Oct 9 2016 - 2:27 pm

Which Hearthstone cards should get the nerf bat next?

Recently Blizzard announced a string of balance changes that edited some of the more oppressive cards populating the Hearthstone meta
Luke Winkie
Dot Esports

Recently Blizzard announced a string of balance changes that edited some of the more oppressive cards populating the Hearthstone meta. Offenders like Tuskarr Totemic and Yogg-Saron were gutted, but they also focused on some classic cards like Charge, Abusive Sergeant, and Rockbiter Weapon.

So of the remaining cards that will be in Standard for a while (namely the classic set, and those released in Whispers of the Old Gods and One Night in Karazhan, which ones are most likely to be hit with the nerf bat? Obviously Tunnel Trogg is overpowered, but it’s rotating out next year.  The following are cards that could well demand some developer intervention in the future—if only to save us from decades of complaining.

Doomhammer

Rockbiter Weapon wasn’t really the problem. Yes the added three damage let you burst characters down in big chunks, but it’s hard to imagine a bump to two mana is going to change anything. The issue is Doomhammer, a five mana, 2/8 weapon with windfury that single-handedly wins a lot of Aggro Shaman games. Seriously. You make it through the Tunnel Trogg and the Totem Golem and just when you think you’re finally, finally above water, Thrall equips his win condition and it’s all over. If Shaman continues to be a problem past the next rotation, I think it’s finally time to adjust Doomhammer to be a little less ridiculous.

Alexstrasza

Alexstrasza is a lynchpin in a lot of control decks with burst potential. It’s the great equalizer. Hopelessly behind? Drop Alex and set your opponent to 15 health. It’s pretty effective, and certainly not a problem when aggro decks run the meta, but it’s hard to make the argument that the effect is balanced. A lot of time Alexstrasza's text might as well read “deal 15 damage to the enemy hero, summon an 8/8.” If Blizzard is serious about keeping an eye on the classic set, I feel like this nerf is only a matter of time.

Innervate

Is Druid’s basic set just generally too powerful? We all expected the class to lose steam after Blizzard stripped the Force of Nature/Savage Roar combo of its potency. But Token Druid is still a top-tier deck, and that’s mostly because cards like Innervate allow Malfurion to produce some truly insane swing turns. Obviously you don’t want to destroy Druid’s identity—which relies on other mana-generating spells like Nourish and Wild Growth—but maybe it ought to be a little less insane.

Sorcerer's Apprentice

This one might be a little unexpected, but Tempo Mage really relies on the discount offered by Sorcerer’s Apprentice in the early game. When you combine it with Mana Wyrm, Arcane Missiles, Flamewaker, and Arcane Blast things get out of hand very quickly. I don’t think the effect destroys the game, but I do think it’s sort of weird Apprentice isn’t a 2/2 like Pint-Sized Summoner. If a two-drop has a potentially game-winning effect, I’m not sure if it should be able to trade with 2/3s.

Fiery War Axe

Fiery War Axe is similar to Sorcerer’s Apprentice in the sense that it’s a crucial card for every Warrior deck in the game. If we’re being honest, War Axe is probably more powerful (and more broken) than any minion, spell, or weapon that’s ever been released in Hearthstone. It’s an instant answer to early game aggression. Should it be nerfed? I mean, maybe? It’s just difficult to know what you’d change it to while still keeping it viable. You can’t make it a 2/2, you can’t increase the mana to three, I don’t know man. Fiery War Axe is unreasonably powerful, but I doubt it will ever be changed.

Spirit Claws

Spirit Claws is the only card I’m mentioning from One Night in Karazhan, but seriously, why can Shamans equip a 3/3 weapon for one mana? Yeah they need to have a minion with spell damage out but… that’s really not that hard. Currently all Midrange Shamans are running double Spirit Claws, and it’s made an already great archetype even better. It wouldn’t even be that hard to nerf! Just make it two mana! Back in Goblins vs. Gnomes Blizzard printed a Rogue card called Cogmaster’s Wrench that was a 1/3 that became a 3/3 if you had a mech. It cost three. How did we go from three to one? Hearthstone is a great game, but sometimes the design consistency is profoundly frustrating.

