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MoxReuby Tuesday: Defeating Heroic Blackrock, Part I

Blackrock

Been away for a while, so it’s a long article this week. Hope you brought snacks!

Blackrock Mountain holds a special place in the hearts of World of Warcraft players. It’s massive in size, contains many different challenges and bosses, and also holds several of the game’s most iconic characters. So it only makes sense that Hearthstone (a game with the subtitle “Heroes of Warcraft”) would make a Solo Adventure exploring the deep reaches of Blackrock.

In this article, I’ll go over how I managed to venture deep into the Mountain to defeat the first nine Heroic Blackrock Mountain bosses and how I did it.

A few weeks ago, the first wing of the Blackrock Mountain Solo Adventure opened: Blackrock Depths. The three “boss fights” were interesting, but not particularly difficult. This isn’t surprising; it’s the first level of the Adventure. And the very first Mini-Boss you come across was basically a pushover.

Blackrock Depths Boss 1: Coren Direbrew

The Grim Guzzler is the first agitated dwarf you run into upon entering Blackrock.

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The Grim Guzzler is a big fan of cheating things into play, with the 0-cost hero ability “put two minions from your deck and one from your opponent’s into the battlefield.” This poses an interesting dichotomy of wanting to put things into your deck… and never wanting to draw them! It’s a feeling that those who play decks with Mad Scientist know all too well, wanting to keep their secrets in their decks and not in their hands.

Speaking of decks with Mad Scientist and secrets, If you’re going into a Solo Adventure blind, with no knowledge of exactly how to beat the boss or what the decks contain, you can certainly do worse than start out with Freeze Mage. That’s exactly what I did in this challenge: I brought in the version of Freeze Mage that I would use on the Ladder and nearly beat this boss on the first try! I altered the deck a bit, adding Mind Control Techs and a few giant fatties instead of things like Ice Lance, and in my first game with this new version Coren Direbrew, aka The Grim Guzzler, succumbed to my many board sweepers and freeze effects.

In the game that I won, Sneed’s Old Shredder piloted its way onto the battlefield on turn 6 thanks to The Grim Guzzler’s hero power, and even a Brawl with Dark Iron Brawler in play (a 4/8 minion exclusive to this challenge with the text “Always wins Brawls”) couldn’t save him from a final Fireball. The Elite Tauren Chieftain guitar riff was a nice touch to a fairly flawless victory.

This matchup felt a little RNG-dependent, but it also felt new and fresh each time I played it as a result.

I really appreciate what this challenge was trying to achieve. It encourages players to overload their decks with big giant idiots, and those cards are the most fun type in Hearthstone anyway. Unfortunately, it’s just so easy to ignore all of the things your opponent is trying to do when you come equipt with Freeze Mage. And so I traveled deeper into Blackrock.

Blackrock Depths Boss 2: High Justice Grimstone

The Dark Iron Arena was next on the hit list.

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In the Dark Iron Arena, the roar of the crowd comes in the form of a 0-cost hero ability “Summon a 1/1 Spectator with Taunt.” But these spectators are all in on the action fighting alongside their favorite fighters, making much more sense of the literal usage of the word Taunt.

This one was certainly a little trickier. The fifteen armor and constant pressure, plus the mana crystal disadvantage, was tough to fight through as Freeze Mage. Priest was my next attempt, and it worked well. Unfortunately, the one-of nature of all of the legendary minions means that some games you just lose based on which legends decide to show up to the Arena that day. It took several attempts, but eventually I emerged victorious thanks to a relatively slow start from the High Justice, who only played 2-cost legends before his third or fourth turn, a lucky Mind Control Tech stealing a freshly cast Gruul, and a Mind Vision that netted al’Akir the Windlord. Not only did the Al’Akir deal lethal damage, but knowing that the computer had the charge minion meant I could play around the burst damage.

Mind Control Tech is one of the allstars of class challenges. I find that I use it in a very high percentage of my Solo Adventure decks. A few other cards also often come on down, but MC-Tech is probably the most used of the cards that typically don’t see tournament or ladder play.

This challenge is exactly the kind of fun, flavorful, and exciting thing I expect from a Solo Adventure. Lots of big splashy plays, a fun atmosphere with the announcer introducing each and every legendary minion, and a fun puzzle on just how to overcome the mana crystal disadvantage.

