Balance Changes Are Coming Next Week – Which Cards Are the Most Likely to Change?

Forged in the Barrens meta has proven difficult for Blizzard to balance. Many of the cards and archetypes from the new expansion are lackluster, and some decks remain extremely dominant in the meta, especially Secret Paladin. The reason for this mess is, of course, the rotation of Basic and Classic sets out of the Standard format and the introduction of Core set in their stead: this Standard rotation was by far the biggest we have ever had in Hearthstone, and the balance issues need to be viewed with that in mind.

Next week, Blizzard will try again to balance the current card pool. This time, there will be five nerfs and ten buffs. The full details were not announced this week, so we will have to wait a little more for those. The only additional details we have right now are that two Neutral cards will be nerfed, and one of them will be a Murloc.

In this article, I will take a look at the main candidates for nerfs and buffs, and what the upcoming balance changes could mean for the meta.

Two Neutral Nerfs

I can easily come up with more than five nerf candidates, but as five is the confirmed number, that’s what it is going to be, then, and two of them will be Neutral cards.

First of all, a Neutral Murloc will be nerfed. Yeah, Murloc Tidecaller is such a snowballing threat that it has to be handled, pronto. Seriously though, there is only one possible candidate, and it is the ultimate snowball, Crabrider. Right now, if you have no answer to a four-Health minion on turn two, you’re pretty much out of the game against decks that can buff it up.

I would expect the Crabrider nerf to be a Health change: 1/3 stats would make it easier to handle and probably keep it playable but a little less inevitable. Changing it to three mana would probably just kill the card, and Blizzard has adopted a stance where they weaken but do not kill cards in most of their recent balance changes.

We also know that there will be a second Neutral nerf. There are some successful Neutral cards in the meta right now, but most of them do not seem to be overpowered. Taelan Fordring and Alexstrasza the Life-Binder have formed a dynamic duo that makes an appearance in many decks, but it is hard to see either of them being overpowered enough to warrant a nerf. Kazakus, Golem Shaper is very strong, but seems to be nicely balanced: it is used in all kinds of decks from aggro to control, and it comes with interesting deck-building decisions too.

The two main candidates I can think of are Venomous Scorpid and MankrikVenomous Scorpid is becoming more popular all the time, as its combination of a Poisonous minion and additional resource generation is attractive to many decks. However, I believe the second nerf target will be Mankrik, specifically the 3/10 Mankrik, Consumed by Hatred. If you happen to draw Olgra and summon the angry Mankrik early in the game, that 3/10 stat line is nigh impossible to answer for many decks. Tuning it down even as far as 3/6 could be reasonable to prevent lucky game states that drive the opponent to a dead end.

More Paladin nerfs?

After the Neutral nerfs, there are three class cards that will be hit. Which classes will be targeted?

Paladin is the single most dominant force in the game, so it is the prime candidate for a nerf. The class already uses Crabrider and Mankrik, so those nerfs touch it, but they are unlikely to weaken it enough. Paladin has some great cards right now that could be targeted:

  • Sword of the Fallen was already nerfed once, but it is still phenomenal. However, targeting it again would not weaken Aggro Paladin, which does not run any Secrets anyway.
  • Hand of A'dal is a solid card that is used in every Paladin deck, and is consistently near the top in performance meters.
  • Conviction (Rank 1) is an extremely powerful burst damage card in the mid-game that is also used in both aggressive Paladin archetypes. Despite its strength, it might be just a bit too weak to be nerfed.
  • First Day of School is perhaps the best card in the game. Oh wait, that sounds like a great nerf candidate.

Looking at statistics, it seems clear that First Day of School is the main problem. However, it is extremely difficult to nerf in a way that keeps it playable. If it costs one mana, it is no longer a one-drop and most likely will not see any play. If it gives you one random minion, it is better to just put a good one-drop into the deck instead. If it gives you two 1/1 Paladin tokens, it is unplayable outside of a Silver Hand Recruit deck. Maybe a version that gives you two 1/2 tokens would be a good compromise, then it would essentially be a new Fire Fly. I could see that happening.

It is unlikely that Paladin would be targeted by more than one class card nerf as the Crabrider nerf is already hitting it. The line Blizzard needs to walk is between keeping Paladin too good and making it unplayable: the class was extremely weak not too long ago when it did not have access to any good one-drops. It would be easy to drive Paladin back to that state, and more difficult to actually make it, you know, balanced.

Two More Class Nerfs, but Which Ones?

