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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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      Raza the Chained – Now reduces your Hero Power cost to 1 instead of 0.
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      Wildfest! From February 19th through March 11th join us for a Wild party! Read the Wildfest blogfor details! Wild cards return to the Arena for the duration of Wildfest. Venture into the Wild – A Tavern Brawl celebrating Wild with pre-built decks. The Wild Brawliseum – A special Tavern Brawl where you’ll build and lock-in a Wild deck, and then see if you can take it to twelve wins versus other players! Three losses and your run comes to an end. Your first Brawliseum run is free! Additional runs are available for the same price as Arena tickets. Also like the Arena, prizes are based on number of wins, and follow the Arena reward structure.
      Year of the Mammoth Bundle For a limited time, purchase 10 packs each of Journey to Un’goro, Knights of the Frozen Throne, and Kobolds & Catacombs—a total of 30 packs!—for a special price.
       
      Added the following card backs: Sparkles - Acquired from achieving Rank 20 in Ranked Play, February 2018.
      Year of the Mammoth – Acquired from winning five games in Ranked Play, March 2018.
      Bug Fixes & Updates Gameplay
      The turn timer for the first two turns of a match are now shorter, though they should still be significantly longer than most players take on those turns. Switching from Valeera the Hollow to Deathstalker Rexxar will now correctly allow Rexxar’s Battlecry to destroy minions buffed to 2 health by Stormwind Champion or similar effects. Nemsy Necrofizzle’s Hero frame is now golden if you have unlocked the golden Warlock Hero. Removed rarity gems from several summoned minions. Playing multiple copies of Temporus in a row will now queue up sequences of two turns for your opponent and two turns for you. Fixed a bug where the Divine Shield provided by Elixir of Purity could not be silenced. Spectators now see green highlights on playable cards for both players. Fixed an issue that could cause Hearthstone to freeze when a spectated player disconnects and their opponent concedes. Tooltips for Hero Cards now appear correctly when spectating. Resolved a crash that could occur when drawing a Darkness Candle spell after The Darkness is no longer dormant. Grand Archivist can now correctly cast the Darkness Candle spell if it is present in a player’s deck. Resolved a crash that could occur when certain cost reducing cards were played. Resolved an unintended interaction that could occur with Anomalus, Taunt minions, and Commanding Shout. Added missing Collection Manager tooltips to several cards. Resolved an issue that could cause a player to become stuck when reconnecting before the first turn. Resolved an issue that would prevent the progress notification for more than one Daily Quest from being shown after a match is complete. Ice Breaker now correctly destroys Rotface without activating his effect if he is Frozen. Resolved interface issues that could arise when retiring an Arena game. Resolved an issue that would allow the Friends menu to remain active while a Friendly Challenge is active. Fixed various minor visual and text issues. Dungeon Run & Adventures
      The cards that appear in several loot categories have been adjusted slightly. Cards stolen by Gloves of Mugging now appear in history tile when played by an opponent. Resolved a visual issue with Candlebeard’s charge enchantment banner. [Adventures] Atramedes now correctly uses his Hero Power whenever he should. Mobile
      Resolved an issue with the Collection Manager that could allow the set filter to be interacted with behind the “Done” button. Scrolling through an Arena deck on a mobile device will no longer generate unnecessary prompts. The “Back” button will now function correctly after an Arena run is complete. History tiles that were queueing up while viewing a history event now populate correctly. Resolved an issue that could cause crafted cards to remain visible over the Collection Manager. Corrected a visual issue with the search bar in the Collection Manager. [Android] Resolved an issue with the download progress indicator. [iOS] Compatibility now requires iOS 8.0 or later. [iOS] The client will no longer sometimes freeze when a spectated player wins a match.   (source)
    • By Zadina

