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Upcoming Balance Changes Announced

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5RG9TJO.jpg

Blizzard have announced five upcoming balance changes to existing cards in the game in an upcoming patch.

Following on from Ben Brode's tweet which was discussed here, the full list of nerfs has been released, and it contains some surprises. The official announcement can be found here. It includes detailed discussion, and is well worth a read if you are interested in the thought processes behind the balance changes. If you want to simply know what has been changed, keep reading.

Firstly, the Druid changes:

InnervateChange.png

Innervate becomes identical to Counterfeit Coin. Innervate has been a problem for a long time, and should be a lot less powerful now. For me, it is a shame that there is not a more exciting fix, but it is important that the card is fixed, and this will work fine.

plaguenerf.png

As soon as the Knights of the Frozen Throne meta started to form, it became apparent that Spreading Plague was a problem card. Druid has traditionally struggled to deal with wide boards of minions, and fixing that problem should put Druid back where it used to be. The change doesn't seem like a big one, but remember that Innervate has also been changed.

As well as these changes, there have been changes to other cards too:

warleadernerf.png

This nerf is a surprise, but also seems to be a good one. It allows Murloc decks to still be strong, while also giving ways for players to deal with what is currently an almost unbeatable opening if Warleader is played after two other Murlocs on the first three turns.

FireyAxenerf.png

Fiery War Axe has been regarded as one of the best cards in the game for a long time. This change is a shame for purists, but it has been coming, and the only surprise about it is the timing.

hex.png

Hex is an extremely powerful card, but the timing of the nerf is fascinating to me. It seems to be a clear indicator that we will be looking at buffs a lot more going forward. Outside of the Druid meta, there have been many fascinating matchups with minion interactions, and I am not surprised that Blizzard want to encourage minion interaction beyond "My 3/2 kills your 2/3". Again, the timing is a bit of a surprise, but with cards like Bonemare in the game, I think it makes sense.

What is interesting is that Priest has been left untouched. With Priest already dominating formats where Druid can be banned, it will be interesting to see if the new Druid can still keep Priest in check, while being difficult to build to beat Aggro decks. My gut feeling is that this might work quite well. What do you think?

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Woah! This is WAY more extensive than any of us thought. Why is now the time to nerf Win axe and hex? It feels weird.

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So, the axe is now just a less interesting Eaglehorn Bow, Rallying Blade, or Shadowblade...  It was a very powerful card, but with Warrior's focus on weapons it made sense for the class to have a cheaper 3/2.  I can get behind the other changes, but this one seems less in keeping with the spirit of the classes...

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Interesting changes.

I'm a bit disappointed about how they changed Innervate , no creativity. Sometimes I tried decks without Innervate in the past and ofc it is worse than with it but I was often doing very fine. I will not be surprised if we will see more top decks completely skipping Innervate now.

The change for Spreading Plague came as most thought and is totally ok. No surprise here.

Murloc Warleader is a well thought change imo. Ofc all the murloc lovers will be sad but it's a good change for the game health.

I really like the nerf of Fiery War Axe. It has always been (too) strong. This makes other weapons more viable, I guess. I'm eager to see what this brings for the current decks.

I'm totally ok with the nerf for Hex. It's very similar to Polymorph which costs 4 mana, with the downside of giving a taunt but the upside of having 0 attack. Fair game, Imo.

Edited by Caldyrvan

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2 minutes ago, Caldyrvan said:

Interesting changes.

I'm a bit disappointed about how they changed Innervate , no creativity. Sometimes I tried decks without Innervate in the past and ofc it is worse than with it but I was often doing very fine. I will not be surprised if we will see more top decks completely skipping Innervate now.

The change for Spreading Plague came as most thought and is totally ok. No surprise here.

Murloc Warleader is a well thought change imo. Ofc all the murloc lovers will be sad but it's a good change for the game health.

I really like the nerf of Fiery War Axe. It has always been (too) strong. This makes other weapons more viable, I guess. I'm eager to see what this brings for the current decks.

I'm totally ok with the nerf for Hex. It's very similar to Polymorph which costs 4 mana, with the downside of giving a taunt but the upside of having 0 attack. Fair game, Imo.

What's annoying about the Druid nerf is that they're nerfing a card that is part of the basic set. When all these currently Standard cards that made Innervate so great will be gone, Druid players will be left with a subpart card...

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Ultimate infestation left untouched is a joke, nerfed a useless card like Plague and not one of the most cancerous cards ever made

UI value

8 mana for card draw (Arcane Intellect 3 + Nourish 5 consistent with Sprint being 7 for 4 cards)

5 mana 5/5

1 mana 5 armor Iron Hide

3 mana 5 damage (Kill Command)

17 mana value card at the cost of 10 (used at turn 5 without any problem) not present in nerfs

Plague nerf is a joke that card is useless since has 0 effect when you are already winning or when there is a single minion on board you pay 5 for a 1/5 with taunt, and if you are losing is just  a catch up not a huge swing like UI that can be used in any situation losing nothing at all since damage can go face also.

