More than a month and a half has passed since Murder at Castle Nathria went live on August 2nd: therefore, not many days separate us from this expansion's Mini-Set - about two weeks at worst, we might say.

Although we haven't received any major teasers or announcements, as well as no dates yet, we are pretty confident that it's just a matter of time before Blizzard drops the bomb and start building the hype towards the new Mini-Set. Yes, there's the argument that Team 5 might want the currently ongoing Wild Heroic Brawliseum to be over before making any announcements, but it doesn't change the fact that the Standard format could use some new cards added to its pool before long.

Therefore, we'd like to share with all of you our own predictions regarding the Murder at Castle Nathria Mini-Set: where is it going to take place? What cards are we going to see? We will answer these and many other questions, basing our judgment on the archetypes that were pushed in Castle Nathria but still need an extra nudge in order to get to the point of being playable. Have a good read!

Disclaimer: Since cards in the mini-set tend to have a higher than average power level than the ones contained in an expansion (you add a few cards just to shake up the meta: what would be the point of adding weak cards that wouldn't see play?), we are fairly positive that this upcoming event will bring a breath of fresh air in the format, which has just received a balance patch.

General Discussion - Mechanics

Murder at Castle Nathria being the second expansion for the Year of the Hydra, the Standard card pool has grown significantly larger, so now each class has a wide variety of archetypes at disposal. While it's reasonable for Team 5 to support recently pushed ones, we cannot exclude the devs might want to go back and support decks from the Year of the Gryphon.

As a reminder, here are all the archetypes pushed for each class with the Castle Nathria expansion:

  • Demon Hunter - Relics, Handless.
  • Druid - Nature, Deathrattle/Big synergy, Treants.
  • Hunter - Wildseeds, Infuse.
  • Mage - Volatile Skeletons, Frost, Secrets.
  • Paladin - Pure, Silver Hand Recruit.
  • Priest - Thief, Buff.
  • Rogue - Miracle, Secrets.
  • Shaman - Evolve, Totems.
  • Warlock - Imps, Shadow, Discard.
  • Warrior - Enrage, Big synergy.

While we have no way to be 100% sure about which or how many mechanics will return, we are fairly sure we won't end up completely missing the target.

General Discussion - Mini-Set's Theme

Just like any other time we discuss about a mini-set's prediction, we have a possible location! This time around, the lead comes from the card art leaks that took place during the Murder at Castle Nathria reveal season: back then, one artist released their works ahead of time, giving us names and art pieces for cards that were not included in the actual expansion. Therefore, it's quite easy to understand that they will be a part of the upcoming Mini-Set.

From left to right, here are all the leaked cards' names and arts:

  1. Murder Accusation
  2. Dew Process
  3. Jury Duty
  4. Perjury
  5. Life Sentence
  6. Habeas Corpses

As you may have noticed by the cards' names and arts, all of them contain references to the legal world's procedural institutes: it is only natural for a judge to step in once someone gets killed, right? However, a question rises: is there a place in the Shadowlands that can act as location for this trial? Yes, there is!

If you play close attention to Jury Duty and Perjury's arts (number 3 and 4, respectively), you'll notice some figures with quite the unique armors. These characters actually exist in World of Warcraft: they are Torghast Sentinels, which guard their namesake Tower of the Damned.

A Torghast Sentinel.

For those who don't play World of Warcraft, Torghast, Tower of the Damned is an infinite dungeon located at the center of the Maw, the place where all the irredeemable and most dangerous souls are banished to - basically, the religious equivalent of hell.

Torghast, Tower of the Damned.

In particular, Torghast is where the Jailer, the ruler of the Maw, resides.

Zovaal, better known as "The Jailer".

Quote From Wowpedia

It is a place devoid of all hope or redemption. Each floor that rises into the endless abyss is crueler than the last; to climb Torghast is to ascend deeper into despair. The tower's interior defies all traditional logic: its corridors are vast and seemingly endless, to the point where one could spend an eternity wandering them, and they are constantly shifting and changing according to the will of the Jailer. The deeper one journeys into Torghast, the closer one also gets to the Jailer himself.

To be fair, Torghast is more like a prison rather than a court, so we cannot possibly know whether the mini-set will take place exactly there or somewhere nearby, but it is certain that the Tower of the Damned will play a major role in the upcoming Murder at Castle Nathria Mini-Set.

Now that we have defined the mini-set's location and theme, it is time for us to predict what support each class may receive.

Demon Hunter

Predictions - Relics, Handless.

