Stone Reviews Old Gods: Basic/Classic Nerfs

Christmas came early this year… I mean, I was pretty sure that the nerfs would be announced a month ago or so, but it’s still better than being kept in the dark for even longer. Blizzard just announced the nerfs yesterday. They were supposed to do that on today’s stream, but I obviously don’t mind. […]

Introduction

Christmas came early this year… I mean, I was pretty sure that the nerfs would be announced a month ago or so, but it’s still better than being kept in the dark for even longer.

Blizzard just announced the nerfs yesterday. They were supposed to do that on today’s stream, but I obviously don’t mind. It gives me slightly more time to talk about them. I’ll be honest – most of them were obvious. Still, I think they should handle some of them differently. That’s how Blizzard usually nerfs stuff – it often becomes unplayable. But this time it wasn’t even that bad – some of the cards will still be playable post-nerf.

But, let’s get down to business. First I want to talk about the nerfs and give my verdicts to answer all the questions – “should I disenchant X after the nerf?”*.

*The universal answer is “yes, disenchant everything” actually – because then you are able to craft it for the same price again. Or don’t disenchant anything if you aim at having full collection 🙂 But if you intend to keep the cards that will likely still see play after the nerfs, check out the verdict part!

Force of Nature

Probably the most expected nerfs of them all. And to be honest – I think they’ve handled it well. I mean, the new Force of Nature will be nearly unplayable in Constructed. Charge on Treants was the ONLY reason it was even played in the first place. It’s pretty much on the same level as Silver Hand Knight now – okay card, but not good enough for Constructed. Maybe, just maybe in some kind of Token decks we’ll still see this one. And that’s fine.

On the other hand, Savage Roar wasn’t touched. And I think that’s okay as long as they don’t give another FoN-like spell to Druid in the future, and they should learn from their mistakes. Nerfing Savage Roar would pretty much kill decks like Aggro Druid or Egg Druid, which were never really overpowered. But nerfing FoN means that Midrange Druid will have no reason to put the combo in the deck – Savage Roar itself is fine sometimes, but it’s way too situational and requires at least ~3 minions on the board to be really useful. Which isn’t that common for a slower Druid list.

It’s also the Charge part that drove people mad – you could clear opponent’s board and still get charged for 14 (combo) or 22 (double combo) damage. Now you should feel much more safe – in theory they can still deal 10 charge damage with Druid of the Claw + Savage Roar + Hero Power for 10 mana, but that’s way more balanced.

Verdict: If you don’t want to try some weird Token Druid decks, disenchant it.

Ancient of Lore

Okay, this one was expected. Besides the combo, Ancient of Lore is consistently seen as one of the most oppressive Druid cards. And I have to agree. Ancient of Lore allows Druid to be relevant in Control games while not losing the on-board tempo too much. Drawing 2 cards AND dropping a 5/5 body with one card is way too strong. It’s just too much value packed into one minion. Removing Lore means that Druids will probably have to use other sources of card draw – most of them are weaker, because there are no minions that draw 2 and put a big body on the board.

Healing stays the same, and I would be surprised if they touched it – healing part of the card was already weak and only used if you REALLY had to heal. 5 healing on a 7 mana card was incredibly weak, even though you could target something.

Even though the card is still okay, it’s not good enough for Constructed. Drawing 1 card less is a big deal. Right now, if you’re using it as a source of card draw, there is no point to use it over other things. For example – compare it to Azure Drake. If you pick the card draw option, for 2 more mana you get +1/+1 stats but lose +1 Spell Damage. It’s terrible. It gives you a slight flexibility in a way that you can heal yourself when you need, but at this point it doesn’t matter – if you play slower, non-combo Druid you can just include another source of healing too.

Slower Druid lists will definitely look for some sort of replacement – Nourish seems like a fine candidate, since it was already used in non-combo lists from time to time. I suspect some might also use a heal if Aggro decks stay popular, 5 healing from Lore wasn’t much, but after Taunting up against Face Hunter or Aggro Shaman they were often just what you needed to survive.

