Hi! I'm Asmodeus, Hearthstone coach and content creator. Yesterday Blizzard surprised everyone with their announcement of upcoming balance changes. I've decided to take a close look at each of these card modifications to find out if the patch is going to be a pleasant surprise or not.
There are 7 changes in total, which is a big number in Hearthstone, making it one of the biggest patches we've seen so far. Let's break it down card after card and discover what the changes will bring, one by one.
The first card which received a nerf is Rockbiter Weapon. It will go from 1 mana to 2 mana cost. This change was made to address the burst damage coming from a combination of Rockbiter Weapon and Windfury on either Doomhammer or Al'Akir the Windlord. That kind of a finisher was really strong and could come directly from the players hand, which didn't require any board or a special setup. In aggressive shaman lists, you could go all in and after you lost your board control to the slower deck, you'd still have the option to burst the enemy from half HP, which was incredibly frustrating for the enemy who managed to defend successfully, yet was still punished. No more 1 mana Fireballs to the face.
With the increased cost, shaman still has an option to use Rockbiter Weapon in the same fashion, it will just come with a higher cost, thus delaying the combo and making it less punishing. As a 2 mana card, it is now comparable to other 2 mana cards which deal 3 damage (Darkbomb, Frostbolt, Quickshot). Instead of the upside of Spell Damage, you have the upside of Windfury synergy, which in my opinion is stronger than Spell Damage and justifies the lost health that comes with attacking by using Rockbiter Weapon.
The shaman class will not be hurt by this change, since they already have Lightning Bolt for the early removal. It will simply make bursting enemy face weaker, and I always welcome changes that nerf mindlessly aiming things at opponents face.
The second change to shaman was a nerf to Tuskarr Totemic. Now it will only summon the four basic totems, just like Wicked Witchdoctor. This change will finally remove a very frustrating mechanic of high variance RNG in early game and put the card in more of a niche spot rather than a standalone powerhouse.
After the nerf we will still see Tuskarr Totemic played in decks which focus on totem synergies or developing a wide board (such as Evolve decks) but more aggressive decks will probably replace it with something like an Argent Horserider. I like this change, because it is a gradual power adjustment which still leaves the card with it's original function that some decks will find useful.
Call of the Wild
Call of the Wild is a nerf which is definitely deserved by the card, but not neceasarily by the hunter class. If you take a look at what the card does, it really seemed absurd. You get 3xAnimal Companion in one card, and each of the minions is really closer to 4 mana worth than 3 mana. The spell Animal Companion costs 3 mana only because you can't chose what you get. Using estimated mana values you get 3x 3.5 mana worth of minions, and 2.5 worth of card draw, plus the inherent card value, making it a ~13 mana worth of stuff if you wanted to get the same thing just from playing regular minions. However hunter is currently not sitting at the top of the metagame. Right now it places somewhere in the middle, and the nerf to the most impactful card in their arsenal will make the class weaker. That's why I agree with the incremental nerf of changing the mana cost by 1. For the first time in a long time Blizzard positively surprised me by coming back to the right way of changing cards. Implementing small changes, more often, rather than big, infrequent changes, gives them a more accurate way to tune the balance of cards.
In the future, as hunter receives other cards to boost their strength, I hope Blizzard will revisit this card again and be open to changing it to 10 mana cost, since it is stronger than Mind Control and Pyroblast as evident by how often each of these cards is played in competitive decks.
Another incremental change which slightly modifies the power of a card without altering it's function is another change I approve of. Execute was raising in power with each expansion, as warrior was getting more and more tools to trigger it's effect by damaging enemy minions easily. After this change, the more aggressive decks (like Pirate Warrior and Dragon Warrior) might consider cutting one or two copies of execute, but it will definitely stay in control lists.
Almost all targets you'd like to execute will have more than three points of health, which would make destroying them similar to using one of the 2 mana spells that deal 3 damage (Frostbolt). There is also the upside to destroying, rather than damaging a minion, because it will not trigger various effects - for example: Acolyte of Pain.
The Charge change is a nerf to OTK strategies but it's not necessarily a nerf to the card itself. You can no longer charge enemy face but what you gain is a cheap tool to augment various cards which would otherwise require a risky setup.
You'll be able to now use it with minions which like to be damaged - such as Grim Patron or Acolyte of Pain to get their effect off immediately.
You'll be able to kill your Deathrattle minions in the same turn in which you play them, to prevent your enemy stealing them with something like an Entomb.
You can also trade minions with Divine Shield right away to play around your enemy removing the Divine shield with a ping.
There is also an amusing synergy with The Boogeymonster or Foe Reaper 4000, and if you somehow find yourself with a Charge and Giant Sand Worm at the same time.... oh boy...
1 mana cost opens possibility to many interesting plays. You could use it in combination with Moat Lurker on your deathrattle minion, and get it back immediately. I'm a huge fan of flexible tools which allow you to manipulate cards in new and unexpected way and this change goes in line with Blizzards approach to removing OTK strategies, which the opponent can't really prevent from happening to them. While I think that adding some tools to counter them is a better solution, this change still deals with an existing problem. Next in line - Anyfin Can Happen.
Abusive Sergeant was definitely above most other 1 drops in terms of the sheer power level. In the past, the card wasn't very problematic because it was harder to keep minions on the board early, but with the introduction of more and more sticky minions, there is always something left to buff if you build your deck for that purpose. Zoo Warlock and various aggro decks might still play it but the change makes it simply weaker and more niche, just like the Knife Juggler nerf. I expect to still see this card in Zoo and similar lists and that's why I like this nerf.
Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End
"Yogg-Saron will now stop casting spells if, during Yogg-Saron’s battlecry, it is destroyed, silenced, transformed, or returned to its owner’s hand."
This change will bring the effect closer to a coin flip, rather than a 60/40 roll, as well as limit the number of spells that go off on average. This makes the card simply less powerful, but keeps the crazy potential. By making the card weaker Blizzard wants to see it less often in a competitive setting while maintaining it's fun aspect for casual play and I think this change might accomplish that. It also makes it more consistent with another interaction that previously existed. When Yogg-Saron, Hope's End was stolen by Sylvanas Windrunner during his Battlecry, he would keep casting spells, but now for the new owner. The new change underlines the fact that it's the Old God who casts the spells and if he's gone, there is no one to do it anymore.
I think it's a healthy and rather smart change that keeps the card what it is, while limiting it's usefulness in tournament play.
All in all I think this is one of the best patches Blizzard has made for Hearthstone in a long time. Every single change feels justified and reasonable. The changes are small and allow for fine tuning of the game's balance rather than completely obliterating the changed cards. The only exception might be Charge but it's still a positive change even though I don't agree with Blizzards general approach.
The patch is going to arrive before Last Call events, which are a part of Hearthstone Championship Tour and take place between October 3rd and October 15th. Remember that you'll be able to disenchant the changed cards for the full dust value, for which they are crafted.
Let me know what you think about the changes, share your opinions or questions in the comments below, I'm always happy to answer them.
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