      According to the Principal Game Designer, Cubelock isn't as powerful as it seems.
      Cubelock won't be touched in the upcoming balance changes which, for many people, is a sign that the deck will completely dominate the meta after said changes become active.
      The deck is already prominent enough that people have started making false claims about it. A Reddit user claimed that he faced 17 Cubelocks in a row! However, Mike Donais put the matter into place by saying that there was no such streak in Blizzard's internal data and that Cubelock is currently the 12th best deck.
      He subsequently explained that he expects the deck to rise after the nerfs, but he's not too worried because it's a challenging (and expensive, I would add) deck to master. If the team feels that Cubelock is too powerful, though, they will evaluate it.
      mdonais
      I just checked the data, and no one played 17 cubelocks in a row today.
      If you are indeed having trouble with Cubelock there are several decks that beat it consistently right now. It is currently the 12th best deck.
      I did enjoy the title of your post though. (source)
       
       
      A couple people asked why the stats I mentioned don't metch VS power ranking so I looked up VS 79 and across all rankings Control Warlock is the 10th best deck. I assume they mix control and cube warlock in their stats. We have decks broken out a bit more but 10th gives you the general idea.
      Obviously after the nurfs it will be stronger since none of the cards in cubelock are being nurfed and that concerns me but it is a pretty challenging deck with a lot of opportunities to show off player skill. People will eventually get better at playing it, but people will also put in more weapon destruction or silence cards if it gets more popular.
      I am excited to see what people figure out after the patch. If Warlock is a big problem after people have some time to adjust and tune the new decks then we will look into it. I have said many times before that win rate is not the most important factor in our nurf decisions. How people feel matters more, so we will listen to players and make decisions based on that, just like we did in the past with Quest Rogue and Patron Warrior. (source)
    • By Aleco

      The latest balance patch to Hearthstone raises some questions about Blizzard's policy on nerfs.
      Is it better to fix problematic cards in a vacuum, or to use nerfs as a tool for crafting a specific meta?
      Four of Hearthstone's most problematic cards will be on the receiving end of some serious nerfs in a future balance patch; a massive move by Blizzard which is just as exciting as it is confusing.
      On one hand, each of the four cards receiving nerfs were individually problematic. If nerfing a problematic card is the same thing as "fixing a problem", then the upcoming balance patch is fixing four major problems and should ultimately prove to be a positive change for the game.
      On the other hand, the most dominant class in the meta (Warlock) was left untouched, while one of its strongest competitors (Priest) took a serious a hit with the nerf to Raza the Chained. It stands to reason that nerfing classes other than Warlock should widen the gap between it and its closest competitors, which could lead to a potentially toxic ladder environment dominated by a single class (not unlike the early days of the Frozen Throne meta which were ruled by Druid).
      Furthermore, the timing of the nerfs to Patches the Pirate and Raza the Chained feel a bit... late. Both cards will rotate from Standard when the first set of 2018 drops (likely in April), and neither of these cards became suddenly problematic in Kobolds & Catacombs. Patches has been one of the most toxic and dominant cards in the game since it was released in 2016, and Raza has been the linchpin of the most dominant deck since the last balance patch. Blizzard is obviously acknowledging that these cards are problematic, but why wait until now to do so?
      Regardless of whether or not you expect the upcoming changes to be positive or negative, these nerfs call into question the strategy that Blizzard and Team 5 employ when balancing Hearthstone. Let's attempt to decode the message that Blizzard sent its player base with this balance patch, and see if we can make sense of it all.
      Blizzard Balances For The Present, Not The Future

      Not touching Warlock in the upcoming patch is consistent with Blizzard's recent strategy of balancing Hearthstone. When Jade Druid decks were too powerful in the early days of the Knights of the Frozen Throne meta, Blizzard successfully lowered the power level of the deck without completely killing it by nerfing both Innervate and Spreading Plague. However, they didn't touch the clear-cut second best deck in the meta, Highlander Priest, and the pro Hearthstone community was quite vocal about their concerns with Highlander Priest becoming the next overly-dominant deck. It's fair to say that things went exactly as the pros predicted, and here we are five months later nerfing Raza the Chained. What gives?
      Despite the predicted era of Highlander Priest dominance which followed the Jade Druid nerfs, Blizzard's policy to only fix the problems of the present is a fair one. Metagames on the whole are fickle and largely unpredictable, and attempting to fix all of the future problems which may or may not occur after a balance patch is a slippery slope. If Blizzard were to have pushed the nerf to Raza to the KFT balance patch, they would have merely created another "next best deck" in the process. Should they have also nerfed that deck? And the next one?
      Though Highlander Priest was a particularly obvious deck to be concerned about in a post-Jade Druid world, setting the precedent of preemptively nerfing healthy decks is a dangerous one. If Blizzard had nerfed Raza in the previous patch, they would have put themselves in a position where they would be forced to address the most powerful deck in the meta each time they want to make changes to problematic cards. Just because a deck is the "best deck in the meta" doesn't necessarily mean that the deck is unhealthy, and signaling to your player base that you don't want a clear best deck to exist coming out of every balance patch opens the door to constant scrutiny.
      Blizzard Is Inconsistent With Its Timing


