History books will forever tell the tales of that strange two day period between the largest set of Hearthstone nerfs ever and the release of Whispers of the Old Gods. For 48 hours the meta was astoundingly slow, helped by the lack of combo decks on the ladder. At PAX East 2016 we talked to some of the biggest names in Hearthstone esports and gathered their thoughts on the impending changes.
Ancient of Lore, Force of Nature, Big Game Hunter, some of the biggest names in the game were slated to be knocked down a peg come April 24. And while many were excited to play in a world where these cards no longer dominated the meta, others were very, very concerned with the state of Rogue following these changes. Miracle Rogue was the pinnacle archetype for months and months, but it succumbed to Oil Rogue when Gadgetzan Auctioneer had its mana cost increased.
Has Oil Rogue suffered the same fate? We're not yet sure.
"I think people are overplaying the Blade Flurry nerf," Team Archon's William "Amnesiac" Barton tells us, "that card will probably still see play as a one of in Gadgetzen decks." Though we've predominantly seen Control Rogue become a thing thanks to cards like C'Thun and Blade of C'Thun, the meta will take some more time to shake down from the most popular decks before people begin really finding out if old friends remain competitive enough.
And once all the balance changes were posted by Blizzard it was immediately evident that two classes, Freeze Mage and Aggro Shaman, would remain untouched. Though two of the players we talked to, Jason "Amaz" Chan and Jeffrey "Trump" Shih expressed their interest in an Alexstrasza nerf to help keep combo decks like Freeze Mage down and out.
"It should just set your hero health to 20," says Amaz, "because once again it does enable a lot of combos. If you can combo to 15 and the other class has healing, then it's kind of the uninteractive thing that Blizzard doesn't want, right? So I wish Alex was included, but at least they covered most of them." He continues to call them "necessary" and mentions predicting eight of them prior to the announcement. "But it's about time really, right? Basically if the Classic set is always to be evergreen they needed to back down the power level. Otherwise every new expansion was not going to matter to much. "
Team Archon's Jon "Orange" Westberg agrees with him, "I love the nerfs. I think they did a really good job. I would say that every single nerf I agree with. Some of them I didn't expect like Hunter's Mark and Master of Disguise, but it's probably a good nerf in the long run. Other than that I think they did a really good job of making almost every single card still playable but not as overpowered as it was. The one exception being Arcane Golem. I suppose. Charge is a very, very dangerous mechanic so I'm not too upset to see that go. "
His teammate Amnesiac echoes the statement, "I think they were good overall. . .they were healthy for the game. Obviously they did some internal testing and decided that they didn't need to [nerf Freeze Mage cards]." He continues, "Some people are really surprised they didn't nerf Doomhammer. I don't know about that as much, but I think they definitely could have nerfed Doomhammer. I don't know, we'll see. That's the scariest one."
But it's Cloud9's newest member James "Firebat" Kostesich that gives us the freshest perspective on the matter. While we're all so focused on how good and bad things feel, he offers up some possibilities that may arise as a result, something Blizzard and even members of the community would welcome with open arms.
"I like what they're doing with the game. 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 BGH 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."
So while it looks like Blizzard successfully covered all of it's bases - new archetypes have arisen, room has effectively been made, and one turn combos eliminated. Flamewreathed Faceless doesn't feel so good now that we don't have a 3-Cost hard removal minion anymore, but we'll learn to deal with it. It's Wild, according to Firebat that inevitably ends up getting the short end of the stick with these changes.
"The thing about Wild is that Dr. Boom was unchanged," Firebat says as he shifts focus, "so even though it's not in Standard, I feel like they should have changed it, especially with the BGH nerf. There's no answer to Dr. Boom anymore. In Wild, whoever plays Dr. Boom first is going to win. If you [play a] five-mana BGH [to kill] a Dr. Boom in Wild, you still have to deal with the Boom Bots - [which] you have two mana left over to deal with - and if one Boom Bot is able to take out BGH, you're losing tempo while answering it with your perfect situational answer.
"So that's real bullshit."