Blizzard is open to more balance changes in the near future.

Hearthstone Game Director Ben Brode had a long weekend. He couldn't sleep so he took a big chunk of time to talk about the upcoming Standard rotation and some of the concerns the community has as a result. There's a lot to cover, so we'll be posting his replies in full rather than breaking them up into an article format as we've started to do recently. But if you don't feel like taking the time to read everything Brode had to say, we've picked out a few key points.

Key Points

  • Blizzard might rotate more cards to Wild like it did with Old Murk-Eye.
  • Basic and Classic will remain evergreen.
  • Blizzard is considering:
    • Nerfs.
    • Rotating cards from Classic/Basic to Wild.
    • Simply accepting a stale meta in Standard.
  • Many comments that Brode makes are talking about long term meta. As in 2023, not 2017.
  • No, Blizzard won't make Reno Jackson evergreen. He will be rotating out this Spring.

 

The worst thing about Standard was promising players the Classic set would never rotate.

The goal with Standard is to keep the meta fresh for each yearly rotation. There are some benefits to keeping Basic and Classic cards in Standard: Returning players have an entry-point to the new format, and new players experience classics like "Hogger" and "Arcane Missiles" that are iconic and great introductions to the game. People take breaks from Hearthstone, and being able to jump right back in with a few cards you already own and understand makes that experience a lot better.

That upside has a real downside in working directly against the big goal for Standard. It needs to feel different each year, and if Basic and Classic cards are still appearing in large densities year after year, we will not be achieving our goals for Standard.

We knew we weren't going to get there when the Year of the Kraken began, so we nerfed 12 basic/classic cards, to put more of the weight of the meta into the rotating sets. We always knew we'd have to watch the meta to see if any future changes would be needed when we got ready for the next year of Standard. If things are looking like they are going to be too same-y for that next year, we could see more nerfs, or we might rotate some additional classic cards to Wild, like we did with Old Murk Eye. No matter what, we're committed to making Standard fresh and exciting each new year.

 

Are you guys considering, besides nerfs, implementing buffs for underused vanilla cards?

Given the goal of Standard is to keep the game fresh each year, it's important to keep a lot of the power of the cards in the expansions, and not in the basic and classic sets. It's not clear what that balance of power should look like (is it ~10 cards from the basic and classic sets on average?), but we're currently skewed so high towards basic and classic cards in decks, that we are at high risk for 'samey-ness' as the years change in Standard. Buffing Basic/Classic cards *increases* that risk. If the goal is to get more cool cards into the meta, just releasing awesome new cards in expansions should make an impact there, and still keep Standard fresh.

 

This, of course, was picked up by the Hearthstone subreddit which quickly started picking up torches and pitchforks, ready to barrage Blizzard with all kinds of opinions about the potential removal of cards.

 

Wasn't the entire point of the Classic set to have a stable base set on top of the Basic set?

There are close to 400 cards in Basic and Classic. Nerfing a few of them, or moving them to Wild, still keeps a stable evergreen set. Also, that isn't the entire point of Classic. It introduces players to the game at a slightly lower complexity level. It lays a baseline for generic Warcraft flavor (Hogger, Mukla, etc).

 

You're admitting that retaining the Classic set was a mistake instead of rotating it out. 

We believe there are real benefits to an evergreen basic and classic set. What we are talking about is very similar to the 12 nerfs we made when Standard launched, to help it succeed in its goals. Standard needs to be fresh each year.

 

Blizzard doesn't like people using the Classic/Basic cards because they want people to spend money/gold on new sets.

That's just not true. Some players like it when Hearthstone has a fresh meta, where you can explore new deck types. It's one of two reasons we introduced the Standard Format (the other was making sure new players wouldn't have to collect every card ever made to be competitive). Wild is going to change a lot less often. Some players like that too. But we have a commitment to keep Standard fresh and ever-changing. We've been hearing a lot of feedback that Classic and Basic as they currently stand are a real threat to that.

 

When a cheap deck like OTK Warrior reached Rank 1 they nerfed Charge as a result.

I see you took the time to look up my exact quote! :) We nerfed Charge (the spell) because we knew the upcoming Grimy Goons mechanic in combination with Enraged Worgen and Charge was not really fair or fun. There have always been F2P players at Legend, and there have continued to be since that change.

 

Almost all nerfed cards never get played again.

Maybe you're intentionally exaggerating, but you can count 'em and it's not "almost all". And not every card is targeted at competitive play. We do intentionally make bad cards. Here's a video, if you're curious about some of the reasons why.

 

Modifying the Classic set is breaking a promise and affects Druid and Rogue disproportionally.

Our intention is to keep Basic and Classic evergreen. This does have severe disadvantages if cards from Classic end up making Standard fail at its goal of being fresh each year. It's feedback we've been hearing since the introduction of Standard: 'This isn't enough - we will eventually end up in a stale Standard without additional changes.' And we've always said that we didn't consider our work here 'done'. If Standard is at risk for becoming stale thanks to the evergreen sets, we'll consider additional nerfs. This isn't the first time we've said this, and we said it even before Standard launched. We've reiterated it over the past year.

Assuming both avenues resulted in full dust refunds of the affected cards, would people prefer:
 
  • Nerfs

  • Rotation to Wild (like Old Murk Eye)

  • Staler Meta in Standard

 

Please leave the Classic legendaries alone.

There are a couple options here:

  • Leave cards the same and let the Standard Meta be staler than some people would like.
  • Nerf cards and leave them in Standard. 
  • Rotate cards to Wild, which should have less change and a higher power level.

 

Recently we've been getting feedback about the first point being a non-starter. What do you guys think? Assuming the other two options granted full-dust refunds for the affected cards, which do people prefer?

I should add this is a general question about all Classic cards and not specifically about Legendaries. We're not sure which cards would be the right ones to target, if any, just yet.

 

You only want to rotate cards so new players will have to spend money.

We did this in 2016 when we nerfed 12 classic cards and it made a huge difference in how much the meta was able to change with the release of Old Gods (instead of just continuing to be Druid Combo). New players were able to reach legend without spending money after that change, and I expect that will be continue to be true if we change a few more cards in 2017.

 

If you rotate Classic cards, you force players to acquire more of the newer cards.

The goal is to change the meta. If we do that by nerfing currently played cards, then you presumably need to obtain other cards, yes. But if we just make powerful, meta-changing cards in expansions, you are still in the same position of needing to acquire those. If we don't make new sets contain powerful cards, the meta just won't change. A changing meta implies new cards becoming prominent.

 

You can't blame the current meta on the Standard set.

None of my comments are meant to be in relation to a meta at a given time. We are talking about the meta over the course of years, and whether people would rather still be losing to Druid Combo in 2023 in Standard. We made changes in 2016 to help Standard get off on the right foot. I've just reiterated that we may continue to need to make changes so that Standard can be successful at feeling fresh each rotation.

 

Would you consider moving Reno Jackson into an evergreen set?

No, that would make each rotation less likely to succeed at keeping the meta fresh. We will keep making exciting new cards.