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Why Hearthstone’s Naga Sea Witch rules were changed

Hearthstone Game Director Ben Brode took to Reddit yesterday to explain further on the reasoning behind the updated interactions between Naga Sea Witch and the assorted giants. There has been a new deck tearing up the Wild ladder. With the updated interaction, the Naga Sea Witch sets the cost of your minions to 5. After that, card cost reductions are subsequently applied. Molten Giant can essentially be played for free if you have taken 5 damage (because the base mana cost is now 5, and it costs 1 less mana for each point of damage you’ve taken).

Originally Posted by Ben Brode (Official Post)

If you’re talking about Naga Sea Witch, it was definitely intentional, and definitely a mistake that it missed the patch notes.

The thing that got us talking about the issue was the interaction between Bright-Eyed Scout and Second-Rate Bruiser.

Generally when things “set” a value (think Aldor Peacekeeper), it becomes the new baseline. Any “auras” that affect that value apply after the effect that is applying the new baseline. Think about a minion next to a Dire Wolf Alpha. If you Aldor Peacekeeper that minion, his new Attack will be 2, not 1. It’s because the Aura applies after the “set” power. This hasn’t always worked correctly in the past, but if you Aldor a Small-Time Buccaneer who is being buffed by his power – his power is an Aura, and so the resulting minion would have 3 Attack.

We think the Bright-Eyed Scout + Second-Rate Bruiser interaction wasn’t correct, and it caused us to re-evaluate Cost-Setting and how it interacted with Cost-Adjusting Auras.

Here’s the discussion the engineers and designers had regarding Sea Witch:

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The Naga Sea Witch interaction can work out in one of two ways:

  • If you draw a Second-Rate Bruiser while Naga Sea Witch is already in play, Second-Rate Bruiser’s cost will be reduced by 2 if your opponent has 3 or more minions.
  • If you have a Second-Rate Bruiser already in hand and play a Naga Sea Witch, that Bruiser will always cost 5, no matter how many minions your opponent has. If it gets a Thaurissan tick, it goes down to 4. If the Naga Sea Witch leaves play, Second-Rate Bruiser’s cost will be reduced by 2 if your opponent has 3 or more minions, while keeping the Thaurissan tick making it cost 1 less – leaving it with a cost of either 4 or 2.

This distinction happens because in the first case, Naga Sea Witch’s timestamp will be earlier than SRB’s, so SRB applies last. In the second case, SRB’s modifier has an earlier timestamp, so Naga Sea Witch applies last.

Why this feels wrong: We have a very clear precedent that card text modifiers apply last, after any external stat-setting effect occurs.

Tar CreeperTar LurkerTar LordLightspawnCogmasterOld Murk-EyeGoblin Sapper  – All of these cards give themselves a modifier that alters one of their own stats. If you play a stat-setting effect on one of them, their text still applies. The Tar minions will always get their attack bonus, even after being affected by Crystal Core, Aldor Peacekeeper, Sunkeeper TarimDinosize or any other effect.

The proposal is this: Cards that modify their own cost should work in this exact same way. Second-Rate Bruiser’s ability is in the same category as Tar Creeper’s ability – it modifies one of its stats when a condition is met. This would standardize their behavior, making them on the whole feel more intuitive and consistent, as well as making our lives easier by making the rules more predictable.

  • If Naga Sea Witch is in play: Cards in hand cost 5, then their text is applied.
  • If Aviana is in play: Cards in hand cost 1, then their text is applied.
  • If Aviana, Naga Sea Witch, Pint-Sized SummonerSummoning Portal and Mana Wraith are in play: Cards in play apply their effects in the order that they came into play, then each card in hand applies its own text last.
  • If I draw a Molten Giant with Bright-Eyed Scout: Molten Giant’s cost is 5, minus the damage I’ve taken. If I’m at 25 health, it costs 0.
  • If I draw a Molten Giant with Bright-Eyed Scout while Aviana is in play: Aviana applies, making Molten Giant cost 1. Bright-Eyed Scout’s enchantment then applies, making Molten Giant cost 5. Finally, Molten Giant’s text applies, making it cost 5 minus HealthLost.

We made the change because we think these rules are easier to understand because they’re more consistent with other parts of the game, not because we wanted to buff Naga Sea Witch. We were worried about it’s power level and have been watching the play/win reports in Wild. Right now it’s not one of the best decks, but it could grow in winrate as players get more practice. If it does become a big problem, we’d probably nerf Naga Sea Witch, rather than reverting the rules change.

It’s certainly an interesting way to shake up the game and according to Blizzard’s internal stats, it is not one of the best decks despite how it looks on paper. However, if it does become a bigger problem, they are prepared to nerf Naga Sea Witch to make up for it. What do you think of the change? Will you consider playing in Wild?

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