29 September 2014 - 22:09

Post Leeroy World: How the Leeroy Nerf affected Burst damage

The Leeroy nerf means that decks that relied on him for burst need to be re-evaluated. We break down the decks and combos affected!
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Introduction

Without any doubt, the nerf to Leeroy Jenkinsis one of the biggest changes that the Hearthstone meta has undergone to date. It’s not a small thing – many very strong burst decks from the past will no longer be quite as viable, and as a result, decks that struggled against that kind of burst finisher in the past will once again have a chance to return to prominence. But exactly how big is the Leeroy nerf numerically? What will be the actual impact on the burst damage available to different classes? In this article, I will break down how each individual class used Leeroy in the past, and how their potential burst damage will be affected by the nerf.

Also, for the sake of definitions and clarity, when I discuss burst damage in this article, I'm referring to damage that comes directly from the hand - I won't be taking into account any situation involving cards already on the table. In order for a combo to qualify as a burst combo in this article, it needs to be done all in one turn, and come directly from a player's hand. Now that that's out of the way, let's get started!

Shadowstep

Rogue

Let’s start with the biggest change: The Rogue. For many, many seasons now, the Rogue’s most consistent and viable laddering option has been the Miracle Rogue deck, originally created by Kolento. If you’ve been living under a rock since the beta and missed the memo, the Miracle Rogue wins its games by bursting down its opponent in a short period of time after drawing through most of the deck with the Gadgetzan Auctioneer. Their burst finish usually looked like this: Leeroy Jenkins-> Shadowstep-> Leeroy Jenkins-> Shadowstep-> Leeroy Jenkins. This combo results in 18 damage for 8 mana. Many versions also included one or two Cold Bloods into the mix as well, resulting in either 22 or 26 damage for 9 or 10 mana. However, With the mana cost of Leeroy rising to five, the rogue is now only able to Shadowstep him once in a turn. This means that without the aid of Cold Blood, a rogue can now only get 12 damage out of a 1-turn combo, and up to 20 with the Cold Bloods included.

Although this seems like a massive nerf to the Miracle Rogue’s viability, I would argue that it isn’t as big as it seems. These days, the Miracle rogue tends to run at least one Assassin's Bladeto make the best use of Deadly Poison, and so the combo being reduced by 6 damage is actually not as detrimental as it could have been – since miracle has been getting more aggressive, it’s more likely that they will deal 6 damage more to the opponent’s life before they draw into their combo. That said, I’m not sure that a 12 damage finisher merits an entire deck built around drawing the 2-card combo that it now is. As a result, I think we’ll see a shift away from Miracle Rogue into more tempo-focused varieties.

Summary:

Pre-Nerf Burst Potential: 18-26 damage.

Post-Nerf Burst Potential: 12-20 damage.

Kill Command

Hunter

The Leeroy nerf, as we all know, is the least of the Hunter’s problems in this patch. The outstandingly large nerf to the Starving Buzzardis what will damage the hunter’s viability in the long run, not the change to Leeroy. However, it’s still worth understanding how the change will impact late-game hunter burst potential.

The Hunter’s Leeroy combo isn’t much to write home about. The standard combo looks like this: Leeroy Jenkins-> Unleash the Hounds-> Kill Command. This combo will hit for a minimum of 13 damage, and a maximum of 18, depending on how many creatures the enemy has on the board at once, for 10 mana. If we raise the mana cost by one, we can simply exclude Kill Command and exchange it for the Hunter’s hero power, Steady Shot. The result is that the combo now only needs 2 cards, not 3, and only does 3 less damage overall. So, while the change does affect the Hunter’s burst potential a little bit, it doesn’t really affect it a lot. Plus, Hunters never really relied on the Leeroy combo for a finisher on a regular basis anyhow. Typically, a Midrange Hunter deck does enough damage over the course of the game that such a burst finish is unnecessary.

Summary:

Pre-Nerf Burst Potential: 13-18 damage.

Post-Nerf Burst Potential: 10-15 damage.

Blessed Champion

Paladin

Paladins never really used Leeroy in any of their archetypes, but it’s worth the exercise to understand what the change could mean for them, too. Before, as far as I can tell, the maximum Paladin burst with Leeroy would have been 18 damage: Leeroy Jenkins-> Blessing of Might-> Blessed Champion. Now, after the increase, it would be better to use Blessing of Kingsinstead: Leeroy Jenkins-> Blessing of Might-> Blessing of Kingsfor 13 damage. All in all, though, Paladins don’t really use Leeroy for burst for several reasons, and so this isn’t really something that will affect the viability of Paladins one way or the other.

Summary:

Pre-Nerf Burst Potential: 18 damage.

Post-Nerf Burst Potential: 13 damage.

Power Overwhelming

Warlock

Although it may not appear as the class most dramatically affected by the Leeroy nerf at first glance, the Handlock in particular is one of the hardest hit decks out of this patch. The good news, of course, is that Handlocks don’t typically win with burst, but rather with surprisingly overwhelming board presence; the bad news is that this patch may well remove one of their best options for a fast kill in the late game.

Before the patch, the standard Leeroy combo for the Handlock was this: Leeroy Jenkins-> Power Overwhelming-> Faceless Manipulator. This would hit for 20 damage out of hand, and that’s discounting any Soulfires that the warlock happened to be holding as well. Post-nerf, though, they can only hit for 12 damage this way, as there isn't enough mana anymore to add Power Overwhelming to the mix.

This also weakens one potential board-clearing option for handlocks. In the past, it was a viable trick to throw down Leeroy with a Power Overwhelming and then Shadowflameit for a cool 10 damage to the opponent’s face AND board. Unfortunately, this is now a 9-10 damage combo, depending on the inclusion of the Power Overwhelming. This isn’t necessarily a huge difference, but it’s never a good thing to not have one of your major board clearing options delayed by a turn. Think about what people would think if Flamestrikesuddenly became 8 mana! Overall, although Leeroy may have destroyed the Miracle Rogue entirely, it will also force Handlocks to adapt their end-game as well.

