This past year has been particularly notable for Hearthstone. We saw the debut of Standard, more deck slots, new hero skins, new cards, and a bunch of balance changes. It's always fun to look back at the year that was, particularly when it comes to card adjustments.
April 4, 2016
Referred to as the "Keeping Hearthstone Fresh" patch, Blizzard pushed this update live on the dawn of the new Standard format. This was largely due to the fact that the development team wanted the meta to evolve over time and felt that without these nerfs, a few key archetypes would forever reign. Midrange Druid, Oil Rogue, and Handlock all came to an end on this day. But it also effectively killed the idea of Silence being a normal part of a decklist and having Big Game Hunter as an auto-include to deal with large threats.
- Ancient of Lore – Now draws 1 card instead of 2.
- Force of Nature – Mana cost decreased from 6 to 5, Treants no longer have Charge and no longer die at the end of the turn.
- Keeper of the Grove – Health reduced from 4 to 2.
- Ironbeak Owl – Mana cost increased from 2 to 3.
- Big Game Hunter – Mana cost increased from 3 to 5.
- Hunter's Mark – Mana cost increased from 0 to 1.
- Blade Flurry – Mana cost increased from 2 to 4 and only affects Minions.
- Knife Juggler – Attack reduced from 3 to 2.
- Leper Gnome – Attack reduced from 2 to 1.
- Arcane Golem – Health increased from 2 to 4, no longer has Charge.
- Molten Giant – Mana cost increased from 20 to 25.
- Master of Disguise – Stealth granted by this card now only lasts until the start of the next turn.
July 12, 2016
- Silithid Swarmer is now a Beast.
October 3, 2016
A very surprising patch to say the least as Blizzard had maintained that it would revisit balance when sets cycle out of Standard. Community feedback was so negative however that the team had no choice but to take some power out of Midrange Hunter, Aggro Shaman, and Yogg-Saron.
- Call of the Wild now costs 9 mana, up from 8 mana.
- Execute now costs 2 mana, up from 1 mana.
- Rockbiter Weapon now costs 2 mana, up from 1 mana.
- Tuskarr Totemic now reads “Battlecry: Summon a random basic Totem.”
- Abusive Sergeant now has 1 Attack, down from 2.
- Charge now costs 1 mana, down from 3, and reads “Give a friendly minion Charge. It can’t attack heroes this turn.”
- Yogg-Saron, Hope's End now stops casting spells when it leaves the battlefield or is silenced.
October 20, 2016
Not even a month later, the balance team was back with even more changes, hoping to improve the Anyfin Paladin matchup while also adjusting Ethereal Peddler for Mean Streets of Gadgetzan's tri-class cards.
- Ethereal Peddler now reads “Battlecry: If you’re holding any non-Rogue class cards, reduce their Cost by (2).”
- Grimscale Oracle now reads “Your other Murlocs have +1 Attack.”
- Coldlight Seer now reads “Battlecry: Give your other Murlocs +2 Health.”
- Murloc Tidecaller now reads “Whenever you summon a Murloc, gain +1 Attack.”
- Murloc Warleader now reads “Your other Murlocs have +2/+1.”
Overall 2016 was a tumultuous time in Hearthstone's brief history. Blizzard had only changed a total of 12 cards between launch and the start of the last year which saw that many cards nerfed in the first patch alone. Certainly, the start of the new Standard format had a large part to do with that, but more than ever the team looks like it's well aware of the problems the game faces.
It's crazy looking back at exactly how powerful Midrange Druid and other decks used to be. They would have been maimed by Standard for sure, but the days of one archetype that is leaps and bounds better than all the others is hopefully behind us with Aggro Shaman being the last deck being brought back down to Earth.
Pirates may now be pushing an aggressive meta, but sites like Vicious Syndicate and Tempo Storm continue to indicate that lots of archetypes across multiple classes are all within reaching distance of each other and that speaks well to Blizzard's Mean Streets of Gadgetzan efforts. Hopefully, 2017 doesn't require as many changes, but if it does, we'll be here to cover them.