Hearthstone's Whispers of the Old Gods: Mark of Y'Shaarj reveal

Dan Szymborski reveals one more card from the upcoming Whispers of the Old Gods expansion for Hearthstone. Blizzard

If you're a fan of Hearthstone, you're probably familiar with the trickle of hors d'oeuvres that lead up to the release of a new set of cards. Like one of those little Advent calendars filled with chocolate, toys, or even beer (yes, those exist), the daily reveals give players a little bite as they wait for the main course. Card games thrive on new cards, each one creating the opportunity to imagine a new awesome deck, powerful deck, terrible deck, and sometimes a combination of all three.

Today, we get to make our card reveal for the upcoming Whispers of the Old Gods expansions, the Mark of Y'Shaarj.

This spell, a two mana card for Druid, gives a minion +2/+2 and if that minion is a beast, draws a card. As in most card games, drawing a card is a very powerful effect, so any card that allows you to harvest your deck is at least one to be thought about seriously. Almost every card in Hearthstone costing three or fewer mana that draws you a card has at least been experimented with in one of the playable deck archetypes.

But wait, there's more! Normally when there's a card reveal, the next thing a reader or viewer does is scramble off to see what the other players are thinking about the card. So to aid in this, we assembled a roundtable of Hearthstone pros, casters, and since Hearthstone is arguably the most egalitarian of esports games, one in which non-professionals can also find themselves at the finals at BlizzCon, some legend-ranked community leaders.

First up, we have Jason "Amaz" Chan, the founder of Team Archon, one of the leading teams in competitive Hearthstone.

"Mark of Y'Shaarj gives a minion +2/+2 and is a bit more rewarding when it's cast on a beast, but outside of that isn't too interesting as it's very similar to Mark of the Wild," Amaz noted.

"The most interesting part with this card, though, is that Blizzard is giving Druids another direction besides the standard Midrange Combo Druid that we are so used to seeing in ranked play and tournaments. This confirms the recent Blizzard interview that they wanted Druids to have beast synergies along with the Hunter class. The fact that you can always cast it on any minion unlike Demonfuse's mechanic makes it a little bit more flexible as well."

Next up is Dan "Frodan" Chou, someone almost impossible to not be familiar with if you follow Hearthstone (or in the past, StarCraft II). Frodan, one of Hearthstone's most popular casters, has likely seen as much competitive Hearthstone as anybody in existence. The very busy Frodan also produces tournaments, works with Twitch, and manages Tempo Storm.

"The card text is relatively simple which I like and it pushes a different archetype (Beast Druid) further into relevance," Frodan said. "The card quality seems solid in comparison to similar cards (Power Word: Shield, Mark of the Wild). I enjoy its flexibility because it can go on any minion to combo with other cards. If the anticipated nerfs of the Druid class come crashing down on cards like Ancient of Lore, more ways to cycle through your deck will prove to be invaluable."

Arena is sometimes Hearthstone's forgotten mode, but has also been the mode in some very popular tournaments, such as Tempo Storm's Lord of the Arena series, which has brought in many of Hearthstone's top arena players to duke it out. Competing with the seasonal championships in buzz among the community recently was Amaz's 10 Arena/100 Win challenge, finally completed for the first time by Tobias "TwoBiers" Graap of Flow Esports. It takes some different skills to compete well in Arena as deck archetypes are less crucial but a vast knowledge of Hearthstone's cards is necessary as you can literally encounter any card in any game.

To share the Arena-based opinion for the Mark of Y'Shaarj, we have Mike "SimCopter1" Bender, who runs a popular Twitch stream that focuses on the science of the cards and the gameplay of Hearthstone.

"Interesting card!" SimCopter1 opined. "Versatile yet binary in nature, which fits the theme of many Druid spells. The potential card draw of Mark of Y'Shaarj is very desirable in constructed Druid Beast decks, but seems unreliable in arena, especially since most Druids aren't offered strong beast synergy, and arena decks with beast synergy don't tend to be successful because of intrinsically high variance. With that said, Mark of Y'Shaarj is still a decent card for arena because of its reasonable cost and high ceiling, but may be difficult to dump from your hand and isn't always the best top deck."

"I'm eager to use Mark of Y'Shaarj on a Sabertooth Panther I coined out on turn one! And in dark times, shooting for the moon and playing Mark of Y'Shaarj on an enemy beast to draw Starfire for lethal sounds amazing!"

