Dragon Priest has taken Hearthstone by storm lately. Vicious Syndicate currently has it as a Tier 3 deck while Tempo Storm has it slightly higher in Tier 2. Either way, it's still one of the best decks out there as the 9th and 8th best archetype, respectively. Mean Streets of Gadgetzan did a lot to help the deck including Dragonfire Potion, a replacement for Lightbomb that's specifically teched to favor Dragon decks and Drakonid Operative, which not only has insane stats for the cost but also helps you scry cards in your opponent's deck, lets you keep one, and has the Dragon tag itself. Seems pretty good right? It is. So much so that some have taken issue with it and have started complaining on Reddit. This drew the attention of a few Blizzard employees who took some time to talk about the situation.
Max McCall, Designer at Blizzard explained the team's thought process saying, "The idea is that Dragons in Priests were never quite as powerful as we had hoped for, and the Blackrock dragons will rotate soon, so Mean Streets was our last opportunity to push the deck for a long time. We didn't want to improve the deck's early game, and the Jade decks are supposed to have the strongest late game, so we made Operative a strong midgame option."
Dean Ayala, another Game Designer also chimed in, "The cards we are most comfortable releasing at an intentionally high power level are class cards that require a deck to be built around them. Operative reminds [me] of a safer Goblin Blastmage. Blastmage and Operative are extremely similar in that they only go in one deck (Mech Mage, Dragon Priest) and both have intentionally high power level because of this drawback. Blastmage was arguably higher power level, in a more aggressive deck, and was still a card I think we look back on as a success."
Ayala continues, "A (4) [mana] 5/4 or (5) [mana] 5/6 are pretty bad in constructed, but if we can make you look at the text box of a card and motivate you to build your deck differently to take advantage of an 'unfair' text box it feels like a win."
His colleague McCall shares the sentiment, "Operative is a class card that you have to build a deck around, so it has quite generous stats. It could perhaps have done the job of 'push Dragon decks before they rotate' at 6/5 or 6/4, but we were more confident in our estimation of the Dragon deck's power level than we usually are, and we knew that if we were wrong, the problem would fix itself after rotation."
"If you think 'well Azure Drake is neutral and almost as strong as Operative and goes in more decks so what are you thinking' the answer is that I think Azure Drake is extremely generous, which isn't to say that it should or should not be changed."
"There is a balance of course," admits Ayala, "every game shouldn't feel like you won or lost because of one card you drew or didn't draw but I don't think cards like Operative or Blastmage get there. Reno Jackson is much closer to that but I would say Reno has gotten more positive than negative feedback overall.
"This is all to say the most powerful cards in a given set are likely to be cards that are only powerful in 1-3 decks. We haven't always hit that mark in the past, but that has been a goal for quite some time now. For Operative in particular, Dragon Priest gets hit fairly hard by rotation. That in combination with how much data we already had on the Dragon Priest kit going into MSoG, we were very comfortable releasing a Blastmage-like buildaround card for Dragon Priest to use."
We think it's fair that the community takes exception to such a strong card, but it certainly hasn't broken the archetype as a whole. Without it, we might not be looking at a competitive Dragon Priest build right now.
As Blizzard states, Priest is losing Twilight Whelp, Blackwing Corruptor, Wyrmrest Agent, and Twilight Guardian once the next set comes out and that's probably enough tools to doom the archetype as a whole. Get your fill of Dragon Priest while you can. This is probably the best it's going to be for many months, or even years, to come.