It’s been all but confirmed – Saviors of Uldum balance patch is coming soon. In a reddit thread about Tombs of Terror (SoU adventure), one redditor commented that he hopes Blizzard is prioritizing a nerf patch before single player content patch. For which Mike Donais replied:
Yep, we will give more info on balance changes this week hopefully. (Source)
The fact that a balance patch is coming is not surprising by itself (we’ve seen one after every single new set since Karazhan), what is unusual is that the nerfs might be out so quickly. Saviors of Uldum is out for only 2 weeks, so the expansion is still very fresh. For a very long time, Knights of the Frozen Throne nerf patch was a “champion” when it comes to speed – it came out roughly 5-6 weeks after the expansion’s release (which was really fast at the time, compared to the usual 2+ months we had to wait). However, more recently, Rastakhan’s Rumble has broken that record, releasing the first balance update only 15 days after launch. While we definitely won’t beat that one, having a balance patch within the first three weeks after expansion’s release is still uncommon.
We’re very happy that Team 5 is not afraid of making quick decisions and speeding up their usual balance schedule when some cards really need to be changed. But what needs to be changed, exactly?
Mike Donais was streaming today and he might have revealed some information ahead of time. In a private message, he confirmed that Extra Arms will be back at 3 mana, while Conjurer's Calling will get nerfed to 4. However, we’re not sure whether those are true information or he was just teasing viewers.
Potential Nerf Candidates
While the current meta is not the worst balance-wise, and basically every class has at least one semi-viable deck, we have some clear outliers on both sides of the spectrum. As we get further from expansion’s release and players optimize the decks, the gap between best and worst classes will grow quickly. Which means that a fast reaction like this one can prevent that from ever happening. A good balance patch might change a meta full of 3-4 best classes to a more balanced one, where everyone has a fighting chance. Of course, it would be foolish to expect a perfect meta, when every class is tied at 50% win rate and it all depends on players’ skill, but the truth is that a post-nerf meta is way better than a pre-nerf one most of the time. Now, the question is – which classes, and more precisely which cards in particular might get changed in the upcoming patch?
If I had to pick the most likely candidate to get hit by a nerf bat, it would be Warrior. The class was already dominating in Rise of Shadows, yet it somehow dodged the bullet when the nerf patch focused on Tempo Rogue. Only Archivist Elysiana was nerfed, from 8 to 9 mana, which meant that you can no longer consistently do the bouncing/shuffling shenanigans. This, however, mostly mattered in mirror matchups anyway, so was mostly irrelevant for the class’ power in general.
When it comes to cards that will get changed, Dr. Boom, Mad Genius would be the best bet. It’s one of the only Hero cards left in Standard and the most powerful one at the same time. When other classes still had access to Death Knights from Knights of the Frozen Throne, it wasn’t that problematic. Once those have rotated out, however, it has been dominating the meta. When one class has access to such an upgrade while others don’t (Shaman has Hagatha the Witch, but her effect is weaker, so is Control Shaman in general), it’s easy to say how unbalanced it is. On top of infinite value from Hero Powers (because basically every Hero Power acts as an “extra card”, cheap one, but still way stronger than the regular Hero Powers), Dr. Boom also gives all Mechs Rush, adding LOTS of tempo to the late game turns. Which means that in many cases late game Control Warrior can’t be outvalued and can’t be outtempo’d, making it difficult and frustrating to play against.
Another solid candidates include: Omega Devastator (one of the best late game cards in Hearthstone, the best nerfs would include stripping it of a Mech tag so it can’t be discovered multiple times per game or reducing the damage it can deal significantly), Omega Assembly (amazing value tool, getting 3 usually solid cards for 1 mana is amazing, the best way to nerf it would be either reducing it to 2 cards it to keeping 2 of the discovered cards or increasing the mana cost) or Dyn-o-matic (Control Warrior staple, great at dealing with board floods and single, mid-sized minions alike).
However, we need to remember that Blizzard has a tendency of fixing current class problems by nerfing the Classic cards that have been around for ages and weren’t broken without the new tools introduced in expansions. Which means that there’s a chance that they might decide to target cards such as Brawl or Shield Slam instead. Those two have been Control Warrior staples since the deck’s inception, and some of the strongest Classic cards in general, so they probably are somewhere on their radar.
