Did Buzzard Really Have to be Unplayable? Yes
Introduction: Insert Slowpoke Memes
Hey guys, this is Nihilus Nix Naught here, bringing you my first article on this site, and I hope you all enjoy as much as I enjoyed writing it.
At this point, just about everyone has seen the nerfs. Just about everyone is happy that Blizzard is finally doing something about the scourge that is Hunter. Unleash the Houndsnow costs three (yes my header was completely shameless)!
On a more serious note, Starving Buzzardis getting hit with quite the nerf bat. So hard, in fact, that nearly everyone agrees that the card is pretty much unplayable trash now. Most people are certainly happy about it, myself included, but in the back of our heads we wonder why it has to be unplayable now.
Why couldn't they have just balanced the card instead of destroying it. Comboing out with Unleash the Houndswas pretty broken, but surely Blizzard could have fixed Buzzard so that the combo wasn't oppressive without killing it, right? Personally, I don't think it would have been possible.
[cardinsert card= "starving-buzzard" float= "left"]
Surely we can Rebalance Him: Don't we Have the Technology?
Imagine a world in which Buzzard costs three. Comboing out now costs six mana instead of five, so it's a bit slower. Maybe this fixes the problem. Unfortunately, you now have another Minion on board, so they get more value when they do go off. Not enough extra value to quite make up for the extra mana, but it certainly isn't an insignificant compensation.
So let's make it more expensive then. Four mana. Still a 2/1. They go off on turn seven. The quality drop is a lot harsher from six to seven mana, but now the Hunter has built a board presence as well, so he can make even better use of the combo. Maybe he even has a Scavenging Hyenaon board and you just lose. Most importantly, despite costing seven mana, he is still able to combo out in the vast majority of games. Even zoo rarely kills you before turn eight if you don't just let them goldfish.
At a certain point, it becomes clear that the problem with the Hunter class wasn't that they could combo off for only five mana, it's that they could combo off at all. One of the drawbacks to playing an aggressive deck (even Midrange Hunter was an aggro deck at heart) is that you eventually run out of steam or reach and just lose to whatever your opponent plays.
It was just completely unfair that Hunter combo off at all, because it allowed them to draw more cards than any other class. It ended up being a class with an aggressive nature, efficient and consistent reach in their hero power, and, because of the combo, unlimited steam. By making the combo cost eight mana, Blizzard ensured that even solidly midrange decks could have amassed such a board presence that comboing off no longer stopped them from just killing you next turn.
[cardinsert card= "hunters-mark" float= "left"]
Before the announcement came, a lot of prominent players suggested that changing the mana cost of Hunter's Markto one instead of zero might be a sufficient nerf because it no longer allowed them to go off on turn five and blindly draw a Hunter's Markoff the top. The thing is, they can just wait until turn six and then have the opportunity to also find a Timber Wolf, and then they still drew three or four cards and you still want to pull your hair out. Changing the mana cost of a card that was already terrible on its own would have done literally nothing kappa. Literally. Nothing.
Synergy is too Strong Kappa
This leads me to my next point, and the core reason I believe that there was nothing Blizzard could have done to make Buzzard fair but still playable. Let's take a look at the example decklist from the beginning of the article, specifically a few of the most hated hunter class cards.
- Unleash the Hounds
- Hunter's Mark
- Freezing Trap
- Scavenging Hyena
What do all of these card have in common? They are all pretty terrible by themselves. The first two are even completely useless without specific cards, as opposed to just needing beasts in general.
This isn't particularly uncommon: synergy-based decks as opposed to jamming powerful threats at each spot on the curve has long been an effective and abusable, yet easily disruptable strategy in trading card games like Magic: The Gathering.
The problem is, you can't disrupt what your opponent is doing in Hearthstone. Not only is there no way to interact with them on their turn, but there is also a notable absence of discard effects to get rid of his enablers and few actually powerful threats. Now, I'm not complaining about this: Hearthstone and MtG are different games, they don't need to be similar in every way. But it's a lot more difficult to punish synergy-based decks with very few standalone threats in Hearthstone that it is in MtG.
Since disruption isn't used as a balance factor in Hearthstone, synergy-based cards like Buzzard and Unleash the Skill get to do their thing consistently and without being interrupted. No matter how much they cost, there is Literally Nothing your opponent can do to stop you from doing it. This is the major reason that we can't have instant win combos in Hearthstone. No matter how much it costs to combo, they will eventually combo off and win. Granted, Unleash the Skill plus Satan Buzzard doesn't win the game immediately, but the same principle applies. The difference is, by costing eight to combo off and not win the game immediately, it almost certainly won't have enough impact on the game to be worth it.
Stonetusk Boar is Just the Worst Again!
[cardinsert card= "stonetusk-boar" float= "right"]
It's really unfortunate that Blizzard had to nerf the card as badly as they did, but as we can see, it was a necessary evil. No creature that behaves that revoltingly should be allowed to exist. Jokes aside, Satan Buzzard was seriously crippling design space. The card turned Blizzard into a teenage girl. They literally couldn't even release any more low-cost beasts. Especially if they were hounds. The problem was so bad that Stonetusk Boareven saw a little play, and that card was just the worst. But because Hearthstone is a game without disruption, heavily synergy-based cards will always be either unplayable (looking at you, Mage rares) or too good (Gadgetzan Auctioneer), never just good enough. And because Unleash the Skill exists, this card has to be trash or else it isn't fair.
But, hey maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Starving Buzzardcould've been balanced properly. Maybe I'm a jerk and Stonetusk Boaris your favorite card. Maybe you exclusively play Secrets Mage and your magic will tear me apart! Whatever the case, leave a comment to tell me exactly what you think of me and my writing, and please leave an up or down vote to let me know how much I need to improve.
This is my first article here, and I would really appreciate some feedback. Thanks guys!