Blackrock Depths Boss 3: Emperor Thaurissan

Deeper we delve, and we come across the leader of the Dark Iron Clan.

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Dagran Thaurissan isn’t your only enemy in this battle, as his wife Moira begins in play as a 3/1 that puts the intruding hero under immediate pressure. And should she die, Thaurissan becomes enraged, allowing his hero power of “deal 30 damage” to become unlocked. Seeing as you start at 30 health, killing Moira will most likely cause you immediate and painful death.

Thaurissan’s deck doesn’t really play fair on that front. Death’s Bite, Unstable Ghoul, and Abomination all make an appearance, making it a battle on two fronts: try to kill the Emperor without killing, silencing, or taking control of Moira. The class best equipped to handle this is Priest, thanks to Power Word: Shield. Crazed Alchemist is also crucial, and is the way that I beat this challenge by immediately turning Moira into a 1/3.

But it’s not like Thaurissan only has a 3/1 and some ways to “accidentally” kill her: he also control Fire Elementals Axe Flingers, Imp Gang Bosses, and more tough to deal with minions. Having solid answers like Holy Fire and Cabal Shadow Priest to these also tips the balance in favor of a controlling Priest strategy. This boss took a few games to get the spells in the right order, but once a good mixture came along the Dwarflord was taken down in short order.

Interesting side note: The built-in A.I. prefers you to knock out both Moira and Thaurissan, and will give you a different emote based on if you take down the 3/1 by the end of the game or not.

And thus endeth Blackrock Depths! But we’ve only just begun…

Molten Core Boss 1: Garr

The dwarves pretend to be under their own rule, but we all know Ragnaros is the real King Under The Mountain. Garr the Lava Elemental doesn’t make any pretense about this. He knows who’s boss.

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Garr has Magma Pulse as his (her? it?) hero ability, a 1-cost “deal 1 damage to all minions.” Seems a little underpowered, until you see that he begins play with not one, not two, but the full complement of seven Firesworns. Each Firesworn is 0/5 that has “Deathrattle: deal 3 damage to the enemy hero for each Firesworn that died this turn.” so if each Firesworn dies at the same time, that’s 3x7x7=147 damage to your face on turn 5. None to friendly!

Unless you have Mass Dispel. I beat this challenge in very short order by basically only casting Mass Dispel. That was boring. So let’s try without Mass Dispel.

The goal without silence effects for Heroic Garr is to have the Firesworns die on different turns. Incidentally, Priest was still the way to go. Solo Adventure allstar Mind Control Tech makes a return to the lineup, and it’s the second straight appearance for Crazed Alchemist. But the real MVP of this challenge is Light of the Naaru. Combined with Circle of Healing, Darkscale Healer, or Holy Nova, you can very quickly get an extremely large Lightwarden to put the game away before the Firesworns can chip away at your life total.

And that’s exactly what happened in the game I won. Survive long enough, and you can make your Lightwarden basically one-shot Garr back to the pits.

This challenge is awesome. Except that it’s just ruined by Mass Dispel. Hopefully they make it so Mass Dispel gets countered or has no effect or whatever in a future update, like they did for Doomsayer in The Four Horsemen challenge from Naxxramas. Because this puzzle is sweet. It’s just the cheat code to beat it is pretty obvious and ruins an otherwise neato challenge.

Molten Core Boss 2: Baron Geddon

Baron Geddon once served at Ragnaros’ right hand, and is one of the most powerful elementals. And he has no time for your insolence: for the low cost of zero mana, he deals you 10 damage… if you have any unspent mana crystals.

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My very first thought was to play basically a generic Demon-ish Zoo-ish kind of deck, leaning on the hero power to draw more cards and never run low on mana while applying quick pressure and also having a sort of escape vale in Mal’Ganis in case some unspent mana sneaks through. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out perfectly, as starting on turn five or six I still ran out of mana while also being at a low life total. What is a hero to do?

How about another round?

I quickly figured out that I could loop Youthful Brewmaster and Ancient Brewmaster to make sure I never had any unspent mana crystals ad infinitum, even after turn ten. This, in addition to the quick damage output and raw power of the Demonlock shell, allowed me to dispatch of the big bad Baron pretty darn quick.

