DKMR[Varranis] here to tell you what DKMR thinks about the upcoming patch and how it will effect the current meta! Wow. Well that was a Pyroblast to the face. Or can we throw that metaphor out the door now that we’re going to see far fewer Pyroblasts? Or are we?
The meta is poised to make a huge shift with Blizzard’s new nerfs on the horizon. Let’s take a look at each of the changes and see how it’s going to affect our daily Hearthstone lives.
Blood Imp is now a 0/1 and now reads: Stealth. At the end of your turn, give another random friendly minion +1 Health.
Looks like Artosis will be happy. Blood Imp has been the scourge of non-Warlockers for a millennia (aka the last few months). No longer? I tend to agree with the general sentiment that Blood Imp is going to be pitched into the same pit of unplayables as the other 90% of Warlock’s demonic buddies.
Blood Imp’s global health buff was incredibly powerful for several reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, it allowed many minions to trade twice as effectively. It’s somewhat counterintuitive to equate 1 additional health with such increased efficacy, but a minion only needs 1 health to trade for an entire card. A non-Imped Knife Juggler or Shattered Sun Cleric would trade with either side of a Harvest Golem or just lose out to a Keeper of the Grove. Imped up, those same minions live through the first foray and get to bash again.
With an Imp, Dark Iron Dwarf laughed at Argent Commander, Young Priestess no longer feared Fireblast, and Harvest Golem might as well have been Megatron. Secondly, but still important, Blood Imp allowed your aggressive minions to survive damage based board wipes such as Consecration and Starfall by adding +1 health to all minons on your board. The Warlock deck plays quite a few minions with 2 health and the Blood Imp’s buff put them at that sweet, sweet 3 health needed to avoid the game’s most popular board wipes.
Now Blood Imp is a very odd Young Priestess. Stealth still synergizes well his other ability as it lets him live to buff longer. But how valuable is a Young Priestess that can’t attack? In the aggressive Warlock decks we’ve come to know and love(hate), I feel he becomes nearly worthless. The aggressive Warlock deck puts a high value on efficiency and aggression. Blood Imp was never an aggressive minion, but he was the king of efficiency due to the points mentioned earlier.
His new buff can actually be more powerful than the original when you only have one minion since you have the chance to buff the same minion twice or more. However, any Warlock player knows one minion and a Blood Imp isn’t going to go the distance alone. The fact that the new buff isn’t immediate (allowed you to make favorable trades the turn you played the Imp) and doesn’t globally protect your team from board wipes, this change makes it a significant downgrade.
I also believe the Blood Imp nerf will impact the playability of Young Priestess. Young Priestess was especially powerful with the old Blood Imp because her buff compounded with the Blood Imp’s buff to make your minions particularly hardy. The old Blood Imp buff also saved her from the embarrassing fate of dying to Hero Powers. A 2/1 with a solid ability for one mana is still a good rate, so I don’t think Young Priestess will disappear from the meta completely. However, I do believe she may no longer be an optimal choice for aggro Warlock decks.
That Blood Imp may be smirking now, but soon he’ll be all frowns. It appears Blood Imp’s days are numbered. Will aggro Warlock fall along with it? Read on to find out!
Unleash the Hounds
Unleash the Hounds’ mana cost is now 2 (down from 4)
I’m not sure this is the buff that’s going to save Hunter, but I’m still a huge fan. The effect of Unleash the Hounds is fairly inconsistent since how powerful it will be is highly dependent on your opponent’s deck. If we assume most decks have two or three minions on the battlefield on average, then we were paying 4 mana for two or three 1/1s. Not very good value.
If we then take into consideration that Warrior was one of the more popular decks at higher ranks at the end of this format, that value gets even worse. If Warrior had one creature out, it probably meant you were about to lose and a 1/1 charge wasn’t going to do anything other than Enrage Grommash.
2 mana for this effect? Now we’re talking! Hunter’s issues go deeper than this card, but now you can dream of a Starving Buzzard drawing you a couple cards before turn 6. In the right meta (one with many small creatures), Unleash the Hounds can be a very powerful card. The effect is interesting and the mana cost is now more palatable. I can definitely see this card seeing some play in the not too distant future. It may only be a Twinkie when Hunter deserved a dozen roses, but at least the class got some love.
Defender of Argus
Defender of Argus is now a 2/3 (down from 3/3).
This is a very subtle nerf and one that’s very difficult to judge. At first blush, it appears this card still does everything you’ve come to want and expect from it. It still provides two “Charge” attack power when you’re short a couple damage from lethal. It still gives you two Taunts when you need some defense. It still gives two health buffs to let you trade favorably. You use a Swiss army knife for its versatility not its sharp edge, right?
