It was always comfortable being an Arena player in Hearthstone. With a vast majority of Hearthstone players focused solely on Ranked play, every single change has been a change catered to Ranked play. This goes from assigning rarity to cards, introducing Standard vs Wild, and implementing the various nerfs in the game’s history. While the meta shifted with every card set release, everything was familiar. Nothing really changed. Then…

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Image result for boom goes the dynamite

Holy crap! Everything is changing in an upcoming patch! I was so stunned by the news, I immediately stopped working to digest the news.

What Happened

  • 45 cards are getting banned from the arena. Unlike the C’Thun cards and Purify, these cards have been in the arena since their release.
  • Mage and Rogue are the two classes getting nerfed, losing “good cards.” Paladin was deemed balanced and is the sole class not affected. The other 6 classes are getting a boost, losing “bad cards.”
  • These changes appear to target class balance, with the vocal outrage against Arena Mages.
  • Card offering rate is not being affected, outside of the regular offering rate bonus for the newest card set.
  • None of the Karazhan cards are included in this card ban.

I could honestly write a separate blog post about every single class, because the magnitude of this situation is ginormous. But I won’t. Here is a look at each class post-bans.

I will now display images of the removed cards, with professional tier list scores. See the below image of Gadgetzan Jouster (not removed) for reference.

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Full speed!

Mage

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It doesn’t take a genius to see that Faceless Summoner is the crux of the Mage nerfs. Faceless Summoner was easily the best Mage minion in terms of providing big tempo on the board. Snowchugger is a good 2-drop, that acts as a pesky 2-drop for weapon classes. As one can tell, these minion bans target the tempo presence for Mage, disrupting the healthy mana curve for Mages. In a way, this helps Mage fit more of a class identity, as 2 solid minions are gone, and there is a bit more emphasis on strong spells. Banning Forgotten Torch is a bit confusing, as it was never a great card. While I have lost to my fair share of topdeck Rolling Torches, it is not great because it is low value and relies on being drawn later on to get back value.

Mage loses two very good cards, but all 3 banned cards happen to be common. You know what that means. The offering rates for Flamestrike, Firelands Portal, Fireball, Frostbolt, Ethereal Conjurer, Twilight Flamecaller, etc all go up marginally. The loss of Snowchugger is mostly mollified by the increased offering of Medvih’s Valet, but freeze synergy cards like Ice Lance takes a hit. And no more constant freezelocks! Forgotten Torch won’t really be missed, given it is a backup tool in the bottomless Mage spell toolbox. It should be found every so often via Jeweled Scarab and Ethereal Conjurer.

Verdict: Mage minion mana curve suffers a little, but they still have a variety of comeback mechanisms to continue arena dominance.

Rogue

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Rogue loses two 2-mana 3/2’s. While this doesn’t look like much to some, it hurts quite a bit. Not only are these two cards the best class minions outside of SI:7 Agent and Dark Iron Skulker, but they fit into what the class does best.

Goblin Auto-Barber is typically used with the Rogue Wicked Knife, and played on Turn 3 or 4, to sharpen a Turn 2 dagger. This extra damage is a solid value, used in conjunction with low-cost spells to kill off 3 or 4 health minions, while leaving a 3/2 on board. Removal of GAB also negates any bit of any fringe mech synergy with bad cards like Cogmaster, Cogmaster’s Wrech and Iron Sensei. Bloosail Raider and Dread Corsair also take a small hit in synergy.

Undercity Valiant is a nifty removal for any variety of 1-mana 2/1 minions. Coin + Undercity is a pretty good play on a 2/1 drop. Backstab + Undercity will help kill off any 3-health minion on Turn 2. While the ability often doesn’t trigger, the ability to deal controlled damage is always very valuable.

Losing the top 2 drops for Rogue makes Defias Ringleader the next best early game card by default. Buccaneer now fills the only minion+weapon boost role. Swashburglar is around, but is reliant on RNG and can whiff completely. Pit Snake is also around. So the Rogue must depend on a bunch of 1-mana 1-health for early game. On the plus side, the best Rogue spells like Backstab, Eviscerate, Sap, Shadow Strike, and Assassinate get a small offering boost from this loss.

Verdict: Rogue loses two fast cards that help swing tempo. 2-drop consistency hurt severely.