Innervate nerf is acceptable removing it was butter but we're still happy that the major offender got it somehow, will be still played but with half the value won't be as annoying as it was

Axe nerf is finally here took years but they did it incredible, at least better late than ever

Hex nerf? well now is on par with Poly but wasn't a issue honestly unlike the aforementioned broken card

Warleader nerf is ok but feels kinda weird only paladin plays it and there aren't so many around to call for a nerf

In the end I'm happy with the nerfs at least for once they fixed something that really needed it fast enough and they remembered to fix something they shoulda have done a lot before (the axe)

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As I said somewhere else. I didn't think Innervate needs a nerf. But now we get it like this and have deal with it. Maybe not playing it at all because now other cards may provide greater value for a deck, we will see. At least we will see first round Vicious Fledgling less often, I like that :)

Overall I like the upcoming changes.

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I had an entire essay written up on what to do with druid, I am a little disappoint that the nerfs were announced a so soon XD.  Long and short of it, my suggestion was to move innervate to the HoF and make nourish only generate empty mana crystals (I wanted to leave spreading plague untouched because changing it will probably make it unplayable and I really like the card, it has created new and interesting archetypes as well as giving druids a creative way to deal with wide boards that isn't AoE, innervate has been a problem child for a long time and was unequivocally the strongest card in the game, seriously 2 copies in any non highlander deck made that deck better, no matter the class no other card would be in literally every deck if it was neutral, and as for the nourish nerfs, because of infestation, it is almost always correct to ramp with nourish and druids being able to wrath or wild growth with it was a pretty big deal).  But ultimately this will reduce the druids power level a little, innervate won't be played in decks that don't feature auctioneer, and it is unclear to me if those decks will even be viable with the nerf to innervate.  Spreading plague will open the doors for druids to be pressured down, however, the two biggest checks to druid also got nerfed, hard, pirate warrior and murloc paladin, which could. . . be bad.  I think druid will still be an overwhelming force in the meta solely because of this.

 

As for the rest of the nerfs, the war leader one was necessary, the starts murlocs could get were nearly unbeatable and snowbally in the extreme, if they were to remove innervate, then it makes sense to weaken murlocs (in the sense that aggro druid was the other big offender of this extreme snowball starts due to innervate).  On top of that, the interaction with health was un-intuitive and often gave murlocs a level of resilience that meant the snowball was hard to break.  I doubt that murlocs will see a lot of play after this nerf, it was a lot heavier then it looks on paper, might still see play simply because jade will still be very strong.  The hex nerf was also probably necessary, in a long term game sense sort of way.  Shaman has always had some of the best AoE removal in the game, they don't need the best single target removal as well.  Kind of sucks for them right now, but I think it is a good direction.  The winaxe nerf I do not like.  Warriors now have the worst 3 mana 3/2 weapon in the game and that feels wrong.  Not only that, it will probably break the control warrior archetype, so many games are carried off of the value this thing generates and its ability to break a snowball.  The changes to aggressive decks will be noticeable and welcome, but tempo warrior will no longer be a thing, and control will need some serious early game help next x pac to make up for this.  

Edited by VaraTreledees

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Not too happy about these nerfs. Innervate is nothing but a coin now. Counterfeit Coin is a card that is played only sometimes. I don't think it would be played if rogue didn't have combo mechanic. So, goodbye Innervate. It was fun while it lasted.

Fiery War Axe hits control warrior significantly. It is a strong stabilisation tool. The sooner you play those, the better. One turn can be a huge difference, sadly. 

1 hour ago, Laragon said:

Woah! This is WAY more extensive than any of us thought. Why is now the time to nerf Win axe and hex? It feels weird.

Pirate warrior is still a very powerful deck, staying at tier 1 for multiple expansions, so maybe when they realised that not even KFT cards can stop the deck, it was the time for a nerf.

57 minutes ago, Caldyrvan said:

I'm totally ok with the nerf for Hex. It's very similar to Polymorph which costs 4 mana, with the downside of giving a taunt but the upside of having 0 attack. Fair game, Imo.

The problem is that shaman doesn't have many tempo tools already, and now they are losing another. Mage has multiple, the most powerful being Firelands Portal. The only strong tempo tool they have now is Fire Elemental, but the card is a bit too slow sometimes.

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I agree the nerfs will change current decks a lot.

But c'mon Pirate Warrior has been a cancer for a long time, time for changes :)

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10 minutes ago, Caldyrvan said:

I agree the nerfs will change current decks a lot.

But c'mon Pirate Warrior has been a cancer for a long time, time for changes :)

The problem is, that the change will effect control and tempo warrior far more then it will effect pirate warrior.

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So.....

Druid has been nerfed, and it can't ramp too much. A big nerf on most druid archetypes.

Warleader nerf hit murloc paladin. And Druid and paladin (with murloc midrange and murloc aggro) were the most powerfull classes, with priest.

Fiery war axe at 3 mana means no more Northshire Cleric insta killed before getting value. Hex at 4 makes more difficult to hit buffed minion, like minion with double health made attack.

So, do you think PriestStone is near in your opinion?

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1 minute ago, Synesthesy said:

So.....

Druid has been nerfed, and it can't ramp too much. A big nerf on most druid archetypes.