Verdict: Definitely disenchantable.

Keeper of the Grove

With Ironbeak Owl also getting hit, I think it’s not really that surprising. I still think that removing 2 points of health was too much. Right now I don’t know if it’s still playable. They are however right in one thing – EVERY Druid list used Keeper of the Grove. And it’s not really healthy for the game if there is a card that every kind of deck wants to use – Aggro, Combo, Control, Midrange, whatever.

Right now, Keeper of the Grove is still strong compared to Owl. +1 mana, but +1 health and the flexibility to use it as a 2 damage. The 2 damage part is pretty huge in fast matchups – it allows to clearly deal with a 2 health minion (all those 3/2 or 2/2 2-drops) while leaving something on the board. But Keeper being a 2/2 itself will be hard to play as a 2-of, one of the main strength’s of the card came from the fact that it could still often get 2 more trades with the body against small minions. Now it will be only 1 trade at best. In slower matchups, it’s honestly not going to change much – Keeper was played for the effect, not for the body there anyway.

Verdict: I might actually keep that one and see how meta is going to develop in the first few days. I think it’s still an okay card against something like Zoo Warlock and I can see it being played as an one-of, but it’s definitely far from auto-include.

Ironbeak Owl

Nerf to Silence was also obvious one. Removing Silence is not something they can do – not with so many strong minion effects that sometimes really require a Silence to deal with. I mean, imagine Tirion Fordring in a world without Silence, how much better it would be. So no, instead of removing Silence, they’ve decided to nerf the most commonly used Silence card – Ironbeak Owl.

And luckily enough, the nerf hit Aggro decks most. Slower decks that used Silence (e.g. RenoLock) can still play Owl that costs 1 more mana, they don’t mind that much. And they can also sub it for the Spellbreaker, which now seems like a much better candidate in a Silence slot. For just 1 more mana you get 2 more attack and 2 more health, which is a really nice jump in power. Owl could usually be completely ignored, it rarely did anything, while 4/3 body is somewhat scary.

But then again, Aggro decks used the Owl for one biggest reason – it was a cheap way to get through the Taunts (oh and it had Beast tag for the sake of Hunter synergies). They didn’t play it for the body, but for the effect. A 4/3 body with no instant effect other than Silence, no way to Charge it into opponent’s face and such was often on the same level as 2/1 Owl. And 2 mana is a lot in Aggro deck – they could develop one more minion, weave in a Hero Power, maybe play some burn spell. Owl was more flexible.

Also, one thing to note: outside of the Aggro decks (which use Silence to get through the Taunts) the Silence mechanic might be less useful with all the Deathrattle stuff going away. But we’ll see how things develop.

Verdict: If you play Aggro, you still want to play the Silence. But now you actually have a dilemma – paying 1 more mana for +2/+2 stats seems much more reasonable than paying 2 mana for the same thing. I still think that Owl will see some play just because of how valuable is Silence and just because a lot of Aggro decks don’t care about the body – they just want to make a way for their chargers.

Big Game Hunter

Another thing that was expected. I’ve said that in my last card review – tech cards should be tech cards. If they come with some powerful effect that counters X or Y, they should be heavily overpriced in exchange. So if you want to have a clear counter to something, you need to pay a price. A lot of tech cards didn’t work like that and it was bad, but I see that Blizzard is fixing that in WoG.

Having a cheap, neutral way to deal with all the 7+ Attack minions made a lot of those minions useless. BGH just kept them in check. But hey, it’s not like everyone and their aunt played BGH in every single deck, right? Right, but they WOULD if all the 7+ attack minions became so much more popular. Let’s say everyone had 4-5 7+ attack minions in their deck. Imagine that. It would be IMPOSSIBLE, because then everyone would counter it with 2x BGH and swing the tempo twice per game, leading to easy wins.

The biggest thing about BGH wasn’t even removal – it was the tempo it gave you. For 3 mana you could remove let’s say an 8 mana play and still develop a 4/2 (about 2 mana worth of stats). The effect was costed at about 1 mana, which is really funny considering how strong it is. Now the effect is costed at 3 mana, which is much more fair.

