Hearthstone's 'Best Card Ever' Really Isn't

Since Blizzard's Hearthstone launched in 2014, 1,594 cards have seen the light of day, some incredible, some terrible, and a majority just passing muster as "pretty good." But which is best?

This is the question that Blizzard senior game designer August Dean Ayala set out to answer with a recent series of polls on Twitter, laid out like a March Madness bracket and home to 64 of Hearthstone's greatest cards.

The poll wasn't officially commissioned, but it still received almost 200,000 votes. The way I see it, it is a pretty accurate representation of how the community evaluates card quality.

To spoil things right off the bat: the winner of the contest was the Goblins Vs. Gnomes expansion card Dr. Boom, a 7-mana 7/7 that summoned two 1/1 Boom Bots, each of which would deal damage to the opponent on death.

The card was so legendarily powerful that back in its heyday, people would call him "Dr. 7" because if you had him in-hand on turn 7, the card was so universally good that it'd be the wrong move not to play him.

Let's get one thing straight: Dr. Boom is a really damn good card, and that mostly has to do with how powerful it can be just on its own. Unlike many of the other top cards on Ayala's bracket, you could run Dr. Boom in pretty much any deck and he'd be powerful enough to turn a game on its head. But Hearthstone has changed a lot since its early days, and an independently-powerful card is no longer all that impressive.

Instead, by building your deck with cards that synergise well, you can create powerful plays that greatly outshine Dr. Boom.

Take Spiteful Summoner, a 6-mana 4/4 that reveals a spell in your deck and summons a random minion with its same cost. In today's metagame, people are using Spiteful Summoner in decks that run only 10-mana spells so that on turn 6 you essentially get a 4/4 and a 10-mana minion in one fell swoop.

Unlike Dr. Boom, Spiteful Summoner works best if you're running it in a very specific deck (the card would just be ok if you were running cheaper spells), but at 6 mana, it's almost undeniably stronger than Dr. Boom ever was.

For that reason, prominent figures in the scene took to Ayala's "Best card ever" thread to express how much they disagreed with Dr. Boom's reigning spot. Some, like Petr "CzechCloud" Žalud, say that Dr. Boom is "not even in TOP100 strongest cards" available in the game today.

Others, like Paul "Zalae" Nemeth, took the chance to re-emphasise the power of strong early-game cards that can snowball into big leads, which seem to have been overlooked in favour of flashy late-game showstoppers.

"I need to do my part to repeat that more until more people understand it," Zalae said.

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and agree with Zalae and CzechCloud: Dr. Boom is far from the best Hearthstone card ever printed. Sure, it was probably one of the strongest options at the time of its release, although if that's the criteria, cards like Piloted Shredder, Sludge Belcher, and Shielded Minibot would surely give it a run for its money.

But if we're talking Best Card Ever, then it shouldn't even stand a chance.

That said, I do appreciate Dr. Boom's firm standing in the hallowed halls of Hearthstone mythology. In some ways, he represents a different version of Hearthstone - a version where decks could flourish by simply running the best cards in the set; where a card's value didn't hinge on figuring out powerful synergies.

Even if he was never as good as a puny, sticky 2-mana card like Shielded Minibot, the Doc was always flashier. His card text was vague enough to inspire fear in every new opponent he faced.

He snickered maniacally when he hit the board. He put every one of his 7-mana contemporaries to shame.

In some ways, Dr. Boom is the closest analogue Hearthstone has to an American Dream; he was the rugged individual that lifted himself up by the bootstraps and didn't need "the rest of the deck" to shake things up.

For that reason, he's a worthy poster child for every OP card released thereafter, even if he's totally unplayable today.


    Is this like the poles Kotaku does of the "top 10 insert what ever here" then the comments get blown up because Kotaku didn't put the readers favorite "xxx" in the pole?

    it was probably one of the strongest options at the time of its release, although if that's the criteria

    That is the criteria. "Vote based on power level relative to other cards available at the time." Most of the complaints ignore this critical detail.

    Dr. Boom is far from the best Hearthstone card ever printed. Sure, it was probably one of the strongest options at the time of its release, although if that's the criteria, cards like Piloted Shredder, Sludge Belcher, and Shielded Minibot would surely give it a run for its money.

    Spiteful Summoner was in the list, it was eliminated in round 1 to Shielded Minibot, which itself was beaten by Sunkeeper Tarim. Piloted Shredder lost in round 3 to Loatheb. Sludge Belcher was beaten by Dr Boom in round 2.

    It's fine to disagree of course, out of the list available I would have rated Tarim or Thaurissan to win, but these were the results of user votes. So it's not "gee they got it wrong, Boom definitely isn't the best", it's "the majority of people who voted have a different opinion to me".

      At least someone was paying attention. 'Best card ever... relative to it's peers at the time' is an important distinction. Without it, power creep means that no older cards would even be close to being in the running.

      Dr. 7 was so strong that it was almost a must-play in any deck. Maybe it isn't strong now, but at the time it was far stronger than any other card and as such deserves the top spot.

      strongest option at the time you say?

      Clear winner is Unleash The Hounds then.
      1 mana - Give your beasts +1 attack and charge

      Remembering that at the time Starving Buzzard was 2 mana.

        I imagine beta isn't included because the cards were necessarily in flux at the time. Some of the others you list are multiple card combos as well, eg. 'this is most powerful if it's combined with these other cards' but that's not what the ladder was for. Things like Grim Guzzler really didn't stand out on their own, they had to be combined with something like Whirlwind to pose any meaningful threat. Leeroy on his own was mediocre unless used as a finishing move. Edwin was on the ladder, no picture of the cards were shown so people voted on them however they interpreted it I suppose - he lost to Azure Drake.

        Of course, this was a single elimination ladder, they can't include every card ever released. It was also just for a bit of fun, not super serious push-glasses-up-nose 'well actually' analysis of why everyone's wrong.

    Unleash the hounds in beta.

    Pre-nerf Edwin (started 1/1 but had stealth)

    8 mana mind control

    4 mana leeroy


    So many options that weren't even in the starting bracket...

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