The new Defender of Argus is going to draw a lot of comparisons to Sunfury Protector, who gives the Taunts and 2/3 body for half the cost. Let’s be real though, we’re playing Defender for the buffs. Don’t get me wrong, the Taunts can be a beating and allow skilled players to steer the flow of the battlefield, but they aren’t nearly as valuable as the buffs. The Ancient Watcher decks that want the Taunts are already running a full set of Sunfury Protectors and Defenders of Argus. The other decks want the buffs and won’t be flocking to Sunfury Protector anytime soon.
Despite having the statistics of a 2 drop, Shattered Sun Cleric is still a popular card after its nerf and I don’t believe Defender of Argus will be much different. I do think there is a marginal chance, however, that the nerf to Novice Engineer lowers the value of Defender in some decks since the Engineer was a very efficient way to set up high value Defender plays.
Case in point, this Defender of Argus puts Alchemixt just as far ahead as a 2/3 as it would as a 3/3. It allows him to trade his Damaged Golem for the whole of the buffed Silver Hand Recruit or go for the face and let the Recruit make the same trade or bump into the Squire and die to the Rogue’s Dagger Mastery on the following turn.
Even if the Paladin’s secret is Noble Sacrifice, it’s easy to play around by sequencing your attacks appropriately (Squire at the Paladin first, no matter who you want to attack with the Golem). This example also illustrates that Argent Squire plus buffs is still just as good as it ever was. Admittedly this Paladin was in a bad spot Defender or no, but what do you expect when it’s Alchemixt vs. The Innkeeper? Someone needs to craft The Innkeeper a Tirion stat.
The 3/3 was rarely what you played Defender of Argus for. Clearly the card is directly inferior to its previous incarnation, but it’s still going to provide the versatility that makes it one of the best cards in the game.
Novice Engineer is now a 1/1 (down from 1/2).
Truly this is a sad day for we who love the Novice Engineer. The Engineer has long been one of my favorite cards just due to how dang efficient it is. It draws you a card when it enters play, so any value you gain from it that point forward is pure gravy. I’ve seen some argue this card will still be as popular as ever. To those optimists, I direct your attention to Exhibit A: The Death of an Engineer.
When once these Engineers would stand tall in the face of Dagger Mastery, Fireblast, and other damage dealing Hero Powers, they now suffer the fate of every 1 health minion. There is a slight tempo advantage gained if your opponent chooses to remove the Engineer with their Hero Power, but the fact they even have this option makes Novice Engineer significantly worse. Most often, lingering Engineers will be picked off by Hero Powers whenever your opponent can still make his plays and have a few mana to spare.
Exhibit B: My Engineer for a Squire! continues our gloomy tale of Novice Engineer’s bleak future.
Before the nerf, Novice Engineer could live the dream and trade for this Squire in two attacks. Or even the Squire’s shield and a Silver Hand Recruit if that struck your fancy more. Yet no more. The Engineer is now significantly worse at trading for your opponent’s minions as it will effectively never trade for more than 1 health. Sometimes that one attack you get is awesome and your Engineer trade for the last point on an Ancient of Lore or some other Epic beast. But for the early turns when your minions stats matter the most, Novice Engineer will no longer be the king of the little guys.
All is not doom and gloom, however. 2 mana for a draw and a 1/1 is still a fine deal. I believe Novice Engineer’s popularity will be surpassed by Loot Hoarder now as a 2/1 is objectively better than a 1/1 and the timing of the draw is not significant for most decks running these cards. For decks that want just one card drawer, I think they’ll opt for Loot Hoarder. For decks that ran them in tandem, I believe it’s reasonable for them to continue to do so although they may investigate other card draw minions such as Acolyte of Pain as well.
Dark Iron Dwarf
Dark Iron Dwarf’s buff now only lasts until the end of the turn.
I’ve seen people call this both a nerf and a buff. On the upside, you’ll never again be stuck in this situation, wondering whether you’d rather be beaten to a pulp by a gator or a monkey (ignore the SI:7 Agent and Backstab in Alchemixt’s hand! This is an example! FOR SCIENCE!)
However, plays like the one below will now be significantly weaker.
Before, this play would mean your Squire could trade for 6 points of health. In this particular case, the Squire took a nap during its entire life as a 3/1. Buffing a Squire with Dwarf was always particularly powerful since you could trade your 1 drop for as many as two 3 or 4 drops. The timing of the buff was also not particularly significant since you kept it and could just bash the Hero for extra damage and trade favorably later if the current battlefield did not present a good trade.
