I had so much fun with The Boomsday Project: it has brought along great single-player content, a varied Constructed meta and one of the best Arena experiences we’ve had in a long time. Of course, Quest Rogue had to come along and ruin everyone’s fun, one of the most polarizing combo decks that has now survived two years, featuring only a single card from the new expansion – Giggling Inventor, the #1 nerf candidate in the set.
A Path Dimly Lit
It took a few weeks for the playerbase to catch up to the fact that Quest Rogue is viable once again – the early successes of Zoo spawned a set of slower counter-decks in the form of Even Warlock and Control Warrior, which were then preyed upon by the resurgent combo archetype. It was also helped by the fact that the popular Hunter decks are uncharacteristically slow and Druid’s many different variations on the same theme also take a lot of time to complete their gameplan. For a short while, it was perfectly positioned to take advantage of the popular strategies, and while it’s being taken into account now, Quest Rogue still remains a more than viable choice, bringing back all the problems its previous iterations have had – not in terms of winrate, but how polarizing the matchups are.
This issue should be familiar to anyone who has played against its earlier iterations, and one that highlights the problems with the nerfs Team 5 opted to go with: it merely delays the victory condition against slower decks and hardly reduces the impact of the cheap and overcosted minions. Worse still, the deck’s capability to go infinite against any archetype that doesn’t exert maximum pressure on it forces you into a one-track SMOrc gameplan if you want to counteract it – a problem that hasn’t been accounted for by the changes made to The Caverns Below.
Vicious Scalehide has already given a deck a lifeline against aggressive opponents and its consistency has been increased by Sonya Shadowdancer and Zola the Gorgon, but it has now gained an additional tool: Giggling Inventor, a card which seemingly every archetype in the game can make use of. It’s specifically effective in Quest Rogue: beyond its incredible stalling proportions, it summons three separate bodies once the quest is completed (two of which, remember, have Divine Shield and Taunt to make things even more frustrating), and as an additional concern, it requires aggressive decks to deal with each part of the card pre-quest activation or else risking a Shadowstep or a Sonya on the actual inventor itself, which can pretty much end the game on the spot.
On the other end of the spectrum, the deck is capable of going infinite against control decks with the Death Knight and Zola the Gorgon, making it impossible to grind out even with a deck dedicated to that approach, your main condition being them running dry by some stroke of luck. It’s a problem that is further exacerbated by the complete lack of neutral hand disruption options in the current Standard environment: there is no way to mess with Quest Rogue’s gameplan (apart from the limited option provided by Demonic Project, something which doesn’t help you win the game most of the time anyway), once again forcing you to throw everything to the face either by going on the offensive with a deck clearly incapable of exerting enough pressure to do so or by queuing a Tempo Mage instead of whatever you felt like playing before.
Combo decks are strong against control archetypes and often fold against aggro: this has always been a normal dynamic in card games. However, Hearthstone’s lack of sideboarding options and the aforementioned hole in the Classic set where a disruption card should be, plus the random ladder queuing system means that it will always be frustrating to run into a Quest Rogue while trying to climb with anything that isn’t a dedicated face deck. This has nothing to do with winrates: such extreme matchup polarization means that a significant part of the “skill” now devolves into running into the right opponent, and while there is something to be said about grinding out a few extra percentages against aggro and making the correct meta call by picking the deck in the first place, the limited and one-track options to fight Quest Rogue makes it a really problematic presence in any metagame.
So what can you do with this deck beyond killing it with fire? In some ways, this is a philosophical choice: are the developers OK with having such a polarizing presence on the ladder? The closest comparison that comes to mind is the classic Freeze Mage versus Control Warrior matchup, which was nothing more than an aberration if you consider that the former deck was otherwise excellent against slower decks, not posting anywhere near the kind of numbers Quest Rogue can offer against control archetypes, of course.
Unfortunately, mitigating the deck’s polarizing nature will definitely have to involve new cards, which would mean that it would remain untouched for months, likely without comment from Team 5’s part. Also, remember how Skulking Geist was meant to be a Jade killer (and how Peter Whalen had hyped it up as part of Un’goro’s infamous reveal stream with the massacre of the Murloc Tinyfins, though it wasn’t even in the set)? Even if they have lined up a supposed counter-card for the next expansion, there is no guarantee that it actually gets the job done – most of Hearthstone’s hate cards have been pathetically ineffective, after all. This is a risky way to go, one that doesn’t guarantee success but would definitely entail a lot of anxious waiting.
A third, crushing nerf is more likely: the previous two have clearly proven that the developers are not happy with the kind of space Quest Rogue regularly occupies in the meta. It’s probably the correct call – it’s not fun for anyone when such a high portion of games are decided the moment you find your worthy opponent.