Another major balance update is coming to Hearthstone. Scheduled to arrive on February 5th, this latest update will see more cards from the classic set being changed, as well as a slightly overpowered Hunter spell that has been shaping the meta game for quite some time.
Blizzard has often spoken about card changes individually, but this time—with most of the changes being for the same reason—we’ve been given a group explanation:
“We think Hearthstone is most fun when strategies are consistently evolving. When new cards are released, we’d like for older expansion decks to get a few interesting new pieces while also allowing you to experiment with the totally new archetypes that emerge. When Basic and Classic cards become so broadly effective—no matter what you’re facing—that they drive what deck styles are considered viable every expansion, then it makes that goal difficult to achieve.
Basic and Classic are sets that, ideally, should embody the flavor and mechanics of each Class. As we’ve mentioned before, cards in these sets can become an issue when they make all other strategies look less interesting. This doesn’t mean is that all Basic and Classic cards should be ineffective, however. It’s hugely important to us that these sets contain a good number of cards that are great tools for different situations and deck archetypes.
We’re changing these particular cards because each one has been highly prevalent, regardless of what strategies have been popular or what other cards have existed around them. When Basic and Classic cards become this ubiquitous, they take away some of the flexibility players have when building decks, ultimately stifling the diversity of decks we see when playing Hearthstone.
The following changes are intended to shift these cards from general-purpose “auto-includes” into options that are more likely to be chosen for decks that are focused on strategies that capitalize on what these cards have to offer.”
So, that’s how Blizzard sees these card changes. Now, here’s my two pennies worth on each individual nerf:
Cold Blood – Will cost 2 Mana. (Up from 1)
As a Rogue main, I found this change to be a rather annoying one. Not only does changing the cost make Cold Blood unplayable in the ever popular Odd Rogue, it also makes it unplayable in general. Rogue already has a 2-mana combo card spell that does 4 damage, and it’s hard to think of a deck that would now include both Eviscerates and Cold Bloods at 2-mana each.
Flametongue Totem – Will cost 3 mana. (Up from 2)
Flametongue Totem isn’t as powerful as it used to be in the days of aggro Shaman. Nevertheless, it’s still an auto-include in any token Shaman list. This change will not only be a huge nerf to those lists, but also to even Shamans, who had great use for Flametongue Totem with their cheap hero power. I still expect to see Flametongue Totem see play in the future, but obviously it’s power level has now dropped substantially.
Equality – Will cost 4 mana. (Up from 2)
Another strange (and rather disappointing) nerf. Equality is a card that requires another card to properly trigger its effect, so with that in mind it seems harsh that Blizzard has chosen to nerf it. Two card combos are more difficult to pull off, often meaning that cards such as Equality already feel balanced enough, even when costed cheaply. Having said that, Equality is often found in slower control or OTK combo decks, so for that reason it might survive the nerf and still see some play.
Hunter’s Mark – Will cost 2 mana. (Up from 1)
This change is a decent one. Spell Hunter is particularly powerful right now, and although the nerf to Hunter’s Mark won’t drastically change it’s power level, it’s a step in the right direction.
Emerald Spellstone – Will cost 6 mana. (Up from 5)
What Blizzard said about this change:
“The only non-Basic or Classic card in this round of changes. We want to position Emerald Spellstone as an efficient mid- and late-game threat, so we’re moving its cost up by one to reduce its utility as an early-game, aggressive tempo option. This change—along with the Hunter’s Mark change—is aimed at addressing Hunter’s prevalence, while still leaving it as a viable option.”
This is my favourite change of this update by far. Emerald Spellstone was such a powerful card that having it in your hand—even during the mulligan—increased the win rate of certain Hunter Decks drastically. The increased mana cost won’t necessarily render the card useless, but it will no longer be an opening hand keep…right?
As always, any card that isn’t from the basic card set will be available for a full arcane dust refund for two weeks after the update goes live.