Over the Thanksgiving break, I had limited access to Internet, but occasionally checked Reddit on my phone for Mean Streets of Gadgetzan card reveals. On Thanksgiving Day and Friday, I became aware of Hearthstone Reddit blowing up with Rogue players and other agitators joining in on the ruckus. As a Rogue player, I have been often frustrated when taking it to Standard Ranked Play, given the overwhelming presence of faster Shamans. The Rogue frustration can best be summarized in these points:
Blade Flurry was nerfed for design space reasons. No weapon buff has been seen since. Fan of Knives and Dark Iron Skulker are the only AoE for Rogue. This came just as Shaman aggro and midrange swarms became popular.
Rogues have no source of damage mitigation, whether healing or armor or immune. This combined with the propensity for Rogue to draw cards makes Rogue impossible to run as a control class. Any controlly Rogue class card is unplayable as such.
Burgle Rogue is the main deck type being pushed in the last few sets. Burgle Rogue is fun but not competitive. You have no win condition and are literally playing Randomonium. Rogue has been consistently the 6th or 7th best class over the Old Gods/Karazhan meta.
Combo decks are being nerfed as a whole, as they are not interactive, and this appears to be the only way Rogues can win with the cards.
Rogues have a strong set of Evergreen cards, but this makes playing Rogue not fun, as you are playing the same set of cards you did before Naxx came out. (Did Naxx come out yet?) Also, Gadgetzan Auctioneer is a crutch that Rogue decks can’t play without.
Timeline of MSG Rogue Card Reveals
11/4/16 – BlizzCon
11/5/16 – BlizzCon Disguised Toast Leak
11/21/16 – Jade Lotus Reveal Week
11/22/16 – Stream Reveal
11/24/16 – Jade Lotus Reveal Week
11/25/16 – Stream Reveal
Hope is not lost yet, as there are still 2 class cards (1 common and 1 epic) to go. I expect 1 more Jade Golem mechanic card, which could save the class from complete ineptitude in Standard play. Dean Ayala did state that Rogue has the best ways to utilize the Jade Golem mechanic, with Shadowsteps and Unearthed Raptor. I also do long for a weapon buff in the epic slot, as there hasn’t been a viable weapon buff since Tinker’s Oil. Things don’t look good, and playing this class isn’t fun right now. We just need a good Jade card, and a weapon buff. Is that too much to ask? Well, we still can dominate arena at least. Right?
These are some wise words regarding game balance for any game developer. With a bit of a lull before the big upcoming card reveals, Blizzard dropped the bombshell news today, of the much-awaited nerfs to the Evergreen Set. There are 12 cards affected overall, but as a Rogue player, I’m going to mostly focus on the changes to Blade Flurry.
Blade Flurry costs 4 now
Blade Flurry will no longer hit face
My first reaction was that “it’s not a big deal” because Tinker’s Oil is dropping out of Standard Play. Then I realized I was in denial.
Implications of the nerf
No more AoE – I get why Blade Flurry was nerfed. The Southsea Deckhand + Tinker’s Oil + Blade Flurry attack was a bit strong on the face. But with this change, Rogues essentially have lost the main AoE spell. Fan of Knives is a fine card, but it will do 1 damage most of the time, sometimes 2. And against Control Decks, Fan of Knives is a 3-mana card to draw a card. Dark Iron Skulker is another AoE consideration, but it is useless against damaged minions, like a Patron Warrior deck. And as a 5-mana card, it is a worse version of Bloodmage Thalnos + FoK. Aggro Shaman is going to absolutely destroy Rogue.
Soul of the class – “Soul of the card” is a term thrown around a lot to make fun of Ben Brode, but there is a class essence. And a hallmark of Rogue is cheap removal spells. By costing 4, Blade Flurry is a bit costly, especially given it costs 2 to charge up a dagger. Combos with other spells are much harder to pull off. With this cost, it is more like a Flamestrike, which doesn’t work with the Rogue fast playstyle.
Most Rogue cards get worse – By costing 4, Blade Flurry makes every Combo card worse. From Eviscerate, to SI:7 Agent, to Kidnapper. But this cost also makes other less obvious cards worse. Violet Teacher, Gadgetzan Auctioneer, Malygos, etc all lose value from this nerf. Edwin VanCleef also got worse from this nerf, but got much better from Ironbeak Owl and Big Game Hunter nerfs. Even weapon buffs and weapons themselves are worse, as they are more single-target focused now.
Forced playstyle change – A useful Rogue gameplay strategy is holding a charged weapon in order to wait for more enemy minions to get knocked down by Blade Flurry. Now weapon charges can be used more liberally. And I guess, a lesser chance of getting destroyed by Harrison Jones.
A weak constructed class gets worse – For a long time now, Rogues have been one of the worst constructed classes. They are rarely seen in the ladder, and the only real viable deck is Oil Rogue, and a smattering of Malygos Rogues. Losing the only real AoE is pretty devastating. The impact in the arena makes is much lessened for a rare card with deck-dependent synergy, but it becomes a bad arena card as well. We can only hope for help with the rest of the expansion.
Good times with Blade Flurry
Quick hits about the other nerfs
Ancient of Lore – a big hit to this card, it is rather overcosted now
Force of Nature – this kills the Druid combo finally, but can be used for token Druid as well
Keeper of the Grove – i think this card is rather overcosted now with the 2/2 body
Ironbeak Owl – perfectly fine with this, can help diversity with Spellbreaker
Big Game Hunter – i don’t think this is too bad, anti-tempoing 2.5 mana for hard removal is okay
Hunter’s Mark – fine with this, somewhat overdue
Knife Juggler – not much of a nerf at all really, still a really annoying card
Leper Gnome – pretty good nerf
Arcane Golem – Warsong’d
Molten Giant – pretty good nerf
Master of Disguise – sure, nerfing a unique card for the greater good of card creation