Ben Brode Comments on the Wild Format & Fiery War Axe Changes

Ben Brode is commenting again on the recently announced changes to Fiery War Axe as well as addressing concerns about the Wild format. You can view his previous comments here.

Ben Brode responded to an open letter thread from the r/WildHearthstone subreddit. The thread addresses the seemingly lack of care for the Wild format, and the non-addressed changes to Naga Sea Witch which has made waves in the Wild meta.

Well met!

Thanks for writing this all up. Happy to have a public discussion about Wild. Maybe I can provide some insight and we can chat together about how to improve it.

you made a change affecting Naga Sea Witch that was not communicated, and it’s tearing up the Wild meta

It was clearly a mistake that this change missed the patch notes. We’ll take a look at our internal process for how to handle this type of thing going forward.

We’ve been keeping a close eye on the data for the Naga Sea Witch deck and it’s definitely not looking overpowered today (it’s got about a 50% winrate). We think people are likely to get better at the deck and it might continue to climb in winrate. We’re happy to nerf things if it gets into a bad place.

it would be nice if you cared about the Wild format.

Wild is a lot more fun this year than I think it was last year when it was only 2 sets different from Standard. And I think it will get more fun every year. This year we showed more support for Wild than every before, hosting a Wild Tournament, and offering Wild sets for sale again for the first time since the format launched. We also nerfed our first Wild-only card (Dreadsteed) because we were very worried about what would happen to the Wild metagame when KFT launched.

I don’t think we’ve done a good job historically supporting Wild enough. But I do think we’ve been doing better lately, and it’s very important to us that Wild be a real format that is properly supported.

Feedback about what players like to see in Wild, and how we can better support the format is very helpful to us, and things like bringing back Wild sets to the online store are a direct result of this feedback.


He also made a statement to VentureBeat about some of the controversy and community’s reaction to the change of Fiery War Axe:

I always love to read discussion about Hearthstone, and there’s been a lot of healthy back and forth about the pros and cons of this particular change and the timing of it.

However, some of what I read in the community response seems to be a core misunderstanding that we are nerfing cards because we think players are confused by them (and therefore we think players are stupid). I want to be super-clear — these cards are being nerfed for power level reasons, or because we are curating the set of evergreen cards to help Standard feel fresh and more fun with our yearly standard rotation. The language about certain changes being more disruptive than others was related to why we decided to make one change over another, once we’d already decided to make a change.

We absolutely don’t think players are stupid.

I, like a lot of players, have memorized every Hearthstone card. If I show you a picture of Arcanite Reaper, I bet you don’t have to read the card to know that it’s a 5/2 weapon. Art becomes a shortcut to game mechanics. When we change the underlying game mechanics without changing the art, players who don’t read their cards every time they play a game won’t notice that one of the words on the cards has changed.

I want to make this clear — we don’t think players are too stupid to read their cards. We think players have the capacity to memorize thousands of cards’ text and recognize them by art alone. Nobody double-checks Arcanite Reaper to make sure it’s still a 5/2 weapon each time they cast it. That’s nuts. That’s why it’s less disruptive to change mana cost than Attack, Health, or card text. The card is literally not castable or highlighted green any more, and that makes it obvious that a change has been made to players who have every card memorized.



  1. JF
    September 8, 2017 at 9:47 am

    They could have atleast made Fiery War Axe a 3/3 for 3, slow it down, but still has value.

    Takeaway from these threads is:

    Blizzard does not do any pre meta testing, synergy mapping, winrate testing, or any real viable analysis before releasing cards or making changes. None, nada, nothing, at all. It’s all assumption and guesswork instead of the time consuming grind it takes to do a proper meta analysis. They would need a team of pros testing around the clock for atleast 2 solid weeks, only to make the pre-release nerfs, balances, then send it back to test phase for another 2 weeks. Then potentially repeat if they still don’t have it right.
    We are talking 1 expansion every 6 months if they don’t dedicate the resources. With no early card previews happening because its all subject to change until the final week.

    Cards are released on schedules so they are never going to get ahead of the oh crap lets nerf curve.

