During the very height of late-nineties Pokémania, I had just started at high school. This was when the TCG bug took a firm grip on my hindquarters and never let go.
As with most schools, mine tried the age-old tactic of banning Pokémon cards. The only real effect this had was to bring about a roaring trade in black market booster packs. Pupils would surreptitiously reach into their pockets and show off their holo Hitmonchan cards, like they were shady tradespeople who were smuggling whole turkeys around Britain during the dark days of rationing.
I had absolutely zero clue how to play the game itself, you understand, but that wasn’t important. What mattered was that I become totally enamoured with these cards, and gradually built up quite a collection.
Since those days, my friends and I have dabbled in just about every major TCG going. Yu-Gi-Oh!, Magic, the fancy new Final Fantasy TCG… I’ve dabbled in all of it. To varying degrees of success, sure, but there it is.
For some, of course, the best TCG of all doesn’t involve physical cards at all. Warcraft offshoot Hearthstone has become a fully-fledged standalone game in its own right. It’s hugely popular and has even gained a great deal of momentum as an eSport.
Like all collectible card games, it’s had its ups and downs. It’s had great cards and awful ones, and sometimes it’s tough to tell the difference. Let’s check out some of the best and worst Hearthstone cards ever.
Now, granted, there’s no promise that all legendary cards are going to be… well, legendary. That’s just not how things work around here. You expect a little something’ somethin’ out of them, though, and Acidmaw disappoints in just about every possible way.
Sure, you can combo it with Whirlwind for a bit of a fun time, and there are other quirky things you can do with this guy. In terms of actual competitive play, though? You’re usually going to harm yourself more than your opponent trying to make this work.
Like a lot of cards on this list, The Mistcaller is going to be quite a controversial pick. In some areas, sure, it has its uses. Against control decks and that sort of build, there’s some real value here. It’s quite niche, though, and that is its problem.
Back when this guy was a thing, it just couldn’t compete in a very fast meta. You need to find the time to make use of that powerful buff, which so many decks struggle to do.
Inevitably with TCGs, new sets will arise, and the cards therein will be compared with others that have already been released. It’s a convenient way to look at new cards, to get an idea of how they work. A new card may be a better such-and-such, or a worse such-and-such.
As for Countess Ashmore, she’s like a more versatile Curator. With her neutrality and utility, the Countess is a great pick for a variety of decks, and she’s no offensive slouch either.
So. Here’s the big question: what makes a card ‘bad’? The answer to that isn’t as simple as you may think. Being just plain weak or useless is one thing, but you’ve also got to consider whether a card is bad for the game generally. Unhealthy. Unbalanced. Just plain wrong.
For many players, Dark Pact is one of these.
Warlock is not a class that should be healing. They work in the opposite way.
Dark Pact was nerfed, but in the wrong way: you get the HP, plus a ‘free’ deathrattle from a minion.
In a similar fashion to Dark Pact, Jade Idol is a card that’s seen non-stop debate since its release. On the surface, I suppose it might not look like much, but veteran players can see the danger immediately. Infinite value should never really be a thing, and Jade Idol just makes that far too easy.
Control Druid decks are just super frightening with even a single Jade Idol. Fatigue damage? I don’t think so, buddy boy. Ain’t nobody got time fo dat, as the classic meme goes.
Now we’re talking. Of the Witchwood series, Lord Godfrey is probably one of the best cards. Healthy? That’s another matter. If you look at it that way, a lot of the cards in this rundown could be deemed either best or worst, in terms of the game. It’s all down to player perspective.
As for me? I’m not sure that Warlock needed any more board-wiping effects, but here we are. There’s no doubt that this guy can be incredibly devastating for an opponent. It’s not that serious, Godfrey, it really isn’t.
Is it just me? I don’t think so. I guess it could be.
Generally, competitive TCG play tends to revolve around limiting the amount of chance involved in games. Reliably getting out your best resources and reducing your opponent to sad, salty slice of shattered spam.
Relying on luck? That’s a last resort. Heart of the cards? Nope. Deck of Wonders is so much fun to use, but it’s a huge chunk of RNG that I just do not want to be dealing with. And, no, it doesn’t count towards quest.
Through the history of Hearthstone, Priest really hasn’t had an easy run. It’s probably the class that’s come under the most scrutiny, the most difficult to find consistent success with.
Why? Because a lot of Priest cards have been all kinds of questionable.
Confuse can be great, true enough, but it’s totally situational. It depends on your opponent’s board as well as your own, and that’s not easy to control at all. It’s a card that will usually sit in your hand, but when it works… your opponent will be crying to their grandmas.
I know, friends. I’m sorry. I went there. I didn’t really want to, but here we are.
