Ben Brode Addresses Criticisms of the Upcoming Nerfs to Fiery War Axe, Murloc Warleader, Etc.

Ben Brode has been on Reddit responding to some of the criticism of the upcoming patch that will nerf Fiery War Axe, Murloc Warleader, Innervate, Spreading Plague, and Hex.

Update (9/6/17 – 8:45am PDT)

Ben Brode commented further on the change to Murloc Warleader this morning:

The reason we changed Warleader was not because it was confusing. We changed it for balance reasons. The reason we changed it in the way that we did is there is minor upside to not exposing players to an interaction that isn’t very intuitive as often. It’s not like we’re killing ourselves to do that, obviously there are other cards that grant Health and that’s fine. But it’s why we did +2 Attack instead of +1/+1, for example. In a world where we are going to change it anyway, there is minor upside in avoiding that interaction.



This was a response to a thread discussing Blizzard’s design priority:

“when reading the justification for the change to Fiery War Axe (and, by extension, the Murloc Warleader change).”

I just want to make it clear that those are meant to cover some of the thinking behind why we went with option A over option B – not why we decided to make a change to begin with.

In a world where we are looking at making a change, we felt like these changes are slightly less disruptive and that is upside, in a vacuum.

It’s not a vacuum, obviously, but the goal here was to reduce power level because the ratio of basic/classic cards in Standard decks is still too high (they represent the biggest percentage of played cards, still).

Commonly, when we mention that we think about a wide variety of players, it can come off like we are focusing on new players at the expense of currently engaged players. That isn’t the way we think about it. Usually we look for win-win solutions, where a change is good for the ongoing fun of playing Hearthstone and is also not disruptive to loosely engaged players. We’ve definitely made changes that are quite disruptive because it’s very important to keep Hearthstone fun for engaged players. Just because we prefer non-disruptive changes doesn’t mean we are trying to do that at the expense of other types of players.

Specifically, we made these changes for engaged players who are most affected by imbalance (deck diversity goes down the higher rank you are), and who are most likely to want to see the meta change when new sets come out or during the yearly set rotation.


Someone asked how they will make the game accessible to new players if they won’t be able to make meta decks as quickly in the future.

Hoping to have something to announce that will help with these problems early next year. We have a lot of work to do on the new player experience, but some of these problems can be mitigated by matchmaking, to some extent.


Here’s a response to a thread that quoted Fibonacci’s Tweet about the Fiery War Axe nerf:

For players who like constant change, Standard is meant to be a format that changes dramatically when new sets are released. We’ve been very open that the evergreen sets pose a great challenge to that dream – if you’re playing against the same cards year after year for many years, it is more difficult to create an always-changing format. Our Hall of Fame solution helped us to make small changes each year to push us a little closer to a format more defined by the things that change.

Right now many of the top decks still run a huge percentage of basic and classic cards. We think that percentage is a little too high right now, and that ends up making new sets and rotations less fun than they could be.

Our goal isn’t to cripple archetypes. Control Warrior needs control cards, yes, but is it fun to play the same cards every year? Wild is an option for players who want a format with less change, but Standard should be all about change. We’d rather create new and different cards that present new challenges and new options to Control Warrior players.

The difference between these zoo decks is a good example of how archetypes can change over time. (from Tempo Storm Meta Snapshot, Jan 2015)

They only share 9 cards, and yet, it feels like the same Archetype. If we love an archetype, we can continue to support it with new cards. Having archetypes come in and out (and in again) with different metas can also help keep Standard fresh.

Regarding the reasoning for change, please check out this post I made in another thread:


Leave a Reply


  1. Dissent4all
    September 8, 2017 at 2:57 am

    The Changes are in fact necessary, the issue is the shear laziness of the changes. It’s a digital card game, there’s nothing from stopping them from making changes on a fairly consistent basis as feedback continues. Instead of just nerfing basic cards to nerf uselessness, how about buff some of the old totally unused cards at the same time to help fill in the power gap left in their void. The majority of cards from all sets are barely played because of how terribly costed they are. Brode is conveniently leaving out whether or not they tested the changes to see what the estimated impact would be
    Warrior now has no turn 2 play for contesting the board aside from armorsmith (which doesn’t actually removing anything besides a 1/1.
    Innervates change doesn’t make sense thematically. In wow i restores mana, no accelerate it.
    The reason druid is dominating is because they don’t really have a true weak point anymore and can do everything (ramp, card draw, removal and flooding the board)

    • JF
      September 8, 2017 at 6:34 am

      My thoughts exactly, they choose to make small boring changes because they aren’t taking the proper time to test the changes they make. They need to add power to create good value for new content, they should not be subtracting anything. So your right, how about they buff old useless basic cards that never see play to bring up the stragglers.