This one was kind of disappointing in my opinion. I very quickly figured out the puzzle, and I don’t think it was a particularly interesting one. And since Geddon is such a looming figure in Hearthstone lore, I expected better. But maybe I’m just jaded. In any case, it’s time to face the big boss…

Molten Core Boss 3: Majordomo Executus

Now at Ragnaros’ first lieutenant position sits Majordomo Executus, an uberpowerful Flamewaker who probably doesn’t get along too well with Baron Geddon. In the WoW raid, once you defeat Executus, Ragnaros comes out to play. Similarly, in this challenge, once you fight through Majordomo, his 15 armor, his 30 health, and his hero power that summons 3/3 Flamewaker Acolytes for 2 mana you will face Ragnaros, who not only resets to 15 health and 15 armor, but also gains the Ragnaros hero power: “Deal 8 damage to a random enemy. Twice.” Not very nice!

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Most minions catch on fire relatively easily. Fortunately, some don’t, and some are more useful when crispy than when untouched. Divine Shield minions in particular are excellent for this fight, being able to take a lickin’ early against 3/3s and then late as well against Ragnaros’ hero power. Token makers like Violet Teacher and Haunted Creeper are also good for soaking up some of the Firelord damage.

This encounter is pretty slow at first, with Majordomo leaning on his 3/3s until the midgame. This is because most of the cards held in hand are Molten Giants, waiting to be deployed all at once on the same turn. The non-Giant threats are still relatively slow: Fire Elemental and Fireguard Destroyer being the chief among them. So a slow Ramp Druid strategy was perfect to capitalize on this apparent weakness with Majordomo’s strategy.

One of the keys to this fight is not allowing Majordomo to deploy multiple Molten Giants at once. So it’s significantly better to get Executus down to about 17 or so rather than 10 or 12, since killing Majordomo is not the end of the encounter.

The Starfall-Poison Seeds combo is a good way to clear out big minions if you find yourself facing down some beef you aren’t otherwise well equipped to battle with, and combos particularly nicely with Violet Teacher.

This one was tricky, and super flavorful as well. I think this battle really well encapsulated the WoW experience, and I was thoroughly entertained. Now if only the Hearthstone card version of Majordomo Executus wasn’t just horribly bad!

Blackrock Spire Boss 1: Highlord Omokk

Ogres don’t have particularly good aim, and the Highlord of the Stonespire Clan Omokk is no different. But at 0-mana, “destroy a random enemy minion” is no less brutally effective.

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Well, if they’re going to die anyway, might as well get something on the way out, am I right? Basically a deathrattle Hunter deck,every minion in the deck is what’s called “sticky,” leaving behind something after its left play. I have to say that the 1-of Snake Trap was particularly useful, shutting down the hero power for a couple of turns by turning the hero power into “destroy a 1/1” for two full turns.

I was particularly happy I could use two of my favorite minions for this battle: Feugen and Stalagg. While I never got the big payoff of big daddy Thaddius, the 7-attack on Feugen was more than enough to put the game away. Again, nothing super fancy, and not super difficult either. This challenge did involve racing damage, which is a nice change of pace from the usual glacially slow control matchups, but damage racing when your opponent’s minions often attack the wrong target is much easier than usual.

Blackrock Spire Boss 2: General Drakkisath

Drakkisath has a passive hero power that reads: “All cards cost (1). You are capped at 2 mana crystals, and your opponent at 1.” So good news-bad news time: You get to cast big giant things for basically free! The bad news is your opponent, the Dragonspawn ruler of the armies of Nefarian, does too. And twice as many of them.

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Any deck you build for this challenge will look totally bizarre because you are encouraged to throw mana restrictions out the window. Basically toss as many legendaries and powerful minions into your deck as you can, and fill in the blank spots with a smattering of ways to deal with opposing fatties.

Normal-mode Drakkisath is an even battle on mana, meaning with careful play you can come out on top with a fairly standard list of minions that trade favorably if you can survive a Twisting Nether or two. But on Heroic, Drakkisath has access to Sprint, Drakkisath’s Command, and Kidnapper. All of these are cards that interact favorably when you have access to two spells per turn, and its significantly more difficult. Additionally, the tricky dragon added Mindgames to anticipate the opposition adding a bajillion giant minions to their decks.