Warleader nerf hit murloc paladin. And Druid and paladin (with murloc midrange and murloc aggro) were the most powerfull classes, with priest.

Fiery war axe at 3 mana means no more Northshire Cleric insta killed before getting value. Hex at 4 makes more difficult to hit buffed minion, like minion with double health made attack.

So, do you think PriestStone is near in your opinion?

Doubtful.  Kazamakus priest is far too difficult to play for it to truely take over, on top of that, even if it will be the "strongest" deck, jade druid will still be very very strong and a tier 1 deck.  The match up vs murloc paladin wasn't amazing for priest either, like it is slightly favored or even, and the nerf to health won't effect that match up at all, nor will it change the druid match up much, so murloc paladin will probably also see quite a lot of play.

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5 minutes ago, Caldyrvan said:

But c'mon Pirate Warrior has been a cancer for a long time, time for changes :)

Spoiler

 

Thanks for bringing this up. Now, ask yourself again, all of you, is Pirate Warrior really the cancer?

The player community throws around this particular term a lot and without any real thought. What's being left out more and more is the actual metaphor. There is quite a heavy similarity between things we call "cancer" and literal cancer, the sickness, the one that's practically untreatable and extraordiarily lethal. 

There were times where a use of this particular term was not a matter of exaggeration of circlejerk. Secret Paladin was cancer before we solved it. Midrange Shaman was cancer before it rotated out. Jade Druid was cancer before we nerfed it. There was no solution to the problem. You either joined them or was having a negative winrate against them.

Were Freeze Mage and Quest Rogue "cancer" in this sense of word? A good question, but, perhaps, for another time.

What I'm leading up to is that Pirate Warrior isn't, and never was, cancerous by any means. Straightforward, blunt, stupid - I can hardly disagree. But not cancer. Or even bad for that matter - on quite the opposite, I stand on the ground that Aggro decks make the game as healthy as possible. And here's how it's any relevant to recent news.

Essentially, it's about threat-to-answer equity. If you have a strong answer, you can print a strong and diverse threat with an intention to provide an interesting game experience without affecting the balance of power. Occasionally, such threats just pile up in a direction that's hard to combat in a conventional way - Hearthstone makes it next to impossible to kill every creature - so the "answer" may lie not in a specific, card-on-card, situaition, but in the strategic axis altogether. If you can't win a fight, just avoid it - words as old as a day, but very true nonetheless.

A specific example would be our post-ban KFT Standard, right now. If we entierly take out Druid out of the equation, what would be left are big durdly decks like Big Priest and Exodia Mage, and the aggro camp with Paladin, Shaman and Warrior in it. What's powering a lot of dynamic in this format are DK cards. They are new, interesting, flagship, flashy and exciting cards, also colloquially known as "durdly bullshit". An ability to entierly take over the game by virtue of generaing resources out of thin air bends some rules quite heavily, and is due to disrupt the balance of power. What saves the day is players' ability not to play the same deck and just see who gets to the coveted Legendary first, but to ignore this subgame entierly and go face instead. Finish the game before any of these cards are relevant.

I'm getting a little bit off the topic, but my point is this : Aggro makes the world a better place. I've been a Fun Police Officer for many, many years, and I enjoyed it just as much and the next guy playing his clunky durdlepiece. But the result was that the variety of decks coexist without breaking the game, thanks to an ability to respond correctly to whatever comes into play, either strategically or practically, on a card-by-card basis. It all may sound weird and complicated, because it's theoretical. I'll get to illustration shortly.

What's done today by Blizzard is another big step forward towards disrupting the stability and the threat-answer equity that existed thus far. I'm talking, of course, about the Fiery War Axe nerf.

It's arguably Hearthstone's most iconic card. It's been around forever. And it was in every single Warrior deck ever, Control, Aggro and Combo alike. But how is that a bad thing?

There is a ton of 1- and 2-mana minions in the game. Fiery War Axe kills about 95% of them, in some capacity. What it means is not the fact that Fiery War Axe is busted. It's that you can actually make different 1-and 2-drops now, knowing that they will be solved by War Axe. You can make as much Tunnel Troggs as you want, because there is an Axe to solve it. Now, Trogg is as good as they come, pushed far beyond good, and it kinda makes it a 50-50 metagame between Trogg and Axe, but it's still better than a 100% Trogg metagame. The versatility of Fiery War Axe creates diversity instead of reducing it, surprisingly enough.

Hex nerf falls in very much the same category, and it can be dated to Execute nerf to 2 mana, way back. It's been quite a campaign on killing good answers, really, and with that, you lose more than you win in the long run.

Fiery War Axe is a solid, generic, a-little-bit-over-the-top class card that makes up a core identity of a class, the same way that Fireball, Kill Command, Shadow Word : Pain and Death and WIld Growth do. It's supposed to be good.

What irritates me even more is that it's the Wild Mode that has to pay the price for Standard's sins. I've been a resident of this rich, diverse and deep format for quite a while now. Outside of the Druid menace, it's been working quite well as a whole. You can't just close your eyes and screw all the players at the same time, because we're not playing exactly the same game. And these Tunnel Troggs? All these cards you've ever made within last 3 years, keeping Fiery War Axe at 2 mana in mind when designing them? They're still out there. About to be sent loose in their tracks. 