Shudderwock is a card that needs no introduction. It’s a relatively recent addition to the game, and it made one heck of an impression immediately.
You can see the problem. Repeat all other battlecries from cards you played this game? What is several of these things are being played? It’s like a fireworks display of RNG madness, and everyone’s invited. Stop that, Shudderwock. Nobody likes you.
Right. I see where this is going, and I have mixed feelings about the situation. Mostly, rage and sadness.
Again, here’s a card that looks quite unassuming on the surface. A 1/1 minion? A one-legged kitten with a limp could take that out. That battlecry, however? That’s not even funny.
If you’re experienced with the game, you’ll understand how people were feeling when this abomination was released. Kabal Lackey and Counterspell, you say? You can flush that straight down Beelzebub’s underworld u-bend from whence it came.
If there’s any positive we can draw from this, it’s that the card’s name reminds me of Milhouse of The Simpsons. I like Milhouse.
I do not like Millhouse. I mean, sure, the card has its uses. It can be excellent for early-game momentum to have a 4/4 on the field on your first or second turn, after all.
The trouble is, it can come right back and bite you in the dangleberries. That battlecry can have devastating consequences for you, depending on the opponent’s hand (and their deck generally).
Voodoo Doll is another excellent card from the Witchwood expansion. There’s no messing around here, no complex maneuvers or luck-based plays. It does exactly what it says on the tin.
A super cheap minion, hard removal of just about anything that’s in your way.
It’s a card that slots neatly and easily into all kinds of decks, but it’s probably best suited to the Mage class. It’s a little slow on its own, but Mages can help with that via their hero power.
Now, here’s something I just cannot dang well condone. Another general TCG necessity is resource management. This is a little more difficult in the Final Fantasy TCG, where there’s a lot of discarding going on, but the same rule applies. Overcommitting is deadly. It’s supposed to be.
With a quick Divine Favor, Paladins are free to throw cards around willy-nilly (not literally; beware of papercuts). I guess it’s not as simple as just that, but there’s some debate as to whether this card is healthy or not.
There’s very little debate here. To My Side! is generally agreed to be one of the worst Hearthstone cards ever made, and it’s clear to see why. We’ve already spoken a little about cards that are straight-up upgrades of others. Here, we’re looking at another Animal Companion, but twice as expensive.
To My Side!, then, has absolutely zero reason to be used at all, outside of one specific niche: a Hunter deck with no minions. Then you get two companions at least. Not that this is anything to dedicate an enthusiastic chapter to in the family holiday letter.
As we’ve established, then, it’s common for some new cards to straight-up outclass those that have come before. As much as games try to keep them diverse, in terms of abilities and such, there are always going to be some parallels.
Doctor Boom is a great example of this. The card is essentially a War Golem, only with the additional bonus of those Boom Bots. There are some interesting combos you can make with this, such as with Bran Bronzebeard for double the bots. As such, Doctor Boom is very cost-efficient, which is key in Hearthstone.
TCG card design is (often) all about balancing their strengths. A minion, Yu-Gi-Oh! monster or FFTCG forward may have high attack strength, but simply function as a beatstick. Others, meanwhile, will have low power, but make up for that with a powerful ability.
Sadly, you can’t always get it right.
Cursed Blade is a strong warrior weapon, sure, but that side effect.
When a Mage’s Fireball deals twelve damage to you, it feels as bad as roundhouse kicking your own grandma in the face.
Speaking of that power/effect balance, plain old attack and defense are often treated in the same way. You’ll get minions and monsters that have super high defensive values but deal little damage, and vice versa.
Again, it’s a tough balance to get right. Take our old buddy the Magma Rager here. It has high attack power for its cost, but a single point of health. The fact that it’s taken out by a casual gust of wind makes this ragey guy one of the worst cards in the entire game.
Sometimes, the best cards aren’t the ones with straight up overpowered effects. Ridiculous brokenness can be a factor a lot of the time, but it’s not always necessary. Sometimes, the best cards are the ones that are just so splashable. Never mind Guile’s Theme, these cards truly go with anything.
Azure Drake is one of them. It has unremarkable but respectable stats, an all-around-useful effect, and… another all-around useful effect. In decks that favor offensive spells, this dragon is definitely Ogre Magi 2.0.
Here’s another thing about TCGs: not all cards are created equal. Nor could or should they be. Take Yu-Gi-Oh!, and its reams upon reams of Normal monsters with feeble attack stats. Without these sorts of cards, there’d be no Jerry Beans Man, and that’s something we all need in our lives.
Speaking of ridiculous and hilarious cards, meet the Angry Chicken. This thing is worse than other one-mana minions without its Enrage effect, and you’re really going to need to specialize at least some of the deck to get the most from that. Snark value aside, that’s a no.
