Very recently, Hex Entertainment has made an announcement that should please pretty much every single Hex player. The release of set 5 WILL contain a rotation of all 20 currently available gems—and additionally this will split constructed in to two different formats: Immortal, and Standard. (Hopefully, this also means we can expect a casual “Chapter” format as well, which only involves using cards from the most recent chapter of sets.) The original post can be found here.
This means quite a few things for the metagame, the two most obvious and notable being the removal of the Minor Wild Orb of Bullsh- erm… Conservation(spellshield), and the removal of the slightly less impactful (at least recently) Major Ruby of Destruction (direct damage). With spellshield less accessible to the Green-Eyes Doom Rabbit known as Rune Ear Hierophant, he’s finally going to see less play… Not be removed from play entirely mind you, but certainly not as strong of a metagame pillar as he is now. At least, in Standard play.
With Wild finally having a little more lenience in the 3-drop slot it’s about time to talk about everyone’s favourite elven artisan: Artisanal Cheesesmythe. Currently this fine gouda-slicing brie-fermenting troop usually finds its way on to the reserves list or is stuck in a collection entirely due to the fact that the big bad rabbit just has more impact on the game board in the short term, and games are being played relatively quickly. With an incredibly large horde of removal options opening up to deal with the illustrious lagomorph, the 3-drop slot will probably see a shift towards the card-advantage-gaining, board-stalling, swiss-slinging elven mage.
What exactly makes the Atrisanal Cheesesmythe so good, you might ask? Well, if you were paying attention to the last sentence, you’ll have already guessed the most of it: every single time your turn begins while a Cheesesmythe remains on your board you’ll be given a free cheese card to put in to your hand. This generates a fair deal of card advantage, despite the fact that all three of the cheeses are fairly expensive for their effects. Secondly, you’ll have a LETHAL troop on your board. I can’t speak for what we’ll have when set 5-drops yet lacking a full spoiler, but currently there are twelve troops in the game that have the word “lethal” on them… seven that actually have the ability non-conditionally. This makes it one of the most rare troop keywords, and it’s very powerful. Rarely will someone want to swing in with their own impactful troops when you’ve got a card on your board that will trade with it almost unconditionally. Heck, in the current meta you can already see people holding back their Rune Ear Hierophants to avoid a cheesy death, and it’s a very large contributing factor to the flight-based champions players are using to elevate their bunnies to the skies.
So what kind of card advantage are you really getting? Well. You can assume to have a 33.33% chance to generate one of three cheeses, all of which have a place in the game, but one of which is practically a ringer.
Dragon Valley Brie
The first cheese we’ll talk about is a brieze to describe: a 4-cost constant that generates 1 point of health for your champion at the start of every one of your turns. A simple, elegant cheese that serves a few purposes in a game. While there aren’t a whole lot of health-gain synergy cards (such as Feralroot Archdruid, Mesa Totemist, Chlorosaur, and Paladin of the Necropolis) being played in the current constructed meta, that doesn’t mean this card is weak. If you gain even 2-4 health from a single Brie you can extend a game a turn or two and gain another draw phase, which can be the difference between coming back in to the game and falling out of it entirely. Additionally, at a maximum cost of 4, this constant can find its way to the board pretty easily when you’re otherwise out of cards to play.
This hulking curd of prey costs a mighty 10, and is the only cheese that actually has a higher threshold than the Cheesesmythe. While a 7/5 crush, steadfast troop doesn’t exactly inspire a whole lot of confidence as far as its cost goes, it’s important to realize that this troop comes in to your hand free. You’re playing Wild with your cheese, and presumably have access to bonus resources of some sort, either from Chlorophylia, Howling Brave or other sources of ramp. Entering your hand triggers the effect of Primordial Caves as well, which gives you a free dinosaur troop on the field… Not too bad of a combo considering you’re now generating double advantage on 33.33% of your turns.
Kraken Barrel Cheddar
Now for the all-star of the cheese world, which will never leave you feeling blue. Just when you thought your Cheesesmythe couldn’t get any feta, here comes an obnoxiously powerful action that costs just a bit too much to normally put in to your deck. At basic speed, you can put a card in ANY crypt in to your hand. This might take a moment to sink in, but this is the most powerful cheese in the line-up by a fair margin and you should always be happy to see it slide into your hand. So someone killed your Cheesesmythe earlier in the game and you’re wishing it was back on the board? Well then! Just scoop him up with this finely aged cheddar and replay him! Opponent buried off your win condition cards? Bring ’em back! Opponent has a Crocosaur in their crypt you want to play next turn? YOINK. Your own Kagulichu charge power didn’t grab your Extinction like you’d hoped? Back up plan! Sure, you’d never include this card in your main 60 at six resources—it’s just far too much… But when it’s a card an already powerful troop is generating for free, it’s hard to ignore… Also, does it always have to cost six?
So finally we get to the important part, and the Cheesesmythe’s final ability… which is to ferment the cheeses already in your hand. Every time your Smythe deals damage to an opponent, every cheese card in your hand (regardless of which Smythe originally put it there) reduces in cost by 1. This can turn some of those over-costed Kraken Barrels and hard-to-squeeze out Cheese Goliaths into earlier plays—and your opponent is going to have a harder time blocking than normal because you have that fancy little lethal stuck on. Worst case scenario, your opponent makes a trade that you were offering up and loses a troop to clear the way for the rest of your Wild horde.
While I don’t think anyone was ever doubting the Cheesesmythe’s power, it’s the first card that comes to mind to benefit from the removal of the Spellshield gem. Will its playability really see that much of an increase? Well… I guess time will tell. But my guess is that this Primal Dawn rare is going to see a price hike and a major play increase in the Standard format, instead of staying forever provalone in your collection.