 

That's why TL;DR Fiery War Axe change is worse than bad and should be reversed ASAP. If there's any element in this equation that needs to be fixed, it's not this one.

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I called the Innervate nerf!

The changes to the non-Druid cards came as a bit of surprise. In my opinion, the problem is that they didn't just nerf Druid, they nerfed decks that directly counter it, namely Pirate Warrior and Murloc Paladin; two decks that lost powerful tools.

I still believe Druid is going to be one of the best (if not the best) classes. They practically left Jade Druid unscathed.

The Hex change was a big surprise and their explanation for it was inadequate in my opinion. OK it's a hard removal card, but most current Shaman decks only run one or zero copies of it anyway.

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Halving the power of a card while not providing any upside to compensate is simply too much of a nerf, no matter what card you pick over the thousand (?) there are now.

 

Why not at least have Innervate provide one mana crystal this turn and one mana crystal the next turn (So you spread out 2 mana over 2 turns, like a reverse overload)? At least it still *might* be used then.

 

This is just a much, much too easy balance change "Oh a card is too strong, lets just remove it". A philosophy Blizzard has in many of their games...

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Well, with just Paladin, Warlock, Rogue and Hunter left to gold up, these changes don't hurt anything I'm likely to play soon in standard apart from the Murloc Warleader one. So I guess I should be happy.

Spreading Plague nerf is good. I think I'd have preferred to see Innervate just go to Wild. Feels like Token Druid takes a bigger nerf here than bigger Druids. Happy to see the end of Turn 1 fledglings. Clearly hurts the bigger Druids to, but not sure by how much. Personally would've liked to see a buff reducing Geist to 5 mana.

I don't really see the (immediate) need for the other nerfs really. Pirate Warrior takes a huge hit, and other warrior archetypes are hurt too. All the other 3/2 weapons have little (sometimes big) upsides over war axe now. It's not like any warrior deck is out there devastating the meta, and pw keeps greedy decks in check without being unmanageable.

Same with hex, there aren't really any standard decks out there that are very strong that use it. And it really hurts Control Shaman where mana can often be tricky to juggle. Given that that and pw are my two go to decks for wild I guess I won't be playing much wild any time soon.

Warleader always seemed a bit OP to me. Certainly hurts Finja quite a lot but that only seems to see play right now in Paladin which can probably survive the nerf, except maybe the super-aggro variants.

Edited by Bozonik

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2 hours ago, Zadina said:

I still believe Druid is going to be one of the best (if not the best) classes. They practically left Jade Druid unscathed.

Yep. Minor nerf to mass-spamming during a single turn with Auctioneer, but hardly going to break the deck, is it? 

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I think Fiery War Axe needed a nerf but now it's too weak. A bit creativity would have been nice like a bonus for the increased mana cost, maybe something like "Battlecry Gain 2 Armor or Deal 1 Damage" or whatever.

Edited by Caldyrvan

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1 minute ago, Caldyrvan said:

I think Fiery War Axe needed a nerf but now it's too weak. A bit creativity would have been nice like a bonus for the increased mana cost, maybe something like "Battlecry Gain 2 Armor or Deal 1 Damage" or whatever.

It does feel somewhat lazy, just like the Innervate nerf. A redesign would have been nice.

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Heh. I had 4 regular murloc warleaders + 1 golden and kept them expecting that they may get nerfed. Then Hall of Fame happened and I assumed that since they are from classic they will be rotated if Blizzard will find them problematic and dusted them.

Murloc decks got an unpleasant hit. Warlock and shaman murloc decks look quite unlikely any time soon...

At least I hope this nerf will motivate them to print more interesting murlocs. Stuff like 1\1 lifesteal is offensive even for pack fillers.

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5 hours ago, Keizoku said:

Amusingly enough and contrarily to what people seem to think, the Fiery War Axe nerf doesn't impact Pirate Warrior that hard. They'll just mulligan harder for N'Zoth's First Mate and Upgrade!. Control Warrior, on the other hand...

It reduces how often you get off to a good start. In a deck that relies on a good opening that's pretty bad. It reduces the tempo of the deck in a deck that relies on tempo which is also pretty bad. And generally you want to be developing the board on Turn 3 not playing a weapon.

Given that pretty much all the main aggro decks in standard take a serious nerf, seems to be that Jade Druid and Kazakus priest are indirectly getting buffed, and they're both pretty strong already. Maybe opens the door for a face hunter or zoo deck to pop up I guess. Or maybe the pirates just move over to Rogue, I played that a bit at the start of the season, seemed pretty strong.

4 hours ago, Strongpoint said:

Stuff like 1\1 lifesteal is offensive even for pack fillers.

0/1 lifesteal with charge would've been more interesting. As it is I can only think they either thought it might fit into a quest Rogue, or they wanted to nerf quest Shaman for some reason...

