Hearthstone's first official calendar year has come to a close, and it's been an incredible one. From the game's release, to its first adventure Naxxramas, and the recent release of its first full expansion Goblins vs Gnomes, there has been a lot of excitement and promise packed into a single year.
The competitive meta game has shifted time and again thanks to powerful discoveries of classic cards, huge counters introduced with the new sets, and a change in the mindset and playstyle of the player base. That means there have been a handful of cards which stood out as the most powerful, influential, and downright important to the success of the game.
These are those cards, and they've been ranked based on their importance to the game. These cards have had bigger impacts on the Hearthstone tournament scene and the ranked ladder than any other cards the game has to offer.
10. Dr. Boom
Goblins vs Gnomes only had a few weeks to make a dent in the 2014 calendar year, but it still managed to leave its mark on the year thanks to Dr. Boom. This is quite simply one of the best cards in the game, filled an empty mana slot for many decks, and has already played huge roles in tournament outcomes.
Virtually every deck on the ranked ladder for the last few weeks of the year contained a Dr. Boom, and in fact many people added Big Game Hunters to their decks to counter this one card. When a single card fits into every deck in the game, you know it's a key one. If other cards from Goblins vs Gnomes are to become as influential as this one, they'll have to do so in 2015. Dr. Boom is king of the goblins and the gnomes this year.
9. Sludge Belcher
Despite only introducing 30 cards into the game, Naxxramas caused a number of huge changes for the meta game. Sludge Belcher was one of the biggest reasons things got shaken up after Naxxramas. He gave midrange and control decks the stickiest taunt the game had ever seen thanks to his solid health and deathrattle. Suddenly aggressive or combo decks had to punch through this slab of rancid meat, and it definitely left a foul taste in their mouth.
Suddenly Chillwind Yetis were a lot worse when they had to face a Sludge Belcher next turn, and frankly very few cards trade into it efficiently. This card was so powerful that even aggressive Hunters started to run it for deathrattle synergies and to counter other Hunters! When you run a card that's the pure antithesis of your deck's goal, you know it's an awfully good one.
For the classic set of Hearthstone cards, no legendary packed quite the punch that Ragnaros did. His effect is a unique, instant, and potent one, meaning any deck that was not purely aggressive tended to find a spot for Ragnaros in its list. He became the win condition for a variety of decks, and the "first legendary to craft" for a lot of folks. But Ragnaros' impact on the tournament scene is where he really worked his way onto this list.
Behind the heroics of Amaz at IEM Shenzen and an assortment of epic moments throughout the first eight months of 2014, Ragarnos took the spotlight. He was winning games, or losing them, all on his own. He generated a lot of impactful discussion regarding the random elements of the game, and still remains a key cog in the inner workings of many competitive decks.
7. Ice Block
There was an era was Freeze Mage was a practically unbeatable deck. Throughout the Spring and Summer months of 2014, skilled Mage players were freezing their way through tournaments at an alarmingly slow and measured pace. Ice Block was the card that empowered the deck archetype, and countless games were determined based on the draw (or non-draw) of this single card.
Freeze Mages never really went away, and even late in the year Ice Block had huge implications in a famed play made by Forsen at the ViaGame House Cup . Because it has shaped the meta on its own, and influenced the outcome of so many games, Ice Block deserves its place here.
6. Gadgetzan Auctioneer
Gadgetzan Auctioneer probably has the most powerful effect in the entire game of Hearthstone. For a card that's only 5 mana and can be put into a deck twice, that's a dangerous combination. A combination so powerful that it enabled quite possibly the most powerful deck in 2014:..
Miracle Rogue There were time when Miracle Rogue seemed almost unbeatable, especially if Gadgetzan Auctioneer was anywhere near the top of the deck Gadgetzan has also been squeezed into Miracle Druid decks, which had some time in the spotlight near the end of the year. His influence has not been broad across a ton of decks, but it was nearly unbeatable in the one deck that mattered.
No deck in 2014 has been more played, more hated, and more successful than Zoo. In tournaments it always finds a way to win, and has carried many players through entire brackets to victory. It's ever-present and ever-challenging on the ranked ladder too. And when it comes to Zoo, there's no card more fundamental to its success than Doomguard.
The big ugly demon has been a key component of this almost since its genesis, and If you draw into Doomguard at the right times, Zoo can be almost unbeatable Zoo can and does win games without ever sniffing a Doomguard, but when everything else has been swapped out, replaced, re-configured, and adjusted, one thing remains constant:. Doomguard is the ultimate finisher.
4. Molten Giant
Much like Doomguard has been the centerpiece of Zoo, Molten Giant has been the enabler for another popular Warlock deck that's been a constant presence and consistent winner in the competitive scene. Handlock decks are able to fully exploit Molten Giant's ridiculously powerful effect, enabling them to make incredibly strong swing plays that often turn games in their favor or cement a victory.
Molten Giants often work their way into other ladder decks as well, including late-game Druids, Freeze Mage variants, and the once-popular One Turn Kill Warrior decks . This card has been a huge threat to players without answers for the entire year, making its way into a sampling of great ladder and tournament decks.
It might just be the most consistently-played card on this entire list, instead of being subjected to the ebbs and flows of the meta game.
3. Leeroy Jenkins
Anytime a card has been nerfed by the Blizzard team, you know how influential and overpowered it was, because they're very conservative regarding changes. Leeroy Jenkins got nerfed.
He got nerfed because he was unquestionably the best finisher in the game, and allowed for a few different ridiculous combo turns that won games all on their own. Miracle Rogues dominated tournaments for a long stretch on the back of Leeroy Jenkins and a pair of Shadowsteps. The ladder was overrun with Leeroy Jenkins to the point that his in-game sound has become some of the most hated audio on the planet.
Even Hunters in their heyday were able to utilize Leeroy Jenkins with Unleash the Hounds for absurd damage potential. After his nerf went live, Leeroy has rarely been seen, but he still left his mark on the year in a big way.
2. Unleash the Hounds
No card in Hearthstone has been through as many changes as this one. In the beginning of the year, it had a totally different effect that enabled One Turn Kill Hunters to dominate the ranked ladder. It was eventually nerfed to its current effect, but that did not change its potency.
For a very long time throughout the Summer into the Winter months, Hunter was an absurdly dominant force, in large part thanks to Unleash the Hounds in combination with Hunter's Mark.
When a single card is able to dominate the ladder on two separate occasions despite being totally different, you know it's had a big year.
If two decks were competing for the crown of "Deck of the Year", it would likely be a closely fought battle between deathrattle Zoo and deathrattle Hunter. And the winner would be decided based on who drew into their Undertaker first!
Despite Undertaker being underrepresented in most tournaments, since its release with Naxxramas, this card has been a constant and present threat on the ranked ladder from legend all the way down to rank 25.
It carried Priests for a while, it revolutionized Hunters, and it's been pervasive in Zoo . There were entire months where the community did nothing but lament the existence of Undertaker, and many still call for its nerf. No card in 2014 has been played more often than this one.
Only time will tell what 2015 holds for the competitive Hearthstone scene, but hopefully cool new cards are introduced that shake up this list and make the game more varied and exciting for everyone! Until then, bring out your dead!