Unless you consistently have other good plays from turn to turn, it’s almost never going to be right to hold your Dwarf for a particularly favorable trade since you gain a good deal of value just by having the 4/4 In play. Thus the buff will either be 2 damage to the opponent’s Hero or 2 damage toward removing a minion. Dark Iron Dwarf was frequently used to trade up an inferior minion before the nerf. That won’t change much, but there will be awkward moments when you’re basically just playing a 4/4 for 4, which is objectively inferior to a Chillwind Yeti. At least those moments won’t be as awkward as being forced to give The Innkeeper’s Silverback Patriarch +2/+0.
I believe Dark Iron Dwarf will still see considerable play as there aren’t any particularly better neutral options for aggressive decks in the 4 slot, but Chillwind Yeti may begin to see increased consideration again in some decks.
Warsong Commander has been reworked and now reads: Whenever you play a minion with 3 or less Attack, give it Charge.
OTK = One Turn Kill
I strongly believe Blizzard misvalued the keyword “Charge” when they initially made Hearthstone. In card games where creatures, monsters, minions or their approximate can’t declare an attack the turn they enter play, “Charge” or “Haste” is usually a keyword. Hearthstone is no different. “Haste” in Magic: The Gathering is a pretty easy benchmark to use for costing, and I believe Blizzard did just that.
Except Hearthstone’s “Charge” would equate to something more like the following in Magic: “This creature can attack the turn it comes under your control. This creature is unblockable. If this creature is returned to your hand, gain a second main phase one and combat step” (Note: in Magic all of your creatures attack at once and this is the only time you can declare any attacks). This may sound like gibberish to those of you not familiar with Magic, but trust me when I say that it is ludicrously powerful. A minion with “Charge” in Hearthstone can impact the battlefield immediately, cannot be hindered except by Taunt minions, and can be replayed if returned to the hand in order to attack again. This leads to decks like Warrior Giant OTK where a minion blanketly giving charge leads to bad, bad things.
Blizzard seems to have a much better grasp on what “Charge” entails now and has gone about fixing the more egregious cards involved (namely Unleash the Hounds and Warsong Commander). I think this change was necessary for the continued health of the game. This card would have been a problem at some point. Even if they changed Molten Giant instead, there inevitably would have been another minion or combo in an expansion that benefited enough from “Charge” to elicit the disgusted facepalms Molten Giant OTK did.
I actually still like this card as a huge sleeper for a couple expansions down the line. Warsong Commander still gives all your minions “Charge” depending on deck construction. Right now I don’t believe there are enough good 3 attack or less minions to make Warsong Commander viable (although Raging Worgen is cute). But I bet one day long from now we’ll be Young Brewmastering a minion with less than 3 attack with some insane effect that triggers on attacking or dealing damage. Or there’ll be enough powerful minions with 3 attack or less that we’ll be saying “Man, who woulda thought Warrior aggro would be a thing? Warsong Commander is too stronk.”
Charge (the spell, not the keyword) has been reworked and now costs 3 mana. The card’s new power reads: “Give a friendly minion +2 Attack and Charge”.
I guess Blizzard decided they never wanted anyone ever to play this card again? I can only assume Blizzard decided this couldn’t cost any less than 3 using the following equation: 10 – 9 (Alexstrasza) + 1 (Coin) = 2.
At 3 mana, there is currently no way in a Warrior deck to play Alexstrasza and Charge in the same turn, completely eliminating the Gorehowl/Alexstrasza OTK. If you’re keeping score:
Blizzard 3 OTK Decks 0
Even with it picking up steam on the ladder, I never felt that the Alexstrasza OTK was oppressive. It’s not particularly easy to set up, gives you a turn to deal with Gorehowl or drop a Taunt, and isn’t any more efficient than other ways to end a game. I think this nerf was a little extreme, but the game will live on strong just the same without the Alexstrasza OTK.
Abusive Sergeant now reads: Battlecry: Give a minion +2 Attack until end of turn.
Mostly cosmetic, but a buff to the extent it lets Big Game Hunter and Shadow Word: Death target things they otherwise couldn’t. I’m always a fan of cleaning up the language on cards and making similar powers consistent, so I say this one’s a win. Adding new strategic elements to an otherwise straightforward card is also a plus in my book.
Sylvanas Windrunner’s mana cost is now 6 (up from 5)
We all know Sylvanas is well worth 5 mana, but is she worth 6? Everyone’s likely asking themselves that question in anticipation of the nerf. Most people seem to be landing in the territory of “yes,” but I’m going to answer you with the old, reliable “it depends.”