      You'll be hard pressed to find a single Hearthstone pro who isn't happy to see Patches the Pirate and Corridor Creeper get hit by the nerf hammer. Both of these cards were seeing far too much play in the current meta and were responsible for determining the outcome of an outrageous number of games. Aggro mirrors far too often came down to who did or didn't draw these cards in the early game, and something needed to be done about that.
      When it comes to Corridor Creeper, Blizzard was incredibly swift in addressing the card's endemic playrates. This balance patch was announced mere days after the World Championships had concluded, which for all intents and purposes is the earliest possible time they could have announced it. In other words, they identified that Corridor Creeper was problematic and nerfed it as soon as possible, which is why I'm confused about how long it took for them to nerf Patches.
      Patches has always been a toxic card. For more than a year and half he's been in charge of the Hearthstone metagame, and Blizzard's justification for nerfing the card now (to keep him from ruining the Wild metagame for years to come) feels too little too late. Despite the fact that Corridor Creeper is currently seeing higher play rates than Patches, it's difficult for me imagine why Creeper demanded an immediate nerf while Patches was allowed to reign supreme for as long as he did. Now that Blizzard has set the precedent of nerfing widely-played cards like Corridor Creeper immediately, I'd like to at least see them be consistent with this trend in the future.
      Blizzard Undervalues The Human Element

      I imagine the reason why Corridor Creeper was nerfed immediately yet Patches the Pirate was allowed to stay in his current form for as long as he was has something to do with Blizzard's internal stat tracking. I have little doubt that Corridor Creeper will raise more statistical red flags than Patches due to the fact that it's rarely (if ever) a bad card to draw in aggro decks, whereas Patches is arguably the worst card to draw in the entire game. When you average out the games that Patches both single-handedly wins and loses, he likely tests as a "worse" card than Corridor Creeper does statisically, which could be used as justification for why he was left untouched for as long as he was.
      Though the actual stats surrounding a cards win rates should be a major factor when it comes to balance updates, I believe that Blizzard should put a little more weight on the "human element" of cards. Whereas Creeper may be the stronger card, it doesn't feel nearly as bad as Patches does. Regardless of whether or not the stats said that the card needed a nerf, Hearthstone would have almost certainly been a better game if Patches was nerfed at the same time as Small-Time Buccaneer. The same can probably be said for Ultimate Infestation when it comes to the previous balance patch. Though Blizzard's internal stats told them that Spreading Plague was more responsible for Jade Druid's dominance in the early KFT meta, it doesn't feel nearly as bad to lose to as Ultimate Infestation does. And that's important.
      At the end of the day, I believe that stats shouldn't be the only thing which dictates whether or not a card deserves to be nerfed. Cards like Patches and Ultimate Infestation have caused far more headaches and groans than smiles and cheers, regardless of what the statistics say. Hearthstone is a video game, video games are supposed to fun, and cards that have drawn hate for as long as Patches and Ultimate Infestation have seriously get in the way of that.
      On the whole, I'm quite happy with the nerfs that will be coming in the next balance patch and am excited for the future of Hearthstone. Despite the concerns surrounding Warlock, I'm happy to see that Blizzard isn't the business of preemptively handling problems which may or may ever exist. I'd much rather endure a few months of Warlock dominance (especially after how bad the class was in Journey to Un'Goro) than live in a world where every "best deck in the meta" has a constant target on its back for Blizzard's nerf gun.