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Oh, that's a pity for you Strongpoint :(

I like the nerf of the Warleader, because I still don't have a single copy of it *g*

(Talking about that, it seems time to nerf some other Epics from the Standardcards that I am missing like Ice Block or Cabal Shadow Priest

If I can't draw them, nerf them! :D)

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      The Rating System
       
      I decided to try something different with my first set review by using a different rating system than the rest of the Hearthstone community. Instead of assigning each card a one to five star rating based on its anticipated impact on the upcoming metagame, I rated cards on two different categories: power and versatility. The power rating was intended to reflect how big of an impact the card had on the game when played in a vacuum, while the versatility rating was meant to reflect how many decks the card was capable of slotting into.
      Looking back on the set review, I was very pleased with the way that the review system panned out in practice. The dual rating categories did a pretty good job of identifying cards which were powerful in a vacuum but were unlikely to find a proper home once the meta matured, but they weren’t so vague as to unspecific. In my opinion, predicting an entire metagame is simply too difficult of a task to be a practically useful metric for pre-set rating systems, and I believe that the Power/Versatility ratings did a good job of communicating which cards I believed to be worthy of building decks around, experimenting with, and crafting on day one. I look forward to using this rating system again in my set review for Kobolds and Catacombs.
       
      Strikeouts
       

       
      Updated Rating:
      Power: 5 Versatility: 4 One of the most meta-defining cards in the entire set, Prince Keleseth is a card that I’m certainly not alone in reviewing poorly. The Hearthstone community at large was hating on all the three of the princes before the set was released, and there were very few set reviewers who had positive things to say about the unique deckbuilding restrictions imposed by the Princes battlecry trigger. Looking back, the key thing I underestimated about Prince Keleseth was the massive increase in win percentage that occurs whenever this card is played on turn two. The upsides of Keleseth vastly outweigh the downsides when amortized over a large enough sample of games.
       

       
      Updated Rating:
      Power: 5 Versatility: 3 My entire approach to evaluating this card was totally off. I viewed the Battlecry as a largely symmetrical effect that had a smaller effect on the board than that of the other Death Knights, while in reality this couldn’t have been further from the truth. It’s quite easy to gain tremendous value off of Shadowreaper Anduin's Battlecry trigger with smart play and creative deckbuilding. Though I was well aware of the combo with Raza the Chained, I assumed that a Highlander deck needed to be built as more of a Control deck than a Combo deck and greatly underestimated just how powerful the upgraded Hero Power would be.
       

       
      Updated Rating:
      Power: 5 Versatility: 5 Arguably the most powerful Death Knight of the entire set, the key to my underestimation of Bloodreaver Gul'dan was the true power of Voidwalker. I took a hard look at all the Demons that would be in standard and determined that a lack of Taunt minions would be this card’s downfall, yet the pesky 1/3 Taunt proved to be more than enough to stabilize a board for a long enough time to take over the game with Bloodreaver Gul'dan's upgraded Hero Power. Surprisingly, this card sees play in every single Warlock deck in the meta, including Zoo Warlock. How many of you at home would have given this card 5 Stars in Versatility before the set was released?
       

       
      Updated Rating:
      Power: 2 Versatility: 1 I thought the Enrage deck was going places, but there’s no denying that this archetype ended up being a total dud. In practice, the Enrage deck has far too many moving pieces to consistently assemble a powerful board state and does a terrible job at recovering when behind. I also gave Animated Berserker a Power rating of 3, yet somehow gave Blood Razor a rating of 2 for both Power and Versatility. Oops.
       


      Updated Rating:
      Power: 2 Versatility: 2 I can count the number of times an opponent has played Howling Commander against me on the ladder on one hand. Despite the fact that this draws some of the most powerful Paladin cards, it turns out that the tempo hit suffered from playing this underwhelming body on turn 3 is just a little too much to overcome. It also didn’t help that the Divine Shield deck implied by Bolvar, Fireblood (another card I totally whiffed on) never came to fruition.
       


      Updated Rating:
      Power: 1 Versatility: 2 I should have listened! The vast majority of the Hearthstone community was down on Ice Walker, but I wanted to take a contrarian opinion on what I perceived to be a highly versatile card. In my actual testing of the card I found that the body was far too small to actually accrue value in a Control deck, while Tempo decks never had enough leftover mana to get use the Hero Power on their opponent’s biggest threat turn after turn.
       
      Home Runs
       

       
      Updated Rating: Unchanged
      Most set reviewers pegged Uther of the Ebon Blade as the top Death Knight in the set, but the highest ranked Death Knight in my own set review was Malfurion. I had a hard time seeing when this card wasn’t phenomenal - it’s great when you’re behind, great when you’re ahead, and fits in every deck that’s interested in taking the game past turn 7. While I’m tooting my own horn, I also pegged Druid as the “most improved” class coming out of Journey to Un’Goro, noting that Malfurion the Pestilent and Ultimate Infestation were two of the top four cards in the entire set.
       



       
      Updated Ratings: Unchanged
      There was a surprising amount of hype surrounding Rogue’s new weapon cards before KFT was released. What I saw was a group of underwhelming cards with way too much setup cost for their actual effect on the game. Runeforge Haunter may end up having its day in the sun if Rogue gets a few new powerful weapons, but as things stand today these two cards are nowhere close to competitively viable.
       


