Card game expansions are supposed to be about trying out new decks and theorycrafting new stuff. Maybe. If that’s fun for you.
In the past, I would do seemingly only do this in Ranked Hearthstone games. I’m not sure if I didn’t care about winning back then. I remember a lot of Reno Rogue games, where I was greedy with fitting in legendaries like Anub’arak. I remember playing a Miracle Mill Rogue. I remember playing a lot of Mech Rogue for Voltron.
Today, a couple weeks after the release of Knights of the Frozen Throne, I found myself playing Pirate Warrior. A Pirate Warrior who never plays the deck, and trades a little more than he ought to. Thanks to hsreplay.net, below is a graphic of my last Ranked Warrior games. I basically started the playing the deck for the first time in 4 months, and seem to take month-long intervals. Yes, I play very little Ranked, and only play Rogue.
I guess a switch went off and I decided to hustle some wins. Here were my Ranked games prior to today.
Besides the meta Evolve Shaman that eats it to Druid, my Rogue games consisted of offbeat stuff like Burgle Rogue, C’Thun Rogue, etc. Besides the low volume and low wins, I just wasn’t digging the “explore fun decks” process. I wasn’t going to keep playing unless I won some games. Prior to touching Pirate Warrior, my Ranked win rate this month was less than 50%. I deleted the Burgle Rogue list I made myself.
I’m not here to complain about Druids. I’m just noting that at some point, I stopped caring about exploring fun decks. The expansion is still young, heck the adventure still has Week 3 to go. Just saying that at some point the concentration of winning took over, and nothing else mattered. And I’m not much of a Ranked player to begin with.
I’ll keep playing Pirate Warrior in Ranked for now. Maybe I’ll be content when I get to Ranked 10. I’m not really enjoying it I would a Rogue deck, but I’ll take the wins.
I can blame the “Information Meta” we can’t leave, and how everyone has access to every single decklist. I can blame pro players from being too good and figuring it out so fast. I can blame my own inability to keep composure after losing. It’s probably some recipe of all of it, and it is loosening my already tepid desire to play Ranked Hearthstone at all.
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?
A long time ago, I got really excited by Master of Evolution and decided to look at the effect of stat changes brought on by the new Evolve mechanic. I’ve only opened 1 legendary in 40 packs of Knights of the Frozen Throne so far (boo), but got the Hero Shaman card for completing the prologue, Thrall Deathseer. By running the updated Evolve Shaman for ranked play, I suddenly got excited about Master of Evolution again. So, I decided to update the Evolve chart.
I filtered all the minions that are currently playable in Standard, including the cards from this expansion.
All playable minions are grouped by mana cost and an average was taken from attack and health.
The transformed mana cost is either +1 or +2. I found the difference between the average attack and health by graduation in mana cost.
I look at percentages of the evolved minion having an ability. The abilities I looked at were Taunt, Charge, Spell Damage, Lifesteal, Divine Shield, and End Turn Effect.
I have a category called “Disaster.” This would be an evolved minion with something that could be really bad, causing you to lose your whole board or the game. The identified disaster evolves include Doomsayer, Ticking Abomination, Rattling Rascal, Bomb Squad and Anomalous.
For the 1-mana cost slot in original minion, I included the 4 basic Shaman totem tokens. I figured these would be the most common evolve targets on the board in a Shaman game.
While there are many more tokens that could be included in “original minion”, they were left out because there were too many.
There are caveats to abilities. Hogger was counted as a Taunt minion in the 6-slot, even though no Gnoll will be made on a full board. I did not include Twilight Elder as an end of turn ability in the 3-slot. I did not include Ethereal Arcanist as an end of turn ability in the 4-slot.
Valeera the Hollow is an insane card. This card essentially locks out the game with infinite Vanish followed by Arcane Giants allowing you to continuously swing in for 16 damage as long as your opponent doesn’t have removal for them. In addition, to that the stealth that gives you when it comes down allows you the time that it takes in order to set up the combo. The only decks that are going to punish this are burn mage and decks that play aggressively on the board, which brings me to my next point…
9. Druid is going to be the only class playing on the board.
With Mage and Taunt Warrior (particularly good matchups for Jade Druid) probably sticking around, Druid now has insane tools to combat aggro as well, especially Spreading Plague. This card is at worst a stall of probably two turns and at best clears their board in the process, but either way, aggro is losing one of it’s best matchups in the game. Rogue also has new tools to combat aggressive decks with the Shadowblade and it’s counterpart Doomerang which will undoubtedly see varying degrees of play depending on how long aggro sticks around. Either way you will have time to play your Death Knights because I predict a much slower meta where aggro will be punished.
