It has finally happened. After much flame on the official forums, heated debate on Reddit, and even causing divides among close friends on podcasts, Undertaker has been nerfed. This 1-mana card has been the source of much frustration from the Hearthstone community. Cards with similar effects (like Questing Adventurer) certainly exist, but have never seen as much play or been even remotely as effective as Undertaker. A 1-mana minion that gains Attack and Health for every Deathrattle minion played (minions that are supposed to be good when they die, not when they enter the battlefield) really rubbed a large majority of players the wrong way.
Just like before the nerf, players seem divided on the change. I personally feel that this is an adjustment that needed to be made. Only a handful of classes have a one-card solution for a buffed Undertaker (that is actually worth playing in their decks). If you did not have one of the two copies of these cards in your opening hand the Undertaker was devastating. Neutral-card counters were also problematic. Probably the best neutral answer was an Ironbeak Owl. Running two of the Owl would weaken any deck and playing the usual one-of made it... well one of thirty cards in a deck leaving pretty sad chances of getting it in an opening hand.
One of the biggest effects of Undertaker’s now permanent 2-health is the other minions that are now stronger for it. For me, Zombie Chow is probably the most benefited card. Chow is already the go-to inclusion for any deck looking to combat early aggression from decks like Undertaker Hunter and Zoolock. The problem was, that against an Undertaker deck, if even one Deathrattle minion was played the Undertaker’s health would be out of range of the Zombie Chow’s 2 Attack. The same goes for any other 2-Attack minion. As a primarily Paladin player, my Shielded Minibots are looking forward to slaying many more Undertakers.
Now that the most controversial card has been reigned in, what card is potentially next on Blizzard’s hit list? Team 5 certainly does not seem to make changes to cards without putting serious time and thought into it. But this has been a much discussed topic around the Hearthstone water cooler since Tuesday’s announcement. Looking at the talks around the forums, Reddit, and Twitter, Mechwarper seems to be the card most players are feeling may be a little too strong. There’s no denying the card’s potency. Anyone who has played against a Mech Mage in the post-GvG world has experienced the speed and ferocity in which Mech minions seem to be deployed once a Mechwarper sticks. However, there is definitely a place in the game for unquestionably good cards. I’m not sure Mechwarper is in such desperate need of rebalancing.
Personally I have an axe to grind with Big Game Hunter. Removal is fine, I have no issue with the concept. It is a very necessary component of these types of games. It is the specific condition that this card requires for removal that makes Hearthstone stale for me. When Goblins vs Gnomes cards first began getting previewed I noticed myself being consistently disappointed about any minion that had 7 Attack or higher. That is a very weird reaction. I want to be excited about big minions. Large-attack minions are fun and exciting. Yet here is this one card that completely negates beastly minions for a measly 3-mana and leaves a 4/2 behind in it’s wake.
It is very likely that the Undertaker change was made in part to help make the designing of future Deathrattle minions easier. Try and imagine just for a second what decks would look like with the original Undertaker and even more playable Deathrattle minions. Hearthstone's Senior Game Designer Ben Brode said that one of the reasons Gadgetzan Auctioneer was changed was because they knew Spare Parts were coming down the pipeline. Personally I think it would have been a little entertaining to see the old Auctioneer in play with Spare Parts, but the change absolutely needed to be made. I would like to see what future high-attack minions would look like in a Hearthstone without BGH’s in every deck.
Players running Undertakers in their decks will be returning to the Military Quarter of Naxxramas for some retraining, and I expect some growing pains for Undertaker decks over the next few weeks. The much lamented Deathrattle Hunters especially. These kind of adjustments are exciting though. They force a change in the meta and can help cultivate new deck ideas. Even the slightest move towards a less-aggressive meta makes me a happier player, and this is more than slight.