Summary:

Pre-Nerf Burst Potential: 20 damage.

Post-Nerf Burst Potential: 12 damage.

Windfury

Shaman

People were very afraid of the pre-nerf Miracle Rogue’s burst, and they talked about it all the time. Not nearly as many people are afraid of the Shaman’s burst, which pre-nerf (and, as it turns out, post-nerf), is even better than the Rogue’s. After Naxxramas, but before the nerf, the shaman was actually the only class out there that had a somewhat viable 30-damage combo: Leeroy Jenkins-> Windfury- > Rockbiter Weaponx2 -> Reincarnate. Post nerf, it turns out that the combo is still almost wholly available, with the loss of that last reincarnate. This gives a total of 24 damage for 9 mana and 4 cards! Even better, the top-tier shaman decks rarely run Reincarnate anyhow, which makes the smaller combo even more scary, because it only requires the inclusion of one situational card in the deck (Windfury) as opposed to two (Windfury and Reincarnate). Overall, the nerf has still affected the Shaman, but it still has extremely high burst potential with Leeroy, even at his new cost!

Summary:

Pre-Nerf Burst Potential: 30 (!) damage.

Post-Nerf Burst Potential: 24 damage.

Mind Blast

Priest

Priests have never used Leeroy, and for good reason. It has basically no synergy whatsoever with the Priest’s toolkit. The best combo a priest can really perform with Leeroy would be to combine him with two Mind Blasts, but really, that isn’t much of a combo. As a result, there’s not much to say here. Priests will be unaffected, and if anything, strengthened by the nerf – as one of the very few classes who never used him, they will be relatively stronger now that certain other archetypes are marginally weaker.

Summary:

Pre-Nerf Burst Potential: None/6 damage.

Post-Nerf Burst Potential: None/6 damage.

Fireball

Mage

The Mage historically used Leeroy here and there as a part of various aggro variants back when they were popular. However, for the Mage, Leeroy truly is just a third, less effective Fireball. Plus, even when they did use Leeroy occasionally, he was never really comboed with anything. As a result, and especially now that the cost has risen to make it an even more inferior fireball, the mage will have no real changes as a result of the nerf.

Summary:

Pre-Nerf Burst Potential: None/6 damage.

Post-Nerf Burst Potential: None/6 damage.

Force of Nature

Druid

The Druid, much like the mage and the priest, has never really made use of Leeroy in any of its variations. Effective use of Leeroy requires either buff cards or cards that give you additional copies of something, like Shadowstep, and the Druid doesn’t really have mana-efficient versions of either. Pre-nerf, the best theoretical Leeroy combo for the druid would have been Leeroy Jenkins-> Mark of Naturex2, for a total of 14 damage. If that 14 damage number sounds familiar, though, it’s because Druids can do the exact same amount of damage out-of-hand for 1 mana and 1 card less, using the Force of Nature/Savage Roarcombo that we all know and love.

Post-nerf, it would be necessary to change the Leeroy combo into Leeroy Jenkins-> Mark of Nature-> Mark of the Wild, for a total of 12 damage. However, nobody will ever run a combo like that for obvious reasons. For the Druid, at least, although their Leeroy damage was indeed nerfed slightly, they never really cared about Leeroy damage in the first place.

Summary:

Pre-Nerf Burst Potential: 14 damage.

Post-Nerf Burst Potential: 12 damage.

Rampage

Warrior

Finally, we come to the Warrior. Warriors and Leeroy have a curious relationship. Although you’d think that Leeroy would come in handy in a Midrange or Aggro Warrior deck, there aren’t many lists that run him. Especially for combo decks, the reason is simply that Leeroy doesn’t have enough health to be effectively used with cards like Inner Rageor Cruel Taskmaster. In general, if he’s included in a list, he’s just used as a neutral fireball, and nothing more.

For sake of completion, though, I worked out what I believe is the highest-damage combo an enrage-style warrior could pull off with Leeroy: Leeroy Jenkins-> Inner Rage-> Rampagex2 -> Inner Rage-> Cruel Taskmasterfor a total of 18 damage. Post-nerf, you would have to remove the Cruel Taskmaster from the end, bringing the combo to 16 damage instead. Although this means that the warrior ‘Leeroy burst’ combo is largely unaffected by the nerf, such a combo requires too many cards and is far too gimmicky to actually see any play. As a result, while there is indeed a theoretical answer to the problem, in reality, this nerf will probably not affect how people play the warrior class very much.

Summary:

Pre-Nerf Burst Potential: 18 damage.

Post-Nerf Burst Potential: 16 damage.

Leeroy Jenkins

Conclusion

So, at the end of the day, how will the nerf to Leeroy Jenkinsaffect burst in Hearthstone? Well, as one might have predicted, it will tone down or even completely abolish some of the more potent burst decks out there, like the Miracle Rogue. That said, it won't affect some decks nearly as much as others. Shaman burst, while certainly lower than before, is still very threatening, and classes like the Druid or the Warrior are entirely unaffected, simply because they almsot never used Leeroy in the first place. This nerf hasn't made Leeroy into a bad card, or anything of the sort - in my opinion, I think it's simply put him more in line with where he should have been in the first place. Building a burst deck around him is still viable; deck builders will just have to adapt and come up with new ways to most effectively use Leeroy - that lovable scamp - in the future.

As always, if you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to post either here or to my twitter (@DreadmakerHS) and I'll do my best to answer you as quickly as possible. Thanks for reading!

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