Hearthstone, for the uninitiated, is an online trading card game where players battle each other with custom 30 card decks that they can build from a total library of over 1,000 cards. Naturally, some of these cards have a more profound effect on the outcome of any given match (and on any given player’s ability to remain cool and levelheaded) than others. Below I’ve compiled a list of some of the cards that really shake up the game (and that left me with no choice but to use the vast resources of the modern world wide web to lay the lives of those who played them against me to waste).
With his ability to restore your hero to full health, few cards can bring about as many dramatic reversals of Hearthstone fortune as Reno Jackson, and few can so effectively reduce your opponent to a fit of untempered, all-consuming rage. I can attest to the latter, as the last time I encountered Reno, my adversary was only one round shy of a humiliating death via a very well fed Scavenging Hyena. But then, in an instant, he was fully healed, and I had to face the ugly truth that I was fatally overextended. Revenge was to be mine though, as no amount of cheap luck could save LordDraconisKingofDragons from the fact that he had used the same screenname on numerous other online communities, including the TalesFromRetail subreddit, where he was a prolific contributor. It took less than three hours to compile a dossier of his most egregious petty complaints about the customers and coworkers he encountered in his position as an assistant manager at Hobby Lobby, and just another four to comb through posts until I determined his first name and city of residence. Since there is only a single Hobby Lobby store in East Haven, Connecticut, there was no reason to fear my email would fail to reach his superiors. He hasn’t posted of /r/TalesFromRetail since, so I think we can chalk this down as a lesson learned. One shot, one kill.
It’s true that Nozdormu is not a broken card, per se. In fact, there are some that would argue that he is underpowered, or even largely worthless. But such a purely rational assessment of the card’s value fails to take into account the immense psychological toll it can take on an unprepared foe, particularly if they have trouble keeping their cool under pressure or a long history of sudden, paralyzing anxiety attacks that stretches back to their victimization at the hands of their mother’s undiagnosed Munchausen by proxy. In the face of such a combatant, playing Nozdormu can effectively be a game-ending move, even if they are a better player with a superior deck and a more nuanced understanding of the game’s delicate web of complex mechanical interactions, even if they were already winning, god damn it. In a case like this, where your personal history of trauma has been so cruelly exploited just to score an unscrupulous victory in an online trading card game, would it really be wrong to scour Whitepages and Spokeo using clues you pieced together from several different social media profiles until you’ve located the bastard’s home address. And would it really be so wrong to mail him a series of envelopes full of discarded cigarette butts and used hypodermic needles that you scavenged during your many solitary, pre-dawn walks through inner city parks? Of course not.
Not only is Brawl one of Warrior’s most effective mass elimination cards, capable of turning the tide of battle if you’re seriously outnumbered, its intrinsic randomness gives it the potential to be extra infuriating. Imagine, if you will, that your opponent has a board full of minions, each bigger and more vicious than the last, and you have a single, solitary Fierce Monkey. You play Brawl, and even though you cannot see your opponent, even though he is hundreds of miles away, you can feel his rising horror as a cloud of smoke forms in the center of the board his minions are ejected, one by one, until only your monkey remains. Your opponent, of course, concedes immediately. Imagine further that a week later, on your way home from the budget retirement home where you’ve thoughtlessly confined your elderly mother (who deserves more respect than to have you vent endlessly about her growing dementia on AgingCare.com’s Caregiver Forum, by the way) you see those telltale flashing red and blue lights in your rearview. Knowing you have nothing to fear, you pull over. Now imagine the bloodless pallor of your face as the officer discovers a brick of heroin hidden in your trunk, tucked beneath your spare tire. Did he believe you when you told him it wasn’t yours? Yeah, that was me, asshole.
OK, so this entry is not a single card, but rather a particularly nasty combo. I hope you’ll be inclined to forgive me this deviation from the rules I established in the title of this article, given just the batshit synergy these cards posses when used in unison. When chained together (and perhaps augmented by a Gang Up or two) a well timed series of Coldlight Oracles and Shadowsteps can easily shut down your opponent entirely, forcing them to draw more cards then they can hold in their hand and even decking them eventually, all while they slowly suffocate, because they’ve become so completely swallowed up by fury that they’ve forgot to breath and for a moment they know the agony that drowning men feel without ever leaving dry land. What’s more, this dickhead had the good sense to use a generic screenname, and I was afraid that my suffering would have to go unanswered, like my high school girlfriend’s prayers for divine intervention during her brief, fruitless struggle with soft tissue sarcoma. Thankfully, he accepted my friend request. It took me over three months of pretending to be a 19 year old sociology major and amateur ballerina from Bryn Mawr College to accumulate the dick pics, logs of erotic instant messenger conversations, and surreptitiously recorded Skype video chats that I needed. (There was one grueling night spent searching for a camgirl physically similar enough to the faceless nudes I had been sending him, originally collected from the posting history of a particularly active /r/GoneWild floozy.) If only I could have seen his wife’s face when as she discovered that the thumb drive she found in an enveloped tucked beneath her left windshield wiper contained nothing but a file named yourhusbandcheats.zip. I only heard from him once afterward. He sent a text to the Google Voice account that I had set up to serve as “her” number. “She wants a divorce. I’m ready to leave it all behind. Let’s run away together.” Oof.
Not every nasty card has a big, splashy effect. Sometimes the smallest ones can be the most unbearable. Case in point: Annoy-o-tron. Thanks to its divine shield, this little minion is just durable enough to stall aggro decks during the early stages of the game when they need to deal damage quickly and consistently, making it a staple of control-oriented strategies and the reason I punched a four inch diameter hole in the wall directly above my monitor. Nope, I couldn’t let this one stand.
Three days after my encounter with this obnoxious fucker, I parked behind an elementary school in Cedar Rapids and changed into a blue uniform (an old Halloween costume) in the back seat. Inside the school, I told the principal I was a police officer and explained myself after I showed him the badge I had purchased on AlphaBay. (It had belonged to a real cop once, or so the seller promised me.) Her parents were dead. A tragic accident. Drunk driver. Both killed instantly. I needed to take her to the station to wait for their next of kin to arrive. No, don’t tell her anything. Just ask her to come to the office. I would be more sensitive. We were trained to handle situations like these. I don’t think she realized anything was wrong until she saw my car, noticed it wasn’t like the ones in the detective movies she watched with her dad. I told her about unmarked cars, said I didn’t want to scare the other kids, didn’t want them to start gossiping. You show up at a school in a squad car and next thing you know every parent is hearing about how their son or daughter’s least favorite teacher got arrested. She believed me, and we were ten miles away before I realized I didn’t know what I was going to do to her. She was in the passenger seat, staring out the window. How old was she, anyway? Maybe eleven? I wonder if she had been playing on her mom’s account, or if she had lied when the account creation form asked for her birthday. Still, someone should have taught her not to netdeck. I stopped at a playground and let her out. I told her that her parents weren’t dead, but they would wish they were if they knew their daughter played a bullshit mech deck. I drove around for the rest of the day, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave town. I returned to the playground after dusk. Some part of me was hoping the cops would be staking it out. Maybe, I thought, they’ll finally stop me, finally put an end to this cycle of psychological violence. But no one was there. I sat on an empty swing and cried until dawn, then I set out for home. It was a long trip, plenty of time to reflect. I decided I was done. It was time to uninstall Hearthstone. I’ve heard good things about League of Legends.