    Repeating the same behavior for the 6th, 7th, 8th, crap what are we at guys? 9th time? + acceleration to add ontop since they are releasing more cards at faster intervals now – Yet Blizzard is still using the same excuses each and every time. This is why I can say the above with certainty.

    • JoyDivision
      September 12, 2017 at 2:34 am

      When you look at Magic the Gathering you see that it’s possible to do working testing. For sure, that game isn’t that balanced, too (but that is the nature of TCGs imho). But they’re printing very view cards that are totally out of control.

      That said, WotC is doing TCGs for many years now and maybe doing proper testing is a matter of having experience. Aaaand I have to admit that they (WotC) are banning more and more cards as of late in their Standard format because they’re to dominant …

  2. CD001
    September 8, 2017 at 4:40 am

    “Nobody double-checks Arcanite Reaper to make sure it’s still a 5/2 weapon each time they cast it. That’s nuts. That’s why it’s less disruptive to change mana cost than Attack, Health, or card text.”

    … it’s also far more dull, uninspired and lacks the ability to really fine-tune the power level.

    Take Fiery War Axe in this case – simply bumping the mana cost from 2 to 3 turns it from one of the best weapons in the game, as an early answer to things like Mana Wyrm, to almost garbage – there are 3 other 3-cost, 3/2 weapons in Standard, all with additional abilities. If you’re playing Wild you’d be better off with King’s Defender even if you’re only running a couple of Taunts – that’s how big the nerf is.

    So with the mana increase, why not add an additional effect to FWA?

    How about something like “at the start of your next turn deal an additional 2 burn damage to any minion hit with Fiery War Axe this turn” – adds to the flavour of the weapon (it is Fiery) and allows it to kill things like Stonekeep Defender or Tar Creeper – but gives your opponent the opportunity for one more attack or to heal it. Adds to the power of the weapon when smacking minions but not the opposing hero which is an issue with it in Pirate Warrior decks.

  3. PedroLS
    September 8, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Mr. Brode!

    Regarding your “intuitive” answer, I do enjoy wild very much and you simply demolished all my murlocs decks with your stupid nerf (Murloc Warleader). Yes, it was so strong….huuuuu. Much stronger than Ultimate Infestation, definitely.
    I prefer wild rather than standard because I like playing against different decks, which doesn’t happen in standard. Therefore, thanks a lot. You’ve done well.
    A suggestion: Try moving Murloc Warleader into hall of Fame because, after the nerf, it will probably become unplayable, like Call of the Wild, Quest Rogue, Force of Nature…

    Yours sincerely…

  4. Advocaat
    September 8, 2017 at 3:00 am

    Hearthstone has 80 mil. players. It’s impossible to test cards properly before launching them. You will never be able to simulate real meta conditions. So it’s obvious some things cannot be predicted. Their only reliable way of balancing the game is watching the data and making changes which is exactly what they’re trying to do.

    • BlueyesOwl
      September 9, 2017 at 2:23 am

      This has nothing to do with the population of the game and be sure that will are at least 1/3 of 80mil active/competitive above 15rank.
      Their Dev team is focus on low years old ppl. But the thing is that we are mostly above 20yo players.
      They don’t test, they don’t care… Ben is trying hard to keep up with community but this doesn’t work anymore.
      They just confused the word fun with “cancer”/RNG that has grown over 60% for the major of decks, that’s wrong and has to change if they don’t want to stay with just 10 same pro players and a lot lower active players in future.
      Enough is enough.

  5. Blitzblade
    September 7, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    Calm down people… its just a game. 1 today 2 tomorrow. It was fun today and it will be fun tomorrow. Love Hearthstone. Thank you Blizzard for creating this game! We love it!!

  6. mm
    September 7, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    “Naga Sea Witch deck it’s definitely not looking overpowered today (it’s got about a 50% winrate)”

    i know, is not a amazing deck, but when my opponent is lucky enogh to play a lot of giants at turn 5 and steal a win, i feel so bad to keep playing a no skill game with retardad developers.
    i dont go HAHAHAHHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHA when my opponent cheat in my face, i have a terible
    feeling. not everybody have your nice humor Ben

    30% win rate is too much for a joke deck, 50% is not acceptable

  7. Nosdar
    September 7, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    Which Naga Sea Witch deck are they talking about? –‘

    • Kwik
      September 7, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      Basically you jam Naga Sea Witch and every giant in the game into a deck. Naga Sea Witch makes their base cost 5 so cards like Mountain Giant, Molten Giant, Sea Giant, and Clockwork Giant all become free when their effect reduces their cost from 5.