      Updated Rating:
      Power: 2 Versatility: 2 Forge of Souls picked up some of the highest ratings in all of KFT from other high-profile set reviews, but I just didn’t see it. I realize that the Fiery War Axe nerf ended up severely hurting this card’s stock in the long run, but that doesn’t change the fact that the deck-building restrictions for this card are quite prohibitive and that drawing multiple copies of this card is absolutely dreadful - the secret tech is to play just one copy in your decks that are naturally interested in running 4 or more weapons.
       


      Updated Rating: Unchanged
      Another one of the most hyped-up cards in KFT, Drakkari Enchanter requires far too much set-up cost to ever be effective. I’d sooner expect Howling Commander to make a splash in the metagame than this total dud of a card.
       


      Updated Rating:
      Power: 5 Versatility: 5 I’m counting this one as a home run. One of the most powerful cards in the entire set, my 4 and 4 rating of Bonemare was somehow way higher than that of the average reviewer. To quote Reynad in his set review, it’s “not really a constructed card, not really worth talking about when it comes to Standard.”
       
      KFT’s Launch and the Early Metagame
       
      The first few weeks of the KFT metagame were a glorious, glorious time of greed and experimentation. Especially at the higher ranks, the meta was almost entirely made up of extremely slow control decks that lent themselves to long, fun, and brainy games of Hearthstone. A popular post on reddit noted that Hearthstone games had become so long that it was no longer possible to play the while pooping - a small price to pay for the magnificent reward of a true control meta. To illustrate just how greedy and beautiful the early KFT meta was, I once watched on Twitch.tv as Team Liquid’s Dog put N'Zoth, the Corruptor into his Control Mage deck while the only Deathrattle minions in his entire deck were Sindragosa's Frozen Champions.

      The good times couldn’t last forever though. As the meta began to settle down it became quickly apparent that Druid was in a tier of its own. Spreading Plague gave Jade Druid the tool it badly needed to survive the early game, while Ultimate Infestation enabled the deck to overwhelm Midrange and Control decks in the late game. Jade Druid was made even more powerful by the fact that Aggro Druid and Kolento’s Midrange Taunt deck were also tier 1 options, making it nearly incredibly difficult to mulligan against Druid. Should you mulligan for your early game cards to counter Aggro, or mull for your heavy hitters to outpace Jade and Midrange? The mulligan phase became a dangerous guessing game that benefited all three popular Druid builds equally, and the versatility of the class made it nearly impossible to construct a single deck which had game against all three Druid variants. Murloc Paladin managed to post some solid winrates against Druid on the whole, but the other classes just couldn’t manage to keep up with both ends of Druid’s Aggro/Control spectrum.
      As Druids continued to dominate, Highlander Priest began to emerge as the clearcut “second best deck” in the meta. Quest Mage had a few weeks where it was able to prey on unrefined Jade Druid and Highlander Priest lists, but an uptick in Aggro Druid and Pirate Warrior brought a swift end to the brief dominance of Archmage Antonidas. With no apparent answer to Druid in sight, the meta quickly devolved into a toxic environment of never-ending, unrelenting, overpowered Druid decks. The higher you climbed the ladder the larger the Druid menace grew... I distinctly recall a ladder session where I encountered nine consecutive Jade Druids at ranks 1 and 2.
      The golden age of the early KFT control meta was long dead. The age of Druidstone was upon us.
       
      Patch 9.1: The End of a Plague
       
      On the fateful morning of September 5th, a beacon of brilliant light beamed through the dark, Druidic clouds that had enveloped the sun for weeks on end. Blizzard announced they would be nerfing five cards, among them Innervate and Spreading Plague, in an effort to curb the historically high winrates for Druid and shake up the rapidly deteriorating meta.
      The Hearthstone community was completely split on the nerfs. The majority of players were happy to see Innervate struck by the nerf hammer, but many were claiming that the nerfs to Druid didn’t go quite far enough. Ultimate Infestation, the card that most believed to be the true source of Druid’s power, was left untouched in Patch 9.1. Blizzard was well aware of the huge target on Ultimate Infestation's back, but had some solid reasoning for not changing the card:
      The majority of the community had little to say about the nerfs to Murloc Warleader and Hex, but many were furious about the change to Fiery War Axe. It appeared as though several healthy and compelling warrior decks (such as Fatigue Warrior and N’Zoth Warrior) were paying dearly for the sins of Pirate Warrior. These healthy Warrior decks ultimately suffered a near-fatal blow, but is that such a bad price to pay for a ladder without Pirate Warriors? It’s regrettable that so many fair Warrior decks fell by the wayside due to the nerf to “Free Win Axe”, but I’m optimistic that Blizzard is well aware of Warrior’s downfall and will address the class in a future set. For the time being, try your hardest to enjoy a metagame largely free of N'Zoth's First Mate and Brawl.
       
