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For the most part, we see that the single most powerful monster cards in Hearthstone are legendaries e.g. Ysera, Jaraxxus, Ragnaros.

However there are some exceptions such as Finkle Einhorn and other cards such as Nat Pagle which are worse than some class specific cards such as mana tide totem which gives a guaranteed card next turn as opposed to a 50% chance.

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you can only have 1 in your deck IIRC –  ratchet freak May 5 at 11:51
    
Finkle Einhorn is a token that spawns on The Beast's deathrattle. You won't pull him from a pack. –  Will F May 5 at 17:07
    
@WillF ah my bad,didnt read wiki properly. –  sight ward May 5 at 20:29

4 Answers 4

up vote 32 down vote accepted

Legendaries represent a unique character, other cards represent a spell or a class/title. This is also why you can only have one of each legendary in your deck, but two of each of the rest of the cards.

There's only one Lord Jaraxxus and one Lorewalker Cho, their names are unique. The other cards have general names only describing them and/or their job, Bloodfen Raptor, Armorsmith and Angry Chicken for example.

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Hit the nail on the head. As such, only 1 may be used per deck whereas other cards have a 2 per deck limit. –  Mkalafut May 5 at 14:00
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I've never actually paid attention to the names of the cards. Cool stuff. Thanks –  sight ward May 5 at 20:17

3ventic's answer is the best one, but it's also worth noting that Legendaries are almost always better than an equivalent card that isn't legendary. By "equivalent" I mean class specific vs class specific, neutral vs neutral, of the same or similar mana. (Assuming there is a comparable card.)

For example: Nat Pangle may not be as effective as a Mana Tide Totem (50% vs 100%, draw at the start of your turn instead of the end), but he's better than any other neutral card-draw card. So there's less reason for a Shaman to take him, but for non-Shaman he can be a great card.

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Not to mention that Nat Pagle costs one less mana and has one more health than the Mana Tide Totem. Not a huge deal, but it's a small counterbalance to the reduced card draw effectiveness. Also Nat Pagle was nerfed (used to trigger at end of turn rather than start) due to being deemed too desirable. –  Carson63000 May 6 at 1:06
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They're also sometimes a sort-of combination of other cards. Bloodmage Thalnos, for example, combines Loot Hoarder and Kobold Geomancer while losing stats. –  scenia May 10 at 23:07

While 3ventic most definitely has the "correct" answer, there's a whole different side to this (at least, in my mind). A legendary is "legendary" because Blizzard said it was. By Blizzard telling us a card is legendary, that card now carries a certain amount of "clout" which brings the whole notion of psychology into the mix and that's immensely powerful.

For example, Nat Pagle may not be the best Legendary out there but Blizzard said he was legendary and therefore he scares your opponent. Your opponent is now going to blow something to get rid of Nat Pagle. This effectively gives Nat Pagle a pretty strong "soft" taunt.. and, again, that's super powerful. Even if your opponent ignores Nat, you still win because you will start to have the card advantage.

In short, a legendary is a legendary because they represent a unique character in the Hearthstone world. They are also legendary because Blizzard told us they were, and being legendary carries "clout" which makes them targets for spells, clears, etc which means one less spell/clear/etc for your bigger and better cards.

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I don't feel right downvoting this, so I won't, but I definitely don't agree. Legendaries may be scary when they come out, in the unexpected "Yikes!" sense, but once they're there they aren't any more or less scary than they should be based on the abilities they have. I'm often perfectly content to leave Nat in play in favor of other targets that are more directly a threat, for example. –  Bobson May 6 at 2:35
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@Bobson I never tried to imply that they are scary, only that they are viewed as such. I, personally, would never leave a Nat Pagle out on the board for very long.. card advantage and all. But I see people rush to clear out my Hogger when I already have a Sunwalker on the board, for instance. The only real explanation to that is legendaries, to most people, are scary (IMO, anyways). –  Jason L. May 6 at 3:46

Legendary cards can provide the biggest single card tempo swing for their mana cost -- they can be game changing cards if played correctly:

Ragnaros can do direct (though random) damage without taking damage.

Alexstraza can set a hero's health to 15 AND has the stats of an epic giant.

Tirion Fording can deal a significant amount of damage for only 8 mana (minion + weapon) AND has taunt and divine shield.

Jaraxxus can bring the health of the hero (usually Warlock unless you're a Priest and thoughtsteal / mind vision him) back up to 15 AND you get 6/6 Infernals for only 2 mana as your hero ability AND a 3/8 weapon that you can use right away. If you get and hold on to the coin, you can summon an Infernal that turn too.

Harrison Jones can generate card draw AND destroy your opponent's weapon, and still provides a 5/4 for 5 mana if your opponent is't a weapon class hero (not ideal, but not terrible either)

Cairne Bloodhoof is worth 4/10 for 6 mana.

There aren't too many epic cards that can provide this much tempo swing in a single card, though Faceless Manipulator + Big Game Hunter are usually the most ideal answer to the larger attack legendary cards. Those with special abilities can be silenced, but your opponent may not have a silence card handy right away.

Not all legendaries are, well, all that legendary. Several provide net equality of tempo but can be played sooner rather than later and can do some damage quickly, albeit with a cost. The Beast and King Mukla come to mind as examples.

Tinkmaster and Gelbin are pretty much joke cards, and you'd probably be better off dusting them if you got them in a pack unless you wanted to make your opponent fall off his or her chair laughing.

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Harrison Jones is 5/4, which is worse than 4/5, he will in most cases lost you games because dead card, than win you games, but he finds home in some weird decks and is viable under some scenarios –  ajax333221 May 30 at 3:26
    
ajax333221 -- thanks for the catch on the Harrison Jones stats -- corrected. –  Jim Bethancourt Jun 18 at 17:55

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