Upcoming Balance Update – Nerfs to Cold Blood, Flametongue Totem, Equality, Hunter’s Mark and Lesser Emerald Spellstone

Blizzard just announced another nerf patch, which will drop February 5. Because the first balance patch came very early (just over 2 weeks after the expansion’s release), the meta had enough time to settle and become stale. Early February is the normal time we would expect the nerf patch to drop, given the recent track record. This is the first time we had two balance patches during one expansion ever since the game’s release.

Here is a full list of changes:

Read more below!

In an update scheduled to arrive February 5, several cards will be changed.


When we talk about changes that are in store for Hearthstone cards, we normally talk about each card individually to explain why we think that change is needed.

This time, we’re doing things a little differently because most of the upcoming changes are happening for the same reason. Here’s why we’re changing these cards and our general philosophy behind this update.


We think Hearthstone is most fun when strategies are consistently evolving. When new cards are released, we’d like for older expansion decks to get a few interesting new pieces while also allowing you to experiment with the totally new archetypes that emerge. When Basic and Classic cards become so broadly effective—no matter what you’re facing—that they drive what deck styles are considered viable every expansion, then it makes that goal difficult to achieve.

Basic and Classic are sets that, ideally, should embody the flavor and mechanics of each Class. As we’ve mentioned before, cards in these sets can become an issue when they make all other strategies look less interesting. This doesn’t mean is that all Basic and Classic cards should be ineffective, however. It’s hugely important to us that these sets contain a good number of cards that are great tools for different situations and deck archetypes.

We’re changing these particular cards because each one has been highly prevalent, regardless of what strategies have been popular or what other cards have existed around them. When Basic and Classic cards become this ubiquitous, they take away some of the flexibility players have when building decks, ultimately stifling the diversity of decks we see when playing Hearthstone.

The following changes are intended to shift these cards from general-purpose “auto-includes” into options that are more likely to be chosen for decks that are focused on strategies that capitalize on what these cards have to offer.

Cold Blood – Will cost 2 Mana. (Up from 1)


Flametongue Totem – Will cost 3 mana. (Up from 2)


Equality – Will cost 4 mana. (Up from 2)


Hunter’s Mark – Will cost 2 mana. (Up from 1)


Emerald Spellstone – Will cost 6 mana. (Up from 5)

The only non-Basic or Classic card in this round of changes. We want to position Emerald Spellstone as an efficient mid- and late-game threat, so we’re moving its cost up by one to reduce its utility as an early-game, aggressive tempo option. This change—along with the Hunter’s Mark change—is aimed at addressing Hunter’s prevalence, while still leaving it as a viable option.



We look forward to seeing how the meta shakes out in the coming months. Thanks for reading, and good luck on the ladder.

Once these updates are live, players will be able to disenchant the changed non-Basic cards for their full Arcane Dust value for two weeks.

Flametongue Totem and Hunter’s Mark are Basic cards, and cannot be disenchanted.


A Hearthstone player and writer from Poland, Stonekeep has been in a love-hate relationship with Hearthstone since Closed Beta. Over that time, he has achieved many high Legend climbs and infinite Arena runs. He's the current admin of Hearthstone Top Decks.

Check out Stonekeep on Twitter!

Leave a Reply


  1. […] Today’s nerf patch was supposed to be released at 10 AM PT (19:00 CET), but it was delayed. We don’t have a release time yet, but Blizzard confirmed that there were some issues and they’re working on a solution right now. […]

  2. CocoAsticot
    February 5, 2019 at 4:28 am

    Just Come play MTG Arena folks!!
    More interactivity, more decks and format diversity, more pleasure.

  3. Ysfarfza
    February 3, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    What do you guys reckon a good change between keeping hunters mark for keleseth or should it be the other way around ? If so whatre good replacements ? and yes im talking about DR hunter

    • Skoopy
      February 4, 2019 at 1:56 am

      The temposwing with Cathrena/King Crush/Oondasta ist still big. In my opinion its not that a big deal if they have +1/+1 or not. Without Huntersmark you lose a good removal tool for your early game if you decide to play Keleseth. The Problem for DR Hunter is the early game for sure. Removing big threats from popular decks like a 4/4 Henchclanthug will save you some games. Iam not sure if this is a big Impact on Hunter at all, besides the Keleseth decks. Maybe you try it out. Including 2 One Drops maybe and than play without Keleseth but with Huntersmark. And 2 Mana is still really good for that Card. Cause you can remove a Lich King with 3 Mana sounds still good. Good Luck testing!

