The Upcoming Hearthstone Patch and You: What to Expect
While Ghostcrawler may have moved on to the "greener" pastures of Riot games, the established Blizzard tradition of beating up everything with the nerf bat continues. While I have no qualms with the latest Hearthstone patch, Blizzard always seems to have knack for straight out nerfing things instead of introducing ways to counter it.
Everyone's favorite spooky ghost crab Ghostcrawler (above) has moved on to be the Lead Game Designer at Riot Games. They make that game called League of Legends.
Getting that off my chest, the new patch for Hearthstone will almost certainly cause a huge meta shift, with nerfs to popular class cards and "overplayed" neutral cards. You can read the full patch notes here, but in this article I will cover what I believe to be the 3 largest changes.
1. Sylvanas Windrunner going from 5 Mana to a 6 Mana drop
The biggest change of this patch, this "must-have" Legendary became just a little less "must-have."
Overall, the 5 drop bracket in Hearthstone is fairly weak, often filled by unique cards such as Faceless Manipulator or other cards with powerful "text" effects, such as Gadgetzan Auctioneer or Azure Drake. 5/5 for 5 passes the standard "vanilla test" (Basing a card's worth strictly on its stats), but her insanely powerful Deathrattle almost guarantees a card advantage.
However, by changing her to a 6 mana cost card, she competes for a spot in decks against the incredibly popular Black Knight, or another card that brings great value to the table, Cairne Bloodhoof. While I believe Sylvanas is still a powerful card, I think she may have lost her title of "This card goes in every deck, no questions asked." Obviously a nerf, but I think this one is well justified.
2. Pyroblast going from 8 mana cost to 10 mana cost
Following in the steps of Mind Control, Pyroblast is the second spell to reach the 10 mana cost plateau.
One of the most frustrating cards to play against in the entire game, Pyroblast is a card that offered very little counterplay outside of playing a deck with an incredible amount of healing or having access to Counterspell, which is a Mage-only card normally. By increasing the cost to 10, there is more time for the Mage's opponent to play out their strategies and force the Mage to not be able to simply throw a Pyroblast out.
Additionally, it also removes the ability to cast a hero power or a Frostbolt before throwing the Pyroblast. A needed nerf and probably the way to handle Pyroblast without completely destroying the card, it is still incredibly effective at finishing off opponents regardless of how powerful their board presence is.
3. Blood Imp being completely reworked
Anyone who isn't playing a Warlock rush deck these days is completely sick of playing against it. Normally featuring the assorted Murloc cards and other difficult cards to kill off, such as Argent Squire and Harvest Golem, this little guy right here was almost always the linchpin of the operations. Having a Blood Imp in play essentially allowed normally impossible trades to be favorable and made Warlock gameplay simply about getting as many creatures on board at once, with minimal fear of being destroyed by AoE effects.
In the new patch, Blood Imp will essentially be a stealthed Young Priestess with no attack value. While this is a heavy nerf, this card needed some sort of change. Whether it was to make it a 2 drop, make it only buff adjacent minions will be up for debate for months to come. The path Blizzard took it down is an interesting one, but I believe that the days of 2 Blood Imps in every Warlock deck has come to end.
Honorable Mention: Unleash the Hounds
One final honorable mention goes to the Hunter class. With the buff to Unleash the Hounds, reducing its mana cost by 2, you have a card with potentially insane utility coming into an already secretly versatile deck.
By lowering the cost of the card, the value of this spell increases dramatically, allowing it to combo incredibly well with cards such as Timber Wolf or Starving Hyena. With that buff and a myriad of removal options, I believe Hunter to be a dark horse in this brave new meta after the patch.
What does it all mean though?
With other changes in the patch such as the nerfs to Novice Engineer and Defender of Argus, it will be interesting to see how the metagame shifts and develops. Popular theory among both professionals and theorycrafters themselves points toward the metagame shifting to a more late game oriented style. With the potential "death" of the aggressive Warlock, and changes to Novice Engineer and Defender of Argus making the early game less brutal for late game juggernaut decks, I would not be surprised to see Druids and Paladins sitting atop the pack for the next few weeks of high level ranked gameplay.