Every Hearthstone Expansion Arbitrarily Ranked

Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, Hearthstone’s eighth expansion, has just been released. We’re nearing the 3-year mark since the game went live and now seems like a good time to take a look at all the expansions released so far and give them a bit of an evaluation. Everything here is completely arbitrary and based on personal opinion. Feel free to file any complaints and/or errors in the comments if you feel so inclined.

8. The Grand Tournament

Trailer:  Ok
Meta Impact:  Poor
Theme Mechanic:  Epic Fail
Overall:  Blah
Top 5 Cards:
Murloc Knight
Flame Juggler
Argent Horserider

Easily the most forgettable expansion of the whole lot.  This expansion brought us not one but two theme-based mechanics and both of them failed pretty spectacularly.  “Inspire” was mostly a bust, with only 2 cards seeing any real play (Murloc Knight and Thunder Bluff Valiant).  “Joust” was even worse, with none of the cards even so much as making any sort of impact on the game, aside from the brief appearance of King's Elekk in some Hunter decks.  Adding on top of that the underwhelming legendary cards, no one is going to notice when this expansion finally rotates out of Standard play early next year.

7. Curse of Naxxramas

Trailer:  Meh
Meta Impact:  OPAF
Theme Mechanic:  Super Annoyingly Sticky
Overall:  I’m glad you’re dead.
Top 5 Cards:
Zombie Chow
Mad Scientist
Sludge Belcher
Death's Bite

This is a little unfair, and mostly a product of hindsight as this was the first expansion ever released for the game.  This wasn’t really a bad expansion, but the cards were just too powerful and dominated the game for too long a time.  These were probably the dreariest times to play hearthstone, as a lot of the Naxxramas cards were just auto-includes in almost every deck.  The result was an incredibly stale meta that persisted across several expansions. There are many cards that are sorely missed from this expansion (Sludge Belcher, for me, personally) once the standard rotation began.  The simple fact of the matter was that the base power level of these cards was way too high. The only options were to make even more powerful cards in subsequent expansions, or rotate them out. Blizzard opted for the latter, eventually. All in all, it’s probably for the better for the health of the game this expansion is no longer part of competitive play.

6. Goblins and Gnomes

Trailer:  Ok
Meta Impact:  Soul Crushing
Theme Mechanic: Maddening
Overall:  In hindsight, bad for the game.
Top 5 Cards:
Dr. Boom
Piloted Shredder
Unstable Portal
Muster for Battle

Like Curse of Naxxramas, this one is a slightly unfair in hindsight sort of ranking.  There were a lot of fun cards, and lots of cool decks emerged from the new Mech tribe.  But again, just too many cards from this expansion became auto-includes and the heavy reliance of RNG elements in many cards just added a lot of frustration and anger for many players.  Cards with an absurd range of variance such as Piloted Shredder, Dr. Boom, Unstable Portal, Goblin Blastmage and Crackle just ruined experiences for countless players in ladder play.  There is an understanding that some randomness is always going to be part of a card game, but this expansion went more than a little overboard with huge random effects.  Like Curse of Naxxramas, just about everyone agrees that the state of the game is in a much better place now that this expansion has been rotated out of Standard.

5. One Night in Karazhan

Trailer:  Groovy
Meta Impact:  Mediocre
Theme Mechanic:  Meh
Overall: Ok, but somewhat disappointing.
Top 5 Cards:
Book Wyrm
Firelands Portal
Menagerie Warden
Onyx Bishop

First off, this expansion had the best trailer of the bunch.  This wasn’t a bad expansion (I got more cards for my dragon decks), but there were a couple black marks that knocks this down the rankings.  There were types of dud cards in this expansion were a bordering on unacceptable inclusions.  Purify, to start with, which prompted a rather rare personal mea culpa response from the main game designer, Ben Brode.  Then there was Pompous Thespian.  Bad enough that there were bad cards (at least fun could be had with [Prince Malchezar]) in a small 40-50 card set, but having it be a bad vanilla minion was a bit hard to stomach.  On the plus side, some more cards were included to help augment the “Discard” Warlock  archetype and I always am happy to see more useful cards for Dragon decks. All in all, I would have ranked this higher, but the negatives are bad enough that it drags this expansion down.  Sad!

