Owing to the busyness of life changes, I haven’t paid as much attention to Hearthstone news as I did in the past. I am making time to play the game, squeezing in regular Arenas (which are now more fun) and occasional Ranked games. When I want to get serious, I will play Deathseer Thrall Evolve Shaman. When I play for fun, I am playing random Rogue decks with new cards, including a Burgle Rogue and C’Thun Rogue. Hence, my winrate has been terrible this season, and I am still Rank 15.
I’ve been hearing that Druid has been a big problem since the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion release, and whenever I log onto to Twitter, I hear a call for nerfs. I haven’t played at high enough level in Ranked to experience this scourge, so I do not have any opinions on the matter. But such an early call for nerfing a class reminded me exactly of what happened in Shadowverse, following the Wonderland Dreams expansion. Let’s take a look at the problem in both games, and see what can be done.
The latest expansion for Shadowverse, Wonderland Dreams, was released on June 22, 2017 in America. For those unaware, this expansion had a theme for Neutral cards with strong Neutral synergy cards or craft-specific cards that have strong Neutral synergy. I’m not sure how much work was put into play-testing for balance, but messing around with Neutrals is complicated, as all the classes are affected in different ways. This manifested in the Bloodcraft class becoming too good.
Shadowverse writes really detailed patch notes, so here they are, if you want to gander.
Based on a sample of high ranking players, they determined the Neutral Bloodcraft decks were present in 38.1% of the ladder, with a 56% win rate. 56% is a manageable win rate, but the 38% is obviously glaringly high. It might be okay in a game with 4 deck building choices, but not in one with so many like Shadowverse. The company decided to put nerfs in July 30, 2017.
Neutral Blood Nerf
As stated, the goal of nerfing these 4 cards was to: 1) lower rate of Neutral Blood decks, and 2) reduce the gap between going first and second with these decks.
- Tove – minus 1 attack, minus 1 defense.
- Baphomet – opening effect became more random, cost reduction gone.
- Spawn of the Abyss – effect damage reduced by 2.
- Goblin Leader – +1 cost, +1 attack, +1 defense.
Ramp Dragon Nerf
As is common with Shadowverse, they typically nerf something else to go along with the highly-desired nerf. They targeted Ramp Dragon decks, in fear they would be too strong with the Neutral Blood nerf.
- Grimnir, War Cyclone – no longer hits enemy hero for 4, just 4 damage AoE to minions.
- Ouroboros – heal +3 ability to hero gone.
Finally, it was mentioned that the second highest deck, Haven Aegis (7.6%!) needs to be kept in check with a nerf.
- Princess Snow White – minus 1 defense.
The patch notes wrap up by saying they may make monthly changes at the end of the month, if data shows anomalies.
Druids are apparently out of control right now in Hearthstone. From what I can tell, there are currently two main Druid decks in the meta now: 1) Big Druid (with other ridiculous stylizations), and 2) Jade Druid.
I went on HSReplay.net to filter decks with new cards, by win rate.
6 out of 10 of the new decks are Druid, with the other 4 being Paladin. These are fairly high win rates, with the most common deck being a Jade Druid deck with 57k replays. To those wondering, if you just filter top decks including old decks, it is still all Druid and Paladin.
Let’s look at top 10 new decks in terms of overall usage.
The people want Warlock bad! Desperately! Druid is quite common here as well, with the 57k, high win rate Druid likely to keep climbing. 100k games were played with a Taunt-based Druid, which was likely shared as “ground-breaking” before a better version was found.
Let’s take a look at the common, KFT Jade Druid.
The by-class matchups are telling, with the deck only not doing great against the mirror. Every other class matchup is above average or exceptional.
Remember Shamanstone? Yeah, I scrubbed it from my memory as well. Let’s take a look at some Vicious Syndicate data tracking the highs of Shamanstone.
Shaman as it is now, is a solid deck and 4th highest class today. Most decks are running the Evolve Shaman, so we can expect the deck to be around 10% of the Ranked meta. At the peak of Shamanstone, the class represented over 30% of all decks.
Here’s a look before Shaman hit 30%, which includes the release of One Night in Karazhan and Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. Of course, these expansions were known for not doing much at all the Shaman. Karazhan notably gave Shaman more tools in Maelstrom Portal and Spirit Claws. Pirate Warrior brought down Shaman for about 2 weeks, before it started climbing to the rate over 30%.
The listed 10/3/16 balance changes notably did this to Shaman:
- Rockbiter Weapon – costs 2.
- Tuskarr Totemic – summon random basic totem.
This didn’t do much. A 2/28/17 patch did this to Shaman:
- Small-Time Buccaneer – 1 health.
- Spirit Claws – costs 2.
Shamanstone was finally over. I think Small-Time Buccaneer represents a card that was the closest to being a new card being nerfed in it’s expansion timeframe. It was released on 11/29/16 and nerfed on 2/28/17, about 3 months.
Shadowverse and Hearthstone are similar games, but very different when devs come to making changes. It is fairly entrenched in Hearthstone philosophy to be super conservative when cards are changed. And typically, cards are made worse. Shadowverse changes cards all of the time, and doesn’t seem to be afraid of pulling the trigger on newly released cards. I am not knowledgeable enough in card games to say which is better, so I don’t know.
But even if Druid is a problem, I don’t expect changes to be made for a while. Knights of the Frozen Throne is a fairly new expansion, and new cards are likely left the way they are for a few months. Would old Druid cards get nerfed? Also, Skulking Geist is the infamous Jade Druid hate card that came along in this expansion. How long of a leash does that card get as being the savior against Druid? Would running 2 minions with bad stats ameliorate the situation?