Rogue Cards Banished to the Shadow Realm

Rogue Cards Banished to the Shadow Realm

By now, everyone who plays Hearthstone should be aware that Crystal Rogue aka Quest Rogue, is getting a nerf. Instead of requiring playing 4 cards with the same name, it will require playing 5 cards with the same name. There still isn’t word on when the card is going to get changed, but it is the only known card to get hit in the near future. Team 5 devs chalked up the nerf for two main reasons:

  1. Crystal Rogue wasn’t fun to play against.
  2. Crystal Rogue inhibited control decks and caused a more aggressive meta.

Despite being a Rogue apologist, I am mostly okay with this happening. Yes, I think Rogue gets hit with nerfs every time. Yes, I think other cards should have also been included in the nerf. I find losing to Primordial Glyph more damning than losing to Crystal Rogue. All in all, the story of this nerf makes me wonder how rigorous the play-testing process is. The negative effects it caused should have been expected I think.

That’s all the opinion I will provide. With any nerf, there is a chain reaction to other cards put in that deck. Crystal Rogue was unique in that the deck brought back a lot of old, boring cards. It was also very cheap to operate. Let’s look at some of the cards that will disappear from play once the nerf hits. Banished to the Shadow Realm, if you will.

A lay of the land

Below is a simple list (hsreplay.net) of all cards that appear in over 30% of Rogue decks, according to tracked Hearthstone Deck Tracker users.

rogue pop

One can assume the average Hearthstone player using HDT is better than the average Hearthstone player. But some good players use Track-o-Bot, and some use no tracker at all. This is just the population of HDT users.

The quest Caverns Below is in 56.5% of Rogue decks, so we could assume this is the representation of Crystal Rogue in all Rogue decks. Some cards have near identical usage, so we could assume those are definite staples. Other cards have higher usage, others lower.

Most popular Crystal Rogue

The most played Crystal Rogue list, by a big margin, is listed below:

top list.JPG

Predicted card shifts

  1. The Caverns Below – If the history of nerfs in Hearthstone are any indication, the cards typically become literally unplayable. While cards like Gadgetzan Auctioneer and Leeroy Jenkins have survived, more often than not, the card is gone. Aggro decks would feast on the extra turn, and any other decks should be able to get use from the extra turn. Really you are getting two turns on Crystal Rogue, since you need to play the 5-cost Caverns Below. The Paladin quest is represented in 1.3% of Paladin decks now. While I don’t expect it to sink this low, I think it will definitely be dropped by most players. There may be a few players who will continually trying to make it work.
  2. Youthful Brewmaster – Cheap bounce effects were Crystal Rogue’s MO, and this was identified immediately. While it will disappear almost entirely, it is a neutral card, so it will not be gone completely. In the past two weeks, the card was played 20k times outside of Rogue, notably 10k times by Priests, who sought to reuse powerful Battlecries.
  3. Gadgetzan Ferryman – This card has been through a lot in it’s short history, first being known as a bad card reveal for Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, when the class was in trouble. It finally saw use specifically for Crystal Rogue. This card will fall with the nerf, and I expect it to be played just as much as the Quest card.
  4. Vanish – Vanish will literally vanish once the nerf hits. It was a card used in the past when Mill Rogue was a thing, and has no uses outside of that. With the future list of Quest Rogue in flux, it is possible that Vanish just becomes too expensive to play. Best case scenario is that it remains a Quest staple.
  5. Novice Engineer – This card did a lot for completing the Rogue quest, and was often the trigger card for activating the quest. Being a free card and plus card advantage, Novice Engineer may never go away. Novice Engineer was played 100k times outside of Rogue in the past two weeks. It will see play in Mage, which would serve as extra card draw.
  6. Stonetusk Boar – One of the most boaring cards around, this fit well as a 5/5 charge after the Quest was achieved. Another free Neutral card, this card would never disappear completely. It was played 40k times in the past two weeks outside of Rogue, and will likely only appear in Hunter.
  7. Bilefin Tidehunter – Bilefin was not immediately identified by the pros as an optimal card for the list, but was just too good at providing 10/10 for 2 mana. Being a token creator and a Murloc, the card will still see play, as it was played 170k times outside of Rogue in the past two weeks. I expect it being played in Token Druid and Shaman.
  8. Glacial Shard – Another later addition to the final optimized list. It had use in protecting the weak minions on the board to get bounced. The card was played 50k times outside of Rogue in the past two weeks, mostly in Shaman (24k).
  9. Igneous Elemental – The Flame Elemental generator was identified right away as a good Quest Rogue card, and this one provided 2 of them. The card isn’t really going anywhere, as it was played 130k times outside of Rogue in the past two weeks. It saw most play in Shaman again (59k), owing to token and elemental synergy.
  10. Fire Fly – Out of all the known Crystal Rogue ingredients, I think Fire Fly will take the smallest hit. It was played 2.3 million times outside of Rogue in the past two weeks by other classes. The card is just too much value. Still an elemental and having token synergy, it provides a lot of stats for the cost. I do play this myself in Aggro Water Rogue, and it is just a good Rogue card for what it does. It will see play in Druid and Shaman, and some Rogue.