Bonus Bold Prediction: Skulking Geist was printed for the sole purpose of beating Jade Druid and it will see some (if it makes up over 30% of the meta a lot of) play for that reason. (Note: I don’t count Taunt Warrior as a deck that plays on board)
8. Hunter is going to be worse.
The new hunter cards that are being introduced are terrible…I guess that’s all I really have to say. Deathstalker Rexxar is the worst Death Knight and arguably may give you a worse hero power than Steady Shot. For Hunter to continue to challenge the meta they needed more sticky aggressive minions to pressure the opponent, instead they got durdly, inefficient, clunky minions that when everything goes perfectly you probably still are going to lose a majority of your games…
7. The Lich King is the best neutral legendary in the game.
This one may be slightly hyperbolic, but if I said The Lich King is a very good card that wouldn’t exactly be a bold prediction. The Death Knight cards are as powerful as the Ysera Dream Cards, with taunt it gives it initiative, and if all goes right it can give you insane value while smashing face for 8. While I am less confident in this prediction than some of the other ones, I also have no doubt this will be in more meta decks than any other card currently in the game.
6. Ultimate Infestation was a mistake.
When you look at this card it instantly looks like a Firelands Portal that gains you some life and gives you approximately 8 mana worth of card draw. So we already have a card that should cost approximately 16 mana, but the card is actually better than that, doing all of this at the same time gives this card increased value. Normally we would have to play one card that is a Firelands Portal, one card that is an Iron Hide and one card that is a super-Sprint, now all of this is combined onto one card, meaning that this card kind of reads draw seven cards and play three of them…
5. Priest moves up a tick.
While most of their new cards are as disappointing as the Hunter cards, Eternal Servtiude should definitely see a good chunk of play and their Death Knight is a game-changer. While Shadowreaper Anduin on it’s surface may not be that impressive as far as the Death Knights go, it gives priest an opportunity to do something that it’s never been able to do very efficiently, close games. Raza the Chained also could see an appearance back in the meta allowing priest to machine-gun chain two damage as long as they can continue to play cards.
4. Aggro Paladin will see a come-back.
I know this is completely contrary to point number nine, that no one is going to be playing on the board, but on the backs of Bolvar Fireblood, Righteous Defender, and Light’s Sorrow all of the board clears that are going to be in the game may be playing right into this decks trap. I don’t think this will be a very good deck, especially out of the gate, but with some tweaking and as the meta starts to settle, you may be able to catch some people off-guard with this old classic.
3. Mage will not play any of the cards released, and it will still be good.
Frost Lich Jaina and Sindragosa are definitely cuspers, and I may end up being wrong about them not seeing play, but neither of these cards buy you the late game tempo advantage that Medivh the Guardian does that usually wins you the game just fine on his own. With the deck already relying on Alexstraza to stabilize, I don’t think there will be room for the new cards. That being said, this will be one of the most fun decks to mess around with, although I think the best Mage list is already established, and it will continue to stick around, as it is one of the premier decks to contend against new Rogue.
2. Freeze Shaman will not be a thing.
While you aren’t going to be bummed out ripping a Voodoo Hexxer from a Stonehill Defender, it is still going to be the third-best taunt that you are hoping for and that’s the best freeze card to be introduced by a mile. Blizzard is definitely afraid of making another overpowered Shaman deck and acknowledges the power of Jade/Token Shaman in the meta, so they do the thing they are apt to do, which is try to introduce a new mechanic. This deck will not be good, it will not be fun to play, and it will lose to everything in the game, maybe including new players playing Chillwind Yetis and Boulderfist Ogres. With nothing being implemented to help its existing archetypes, shaman will definitely be taking a major step back in the Frozen Throne meta.
1. Defile is the best card in the game, and Warlock still may not be playable in Standard.
This card was my whole reason for wanting to write this article to begin with. I rated Ultimate Infestation a 10/10 and could see a nerf, I rate this card an 11/10 and will probably see an emergency nerf. Everyone is sleeping on Defile. This is the most efficient, cheapest, and easy to accomplish board clear in the game, that requires little to no set-up. Next time you are playing a game pay attention to how many huge boards could be cleared with a Defile. On top of this, after this card stops clearing the minions on the board, it starts clearing their deathrattles, making minions like Dragon Egg and Haunted Creeper also susceptible to it’s reign of devastation, if you are playing Egg Druid or Pirate Warrior in Wild, I’m sorry to say that your days are numbered. On top of this, this card has an insane synergy with Grim Patron which allows you to defile ad infinitum and wipe all boards and leave yourself with 15-21 power on the board. Okay so we’ve established that this card is the most broken wild card ever printed, but will it have any impact on Standard?