Paladin

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Shaman

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Shaman loses 4 commons and 2 rares. Dust Devil is an unplayable minion that has likely won no games since it’s creation. Totemic Might, while seeing a resurgence in constructed, remains a poor draft choice for the arena. Ancestral Healing is a card with a wide chasm between The Lightforge and HearthArena ratings. Earthen Ring Farseer is often used to heal minions in the arena, and providing a heal after trading for the board is not useless, so let’s say it’s a decent card. Windspeaker is also a card that is far from unplayable, just acting as a win-more card that has poor value on it’s own stats. Vitality Totem doesn’t do much for board presence. Dunemaul Shaman is a lot like Windspeaker, as win-more and low value. Shaman loses a whole totem and a totem synergy card. I think Vitality Totem is still an outcome for Tuskarr Totemic, so that card doesn’t get better. Most of all, Shaman loses 3 Windfury cards, an original characteristic of Shaman class identity. Windspeaker most of all, has a little reach synergy with high attack, mediocre-value cards.

When looking at what the cards Shaman loses, it’s important to see what is gained. The loss of 4 commons would increase the offering rate of high value commons like Fire Elemental, Hex, Flametongue Totem, and a 4-mana 7/7. With the loss of 2 rares, there is a small increase of a mixed bag of high value cards like Powermace, Lightning Storm, Maelstrom Portal, Master of Evolution, and Thing from Below.

Verdict: Shaman gets increased offering of a good mix of cards, strengthening all areas. Loss of class trait in Windfury, but gets more consistency in draft.

Warlock

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Warlock loses 7 cards: 4 commons, 2 rares, and 1 epic. A bunch of these cards the Warlock loses are complete junk (Anima Golem, Sacrificial Pact, Curse of Rafaam, Sense Demons, Void Crusher). I mean, Sacrificial Pact can have rare value in a mirror match against Warlock, or against a random Jaraxxus. Sense Demons can have desperation draw value, or provide Worthless Imps. That’s all I have to say about that lot of cards. Reliquary Seeker is close to being horrible, but can provide early board presence as a 1-drop, and as a win-more 5/5. Succubus is likely the best card of these group, which isn’t saying much. The loss of Succubus hurts Silverware Golem and Tiny Knight of Evil by an iota. Like Shaman, there is a bit of a loss of class identity in demon synergy. Demonfire and Malganis don’t really get hurt, but have less things to help boost.

The common pool for Warlock is far from amazing. But dropping 4 commons will help cards like Imp Gang Boss, Dread Infernal, Dark Bomb and Dark Peddler. Losing 2 rares would help a better set of cards like Imp-losion, Shadowflame, Siphon Soul, and Doomguard. Losing a class epic is a big deal, as each class has only 9 class epics. Dropping a horrendous card like Anima Golem would help out cards like DOOM! and Bane of Doom.

Verdict: Warlock unloads a lot of unplayable cards and will mostly benefit from increased offering of good rare cards. Loss of some demon identity, and less incentive to draft towards the synergy.

Druid

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Druid loses 6 cards: 3 commons, 1 rare, and 2 epics! Notably, all of these cards are spells. The 3 commons lost by Druid aren’t honestly the worst. Poison Seeds is definitely hard to play, and a true desperation card. Soul of the Forest isn’t great, but has synergy with token cards, which is unreliable. Mark of Nature is definitely playable, and could be a useful taunt in a pinch, or surprise reach. Savagery is a pretty lousy card that won’t be missed. The 2 epic cards are among the worst cards in the arena. Nothing is lost in class identity, and beast druid has a better chance of getting synergy in a draft.

In the common pool, Druid will see increased offering rates for removal spells like Swipe, Wrath, Living Roots, and Starfire. The rare pool would see a marginal increase for good minions like Savage Combatant and Darnassus Aspirant. Losing 2 epic cards is big, as the class epic pool reduces from 9 to 7. While epic cards aren’t always offered in the arena, most decks have at least one. This will make Druid decks have a very high chance of having cards like Ancient of War, Mulch, or Forbidden Ancient.

Verdict: Druid loses 6 spells, and is bound to have more minion-based drafts. More consistency in removals and quality minions with drafts.