Upshot

Rogue decks are going to be seen a lot less. In some ways, Crystal Rogue was the budget deck to play for people who don’t have a bunch of legendaries for the class. The new Miracle Rogue has expenses and Water Rogue sure isn’t cheap either. The card quality will improve with some boring cards leaving.

All of it is really up in the air, as we still don’t know when this nerf is coming, and there is an expansion coming out in August. We may have this changed Rogue pool for just a little while. Or it will be completely moot when new cards are here.

A Letter to Yogg-Saron

A Letter to Yogg-Saron

A Yogg-Saron golden. I don’t know if I’m going to keep it. Cuz it can yield me any legendary I want. Em. I mean, it’s nice to have gold cards. But gold legendaries are a bit too much dust. I’m gonna play with it in the meantime, considering Rogues don’t have any endgame anymore. I might just keep it around.

-GreenRanger 4.26.16

Dear Yogg,

Hi, Old God of Death. Or whatever your title is. You don’t know who I am, I’m sure you interact with tens of thousands of people each day. We first met just a little over 5 months ago. I didn’t know what to think of you at first. I thought you were a little ridiculous at first.

yogg unpack.png
Don’t know if I’m keeping it.

I slotted you into the deck I played a bit. MalyRogue deck I think. You were to be the secondary win condition to Malygos, given the heavy spell usage of the deck. What the hell, why not.

Hearthstone Screenshot 04-26-16 20.02.29.png
Yogg’s first victim.

Weird things started happening in my Hearthstone games. I mean, why wouldn’t weird and unpredictable things happen when you are virtually rolling a 300-sided die for eternity? I got weird combinations of minions, secrets for a non-secret class, lots of card draw, and random mass destruction! The game was out of control when you took over, but it felt just so awesome! It felt great to be bailed out of an impossible escape. It felt great to have all these random cards working in no particular order. It felt just fun. You were the doomsday device I set upon the world when the muscular, square-jawed hero had beat me up good and had the pistol pressed against my forehead.

Hearthstone Screenshot 04-27-16 00.00.28.png
Boars and trees and dogs and wolves and imps and dragons.

I had the most fun I ever had. I wasn’t even all that upset when you caused my demise in games. It was hella fun.

Of course, the initial impression of pure silly madness was not an immediate dismissal of your talents. Other people were discovering the same thing that I was, while not completely reliable, you did win more games than you lost. And that is all that really matters in this game. Good players started spreading your gospel in decks online. First in some weird Hunter deck called Yogg n Load. Then in some weird Mage deck called Chinese Tempo Mage. I played various decks that season, and with your help, I achieved Rank 5, a new high in Ranked Play.

Hearthstone Screenshot 05-31-16 14.37.43.png
eSports! I lost this game by the end of this sequence.

All was well.

The grinding summer of 2016 came, one that seemed very agitated in Hearthstone. The meta became, for the lack of a better phrase, “stale as fuck,” and people grew restless.  While chaos was festering within the Hearthstone community, you, the quintessential madman, were just doing your thing. Becoming a Druid staple minion, and still stealing games, and awarding people with putting you in your deck.

Hearthstone Screenshot 07-12-16 18.53.54.png
Too confusing for new Murloc heroes.