Starting with Demon Hunter, the Relic archetype is currently proving to be very fun and successful: maybe because the meta shifted towards a favorable environment, maybe because Team 5's buffs were on point, but what's certain is that Artificer Xy'mox wins games. If you've played a fair share of this archetype yourself, you may have noticed that, Sire Denathrius apart, the deck doesn't have access to any particularly efficient form of healing: most of the times, you're just hoping for good Venomous Scorpid/School Teacher Discoveries. With this being said, we wouldn't be surprised to see a fourth Relic to be introduced for Demon Hunter: not only that would be flavorful (do you really expect Denathrius to have only 3 valuable artifacts in his Relic Vault?), but it would also give the archetype more variability.

Relic of Extinction Card Image Relic of Phantasms Card Image Relic of Dimensions Card Image Artificer Xy'mox Card Image

If Relics are successful, the same cannot be said about the other Castle Nathria's Demon Hunter archetype: in fact, the "Handless" Aggro DH that Team 5 tried to push and even buff is yet to leave a mark. Why so? There might be multiple reasons, but we guess that "better alternatives" and "lack of valid support cards" are up there. Let's give fast Demon Hunter strategies some love, shall we?

Dispose of Evidence Card Image Bibliomite Card Image Magnifying Glaive Card Image Kryxis the Voracious Card Image


Predictions - Deathrattle/Big synergy, Treants or Nature.

Druid actually has many archetypes that are currently open for additional support: even if we count out the fringe Choose One cards we have received from time to time, there's plenty of stuff Team 5 could do with Malfurion.

First of all, the Big/Deathrattle synergy from the Murder at Castle Nathria expansion is all but solved: however, considering that cards like Hedge Maze and Death Blossom Whomper highly benefit from the Neutral pool too, there might be no hurry for Team 5 to print immediate support for this archetype. 

Hedge Maze Card Image Death Blossom Whomper Card Image Sesselie of the Fae Court Card Image

Secondly, we were going to say Treants, since Castle Nathria brought us Natural Causes and Plot of Sin, but at the same time we're fairly sure that the "Dew Process" belongs to Druid.

Dew Process' art.

Considering the card's name and pun (Due Process -> Dew Process), we see it as a Nature spell that affects both players equally or that somehow brings one player on par with the other (the Pokemon move Pain Split came up in my mind while thinking about this). It is possible that we're reading into it too much, but at the same time... it is one of this article's goals!


Predictions - none.

As usual, here's the class we weren't able to find anything relevant in terms of predictions. Castle Nathria gave Hunter lots of Infuse synergy, which the class gladly welcomed and successfully exploited to win games.

Frenzied Fangs Card Image Stonebound Gargon Card Image Huntsman Altimor Card Image

We may receive more of this, but at the same time Team 5 may also want to add a fourth Wildseed to the pool: who knows, maybe one with a 4-turns cooldown and that generates a strong swing (Charge?), although it doesn't seem that likely to us.

Despite not having any strong predictions for Hunter, we have something else for you. Last week, the Twitter account of Hearthstone posted a series of pictures hinting at the fact that Sire Denathrius is still alive and showcasing Murloc Holmes' progresses in its investigation. Regarding the latter, here's a particular pic we want you to focus your attention on.


As you can see, Murloc Holmes is standing next to a wall cluttered with photos of the Castle Nathria suspects. All the suspects portrayed are represented by their in-game art, all but one: Ara'lon only has its silhouette - is the totally innocent Ara'lon the mystery culprit? Is he going to be put on trial in Torghast? Is there someone else behind this not-so-well-done murder? Beats us, but at this point we're quite sure that (at least from the narration's point of view) Hunter will play a significant role in the mini-set.


Predictions - Secrets.

Spooky Scary Skeleton Mage has been one of the most popular and successful archetypes of the first half of the Murder at Castle Nathria expansion cycle: a totally unique mechanic, infused (pun intended) with WoW's lore and very fun to play, which exceeded most players' expectations regarding its power level. We think Team 5 did a great job with this archetype, and that it's likely that Mage's mini-set will not be centered around an already well-established build.

Vengeful Visage Card Image Chatty Bartender Card Image Orion, Mansion Manager Card Image

Speaking of well-established archetypes, we cannot say the same about Secret Mage: although the situation isn't as grim as for another class we'll talk about later, this deck needs another card or two to fill the curve and have a shot in the competitive environment. We're not sure whether we'd want more Secrets or more Secret-synergistic cards, but we're confident that we'll receive something in this regard.


