Upcoming Hearthstone changes nerf Druid, Warrior, Shaman, and Murlocs
After almost a month of playing Knights of the Frozen Throne, Blizzard is ready to make some balance changes to some often complained about cards. Perhaps the biggest offender in the current Standard meta game is Druid, and two key cards have been nerfed to make the class less dominant. Innervate will now only grant a single Mana Crystal this turn (instead of 2 mana), and Spreading Plague now costs 6 mana (instead of 5). Innervate has been around since the beginning of Hearthstone’s inception and as much as I hate to see it go, it was probably too powerful.
The rest of the changes raised mana costs and reduced abilities. Warrior staple Fiery Win War Axe was also hit and now costs 3 mana instead of 2. Hex costs 4 mana instead of 3. Murloc Warleader only grants the +2 attack and no longer provides the +1 health. Read on for a full rundown of the changes, with explanations from the developers.
Basic Cards and Our Stance on Hall of Fame
After careful consideration, we chose to make changes to three Basic class cards: Innervate, Fiery War Axe, and Hex. While they can be regarded as staples in those classes’ card repertoires, too many Basic and Classic cards played in individual decks means less fun when new expansions are released.
Cards in the Basic set serve several purposes in the game, so we would rather make balance adjustments to them instead of moving them to the Hall of Fame, like we have done for cards in the Classic set. We are also trying to limit Hall of Fame changes to the start of each Hearthstone Year, which is why Murloc Warleader—a Classic card—is receiving a balance change instead of moving to the Hall of Fame.
Several powerful variations of Druid are currently seeing play, and all of them utilize Innervate. Innervate creates explosive starts to the game that can be difficult for the opposing player to recover from. This change leaves Innervate as a simple Basic card and slows down the explosive start potential, while ensuring that it will be utilized in decks that revolve around playing inexpensive spells.
What other changes did we consider?
We considered a few other options for Innervate:
- Refresh 2 Mana Crystals.
- Gain 2 Mana Crystals this turn only and increase the mana cost to 1.
- Gain 6 Mana Crystals this turn only and increase the mana cost to 4.
Since Innervate is a basic card, we need it to be clear and simple. Along with Wild Growth, these cards inform newer players that Druids create mana as a part of their class identity.
We kept in mind that cards like Counterfeit Coin were strong in combination with other support cards, such as Gadgetzan Auctioneer, Edwin VanCleef, and Combo cards. With the right support cards for Innervate, it may end up still seeing play, but won’t be in every deck—which is ultimately what we’re aiming for with this change.
Fiery War Axe
Fiery War Axe has been a powerful Warrior weapon since the launch of Hearthstone. Already great tempo for its cost, Fiery War Axe is well complimented by Pirates and cards that synergize with weapons. Raising its mana cost by 1 will slow down the Warrior’s tempo and lower the overall power level of the card.
What other changes did we consider?
The other option we considered for Fiery War Axe was to lower its attack to 2, but that change didn’t feel intuitive enough. Generally, changing the mana cost of a card is less disruptive, because you can always see the mana cost of cards in your hand. Despite the increased mana cost of Fiery War Axe, we expect that it will still see play—other 3 mana 3/2 weapons, like Eaglehorn Bow, can be found in decks that may not have synergy with the weapon’s card text.
We’re not making the change to Hex due to a current power-level problem. Shaman is a class that currently has a lot of flexibility, but is lacking in both class identity and identifiable weaknesses. Changing Hex makes Shaman a bit weaker against big minions and worse at silencing—having both strengths and weaknesses in a class is important.
We are very wary of cards that also incidentally work as a silence. If a player wants to utilize a card with a silence effect, they should be giving up something else. For example, if a player decides to include Spellbreaker in their deck, then they are playing a card that is weak in some situations. Priest is an exception to this rule—silence is a part of their class identity.
Even though Hex is not always played in the more aggressive Shaman decks, we will be making this forward-thinking change with the overall identity of the class in mind. This includes avoiding Shaman cards that function as direct and powerful removal. We will continue moving forward with this design philosophy to help reinforce that ideal.
Regarding Murloc Warleader and Spreading Plague
Murlocs are good at taking an early lead, and if a player can’t clear the board in time, the game can ultimately snowball to victory using cards like Murloc Warleader. Removing the Health buff from Murloc Warleader will make it easier for players to clear the board of murlocs, and still have it remain a Classic build-around card. Simplifying health buff interactions is an additional benefit of this change. For example, in its current state, having a Murloc Warleader in play then using Wild Pyromancer and Equality would not destroy other murlocs on the board, leading to unclear interactions for some players.
What other changes did you consider?
We considered changing both Rockpool Hunter and Murloc Warleader due to the current strength of Murloc Paladin in the early stages of the game. Changing either Rockpool Hunter or Murloc Warleader would accomplish this, but there are extra advantages to changing just Murloc Warleader: The simplification of health-giving buffs and additional room for future Murlocs since Warleader will be around longer than Rockpool Hunter.
Spreading Plague is a great defensive tool for Druid to protect themselves against aggressive decks, but it was too efficient at 5 mana. Raising the mana cost to 6 will slow the card down slightly, while still allowing for the defensive minions Spreading Plague creates to be utilized in the later stages of the game.
What other changes did you consider?
We considered changing Spreading Plague to 7 mana rather than 6, since it is currently the top performing card in Jade and Taunt Druid decks. However, since we are also changing Innervate, we decided to only add 1 mana to the cost of Spreading Plague.
Regarding Other Community Card Discussions
The community has mentioned other cards in balance-related discussions, such as Ice Block and Ultimate Infestation, and we wanted to talk about those cards as well even though we are not making any changes to them at this time.
Our team has discussed making a change to Ultimate Infestation since it feels bad to lose to. However, our data shows us how good each individual card performs in a deck relative to other cards in that deck. Spreading Plague ended up being the best performing card in Jade and Taunt Druid, Innervate was in the top three, and Ultimate Infestation was somewhere around the middle—but it felt much more powerful since it has a huge effect when played.
We considered changing all mentions of the number 5 in Ultimate Infestation to 4, or removing one of the effects entirely. With the other changes we are making to Druid, ramping out Ultimate Infestation before turn 10 should happen less often, so we decided to leave it as is.
We’ve seen discussions about moving Ice Block to the Hall of Fame. As previously mentioned, moving cards to the Hall of Fame occurs at the start of the Hearthstone Year, which will occur with the first expansion release in 2018. Our general stance regarding Hall of Fame is that we want to avoid moving cards mid-year.
We are excited for these changes, and we look forward to seeing how they will shake up the game.
Once these card changes are live, players will be able to disenchant the changed non-Basic cards (Murloc Warleader and Spreading Plague) for their full Arcane Dust value for two weeks. Basic cards cannot be disenchanted and will not be available for an Arcane Dust refund.
Read up on Blizzard’s explanation for the card changes and then discuss them below!
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