      • Ysfarfza
        February 4, 2019 at 3:13 am

        Ive decided to follow a pros deck which has 2 shellraisers to provide early cheap taunts. I think 2 tarcreepers would do it. Had Zihi in mind as well. Undatakah? I may, with 1 Hymane. Thanks for the input!

  4. […] as the meta was becoming really stale, Blizzard has announced another nerf patch. It was very unexpected, given their previous track record of a single, mid-expansion patch patch […]

  5. Tweeg
    February 1, 2019 at 5:56 am

    This is a very poor and thought out decision. The current scourge that plagues the game is the combo-oriented, OTK decks that has very little care if you develop a board or not. The strategy is always the same, draw as much cards as you can and clear the board. There is very little in terms of decision-making or interactivity. Priest is the biggest culprit right now by doing absolutely nothing until turn 5 and then start running board clears or revivals. Aggro decks are supposed to exist to counter such decks and to keep their greedy plays in check. Classic example is Malygos Rogue which get absolutely obliterated by aggro, which it should. However, due to other classes having access to endless AOEs and defensive options, they are more viable than ever. Cold blood and flame tongue nerfs are absolutely unnecessary. I know people are going to say, oh look, there’s Mojomaster Zihi and the Nerubian. Problem is that they are later in the game and it does nothing to really prevent card draw or put pressure on the opponent. Rogues are combo-oriented and requires an alternative play before getting the reward from the combo card. It is their identity. I’m sure odd rogue and other rogues will exist with this nerf, but it certainly puts a damper on class identity. As many people agree, the problem lies within baku/genn being so restrictive.

    Hunters mark didn’t need another nerf, the problem was candleshot. Equality nerf was unjustified… as paladin only really had access to 2 board clears and required a 2 card combo. Cards like Time out which acts as a pseudo ice block are the problem and it really does nothing for the game – zero interaction and rewards greed. It basically cries out, “my deck sucks so bad I need to stall 2 times in order for my deck to be viable”.

    Either way, will be interesting to see what happens.

    • Nickname23
      February 1, 2019 at 8:19 am

      I could not agree more. Good post.

      Now, you’re basically forced to play MR Hunter, if you want to stop Malygos/Velen Priest and all other 137 OTK decks in the game from going rampant. “I hunt alone!” I doubt it!
      Sideeffect: Odd Paladin Tier 1+ entire year of the raven. Sure, Level Up was the problem. Nice balancing, nice variety…

  6. Phriz
    February 1, 2019 at 2:34 am

    Do seriously no one see the ” Even Hunter ” coming with this patch?

    Spellstones 6 mana, secrets 2 mana, hunter’s mark 2 mana, Rexxar 6 mana, Zul’Jin 10 mana…

    The only thing keeping the ” Even Hunter ” from happenning was the Spellstone. So to all the people claiming that Hunter will die, I seriously doubt that.

    • TardisGreen
      February 1, 2019 at 4:09 pm

      No, Even Hunter will be bad, very bad. Hero Powering in HS is generally a weak play. The Hunter HP is useless early in the game cause it has no effect on the board.

      You can still play Secret or Spell Hunter. I don’t think either deck is going away. Give up AC and KC for 1-mana HP? Dream on.

  7. Chansford
    February 1, 2019 at 1:56 am

    It’s disappointing but I think this is just the start of a long line of frequent nerfs. Brode effectively ruined the game. His intense love of aggro and hatred of any game going beyond turn 10 led to the meta as is today. Odd and Even were his parting gifts, and they’ll just continue to nerf the pieces around that rather than tackling the issue.

  8. JoyDivision
    February 1, 2019 at 1:13 am

    Without reading I have to say this – due to this next change, this will be the 4th time in this HS ‘year’ that a deck I built for a F2P friend will become uncompetitive. I can’t imagine how frustrating that is and I’m pretty sure this will be the reason she now stops playing HS alltogether.

    God job, Blizzard.

