For the first time in Hearthstone’s history, we will encounter two balance patches within the timeline of a single expansion. With the upcoming patch scheduled to go live on February 5th, there won’t be a Data Reaper Report this Thursday. The next report is scheduled to be published on February 14th and will only discuss post-patch data.
Remember; the more data we collect, the more insights we will be able to gather about the post-patch meta. To help us collect more data, sign up and contribute. It’s simple, easy and very important!
In this article, we’re going to look at the balance changes and give our thoughts regarding the impact of this patch on each class. You can join the conversation on our Discord channel.
First Look at The Balance Change
Emerald Spellstone has been one of the most powerful build-around cards in standard format since its introduction in Kobolds & Catacombs. Its power level relies on its ability to cheat out obscene stats on curve. By increasing its cost by 1, that strength is reduced. As evidenced by the changes to Spiteful Summoner and Bonemare, 1 mana can be a huge difference maker when it comes to on-curve threats.
Hunter’s Mark has been a very powerful removal tool for many Hunter decks over the years. This is the second time the card gets nerfed, after previously costing 0 mana. We think this change is appropriate: when a reactive removal card is so efficient that it gets played in aggressive decks to generate tempo swings, it’s probably too powerful. Changing its cost to 2 mana lines up with Execute, another removal tool that was so good at 1 mana that it was effectively played in aggressive and midrange decks.
Speaking of extremely efficient removal, Equality is another great example of such a card. It is so powerful at 2 mana that it easily slots into faster Paladin decks in order to generate massive tempo swings, as well as being auto-included in every late game Paladin deck alongside Wild Pyromancer and Consecration. At 3 mana, it would have probably still been very powerful. At 4 mana, it becomes quite slow. Equality combos are so much more expensive that the card might not be worth including, with Shrink Ray becoming a more enticing option for slower Paladin decks.
Cold Blood has been one of the strongest win conditions for any Rogue deck that focuses on tempo and initiative for many years. This change simply butchers the card. At 2 mana and double the cost, it becomes pretty much unplayable and miserable compared to Paladin’s Blessing of Might. Not only is it horribly inefficient and expensive for what it does, but the fact it’s a combo mechanic card makes things even worse. Rogue players will miss you, buddy.
Flametongue Totem has been a cornerstone card for any Shaman deck that wants to develop a board. When we think about Shaman’s identity of leveraging board control, Flametongue Totem is the first card that springs to our mind. By increasing its cost to 3, the card likely becomes unplayable. Flametongue Totem shines because it can very efficiently dictate trades as well as push a significant amount of damage to face. Slowing it down a full turn in the early game makes it so much more difficult to use, and easier to deal with for our opponents.
Rexxar takes a punch, but should get back up on his feet
We don’t think the secret package will be prevalent in the post-patch meta. Hybrid Hunter was already looking like an inferior deck to Midrange Hunter over the last few weeks, and players were in the process of transitioning to the latter. The balance changes should cement Midrange Hunter as the class’ primary choice for ladder play, especially when considering its strong Priest matchups.
Spell Hunter was the most vulnerable Hunter archetype in the current meta and the changes should absolutely kill it considering how important Hunter’s Mark is to the deck, as well as how awkward its curve gets with Emerald Spellstone now clashing with To My Side.
The other Hunter deck that should be able to shake off the balance changes is Cube Hunter. It should still be able to use Hunter’s Mark effectively. It could appreciate the weakening of Odd Rogue, but it might be worried about the fall of late game Paladins as well as a rise in Priests.
Overall, Hunter should lose a lot of ground after the patch, and we expect it to be unseated from its throne as the most popular class in the game. However, it’s likely to stay strong and competitive.
Uther takes a punch, and we’re not sure he can get up
It’s hard to find scenarios in which Paladin isn’t the biggest loser of the balance changes. A class that was so diverse, with multiple archetypes seeing success, is under a serious threat.
Late game Paladin decks, with Holy Wrath Paladin being the most popular and successful one recently, could be crippled by the Equality change. Equality combos are so paramount to these decks’ ability to survive that it’s hard to see how they can adjust to being two turns slower. While we could see Shrink Ray coming in to replace Equality, and it’s possible some card slots could be freed for other defensive tools, it’s still quite a downgrade and we’re not sure it’s enough to keep these decks competitive.
Even Paladin has also been directly hit by the nerf to Equality, since it was such an important tool for its ability to ramp up the pressure against slower decks and generate tempo swings in faster matchups. Equality made a card like Avenging Wrath such a scary threat, so losing it is a big deal. Even Paladin might be able to adjust its build to remain competitive but could be harder to justify over other options.
While Odd Paladin hasn’t been directly hit with balance changes this time, the indirect hit it may receive could be very significant. Odd Paladin’s success on ladder was carried by its Hunter matchups, so if Hunter’s popularity falls as a result of the balance changes and replaced by a dominant Priest class, Odd Paladin stands to lose a lot of ground.
To conclude, every Paladin archetype has been hurt by the balance changes, and the extent of these hits will determine whether they are able to survive. Out of all Paladin archetypes, Odd Paladin’s survival is the most likely.
Anduin is rubbing his hands, with Hearthstone domination in his sights
Priest is primed to become the most popular class in the game, after escaping the balance changes and seeing its two biggest rivals severely weakened.
We’ll be very clear: this is a dream patch for Anduin. Even Paladin, Odd Rogue and Midrange Hunter were the most prominent hard counters to Resurrect Priest, and all of them have received nerfs to cards that were particularly powerful in this specific matchup!
