We are barely done processing all the information from the Masters Tour: Murder at Castle Nathria, and already, the Hearthstone metagame has been shaken up significantly with balance patch 24.0.3.
With the balance patch released yesterday, classes that took a hot start into the new expansion have been slowed down a bit while those who stalled out at the beginning received help.
In this article, I would like to share my impressions about the recent balance patch, in light of everything we learned this weekend when the world's best competitors battled it out.
Druid, Mage, Shaman, and Warlock were known competitive classes going into the Masters Tour event, but Rogue was the real show stealer this weekend.
Tempo Graveyard Rogue, also called Lamby Rogue, looked like the gem of the tournament rounding up several line-ups as the best 4th deck.
Yet, if we look at the data we had on the class up until this point, Rogue was easily among the classes who needed a bit of help rather than the ones with a strong competitive status.
As such, one could wonder if the patch isn't coming in too early and could have missed some important data leading to another unbalance in the Hearthstone metagame.
Let's explore what we learned from Master's Tour: Murder at Castle Nathria and use this information to assess the consequences of the newly released balance patch.
Rogue has established itself as a competitive class.
Going into this weekend, there were 5 classes that everybody expected to see across the various line-ups: Druid, Mage, Shaman, Hunter, & Warlock. Except for Shaman, all these classes had 2 known competitive archetypes and could adapt to different strategies. This created a no-brainer that at least 2 or 3 of these classes would be in every single line-up.
On the other end, there were 3 classes that no one expected to see during the tournament: Demon Hunter, Paladin, and Warrior.
The big question mark was on Rogue and Priest--both classes which seemed to have mixed results going into the tournament but who also showed potential in the hands of the best players.
Naga Priest was a good deck during the 3 days of competition doing what most people expected it would be good at Beating Druid. At the end of Swiss, the deck was a top 10 competitor behind the powerhouses of Imp Warlock, Alignment Druid, or Control Shaman, but better than Hunter or Mage. Overall, it felt like Priest was doing what one could expect from the class, posting a decent 51% win rate.
Valeera's signature deck for the tournament, Miracle Rogue, didn't finish so far from Anduin's mark, just 2 spots ahead, listed as the 6th best deck.
The build didn't feel like a top-tier archetype in the way it wasn't drawing bans away from Shaman, Warlock, and Druid, who took the majority of the heat in that regard.
Yet, it appeared to be the 4th best deck to bring to the tournament, the most banned trio feeling like the go-to brings.
So why are we talking about Rogue so much after the tournament, yet barely anyone is mentioning Priest? There are two reasons for this :
- Naga Priest was kind of expected, as the deck is routinely listed as a top 5 performer on ladder according to stats. Although the deck was mostly expected in a line-up that targets Druid, it isn't so surprising to see people bring the archetype. At least compared to Miracle Rogue and its abysmal 46% win rate and tier 4 placement at the time of the tournament.
- With some changes from the balance patch leaking, the news that Edwin, Defias Kingpin could be changed to a 3 mana 3/3 spread heated debates amongst the community
This effectively means a buff to a class that was top 4 a couple of days ago in what is the best representation of the competitive environment in Hearthstone.
Even before the balance patch notes were released, many were already calling that Valeera would be overpowered once the changes launched.
Now that we've seen all the nerfs and buffs and have had a chance to test them out, let's see who the real winners and losers are.
2. Demon Hunter, Paladin, and Warrior finally get their much-needed help
With 18 buffs across the 3 classes, things are bound to change for the trio at the bottom of the competitive standings.
Personally, I am quite excited about the changes to Demon Hunter as these changes are poised to impact several archetypes. Warrior receiving 7 different buffs should find a way to get something out of those. Lastly, I'm a bit worried about Paladin's raw power level even with those buffs, but the Pure Paladin build might be worth considering again.
With the buffs to Relic Vault and Relic of Extinction, the newly introduced mechanic is looking much better now. The Relics might finally be able to be fast enough in the way they scale to match the pace of other midrange, value-oriented decks. Turn 2 Relic Vault into turn 3 Relic of Phantasms should already help a ton, now that the coin isn't needed to curve both cards.
