Last week we started our quest to review all 132 cards from Hearthstone's Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, with the first two parts of our comprehensive card review and our exclusive reveal and roundtable discussion of Grimestreet Pawnbroker. Our first set of reviews focused on class and tri-class cards this expansion; now we move on to the neutrals announced so far.
We start off with the Big-Time Racketeer, six-mana 1/1 that summons a 6/6 "Little Friend" (I love Scarface references). The first thing I ask myself on a card that isn't vanilla is "How can this be exploited in a win condition?" Six-mana 7/7 is perfectly reasonable in itself, but there's not a ton of synergy with cards it likely will be paired with. The exception is Brann Bronzebeard, who triggers Battlecry twice, but Brann has trouble surviving a turn -- making Brann + Racketeer a win condition -- and 13/13 of stats for 10 mana that doesn't affect the board isn't really that great. Fine in Arena, where stats rule.
I'm always on the lookout for anti-aggro tools, and the Second-Rate Bruiser fits the cards here. By becoming a three-mana 4/5 with taunt if your opponent has three minions -- and insane amount of value -- it fills a needed role, buying time if playing against low-curve decks flooding the board with tokens. A 4/5 minion with taunt isn't exciting on Turn 5 otherwise, but it's not a dreadful card that loses you the game if you play it.
Kooky Chemist, Crazed Alchemist's (a two-mana 2/2 with the same text) bigger cousin, doesn't strike me as a card likely to see competitive play. Two additional mana for 2/2 stats is worse than a vanilla two-mana minion, and if you want the effect, you can just choose to play Crazed Alchemist for fewer mana. Might see some play in Arena, but likely a little below average.
Another early-game card, where Second-Rate Bruiser tries to be the new Sludge Belcher, Mistress of Mixtures is an attempt to replace the beloved Zombie Chow. 2/2 is a worse line than 2/3 at fighting for board, but you also get four health back, where Zombie Chow only healed the opponent for five. This is significant because control decks that would use this card would sometimes see their health a little too low when the Face Hunter simply ignored Zombie Chow and went face.
For neutral legendaries, we start off with Patches the Pirate, a Stonetusk Boar that gets played for free whenever you have a Pirate. On the surface, the effect looks exploitable, but I think this card won't be as solid as many in the community think. It does give you a free 1/1 and thins out your Pirate deck. However, to make a one-turn-kill deck, you likely need to be playing Gang Up, but then you're stuck having Gang Up, which won't always be able to hit this target. In a pure Pirate deck, you'll frequently not be able to play this at the moment you want because a Pirate deck needs to play pirates.
For cool artwork and concept, Finja, the Flying Star is tough to beat. Unfortunately, it doesn't really fit Murloc burst decks, and the old-style Murloc decks, where you just stuff in every good Murloc, aren't good enough these days.
Madam Goya is a card with interesting possibilities, but one I think that will not see that much play. Why? Because she needs a deck around her to make her effect work well, but that effect itself isn't good enough. If it were, we'd see competitive Y'Shaarj decks and Varian Wrynn be more than a very niche choice in Control Warrior. A six-mana 4/3 has to have an effect that's completely bananas to see play, and this one doesn't. Sure, you can get a second Reno Jackson effect off, but you can already do this with one of the Brewmaster cards, and precisely zero people are doing this in high-level play.
Auctionmaster Beardo would be terrific if Inspire decks were a thing. They're not, and Blizzard hasn't done anything with the mechanic since the Grand Tournament was released, so there likely aren't yet-to-be-unveiled cards that will make this card bonkers. A three-mana 3/4 has good stats, so this will mostly be seen in Arena, where you do sometimes end up with Murloc Knight or Kvaldir Raider. Thunder Bluff Valiant is the only card I see that can really exploit this, but I don't think it's good enough for Midrange Shaman, which, while very much a fan of triggering the Valiant twice, wants to already have a scary board by the Turn 9 required for this combo.
Friendly Bartender is a straightforward card to look at. We have lots of two-mana 2/3 cards that do something, and in this case, the something just isn't that appealing. Just not good enough, but will at least exist in Arena.
That's more than can be said for the Wind-up Burglebot, which too often will be simply a six-mana 5/5 with no effect, which is absolutely dreadful. What's the dream for this card? That you play this on a board of token on Turn 6 and start clearing a token every turn? Cards are nice, but if you actually have time to take advantage of this effect, you've probably won anyway, so the card doesn't do anything of value.
The Fel Orc Soulfiend is a tricky card to value. Getting a three mana 3/5 on turn three is terrific, but it's also a card that will die on its own if you don't invest mana in it to keep it alive. I can see some shenanigans in a Priest deck, but the problem is you'd need a Priest deck that actually chooses to play Silence or Purify, and in that case, Injured Blademaster and Circle of Healing are the more useful combo. This will see play in Arena, however, as it can remove a 3/2 or a 4/3 and survive a turn unless the opponent invests another minion or a costly ping into dealing with it.
Windfury is one of the more difficult mechanics for Blizzard to manage, as there's a fine line between a card being superpowerful and overpriced and unplayable. The Grook Fu Master is probably on the latter line but would be insane at one fewer mana! It's too costly, and like Windfury Harpy and Thrallmar Farseer, both similar cards that are a bit too expensive, will only see some edge play in Arena. Whirling Zap-o-Matic remains the only successful Windfury card that doesn't have crazy burst potential (as in Raging Worgen and Al'Akir the Windlord).
I'm surprised that the Worgen Greaser wasn't named the Worgen Rager, given the theme of high attack/low health and unplayability. A four-mana 6/3 is no more playable than a three-mana 5/2. The developers have said that all expansions are going to have some bad cards. This is one of them.
Meh. That's my only reaction to the Backroom Bouncer, a four-mana 4/4 that needs a lot to go right to be playable. You need at least one minion to die just to make it a 5/4, and if you wanted to play a 5/4, there are already a lot of them to choose from. A 6/4 or a 7/4 gets a bit more interesting, but the four health makes it easily removable no matter how large it gets. I'd rather play a guaranteed 7/4 Ancient Shade at the same cost and risk the seven health instead of killing three of my own minions. And I'm not playing Ancient Shade (nor are you).