While Resurrect Priest did shine in the matchups against late game Paladin decks, the benefits of the balance changes should outweigh any loss. The deck could be extremely powerful in a slower meta, perhaps pushing it to run the all-in 4-minion version in order to dominate slower matchups as well as the mirror. In addition, Control Priest should enjoy the potential disappearance of Holy Wrath Paladins, keeping its good matchup against Resurrect Priest in mind.
At least on the first days of the patch, Priest should become the dominant class in Hearthstone. It will be interesting to see how the meta responds to Anduin’s ambitions.
Valeera’s annoyed by the rust forming on her dagger
Cold Blood was one of the strongest cards in any Rogue deck that used it, and these decks should be heavily affected by the loss. It’s possible that Odd Rogue stays competitive by replacing Cold Blood with other reasonable options, but Cold Blood allowed it to cheese games early and provided important reach in slower matchups. Odd Rogue will be a weaker deck in a vacuum, for sure.
With Odd Rogue hurt and the meta potentially getting slower, it’s possible that combo Rogue decks will emerge in order to give Resurrect Priest some fits. Quest Rogue has always stayed on the fringes of play, but its matchups against current late game strategies are not that dominant. Malygos Rogue is very dominant in slower matchups but is crippled by any sort of aggression. Both decks will likely see increased testing post-patch.
Gul’dan is praying for Anduin’s domination plans to fail
Just like in the previous balance changes, Warlock is very hard to predict. On one hand, it should appreciate the nerfs at their face value. Hunter’s Mark, Equality and Cold Blood have traditionally been very powerful cards against Warlock. The efficient, cheap removal of Hunter’s Mark and Equality enabled crippling swings against Warlock’s board development (especially Mountain Giants), while an early Cold Blood play was always the source of groans from Gul’dan and his followers. Even Warlock should be particularly happy about these changes.
However, what Gul’dan will not appreciate is an oppressive reign from Anduin. The Priest currently has the Warlock’s number, with both of his primary decks proving to be very effective in these matchups. Warlock’s success will come down to how successful will the meta be at curbing the threat of Priests. If new counters are established to keep Priests at reasonable numbers, Warlock’s standing in the meta should improve, but if Priest takes over the game, it will be hard for Warlock decks to shine.
Jaina is ready to burn the meta to ashes
Mage looks like a big winner of the balance changes, with our eyes set on Aggro-Odd Mage to potentially explode in popularity. It is the hardest counter in the game to Resurrect Priest, one that hasn’t been touched by balance changes, destroys other OTK decks and has a good matchup against Midrange Hunter as well. The potential fall of several decks that are poor matchups for the archetype (Odd Paladin, Odd Rogue, Spell Hunter) provides more reasons to believe that Aggro-Odd Mage could become a very powerful deck in the post-patch meta. If you’re looking for the day 1 Meta Breaker, it’s probably this deck.
We’re less enthusiastic about Control Odd Mage’s standing in the meta. While Holy Wrath Paladin is a poor matchup that the deck will not miss facing should it disappear, Odd Mage also performs very poorly against Resurrect Priest and the other “AFK until I OTK” decks (Miracle Druid, Mecha’thun Warlock). Control Odd Mage shines in a Hunter meta and does well in aggressive matchups, so the balance changes don’t seem to promote the kind of field this deck wants to face.
Malfurion should not be getting his hopes up
The knee jerk reaction would be that a possible slowdown of the meta is good news for a class that’s heavily reliant on super-late game combo win conditions. However, the fall of Holy Wrath Paladin is terrible news for Miracle Druid since it is one of its best matchups on ladder. In addition, Miracle Druid performs poorly against the Priest class, so Anduin’s potential domination could hurt Malfurion’s prospects going forward.
It’s possible that Hunter’s fall in popularity, as well as the decline of several aggressive decks, could ease some of the pain that would be caused by Priest’s reign. It’s also possible that Malygos Druid will take advantage of the new field and rise to establish itself in the meta since it performs well against Priest. In fact, we think it’s probably more likely that Malygos Druid gets stronger post-patch and is worth trying out over Miracle Druid.
Garrosh’s inconsistency remains his glaring weakness
Warrior doesn’t seem to gain much from the balance changes and might even stand to lose ground. Odd Warrior shines in aggressive matchups like Odd Rogue, so seeing less of these matchups can’t be a good thing. While Holy Wrath Paladins was a crippling counter, there’s a long list of counters waiting in line to stomp on Warrior. The potential of getting rid of one of them is nowhere near enough to make us believe that its fortune will change. The class’ polarizing nature will continue to haunt it until it receives a more proactive finisher with effective lethality. For now, Warrior’s best chance is to randomly deal 8 damage every turn and hope it’s enough to end games.
Thrall is one of hundreds around the world who are currently playing Artifact
When it rains, it pours. Despite the class never being a truly dominant force in the meta over the past year, Shaman decks just keep getting nerfed. After losing Shudderwock Shaman in the first set of balance changes in Rastakhan’s Rumble, Thrall now sees his only viable deck on ladder, Even Shaman, lose one of its (if not the) best cards.
This is a big blow to a deck that had enough difficulty in convincing anyone to play it. With the loss of Flametongue Totem, there’s a danger that the few who have still stuck by this archetype will now abandon ship, and Shaman will be thrown straight into the dumpster, exactly where it was just a year ago.