That leaves us with two more classes that can be nerfed. There are multiple candidates, especially when considering the impact of the Neutral and Paladin nerfs on the meta.

I think Mage is the most likely candidate for a nerf because Mage has access to two cards that are just a bit too good: Incanter's Flow and Refreshing Spring Water. Making your cards cheaper is always great, and the additional synergy it has with Refreshing Spring Water – allowing you to draw cards and gain mana by doing so, is just a little over the top.

Again, I don’t think Blizzard will nerf two cards from the same class, so it has got to be one or the other. I would still go for an Incanter's Flow nerf first, as it will naturally make Refreshing Spring Water a little more tolerable at the same time.

That leaves us with one more class card nerf. Face Hunter? Rush Warrior? Miracle Rogue? Control Priest? Control Warlock?

I’m not sure whether pure power level alone warrants more nerfs.  I would expect the final nerf to target something that feels bad or shapes the meta in a specific direction. The two main candidates from this perspective are Control Priest and Control Warlock. For Control Warlock, the obvious candidate is Tickatus. Changing it to destroy fewer cards, say three, would make it less punishing for slow decks to face. However, nerfing Tickatus would make Priest stronger.

Priest is more difficult to target. The class has become synonymous with random nonsense, as the entire deck is full of random outcomes. Taking one out changes but a little in the grand scheme of things. Time for a Priest rework, anyone? Just like every year?

If there’s one feel-bad card that could be changed to make Priest a little less obnoxious, it is Sethekk Veilweaver. Changing its mana cost to three would destroy its synergy with Rally!, and reduce its capability to generate random things. Not all Priest decks even run the card, but there is no silver bullet to fixing the class.

The nerfs will probably happen somewhat like the above speculation. It is the buff side that is much more difficult to try to predict.

Forged in the Barrens, Where Art Thou?

Ten buffs. That’s a lot. I would expect them to mainly touch Forged in the Barrens cards because it just seems like a smart move to make your most recent expansion more attractive, and Forged in the Barrens has a lot of cards that could use a buff so there is no lack of candidates even within this one expansion alone.

The primary candidates I can think of are Caravans. Remember Caravans? They were mentioned in a press release before the expansion, but then never showcased anywhere and ultimately released in a completely unplayable state. I can only speculate that they were going to be important, but were perhaps too strong initially, and then nerfed to oblivion. A general buff to Caravans would explain the number of buffed cards:

  • Apothecary's Caravan would buff Zoo Warlock, which is currently extinct for the first time in the history of the game.
  • Prospector's Caravan would buff a slower Hunter deck, none of which are around at the moment.
  • Soldier's Caravan would buff Silver Hand Recruit Paladin, but also potentially Aggro Paladin, so one would have to be careful with it.
  • Tinyfin's Caravan would buff Murloc Shaman, another new archetype that just did not happen.
  • Soothsayer's Caravan would generate more random stuff, but it would not see play anyway, so I guess it would be OK. Perhaps it could be reworked altogether to support some tempo-based Priest archetype.

There are two main ways to buff Caravans: increase their Health, or change their effect to an end-of-turn effect to guarantee at least one proc. I would like to see them work as end-of-turn effects, even though the ones that summon minions would be very scary like that, and at least Soldier's Caravan would need a mana cost increase or a change to summon just one minion at a time to keep it from completely taking over the game.

Even if Caravans turn out to be some of the buffed cards, there are still many more to come. But which classes and archetypes will they support?

Shaman is certainly going to get some buffs. The class is in a miserable state, and I would not be surprised to see it get multiple improvements. Tinyfin's Caravan could be one of them, buffing Murloc Shaman. If more Murloc Shaman buffs are desired, Nofin Can Stop Us at two mana would be interesting. The other Shaman archetypes are more difficult to buff. There’s Aggro Shaman, Totem Shaman, and Elemental Shaman, but all of them are hard to fix with just a single change. Working with the new cards, which I think are the most likely buff targets, I could see Lilypad Lurker being changed to four mana to help Elemental Shaman out a bit.

Demon Hunter is unlikely to see buffs. Deathrattle Demon Hunter is a brand new archetype, but its class support cards are already really good. It is mostly missing additional Deathrattle minions, and as such it is more likely to get support in future expansions and perhaps already the next mini-set than in a balance patch. Besides, all Demon Hunter archetypes already benefit from any Paladin nerfs.

Druid can be tricky to buff. Token Druid and Clown Druid are somewhat playable already and not easy to change with a single card. Taunt Druid has failed, but its failure is probably too deep to fix with a single card. It is possible that Blizzard will try to improve Taunt Druid, I just can’t figure out a good tool to do so until the next mini-set.

