The second wave of balance changes in Rastakhan’s Rumble was something new in Hearthstone. We had not had two nerf rounds during a single expansion before, and this round did not actually touch any of the new cards, changing a number of Basic and Classic cards instead – Cold Blood, Equality, Hunter's Mark, and Flametongue Totem – alongside one soon-to-be-rotating card, Lesser Emerald Spellstone.
Most of the time, when a deck has been hit with the nerf bat, it has died. But these were not your regular nerfs. It was not the rotating build-around cards that were touched, so can the decks survive this time?
In order to find out, I went on a week-long adventure playing nothing but nerfed decks. My starting point was Rank 2 (non-Legend) on the EU ladder, and during the week I climbed to Legend and reached it at rank 1838, and then proceeded to climb to around rank 500 in Legend – playing nothing but nerfed decks! Before you ask, no, I did not count Midrange Hunter as a nerfed deck despite Hunter's Mark, we’re talking about the actually nerfed archetypes here.
Therefore, I can quite confidently say that the nerfs did not kill all of the decks. In fact, all of the archetypes I tried are still playable with minor changes at most: some of them are now difficult to climb with, while others remain roughly as strong as they were before the nerfs compared to the meta they face.
In this article, I’ll evaluate the remaining strength of each of the decks and provide you with some post-nerfs lists to play. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the nerfed decks, starting with the strongest ones in the post-nerfs meta.
#1 Odd Rogue
The nerfs have started a period of innovation for Odd Rogue. The most straightforward approach is to find something to take the place of Cold Blood, because a two-cost Cold Blood simply cannot be used in the deck anymore.
This build by Jalexander does exactly that: just add in Crazed Chemist, make sure there are enough one-drops so that you can activate your expensive combo cards – Crystallizer helps – and mix in a pair of Void Rippers for some surprise lethals and to get through high-health Taunt minions, and you have an Odd Rogue deck that feels almost exactly like an old Odd Rogue deck, teched for the current meta.
Of course, you can no longer open the game with Fire Fly into Cold Blood, so some of the explosiveness is gone. However, most Hunter decks with Lesser Emerald Spellstone are also gone from the meta, so you do not face too much pressure, and you are still fast enough to take on Priests and other combo decks.
Odd Rogue is perhaps the strongest nerfed archetype. It is still extremely strong and thrives in the current meta. I highly recommend the above list, it is simple and effective.
It is not the only approach to Odd Rogue, however.
PaperNinja has been an advocate of an Elemental build after the nerfs, going for reach from Blazecallers instead of minion buffs:
These different takes on the archetype show the fundamental strength of Odd Rogue. There are many ways to build and succeed with the archetype, and while I currently recommend the straightforward replacement of Cold Blood, it is good to keep the other options in mind.
More details on the archetype are available on our Odd Rogue Deck List Guide.
#2 Hybrid Hunter
- 2Crackling Razormaw2
- 2Explosive Trap1
- 2Freezing Trap1
- 2Hunter’s Mark1
- 2Scavenging Hyena2
- 2Snake Trap1
- 2Venomstrike Trap1
- 2Wandering Monster1
- 3Animal Companion2
- 3Kill Command2
- 3Master’s Call2
- 4Dire Frenzy1
- 4Flanking Strike2
- 5Lesser Emerald Spellstone2
- 5Tundra Rhino1
- 6Deathstalker Rexxar1
While Midrange Hunter is getting all of the time in the spotlight right now, Hybrid Hunter is far from dead. The above build is not a post-nerfs build, actually, as it was one of the most popular builds already before the nerfs and was played by just about all the streamers you can think of. I played it again after the nerfs, and it pierced through the post-nerfs meta like a hot knife through butter.
Hybrid Hunter can take on Midrange Hunters thanks to its Secrets, Spellstones, and Zul’jin, and it has just enough threats in it so that it can take on combo decks and pressure them down before they can stabilize. Sure, Midrange Hunter is better at applying pressure, but being favored against it while still being good enough at applying pressure is a winning combination.
More details on the archetype are available on our Hybrid Hunter Deck List Guide.