Tensions often ran high, and you caught everyone’s attention. People realized you were unfairly deciding games. A rogue arbiter who played by his own rules of judication. Didn’t give a flying fuck about the board state or the score. You did your thing. After the initial joy of running you out there in my decks, your popularity turned the tide against me. I saw you for the scoundrel you were, stealing my games, and lowering my win percentage. I wasn’t particularly angry about games I lost to you, just accepting the spectacle for what it was. Blizzard was getting heat for your card design, but remained steadfast in the pros of your existence. You were fun and catered to people who enjoyed the fun you provided.

Hearthstone Screenshot 09-28-16 23.52.08.png
Last loss to Yogg?

The tipping point came in a tournament game, when a player discounted all his hard work and preparation, and just cited you as the sole reason he is currently playing professional eSports. Just by playing a card, you can be immediately transformed from some guy in a dark, dusty apartment, with cracked paint, to some guy playing professional eSports in a fancy tavern-styled computer set, with a headset and sitting in a fancy gaming chair. It was too much. You were the card that was single-handedly going to destroy the reputation of competitive Hearthstone. You were the card that was going to toss skill out of the equation. You were going to be the death of Wizard Poker.

Hearthstone Screenshot 09-09-16 01.01.52.png
Heal me high and give me armor.

Things are quieter now. People are a little happier, and frankly have a little more confidence in this game. The new retirement community is nice I hear. Plenty of green space out in the pasture. Or is it a light arcane blue I hear? Lots of lively folks like Warsong Commander and Starving Buzzard to talk to. Tuskarr Totemic is heading out too, not sure if you have lodging plans. I’m sure I haven’t seen the last of you. No, one day, you’re gonna surprise me straight out of the blue. I won’t see it coming. Whether you win the game is another thing, but I sure will miss seeing you around here. You brought upon an inexorable feeling that made me feel like a kid again. It felt good. But in the end, this is no child’s game.

Hearthstone Screenshot 10-03-16 17.05.20.png

Later, Yogg. It’s been real.

Sincerely,

GreenRanger

Yogg Photo Album

The Hearthstone Nerf Everyone Wanted + Reynad’s Hot Take

The Hearthstone Nerf Everyone Wanted + Reynad’s Hot Take

Social media has been an impetus for forcing change in the world, and it seems to be happening more and more now. While Twitter and YouTube have been the vehicles for change in real-life events, Reddit has been the weapon of choice in Wizard Poker. The hive of Hearthstone Reddit has become the de facto voice for the Hearthstone community, and the devs claim to monitor it all the time. (I got most of my page views from posting on Reddit!) With that said, it’s not surprising that today’s nerfs (http://us.battle.net/hearthstone/en/blog/20303031/upcoming-balance-changes-update-613-9-28-2016) happened.

Background

DRR19-Class-Freq.-by-Weeks.png
Courtesy of Vicious Syndicate Meta Report #19

Hey, we’re also in the Information Meta! While it may not be easy to quantify what you’re facing in Ranked. Shaman has skyrocketed to the top of the meta, well ahead of the nearest classes. It has been dominant since Old Gods put things together, and Karazhan made the class more well-rounded. Warrior was once top dog, and was brought down a bit by the Hunter rise. That in turn, shot the Shamans back up. Mage and Druid seem to be the “healthy” meta classes, while Warlock has fallen. Paladin, Rogue, and Priest have been in the cellar.

Quick takes on the changes

  • Rockbiter Weapon – A little torn about this one, given I won’t think of Rockbiter not being 1-mana. The pressure to combine it with Doomhammer likely did it in, but honestly when has a Shaman deck not run 2x Rockbiter? Opens up room for spell Shaman.
  • Tuskarr Totemic – This one is really well-deserved. Getting the result of Totem Golem and Mana Tide Totem is virtually 5 mana of things for 3 mana.
  • Call of the Wild – This one doesn’t seem too significant at first, but think about having 2 9-mana cards in your deck. Seems a bit heavy, though the card is too good still to not run 1 copy.
  • Execute – I think this is way overdue. Warrior removal is so good, this shouldn’t hurt too much. Honestly, Warriors often have the leftover mana to armor up.
  • Charge – While requiring more setup than Leeroy + Shadowstep, 20+ damage in 1 turn is still not very fun or interactive. This is consistent with the anti-charge philosophy the game is heading.
  • Abusive Sergeant – Like Leper Gnome, Abusive Sergeant is long known as an Aggro deck announcer. While this target may be for Shamans, it does hurt Zoolock decks. Could aggro decks now consider Lance Carrier?
  • Yogg-Saron – Stop the presses!

