As is tradition, the patch notes came with a sudden dump of brand new Mercs– but no one expected seven of them!
The Voyage to the Sunken City has begun to drip, and with it comes the conclusion of the Alterac Valley and Onyxia storylines in Mercenaries. As is tradition, the patch notes came with a sudden dump of brand new Mercs– but no one expected seven of them!
That’s right: seven. Four Legendaries, an Epic, and two Rares. Now, none of these Mercs are actually from below the seas– if ever, those will be joining us in April. We’ve still got some fire and ice to work through first, so please join me in taking our very first look at Deathwing, Vanndar Stormpike, and… Leeroy Jenkins?!
The Big Question: is there enough here to upset a meta dominated by Valeera and her chilly friends? Let’s take a peek.
Meet the New Mercenaries
I was not expecting us to face-check the whelps, but here we are! Leeroy leads the charge into this Mercenaries patch with a whole new Event of his own, much like the Chi-Ji event that just wrapped up. This would be an amazing precedent to keep up with, dumping Coins and funky Quests on us with every batch of Mercs, and I hope it is sustainable!
Leeroy himself seems insanely strong and insanely silly– what’s referred to as a “flavor home-run” in the biz. The fact that they make every Turn 2 into a wild Speed-spaghetti fight (while still cranking out a lot of damage) is maybe the most exciting part of this entire set! Wild Swing + Even Bigger Sword + LEEEEEROOOY will end up doing 27 AoE damage on Turn 2– and who knows what else!
The first of the last Alterac Valley heroes, Vanndar is one of the elusive Legendary Protectors that we haven’t seen since launch. The most intriguing prospects for this Dwarf include enabling a “Taunt Comp” thanks to Push Forward. Give Vanndar Taunt with The Immovable Object and now you can slam in with, say, Cariel and Mutanus to one-shot Fighters in a brand new way.
Of note: there’s also a unique “Dwarf Quest Chain” that rewards you with a Golden Vanndar skin, just after Part 2. It’s easy to do and unlocks Vanndar for free, so make sure you hop on this! And do it before you open any packs too, so you don’t accidentally open the base skin Vanndar and “waste your Legendary”.
Holy Wall of Text, Batman! But let me break it down for you: this is a Gul’dan replacement for Orc compositions, featuring a pseudo Anathema/Benediction two-part “Ultimate Ability” a la Natalie Seline.
Blood Frenzy is exactly what Orcs wanted from their Caster– more stat steroids, not random Fel damage. But then comes the spice: Fel Corruption is an AoE that flips to a different AoE that heals, once you lose an Orc. If Drek’thar is in Corrupted mode, then he has to hurt his own allies to sweep the board. If Drek’Thar sees his allies falling, he breaks free and “evolves” into Shaman mode, buffing his summoned Wolves and healing the wounded… while still killing bad guys.
Throw on top of it all an Equipment that lets you randomly Freeze slow-acting enemies and we just might see Orcs hitting the streets once again.
We were only hoping for one Legendary Protector, but we got two! Deathwing comes crashing down into Mercenaries with a host of unique effects: summoning units whenever he’s Attacked, a Defile-on-a-stick, and Dragon-minion mind control!
The Heart of Unliving Equipment seems amazing– it adds 15+ damage to a single ability, and that’s before applying any Critical hits. With a cool new Taunt option and a very meaty 12/90 stat-line, the already-S-Tier Dragon comp is only getting more and more options in Deathwing and his merry band of lizards.
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Onyxia joins the New Mercenaries
Our first non-Legendary Mercenary from this pile, Onyxia isn’t as obviously powerful as Deathwing. She is much more of a “set-up required” Merc, with the very-flavorful Deep Breath preparing for a huge Fire wombo-combo turn.
I’m afraid that the heal into Cleanse the Nest synergy might be too slow, but with all of the insane defensive options that Dragons now have, this could be far stronger than we think. None of the Celestial Dragons really make use of Fire, so it seems as if there’s a “Celestial Dragons” comp and a “Raid Boss Dragons” comp splitting the shares.
The community slept on Yu’lon for far too long– will we do the same with Onyxia? Baron Geddon, Balinda, even Deathwing all work quite well with infinity Fire Damage… if you can survive!
Fifteen Attack? Excuse me? Rarity really doesn’t mean much anymore it seems, since this Rare Fighter now has the highest base Attack in the game. Drakonid Rush even summons another attacker– boost it up with the Experimental Subjects Equipment and we’re looking at “deal 50 with no Cooldown” pretty quickly.
The rest of their kit begins to mirror Xuen from the Celestial gang. Chromatic Infusion steals Attack from ALL Dragons, and you can choose who you get to dump it on! Maybe you want Deathwing to Taunt up while he has 40 Attack, maybe you want Onyxia to become a super-soldier. Shadowflame mimics Tiger Lightning of sorts, but again, much stronger if you build around it: AoE but with no randomness, and can even be applied through Summoned Dragons too!
Vol’jin has felt a little lonely lately, so a new wave of playable Shadow spells has come to his aid. The final piece of the pre-water puzzle, Kazakus has finally joined Mercenaries as a playable character after being tied to Quests and even his own Bounty!
Kaz features some of the coolest Abilities in the game: he can build Golems (at 1 Speed through Vol’s Ring of Haste!) and even reanimate your opponent’s Mercenaries. It’ll be hard to do, since to get any sizable Attack to trigger Reshape’s Deathblow you’ll need to slurp up somehow-surviving Golems, but man is this going to be fun to try.
The Mageroyal Equipment (part of the potion reagent throwbacks) even turns Shadow Claws into a Shadow Hailstorm, especially after you can summon and kill three Golems as early as Turn 1. Already this represents 40+ damage, and it scales and scales if you can get away with it. Kazakus is probably my pick for my favorite Mercenary of this release.
Conclusions about the New Mercenaries
Though full of intricate and interesting options, one can’t help but fear that nothing here truly threatens our Valeera / Frost / Dragon meta. If anything the Dragons continue to juice up an extremely powerful archetype, and Cold Snap looks to be as good as ever against multiple new Protectors.
Most importantly of all: we didn’t get any news on a solution to Extra Coins or a dynamic, attractive PvE mode. The Hopium is currently being vacuum-sealed to make its trip underwater on April 12th, but if the deafening silence continues to echo, no amount of new toys can stop the bleeding.
Stay tuned to esports.gg for more Hearthstone news and guides!