Will the latest nerfs make Hearthstone great again?
Last week, Hearthstone's latest set of card changes were announced. Targeting some of the most oppressive and powerful decks in the game these nerfs could well change the game significantly ahead of the $1 million Hearthstone World Championship.
As we did with the last set of nerfs, our crack panel of Hearthstone players has assembled to dissect the changes and assess their impact. Your panel are semi-pro fighting game player and Hearthstone obsessive Mike Schiller, regular Hearthstone columnist Luke Winkie, and Dot Esports staff writer Callum Leslie.
MS: Somewhat in the vein of the Warsong Commander nerf of last year, this is more of a way to dull the impact of Doomhammer than it is directed at Rockbiter itself. Perhaps unlike the other changes made in this patch, I think this one will drop the card from viability. Where 1 mana for 3 face damage was pretty good, 2 mana for the same effect is mediocre at best. More importantly though, delaying the Doomhammer combo for a turn means the world for an aggro deck. Not the most revolutionary nerf to come to the game, but definitely one the community wanted.
LW: I don’t think Rockbiter is exactly what the community was targeting when we’re talking about a class that can play a 3/4 for two mana and a 7/7 for four mana. But I do understand Blizzard’s logic here. Tunnel Trogg and Totem Golem are both rotating out in the next few months, and a nerf to a classic card will (hopefully) encourage more long-term change. Will a two mana Rockbiter get play? Maybe? As long as Doomhammer is a card, I think so.
CL: Let's not miss the point here. The flexibility of Rockbiter is the main reason it has been attacked. Rockbiter might still see some play for Doomhammer and weapon synergy, but the ability to deal three damage for one mana was just too powerful. The ability to control the board in the early game, as well as provide late game burst damage, meant this card needed brought to heel. Now at two mana, it's in line with other spells like Frostbolt. Solid change.
LW: Tuskarr Totemic is not the most egregious card in Shaman’s lineup, but it is one of the most annoying. Yeah, most of the time you’re spitting out an 0/2 taunt or whatever, but if you manage to spring a Totem Golem or a Mana Tide, you’ve almost automatically won the game. This card reminded me of Imp-losion, which in my opinion is still the worst-designed card in Hearthstone. I hate cards with binary variance, and I’m glad that Tuskarr was nerfed. Will it still get played? Maybe, but only in more totem-oriented decks.
CL: This is probably the best nerf of the set for the long term health of the game. This is also the text Tuskarr always should have had! The high variance, similar to Imp-losion as Luke mentioned, has been really toxic for the game. Tuskarr's original form also massively reduced the potential design space for totem cards in the future, and reducing design space has been the reason for cards like Charge and Master of Disguise to be targeted in the past.
Call of the WildMS: Midrange hunter is currently in my opinion the easiest high tier deck to play in the history of Hearthstone. While “play on curve” has been the mantra of several archetypes to have been in the game, few have truly taken as literally as this one, designed almostly solely to overpower control decks that don’t have enough removal for the oncoming threats. What makes this strategy so viable is Call of Wild, which plays three overpowered, synergistic, three drop minions for eight mana in a single card. The sheer strength of this card, and the fact that you can run two copies, essentially means that any game where you aren’t dominating Hunter by turn eight is probably over. This has severely limited the strength of cards they can create for Rexxar and Alleria without breaking the class in future expansions. To be honest I’m fairly confident this will still be a two of in every Hunter deck, but the extra turn is greatly appreciated.
LW: Honestly I feel like maybe 10 mana is a more rightful price for Call of the Wild if we’re being honest. The card is broken, and as a nine-drop it’s still going to be the de facto win condition of all Hunters on ladder. I will say I think it’s weird that Blizzard are going out of there way to nerf Hunter now, considering the class hasn’t been super popular on ladder, but maybe they anticipated a huge resurgence once the next rotation happens.
CL: This card was always absurd. In Hearthstone you pay a premium for combining cards, and removing variance or randomness. Playing three copies of Animal Companion would cost you nine mana, and being able to do that in one card and remove the randomness should cost more. How on earth did Blizzard put that into their calculator and get eight? Nine is the absolute least this card should be, and even at that it is cheap in pure Hearthstone math terms. I think this will still see some play, though could be replaced with cards like Ragnaros.
ExecuteMS: Execute is a card that has made me shake my head since I began playing Hearthstone. One mana removal is obviously too strong, and with the damage condition so easily met by warrior you wonder how it’s survived at that cost even this long. I like this change because the card remains an extremely versatile and useful removal for control styles of Warrior, while greatly dropping its’ strength as a tempo play in faster variants like Dragon or even Pirate. Without turn four Ravaging Ghoul into Execute as a worry, you can now more safely play that Imp Gang Boss or ramped out Fandral. Notable nerf that definitely won’t kill the class.