#3 Even Shaman
I mean, come on, at least Even Shaman is dead, right? Guess again! Turns out that when all the aggressive decks are nerfed at the same time, Even Shaman can afford to lose Flametongue Totem. Yes, the deck is slower now. Yes, it is more difficult to snowball an early board than it used to be. Nonetheless, Even Shaman was the third-most successful nerfed deck I played, and it really rocked.
The deck has many effective Battlecries in it: Murkspark Eel, Fire Plume Phoenix, and Fire Elemental can all swing the board state when they enter the board, and Kalimos, Primal Lord and Hagatha the Witch are some big guns to swing the game around later on. Even though you can no longer make as good use of tokens – Dire Wolf Alpha and Knife Juggler just are not enough without Flametongue Totem – it is the Battlecry effects that pick up the slack.
There is also still a ten-mana combo for ten damage: Al'Akir the Windlord + Earthen Might. It’s not quite the same as Flametongue, but it is close. Overall, the importance of Earthen Might has increased after the loss of Flametongue Totem, as it can be used for early tempo, for additional value by playing it on an Elemental, or for late-game burst with Al'Akir the Windlord or even an Argent Commander. With fewer available resources, how you spend the ones you have has become more important, but the deck still offers plenty of power.
If you’re concerned whether Shaman is still playable after the nerfs, no need to fear, Even Shaman is still here.
More details on the archetype are available on our Even Shaman Deck List Guide.
#4 OTK DK Paladin
Before the nerfs, OTK DK Paladin was mostly gone from the meta. Holy Wrath OTK Paladin was considered the superior variant and almost everyone switched over to it. That said, OTK DK Paladin always had some matchups where it was the superior deck, most notably against aggressive decks, in no small part thanks to Spikeridged Steed. With Equality nerfed to four mana, a defensive approach that does not rely solely on board clears begins to sound attractive.
Looking at the current meta, OTK DK Paladin can make good use of its strengths against the likes of Midrange Hunter and Secret Odd Mage, and I actually had more success with this old-fashioned, almost Control Paladin style deck, than I had with the newer Holy Wrath variant.
I don’t expect this to last, however. With the rise of Odd Warrior we have witnessed recently, combo decks should be getting ready to counterattack, and other combo decks beat the OTK DK Paladin fairly reliably, because it is the slowest combo deck in the game. It is good at beating aggression and fatigue decks, including those Odd Warriors, but other combo decks are its weak spot.
More details on the archetype are available on our OTK DK Paladin Deck List Guide.
#5 Even Paladin
Oh, Genn Greymane. We have discussed the power of Genn before, and its power still cannot be denied. The nerf of Equality to four mana is painful for control decks, but does it really hurt a midrange deck? This midrange deck can still play Corpsetaker with Windfury and buff it up with Blessing of Kings, so that’s some explosiveness right there, and that has not gone anywhere.
The first approach to the Equality nerf for Even Paladin has been to cut Equality, Wild Pyromancer, and Avenging Wrath from the list and just trust the overall strong card quality in the deck combined with some appropriate tech cards, such as Mojomaster Zihi and Mossy Horror.
Losing a card, even a powerful one, cannot stop an Even deck.
However, I think it is also worth asking whether Equality really needs to be cut from the list. I played both the new tech-heavy style and a more old-fashioned list with Equality (but no Wild Pyromancers), and actually had good success with both. Especially Avenging Wrath is still a powerhouse when you need reach, and it can still be combined with Equality for ten mana. It is only the Wild Pyromancer that seems to suffer, as you can no longer do a cheap Pyromancer + Equality board clear and develop something on the board after it to gain tempo.
I had slightly better results with this old-fashioned Equality list, although it would take more testing to determine whether the card still deserves a spot. Either way, Even Paladin is still completely viable as a climbing deck.
More details on the archetype are available on our Even Paladin Deck List Guide.
#6 Holy Wrath OTK Paladin
Holy Wrath OTK Paladin is the archetype that was hit the most by the Equality nerf. The deck has no minion presence to speak of and relies heavily on spells to survive the early game. With Equality board clears coming in two turns later, Holy Wrath Paladin has a hard time surviving.