Another class that might get nerfed is Mage. Even if it wasn’t on their radar before (for some reason), it certainly should be after the latest Masters Tour Seoul tournament. Mage was BY FAR the most popular class, brought by nearly 40% of players (followed by Warrior at ~20%, Rogue at ~13% and Hunter at ~10%). A huge part of the whole event (including Grand Finals) were Mage mirror matches, and anyone who has watched it had quickly came to a conclusion that the some of the class’ cards are too powerful right now.
Picking the most likely nerf candidate is not difficult, but pretty ironic. Luna's Pocket Galaxy was considered a useless card for a very long time, until it was buffed from 7 to 5 mana roughly 2.5 months ago (as a part of the Rise of the Mech event buffs to eighteen Boomsday Project class cards). While most of the cards got a single extra stat point or their cost was reduced by 1 mana, Luna’s Pocket Galaxy was one of the biggest buffs. Decreasing a card’s cost by 2 mana is massive. Take basically any bad 7 mana card, reduce its cost by 2, and it suddenly becomes way more interesting. Given that Luna’s effect is incredibly powerful and the main problem was that it came so late and you had to spend so much mana doing nothing, cutting the cost by 2 made a massive difference. Right now, the card is a Mage staple, seen in most of the decks. Stats are a testament to how powerful it is. Keeping a 5 mana “skip a turn” card in your mulligan increases your win rate by over 10% and makes some matches against Mage absolutely hopeless. Sure, they skip a turn in the mid game, but their next draw can be a 1 mana Alexstrasza that will set opponent to 15 and have an 8/8 body that is hard to deal with, 1 mana Tortollan Pilgrim that will put a 5/5 body and potentially clear the entire board from opponent with a Flamestrike, or even a 1 mana King Phaoris, which might summon a few high cost minions and just seal the game against lots of decks. How can this card be changed? Well, the easiest and cleanest way would be simply reverting the buff (and if I had to guess, that’s what they are going to do).
Looking at the other candidates, Conjurer's Calling is the most likely one. The card has proven to have way too much tempo packed into such a cheap card. While it’s completely balanced when used on a lower cost cards, it becomes broken when played on a high cost minions and just creating more of them for 3 mana. Of course, under a normal circumstances this would be a non-issue, because those combos would not be relevant until late game, and it would be impossible to drop a huge minion and then play 2x Conjurer’s Calling on it due to mana restrictions. But between Mountain Giant, which can be played for as little as 3 mana, and Luna’s Pocket Galaxy, thanks to which all of the expensive minions cost 1 mana, it’s easy to find a great Conjurer’s target nearly every game. And turning that already menacing 8/8 into two 8/8’s is more than lots of decks can handle.
Also, if they want to target Highlander Mage in particular, nerfing either Zephrys the Great or Reno the Relicologist might be an answer. Given that Highlander Hunter is also one of the strongest decks in the meta, and it might certainly benefit from other best decks getting nerfed, whether we like it or not, hitting Zephrys might be an answer. But do they really want to nerf a card they spent SO much time working on? I hope not, because I’m having the time of my life with all sorts of Highlander decks now.
But again, just like in case of Warrior, Blizzard might also look into some of the Classic cards instead. In case of Mage, I think that they might consider changing Neutrals instead – Mountain Giant in particular (and a Sea Giant to a lesser extent). Anyone who has been playing the game for a while knows that Giants can be problematic in certain decks. Mountain Giant, for example, has been a staple of decks that can draw a lot. 8/8 dropped on T4 is very strong. But it’s even stronger if those decks run a way to then multiply it (just like the old Cube Warlock, or now different variants of Mage) – just like most of Mage decks did ever since Rise of Shadows. On the one hand, nerf to Conjurer’s Calling should have a higher priority in my opinion, but on the other hand, Giants do restrict the potential card design a bit, and it’s never fun to face a T3/T4 8/8, so I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing it nerfed too.
Paladin might not be the strongest class in the current meta, but it has one of the most polarizing decks in the game – Murloc Paladin. While Murloc Paladin is nothing new, in the past the deck relied on “fair” Murloc synergies. On naturally playing a Murloc curve, flooding the board with them, and trying to finish the game with a big Gentle Megasaur or something. However, there’s nothing “fair” about the current Murloc Paladin. If the deck tries to play naturally, on curve, it’s very weak. With zero Class synergies for Murlocs and limited Neutral ones, most of the decks can beat it. However, that’s not the deck’s main game plan. Instead of trying to boost the regular Murloc strategy with some buffs or such, it plays only two different spells – Prismatic Lens and Tip the Scales. The goal is to play Lens as quickly as possible, draw a very cheap Tip the Scales off of it and then summon 7 Murlocs to the board. After that – it’s simple. If the opposing player has some AoE capable of dealing with that board – the game is still on. If he doesn’t – Murloc Paladin just wins.