4. Whispers of the Old Gods

Trailer:  Ok
Meta Impact:  Mediocre
Theme Mechanic:  Interesting
Overall:  Could have been much better
Top 5 Cards:
N'Zoth, the Corruptor
Call of the Wild
Flamewreathed Faceless
Ravaging Ghoul
Possessed Villager

I kind of like this expansion but it feels like there was some missed opportunities to really make it great.   While much was made of C’Thun, it never really amounted to more than a passing fad.  Normally wouldn’t be a problem for an expansion, but there was a significant amount of cards that were dedicated to specifically work with C'Thun.  Those card slots now feel like wasted design space now that the fad is somewhat over.  [Yogg Saron] and [Yssharj] were kind of duds, which was disappointing. N’Zoth does have a good place in the game, so they at least got a hit on one of these old gods. Otherwise, there was lots of fun stuff added to this expansion, and having “corrupted” versions of many cards that we have come to know over the years was kind of a neat thing to see, even if the cards themselves weren’t too great (Looking at you, Nat, the Darkfisher).   A good addition to the game, but could have been much better if the C’Thun mechanic could have been a little better thought out.

3. Blackrock Mountain

Trailer:  Turrible
Meta Impact:  Moderate
Theme Mechanic: Mixed Bag
Overall:  Not bad!
Top 5 Cards:
Blackwing Corruptor
Emperor Thaurissan
Dragon Consort
Imp Gang Boss

Man, that trailer was awful.  Whoever was responsible for this must have been either fired or had a stern talking-to, as the trailers have been much better since then.   The addition of more dragons into the game really helped start to create an interesting deck archetype into the game (particularly for Paladins and Warriors).   The whole, “thing takes damage, something happens” mechanic had much less impact, but the rise of the dragon tribe has made sure this expansion has had an impact.  Overall, this expansion had a lot of strong cards and was pretty solid.  Plenty of cards from this expansion are going to be missed once the next rotation rolls around. In particular, I will mourn the loss of a lot of the dragon related cards, but the subsequent expansions have been making sure that dragons will remain a viable tribe going forward.

2. Mean Streets of Gadgetzan

Trailer:  Great
Meta Impact:  Yuge (probably)
Theme Mechanic:  Very interesting
Overall:  Looking Good
Top 5 Cards:
Aya Blackpaw
Sergeant Sally
Smuggler's Run
Dragonfire Potion
Dispatch Kodo

I know, I know, this expansion just came out.  But these are arbitrary rankings, and I will make some arbitrary observations.  Many of the mechanics being introduced seem pretty interesting, split thematically into three separate “gangs”. Cards that buff minions in your hand–something you can’t really do in a conventional card game–looks to be my new favorite thing. The new Jade Golem (the more you summon the stronger they get) decks are also pretty fun. The “potions” and custom spell creation of the 3rd gang doesn’t look all that appealing, but it’s nice to see Priest get some major love with some really good cards and some more dragon cards. And as an avid lover of Mafia movies, the theme and card art are pretty awesome. Also of note is Hearthstone is really starting to branch off on its own, creating tons of characters in its own lore instead of relying on World of Warcraft for ideas. We’ll need some more time to know for sure, but this expansion looks to be one of the strongest released to date.

1. League of Explorers

Trailer:  Good
Meta Impact:  Great
Theme Mechanic:  Excellent
Overall:  The [Golden Monkey] Standard
Top 5 Cards:
Reno Jackson
Elise Starseeker
Dark Peddler
Tunnel Trogg

Hands down, this is the best expansion. The addition of the discover mechanic is, without a doubt, the best mechanic they’ve added to the game.  It has continued to stick around across multiple expansions since and looks to be a long-term staple. There are very few bad cards among this lot, and just about every class received something really fun to play with. There were plenty of strong additions to the game, but none of them are oppressively overpowered.  Yes, even Reno Jackson is mostly fine. The single player content was also the most memorable out of all the adventures, with some of the most unique puzzle encounters we’ve seen in the game. Just all around a wonderful expansion for Hearthstone.

Miguel Justiniano
Libertarian. Ranter. Always takes the renegade interrupt. Horde4Life.

This article has 2 Comments

  1. How is Grim Patron not a top 5 Blackrock card?!? I know it doesn’t see play any more, but think of how many decks were crafted specifically around it. If it had been a dragon I bet you’d have included it 🙂

  2. Yes, I am a little biased about towards Dragon based cards. Grim Patron did lose a LOT of its luster with the Warsong Commander nerf, however.

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