During his competition at PAX East 2016, we had a brief chat with Cloud9's James "Firebat" Kostesich. We've already introduced his thoughts on the balance changes that went live shortly after we caught up with him. But there's a lot that he's said which continues to look closer and closer to reality.

"I thought most of them were pretty good. I like what they're doing with the game," Firebat says as we start our discussion with balance changes. "I think a lot of the hard removal was too easily accessible which kind of impeded people from playing their own class specific removal. People would play Big Game Hunter instead of playing a card like Mulch or any of the other removal cards that got printed. So it made a lot of sense to nerf that so we could start seeing some of the class specific spells for removal start being played over BGH."

As it happens, just the other day there was a post on the front page of the competitive Hearthstone subreddit talking about hard removal for Paladins and Druids - among the highlighted cards was Mulch.

Sure, it's lackluster compared to the tools that other classes have, but we now find ourselves in a situation where Mulch is actually an okay card, not one that's relegated to the bottom of your collection, proving Firebat's point.

We pressure Firebat to justify the lack of Freeze Mage nerfs, as it remains one of the few preexisting powerhouse archetypes that went untouched.

"I think in a way, they made Freeze Mage a little bit worse because a lot of the two drops from the set, and three drops from the set are a lot more playable and a lot stronger. So the fact that they're introducing more early game in general makes it so things like Freeze Mage have a lot more pressure to go up against early on which makes them harder for them to get their combos off and do things." He demonstrates another situation where this applies, "Same thing with Handlock as well. A lot of people questioned whether they were going to nerf Mountain Giant, and they didn't, instead they just increased the power of the earlier game drops. Which I think is a good way to go about it without having to nerf as many cards."
cabalbanner.jpg

Priest fans were pessimistic going into the Old Gods release. Many viewed their new class cards as underachieving and knew it would lose old staples like Dark Cultist and Shrinkmeister. Despite early reports that Priest has suffered immensely as a result, Firebat is hopeful for the class, saying it'll probably find something to make itself relevant.

"Having heal cards in Priest is something they were missing a bit. They couldn't really have any burst healing. They have Embrace the Shadow now so that could be pretty clutch. You [effectively] have twice as many potential Auchenai Soulpriests in your deck, so you can do a lot more with that. I definitely think there's a spot for Priest. Being able to heal 10 with [ Twilight Darkmender in] Priest is pretty crazy. That in combination with Brann Bronzebeard or something can cause Fatigue Priest to be a thing. Because they're still going to have Entomb, right? Entomb is one of the best cards in the entire game for going to fatigue so I think there's going to be some Fatigue archetypes of Priest that will probably work out."

Since last week we have indeed seen Shaman take over as predicted with the more aggressive variants leading the way, and while Firebat predicted this to be the case, he also admits that professional players probably aren't going to be the ones to remedy the situation despite Aggro Shaman's inherent counters.

"Face Shaman is going to be really, really strong. There's no going around that for sure. It's going to be a deck to look out for. I think Midrange Shaman has some of the best answer to Face Shaman, but no one's going to want to Midrange in tournaments because it's just more favorable to play Face. So it's very tricky and difficult to answer Shaman and it just seems to do well against everything."

While the meta is just now starting to settle down, the answers to some of the most popular decks are already there, it's just a matter of giving it enough time to shake out says Firebat.