      • Nosdar
        September 8, 2017 at 1:50 am

        Is that the Paladin deck?
        Why is that so overpowered? …

        • Squirrel
          September 8, 2017 at 6:38 am

          It’s a druid deck mostly. You play it with ultimate infestation and mana ramp.

  8. JF
    September 7, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    These constant nerfs are just a symptom manifesting from the true problem.

    1. Ben Brode and Blizzard don’t have the skill or dedication to predict the effect the cards THEY CREATE will have on the meta. Instead they go for a retroactive strategy where the hearthstone fanbase gets to pay money to “beta test” their creation. The average player can make better meta predictions than these guys do.

    2. They ignore #1 because it’s a business model that lets them make countless excuses for their mistakes, constantly saying things like “We couldn’t have foreseen”

    No, you could foresee, you just chose not to because it was easier to do.

  9. JF
    September 7, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    Now they deletin comments because everybody has bad stuff to say about this.

  10. HarryJ
    September 7, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    There seems to be a growing cancer in the Blizz H-Stone team that whatever they do is wrong on the first try and they have to step in and attempt to fix it. They release an expansion that is busted and have to rush in to ‘rebalance’ it, and the notes / explanations for the nerfs insult the player base so they even have to address contents and tone of the notes too. It doesn’t inspire confidence in either their design or communication skills – it leaves the impression that they don’t try very hard to get it right the first time. “Whatever, just ship it, we’ll fix it later if they complain about it…”

    • OHTEE
      September 7, 2017 at 1:35 pm

      I not understand how people complain so much. Obviously whenever something is released it increases the amount of data that they have to see results from to see if something is “cancer”. I personally never believe that the game has only improved since it came out and can’t wait for future content.

      • OHTEE
        September 7, 2017 at 1:35 pm

        Personally believe* typo

      • HarryJ
        September 7, 2017 at 1:47 pm

        Hey, my comment was free. Take it at face value.

        And grats on your high tolerance level for fail.

        But I guess having been in software development for close to 30 years and playing CCGs since within a year of when the genre was invented I expected that a top-tier software/gaming company like Blizzard would, by now, be able to do it better than this at design, testing, and communication.

        • Squirrel
          September 8, 2017 at 6:42 am

          They are doing it better… The old method was one and done. The new method is design thinking. Think of the nerfs as idiations and Ben brodes comments are evidence of empathy and it makes more sense.

          Empathize, define, ideate, protype, test

          Wash rinse repeat.

    • JF
      September 7, 2017 at 2:39 pm

      Exactly, its just like how Electronic Arts and Ubisoft do things when shipping a new game that is not ready. Rush it out the door, get paid, act like you solved all the problems and next time will be different.

      2 months later, they are wide eyed again when they repeat the same behavior.

      Test your game for gods sake.

      • Squirrel
        September 8, 2017 at 6:45 am

        They do, but internal testing can never match up to what you find in the wild.

        Capturing early field failures and addressing them is a good thing. It’s not a sign of a poorly run company.

    • JoyDivision
      September 12, 2017 at 2:23 am

      Blizzard’s communication policy is nothing less than absolutely horrible.

      Just look at the ‘Octoberbrawl’ … nothing is clear, even for the participants (just watched Kripparians Twitch stream and even he was confused because he didn’t receive any Daily Quests). I got the information about the availability of the new card backs over here at hearthstonetopdecks today, after quatripple-checking Twitch yesterday.

      Or when a new expansion is released … other card games anounce the exact release dates (and times) months before the actual release. Blizzard does it when? A week before the event? And even then, it’s not clear when exactly you’re able to open your new packs.

      The list goes on an on. I can’t understand why it’s so hard to deliver a 100% clear and structured information policy.


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