Let’s get the obvious out of the way first, Team 5 doesn’t like nerfing cards. They wait a very long time (compared to other games) to make a change. Like it or hate it, that is a core philosophy reciprocated by the devs. With the current KFT Druid continually breaking records, the calls for Druid cards to get the axe grow more vociferous by the day.
In order to get a sense of when (if) Druid will get a nerf, I decided to look at all the cards that have been nerfed, since the game was officially released post-beta, on March 13, 2014. Wow, I’ve almost played this game 4 years.
It is not a complete science, as older cards get nerfed later on to open up design space, or due to unforseen interactions with newer ones. We can also try to pick out why certain cards were nerfed for what reason.
Unleash the Hounds – 56 days (Release to nerf); 112 days (counting Closed Beta)
- Unleash has been iterated numerous times in it’s existence, and is honestly a tough one to balance. The 8 weeks to nerf this card from launch is likely one of the fastest nerfs, though the version existed prior in Closed Beta. It was changed to it’s broken form when I started the game.
Curse of Naxxramas
Eaglehorn Bow – 131 days
- It wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of people played Mage around this time. The Eaglehorn Bow worked Secrets against the Mage to a weapon buff effect, an ability seen much later in Pirate Warriors.
Leeroy Jenkins – 193 days
- Culprit of the “fun and interactive” meme, I’m surprised this one took this long. The main target was Shadowstep Rogue, which didn’t use any tools from Naxx, except Loatheb. Also possible the streamers of yore didn’t make decks as fast young kids these days.
Starving Buzzard – 193 days (Release to nerf); 286 (counting Closed Beta)
- The third Hunter nerf out of four cards nerfed. It makes sense to get rid of the Hunter draw engine, but it is possible removing all of their tools at once would’ve been too much. We’ll never know.
Goblins vs Gnomes
Flare – 266 days
- Seemingly more help for Mages against the Hunter onslaught. Frankly in retrospect, 1-mana for card draw plus ability is way too cheap. It took 3/4 of a calendar year for this one, and might have to do with nerfing all Hunter toys at once.
Gadgetzan Auctioneer – 266 days
- This card gets a lot of hate, but it was nerfed in GvG, which put away Miracle Rogue for a while. Leeroy was already out of the equation at this point, and may have been targeting MalyRogue, if it was big then.
Soulfire – 266 days
- Obviously, this was nerfed because Zoolock was too good. At it’s 1-mana cost, it still sees play (wherever the Warlocks are).
Undertaker – 191 days
- The first expansion card to get nerfed. And it took over half a calendar year to happen. GvG was one of the most aggressive sets overall, and it took Undertaker over the edge.
The Grand Tournament
Warsong Commander – 586 days (since Release); 201 days (since Grim Patron)
- This one was big, as it put an end to the most oppressive form of Patron Warrior. It did take 201 days, since Grim Patron came out, but I’m sure the deck didn’t perfect itself overnight.
The League of Explorers
Whispers of the Old Gods – All Classic cards (773 days from Release to nerf)
Ancient of Lore
Force of Nature
Keeper of the Grove
- The original Druidstone kappa. Ancient of Lore and Keeper of the Grove were cited for auto-inclusion, while Force of Nature was the piece of ForceRoar that took the nerf. Obviously, this long wait was because Druid was never amazing like Hunter, from the beginning.
Big Game Hunter
- These cards all brought cheap hard removal, making big controlly minions still not be a thing in Hearthstone. Obviously, Hunter did not run Ironbeak Owl back in the day, and it was likely precipitated by all the prior Hunter nerfs. The long wait was definitely a meta call.
- The classic “design space” meme, which was likely brought on by MalyRogue being at it’s peak prior to Old Gods. Blade Flurry was always great against Aggro, and this nerf was likely allowed since Aggro was weakened. It got the double-whammy and remains unplayed.
- Two “Aggro announcers” and a charge-piece. Knife Juggler is the only one that still sees any play at all now, and this was all done to fight Aggro. Good calls all around here, precipitated by meta shifts.
- Handlock was once a thing. The patch notes state that this was allowed due to the nerfs to charge cards. Not sure about this one, as Molten Giant remains MIA.
Master of Disguise
- This one could’ve happened whenever, but was cited for the reason Animated Armor wasn’t neutral. That card never saw play anyways, and this one didn’t either. Oh well, design space.
One Night in Karazhan
Call of the Wild – 160 days
- This could be the Blizzard Paragon for nerf to broken card “not that long” after expansion. 160 days is not nothing, but is the quickest nerf in some time.
Execute – 935 days
- Control Warrior in my eyes, was always super boring to play against. Nerfs don’t come for that specific reason, but this one took a really long time to materialize. It still sees play now, so this wasn’t that big a deal.
Rockbiter Weapon – 935 days
Tuskarr Totemic – 406 days; 252 days (since Old Gods)
- Shamanstone was around since Old Gods, so this was the first response. Tuskarr Totemic didn’t see play until Old Gods, so this year plus wait is misleading.
Abusive Sergeant – 935 days
- A dying breed! Another Aggro-announcer meets it’s end, cited for being in too many Aggro decks. Abusive Sergeant still exists here and there though.
Charge – 935 days
- Pirate Warrior sprouted from Old Gods, and this was done to keep that deck in check. It is still alive and well, never really going away to a significant extent.
Yogg-Saron – 160 days
- Another nerf that was done in fairly short time. It was a bit of a turning point, as random outcomes were never really denounced by Team 5. They were always a positive. The competitive community finally got a win in this battle.
Mean Streets of Gadgetzan
Small-Time Buccaneer – 91 days
- Hey look, a rare card to be nerfed within it’s release era. Pretty much a staple for Warrior, Rogue, Shaman, anyone who can hold a weapon. Interesting that the card existed, given the nerfs to all the early Aggro cards. But a fairly timely response here.
Spirit Claws – 203 days
- A bit overdue. Shamanstone finally ended with this nerf, but it was a long wait.
Journey to Un’Goro
The Caverns Below – 97 days
- The controversial nerf that everyone was okay with in the end. I don’t think many at all, Rogue mains included, liked playing Quest Rogue. The source of contention, for me at least, is the explanation behind it. If cards that are not fun to play against get nerfed, a whole lot of Mage cards should fit the bill.
Best case scenario?
Recently, Small-Time Buccaneer and The Caverns Below were nerfed within their expansion windows, 91 and 97 days after, respectively. Call of the Wild and Yogg-Saron saw nerfs 160 days after release. Overperformers like Ultimate Infestation, Spreading Plague, and Crypt Lord are the targets here. It is useless to do this exercise for Innervate, as it would have the longest gap between nerfs ever, if it were to see a change. Unleash saw the shortest gap ever at 56 days, but it being the first nerf ever, we can’t rely on that timeline.
And just for those who have made it this far, Knights of the Frozen Throne has only been out 21 days. Unless this current Druidstone is so spectacular! that it causes a nerf never before seen.