Warrior

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Warrior loses 7 cards: 6 commons and 1 epic. Unlike the other cards getting a boost, the Warrior ban list has more mediocre cards than outright bad ones. The ghost of Warsong Commander is likely the worst of the set, as it is unplayable in the arena. Bolster getting the boot really hurts Protect the King and squelches any hope of synergy with cheap taunts. Charge is actually a decent reach card for face damage and trading up. Axe Flinger, while not having great stats, has enough health to stick around and deal a bunch of face damage before dying. Rampage is situational (requires a board), but works well with Warrior synergy. Ogre Warmaul is unreliable. The epic Bouncing Blade is also very situational, and not great. So we’re losing a few types of class identity. The charge association with Warrior is all but gone. Bolster Warrior drafts will be history. Some damage-related traits are lost.

It may or may not be glaringly obvious, but Warrior is getting a huge push with these cards gone. Now, the common card consistency of drafting quality weapons skyrockets. Fiery War Axe, Death’s Bite, Fool’s Bane, Arathi Weaponsmith, Arcanite Reaper and N’Zoth’s First Mate will greatly aid the Warrior. That’s all there is to it. With the loss of Bouncing Blade, more reliable epics like Gorehowl and Crush will see small increases in offering rate.

Verdict: Clear as day, Warrior will get a lot better thanks to common weapon consistency. Less bursty and more board control will work fine.

Hunter

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Hunter loses 7 cards: 5 commons, 1 rare, and 1 epic. Some of these cards aren’t horrible either. Starving Buzzard and Timber Wolf both work amazingly well with Unleash the Hounds. While Buzzard is reeling from being nerfed to oblivion, it isn’t farfetched to say it helps occasionally int he arena. Timber Wolf is a bit of a surprise, given Hunter beast synergy. Cobra Shot is fairly horrendous. Hunter secrets are tricky, as they can trigger in a multitude of scenarios. Two lost secrets in Dart Trap and Snipe will pretty much ensure secrets are Freezing Trap 75% of the time. I actually liked Snipe as well. Cloaked Huntress is less incentivized to be drafted with the reduced diversity in secrets. Call Pet is unplayable outside of complete beast drafts. Lock and Load is unplayable in the arena.

Losing 5 commons puts an emphasis on the common Hunter pool. This means much greater offering in removal. Freezing Trap, Glaivezooka, Quick Shot, Unleash the Hounds, and Kill Command are premium cards that should see a bump. The lost rare will marginally raise rates of Eaglehorn Bow, Savannah Highmane, Powershot, and Explosive Shot. The lost epic would help really good epic Hunter cards like Call of the Wild, Gladiator’s Longbow, and Steamwheedle Sniper.

Verdict: Hunter is going to get a lot more removal options in the draft. Because removal can also deal face damage, Hunters could be dangerous. A little loss in beast identity.

Priest

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Priest loses 7 cards: 3 commons, 2 rares, and 2 epics. The commons are a mostly lousy lot. Mind Blast is the equivalent of holding a “new player/filthy casual” sign. Power Word: Glory can heal a bit, but doesn’t have much value in terms of fighting for a board. Inner Fire can have cute combos with high health minions like Captured Jormungar, but also worked well with bigger health Priest minions. Hey, I liked that card! Lightwell is an oft-forgotten card, while it is sticky, it does little in helping the board. Convert is also not great and slow, but has value as a mid-late game steal. 2 epics being ditched is unremarkable 1-drop Shadowbomber and fun card Confuse. Class identity of swapping health and attack seems to be ditched.

Priest loses an almost equal number of cards per rarity, allowing small increases across the board. A few common offerings would help mostly removals in Holy Nova, Shadow Word: Death, Shadow Word: Pain, Entomb, and Mind Control. Velen’s Chosen and Northshire Cleric aren’t bad either. Rare boosts would help increase Shadow Madness, Auchenai Soulpriest, Excavated Evil, and Onyx Bishop. 2 lost epics would help greatly bring in great Priest epics in Cabal Shadow Priest, Lightbomb, and Forbidden Shaping.

Verdict: Priest loses a few janky cards and has a chance to get increases in removal. Better than before, and being told to remain a more reactive class. Mostly intact class identity.

Final thoughts

  • This wouldn’t have been the way I would’ve fixed arena. I would personally ditch the whole rarity ranking system. But this appears to be a short-term fix for addressing the current state.
  • I personally am not a big fan of change, but I will adjust, given arena is what I like playing.
  • Mage will still rule the arena. While the class can be overrun by aggro a little easier, not enough was taken away in terms of removals.
  • Paladin was left alone, and is still dangerous with buffs. Don’t sleep on the class.
  • I think Rogue is hurt quite a bit, as it loses core cards in the kit. I might be biased.
  • Warrior and Hunter will be great IMO.
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