As I noted above, community is a big part of the world of competitive Hearthstone. Without it being necessary to assemble a team to play Hearthstone at a high level, there are many top amateurs who, while not making a living playing and/or streaming the game, help form the backbone of the Hearthstone community. Several of the top decks we see in tournaments first became prominent not from a top pro, but from posts with proof-of-concept in communities such as Reddit's Hearthstone and Competitive Hearthstone subs. So we solicited a few of the voices from these communities, respected for both their play and ability to handle the sometimes unruly masses.

Eric "Sparkalaphobia" Reinhardt from /r/CompetitiveHS

The first thing I see with Mark of Y'Shaarj is that it's similar to Mark of the Wild but you give up taunt for the potential to draw a card. You want to play this on a beast as often as possible; when you get the draw, this card is great but, when you don't, it's worse than Mark of the Wild which already sees very limited play.

You also want to play this kind of lower-value buff on a minion with more health than attack because, if your minion's attack is high to start with, the extra +2 attack isn't making your minion trade better with anything around the same mana cost and if its health is low, you're not getting to make many extra trades with it.

So ideally, you want to have a lot of beasts in your deck, many of which have low attack and high health. Unfortunately, a majority of the beasts that see play in different Druid decks now, cards such as Druid of the Saber, Mounted Raptor, Savage Combatant, and Stranglethorn Tiger, have high attack and low health. Druid of the Flame and Druid of the Claw (and Haunted Creeper in the Wild format) are the best targets for Mark of Y'Shaarj with River Crocolisk, Oasis Snapjaw, and Stampeding Kodo as borderline playable options as well. I don't expect this card to have much of an impact on the competitive scene. It doesn't look like there's enough incentive to run it right now outside of a dedicated Beast Druid deck but, if Blizzard releases another 2 or 3 good beasts with defensive stats, this card could very well see a lot of play.

Geekaleek from /r/CompetitiveHS

Mark of Y'Shaarj would definitely be worth running in a beast-focused Druid deck. The effect is strong and gives a player options and flexibility with their mana, either getting a bigger threat out earlier or filling in unused mana at little to no cost. This does not mean, however, that Beast Druid will be a competitively viable archetype, only that Mark of Y'Shaarj is a good fit in such a deck. There is a distinct chance that Druid will run enough beasts in a non-beast-focused deck that this card could see play in those decks as well.

Whether this happens depends on the number of beasts the Druid will naturally play in their non-beast decks. Druid of the Claw and Savage Combatant will almost surely be in most Druid decks and Druid of the Saber and Druid of the Flame are potentially playable. Mark of Y'Shaarj could push the latter two minions into a Druid deck if the cards are (almost) good enough to play in the meta anyway.

The determination of whether Beast Druid becomes a competitively viable archetype is dependent on other factors outside the scope of this one card reveal. One large reason to play Beast Druid is being rotated out with Druid of the Fang leaving standard. Mark of Y'Shaarj is not an archetype-defining card on its own as it's not powerful enough by itself to push Beast Druid decks into prominence. So unless Blizzard pushes another powerful beast synergy card, it seems unlikely for Beast Druid to be the main Druid archetype. It has the potential to be a strong, flexible card that could see play outside a pure beast archetype, and would be a guaranteed addition to any beast-focused Druid deck.

I would say that Mark of Y'Saarj is one of the top 10 cards revealed so far from the set.

Taylor "Oagoz" F. from /r/Hearthstone

The first card that comes to mind when seeing Mark of Y'Shaarj is another two-mana Druid spell, Mark of the Wild. Mark of the Wild practically does the same thing, gives a minion +2/+2 and Taunt, while Mark of Y'Shaarj instead of giving taunt, gives you the chance to draw a card if you control a beast. With the requirement of having to have a minion on board, and that minion needing to be a beast makes it more challenging to activate the card draw effect of Mark of Y'Shaarj. The only thing that might be saving this card is the fact that its mana cost is fairly low at two mana, so you can play it on turn four safely, or turn two with innervate along with something like Huge Toad. This would give you essentially a four-mana 5/4 with a card draw and the Huge Toad's deathrattle.

In Wild, I don't expect this card to see any play considering that Mark of the Wild doesn't see any play and doesn't require you to control a beat. In standard however, there aren't really a lot of low mana cost beasts to play this card on in the early game, but with the chances of combo druid getting nerfed, Beast Druid may be on the rise and inexpensive card draw is not a bad deal when you add on +2/+2 of stats. This card could be considered Beast Druid's very own Power Word: Shield and find its way into every Beast Druid deck that makes it into standard.