Priest was the way I went because of Mind Control. Both Lightbomb and Shadow Word: Death were effects that I also valued highly, so it was a relatively easy choice. I may have cheated a little bit when I included Rend Blackhand, but since it was earned in Normal mode it felt only fair to use his particular set of skills.

In the game I won, a Flamestrike simply didn’t clear enough of my board before I was able to knock out the dragon with Dr. Boom and, perhaps ironically based on the storyline, Ragnaros himself. I’m sure the General would have much preferred I didn’t use his sworn enemy to win this challenge, but there you go anyway.

Blackrock Spire Boss 3: Rend Blackhand

“Open the Gates: Summon three 2/2 Whelps. Get a new hero power.” Only 2-cost? What? Okay, well, what does it switch to? “Blackwing: Summon a 5/4 Dragonkin. Get a new hero power.” Also 2-cost? Yikes. “Old Horde: Summon two 2/2 Orcs with Taunt.” Another insane 2-cost? Eeep! Let’s hope there isn’t another one for that cheap…

“Summon Gyth. Get a new hero power.” 4 mana hero power for an 8/4. Okay then.

This is gonna be pretty darn difficult.

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This challenge took me longer to solve than any other. I tried Freeze Mage with Explosive Sheeps to clear out the 2/2s reliably. I tried Warrior with multiple Brawls and a lot of Whirlwind effects. I tried Shaman with Lightning Storm. I tried heavy Taunt Druid with Starfalls. Nothing worked.

The problem was that dealing with the hero power turn after turn simply wasn’t enough to win the game. Blackwing Corruptors handled midgame taunters, Rampage caused nightmares for anything that survived board clears, and The True Warchief, a boss card that reads “Destroy a legendary minion,” only cost 1 mana and made any attempt to use Baron Geddon or Alexstrasza fairly useless.

That led me to Hunter. Explosive Trap dealt nicely with the hero powers that made 2/2s, Hunter’s Mark dealt with larger minions, and the hero power kept applying pressure despite running out of cards. But traditional Hunter wasn’t really working. So I began swapping out cards that weren’t great for ones that has applications at certain points in the game.

And boy did this deck get weird.

Everything in the deck has a purpose and a place, it’s just that it all looks crazy and disjointed. Certainly after I made a screenshot of the deck after the game that I won, which involved barely escaping by the skin of my teeth after a particularly slow start from Rend, the deck looked like the biggest mixup of all time. But it worked!

The first key is you absolutely, positively need Explosive Sheep, Mad Scientist or Explosive Trap on turn 2. Second, be aggressive! You have to put Rend away as soon as you can. The Hunter’s Marks are excellent at keeping you alive while keeping up with the original game plan, thanks to the aforementioned Sheep and Trap, as well as Unleash the Hounds.

I probably played thirty games against Heroic Rend Blackhand before my first win. This is by far the toughest Heroic Solo Adventure challenge I’ve faced, Naxxramas included. And yet, it never felt “too tough.” It never felt like the game was cheating me in any way; I always felt like it was my own fault, my own doing that caused me to lose. And that is spectacular game design. Kudos to the game designers for this masterpiece. Golf clap.

Conclusion (and Stream Update!)

Overall, I prefer Blackrock to Naxx. I think many of the mistakes inherent to messing with the mechanics of the game were fixed, and the game play and storyline holds together better. With that said, some of the old mistakes remain. Overlooking Mass Dispel in the Garr challenge is a huge oversight, and Heroic Baron Geddon was a bit of a letdown as well. But other than those minor gripes, I am thoroughly enjoying my delve into the depths of Blackrock Mountain and I can’t wait for what’s next!

Speaking of what’s next,In two weeks, both Blackwing Lair and The Hidden Laboratory will be released, and I’ll be back with the last of the Blackrock Mountain Solo Adventures. Hopefully by then, I’ll have my brand new stream up and running! For those of you unaware, this here website Comicbooked.com and I have partnered up to bring you live-streamed Hearthstone content! Once I have all of the bells and whistles in place, that will get up and running. I plan to stream Monday-Thursday from 12pm noon to 5pm, Pacific time, once everything gets in place. And once it’s ready, you’ll be the first to know!

Follow me @moxreuby for more updates, and feel free to preemptively follow the stream channel at Twitch.tv/moxreuby. See you soon!

Reuben Bresler

@moxreuby

 

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