While it’s not the most powerful strategy, it’s simply annoying to play against. There are basically no fun and interesting matches that go back and forth, no skillful decisions, no… nothing. Many decks, like Tempo Rogue, can easily beat the regular Murloc curve, but absolutely can’t answer the Tip the Scales board flood. So the game basically boils down to whether they have it or not. If they do – you lose, if they don’t – you win. Where’s the fun in that, exactly? In the past, we’ve seen cards getting changed based on how they FEEL to play against and not only based on their power level, which is why I believe that there’s a chance for this strategy to get nerfed.
The easiest way to do it would probably be upping Prismatic Lens’ cost to 5 mana. It might not seem like a big change, but delaying Tip the Scales by a whole turn should make a big difference. On the other hand, Holy Wrath Paladin would suffer from collateral damage – the deck also runs Prismatic Lens, but it’s a pretty balanced card in it. It might still be worth it given that the deck is nearly non-existent now, but still, punishing one deck for the sins of another is not something I particularly like.
In context of potential card changes, Priest is discussed way less than Warrior and Mage. But did you know that it’s one of the strongest decks in the current meta? Right now, it has the highest win rate out of all decks in R4-Legend. Combo Priest is also one of the most common decks I’m seeing that climb to high Legend.
The deck’s power is – obviously – highly related to the new cards from Saviors of Uldum. The expansion was simply amazing for the class, giving Priest access to cards like Injured Tol'vir, Holy Ripple, Neferset Ritualist, High Priest Amet or Psychopomp. While none of those cards is broken, they all simply fit very well into this archetype and carry each other through different synergies. If you add the recent buff to Extra Arms (turning it into probably the strongest buff card in the game right now), Priests really can’t complain. The main power of the deck, however, comes from the combo as old as Hearthstone itself – Divine Spirit + Inner Fire. Buffing health of a minion, then doubling it (or quadrupling it with two copies of DS), then matching minions’ attack to its health is a simple, yet effective way to close out games. No matter if you go for an OTK or just create a big minion in the early/mid game, those cards are really powerful. And they have been a part of Priest’s identity for years now. While briefly pushed out by Mind Blast combos, they came back again after Mind Blast was Hall of Famed.
On the one hand, I would like to see them nerfed. They’re pretty annoying to play against, and it gets boring facing the same old DS/IF combos for YEARS. On the other hand, they are basically the only powerful win condition left in Priest’s Classic set, so getting rid of those right after getting rid of Mind Blast might be too much of a hit for poor Anduin. I think that the best solution would be Hall of Faming (or nerfing) Inner Fire. Divine Spirit by itself is not problematic, it’s a strong card in the right circumstances, but buffing a minion to 20+ health alone is not winning you the game. Then, Blizzard can decide to print new activators for it every now and then and control whether the combos will be viable and how strong they will be. For example, Topsy Turvy from Boomsday Project is a good example. Nerfing Inner Fire would not kill the combos, because Turvy would still be around. And after it rotates, they could either print another similar card or take a break.
Of course, there might be no need to make any changes just yet. Things might naturally fix after a meta shake-up, but it might still might be a good opportunity to finally do something about the Priest’s Divine Spirit combos, which are probably on Team 5’s radar for many years now.
And finally, Rogue. This one is probably the most obvious of them all, and I’m 99% sure that it will happen in one way or the other. The Caverns Below really need to be nerfed, the card has oppressed Hearthstone players for way too long. The recent “bug fix” that should probably be called the third nerf clearly wasn’t enough. The one player who still runs it in Wild has an impressive ~35% win rate with the deck, and such a thing simply can’t be allowed.
Okay, just kidding. Sorry, I really had to do it.
Balance patch coming soon also means that we have to delay our Crafting and Disenchanting Guides that were supposed to be updated this week. Even though we know that you would love to see them, and we’ve already started working on them, there’s no point in spending many more hours updating them when they will become useless again very shortly. Updating those after a balance patch is not as easy as just removing the nerfed cards from the list – when top decks are getting hit, it gives an opportunity for many new decks to thrive, meaning that even a few card changes can make the meta completely different.
That’s why we have to delay those for until the nerf patch hits and the meta stabilizes a bit. We apologize for that, but we just can’t recommend any crafting decisions knowing that you might regret them in a week or so.