As an Arena main, I can say I have a wider palette of cards played than a person who plays Constructed all the time. The nature of an Arena draft forces me to play bad cards commonly and try to make things work with uncompatible cards. Recently, I had good success with a draft where I had Booty Bay Bodyguard. Of course, Booty Bay Bodyguard is known as a victim of power creep, when Evil Heckler came aboard as 1 mana cheaper. There is literally no advantage Booty Bay Bodyguard has. That got me thinking about stat points, and what they really tell about card value.
Vanilla minions as the baseline
At the bare bones, every minion consists of mana cost, attack, and health. Mana costs 0-10 (giants aside), attack goes from 0-infinity, and health has to be at least 1. If you think about vanilla minions, ones that have no card text in their assigned box, these guys have to have the right number of stat points to be worth anything at all. They must have the right amount of attack + health to be worth playing.
The easiest vanilla minions that come to mind are Chillwind Yeti and River Crocolisk. Yeti is a 4 mana 4/5, while River Croc is a 2 mana 2/3. Sum it up, and you see that a 4 mana card should have 9 attack + health, and a 2 mana card should have 5 attack + health. GvG brought the 3 mana benchmark in Spider Tank, and TGT brought the 5 mana benchmark in Pit Fighter. With more and more vanilla cards released, we get a sense of how many stat points a minion should conceivably have at the assigned mana cost.
There are a few hiccups to this table to prevent it from being parallel. Murloc Raider is the only vanilla 1-drop, but many 1-drops have a 2/1 distribution with an additional ability, making Murloc Raider substandard. The one drop should have 3 stat points + an ability. There is also no vanilla 9-drop. Judging from stat points, the first vanilla 9-drop should have something between 17-19 stat points, I put it at 18 as an assumption. The stat points typically jump by 2’s for each mana increase, with an exception from 6 to 7, as War Golem represents a slight dampening.
I have a spreadsheet of all the cards, which I use to do math sometimes. Interested in the “real cost” of abilities, I added up the stat points of all the minions and subtracted their value from the baseline numbers above. For example, a 2 mana 2/2 Kobold Geomancer would be 4 – 5, giving a -1 value. This means that Kobold Geomancer is 1 stat point off the baseline value of 5, meaning the spellpower was worth 1 stat point. I called this value “differential.”
From the Stata output, I got 594 minions (excluding Molten Giant, Mountain Giant, Clockwork Giant) and the average differential on a minion is -1.48, with a 1.97 standard deviation. Using the crude 68-95-99.7 rule, I tried to figure out which cards were significantly under-stated and which were significantly over-stated. Basically, under-stated cards were -6 and below, while over-stated cards were +3 and above, using this definition.
Anyone still awake?
- Blade of C’Thun (-10)
- 10 stat points down, Blade brings a free Assassinate ability and powers up C’Thun. So a 5 mana refund seems to be worth the -10.
- Al’Akir the Windlord (-8)
- Al’Akir is known for stuffing up the card text, with Windfury, Charge, Divine Shield, Taunt. I’m going to get more into detail about the respective costs of these abilities later, but let’s just say they are all worth the -8.
- Acidmaw (-8)
- For those confused, Acidmaw is the 7 mana 4/2 that gives every minion poison. While you can setup sexy combos to clear boards, this is likely not worth the -8, given Acidmaw will likely die the next turn.
- Aviana (-8)
- Aviana has a really strong ability to make minions cost 1. So you can conceivably play a 10 mana thumper the same turn. That seems to be worth the -8.
- C’Thun (-8)
- C’Thun really isn’t a 6/6, so he gets a mulligan here.
- Corrupted Seer (-8)
- Corrupted Seer is essentially a River Croc + Consecration, so that is just worth the 6 mana and the -8.
- N’Zoth the Corruptor (-8)
- N’Zoth has a really strong ability, so bringing back a 4/4 deathrattle will refund the -8.
- Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End (-8)
- Another under-stated Old God, who will get a mulligan given the chaotic ability. Yogg-Saron also will likely kill himself, so it doesn’t really matter. Maybe being a 5/7 would be better?