The 5 drop slot is interesting because turn 5 is where most games tend to move from the early stage to the mid-late stage. The 6 slot has long been dominated by Argent Commander while still offering excellent playables such as Cairne Bloodhoof and The Black Knight. At the 5 slot you really only have Azure Drake as a staple, with other role players like Faceless Manipulator and Gadgetzan Auctioneer tagging along. Sylvanas is leagues more powerful than any other 5 drop, so it’s no wonder she saw so much play. Is she still an all-star as a 6 drop?
I think Sylvanas will still see significant play, especially in midrange decks like Druid who don’t so much need to play a minion each and every turn but can wait until the right turn to play a particularly potent minion. However, I don’t believe she’s an auto-include in every deck anymore. She was frequently run even in decks such as Warlock aggro not so much because she fit the deck, but because she packed so much value for a 5 drop that it was hard not to. Warlock aggro has to justify its 6 drops, and I don’t think she makes the cut there anymore. This nerf will likely accomplish Blizzard’s goals, but it also leaves the 5 drop slot fairly dry.
Pyroblast’s mana cost is now 10 (up from 8)
Everyone’s least favorite card is getting a reality check. I am not typically one to complain when a card is too good, I usually just play it and live a happy life. But I do not like Pyroblast. It encourages uninteractive game play where the question isn’t “Did I correctly not play into his Flamestrike?,” but rather “Does my opponent have the second Pyroblast? Cause, you know what, if he does, there’s literally nothing I could have done about it.”
Skill in Hearthstone is focused very heavily on making favorable trades on the battlefield with your minions and making the correct assumptions about which cards are in your opponent’s deck and based on the way they are playing, which of those cards are in their hand. Pyroblast bypasses this entire algorithm and changes the condition of winning to: Did you deal 30 damage minus 10 for each Pyroblast you drew this game?
That being said, I don’t even think Pyroblast is a particularly good card. 8 mana is too prohibitive for a removal spell, even if it does kill essentially anything. Assassinate does the same thing for 5 mana. That means if you’re running Pyroblast, it’s for the 10 damage to target Hero mode. Spells that only deal damage to an opponent are generally considered unplayable in any card game. Sinister Strike and Mind Blast are two of the worst cards in the game, and likely aren’t going to be good anytime soon. Yet Pyroblast deals so much damage for the cost of just a single card, that it’s a staple in nearly every Mage deck.
I believe Pyroblast is very poorly designed. This nerf will most likely remove Pyroblast from the meta. Making the card cost 10 is close to making the card not exist as that cost is far too prohibitive even for the power of its effect. It’s a shame that Mage effectively loses one of its Epics instead of Blizzard giving the card a complete redesign, but the nerf should create a healthier game state.
There is some possibility the card creeps back into the meta as the finisher of some glacially slow Frost Mage deck, but I imagine that deck would require a fairly intricate series of skilled decisions leading up to the point the Mage can cast a lethal Pyroblast. With Pyroblast at 8 mana, many games against Mage became a matter of how many Ice Blocks and Pyroblasts they drew and the correct sequencing of those cards.
This was a common scenario where the Mage would play Ice Block on turn 6 or 7, cast Pyroblast on 8 for lethal or follow-up the next turn with lethal burn. At 10 mana, Mage has to live much longer to resolve Pyroblasts and can no longer play Pyroblast and another card or Hero Power in the same turn.
What Didn’t Get Nerfed?
Whenever a format changes, whether because of new cards entering the format, old cards leaving, or cards changing, it’s always important to reevaluate the cards that stuck around. Based on Blizzard’s design mentality, there’s really only one card left I could see deserving a nerf, but there are a few worth discussing.
The day of the scarecrow is still upon us. Considering the other nerfs, this non-nerf comes as a bit of a shock to me. Blizzard has taken a firm stance on cards that drive out other competition for their mana slot, and this card has been nearly as prevalent as Novice Engineer. At this point I don’t expect Blizzard to nerf the Golem, so I expect it to continue to dominate the 3 slot.
I can see a day coming once more when players rue the very name of this card, but the nerf to Pyroblast may as well also have been a nerf to Ice Block. Ice Block’s real value came in its ability to save you until a turn 8 lethal Pyroblast or to put the nail in the coffin after the first Pyroblast. With Pyroblast likely being pushed out of the meta with its current nerf, Ice Block, while still good, is not the death knell it once was.
While bland, this card tends to trade very favorably with other minions in the meta due to its 5 health. With midrange potentially on the verge of resurgence and the nerf to Dark Iron Dwarf, I wonder if this is a strong option against Azure Drakes, Druids of the Claw, and other popular 4 attack minions. I don’t particularly expect it, but this card had its day in the sun before and may be a good one to keep an eye on.
