I was initially worried when I saw [Jeishal] printed. It wasn't that I thought that it would completely push [Etched Dragonbone Girdle] out of the format. It almost certainly doesn't, as the Girdle's usually set once it gets its first activation (almost all activations following that are a bonus).
My real worry about [Jeishal] was that its existence would make the possibility of playing any armor-based strategy too risky. To some degree, it probably is risky to run armors. In fact, I'd be willing to believe that a solo armor strategy cannot beat [Jeisha] backed by [Bottled Light]. That combination seems like a beating.
Thankfully, however, decks that would want to use [Bottled Light] (AKA GC decks) have taken a hit with the new set. Such strategies are certainly skeptical choices in a field that is sure to be packed with [Miniature Voodoo Mask], among other cards. Never mind the fact that Horde has, what, [Obsidian Drudge], as their only substantial form of equipment removal, and it's easy to realize that armor decks are not pushed out of existence.
In fact, Crown of the Heavens did a lot to make them much better. Take a look!
Hero: [Stromdak of Ironforge]
4 [Bronze Warden]
3 [Obsidian Drudge]
3 [Obsidian Drakonid]
4 [Magni, the Mountain King]
3 [Vandos, Herald of War]
2 [Mekkatorque, King of the Gnomes]
4 [Etched Dragonbone Girdle]
4 [Gravitational Pull]
4 [Shalug'doom, the Axe of Unmaking]
3 [Reclaimed Ashkandi]
4 [Rock Furrow Boots]
4 [Polished Breastplate of Valor]
2 [Triton Legplates]
2 [The Horseman's Horrific Helm]
2 [Polished Spaulders of Valor]
2 [Darkmoon Card: Hurricane]
4 [Twilight Citadel]
Players who got a chance to see Stuart Wright's Paladin deck from Worlds last year may recognize some of the card choices. The reason for the switch to Warrior was done for many reasons:
-[Bladestorm] is quite good. It sweeps an opponent's field all the while accelerating your route to a win.
-The hero flip from [Stromdak of Ironforge] is pretty sweet. I'm probably not using it to the best of its abilities just yet, but having a [Keys to the Armor] available at any point during the game is handy.
-[Vandos, Herald of War] is bonkers.
More on that last point: while this deck doesn't simply fold to [Jeishal] on its own (quite the contrary, I have beaten double [Jeishal] draws enough to not be frightened of the two-drop), it does have some troubles keeping the deck's draw engine of Girdle online. [Jeishal] and [Miniature Voodoo Mask] both do a number on the regular draw engien.
Enter Vandos. When you can't draw two additional cards for turn, you instead play an ally that oftentimes refuels your hand by three cards the moment he enters play. The extra cards from Vandos make a huge difference in getting to the later game, where you can sink your resources into [Polished Breastplate of Valor] (good as a resource, good as armor).
This deck is one of the few that truly takes advantage of [Magni, the Mountain King] more often as an ally than as a resource. Nothing says "you're losing a lot of time and cards" than a 4/14 Protector, a fairly uncommon size for Magni when he enters play. I think my record is 36 health. [Polished Breastplate of Valor] sure has its perks, you know?
That said, there are certainly advantages to going solo. It comes with the benefit of having a huge advantage against anyone whose idea of "equipment destruction" is to simply run four copies of [Obsidian Drudge]. This deck is apt at keeping Drudge off the board if it really needs to, so the conventional plan of "sit on multiple Drudges until turn 6" will only go so far. Which is to say, this deck can actually pressure when it needs to, and the threat of drawing a ton of cards off of Girdle makes it hard for them to wait for such a plan to come to fruition.
The "play [Obsidian Drudge] and hope for the best" plan is most Horde decks, by the way. They're in for an uphill battle against you. So is the aggressive version of [Grand Crusader], especially if you land a big [Gravitational Pull] on turn 1. Back that up with sweepers to keep their board under control (since they sort of have to overrun you to get though armor), and most aggressive decks based on that plan will have some problems.
The Mage decks that were popular at the Metamart 3k from this past weekend are a good example of "Horde decks that can't deal with armor". I mean, what? You land a turn 1 [Gravitational Pull] and what do they do? You even have Drudges you can slip through [Overload]s to answer [Miniature Voodoo Mask] on [Etched Dragonbone Girdle]. If they keep two open, play more armor or make tokens. If they exhaust out, take out their Voodoo Mask or resolve a Vandos and re-fuel. Mekkatorque, admittedly, is pretty soft against Timriv, but having the Girdle active for any period of time spells doom for them.
Monster decks, admittedly, can be tricky ground, and are the reason for the [Bladestorm/[Whirlwind] split. You don't want your sole major board sweeper taken out by [Commander Ulthok], so the split ensures that you have two ways to wipe their board clean.
Harmonize decks, on that note, are a fairly rough matchup. You have no ways to interact with [Keeper Sharus] early, meaning they get a free pass to run out their entire hand early. If that free pass means dropping lots of expensive allies like multiple [Commander Ulthok]s into play, winning can become near impossible.
The other slight frustration (albeit not an impossible to answer one) is [King Genn Greymane] with [Winter Veil Disguise Kit]. That two card combo can be obnoxious if you can't draw a Drudge, and gets more frustrating if you go up against a Warlock with remove-from-game effects and [Miniature Voodoo Mask] for Girdle. But thankfully that's not very prevalent.
If you're looking for a non-Horde, non-all-allies alternative to Core, consider exploring solo. It's certainly got some powerful cards right now, and has its place in a format fueled by Mages and aggressive ally decks.