If Warlock is viable in standard, it will be on the back of Defile. Possessed Villager is still around to kick the defile train off and it will really punish Token Druid, Shaman and Pirate Warrior, furthering point #9, but Warlock may not have powerful enough tools to contend in the late game, even with the most efficient AoE in the game. Honestly it makes my brain hurt trying to think of what a standard warlock deck would look like these days, cards like Kabal Trafficker have never seen any play and on an unchecked board, may make for an alright deck with the new warlock Death Knight which is okay and the Lich King definitely making a cameo, but even I am not bold enough to say that Kabal Trafficker Warlock will be the new meta.
In the world of card games, it is important for “classes” to be different. You want to play with a unique set of mechanics and archetypes for your specific class, and be different from the other classes. If two classes play too similarly, the demarcation of “class” has no meaning at all. A natural consequence of a card game going on longer is newer and better cards. And sometimes classes converge, in that a certain class starts taking on characteristics of another class.
Is class convergence an inevitable consequence for every card game? I’m not positive, but I think it is, unless the game evolves to an extremely complex entity where everything remains different. In games with limited mechanics, we can expect some class convergence down the line.
In this writing, I am going to examine class convergence in Hearthstone for the new expansion, Knights of the Frozen Throne. Class convergence is nothing new in Hearthstone, as it is meant to be a more simple game, with limited mechanics. I can assume that Hearthstone can afford more class convergence than a game like Shadowverse. The class hero power is something that will keep a class unique from another. Shadowverse has crafts with their unique set of cards, but the hero does nothing unique from a different one. Still too much class convergence is a bad thing. Let’s take a look at this set.
Crypt Lord – Druids buffed typically buff things 1 card at a time. This card, similar to Darkshire Councilman in Warlock, will grow in size.
Poisonous (Hard Removal) – Mulch is Wild-only and Naturalize is horrible so Druid has lacked in the hard removal department. They are now being pushed in the Poisonous keyword.
Malfurion the Pestilent
Druid of the Swarm
Hadronox – First resurrect ability for Druid.
Fatespinner – For the first time, Druid has a “secret” dynamic. While this is unique as a Deathrattle, it is the first thing they have to keep the enemy guessing.
Taunt buffs – Only seen with Warrior with cards like Bolster and Stolen Goods.
Strongshell Defender – Literally Bolster on a River Croc.
Hadronox – More Taunt support, rather than buffs.
Exploding Bloatbat – Hunter never had AoE, outside of cards that hit 3 things, based on positioning. Also Dreadscale existed, but it was a niche card.
Stitched Tracker – Hunter has the random card advantage card in Jeweled Macaw, but never had the ability to choose something. This card is very Priest-like.
Abominable Bowman – Hunter played with Deathrattle, but never had a resurrect ability like Priest.
Doomed Apprentice – Mage stays almost identical to it’s class identity, with more Freeze pushes, thanks to the icy theme. This is the first class card to mess with opponent mana manipulation.
Heal to damage
Blackguard – Paladins healed in big chunks, but never used it for offense. This is a similar effect to the Priest card Shadowboxer, except more explosive and control-oriented.
Destroy random minion
Obsidian Statue – A mechanic seen rarely with other classes like Dark Bargain for Warlock or Deadly Shot for Hunter.
Spirit Lash – Priests never had early game AoE. Almost Maelstrom Portal, but much worse for saving the board.
Survivability – Rogue could never Taunt or Heal, so now there are new mechanics that allow the Rogue to not take damage.
Leeching Poison – Lifesteal is everywhere in the new expansion, but heal is heal.
Shadowblade – Immune was also available previously through Violet Illusionist, but this is a one-turn effect, like Ice Block.
Doomerang – Unique card that is the first of it’s kind. Not unlike Blade Flurry, but still very different and helps survivability.
Valeera the Hollow – Close to a one-turn Ice Block, except you can still get hit by things that hit stealthed enemies.
Freeze – The heaviest and most blatant push in class convergence, with 6/10 Shaman cards having a Freeze synergy. While Frost Shock existed since Basic, it almost never saw play outside of Malygos shenanigans.
Cryostasis – Buffs and freeze in one!
Ice Breaker – A bit like Shatter in Mage.