      The Post-Nerf Metagame
       
      Most would have expected the de-facto “second best deck in the game”, Highlander Priest, to completely dominate the ladder in a post-Jade world free from Pirate Warriors. The metagame had something else to say about that.
      A handful of previously overlooked decks quickly emerged as top contenders, including Tempo Rogue, Midrange Hunter, and Zoo Warlock. Safe from the toxic Innervate turns of Aggro and Jade Druid decks of old, these new-look contenders were able to keep both Highlander Priest and post-nerf Jade Druid decks in check. The weeks following Patch 9.1 were a time of experimentation, evolution, and adaptation which ultimately led to a healthy and stable metagame. It’s hard to argue that the nerfs were anything but totally effective at restoring balance to the competitive ladder.
      With the play rates for dedicated aggro decks (namely Aggro Druid and Pirate Warrior) as low as they’ve been in years, the door opened up for slower and bigger decks to prey on the Midrange kings which had begun to dominate ladder. The top choices in today’s ladder environment (after Highlander Priest and Tempo Rogue) appear to be Big Druid, Big Priest, and Freeze/Burn Mage. Though none of these decks appear to have unhealthy effects on the meta at present, the new Recruit mechanic is looming on the horizon. Will Kobolds and Catacombs see the Old Gods reign supreme in their last hurrah before rotation?
       
      Lessons from KFT: Class Legendaries Disappoint
       
      KFT brought us some of the strongest Legendary cards in recent memory: Prince Keleseth, Shadowreaper Anduin, Malfurion the Pestilent, Bloodreaver Gul'dan, and The Lich Kingto name a few. Despite this high volume of heavy-hitting Legendaries in KFT, the non-Death Knight class Legendaries unanimously and unquestionably failed to deliver. Have a look for yourself:
      Druid: Hadronox Saw fringe play in dedicated Taunt decks in the first weeks after launch. Was never featured in a popular competitive deck. Hunter: Professor Putricide Saw fringe play in dedicated Secret decks in the first weeks after launch. Was never featured in a popular competitive deck. Mage: Sindragosa Saw fringe play in some Control decks in the first few weeks after launch. Was never featured in a popular competitive deck. Paladin: Bolvar, Fireblood Saw fringe play in dedicated Divine Shield decks in the first few weeks after launch. Was never featured in a popular competitive deck. Priest: Archbishop Benedictus Featured in Hemet Highlander Priest decks for a couple of weeks. Briefly saw play at a few tournaments before completely disappearing from the metagame. Rogue: Lilian Voss Never saw play, even in the earliest days of the KFT meta. Shaman: Moorabi Never saw play, even in the earliest days of the KFT meta. Warlock: Blood-Queen Lana'thel Never saw play, even in the earliest days of the KFT meta. Warrior: Rotface Intermittently saw fringe play in Warrior decks as a finisher alongside Scourgelord Garrosh. The card eventually fell out of favor and hasn’t seen play since the first month of the set. Who would have guess before the set came out that the most competitively viable class Legendary would be Archbishop Benedictus, the walking meme? Despite a decent amount of hype surrounding Sindragosa, Bolvar, Fireblood, and Blood-Queen Lana'thel before KFT’s release, all nine of the non-DK class Legendaries can now be best described as “400 dust waiting to happen”.
      In defense of Blizzard, I completely understand the need for cards like Moorabi and Rotface. Not every Legendary should be a slam dunk, and the unique effects which are printed on these cards make the most sense on a Legendary minion. With that said, these kinds of effects rarely (if ever) find their way into competitive decks, and I struggle to see the logic behind wasting so many precious Legendary slots on such narrow design spaces.
      With the rising number of complaints surrounding the cost of the Hearthstone, I can empathize with the disappointment that many players experience when their pity timer is reset by one of these underwhelming Legendaries. The somewhat recent change to prevent duplicate Legendaries from being opened does little to prevent these cards from being opened again and again, as these cards have a tendency to be dusted almost immediately after being opened. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve opened Moorabi three times since the release of KFT. Opening a Legendary after weeks of pack opening and finger-crossing is supposed to be a moment of great excitement, yet I found the experience of cracking a third Moorabi in three months to be nothing short of tremendously frustrating.
      Adding on to the disappointment of the class Legendaries in KFT was an atypically high number of underwhelming Epics. By my count, only 6 of the 27 Epics in KFT saw any kind of consistent play: Ultimate Infestation, Obsidian Statue, Simulacrum, Dead Man's Hand, Corpsetaker, and Skulking Geist. I was overjoyed to see the number of powerful and highly-playable Commons and Rares in the set, and realize that if cards like Bonemare and Saronite Chain Gang were moved to Epic the cost of the game would be moving in the wrong direction. With that said, I would have liked to see more Epics like Obsidian Statue with safe, boring, and playable text boxes.
      Going forward, I’d like to see Blizzard shift the balance of Legendary minions more towards “playable” than “unique and interesting”. Cards like Archbishop Benedictus certainly have their place in Hearthstone, but whenever nine out of nine class Legendaries fail to find play for the duration of a set it’s time to change the formula.
       
      Aleco’s Knight of the Frozen Throne Awards
       
      Best Design: Deathstalker Rexxar

       
      Do you want to build a Zombeast?
      One of the first cards I crafted in KFT, It’s hard not to fall in love with the design of Deathstalker Rexxar. Despite being a sub-optimal option in many Hunter lists, I couldn’t help bet include this card in nearly every Hunter deck I built. Whoever designed this card deserves a raise!
       