About Yogg

The devs floated some ideas about how to deal with Yogg in some recent interviews, given the outcome of competitive tournament games being decided by him. There was talk of the card being outright removed for tournament play, relegated to Wild permanently, or nerfs. The Yogg changes are two-fold, stopping the stream of spells when Yogg dies, and adding Overload on certain Shaman spells. I have no quantitative evidence, but it seems like Yogg kills himself over 50% of the time. So, we’re in for much shorter Yogg spell barrages. To use a football analogy, Yogg was always a hail mary pass, with a very strong-armed quarterback, and tall receivers. Or maybe like a 55-60 yard field goal. Now Yogg is more like trying to score a touchdown on laterals with the whole team. This primarily will hurt Druid, given it is a near staple for the class, and to a smaller extent Mage. On the plus side, a Yogg story is going to be more epic, and not happening a decent amount of the time.

“Everyone”

This is a fair point, in that the “everyone” that wanted these changes are the vocal minority. Points have been made that most people are more casual players. Hearthstone Reddit represents a minority that is more competitive (and possibly more immature) than the average player. The ban list cuts down on randomness in Tuskarr and Yogg, which are simply rewarding lesser players with wins over better ones. On the other hand, Yogg is much less fun, with spells ending sooner.

Reynad’s Hot Take

Reynad has never been afraid to take unpopular positions, and that continued today. While the majority of folks liked the nerf list, he didn’t think it did much.

reynad.PNG

Is he right or wrong? The claim that Shaman got a buff is odd at first, but check this out.

vs19.PNG
Courtesy of Vicious Syndicate Meta Reaper #19

Shaman fails against Warrior are no secret, and there is a little red in those matchups. Control Shaman is pretty bad against Yogg Druid and Tempo Mage, so that get’s a bump. The dominant decks in Aggro and Midrange Shaman were kept in check by Control/Dragon Warrior, so that is probably what Reynad is talking about. Of course, we have to consider how the 2 nerfs on Shaman would affect matchups against other classes in this grid.

Final thoughts

Rogue didn’t get touched (thank the Old Gods) so overall, this is fairly ho-hum. Shaman is obviously dominant, and the feedback has caused real change. I think a few changes were overdue and necessary. I’m glad this will shut people up for a little while, until there is the next thing to complain about.

Extra: Phrases to Use for Future Hearthstone Memeing

With Keeping Hearthstone Fresh in mind

too oppressive to our players

improve the Standard format in a more permanent way

the most fun type of randomness

we intend to tone down its power enough that it won’t be an automatic inclusion in every Hunter deck and overshadow other strategies

closer in power level to other existing and future removal tools

We’ve redesigned the card Charge in a way that provides opportunities for minion combat, but does not enable strategies that intend to win without allowing opponents to interact.

 

Blades (Not) Ready

Blades (Not) Ready

Speak softly and carry a big Nerf bat.

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.

Image courtesy of above hyperlinked page.
  1. Blade Flurry costs 4 now
  2. 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

  1. Ancient of Lore – a big hit to this card, it is rather overcosted now
  2. Force of Nature – this kills the Druid combo finally, but can be used for token Druid as well
  3. Keeper of the Grove – i think this card is rather overcosted now with the 2/2 body
  4. Ironbeak Owl – perfectly fine with this, can help diversity with Spellbreaker
  5. Big Game Hunter – i don’t think this is too bad, anti-tempoing 2.5 mana for hard removal is okay
  6. Hunter’s Mark – fine with this, somewhat overdue
  7. Knife Juggler – not much of a nerf at all really, still a really annoying card
  8. Leper Gnome – pretty good nerf
  9. Arcane Golem – Warsong’d
  10. Molten Giant – pretty good nerf
  11. Master of Disguise – sure, nerfing a unique card for the greater good of card creation