Moorabi – Also has copy effects on enemies, so can work like a Priest card.
Voodoo Hexxer – Very similar to Alley Armorsmith in Warrior.
Enemy positioning – Flametongue Totem was self-positioning, but this is a new area.
Avalanche – Previously, you only had to worry about Betrayal in Rogue, Explosive Shot/Grievous Bite for Hunter, and Meteor/Cone of Cold in Mage. This one is like Betrayal, in that the fulcrum minion is undamaged.
Treachery – Reverse Mind Control, but still a new tactic for Warlock.
Despicable Dreadlord – Warlock cards typically hurt everything. This will be the first that only affects the opponent’s board.
Copy into deck
Dead Man’s Hand – Blood Warriors and Sudden Genesis were precursor Warrior class copy cards, but this is the first to put a bunch of cards in the deck. Almost like a Priest card.
Bonemare – This ability screams Paladin buffs.
Deathaxe Punisher – Similar to the Grimy Goons handbuff ability, but only for Lifesteal minions. This conditional nature makes it much worse than the clan ones.
Random card advantage
Bone Drake – This could get any Dragon for any class.
Shallow Gravedigger – This could get any Deathrattle for any class.
Death Knight cards
The Lich King and Arfus will give access to Death Knight cards, which scream class convergence. However, given there are 8 choices, you won’t likely be roleplaying as every class in a single game.
Anti-Magic Shells – Neutral board buffs.
Obliterate – Neutral hard removal.
Death Coil – Neutral removal, reach, or heal.
Frostmourne – Neutral weapon and resurrect abilities.
Doom Pact – Neutral self-mill and DOOM!
Death Grip – Neutral Entomb, but much faster and cheaper.
Death and Decay – Neutral Hellfire (AoE and Reach)
Army of the Dead – Neutral self-mill and a much stronger ability than the legendary Varian card.
That’s that. From what I could tell some classes barely veered into other class identity (Mage, Paladin, Warrior), while some like Druid and Shaman are starting to diversify a good amount.
In less than 24 hours, Hearthstone player Savjz will reveal the new Rogue Death Knight Hero card, for release for Knights of the Frozen Throne.
Exciting! For the first time, we see the official artwork of the card. What could the card be?
What we know
Hero card – Like any other Hero card, we can expect the new Valeera to take over the existing Rogue hero. Also, you will gain 5 armor by playing this card.
Artwork differences – The Death Knight form of Valeera looks mostly the same, without the characteristic “Blood Elf green,” which glows like Kryptonite. The green daggers, green pendants and jewels are gone and replaced with glowing purple skulls. The new weapon is a bone dagger. Her chest armor is shorter and other vestments are more ragged. Her hair is now red and blonde.
Comic clues – There is a promotional comic for the new expansion, which looks a lot like the Word of Warcraft Comic. This issue, Freedom, tells a tale of Garrosh and Valeera killing Anduin. Here are some snippets that give a clue of the new card.
There’s a clue about growing power, which is something that is not unfamiliar to Miracle Rogue and Questing Adventurer. It is possible that each hero attack will be additive to more attack or power.
The second panel shows Valeera throwing a knife or using some psychokinetic ability. While throwing knives is depicted with Fan of Knives, which could allow a possible ranged ping attack, instead of using face damage.
New set themes – As of this writing, 4 Rogue class cards have been revealed, and they are interesting for the most part. Plague Scientist gives the Poisonous mechanic. Shadowblade gives one turn Immunity. Leeching Poison gives Lifesteal. Runeforge Haunter gives weapon Durability immunity. It would not be radical to expect the Hero card to deviate too much from these themes. Mostly, I see a theme of sustain, something Rogue never had prior to this expansion. I would also expect Poisonous to play a role somehow.
Minions – Back to the Savjz card reveal. We see a bunch of minions in the artwork, including Shadow Rager, Wailing Soul and a banshee of sorts. While a new hero power of summon a 5/1 Rager sounds fun for memes, it doesn’t seem too outstanding. There could be a way to summon stuff, give minions Poisonous or Deathrattle, etc.
Old tricks – Rogue has seen the Burgle and Coin mechanics pushed in recent sets. There is nothing in this set so far that has done that, and I don’t expect the new hero to be a thief. But never say never.
I will end this with a snippet of an interview with Mike Donais, which is something about the power level of the new card.
Rogue legendaries haven’t disappointed recently (well, The Caverns Below, for other reasons), and this one is expected to be good as well. While I will auto-craft the card for reasons, I am still excited to explore potential new directions for Rogue.