- Argent Commander (-7)
- Argent Commander is considered a premium card in the Arena, and has had it’s share in the Constructed meta back in the day. The -7 under-stat might actually be a fair value, as Charge and Divine Shield scale up, being more useful for things with more attack. I’ll look more at this later.
- Dreadsteed (-7)
- Dedicated Dreadsteed decks could be dangerous at the right hands, but the -7 under-stat is indicative as to why this card never was effective.
- Faceless Shambler (-7)
- Mulligan here, as Faceless Shambler will almost always be better than it’s 1/1 copy form.
- Twilight Summoner (-7)
- Another mulligan, given it is essentially 6/6 worth of stats, actually over-stated compared to the average 4-drop.
- Reckless Rocketeer (-6)
- Is a 5-attack charge worth 6 points under-stated? Probably not.
- Starving Buzzard (-6)
- This card actually gained +1/+1 when it got nerfed to oblivion, but being 6 points less than your normal 5-drop doesn’t let it survive long on the board.
- Anub’arak (-6)
- Anub’arak will automatically give you a 4/4 on deathrattle, with continuous effect. So that is 8 points of stats, meaning this -6 under-stat doesn’t mean anything.
- Flamewreathed Faceless (+5)
- 4 mana 7/7 jokes aside, the Overload 2 actually makes it a 6-cost card, meaning it is just a +1 over-stat relative to 6-drops.
- Fel Reaver (+5)
- Fel Reaver brings +5 thump for a significant and costly effect. Use at your own caution in the Arena!
- Anima Golem (+5)
- Another rather strong card that didn’t make it due to unreliable need to keep other minions living.
- Deathwing (+4)
- As a 10-mana 12/12, Deathwing is 4 points over-stated compared to the vanilla Faceless Behemoth. The cost of course is nuking everything and your hand.
- Deathwing, Dragonlord (+4)
- This version of Deathwing has the same stat distribution, but has the added bonus of dumping dragons onto the board. Pretty solid value for a card that is over-stated.
- Injured Blademaster (+4)
- He loses 4 life on battlecry, so this is a mulligan.
- Earth Elemental (+4)
- Another wonky result due to Overload. So, it actually costs 8 mana, meaning it is 1 point under-stated for 8 mana, with taunt.
- Ancient Watcher (+4)
- Can’t attack, so a dealbreaker.
- Injured Kvaldir (+3)
- Like Blademaster, the Kvaldir immediately gives the points back on battlecry. That is what made the J4CKIECHAN Hunter pretty solid.
- Deathlord (+3)
- Deathlord is prided for his big 8 health, but an uneven distribution, and bad deathrattle negate the gains.
- The Beast (+3)
- The Beast gives your opponent a 6-stated minion on deathrattle, so this +3 isn’t much to compensate for that.
- Millhouse Manastorm (+3)
- Being up 3 points on the average 2-drop isn’t worth unleashing Miracle Rogue or Freeze Mage wet dreams..
- King Mukla (+3)
- Mukla gives the opponent 4 stat points in bananas, so it balances out.
Point values of abilities
A Note on Class Cards
- You may have heard that class cards are better than neutral cards.
- The reason class cards are better than neutral cards, is because they are mostly cost-effective, they don’t sacrifice as many stat points for abilities that neutrals typically do.
- Spell damage mostly costs 1 stat point. Kobold Geomancer (2/2), Ogre Magi (4/4) and Frigid Snobold (2/6) all cost 1.
- Azure Drake is pretty good, as it has essentially free spell damage.
- Malygos is only 2 points under-stated as a 9-drop, but has 5 spell damage.
- Some laughably bad cards pay a lot for spell damage. Evolved Kobold is 5 points under-stated for 2 spell damage.
- Stealth is usually free. Worgen Infiltrator (2/1), Gilblin Stalker (2/3), Ravenholdt Assassin (7/5) are all actually not over nor understated cards.