Hunter has one good archetype already, Face Hunter. How to promote slower Hunter decks? Pack Kodo could be a key card in them, and if it was a two-mana 2/3 or a three-mana 3/4, it might be able to help the decks more.

Mage is completely obsessed with No Minion Mage right now. Ping Mage has failed to find any success, and it could receive some help. I was first thinking of Wildfire, but any buffs to that one would likely just see it added to No Minion Mage lists. Reckless Apprentice, on the other hand, could help Ping Mage’s survivability if it was cheaper. Curving out from Wildfire into a three-cost Reckless Apprentice could make the archetype a little more attractive.

Paladin is unlikely to receive buffs unless there is a general Caravan change. Even though Silver Hand Recruit Paladin has failed, most potential buffs would risk improving other Paladin decks too.

Priest is a difficult buff target. Control Priest is a thing, but no other Priest archetype looks remotely playable. There might be something with Corrupt Priest, but as that is a Madness at the Darkmoon Faire archetype, it is unlikely to see improvements now. Dark Inquisitor Xanesh should totally discount cards that have already been Corrupted though. I’d count that as a bug fix, not a buff.

Rogue already has multiple somewhat viable archetypes and is unlikely to see buffs.

Warlock is not doing too well with Control Warlock as the only viable archetype. Delete Warlock just seems too foreign of a concept altogether, although maybe Blizzard has some ideas how to make it playable. Zoo Warlock could use help, and maybe Apothecary's Caravan is exactly the right tool to help it with.

Warrior is mostly just Rush Warrior. I don’t see Blizzard willing to improve Control Warrior, but there is also the Taunt Warrior archetype that they have been pushing unsuccessfully. Buffing up Bulk Up, let’s say to one mana, might give Taunt Warrior some new tools to have a chance.


With Paladin almost guaranteed to take a hit, many other decks will get a chance. Shaman buffs are just about certain, and they may be able to bring the class back into the meta. I expect Demon Hunter to have a better chance after the changes as Paladin has been its biggest obstacle. I’m hopeful that Zoo Warlock may be resurrected as well.

Overall, with 15 cards getting changed, it is difficult to evaluate what the new meta will be like, especially as we do not have the full list of changes yet. It is likely that aggressive decks will continue to be the best choices overall, and control decks will continue to struggle unless Priest and Warlock are touched, and neither is guaranteed to be on the nerf list.

Hopefully, this third attempt to launch Forged in the Barrens will deliver on the great expectations for the new expansion and the Core set.

Old Guardian

Ville "Old Guardian" Kilkku is a writer and video creator focused on analytic, educational Hearthstone, and building innovative Standard format decks. Youtube: Twitch:

Check out Old Guardian on Twitter or on their Website!

Leave a Reply


  1. Axiom11154
    May 10, 2021 at 12:57 pm

    My predictions:

    Crabrider changed to 3 Health

    Alexstrasza the Life-Binder changed to deal or restore 6 health

    Incanter's Flow changed to 3 mana

    Conviction (Rank 1) changed to 2 mana or changed to +2/3/4 attack

    Firemancer Flurgl changed to deal 2 damage to all enemy minions.

    Lushwater Scout changed to 2 attack or changed to 1 mana

    Chain Lightning (Rank 1) changed to deal 2/4/6 damage or changed to target both adjacent enemies

    Tidal Surge changed to 3 mana

    Earth Revenant changed to 3 attack

    Lilypad Lurker changed to 4 mana

    Reckless Apprentice changed to 3 mana

    Aegwynn, the Guardian changed to Spell Damage +3

    Fel Summoner changed to 5 mana

    Pursuit of Justice changed to 1 mana

    Soldier's Caravan changed to 1 mana

    Guff Runetotem changed to 2 mana with 2/3 in stats

    Plaguemaw the Rotting changed to 3 mana

  2. May 10, 2021 at 8:34 am

    Mage does not need further nerfs. Spell mage already loses against pala and warrior most of the time. Paladin is strong, but it can already lose against Priest or Warrior, so I would not want a nerf to kill secret pala forever. Without “that” Murloc, it should still be playable, but not dominating the meta. Shaman sucks, we agree on that. DH is dead except for the Il’gynoth’s deck, and THAT is not a deck I’d like to see buffed. Hunter is still mostly face (no fun). Control Warrior will become Tier 1 after the nerf, but zoo is dead and will stay dead for the foreseeable future. Control Priest will also be Tier 1 for sure. Rogue? maybe.