I actually think that BGH is still playable if too many 7+ attack minions pop out in the meta. And that’s how it should be – not auto-include into every Midrange/Control deck, but rather a meta call – we see too many 7+ Attack minions? Yes, we can play BGH to counter them if we play a class that has no other way to do so. It means that Control Warrior or Midrange Paladin will probably drop BGH, because they have enough ways to deal with those big minions anyway. But Druid, who has pretty much no removal, can still play it as a tech card.

Verdict: If you run two copies, you can definitely get rid of one. I don’t see how slow the meta would have to be to include 2x nerfed BGH. If you main stuff like Warrior or Priest you can easily get rid of both copies, you won’t miss them. But if you play decks that lack removal and need a way to kill those big minions – like Midrange/Ramp Druid or RenoLock/Handlock – I’d definitely keep one as a tech card.

Hunter’s Mark

This is one of the less impactful nerfs. Overall – 0 mana spells are very strong because of how easy it is to fit them into ANY turn. If they come with a pretty strong effect, yeah, I can see this nerf. I was actually wondering since the Beta – why the hell is Hunter’s Mark 0 mana? The fact that it’s rarely played doesn’t mean that the card isn’t insane. If you gave the same card to a lot of other classes, it would be auto-include into every deck. Just imagine Hunter’s Mark in Warlock, my god, it would be the most broken thing ever. Hunter’s Mark wasn’t overpowered only because there was no deck that could really abuse it – Hunter class was one of the weakest ones in Constructed for a long time already and the Hunter’s play style wasn’t really working so well with the Hunter’s mark (the only real use was to get through the Taunts, not to deal with big threats). But in the future, Hunter’s Mark might be a serious problem – just like it was when Buzzard + UTH Hunter was dominating.

But, the nerf isn’t really a big one. If you played Hunter’s Mark in your deck, you would still probably play it. I actually think that the effect like that should cost about 2 mana, not 1 mana – I mean, if you play it on Ysera, it deals 11 damage. Even more common scenario – you play it on Druid of the Claw and it deals 5 damage. That’s a lot for the mana cost. Especially since we have a card called Repentance, which is basically a Hunter’s mark… that costs 1 mana and is uncontrollable – you don’t pick a target for it, enemy does. But, nerfing it to 2 mana might be a bit too much for a class that’s already weak.

Verdict: You wouldn’t want to disenchant this card even if you could. But you can’t, because it’s Basic.

Blade Flurry

Okay, honestly, I think this was a huge overnerf. And to start things off – this card deserved a nerf. It was one of the strongest Rogue cards. Why? Because not only it allowed Rogue to be a very high burst class (and burst damage is always strong), but it gave Rogue an insane board clear at the same time. And all of that for only 2 mana. Yes, you need to set up a big weapon beforehand, but even when you combo’d it with Deadly Poison on your Hero Power weapon it was already strong – 6 face damage + 3 damage board clear.

Blade Flurry was limiting the design space for Rogue and I think the nerf will be healthy for the class, actually. It means that they now can release a big weapons or more weapon buffs without worrying that things will get out of control. For example, they couldn’t release something like Arcanite Reaper (just an example) for Rogue, because it would be too strong with Blade Flurry – 10 face damage + 5 damage board clear for 7 mana. Cards like Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil were also scary, because they’ve allowed for a huge burst when combined with Flurry.

But I still think it was an overnerf. In the current state, the card is too weak. Yes, increasing mana cost was good. Yes, making it only deal minion damage was good. But both at the same time? If it was 2 mana and damage minions only OR 4 mana and the effect stays the same, I think that would be a much better way to handle it.

Verdict: In the current state, the card is unplayable. Disenchant it.

Knife Juggler

Another well-deserved nerf. Juggler was just too much packed into one minion. Not only it had 3/2 stats for 2 mana (vanilla), but also a powerful effect. It was basically a 3 mana minion for 2 mana. It was used by most of the fast decks because of how strong the effect was. Especially if you could flood the board easily. Juggler already got a hit with Muster for Battle and Imp-losion leaving standard, but we need to remember that it’s not only about the current state of the game – it’s also about the future. Any relatively cheap card that spawns a lot of tokens would have broken synergy with Juggler.