    • JoyDivision
      February 1, 2019 at 1:19 am

      Okay … now that I’ve read it …

      ‘This doesn’t mean […] that all Basic and Classic cards should be ineffective…’

      *slowly but surely making all relevant Basic and Classic cards ineffective*

      Sorry, but this is totally ridiculous. Just kill those f***ing 2 sets entirely and stop bullsh**ing us with ongoing nerfs.

      • Stonekeep - Site Admin
        February 1, 2019 at 7:43 am

        On the one hand, I agree with nerfing the Basic/Classic staples, because that makes new expansion more exciting.

        On the other hand, I can’t imagine how bad it might be for more casual players, who get the cards they were sure of taken from them time and time again.

        The concept of Basic & Classic is just not as good as they initially thought, but they’re (for a good reason) scared of making a big revamp of the system, so they slowly nerf the evergreen sets. It’s the biggest nerf target by far for a while already. And that’s a terrible approach in the long run. They will eventually make those sets nearly irrelevant if that trend continues, but they will also make millions of players angry on their way.

  9. Anggadaz
    January 31, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    poor odd rogue and even shaman this will this is will affect them on standard and wild. (they are so many on wild rank)

    poor hunter, it will be less hunter after nerf.

    very poor control paladin, maybe it will be die after nerf.

  10. Joakko
    January 31, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    They’ll nerf every single card in this game before nerfing the real problem, Baku and Genn

  11. Nicodiangelo
    January 31, 2019 at 11:45 am

    This is just a cashgrab update, honestly.
    Overall impact is yet to be seen but I have to agree that staple cards like basic & classic need to be seriously reevaluated.
    I don’t think the meta will be that drastically shaken up. Even Shaman will probably suffer the most. Hunters don’t play spellstone on curve that frequently so I question how effective of a nerf that is. I’m excited to experiment with a potential even hunter deck though now that Spellstone and secrets are even-cost.
    Equality going from 2 to 4 mana is painful but at least it’s not going odd. Paladin will have to look at lower-cost removals if Even wants to stay strong against aggressive decks. Equality + Consecration or Pyromancer is a 7/8 mana cost full board clear which I’m honestly not bad at, Twisting Nether is an 8-mana clear, so this, in my opinion, is a fair change.
    Cold Blood is so annoying to lose to in Odd. I’ve been seeing a ridiculous amount of turn one Dire Mole – Coin – Cold Blood plays, I think this was a long time coming and very welcome, Odd Rogue won’t die for it but the chances of decks just like surviving past turn 3 goes up.
    Even Shaman might get set back drastically and I have to wonder why since Shaman hasn’t been in a good spot since Un’goro. Even Shaman was the first time the class has seen a fighting chance and even now that the meta’s stabilized almost a year since the archetype was introduced, Even Shaman’s stillaround but not as a meta defining deck, it’s dropped from T1 on a majority of analytical lists so I wonder why it got nerfed.

    • Killer11
      January 31, 2019 at 12:49 pm

      Flametongue mostly because of wild even shaman, its the most popular and arguably the powerful deck in wild. It’ll be hurt but dire wolf alphas will start being used instead

      • Nicodiangelo
        January 31, 2019 at 1:11 pm

        Thank you for explaining. I don’t play a lot of wild so I wouldn’t have known but that’s very interesting.

        • Css09
          January 31, 2019 at 1:49 pm

          Agreed. Even Shaman in Wild has had a 65-70% win rate for a long time. Hero power on turn one, followed by Flametongue on turn two allowed you to dominate early board control.

          • Nicodiangelo
            January 31, 2019 at 2:20 pm

            Makes a lot of sense, Flametongue is extremely powerful in any case.
            It just sucks that the Wild community is so small that we don’t hear about these issues often. Last concern I remember hearing from Wild was Shudderwock (which was an issue in Standard too), and the Naga Sea Witch / Giant synergy from LoE.

  12. Reinan
    January 31, 2019 at 11:44 am

    No more Cold Blood in Odd or Keleseth Rogue, Rip.

  13. Yrkomm16
    January 31, 2019 at 11:33 am

    Noooo, what that means for Even Shaman, Even Paladin and Odd Rogue. Pls dont tell me that all of this decks are dead, I crafted them 2 weeks ago and I’m f2p 🙁

    • Nicodiangelo
      January 31, 2019 at 11:47 am

      None of these decks are dead. Odd Rogue doesn’t need Cold Blood to thrive, it just becomes harder to win early. If you have Myra’s Unstable Element then that’s not an issue because you can refuel your hand in the late game w that card.
      Even Shaman is tough to predict but I don’t imagine it’ll be devastated.
      Even Paladin will be fine too.

