Are the Announced Changes to Hearthstone Cards A Big Deal?

Blizzard has announced some upcoming card changes in Hearthstone, looking to bring better balance to Azeroth’s favourite pastime.

In a blog post released this week, Blizzard outlined the card revisions and the reasons behind them. But to really understand how the modifications will affect the game I spoke to my dear friend, Steven, who is a really exceptionally good Hearthstone player.

Steven’s credentials:

  • Highest rank in Standard – 4
  • Won a Fireside Gathering in Winnipeg (and, I’m told, was feared by the other competitors)
  • Has had 12-win arena runs with Druid, Rogue, Mage, Paladin, and Warlock


The following is a re-enactment of a conversation that only sort of actually happened:

Me: Steven! Haven’t seen you since that incident with the exploding pen. How you been? You still got that–

Steven: Yes. We don’t talk about it.

Me: Cool, cool. You see what they’re doing in Hearthstone? What’cha think? You happy about it?

Steven: I’m mostly happy with the changes. Much of this stuff is Band-Aid fixes because the Basic and Classic cards are too wide-ranging and powerful to really be in Standard forever. They should have picked a small selection of them to stick around and rotated the rest. More changes will be necessary in the future.

The most impressive part is that they are changing cards that rotate out in six months instead of just saying fuck it. I’m happy they were proactive on some of the Old Gods cards that haven’t even been out that long, too.

Me: All I can think is Shamans are getting a deserved nerf. Shamans. Ch. Pfft. The worst. The change to Tuskarr Totemic’s battlecry is so necessary. …Right?

Steven: Yes. There are seven outcomes to the battlecry on this card and three of them are outrageous. The card gives too much board advantage to a class that already has early board advantage. With Spirit Claws, Thunder Bluff Valiant, and Thing From Below around, it’s still good enough to play in a Totem themed deck.

The coolest thing about this nerf over the others is that Blizzard didn’t just wait for the card to move to Wild in the Spring. People who play that format won’t be haunted by Tuskarr Totemic spawning Totem Golem forever.

Me: Looking out for the little guy! Or something. Seriously though, I hate Shamans. I’m happy with any and all nerfs heading their way. What about the mana increase for Rockbiter?

Steven: The nerf puts it more in line with other three damage removals like Darkbomb, Frostbolt, and Lightning Bolt (counting the Overload), which I think is fair.

It takes away Shaman’s best follow up to Turn 1 Coin + Totem Golem and competes with that card on Turn 2, so you likely wouldn’t keep it on the mulligan anymore. It also takes away Shaman’s ability to burst down (for 15!) on Turn 6 with Rockbiter Weapon on Doomhammer and Lava Burst.

I think you’ll see Shamans be less aggressive and more minion based because of this nerf, though some decks might still choose to run it for end-game burst potential.

Me: May I never play another Shaman. The most confusing one for me, I think, is the change to Execute. Warriors don’t feel particularly overpowered to me.

Steven: I don’t think they are OP. That’s just one of the cards that’s so powerful and easy to use that it would be in every Warrior deck forever. I think doubling the mana cost will bump it out of many decks. The card’s biggest advantage was that you can remove one of their minions and play one of your own the same turn. In a deck that’s aggressive and has a good minion curve, you just won’t have two spare mana most turns until the game is close to being decided. Only the slowest Warriors, who float leftover mana most turns, won’t mind.

Me: Seems like a lot of the changes focus on nerfing aggressive, face-style decks, no?

Steven: Sort of. Mostly. Execute, Charge, and Yogg are things that kind of counter those decks. It seems to me like they nerfed things to push more of a style of Play Your Biggest Minion On Curve. Which probably means a lot more of the 4 mana 7/7 (for Shaman) in the future.

Me: Well let’s talk Yogg-Saron then. Probably my favourite card. It is odd to me how frequently it casts helpful spells. I don’t trust RNGs. Anyhoo, Blizzard says they didn’t really want Yogg in tournaments, so they’re nerfing it. But it’s a weird nerf to me. Now if it casts a silence or destroy on itself, its battlecry will end. How often will that happen? It casts any spell on any target.

Steven: I think people are prematurely calling this card dead. The fun decks that played 29 spells and Yogg are probably dead. It’s just not going to be possible for him to live through that many spells. But most of the time when you cast Yogg with 10-15 spells cast what you’re hoping for is drawing a couple of cards, getting a couple of secrets, and clearing the board. The chances that Yogg dies before it does that are probably smaller than you’d think, especially after Karazhan gave us a lot of spells that give positive Yogg outcomes, like the Portals, and very few negative ones.

I think Yogg will live around 40 per cent of the time. It’ll do its job before dying more often than not. I think it will still see play, and it will still see competitive play.

Me: Okay we’ve got three more cards to go through. Tell me about the Abusive Sergeant change because I feel like I don’t appreciate how significant it actually is. It was never a card I used much anyway.

Steven: It’s another change that lowers the early power of aggressive decks. The battlecry is powerful and is used in Zoo decks that want early board control, and it’s used in face decks that just want to do as much Hero damage as they can as fast as possible. Its 2/1 body still occasionally dealt impactful damage. Abusive Sergeant won’t be played nearly as much because a 1/1 body just doesn’t do with anything. Hopefully this change allows a wider range of less aggressive early cards to be used.

Me: What’s happening with Charge is nuts. Forget the +2 attack and so what if it can’t be used to attack Heroes, giving a minion charge for 1 mana instead of 3 is fantastic!

Steven: This one is the most interesting to me because it’s not really a nerf. They reworked the whole card. The new charge doesn’t facilitate the one turn kill combos that the old one did, but it does leave room for experimenting with cards like Grim Patron, Wild Pyromancer, and Sylvanas Windrunner. I’m looking forward to trying it out.

And like the older nerf to Master of Disguise, I’m glad that Blizzard now doesn’t have to worry about breaking the game with this card every time they design a new set.

Me: Evidently there’s more to the ‘can’t attack heroes this turn’ than I thought.

Steven: Yeah. Prevents one-turn kill combos.

Me: Finally, Call of the Wild is getting a nerf, and, well, duh. 8 mana for all three animal companions? Good lord.

Steven: The card is so strong that it doesn’t matter what strategy you use for Hunter, your gameplan is basically just survive until Call of the Wild. The biggest effect of the nerf is that you’ll have to survive one more turn — maybe Ragnaros, the Firelord will help — and the second biggest effect is that you’ll no longer be able to use your Hero Power with Call of the Wild. I still think it will be played in every Hunter deck, even at 9 mana.

Me: Final thoughts, then? Is this the Big Fix?

Steven: I think they need to do something like pick five cards from each class and 40 neutral cards in the Classic and Basic sets, keep those in Standard and rotate the rest. Then you wouldn’t have to nerf anything. If people liked playing with Abusive and Leper Gnome they can do that in Wild. And Standard leans more heavily on fresh cards. But then people would be furious about Blizzard devaluing their collections.

You could change the Classic and Basic cards up every year to keep those interesting. As it is right now, you can make a competitive deck with only Classic and Basic and it will never, ever, change. That’s a problem that Standard was supposed to fix.

Me: Thanks for the help, Steven! Don’t worry. I won’t make you say anything stupid.

Steven: Are you going to misquote me and draw dicks all over my misquotes?

Me: I would never.

Steven: I am a pretty pigeon.

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