  3. Adrian091
    May 10, 2021 at 5:27 am

    They could change Incanter’s Flow to Legendary so you can run 1 Version of it.

  4. JoyDivision
    May 10, 2021 at 4:59 am

    I use this post to ask the question (because the card is shown):

    Can somebody please tell me what the f**k is depicted on the Dark Inquisitor Xanesh card? Is that a submarine shark or what? I absolutely have no clue what this thing is …

    • Loki777
      May 10, 2021 at 7:06 am

      Little hard to make out but near as I can tell it looks like an old god cultist in what most closely resembles a version of the warlock tier 13 armor from WoW riding what appears to be a giant leech

  5. Goblinta
    May 9, 2021 at 10:22 am

    This essay assumes all the changes will be relevant to standard.

    The odds are that some old cards will be changed in response to developments in Wild.

    Biscuit Mage is an oppressive deck in wild.

    (Mage cheapens their spells, fills their hand with a lot of biscuits, drops a flamewalker and does 30 points of damage in one turn.)

    This deck has all of the Marks-of-Cain that makes Blizzard nerf a deck.

    a) Non-reactive.
    b) Very widespread.
    c) No fun to play against.

    d) Ends games quickly before opponents can develop their game plan.
    The opponent doesn’t get to play Hearthstone and just has to watch him or herself lose.

    Blizzard hates all of the above but d) is a giant red flag for Blizzard – and rightfully so.

    Add to that

    e) Biscuit Mage is powered by mana reduction.

    Blizzard has learned that mana reduction often has to be very very carefully policed.

    What to expect?

    Expect Conjure Mana Biscuit to take a huge hit.

    Expect a ban on anything costing 0 mana.

    Nerfing Flamewalker is a non-trivial thought here.

    Having it do only one damage rather than two guts the effectiveness of the entire Biscuit plan.


    • PitLord
      May 9, 2021 at 10:39 am

      Or simply flamewalker does damage only to minion, no more nerf needed, of course there is the mozaki version that is slightly worse of flamewalker version.

    • JoyDivision
      May 10, 2021 at 5:06 am

      I would be very surprised if they’d nerf Flamewaker, a card that was last played over a year ago. Agreed that it limits design space, but then it’s a ‘space of design’ Blizzard actually doesn’t want to explore (see your other, valid points).

      Add to that the fact that nerfing Flow AND Water (I’m pretty sure they will nerf both) will reduce the deck’s power (might even kill it if the nerfs are harsh enough), Flamewaker doesn’t need to be nerfed.

  6. PitLord
    May 9, 2021 at 1:33 am

    Nerfing priest? it’s their favorite class, 2 Nerf in 7 years (both in scholomance) and there are plenty of card that shoul be nerfed (expecially in wild).
    I don’t like the ticktatus nerf only because player don’t like see burned their cards. The deck it’s not great with exception of vs. priest and rush warrior. And no, I don’t see more control decks after the nerf, just a raise of priest population that would be terrible.

    I agree with incanter flow to 3 mana, in spell mage is basically a better ramp card even at 3.

    Crabrider? Yeah too strong, I wish it were changed to only shaman card for murloc shaman 😀

  7. TheArcanist
    May 8, 2021 at 6:08 pm

    They could make First Day of School 1 mana ‘Summon a random 1-Cost minion. Add another one to your hand’. That way it keeps the value while not guaranteeing an insane turn 1.

  8. Ginnel
    May 8, 2021 at 4:33 pm

    Nerf First Day of School with a random 1 cost minion and a silver hand recruit.

  9. TheDannyP
    May 8, 2021 at 1:59 pm

    I like the nerf suggestions, and the sheer amount of nerfs suggests that caravans are indeed getting buffed. Great article overall 🙂
    The one opinion I disagree with is that Priest needs another rework because it’s “random nonsense”. Sure, it relies heavily on resources from outside the deck, but it is “controled” generation – unlike for example the Amazing Reno, Puzzlebox or Solarian, in Priest, you still have to make a lot of choices to play Priest well. I think having a class like that, with a high skill-cap, adds good variation to the game and complaining about Priest is easy, but not overly justified IMHO. Sure, I hate losing to them, but looking back at the games, usually, they beat you by playing well and understanding the economy of the game. That’s much more enjoyable than losing to SMORC decks…

  10. Psychopomp
    May 8, 2021 at 1:36 pm

    Dean Ayala confirmed that they wouldn’t be buffing all 5 Caravans so that opens up some more slots