It’s been about a month since Blizzard nerfed the top tier deck Grim Patron Warrior, and it’s time we take a look at what Hearthstone looks like in the aftermath. The nerf to Patron, and subsequent meta game shift toward more aggressive lines of play was expected by many when Blizzard announced the change that many players were clamoring for. Secret Paladin rules the roost these days, and together with Face Hunter, may well make people wish for the days of seeing two, maybe 3 Patrons per day. The consistent removal of combo decks from Hearthstone is bad for the game, and results often in stale gameplay revolving around minion stats.
Last year’s BlizzCon World Champion, James “Firebat” Kostesich of Team Archon had a few things to say on the subject during the first game on his Twitch stream on October 28th. You can view the whole thing on his YouTube channel, as well.
“…I don’t really care about the speed of the meta, the thing that
upsets me is that hearthstone has came to a game where the best
possible play is to play the best stat for stat minion on curve.”
With the nerf, after nerf hitting the more popular combo decks in the game, players have shifted to one of the only lines of play left to them: minion trading. The player that pulls the best stated minion on curve has a good chance of winning the game. One of the biggest reasons for this is the removal of finisher-type cards. Cards such as pre-nerf Leeroy Jenkins, and combos such as Frothing Berserker are what we’re talking about here, things that can swing the game in an instant, regardless of board state. Granted, combo finishes still exist in the from of Druid Savage Roar into Force of Nature, or Warlock’s Power Overwhelming into Arcane Golem, plus Faceless Manipulator. However, they can be stalled by taking too many cards to assemble, or by the class having generally poor early game in comparison to the pre-nerf archetypes of Miracle Rogue, and Patron Warrior. Combo Druid has already risen to the top of most tier lists, along with Secret Paladin, in part because it can play a 14 damage combo with only two cards, and an empty board. One wonders if Druid will, one day, see the nerfs that have snuffed the life out of other combo decks in an instant.
In the MMO world, it has long been established that nerfing something with one large change, instead of a series of small adjustments, is a recipe for disaster. I put forth that the same is true for card games. It will be years before the Hearthstone collection size reaches the numbers of Magic the Gathering, for example. Until that time comes, players will have to be content with making the decks that are available with the smaller (around 700, total) card pool. Let us hope that we will not be relegated to looking for strong stats on minions as our only avenue of successful play for the rest of the game’s lifespan.