Blizzard reduces Juggler’s attack by 1. but I don’t think it was a good way to nerf the card. Right now yes, the card is more balanced, but they’ve just increased the variance. In the current state Knife Juggler is even weaker if you don’t have anything to combo it with (because let’s face it – Juggler wasn’t played for the body, you rarely wanted to drop him on turn 2 because 3/2 was just too easy to kill). But it’s STILL insane if you combo it with Muster, Imp-losion or Unleash the Hounds, even if it has 1 less attack.

It seems like they didn’t realize what was the problem with the card. Or they did and still decided to ignore it. The real problem with Juggler was that it synergized with SUMMONED minions, not PLAYED minions. Just a slight change in the card text would fix it. Instead of “After you summon a minion”, it should say “After you play a minion” and yeah, everything would be fine. All the insane current and possible future synergies would go away. It would only throw knives for the minions you play from your hand, not the ones you summon from spells or Hero Power. Card would suddenly be much more balanced, even as a 3/2.

Verdict: Most of the decks that would use old Knife Juggler because they had strong summon effects (Muster, Unleash etc.) would still use the new version. So I would not disenchant it if you play decks like that – it’s definitely still playable.

Leper Gnome

If I had to pick one card that explains the phrase “cancer deck” most accurately, it would definitely be Leper Gnome. At least the pre-nerf one. It’s a fast, aggressive 1-drop used in decks that want to get in your face as much as they can. That want to push for a lot of damage in the short time. The Leper Gnome was played, because it was nearly guaranteed 2 damage no matter what. Even if enemy pinged it right away, it still dealt 2 damage. And it was too much packed into one card – with 2/1 stats and 2 damage on Deathrattle, it was auto-include into any Aggro deck.

I’ve expected them to reduce the damage Deathrattle deals to 1, but it’s also fine this way. With 1/1 stats, it suddenly becomes a much worse option. Turn 1 Leper Gnome isn’t as scary as it was before. It doesn’t require instant attention. Actually, it’s not possible to leave it be for some time. It’s still a good card – guaranteed 2 face damage in an Aggro deck is strong. And a body on top of it? You can still get some good trades with Abusive Sergeant, you still can trade into other 2/1 1-drops or you can still push for some additional face damage. It’s just no longer an auto-include into Aggro decks and that was the intention.

Later in the game it doesn’t make much difference – if you play Aggro, enemy is the one having board control and clearing everything you play anyway. Leper Gnome rarely got to attack in the mid/late game, and since Deathrattle stays the same – well, it’s still 2 damage for 1 mana, so it’s never useless, unlike some other 1-drops – that’s still a big strength of the card.

I think the card is still fine, but it won’t be the go-to 1-drop for Aggro decks. Other options will also be considered. But I’d say that for example Face Hunter would still most likely want the Leper Gnome in their decks.

Verdict: If you don’t play Aggro, instant disenchant. If you play Aggro, can’t really tell yet – if another strong 1-drop that can take Leper Gnome’s place will be released in WoG, disenchant. If not, it should still be playable just because there aren’t a lot of neutral Aggro 1-drops in the game.

Arcane Golem

And this one surprised me. I’ve never considered Arcane Golem to be overpowered. And if other chargers in the same slot – Argent Horserider and Wolfrider – are fine, then what’s wrong with this one? Yes, it has the best stats out of the 3, but it’s also a much weaker turn 3 play. It ramps enemy up, and that’s what you don’t want to do – enemy might be able to weave in additional Hero Power (Priest/Warrior) and take the “more damage” advantage back, it might get enemy closer to the Taunt or heal they need etc. Yes, sometimes if enemy couldn’t answer it it was a great turn 3 play, because getting 8 face damage over 2 turns is insane even if you give enemy mana crystal. But I still don’t think the card was broken in Aggro.