      • Tuscarora87
        January 31, 2019 at 2:39 pm

        Well, I think Cold Blood is the most important card in Odd Rouge (also, in all honesty, a very powerful overall). Capability to do a big swing and a burst is the core characteristic of many aggro decks when they lose steam. Plus going through big taunts. Right now, I don’t see any replacement. The only spell used in the Wild Odd Rouge is Cold Blood. The same harm would be e.g. taking Blessing of Might from Odd Paladin.

        • Nicodiangelo
          February 1, 2019 at 7:21 am

          That’s pretty reasonable. Maybe I’m only talking from experience but very rarely does Cold Blood feel necessary to finish off a game, more often than not it’s overkill or just a hard removal tool (which Rogue can easily substitute. If they add Deadly Poison for example that’s a 3/2 weapon twice for 6 total damage that can be used to clear the board.
          I just don’t agree that it’s the most important card. Pretty important? Sometimes, absolutely. It remains to be seen how it will turn out but I think Odd Rogue will stay fine simply because the class is so good at removal that they can substitute Cold Blood.

          • CD001
            February 4, 2019 at 5:39 am

            Ye-es but if you play any variant of Miracle Rogue, the Cold Blood nerf is much more harsh; it’s one of your better card draw plays with the Auctioneer, great if you’re running an old-skool type deck with Questing Adventurer (+5/+1 on the QA) and probably your biggest win condition with Leroy.

            It’s not actually going to be possible to play Leroy plus 3x Cold Blood (using Valeera the Hollow) any more, let alone Leroy, 3x Cold Blood AND Eviscerate. Maximum spike damage, in that case, is reduced from 22 to 14 (without Preparation).

            On the plus side – Cold Blood is now Skulking Geist proof I guess.

    • JoyDivision
      February 1, 2019 at 1:26 am

      If by ‘dead’ you mean ‘competitively dead’ then I’m sorry to say but … yes.

      Glad to see Even Shaman get killed though, to many Shamans on Standard ladder *ironyoff*. And yes, it is a dominant force in Wild but who cares about Wild (Blizzard told us that they don’t)? I’m a Wild player btw, there are other problems than Even Shaman in that format. 😉

  14. Bajula
    January 31, 2019 at 11:32 am

    For everybody who is wondering why Equality gut bumped up to 4 mana, it’s because of Odd Paladin of course…

  15. OldManSanns
    January 31, 2019 at 11:30 am

    WOW. I’m stunned they are making this many changes to the evergreen sets. In a vacuum, each of these nerfs sound individually justifiable, but taken all together with last month’s nerfs to druid’s evergreen cards plus the fact these cards have been unchanged for almost 5 years at this point really makes me wonder what exactly Team 5 is trying to accomplish here…

    • Stonekeep - Site Admin
      January 31, 2019 at 11:37 am

      My guess is that they want to make the meta less reliant on Basic & Classic sets. The less evergreen staples we have, the easier it will be to make expansion cards that aren’t too strong, but see play.

      I’ve been repeating multiple times that the current Basic & Classic sets add more problems than they solve, the whole thing should be rethought a long time ago.

      • GreggSauce
        January 31, 2019 at 4:31 pm

        Yeah personally I love this AS LONG as they introduce card concepts that are interesting that fill the niche these were in.

        I also would love to see buffs at some point to cards that just aren’t in a good state for basic/classic but especially for the rotating sets. Even if its just stat adjustments, or something like the warsong commander.

        The basically removed that card without removing it, they could re-design a card to replace it basically and I don’t think anyone would be against that idea.

        • JoyDivision
          February 1, 2019 at 1:33 am

          We all know they are NOT doing this (filling niches).

          By now it is pretty safe to assume that Blizzard wants to make Basic and Classic completely irrelevant to sell more new product – especially as the HS year will change with the next expansion.

          Hail Activision – f***ing up Blizzard completely. I imagine them having dinner with Disney, laughing about all those stupid fanboys/girls …

          Jeez, I’m really upset right now. 😉