Blizzard Entertainment announced a new wave of nerfs for Hearthstone, which will go into effect on February 5. These mostly target cards from the Classic and Basic sets, which have been a part of the digital card game since its 2014 launch. Hunter, currently the game’s most powerful class, is seeing two of its most powerful cards changed.
Hearthstone is the king of the digital card game market. It has over 100 million registered players. Constant updates can help keep those fans happy (and the more people playing Hearthstone, the more money Blizzard can potentially make with sales of card packs).
“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,” Blizzard notes in its blog detailing the nerfs. “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.”
Cold Blood, Flametongue Totem, and Hunter’s Mark are all Classic and Basic cards (which have been in the game since the beginning) that are seeing their mana cost go up by one. Equality, a Paladin spell that turns all minions’ HP to 1, is going up from 2 mana to 4. This spell combos with cards like Wild Pyromancer and Consecration, making it a cheap way to remove the opponents minions. Now that Equality costs 4, it won’t be so easy to pull off. The change also makes the card Shrink Ray from the current expansion, Rastakhan’s Rumble, a more attractive possibility for Paladin secks. At 5 mana, it sets all minions health and attack to 1
Hunter is also getting a card nerfed that isn’t from the Classic or Basic sets. Emerald Spellstone, from the Kobolds & Catacombs expansion, will go from 5 mana to 6 mana. This card gives Hunters a way to fill their board with 3/3 wolves early in the game. The nerf will make that powerful effect more expensive.
Blizzard used to be cautious about making balance changes to existing cards, but it has been changing that policy. This is the second wave of nerfs to happen during Rastakhan’s Rumble, which released on December 4.
It’s also interesting that we’re getting these nerfs now. We’re nearing the end of Hearthstone’s current rotation cycle. When the next expansion comes out, cards from the three oldest non-Basic or Classic sets will no longer be eligible in Standard formats. This would have included Emerald Spellstone. Blizzard also moves some Classic and Basic cards to the Hall of Fame during the transition. Hall of Fame cards are also no longer eligible for Standard.
Instead of moving these Classic and Basic cards to the Hall of Fame, Blizzard is opting to nerf them instead. And while it was at it, it gave Hunter a little extra attention.
Early reaction from Hearthstone’s biggest streamers are mixed. Frodan, one of Hearthstone esports’ most popular broadcasters, is happy to see the game receive more constant updates.
• December – expansion launch
• Balance patch for holidays/playoffs
• February balance patch weeks before champs
• Hall of Fame for March?
• Rotation in April???
— Frodan (@Frodan) January 31, 2019
Magic: The Gathering Hall of Famer and Hearthstone commentator Brian Kibler, however, is worried that so many cards are being nerfed to oblivion.
“Should we listen to Kibler and make a rotating core set like he suggested when we first introduced Standard?”
“No let’s just slowly nerf every Classic card into the ground!” https://t.co/37PmoI7Bh7
— Brian Kibler (@bmkibler) January 31, 2019
Kripparian, the game’s most popular streamer, is mostly happy.
NERF BAT STRIKES AGAIN! RIP: Cold Blood, Flametongue, Equality, and… Hunters? Don't like that Odd Paladin will be our new overlord, but I DO like any changes at this frequency https://t.co/VjOgWNh2hS pic.twitter.com/A8YBsYe5N7
— TSM Kripparrian (@Kripparrian) January 31, 2019
One thing is sure. These changes will have an impact on the game, and sometimes that alone can keep players engaged, especially as one expansion becomes older and before the next one releases.