But then I’ve realized. Maybe the intend wasn’t to nerf the Aggro decks – after all Argent Horserider was usually a go-to 3-drop. Maybe the intention was to nerf possible combo decks? Just like Leeroy nerf wasn’t intended to weaken Aggro which used him as a finisher, it was a hit to the Miracle Rogue. Arcane Golem is another similar card, that was used in some combo decks after the Leeroy nerf. For example – Combo Warlock. Golem + 2x Power Overwhelming + Faceless Manipulator is a 24 damage combo. While not popular, it could also be used in Shaman – Arcane Golem + 2x Rockbiter Weapon + Windfury is a 7 mana for 20 damage (or 10 mana if you use Faceless not Windfury).

Blizzard wants to get rid of all the high damage combos and that’s fine, I think it’s good for the game. Right now they aren’t overpowered, the decks aren’t necessarily very popular, but we don’t know their plans for the future. Maybe they would release a card that has insane synergy with such decks and they would become overpowered? Or maybe it’s just a “better safe than sorry” approach, since they are nerfing all the combos why leave this one behind? After all it could become popular in the future. We’ll probably never know, but maybe we’ll see some insane combo cards that would make Arcane Golem broken in this or next expansion.

The post-nerf version sucks so hard. Maybe 4/4 for 3 mana would be impressive in vanilla, but it isn’t right now. Not only we have 3/4’s for 3 with positive effects, but we also have 4/4’s for 3 with a lesser drawback than this one. Both Dancing Swords and Ogre Brute were unplayable in Constructed. Even though their drawbacks could be Silenced. This one can’t – it’s a Battlecry so you instantly give enemy a Mana Crystal. Sure, you’ve played your 4/4 3-drop. But you’ve just ramped enemy to 4 or 5 mana so he can just play a 4/5 or 5/5 or whatever into it. 4/4 3-drop is good only because it gets good trades against other <=3-drops. When you ramp the enemy, he won't have to play his own 3-drop into your 4/4 – he'll just straight up kill it or play something stronger.

Verdict: Instant disenchant, the new version is incredibly weak unless you play a deck that wants to ramp up the enemy (Demonfuse anyone?).

Molten Giant

Molten Giant was the strongest Giant. While others could be used earlier or easier, it wasn’t about how early you can throw it in. It was about the huge tempo swing it provided once it hit the board for 0 mana and how hard was it to play around it. I mean, Sea Giant is probably the second best one and it’s much easier to play around it. If you know enemy plays it, just kill his stuff. Sometimes you can’t do that, but that’s why it’s strong.

When it comes to Molten Giant, the “play around it” would mean not damage enemy. That’s really counter-intuitive – after all you NEED to damage and kill enemy in order to win the game. Getting enemy to 10 health usually mean that he still has some health to work with, but now he could swing the tempo heavily by dropping 0 mana Giants. So you had to keep him at ~15 health and then burst him from there. Which was really hard for a lot of decks – after all not every deck is running some sort of combo to kill enemy from 14… I mean ~15 health, right?

So for a lot of decks it was impossible to play around Molten Giants. At some point enemy dropped them down for free and you couldn’t do much to counter it. Now, you need to get enemy down to 5 health in order to activate free Molten Giants. And that’s a huge difference. It means that 15 health is still incredibly safe against Moltens – they cost 10. Even 10 health is pretty safe as they cost 5 each. Now enemy needs to get down to 5 health in order to drop free Giants. And this one gets much more risky – 5 health is in range of a lot of burn spells.

This is the biggest hit to slow Warlock decks, mostly Handlock – they’ve relied on the Molten Giant swings to win some matchups. It’s also a slight nerf to RenoLock – by slight I mean that they’ve only played 1 Molten and it wasn’t even a core of the deck, so it could be replaced quite easily. It also means that Molten Giant is completely unplayable after Lord Jaraxxus, but that’s not a big deal – When you were at 5 health with Jaraxxus before, Moltens costed 10 mana – at 1 Health they were costed 6, so they were nearly unplayable anyway. Another deck that gets hit is the Echo Giants Mage, but not that much – Ice Block makes going down to low health amounts much safer and the strategy should still work. But that’s in Wild, since Echo of Medivh is leaving Standard anyway.