      Worst Design: Prince Keleseth

       
      My problem with Prince Keleseth is not that he’s too powerful, though you could certainly make the case that he is. I have the same complaints about “Prince Two” as I do with Patches the Pirate - he leads to frustrating gameplay experiences for both players. The majority of games with Keleseth in it lead to one of two negative player experiences: 
      “I didn’t have Keleseth on two this game, how unlucky!” “My opponent had Keleseth on two this game, how unlucky!” A delicate balance needs to be struck when designing cards that impose deckbuilding restrictions. Though this is certainly a compelling design space which has led to a handful of healthy cards (such as Prince Valanar and Krul the Unshackled) this design space has also led to its fair share of meta-defining and incredibly frustrating cards to play against (such as Prince Keleseth and Reno Jackson). Future cards with deckbuilding restrictions stapled to them deserve to be more carefully tested.
       
      Most Improved: Raza the Chained

       
      Highlander Priest was pronounced dead after the departure of Reno Jackson from Standard, but the printing of Shadowreaper Anduin saw Raza’s fate quickly turn back around. Expect to see plenty of Raza for the remainder of the Year of the Mammoth.
       
      Most Potential: Shadow Ascendant

       
      Shadow Ascendant is clearly quite powerful, and has recently begun to see an uptick in play during the final weeks of KFT. Aggro Priest decks are starting show some potential, and could easily be on the verge of competitive if Kobolds and Catacombs gives the deck a few more goodies to work with.
       
      Best Art: Bearshark

       
      With my sincerest condolences to Snowflipper Penguin, I simply couldn’t bear to choose anything else. Half bear, half shark, 100% awesome.
       
      Worst Art: Dark Conviction

       
      Upon closer inspection I can see what the artist was going for in the picture, but something about the way this piece was comes together makes it look like a jumbled mess of knees and elbows. I also have a hard time connecting the art of the card to its name and effect.
       
      Best Arena Card: Bonemare

       
      Both Ultimate Infestation and The Lich King are certainly more powerful in a vacuum, but Bonemare's status as both a Common and a Neutral made it an ever-present threat that demanded constant consideration in the Arena. Now synonymous with turn 7, Bonemare has arguably had an even bigger impact on Standard than Arena.
       
      Deck of the Format: Tempo Rogue
       
      Though it’s undeniable that Jade Druid was the most powerful deck in KFT before the nerfs to Innervate and Spreading Plague, patch 9.1 just one month into the set. Tempo Rogue is the deck that wore the crown of “best deck in KFT Standard” for the longest time, boasting incredibly strong winrates for multiple, uninterrupted months. Just one set removed from ruling Journey to Un’Goro Standard with The Caverns Below, Rogue has proved itself to be the class most capable breaking powerful neutral cards. As the best Prince Keleseth deck in the game, Tempo Rogue is poised to remain a powerful option for many months to come.
       
      Card of the Set: Ultimate Infestation

       
      KFT is bursting at the seems with powerful cards, but in a set of stand-outs only one card can claim the title of “most powerful Hearthstone card of all time”. Ultimate Infestation was the coup de grâce in pre-nerf Jade Druid, one of the most devastating standard decks in history, and has been the source of more ire than any card in recent memory (including Prince Keleseth). Though it may not be the KFT card with the highest overall winrate, I have little doubt that Ultimate Infestation was the card from KFT responsible for the most tears, sweaty palms, and cell phones thrown across the room.
       
      Wrapping Up KFT
       
      Knights of the Frozen Throne was a set of highs and lows, of flaws and success. The early toxicity of Jade and Aggro Druid proved to be the catalyst for positive changes in Patch 9.1, paving the way for a stable and healthy metagame to exist for the majority of the set. The nine class Legendary minions will go down as unmitigated disasters, but the nine Death Knights were a resounding success.
      With spoiler season for Kobolds and Catacombs off to a shaky start, debates raging over Hearthstone’s pricing model, and complaints are mounting over the game’s increasing propensity for random effects, nothing would silence the critics more than a strong launch for K&C. One of the biggest reasons for optimism in K&C is the surprisingly dynamic nature of the aging KFT metagame, a sign that its cards still have plenty of gas left in the tank. I have a good feeling that KFT will be looked back on with much fonder eyes than it was ever seen with during its reign as Hearthstone’s newest set.
       
      - Aleco
    • By Zadina

      Mage gets another useful Secret in Kobolds & Catacombs.
      ShtanUdachi revealed this spell card on his YouTube channel. It's a 3 mana rare Secret that reads: "After your opponent plays a minion, deal 6 damage to it. Deal all remaining damage to your opponent". The card's name hasn't been officially confirmed, but it should be Explosive (or Fire) Rune(s).
      The video is in Russian, with English subtitles available.
      This is a great card and fits perfectly into Secret Mage or any aggressive Mage deck. Essentially, it's a cheaper Fireball, that can potentially splits its damage to the enemy hero too! The only question that is raised is how this secret is going to work with minions with Divine Shield. Lastly, Explosive Rune(s) can benefit from Spell Power.
      Let us know what you think about the newest addition to Mage's arsenal of powerful spells. Final versions of all cards will be posted in our Kobolds & Catacombs hub.