The Hearthstone balance team is probably smaller than you think.

Following yesterday's announcement in which Blizzard revealed that two of Hearthstone's most infamous cards would be nerfed, Game Designer Dean Ayala took some time to respond to user concerns. The most prominent among them was the idea that Jade Druid would simply rise from the ashes of Aggro Shaman and take over the meta. While Ayala is quick to dismiss the idea that this is what's going to happen, he admits there's no way to know for sure until things shake out.

Interestingly, he notes that they've done as much testing as possible with the three to four person balance team that Team 5 currently has, which itself shocked many community members who were determined that there had to be more people involved.

You can see his answers below which have been sourced from his Reddit profile.

In testing the nerfs, how has Jade Druid/Rogue improved?

This is something that is mostly a prediction rather than a result of testing. Whether or not Jade Druid and Rogue will be 'good' is meta dependent. I don't think these changes will magically make Jade decks strong against aggressive decks, but I think it's safe to say the meta slowing down at any % is a good thing for Jade.

So why not do something about Jade decks right now?

Jade is fairly weak to aggressive strategies, and I don't think those are going to go away as a result of STB change. There is still some room between hyper-aggressive pirate things and heavy control things that will keep us pretty far from all-jade-all-the-time meta. At least that's the idea. If we thought as a result of these changes Jade would be all (or half of all decks) that were relevant, we would have gone a different route.

Was this tested in a ladder environment?

Of course we do, what I mean by prediction is not predicting how good or bad particular matchups are, but predicting what people will actually choose to play. Jade decks still aren't great vs highly aggressive pirate decks, even after changing small-time buccaneer. If pirates are still played at the same volume they are now, I don't imagine Jade will be very strong. We can playtest every matchup in the game between the 3-4 of us but that won't tell us the exact rate at which each deck will be played on ladder, though it does put us in a good position to make a reasonable prediction.

There are only four people on the balance team?

Yes. Design team is around 15 people now. Live Content (Brawls, Firesides, Other Events), Initial Design (Card Designs, Mechanic Designs, Set Flavor and Theme), System Design (Ranked Systems, Tons of Other Systems), Final Design (Set Tuning, Card Design, Mechanic Design), and Mission Design (Mission Design, Card Design). We also have Ben that directs the ship and another sort of jack of all trades designer than works a lot on new player experience, matchmaking, and flavor things. That said, well all help each other out quite a bit and the real list of things each individual person does is more like 20 bullet points rather than 2. That's the general jist though.

That seems really small.

To clarify, this is also just the design team I'm speaking to. There are many other people of various disciplines like art, engineering, production, community, QA, customer support, marketing, business, etc that make an equally large impact on the game.

So marketing and business have a big say over what happens?

Decisions like how and when to launch in a different region and how to engage with different communities that play on phone or tablet are examples of things that business and marketing have huge impacts on and I would consider those things extremely important to our game. The executive team has little to no impact in terms of changing STB health from 2 to 1, but there are a multitude of things that happen outside the Hearthstone client that are quite important. This is just something I like to point out from time to time because it's usually designers are the most visible to the community, but with a game the size of Hearthstone there are hundreds of people behind the scenes that are equally important in the overall health/success of the game.


It would bug me if I didn't also mention the UI team, which I left out of my original comment. I was bound to forget one group! UI has the difficult task of trying to make everyone's ideas work on PC/Tablet/Phone in addition to a bunch of other additional art tasks they get pulled into.

Why not release the nerfs as soon as you announce them?

I'm not an expert in this area, but it has a lot to do with being a game on multiple platforms. In order to patch simultaneously on PC/Mobile there are a number of things that have to be submit and approved being we can release a new patch to the public.