Verdict: Moltens won’t likely see play in Warlock any more. 10 health vs 5 health is a huge difference. Not only it is much easier to burst Warlock and completely play around Moltens (because bursting requires 5 less damage), but 5 health is too risky against all sorts of burn spells if you don’t instantly combine them with a lot of healing (Taunt isn’t enough now). You can keep them if you intend to play Echo Giants Mage in Wild, but otherwise I’d say disenchant them freely.

Master of Disguise

Also one of the most expected changes. Blizzard were talking about this card over and over again, how they think that it’s a bad design. And I have to agree with them. Even though the card isn’t necessarily overpowered (it’s actually not overpowered at all), it limited the design space for Rogue and Neutral cards quite heavily. Giving something permanent stealth is an incredibly strong effect if you play it on a card with strong, ongoing effect.

Best example is probably Mal’Ganis. If you give Mal’Ganis a permanent Stealth, unless enemy has a way to deal with 7 health minion in stealth (and A LOT of decks can’t do that), you win the game. You can just pass every turn and enemy will eventually die from fatigue. Just like that. Even if the deck was wonky and didn’t work against let’s say Equality shenanigans, Lightbomb etc. – it would be completely unfair against like half of the decks.

So, it was impossible to give a card with such a strong effect to Rogue or make it Neutral, because in theory Rogue could abuse it heavily. Just because of this card. Rogue won’t feel the difference, because the card already wasn’t played and 1 turn stealth is often as good as permanent stealth in average scenario. So from the player’s perspective, it’s almost the same. But from the designers perspective – it opens so many possibilities. So overall it’s really fine. But honestly, they COULD give the card like 1 more Attack or Health, so it would maybe be playable in Constructed.

I was almost sure about this nerf when I’ve seen a Scaled Nightmare. There were NO card like that before and Master of Disguise was probably the biggest reason. I’ve predicted that if this card isn’t nerfed, the Rogue would try to go for the Scaled Nightmare + permanent stealth strategy, putting enemy on a 3-4 turns clock after that unless they can kill 8 health minion in stealth. Even if the strategy didn’t consistently work, it would be not fun to play against and not fair for the decks that can’t kill such a minion in stealth. So I was right about this one – Master of Disguise was nerfed and this kind of deck will no longer work. It also means that we should see more cards with ongoing, snowballing effects like that in the future.

Verdict: The card wasn’t playable in Constructed even before the change, so it’s pretty obvious that it won’t be playable now. Disenchant it.

Closing

So, those are all the nerfs to Basic/Classic cards. I think they have missed some opportunities here. I think we still have some cards that would deserve a nerf – a most notable example is Doomhammer. I’m really afraid of the Aggro Shaman, because it’s already a strong deck and it doesn’t lose pretty much anything in Standard, while Sludge Belcher and Antique Healbot are gone… Yeah, I’m not sure, we’ll see.

Overall I’m pretty happy with the nerfs. They weren’t handled too badly – it’s not like Warsong Commander history all over again. Some of the cards will still see play, while others.. well, got what they’ve deserved.

In the end, I don’t think that the nerfs will shake up the meta as much. Druid took the biggest hit in terms of quantity, while Rogue’s Blade Flurry was probably a single nerf that had biggest impact on the whole class – Rogue will need to find another way to play, because the high tempo + burst finisher style of Oil Rogue will no longer work and Malygos Rogue might be too weak after losing their only big board clear. But let’s be honest – Rogue was probably the least popular class on the ladder anyway, so while it will have a big impact on the Rogue players, it won’t affect the overall meta that much.

In the end the rotation of GvG and Naxx will most likely have the biggest impact on the meta. What will that impact be? We’ll have to see.

Also, a bunch of WoG cards (maybe even the rest of them – over 50) are going to be revealed at today’s stream. Stay tuned!