      They might as well have just deleted Fiery War Axe from the game because it went from Tier 1 to Trash.

  2. JF
    September 7, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    The never-ending nerf cycle is just a symptom manifestation of the true issue here with the way Blizzard and Ben Brode do things.

    1. They lack the skill and dedication to do a proper analysts of how the cards THEY CREATED will effect the meta before they are released. Instead they choose a reactive approach that saves them from having to test they game they created and instead we the users get to pay real money to beta test their game. They lack this so badly, that 1 average player like myself can make better predictions than they can.

    2. They don’t worry about #1 because its a business model that lets them make endless excuses for abusing their fanbase.

    • HarryJ
      September 7, 2017 at 1:39 pm

      Well said. I just left a similar comment on another thread.

  3. Tyrano
    September 6, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    That’s just ridiculous… Card games are by definition monotonous. That’s part of the appeal that when over a long period of time you begin to know every card you can play like a “pro” because you know how it tends to play out. I’ve never heard a person that liked a card game (be it Poker or Go Fish) say “you know what we need is a completely different set of cards”! That’s called playing a different game. Team 5 is literally doing GWENT’s PR for them.

  4. Deaazh
    September 6, 2017 at 9:31 am

    So sad to be a new FTP player. Start playing on may, farm like no tomorrow to build a decent meta deck when the new expansion comes out, and when I almost have all cards the nerf comes. Thanks I guess(?), now have to waste my time all over again. Or maybe quit ’cause it’s too boring.

    • HarryJ
      September 7, 2017 at 6:48 am

      As an older FTP player, two of my three best decks got the nerf bat. Since the nerf hurt was mainly on basic and classic cards used in cheaper aggro decks, the clear message to FTP players is pay-to-win or we’ll nerf you to second-tier.

      But I’m not convinced that the best way to get FTP to pay is to nerf their decks into oblivion…

  5. Kilr828
    September 6, 2017 at 6:54 am

    As someone who has been playing hearthstone from the beginning I’m very excited to see these changes, I agree that standard should be different every year, but honestly I feel like I’ve fought the same 10 decks for years now.

    I think hearthstone trying to make the game easier for new players with the basic set is a good idea, but they might have gone a bit too far with it. If you look at hearthstone like it’s a game you play for a few months to a year then it works, but if you want to keep dedicated players ended for years (which is the goal of every card game) then you need the game to feel different with every season. I like nerfing basic cards, and I think the Hall of Fame is an even better idea, because honestly seeing the same set of cards be in every Standard deck for years now is starting to get old.

    And those that keep saying that he didn’t say anything about UI, this is good second day of posts, he explained in a lot of detail that the problem isn’t UI the problem is everyone is playing Druid because they win. If these nerfs work and only 1 in 9 games is a druid then good job the game works. But I guarantee that if these nerfs go out and druid still dominated they will keep nerfing cards.

    • TAbril
      September 6, 2017 at 7:58 am

      I share the same opinion. Anyone who wants a stagnant game should devote himself to Wild.

      However, I personally think the changes will not have the desired impact on jade druid, and we will be a second round of nerfs. The question is whether they will nerf or not what they should.

      But for now, the meta will change a little and token evolve shaman can become a great option to play, for those who do not want to play jade druid.

    • HarryJ
      September 6, 2017 at 8:13 am

      I’ve played H-stone since shortly after release, with a long break in there. I’ve also played other CCGs for many years.

      From my viewpoint it looks like Brode’s reputation with the players is already in tatters (it’s rock-bottom when esports players are self-banning Druid in tournaments), and he is arguing for UI against the whole player community. In taking that position I think he only gets one shot at “rebalancing”. Let’s face it – they created the problem in the first place, so that’s two strikes against already. My guess is that if Druid is still dominating in 4 weeks’ time there will be increasing calls for a shakeup of the design team. The pressure is on, because with every ‘rebalance’ the risk increases that players will leave (or decide not to spend their money).