LW: One mana hard removal wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t in a class that already had Shield Slam, Brawl, and a ton of activators like Slam, Revenge, and Ravaging Ghoul. But honestly, the dominant archetype in Warrior right now is Control Warrior, and Control Warriors frequently pass turns while floating eight mana. A slightly more expensive Execute isn’t going to change much.
CL: My beloved Control Warrior will still be able to play this card, thankfully. Tank Up and pass is a fairly regular occurrence, so having to spend one extra mana on Execute won't really do that much damage. However this will affect Execute's potence in decks like Tempo Dragon Warrior, which combine Warrior's strong removal sweet with solid minions on curve. That deck needed pegged back a little, and hopefully this is the change that does it.
ChargeMS: This change was put in place with the clear purpose of maiming OTK warrior, a deck that fell easily within the lines of the non interactive style Blizzard has always avoided. The rework here seems a bit weak at first, while you might gladly spend one mana to give a minion charge, it’s less appealing when it costs a card slot to do it. The deck where I think this has a chance of seeing play is more rare patron, where it synergizes well with pyromancer as a removal tool, as well giving you another condition to enable Patrons.
LW: At a certain point maybe Blizzard should just remove charge from the game entirely. It feels like every card (Leeroy, Arcane Golem, Warsong Commander, the previous two versions of Charge) have all been edited post release. In this case it was specifically to gut the Worgen OTK combo, which, to be fair, is understandable. There shouldn’t be 30 damage minion combos in the game okay. Honestly I think the new version (one mana, can only target minions) has some promise. You could combo this with, like, Sylvanas and get a really good trade. In some ways, I think that has more utility than the three mana version.
CL: As the others have said, Blizzard hate charge. They've nerfed most of the game's powerful charge cards in the past and have shown that they are very trigger happy with nerfing combos. Worgen OTK wasn't an oppressive deck, but it was annoying when you did run into it. Maybe we will see something in the next expansion to justify this nerf a bit more.
Abusive SergeantMS: At one attack Abusive Sergeant still holds the same general purpose of utilizing it’s battle cry to help minions trade up in aggressive decks, but greatly loses its’ strength as a turn one play. While I think this is less major than say, the same change to Leper Gnome was, it certainly makes you wonder if zoo players will stuff their decks with one of the many other one drops available to them instead.
LW: I actually think this might tank Abusive Sergeant. Abusive Sergeant was good because you could play it on turn one if you want. Yeah, you don’t get the battlecry, but a 2/1 can still hold its own and trade with whatever your opponent is going to do. You’d never ever feel good about playing this as a 1/1. A similar nerf destroyed the viability of Leper Gnome, why should I feel differently about Abusive Sergeant?
CL: Abusive Sergeant should think itself lucky it didn't make the cut in the first lot of nerfs. At 2/1 the card just did too much in the early game, with a powerful battlecry that did a great deal in aggressive decks. I do think this will still see play in buff-heavy decks like Zoo, but it won't stop you playing your 3/2 on turn two anymore. That's a good thing.
MS: They could have targeted only Yogg and the community would have been happy. This card has in many eyes almost disgraced the game of Hearthstone, paving the way for comebacks and blowouts never really possible in the game before, for simply the cost of surviving to turn 10. This change very heavily weakens Yogg by making spells that were great before average now, and spells that were almost negligible kill his effectiveness entirely. No more twisting nether into call of the wild, no more flame lance on Yogg into lethal pyroblast anyway, and a single earthshock could end the turn leaving only an underpowered 10 drop. While the top end of Yogg is still very possible, this change will nerf its’ consistency heavily, possibly, hell hopefully, to the point where it will finally be relegated to casual matches.
LW: Yogg-Saron is still a clown fiesta, which is what it was always meant to be. It’s just that now you can’t rig the numbers by stuffing in 20 spells to set the fireworks off because Yogg always ends up killing itself. Maybe there’s a world where this is still run, but I don’t know man. I can think of a lot of things I’d rather include than 10 mana card that might Naturalize itself on the first spell.
CL: Again, this is perhaps what Yogg-Saron always should have done. I've written here in the past about why Yogg is so bad for Hearthstone, providing scary levels of consistency as a comeback mechanism that isn't fair or fun. This card will still exist, which Blizzard will be happy about from a fun standpoint. But hopefully it will no longer blight the competitive game.