Predictions - Pure, Silver Hand Recruit.

Together with Warrior, Paladin is one of the least successful classes since Murder at Castle Nathria launched: although Team 5 tried to tune things with multiple buffs (Promotion, Alliance Bannerman, The Countess' Legendary invitation,...), the situation hasn't changed even a bit - if we want Paladin to be good again, we necessarily need new cards.

We expect Paladin's mini-set to bring support to both Dude and Pure builds. Starting with the latter, not only Pure Paladin is one of the community's most appreciated archetypes over the course of the entire Hearthstone's history, but it is also a very unique and flavorful playstyle: give up on a large portion of your collection to have access to powerful effects!

However, things didn't go particularly well this time around: for as much as The Countess is fun to play (0-mana Legendary minions are sweet and you can generate some pretty silly combos from time to time), it isn't nearly enough of a valid reason for you to give up the likes of Wild Pyromancer, Blademaster Samuro, Brann Bronzebeard and so on - to be fair, Queen Azshara's Horn of Ancients does pretty much the same thing, but it's faster, cheaper and with much less for you to sacrifice.

Muckborn Servant Card Image Service Bell Card Image Elitist Snob Card Image The Countess Card Image

We strongly believe that, in order to be better, Pure Paladin mainly needs two things. The first is more reasons to give up on all the Neutral cards: The Countess alone won't suffice, so give us another payoff card! It doesn't need to be a top-end flashy finisher, as a mid-game rewards like Lightforged Zealot was back in the day may actually be the way to go.

Secondly, Paladin needs a larger class card pool to choose 30 cards from: if we want a Neutral-less deck to be stronger, we need to give Uther more and better quality stuff, so that Paladin will have access to multiple valid choices and will not be forced to rise and fall based on how single cards line up against the rest of the field.

Moreover, we suspect that Dude Paladin will receive some attention as well: in particular, Jury Duty, from both the artwork and the flavor's points of view, really look like a card what could fit into that deck!

Jury Duty's art. Notice the (very familiar) outfit of the three characters in the middle.


Predictions - Thief, Shadow

With Bless/Buff Priest being one of the strongest archetypes in the current Standard format, we expect Team 5 to focus their attention towards other class archetypes that deserve some love. In particular, we're looking at the Shadow and Thief builds.

Starting with Thief Priest, this strategy saw very little play in Standard, mainly due to the limited tools available to it: you don't have many ways to generate copies of your opponent's cards and even less payoffs to do so, so it is reasonable for players to jam something different on ladder - in the end, if you want to experience cross-class shenanigans, Burgle Rogue seems to be the superior choice right now.

Shadowcloth Needle Card Image Identity Theft Card Image The Harvester of Envy Card Image

Same goes with Shadow Priest: introduced more than a year ago in United in Stormwind with Darkbishop Benedictus, this archetype hasn't received valid support in a long while - Sunken City only had Drown and Whispers of the Deep, while Castle Nathria added just Identity Theft, which is good but not enough to carry an entire deck on its shoulders.

What's even more interesting is that Team 5, during the early Sunken City expansion cycle, buffed Priest's Shadowcloth Needle to 1 mana, hinting at upcoming support for the Shadow archetype, only for it to never come: will the upcoming mini-set be the right occasion? Only time will tell, but in the meantime we can speculate that Life Sentence might be that one piece we're looking for.

Life Sentence's art. Considering what it represents, we wouldn't be surprised to see it revealed as a Priest Shadow spell.


Predictions - Secrets

Now, take the reasoning we made for Mage and multiply it tenfold: while Jaina has some leftover Secret synergy from the Year of the Gryphon and the Core set, the same can't be said about Rogue, which saw its entire Secret package go to Wild with April's rotation - right now, the only Secret-related stuff Valeera has at disposal is the one printed in Murder at Castle Nathria, which is indicative on how poorly supported the archetype is.

Sticky Situation Card Image Ghastly Gravedigger Card Image Private Eye Card Image Halkias Card Image

It's not like these Rogue Secret cards are bad: to be fair, they aren't at all, but they just lack in the quantity department! We see the upcoming mini-set as the perfect scenario for Team 5 to change this situation.

Maybe, one of Rogue's three cards is going to be Murder Accusation. You know how it works: the Rogue is always getting blamed!

Murder Accusation's art. This is by far the prediction we're the most hesitant about, as the only real link is that Ghosts fit into Rogue's flavor and the class already makes use of them with Sinstone Graveyard.


Predictions - Spell School synergy, Evolve.