      The irony is that slowing down aggro probably *increased* the power of UI…

  6. mm
    September 6, 2017 at 2:06 am

    “some of these problems can be mitigated by matchmaking”
    Stop manipulating matchmaking, I want a totally random opponent. Every day I have a winning rate of 90% in the first 20 games, and when I get close to the limit of 100 gold a day, it becomes IMPOSSIBLE to win, because the opponent is manipulated and not random, my victory rate drops to 30%, every holy day. (valid for casual game mode, I’m not sure if the same happens in ranked)
    when my opponente is not random, is manipulated, i feel that skill and tech choises don’t matter

    • doozY
      September 6, 2017 at 3:20 am

      agreed, match makings and rng determines which wins the game as soon as you hit que first or second if your hand has automatically expensive cards you will lose so there’s skill set based on HS anymore so please fix the game and introduce a shuffling deck option like Yu-Gi-Oh

    • Praikon
      September 6, 2017 at 3:32 am

      The same happens in rank ofc.If you win some games with Jade druid f.e you will get a Quest mage for opponent , so you will probably lose no matter what.

    • TAbril
      September 6, 2017 at 7:45 am

      Another possibility is that you win more when you have a fresh head… Just saying…

      How about taking breaks?

      Driving without breaks reduces attention and increases reaction time.
      Studying without breaks reduces the attention and ability to memorize.
      And the examples list go on …

  7. JoyDivision
    September 6, 2017 at 12:49 am

    I’m on the calm side when it comes to changes. I think to myself, well, let’s see what those changes bring.

    But this time it is absolutely obvious that those changes (and the explanations that followed) are 100% bull***t.

    So … it’s more fun if people have to spend more money if the want to play competitively with every new expansion? More fun if Blizzard removes the security of basic cards that are available to everyone for free and that are good enough to be played competitively?

    It’s fun to randomnerf cards that aren’t even played that often anymore? Fun to randomnerf each and every deck capable of beating the Jade Menace?

    It’s fun to totally ignore thousands and thousands of players’ voices that called for other nerfs (UI and JI)?

    The only ‘good’ thing is that now Priest decks can be even greedier and affort to play 2 Geists. Yeah, that IS sarcasm …

    It’s like Blizzard is in full self destruct mode …

    Kill a good meta? – Check
    Kill Arena (‘Synergy’ picks, anyone?)? – Check
    Kill all ties between the company and the community – Check

    Oh well … those nerfs and those explanations really sadden me. :/

    • lanakias
      September 6, 2017 at 1:40 am

      I hope to see your comment in the forums too..its time to play other card game..

    • HarryJ
      September 6, 2017 at 6:14 am

      Being in the software development industry, this nerf looks like it was geared to make the top brass happy. The top brass don’t actually play H-stone, but they like to look at graphs and charts and numbers, and especially like buzz-phrases such as, ” the ratio of basic/classic cards in Standard decks is still too high” (Translation: We want people to have to buy expansion packs to keep up).

      Brode can prove to the brass with statistics and AI bot modeling why Hex = ‘bad’ and UI = ‘just fine’. They can ignore the comments of the players as long as the $$$ roll in and the # of players is within their goals.

      Bottom line: Brode is arguing for his job (you can’t blame a guy for that). But if you are looking for him to make a principled defense of Hearthstone as a balanced, fun, playable card game, you are out of luck. Kind of like how George Lucas transformed Star Wars from a great story into a meat-grinder money-making machine.

      Just 2 cents worth from a FTP player who doesn’t matter to Blizzard in the slightest…

  8. to
    September 5, 2017 at 11:26 pm

    Lol nerf new shit so ppl don’t spend their way buddy this is blizzard , it’s about the $$ they squeeze from let’s trash old shit and just make new stuff next expansion that takes it place, that way they have to spend a lot of $$…muhahaha..muhahaha……..sincerely. Ben

  9. David
    September 5, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    I’ve got nothing now thanks to these nerfs, I cant make any viable ladder decks, and have basically wasted dust, and dusted legendaries because of this. All my effort is now for nothing. Thanks Blizzard.

    • Praikon
      September 6, 2017 at 3:36 am

      Same goes for me buddy.They just want us to buy more packs.That’s awful

  10. lanakias
    September 5, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    Read his comments and i can’t see the solution about “Ultimate infestation”. Read for fun and something like that and i am asking my self “Who fun with this cards?” . Warlock? . Hunter? or Druid?. Because i see only one class here that make fun. Ben Brode im sorry but you are failure.You and your team denied to nerf the obvious cards that the community asking to do and you speak for fun and irreverent things.. Nerf the fcking Ultimate infestationnow!

