Lots of changes this week! Blizzard dropped the heavy end of the nerf bat on a few of the more problematic cards but how will this shake things up? The short answer: not as much as you might think. The long answer? Glad you asked!
Gains only one mana crystal.
Innervate has been something of a problem card for…well, basically all of Hearthstone. Back in vanilla and Naxxramas it was a key part of powering out high impact 5-6-7 drops like Sylvanas (pre nerfs), Cairne, and Ancient of Lore (also pre nerfs) or pumping the old Force of Nature (3 2/2 charge trees) + Savage Roar combo with a second Savage Roar for a whopping 22 damage finisher. Free this are almost always bad for balance in CCGs and Innervate was no exception. Just about every tournament I’ve been in has involved some discussion of how to balance it and it looks like Blizzard decided the simplest fix was to drop it down to something they knew was an acceptable power level rather than try to get creative but at the risk of not changing it enough (or changing it too much). On the whole, the change is probably fine but uninteresting and all but guarantees no problems in the future.
Now costs 4
This change seems more like an overall efficiency ding rather than a necessary nerf. Cards like Mind Control, Polymorph and now Hex have always felt bad when they’re pointed at your large, expensive minions so this brings Hex a little more in line with other effects cost-wise. Not a super impactful change but still quite meaningful.
Now only buffs attack +2
This change doesn’t really phase me much. Murgls will still be snowball-y but now they have to be a little bit more careful about AOE removal. These types of effects are also always very non-intuitive as killing the Warleader removes the damaged health from other murlocs first and cards like Equality set other murlocs to 2 health. The change significantly impacts murloc decks but Warleader kind of acts like a finisher now rather than being a finisher stapled on to a full team durability buff.
Now costs 6 (instead of 5)
Changing from 5 to 6 mana is a pretty big change, though in this case it’s not quite as bad. Spreading Plague was already a very situational card that you didn’t always play on turn 5 anyways so going from 5 to 6 only really matters versus the most aggressive, go wide type of strategies like token aggro Druid. Because of the situational nature of the card I expect the mana change to not be as significant as other cost changes. Speaking of which…
Fiery War Axe:
Now costs 3 mana
RIP. The king of weapons, Fiery Win Axe, has now been relegated to “marginally playable” status. Both Eaglehorn Bow and Rallying Blade are better than Axe is now, and every warrior deck that planned on dealing damage to the opponent or destroying enemy minions will miss the Axe. I’m not quite sure where warrior will fit into the meta now but I’m pretty sure most Warrior decks will have to be completely redesigned from the ground up.
So where does that leave us? The metagame initially looks like it’ll shift quite a bit with the nerfs to some of the most powerful, popular decks (anything druid, murloc paladin, pirate warrior) but did things actually change that much? Late game druid decks will now have to look elsewhere for their early mana in the form of more empty crystal ramp rather than randomly winning by dropping a 10 cost minion on turn 4 some amount of the time and aggro druid loses its super explosive draws, but jade druid still has absurd end game inevitability and most of its toughest matchups have also gotten weaker. Warrior decks will have to be completely reworked to account for the loss of early game control and/or pressure. Shaman loses a small efficiency pip but they weren’t a huge portion of the metagame. Murloc paladin gets a bit weaker but how important the +1HP from Warleader is kind of remains to be seen. It seems weird to say that two classes that got nerfed came out as winner but the nerfs don’t seem to hit murloc paladin or jade druid particularly hard though it seems like aggro druid and ramp druid took pretty large hits. As always, time will tell how effective these are but I for one will continue to worship our jade druid overlords until something drastic changes (now if only we could rotate Ice Block to the hall of fame…)
That’s it for this week. If you have a positive or a negative response please leave it in the comments area. See you next week with (hopefully) a new metagame!