Whichever way you slice it, Nozdormu is a dang tough sell. An 8/8 minion is nothing to mess with on your way home from grandma’s at night, true enough, but it’s super expensive at 9 mana.
There’s more to the equation than stats alone, of course, but its ability is a mixed bag too.
That strict time limit can fluster the opposing player, but it’ll just as easily throw you right off your game yourself.
An interesting novelty card, but that’s as far as it goes.
Now, this one really is a hot-button issue. These sorts of games are rife with niche cards, which would be completely worthless in one deck archetype but a perfect fit for another. It all comes down to what you’re running.
Is Chameleos a good or bad card? By the very nature of it, that’s a tough call to make. It does very little by itself, but can gradually reveal the opponent’s hand. You don’t want to pop it in an aggro matchup, though. Again, super situational.
Continuing that theme of power/ability, here comes the Evolved Kobold, a minion from the Whispers of the Old Gods set.
In this case, its weaker offenses and defences for its cost are supposedly offset by its ability, which gives a nice boost to spell damage. The issue here, again, is that this is entirely dependent on your spell focus. As a weaker minion, you’ll have to be sure that you have the spells in your hand at that moment to make use of this.
Let’s be real for a moment here: The Ancient One is one of the most fearsome creatures in all of Hearthstone. With 30/30 stats and that face, this isn’t a thing you’re going to want to bring home to meet your mama, however cool she is about the people you date.
Having said that, it is not easy to get this thing onto the field. You’ve got to do some finagling with a couple of Blood of the Ancient One cards, which are expensive in themselves and are sure to be targeted as they appear. Good luck with that one.
Well, dang. 10 mana is a high cost, there’s no denying, but Bloodreaver Gul’dan is certainly worth it. If you’ve ever fallen victim to this hero card, you’ll know exactly what it’s capable of.
Gul’dan’s whole shtick is reviving all demons that have been defeated over the course of the game.
This opens the floodgates for Dread Infernal, Voidlord and other powerhouses to come on down and play The Price is Right with your opponent’s end. A very, very strong weapon in a Warlock’s arsenal.
As we’ve established, much of the time, useful abilities give a player much more advantage than pure power. What’s all this anti-brute strength bias about? For one thing, Hearthstone has plenty of ways to remove (or otherwise mess with) minions.
If you send out a heavy-hitter like Faceless Behemoth —which can do nothing but swing or take hits with its 10/10 stats—and it’s instantly removed, you’ve gained nothing at all. It’s bad for momentum, too, having something like this just sitting there. He’s one of those guys from the gym who flex their muscles, but nobody cares.
For me, the best thing about Razorpetal Volley is the card’s snarky blurb: The result of a fundamental misunderstanding of the phrase "flower power."
What does it have going for it apart from that? Precious little, that’s what. This is one of many nondescript vaguely useful in the right scenario for the right deck sorts of cards. Sherazin would appreciate it, as would Malygos, but you won’t see this thing very much at all outside of specific Rogue decks. If even then.
Even if you’ve only dabbled in the game of Hearthstone, you’ll know about Hex. This card is one of the easiest and earliest additions to a player’s collection, with two copies being acquired on unlocking the Shaman class.
It’s nothing very special, but it’s certainly potent. It may be a beginner card, but its effect is super potent. Adding Taunt to the afflicted minion may be a problem, but it’s such versatile full stop to all manner of threats.
Nice minion you have.
Be a shame if somebody…
made it a toad.
As I say, across TCGs, discarding cards is often a huge deal. It’s a central element to the Final Fantasy TCG in particular, but you’re able to draw two cards at a time in order to make up for that. Elsewhere, there are other archetypes that center around self-milling (Lightsworns, for instance), but they’re very specific.
Lakkari Sacrifice may be a powerful play if you’re able to get it off, but it’s very expensive in terms of resources.
It’s a tough sell, all in all.
Once again, we’re treading on thin ice (there are more terrible cold puns around here than Arnold Schwarzenegger got out as Iceman, sorry about that) with this one.
Moorabi’s stats are low for its cost, which leaves its ability to pick up the slack. Which it certainly can at times, as that’s quite strong in the right circumstances. It’s tough to bring out the best in that power, though, as you can miss windows of opportunity without it in your hand.
Ah, yes. Here we go, friends. The Lich King is here.
This Knights of the Frozen Throne legendary card is another that just plain outclasses an existing card, leaving poor old Ironbark Protector feeling super bitter about the whole thing.
It’s often great to have powerful offensive and defensive stats coupled with Taunt, for obvious reasons (though it is easier to destroy in return). The fun’s just beginning, though, because The Lich King has the additional ability to add a random Death Knight card to your hand at the end of the turn. This guy’s just plain trouble.