Hearthstone has witnessed quite a few changes over the years since the closed beta stage and to keep the balance of things in check many cards have been changed over the years. Needless to say some card are better while others limit card design and other intricate elements of the game. Let’s talk about some of the most significant changes that have taken place for the better or worse for the community. While some of these cards still see play, others have been missing in action since they got nerfed.
Freeze Mage Nerf
Here we are referring to the cards Frost Nova, Cone of Cold and Blizzard which were cheaper by 1 compared to their current iterations. Frost Nova was 2 mana, Cone of Cold cost 3 and Blizzard wiped out boards or froze them as early as turn 5. Combined with the fact that Alexstrasza had the ability to cut armor as well, Freeze Mage was just incredibly powerful and was one of the most powerful decks in the game. Despite all the nerfs, the deck continues to dominate and is able to perform quite well vs most classes except Warrior.
Big Game Hunter
Big Game Hunter used to cost 3 mana and had the same effect of being able to destroy anything that has 7 or more attack. The emergence of Handlock and Dr. Boom caused Big Game Hunter to be run in every deck that could afford it and the tempo swing the card managed to create was just insane. The card in its current form retains the effect but doesn’t see much play these days.
Unleash the Hounds
It is one those cards that Blizzard has changed quite a bit and people still feel that it can get a bit punishing. But in its current state it isn’t as broken as it was in the closed beta. In its earliest form, Unleash the Hounds used to give all beasts +1 Attack and Charge and it often led to game ending finishers that opponents could do nothing about. Later, it was changed and it got the effect the card has today and the cost was changed to 4 Mana. It led to a drop in usage before the card cost was dropped to 2. Finally in 2014 Blizzard changed the cost of the card to 3 and it has never been touched since. The card is still viable and sees play in nearly every Hunter deck in Hearthstone. A combo with Leeroy Jenkins, Leokk from Animal Companion or Knife Juggler can be highly devastating for the opponent leading to a victory for the Hunter or a mass clear for only 3 mana.
If you joined Hearthstone only recently and know all the game mechanics and where classes excel at, you must have noticed that Hunter is not very good at card draw and doesn’t have the right tools to gain card advantage. Starving Buzzard used to cost 2 mana and had a stat line of 2/2 which is absolutely crazy for the effect it has. It was nerfed to a 2/1 and it still made no difference as every Hunter deck ran 1 or 2 copies of it. Being able to gain card advantage through Unleash the Hounds and Starving Buzzard working together was not all that difficult with so many decks filling up their boards easily. It was heavily punishing for players who had board advantage and felt almost unfair. Starving Buzzard was heavily nerfed after that, making it a 5 mana 3/2 and it has hardly seen any play ever since.
Our chicken loving friend Leeroy Jenkins feels quite powerful and sees play in many aggressive and combo decks but it used to cost only 4 mana, allowing many classes to abuse its mana cost and create combos. It was a widely used finisher in a control deck like Handlock as well, where you could use a Power Overwhelming on the card and use a Faceless Manipulator to push out 20 damage. Soulfire used to cost 0 mana as well allowing you to OTK your opponents from 24 health. Rogue also abused the effect quite well with Shadowstep allowing them to use other spells in conjunction and one turn kill opponents as early as turn 8.
Bring out your dead! These four words meant doom for the opposing player. Undertaker in its original form is easily the most powerful 1 drop to have ever been launched in Hearthstone. It not only gained attack but also 1 point of health for each Deathrattle minion you summoned. Using it with cards like Mad Scientist, Harvest Golem, Haunted Creeper and other cheap Deathrattle minions caused it to go out of hand in no time at all. Even a reactive class like Priest managed to have a tempo style Deathrattle deck that steamrolled opponents for quite some time. Ever since the nerf, the card has hardly seen any play and has been missing in action ever since.
You must be wondering what Tinkmaster Overspark is doing in this list if you have not seen the pre-nerf variant in action. Tinkmaster retained the same effect and a 2/2 body but it had the ability to target any minion at all. Being able to change a Ragnaros the Firelord or a Ysera into a 5/5 was a fair enough result and if you managed to turn a large minion into a Squirrel, it would allow you to gain a massive amount of tempo very easily. The game sees play in fun decks only at the moment and the high level of RNG has caused it to fall out of favor.
Force of Nature
Force of Nature was a 5 mana card that summoned 3 2/2 Treants with Charge. The Force of Nature and Savage Roar Combo has been one of the most non-interactive combos in the game and it forced Blizzard to change the card to cost 6 mana. However, it did not help much as Druid continued to play the card in every archetype possible. Emperor Thaurissan’s arrival boosted the power level of the deck quite a bit, allowing players to use double Savage Roar with Force of Nature without needing Innervate. The final nerf came a couple of months ago causing the Treants to lose the Charge effect and the mana cost was put back to 5 like the original card in the beta days.
Miracle Rogue in its current form is nothing compared to what it used to be in the past. Thanks to so many cheap spells and other tempo tools being available for Rogues, Gadgetzan was incredibly powerful at only 5 mana. Cards like Questing Adventurer, Mana Addict worked very well with Gadgetzan Auctioneer and Conceal, allowing Rogue players to draw through their deck very easily and get to the combo pieces they needed to close out the game. Thanks to Tomb Pillager and the departure of cards like Flamecannon, Gadgetzan is seeing play these days and it serves as one of the card draw tools for Rogue.
Warsong Commander has had more than one nerf in its lifetime. In the early days Warsong Commander used to provide every minion charge making Molten Giant OTK Warrior one of the most powerful decks in the game. All you had to do was get your health pool drop down enough to make Molten Giants cheap enough. It was not hard to do because you had weapons to damage yourself if needed and you also had the life gain and sustain tools to make sure you did not die to aggro. After the nerf, Warsong Commander provided charge to minions with 3 or less attack but it saw no play at all for quite some time. It all changed after BRM launched and Grim Patron Warrior with Warsong Commander in the BRM era may very well be the most powerful deck in the game to ever exist. It excelled at punishing aggressive decks and it also had very few bad matchups with nothing being extremely unfavorable. The consistency of the deck and tools like Emperor Thaurissan allowed the deck to be quite the powerhouse.
Rogue Hero Power
You might be surprised but there is actually a nerf that is more significant than Warsong Commander. The Rogue hero power equipped a 2 mana 1/2 weapon just like it does right now, but it was not all it did. If you had a weapon equipped the hero power allowed Rogue to gain +1 attack on the weapon instead making it one of the best hero powers in the game, possibly second to only Warlock’s ability to amass card advantage through its hero power. Rogue was an unmatched class back in the day and it required Blizzard to step in and make balance changes to make the hero power feel on par with other ones in the game. The weapon buff effect was taken away but Rogue continued to have all of the tempo tools to beat any deck in the game in the hands of a skilled player.
Some of the other notable cards that were nerfed include Pyroblast, Mind Control, Soulfire, Sylvanas Windrunner, Defender of Argus but they saw play even after the nerfs hit. On the other hand there are cards like Doomhammer and Abusive Seargant that are talked about a lot but have not been touched yet. I hope Blizzard continues to actively keep cards in check to prevent the game from feeling stale and the Standard format is a step in the right direction to keep the game fresh and fun.