent with a headache, and it should set many inn-goers on their way to greatness on the ladder.