  11. BlueyesOwl
    September 5, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    He made 2 examples about 2 heroes, warlock and warrior.
    Warlock was unplayable and is just sees playing and warrior that his only viable option as a tier 1 deck is Pirates archetype since un’goro.
    He doesn’t want to see the truth… This truth is that HS this year is far away from fun and secondly has so much unbalanced meta.
    They trying to fix things and to not repeat same mistakes (like they did with rogue, warlock, etc) by making much more mistakes…
    And they don’t realize that you can’t control or keep balance on both formats. You have to focus more to one viable balanced format over the other. For e.g. ygo had similar 2 different formats, traditional and advanced and the main focus was on advanced ofc. You can’t expect wild mode to be at same level and high competive as standard.
    You can’t keep 2 watermelons in 1 armpit.

    • BlueyesOwl
      September 5, 2017 at 7:52 pm

      As for the problem that some keep asking about new players and how hard is to catch old players, the truth is that you have to deal with it… That’s a casual problem with all card games that running for years.
      They’re already exist some solutions for this matter, but you have to understand that F2P isn’t a viable 100%… You have to do sacrifices and decide what kind of gamer you want to be (casual, competitive or pro). You can’t be Pro or a high competitive player without spending resources.
      That’s my 2cents.

      • David
        September 5, 2017 at 11:16 pm

        What if your a casual player like myself? Who had been playing everyday for over 2 years, spent 300 plus dollars on the game but has still had to dust all wild cards in order to keep up and then on top of that get screwed by nerfs like these…

        • bnight
          September 6, 2017 at 5:37 am

          If you play for over 2 yearss and spend 300 plus dollars and dust all wild cards and can’t keep up then something is seriously wrong with your collection management. I only spend 5$ on this game for the welcome bundle and I can make any meta deck.

  12. Carleman
    September 5, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    7 mana cost, 5-5 draw 2 cards get nerfed. 10 mana cost, 5-5, deal 5 damage, get 5 armor and draw 5 cards stays the same. Enough said

  13. Tylee
    September 5, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    He still never even regarded any of the million of comments about UI remaining the same..

    • TAbril
      September 5, 2017 at 5:47 pm

      He has a selective perception… But in true, an Ultimate Infestation nerf (like some claim) was not enough… You may remove it, but people can run Gadgetzan Auctioneer and cheap spells. Druid don’t have Innervate, but it will have small taunts and time to do the same ramp-draw game (with UI and Innervate, or without). The best was a soft and general nerf across all druid ramp-draw cards (not all all, but to the overall).
      Also, a lot of people think that an aggro deck is the counter for jade druid, and that idea excludes automatically thinking about what really makes druid jade extraordinary against slow decks. It’s the “mass ramp-draw” like no other deck! It’s not just UI, it’s all druid ramp-draw together! Not even the typical control heroes have so much draw… And druid has draw and ramp!

      • Twickykid
        September 5, 2017 at 7:26 pm

        UI isn’t going to win the game buy itself. It is taking the place of some other game winning threat. This lowers the threats in your deck in a deck that already had a low number of threats. Drawing to Exhaustion is very real with UI. Going to cast UI with 10 cards left in your deck with nothing on board and opponent at full hp? NOPE. You cannot pack more than 1 in the deck and MUST see it in the first 20 cards for you to be able to cast it without risking drawing out your deck late game.

        Idol is what holds everything together. It is the lichpin. All they had to do was change Jade Idol. It is the very reason UI is over the top. Being able to have an unending threat chain and prevent exhaust is too much. UI has some serious flaws for a 10 mana card.

        I’m not saying that UI is a bad card. It is good and stats are pushed. Fact is it has some real flaws and is not game ending for 10 mana. I think I can live with that.

        • Moltar
          September 5, 2017 at 8:39 pm

          Jade Idor for 2 mana, there you have a balanced jade druid.

          • JoyDivision
            September 6, 2017 at 12:52 am

            Impossible. Because they made Skulking Geist. Would be a totally useless card then. ;P

          • IBlastoise
            September 6, 2017 at 2:51 am

            @Joy, Hulking Geist ain’t helping much (ALWAYS) too, cause You never draw it.

        • TAbril
          September 6, 2017 at 7:31 am

          Jade idol it’s a nonsense card! True, but it’s also true that even if you oponent run and plays Geist (and not all decks can run it) you can win any way. I did it in the past… That’s why I think that most players lose for Geist more often because they stress out and not because of their true possibility to win. With this said, the problems of this deck go beyond jade idol (not saing that little shit it’s not op), just saying that to deal with it and with other “indecent cards”, in my opinion, it’s by cutting of the insane possibility of draw mechanics for druid.