It is by no means hopeless, however. The main effect I saw from testing various builds was that the builds with more draw were in a better position than builds with less draw. You really want those two copies of Potion of Heroism and Holy Wrath now, and keeping additional bounce cards around has become too expensive: two Baleful Bankers and Zola the Gorgon will have to do. That means that you need to choose between going for the Holy Wrath kill or Uther of the Ebon Blade Four Horsemen kill early enough, because you have no spare tools to bounce Shirvallah, the Tiger if you go for the Four Horsemen OTK.
Overall, it is still business as usual for the deck. Draw, draw, heal, clear, combo kill. Being a little slower to clear just means that aggressive decks have more of a game against you, and even with as much draw as possible, you still cannot beat most other combo decks, who are still faster than you.
I found that adding in one copy of Shrink Ray helped me defend a bit better, at the expense of a little more draw, and that was the best compromise build I was able to come up with. I was able to win slightly more than half of my games, which makes Holy Wrath Paladin viable, but not a fast climbing deck.
More details on the archetype are available on our Holy Wrath OTK Paladin Deck List Guide.
#7 Spell Hunter
Out of the nerfed archetypes I played, Spell Hunter was the worst. I was still able to win slightly more games than I lost with the archetype, so in the end, every single archetype I played was viable.
However, did Spell Hunter’s problems really start with the nerfs? Hunter's Mark increase to 2 mana wasn’t as bad, but Lesser Emerald Spellstone cost increase to six mana – the same as To My Side! and Deathstalker Rexxar, meant that the deck’s ability to play on curve took a big hit. Yet, Spell Hunter was not exactly at the top of the food chain even before the nerfs: both Midrange Hunter and Hybrid Hunter were getting better results already.
Spell Hunter suffers from inherently polarized matchups: it is the best Hunter deck to play a defensive game with, as it has plenty of removal, but it lacks viable threats. There are only a few cards that generate minions for the deck to attack with, and you need just the right draws to keep building pressure. Wandering Monster into Animal Companion into another secret into Lesser Emerald Spellstone into To My Side! was a path to get some pressure going, and this path no longer exists with the Spellstone costing six mana. From being poor at building pressure, the deck has deteriorated further still. It simply does not have the tools to beat combo decks fast enough.
While the offensive capabilities of the deck have been hurt, it is still good at defending itself. Six-mana Spellstone, while it still hurts, hurts less in matchups where you’re playing defense. When you face Midrange Hunters and Secret Odd Mages, some of the overall winners of the nerfs, you can still do very well. When you face combo decks, be prepared to futilely attempt to build up threats just to see your attempts fall a little short in the end. Much like Odd Warrior, Spell Hunter shines in the right meta, and falters in the wrong meta.
More details on the archetype are available on our Spell Hunter Deck List Guide.
All the nerfed decks are still playable!
The play rates of nerfed decks collapsed immediately as the nerfs hit the live servers. This was of course to be expected, as people wanted to try out all sorts of new ideas in the post-nerfs meta. However, the play rates have hardly recovered, and it is still rare to meet most of the nerfed decks on the ladder. There are some Spell Hunters on low ranks and an Even Paladin every now and then on higher ranks, but overall the nerfed decks do not see a lot of play anymore.
Compared to their power level, especially Odd Rogue and Even Shaman are severely underplayed. These are still highly capable decks to climb to Legend and beyond – perhaps another testament to the power of Baku and Genn. Hybrid Hunter is also still a top-notch contender, but it has some strong competition in its own class from Midrange Hunter, so its lower play rates are somewhat more understandable.
Of course, you might just be tired of playing the same archetypes yet again, and that is perfectly understandable as well. However, if you’re on a budget, it might be welcome news that the deck you crafted before the nerfs is still viable with minor tech changes, or, in the case of Hybrid Hunter, with no changes at all!
How about you? Have you played any of the nerfed archetypes recently? How did it go, and do you have any nice lists to share? Let me know in the comments!