Get to the Good Stuff! What Deck Should I play?
We all know card gamers like their decklists, so here are a few post-nerf lists to whet your appetite. Note that none of these decks have been tested yet, but are drafts for decks DKMR will be testing after the patch goes live.
2 Keeper of the Grove
2 Druid of the Claw
2 Ancient of Lore
2 Loot Hoarder
1 Nat Pagle
1 Bloodmage Thalnos
2 Earthen Ring Farseer
2 Harvest Golem
1 Tinkmaster Overspark
2 Defender of Argus
1 Sylvanas Windrunner
1 Cairne Bloodhoof
Druid is #1 on most people’s list to be the top contender this format, and it’s no surprise given its recent success and near immunity to the new nerfs. I believe this list is a fine starting point for the new meta if you expect it to mostly consist of midrange decks. Nat Pagle is more likely to live in a midrange grindfest and draw you a considerable number of cards. Deathwing (a bit of recent StrifeCro tech) is your trump against the other midrange decks. Abomination is the deck’s concession to aggro and is a reasonable 5 drop.
If you are facing a lot of aggro, I’d recommend adding the Wild Pyromancers back into the deck. If you find yourself in a maze of mirror matches, swap the Abomination for an Azure Drake and consider running a Starfall to answer their large creatures. The Black Knight is also an option if Druid players start to adopt Ancient of War again. It’s also reasonable to add an Ancient of War to this deck if you feel The Black Knight is being played less.
We all know Druid is good. How about some spicy brews?
1x Power Overwhelming
2x Argent Squire
2x Flame Imp
2x Leper Gnome
2x Dire Wolf Alpha
2x Knife Juggler
1x Millhouse Manastorm
2x Arcane Golem
2x Harvest Golem
1x King Mukla
2x Shattered Sun Cleric
1x Tinkmaster Overspark
2x DarK Iron Dwarf
2x Defender of Argus
1x Leeroy Jenkins
1x The Black Knight
Whereas Druid is pretty much guaranteed to be a heavy hitter out of the gates, this deck is more of an experiment. The curve tops out at Leeroy Jenkins with the exception of The Black Knight (who could even be removed if you feel you’re not seeing enough Taunt minions). The Black Knight and Tinkmaster are your removal spells for your opponents’ big Taunters. Otherwise, the deck plays much like the Warlock decks you’re used to but is somewhat more aggressive in order to sneak under the slower midrange decks I expect to play against.
Obviously Millhouse Manastorm is a somewhat interesting inclusion, but I believe he could be a staple in this type of deck going forward. Especially with Pyroblast gone, Millhouse doesn’t have a lot of worst case scenarios that really punish you for playing him. Cards like Mind Control, which could be devastating, aren’t played and the most your opponent should typically be able to muster is a free Starfall, Swipe, or Avenging Wrath to remove your Millhouse. Your opponent gains a tempo advantage in those situations, but they’ve still spent a premium card to do so and haven’t gained any card advantage.
2x Ice Block
2x Ice Barrier
2x Ice Lance
2x Cone of Cold
2x Arcane Intellect
2x Frost Nova
2x Molten Giant
2x Mountain Giant
1x Archmage Antonidas
1x Nat Pagle
2x Loot Hoarder
1x Bloodmage Thalnos
1x Ragnaros the Firelord
A blast from the past! Pyroblast may be dead, but maybe we can resurrect Frost Giants? A slower meta means this deck will have time to do its thing, and its thing is pretty powerful. The deck plays to stay alive and drop a turn 10 Archmage Antonidas, Frostbolt, and Ice Lance to Fireball your opponent out of the game on the following turn. Ice Lance also can be used with Doomsayer as a mini-Frost Nova to stop your opponent from dealing 7 damage to your Doomsayer (just be careful they don’t have an Argent Commander or Swipe in end!). This deck may be ambitious as it expects to play a very long game, but I believe it could have a strong Druid match-up.
I would consider playing Tinkmaster Overspark in this deck. I also considered Kirin Tor Mage as a 4/3 for 3 with upside is very aggressively costed and should usually trade up against midrange decks.
I hope you guys enjoyed this look at the recent nerfs and changing meta.
Let us know what you think about the changes on our forums at http://dkmr.enjin.com/forum. DKMR will be posting additional “Budget” decks that can be found on our website and HearthstonePlayers.com. Please tune in to my twitch broadcast every Sunday from 10 AM – 4 PM EST at http://www.twitch.tv/varranis. You can find all of DKMR’s streamers on their website with times and the days they stream!
Guide written by [DKMR]Varranis