Never think that Blizzard won’t drop the hammer. For a company as large and multi-faceted, it’s consistently surprising how willing they are to pull out their meta-game from its roots. The latest example comes with the brand-spankin’-new Hearthstone balancing patch, which went live this week.
With changes to two cards, Blizzard has enforced a huge shift in deck construction that will have lasting echoes on the ladder. The nerfs are simple; Leeroy Jenkins, the 6/2 Legendary often used as a finisher in countless strategies, now requires five mana instead of four. It may seem subtle, but the heavier cost completely annihilates say, the 18-damage burst of the Leeroy, Shadowstep, Leeroy, Shadowstep, Leeroy sequence that we’ve all suffered through, multiple times, in our matches against Miracle Rogue.
The other change is a little more dramatic. The Starving Buzzard, that 2/1 Hunter card that allows you to draw from your deck every time you summon a beast, will now cost a massive five mana up from its previously diminutive two. That combo, where a Hunter drops his Buzzard and then plays Unleash the Hounds and draws half his deck? It takes eight mana, almost an entire turn, to make that happen now. Hunters as we know them, are dead.
This is a pretty significant upheaval, because as we’ve all seen Hunters and Miracle Rogues are persistently some of the most popular deck-types in Hearthstone. This patch will annihilate those two classes, and that’s probably a good thing. The metagame is wide open right now, and that’s exciting! But you might be wondering where to go next. Don’t worry, we’ve got you. Here are some decks that we think will start to really pick up in popularity over the course of the next week. Study them well, and stay ahead of the meta.
There was a time, long before the era of Miracle, where the classic Rogue archtype focused on the Malygos, that seldom-played 4/12 dragon that offered a massive +5 spell damage bonus. You wouldn’t see him too much, because of his crazy nine mana cost. It was too much of a risk for a Mage to play him, and hope he stuck around until their next turn for a 15-damage Pyroblast or something along those lines.
However, Rogue could always take advantage. The class is blessed with enough cheap spells (and Preparation) to be able to put forth face-crushing Sinister Strikes and Eviscerates. It was a popular deck until the aforementioned Leeroy combination came along, and now that Jenkins has been buried it seems like it’s high time for a Malygos comeback.
Some people have been writing off the Rogue as purely dead since the Leeroy nerf was announced, but I think that’s incredibly short-sighted. The cycling potential offered through the Gadgetzan Auctioneer is far too potent to be only viable with one card. Cycling to a Malygos, dropping it, and playing Conceal (essentially making it immune until next turn,) is one hell of a scary board. Miracle Rogue will survive on the wings of a giant blue dragon.
Leeroy’s demotion will remove a ton of burst damage for faster, more mid-game oriented decks, which could see a resurgence in the slow-and-steady control Paladin. With Naxrammas, Paladins were given a whole lot of new toys to play with. The Unstable Ghoul into Equality combo! Zombie Chow to soak up the early game! The Control Paladin still stands as an absolutely impossible-to-kill monolith when played correctly, its soul weakness being how it couldn’t keep up with damage. As the meta-game slows down, we expect the Control Paladin to rise.
For much of Hearthstone’s run, the Warlock has been entirely used for either the board-flooding, turn-six win Zoo archtype, or the much slower, much scarier Handlock, which uses the class card-draw ability to drop massive Mountain Giants and Twilight Drakes on the board early. There really hasn’t been a Warlock deck to capture the in-between game, because a lot of those class-specific mid-range Warlock cards are demons with some significant drawbacks. Play a Felguard? Say goodbye to one of your mana crystals. A Pit Lord? That’ll take five of your HP.
Because of that, we’ve hardly seen anyone dig into a demons-focused Warlock deck, despite their already being a card called Sense Demons, which will immediately drop two of them into your hand.
But that might change now that the Hunter has been put out of business. We’re all going to be looking for a steady, minions-based deck that takes people down slowly but surely. With the introduction of the Void Caller, a 3/4 with a deathrattle to summon a demon from your hand into the battlefield, this might be the Warlock’s moment.
There’s this dream out there that this deck can work. Reincarnate was a spell introduced back in Naxrammas, and its power was simple but profound. Destroy a minion, and it resummons that exact same minion.
It seems futile at first, but not when you consider what that spell can do to Nerubian Eggs or a Cairne Bloodhoof. Throw in a Baron Rivendare and you’re looking at one of the single most powerful spells in the game.
Shaman has a couple of these. The Reincarnation could be stacked next to the Ancestral Spirit, a two-mana spell that gives a minion the deathrattle of resummoning itself after being destroyed, and Ancestral Healing, which heals a minion to full health and gives it taunt. Together, you’re looking at a potential storm of minions that refuse to stay dead.
Unfortunately it hasn’t worked so far. While Reincarnation Shaman has been responsible for some truly amazing YouTube videos, the deck is a little too chaotic for dedicated competitive play. It takes a pretty specific hand of cards to pull off some of the crazier combos. And usually, it’s pretty hard to keep up with the damage output of the usual mid-range Hunter.
But maybe, just maybe, as Hunters fall out of the ladder, the Reincarnate dream could finally burrow its way into our hearts. It’s just such a fun deck to play, that I can’t see a situation where we’re not at the very least willing to try.
Image via Blizzard