Hearthstone Nerf-a-thon

YZPLPTDNPDHE1394153616248Blizzard stated in March of 2014 there are over 10 million Hearthstone subscribers playing their free-to-play strategy card game. Since Hearthstone bridged from the PC/OSX beta last year to the iOS-iPad release a few months ago, competitive playing on the ladder blossomed into a deep meta-game of predictable decks with mostly repetitive play. Granted, this overt-generalization occurred once a player achieved a higher ladder ranking than average; or in my estimate: a rank above 14-12.

I noticed the main “grinding” decks for the easiest ladder climbing often came down players using the Warlock “Zoo” deck, a Hunter “Beast/Draw” deck, or a Rogue “Miracle” deck. The benefit from playing Zoo allowed a player new to the game to create a deck with cheap minions with low-cast-costs where the goal sent every available resource at their opponents face or using the hero power to draw another cheap minion. The Beast deck required more skill than Zoo, however required a specific combo of Starving Buzzard and Unleash The Hounds in hand to achieve maximum card draw and damage to the enemy minions and/or their chinny-chin-chin. The Miracle Rogue deck is often one many new players struggle with the most, since it requires many higher-rarity cards and the know-how to make decisions against each opponent before the combo of Gadgetzan Auctioneer and the handful of low-mana-cost cards to cycle through the deck and draw the final win condition with Cold Blood and Leeroy Jenkins, among others.

Blizzard announced on September 12 that “In an upcoming patch . . . we have decided to make balance changed to Leeroy Jenkins (Neutral) and Starving Buzzard (Hunter).” Source here: (http://us.battle.net/hearthstone/en/forum/topic/14279128810)

Most of the people from various forums found the information either a personal attack on their play-style of choice, or welcomed the change with opened arms. It depends honestly on your play style and which decks one plays most often. Granted, these two cards are in almost everyone’s deck where applicable, but that’s not the point.

To summarize the main article: Starving Buzzard changes from its current mana cost of 2 with a power and toughness of 2/1, and increases the mana cost to 5, while power and toughness to 3/2. This now means that the combo of Unleash The Hounds and Buzzard from playing on turn 5 to now playing on turn 8. Basically neutering the Hunter best deck (and most common variants including trap/control and even Highmane control since UTH/Buzzard utilized the card draw aspect early on to keep tempo pace with other mid-range decks.)

The Leeroy Jenkins change is less dramatic and still playable in most decks, however still significant in the most popular. The mana cost of 4 increases to 5, stopping decks such as Miracle rogue and the suicidal Hand-Lock from dropping Leeroy and a pump-up card (such as Power Overwhelming or Cold Blood) only to Faceless Manipulator the enhanced card and swing for lethal damage in a single turn.

The good thing is Hunters and Miracle are still viable on the ladder – for now. My free Asia and UK accounts use various forms of zoo/murlock and my own bastardized free hunter deck with some of the newer Naxx drops thrown in for versatility. So far, the ranks between 18-14 are 40-50% Hunter or Zoo variants with Miracle closer to the top, however I expect them to drop dramatically after this patch drops.

The good thing is a cheap Leeroy alternative is the less-rare Arcane Golem, although he doesn’t pack the same punch as Leeroy. However, I feel the community will find other cards to work around the nerd to Leeroy, or simply bring in other cards to fill the roles of those no longer used.

Hunters, however, may need to find a new style of playing the class mechanic all together. Since the Buzzard+UTH combo puts the draw bonus on par with a Rogue’s Vanish, maybe the more creative among us in the community can find some beneficial tricks to use Buzzards in a more unique fashion for maximum potential.

The patch tentatively drops on September 22nd.

-Chris

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