In anticipation of the newest Hearthstone expansion called Murder at Castle Nathria, players were given a free card to promote the upcoming set.
This new card: Prince Renathal has paved the way for a new archetype, and a dramatic overall shift in the meta.
Prince Renathal is a 3 mana 3/4 Legendary Minion, good cost for the stats but then you read what he does. “Your deck size and starting Health are 40.”
In Hearthstone, players create 30 card decks and start with 30 health. This has defined the meta ever since the game’s launch in 2014. Sure, there have been ways to change it; like the Awaken the Makers quest card for Priest which would restore players to 40 Health, or cards like Prince Malchezzar or C’thun the Shattered which would add cards to your deck. But these cards either took effort to make active (Awaken the Makers), were random (Prince Malchezzar), or were win conditions unto themselves (C’thun the Shattered).
Conversely, Prince Renathal just exists and his bonuses are active from the start of the game. In fact, once you add him to your deck you’re free to choose the remaining 39 cards as you please. There’s no randomness or obvious downside.
Those familiar with the high octane world of children’s card games will probably be quick to point out that the extra cards are actually a downside, and that’s true to an extent. Most decks have only a handful of high-impact cards that are considered their win condition, and diluting that pool does arguably make decks worse. So if this card makes decks worse but with the benefit of 10 bonus health of the start, is it really that impactful?
Prince Renathal has effectively made all aggressive (or “aggro”) decks more difficult to play. The goal of an aggro deck has been to play high damage, high risk, but low cost cards, and try to do 30 damage to your opponent before they have enough mana to even begin countering you. This is especially effective against mid-range decks, or top heavy control decks. But, that race has now become a race to 40 damage. This buys decks that otherwise need 5 or 6 turns to begin wresting control from aggro’s low value cards enough time to effectively shut them out.
What this could mean is that traditional aggro will be less effective, meaning current archetypes like Pirate Rogue, Murloc Shaman, and Murloc Warlock will have a harder time unless they adapt. The future of aggro in the current meta will likely be more mid-ranged aggro with cards that produce “value”.
Prince Renathal represents one of the biggest meta-changing cards in terms of aggro vs. control in a long time. Players who sign in can get the card for free now, after patch 24.6 players will get him for free after opening their first Murder at Castle Nathria pack.