How Hearthstone’s nerfs transform the world’s biggest digital card game

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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is about to change, and I’m not talking about the expansion.

Sure, Whispers of the Old Gods will bring a lot of new cards and modes, but Blizzard’s planned nerfs to many of the titles original spells and minions will also have profound impact on the future of Hearthstone, the leader in the $1.2 billion digital card game market (it makes $20 million a month).

That’s why we decided to look at each nerf and see how it will change the card’s popularity and the balance of the game.

This is the nerf a lot of players have waited for. Force of Nature, combined with Savage Roar, was a devastating combo that created the basis for most Druid decks (called Combo Druid). Now that these Treants don’t have charge, the combo is useless. Sure, the 2/2 minions no longer die at the end of your turn, but your opponent shouldn’t have a huge problem clearing them out with spells like Consecration or Lightning Storm since they have such low health (my crazy editor thinks it’s still a good value if those Treants can survive an area of effect spell … but they won’t). It looks like a consolation, but getting rid of Charge pretty much kills this card as a way to deal burst damage.

I think we’re going to see a lot of play for Ancient of Lore going forward. Sure, reducing the draw from two cards to one might not seem like a huge deal, but a lot of Druid players like playing Ancient of the Lore because it would help them get the setup they needed for the Druid combo: Force of Nature and Savage Roar. Now that Blizzard nerfed Force of Nature, that late game draw isn’t nearly as important. Still, restoring 5 health and getting to play a 5/5 minion is good value for 7 mana card, although at that late stage of the game you might be more concerned with removal or playing your own threats.

I don’t think this nerf is too devastating for Keeper of the Grove. People always played him for his Battlecry, either silencing a minion or dealing 2 damage. Getting to keep a 2/4 minion afterward was just a nice bonus. Your opponent will have a much easier time killing him now that he only has 2 health, but you can still get plenty of value from that Silence — especially since Ironbeak Owl has received a nerf. (See below.)

Poor Rogue players. This is probably the most intense nerf. Blade Furry used to be a great tool for clearing the board and even finishing off the enemy hero, especially with the help of Deadly Poison, which adds 2 damage to your weapon. Now it costs 2 extra mana and can only deal damage to enemy minions, which makes the card much less versatile. Now, Blade Furry probably was a bit too strong, but these nerfs may have Rogues looking for different ways of clearing an enemy’s board. On the bright side, the gives Blizzard more freedom in making better weapons for Rogues, since it doesn’t have to worry about the synergy with Blade Furry being too cheap.

Man, I’m surprised Blizzard is going this hard after Rogues. It’s already one of the least-played classes. Master of Disguise could previously give one of your minions Stealth, which would protect them from harm (outside of spells that targeted random or multiple minions) until they attacked. Now, that Stealth effect will only last one turn, so it doesn’t have the good synergy it once did with cards like Nat Pagle and Cult Master. Obviously, this makes Master of Disguise much less viable.

Ironbeak Owl was always popular simply because it was the cheapest way for most classes to Silence an enemy. Even with the additional mana cost, that will still be true. It hurts its ability to stop early threats with annoying abilities like the Warrior’s Armorsmith, but it can still help manage strong minions like Sylvanas Windrunner and Tirion Fordring.

Knife Juggler is another nerfed card that I still think will see some play. Having his attack go down to 2 hurts him, but you were probably playing him more for his ability to randomly damage other enemies anyway, which still exists. Honestly, the fact that cards like Muster for Battle and Haunted Creeper won’t be legal in Standard will hurt Knife Juggler more than this nerf.

Just like with Knife Juggler, Leper Gnome gets a small nerf to his attack. This one will hurt more, though. Leper Gnome was typically played on the first turn because his 2 damage could take out a lot of early minions, and you were able to deal 2 face damage while trading with your opponent. You’ll still get to do that hero damage, but Leper Gnome won’t trade with nearly as many cards now that he only has 1 attack.

This is a big one. Big Game Hunter was an auto-include in a lot of decks because he could instantly destroy many of the game’s strongest minions for just 3 mana. He still has that power, but it’ll cost 5 mana instead. Players might begin looking for more creative ways to destroy those big threats now. Big Game Hunter should still see some play. Even at 5 mana, the ability to immediately destroy any enemy minion with 7 attack or more is pretty useful. He’s just not going to be the obvious solution he once was.

With the old Molten Giant, you could play it for free once you had 10 or less health. Now, you have to wait until you only have 5 health. That’s a much more dangerous place to be, since a lot of spells and minions can easily take you out from there, no matter how many free threats you play. Molten Giant gets an indirect buff just because Big Game Hunter, the bane of its existence, now costs more. With fewer Big Game Hunters out there, Molten Giant might become a more viable option. Even if you play him with 10 health, you’re still getting an 8/8 minion for 5 mana.

I have a hard time imagining anyone playing this card now. Before, aggressive decks liked him as a finisher. You could use him to deal that last bit of damage you needed to win without worrying about giving your opponent a Mana Crystal since, you know, they’re dead. But without Charge, you can’t play Arcane Golem immediately, which means you’re giving your opponent extra Mana which will help them play better and more cards. And what are you doing that for? To play a 3 mana minion with 4/4 stats. That’s a decent value, but it’s not worth giving your opponent a Mana Crystal. It might be a decent draw in Arena, but you can find better options when constructing decks.

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