- Stranglehorn Tiger (5/5) is 1 point under-stated, possibly because the 5/5 distribution is superior. Jungle Panther (4/2) is also under-stated, possibly because it can better trade up with a 4-drop.
- Taunts are typically worth -1. Sen’jin Shieldmasta (3/5), Ironfur Grizzly (3/3), and Frostwolf Grunt (2/2) to name a few. Taunts being -1 is fairly consistent.
- The more subpar taunts are worth -2 (Silverback Patriarch, Lord of the Arena), while premium taunts are not understated at all (Bog Creeper!)
- Divine Shield appears to cost more depending on the attack of the minion. 1-attack minions like Argent Squire and Annoy-o-Tron have a Divine Shield under-stat cost of 1. Silent Knight and Argent Horserider appear to have a shield that under-stats them by 2. Scarlet Crusader, Silvermoon Guardian, and Psych-o-Tron, all 3-attack minions seem to have a shield that under-stats them by 3.
- Sunwalker and Argent Commander appear to be cards that have 4-attack, but have Divine Shields that cost 3 stat points.
- Charge is similar to Divine Shield, in that the cost appears to scale with the attack of the minion. Stonetusk Boar is off 1 point and has 1 attack. Bluegill Warrior and Stormwind Knight are off 2 points and have 2 attack. Wolfrider is off 3 points and has 3 attack. Argent Commander, being a -7, appears to have a 4-cost charge, and 3-cost shield. Argent Horserider, being a -4, appears to have a 2-cost charge, and 2-cost shield.
- Charge gets a little wonky with bigger attack. King Krush is under-stated just 2, but is 8 attack at 9 mana. Reckless Rocketeer is under-stated 6, but is only 5 attack.
- Windfury seems to double in under-stating across each tier. Tier 1 is Young Dragonhawk, and under-stated 1. Tier 2 is Flying Machine and Thrallmar Farseer, and under-stated 2. Tier 3 is Windfury Harpy and Grotesque Dragonhawk, and under-stated 4.
- It is notable that all these cards are horrible, so the real cost of Windfury is hard to determine.
- The battlecry ability to draw a card appears to under-stat minions by 3 points. Novice Engineer, Gnomish Inventor, and Azure Drake seem to follow this. Jeweled Scarab even does so for a 3-cost card.
- Deathrattle draws seem to under-stat a minion by 2 points. Loot Hoarder seems to follow this.
- Controlled damage costs a lot. The two dwarf gunmen, Ironforge Rifleman and Stormpike Commando are under-stated by 3 and 5 points to their respective vanilla minions. Disciple of C’Thun is under-stated by 4, while doing 2 damage.
- This high cost of controlled damage shows why SI:7 Agent is in every single Rogue deck. It is just under-stated by 1, while doing 2 damage. Of course it is a class card, and requires a combo. Fire Elemental is a similarly elite card, given it is under-stated by 2, while doing 3 damage. North Sea Kraken follows this has the best Arena card of TGT, under-stated by just 2, while dealing 4 damage.
- A majority of minions have conditional effects, meaning that their ability doesn’t always activate. Rumbling Elemental is such a minion, being under-stated just 1, but requiring battlecry minions to deal damage.
- A good deal of minions meet the vanilla statline for their mana cost, and have conditional effects. Mechwarper, being a 2/3 with mech cost reduction, is such a card.
- Inspire minions will usually fall in here, with cards like Silver Hand Regent being a -1, and Kodorider being a -5.
Wrapping things up
While Arena drafting tools exist to help you figure out how valuable a card is, it is good to know how valuable a card is just by looking at it. Starting with comparisons to vanilla minions, one can determine how valuable cards, and ultimately effects, are. Some things to remember:
- The best cards will be completely properly stated and have good additional effect. Or they are just a shade under-stated and have a great effect.
- Class cards are better than neutrals. They will more likely be properly stated and have an effect.
- Divine Shield and Charge scale up depending on card attack.
- Taunt usually costs 1 stat point.
- Controlled damage is great when you can get it, and you get high value out of cards that are decently stated.