With Totem Shaman seeing decent amount of success, especially in Wild, we think that Team 5 will focus on improving at least one between two already existing Shaman archetypes: the Evolve one, pushed once again with the Castle Nathria set, and the Spell School one, promoted during Sunken City.

Starting with the first one, Castle Nathria brought Evolve Shaman back on the menu after this archetype being absent for a long long time (Ashes of Outland with Boggspine Knuckles): although this deck has seen decent experimentation, especially for the Goldshire Gnoll-Muck Pools highrolls, it wasn't able to survive the first few weeks of the expansion cycle. We're more than aware that the Evolve mechanic can be very frustrating to play against if it's particularly consistent or prevalent, but we expect Team 5 to give this strategy another card or two, just for Shaman to have another weapon at disposal.

Convincing Disguise Card Image Muck Pools Card Image Primordial Wave Card Image Baroness Vashj Card Image

Secondly, a very large portion of the Voyage to the Sunken City Shaman cards were focused on multi-Spell Schools synergies: Radiance of Azshara, Wrathspine Enchanter, Coral Keeper and Azsharan Scroll were all designed for you to build your deck around more than a single Spell School. While all these cards looked very promising, they've seen almost no play in the last 6 months: Shaman doesn't have many mid-game spells to synergize with the likes of Coral Keeper, and you cannot really think about running Wrathspine Enchanter with Scalding Geyser being your best Fire spell (yes, there's Don't Stand in the Fire! too). Let's change that.

Azsharan Scroll Card Image Radiance of Azshara Card Image Coral Keeper Card Image Wrathspine Enchanter Card Image


Predictions - Discard, Shadow.

While Imp Warlock has shown very good results in the first half of the Murder at Castle Nathria expansions cycle, the same cannot be remotely said about the other two archetypes promoted for the class: neither Shadow nor Discard Warlock had enough card quality and density to even see forms of experimentation, let alone competitive play.

Starting with the former, both Tome Tampering and Suffocating Shadows look good on paper: the first one is currently seeing play in Mecha'thun OTK decks, while the second one... from my personal experience, I have never seen it being played. If you open your collection and take a look at all the Discard synergy that Standard can currently offer, you'll notice that it's only reasonable for these two spells to not have seen any play so far, and why printing them without the intention to support them with future card releases?

Suffocating Shadows Card Image Tome Tampering Card Image Lady Darkvein Card Image Shadow Waltz Card Image

Pretty much the same reasoning can be done for Shadow Warlock: although Lady Darkvein and Shadow Waltz are quite good cards in a vacuum, you cannot possibly expect to build your entire deck around a 3-card package that is barely enough to seal away aggression from your opponents. We fear that Shadow Warlock will go down the same path that Fractured in Alterac Valley's Fel Warlock was forced down to, so we really hope Team 5 will prove us wrong. Maybe, just maybe, Habeas Corpses will be the Warlock Shadow spell we're talking about (kind of sure it's a Warlock card, considering all the purple and the fact that there's a fricking Demon in the middle of the art!).

Habeas Corpses' art.

As a final thought, 3 class cards are probably not enough for Team 5 to support both these archetypes, so there's the possibility that the devs will decide to push one and leave the other waiting for December's expansion - not the most intriguing solution, but definitely the most rational one.


Predictions - Card draw, Big synergy.

One of the reasons why Enrage Warrior wasn't able to succeed was the archetype's lack of card draw: if you take away the usual and not particularly great Outrider's Axe-Forged in Flame combo, Garrosh has no good way to avoid running out of cards after the first few turns of the game. In order for an aggressive and board focused strategy like Enrage Warrior is to be strong, you need to be able to maintain a certain level of pressure for a while: if all it takes for you to fall apart is a couple removals from your opponents, then you're definitely missing something.

Conqueror's Banner Card Image Outrider's Axe Card Image Decimator Olgra Card Image

Speaking of card draw, Conqueror's Banner may look like a good deal on paper, but in practice it's absolutely terrible when you include it in a low curve deck: this spell is meant to be paired with expensive cards in a "Big" deck. This archetype, which hasn't seen class support in a while (last time was United in Stormwind with Cowardly Grunt and Lothar, wasn't it?), is in Enrage Warrior's exact opposite situation: it has the card draw to maintain its consistency, but it lacks the tools to create that level of "unfairness" that is needed for a deck to be remotely viable. Commencement-types of cards may be on the way for Garrosh.

What do you think about these predictions? Are there any archetypes you'd like to see pushed in the upcoming mini-set? Let us know in the comments below.