Jan 20 2017 - 9:38 pm

Blizzard designer says Hearthstone Shamans "don’t win too often"

The deck is still stifling the meta game, however.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Shaman continues to dominate the Hearthstone ladder, and at this point players are resigned to it. They are just hoping that in a few months' time the new set rotation will shake things up and dislodge it from its position at the top of the tree.

Blizzard game designer Max McCall addressed the power of the class on the official forums recently—but according to him, the class doesn't have an overwhelming success rate.

"All of those [Shaman] decks are strong," McCall said. "but they are all weak against Dragon decks (like Priest and Warrior) and Reno decks. If you’re tired of losing to Shamans, play Reno Warlock. In some ways, that is fine: Shamans are popular, but there are strategies that are good against them."

"Playing Shaman isn’t a dominant strategy – again, they lose to plenty of decks – but it is still boring to play against the same class over and over again," he continues.

These comments puzzled and angered some players, who pointed to their own experience and other sources of data like the Vicious Syndicate meta report that suggested these matchups were much closer than McCall suggested. And the other matchups were much more one-sided for the Shaman. Indeed, in a second forum post McCall that Reno Warlock was only favored by half a percentage point.

Others took issue with McCall's characterization of the state of Shaman deckbuilding. According to McCall, there are aggressive decks which run pirates, and midrange decks that run pirates and jade cards. But by virtue of running pirates, the inclusion of jade cards doesn't stop a deck from being aggressive in style (something we have highlighted before).

Jade Claws and Jade Lightning, which are often the only jade cards run in the faster lists, lend themselves very well to an aggressive style. Jade Claws takes the spot of Spirit Claws, as early game weapons continue to drive aggressive Shaman decks with value and early pressure.

However, McCall did rightly admit that Shaman is a problem on ladder because of how frequently it appears. According to his data, Shaman currently makes up about 25 percent of games on ladder. This can make games feel repetitive and a grind, especially if you aren't playing one of the limited counters.

At the end of the day, Blizzard is watching Shaman closely. And if it doesn't decrease in popularity, it is prepared to make changes. But that won't help those players who feel demoralized by the ladder right now.

Jan 20 2017 - 5:37 pm

CompLexity and Luminosity win 11-game thrillers in Trinity Series debuts

The teams took each other to the limit on day two.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Photo via DreamHack

CompLexity Gaming and Luminosity Gaming came out on top during the second matchday of the ESL Trinity Series Hearthstone league—but both teams were taken to the limit.

Luminosity Gaming, with Keaton "Chakki" Gill and Frank "Fr0zen" Zhang playing from China, claimed a 6-5 win over Team Liquid.

After Liquid left the Shaman of Luminosity unbanned, the only team to do so in the four matches of week one, Luminosity fancied their chances. But that Shaman was ineffectual, knocked out by the Druid of Team Liquid as David "Dog" Caero and his teammates piloted the Druid to three straight game wins.

That left Liquid at 5-3 and match point, but Luminosity were able to win a crucial Druid mirror and go on their own streak to take the comeback win.

In the second match of the day the experienced Cloud9 lineup of James "Firebat" Kostesich, Cong "StrifeCro" Shu, and Andrew "TidesofTime" Biessener nearly pulled off a similar comeback.

Cloud9 and CompLexity Gaming traded games back and forth until CompLexity's Reno Mage, driven by Jan "SuperJJ" Janssen, took three straight wins to put them in the same position at 5-3. TidesofTime attempted to reverse the tide with Reno Warlock and fought back to 5-5, but Cloud9 were forced to use their combo pieces early and CompLexity won the match with a Reno Warlock of their own.

After beating Alliance 6-0 in the first match of the tournament, G2 Esports sit atop the table after the first week of games.

Week two will see Alliance take on CompLexity, Luminosity against Tempo Storm, G2 versus Virtus Pro, and Cloud9 will play Team Liquid.