The added stats to Bibliomite, Magnifying Glaive, and Battleworn Vanguard are all great for an aggressive approach. So far, the aggressive low-hand size deck felt too soft in the early game to be able to pressure the likes of Shaman or Mage, especially when faced against a Renathal. With more solid tools now, Demon Hunter has a chance for its aggressive decks to be effective once again.
Lastly, The changes to Abyssal Depths and Irebound Brute are the most surprising, but could also be the best out of the seven the class received. Indeed, one doesn't need to go so far back in time to remember LoveStorm dominating the first Masters Tour of the year with Brute Demon Hunter in their line-up.
Already, some players have shared very interesting ideas around those changes, like this build from DracoCatt :
To be honest, I was expecting a lot more help for Paladin in this patch. And although I like the Recruit and the Pure themes for the class, I was hoping for some love regarding their Secrets package. Simply reverting an old nerf on the Sword of the Fallen, giving it back 3 durability could have been something interesting to consider.
It pains me, but I think Paladin suffers from the fact that the class over performs in the lower ranks*, because of its accessibility in terms of game play. In the competitive sphere though, I would be surprised to see Paladin make a comeback in the tournament metagame anytime soon.
*Mech paladin is currently a tier 2 deck with 51.8% win rate in Bronze through Gold ranks, the class isn't even listed in the Legend filter
With a mix of Control and Enrage warrior cards being buffed, Garrosh could be taking different directions with this patch.
Similarly to Paladin, I feel like the class is so far back compared to the other competitive classes that it might not be enough to make Warrior relevant again.
Indeed, even if the Sanguine Depths and Imbued Axe are key cards to the archetype, I have a very hard time picturing the deck working in the current environment against Shaman, Warlock, or Druid.
Similarly, Cruel Taskmaster didn't seem like the right minion to get changed. I would have loved to see the health of a more essential unit receive a buff. I could think of Frothing Berserker going to a 2/5 or Acolyte of Pain being bumped to a 1/4 for example.
As for the Control archetype, I think this ship has long sailed in the current Hearthstone metagame. The strength of the dominant Control Warrior deck was its ability to cheat mana and develop a ton of pressure while answering what the opponent was doing.
While the revert to Shield Shatter is a step in the right direction, none of the other buffs helps it where it really needs help: a viable win condition.
If Control Warrior can't have that though, it needs to be able to disrupt the win condition of its opponents, which is currently done through the neutral cards like Theotar, the Mad Duke for example. As such, I don't really see how the changes help Warrior make a comeback, even if they make the class a bit stronger overall.
On the other end, with Denathrius now in the game, I completely understand why they can't really revert From the Depth. I mean who actually wants Sir Denathrius coming down on 4?
3. Rogue hits the jackpot
After reading the intro and first part of the article, I'm pretty sure you expected this one. But the pun with Jackpot was too good to miss, and also, it's completely accurate.
Rogue is the biggest winner of the patch, as it is the sole class out of the 4 receiving buffs that actually felt competitive in the last world-class tournament.
Forever in the Hearthstone world, Rogue has been a class that is highly unreliable when it comes to statistics. Because of how the class is built, and the mechanics it pushes in its gameplay, Rogue isn't suited for players who can't dedicate a lot of time to Hearthstone, and to the Rogue class specifically.
As a result, even when Rogue is considered a top-tier contender by the competitive community, the class's statistics will have it appear to be below average. It is exactly what happened in this case, with Miracle Rogue performing at the top level but showing as a tier 4 deck in terms of overall stats.
If we look at buffs, I like three of them, and I'm terrified at the fourth.
Sprint was largely unused, and even with Swiftscale Trickster in the game, the card barely saw play. As a 5 mana card, it still doesn't look appealing compared to other cards in Rogue.
Halkias is the other buff I don't really believe in. Yes, Stealth makes the card much better, but the Secret package still is quite bad overall. It will probably take new Secrets in order to make Halkias appealing enough.
As a buff that could be surprisingly good, Silverleaf Poison could be a consideration now as a "1 mana, draw 2 cards over 2 turns" on Valeera's dagger. Most archetypes for Rogue currently rely on drawing a lot (Miracle, Mine, Graveyard...) and could look to splash a copy of the card to help in that regard.
And then, there is Edwin, Defias Kingpin the all-time great nemesis of the balance team. It took them 5 years to change the old Edwin Van Cleef card as he consistently was a top-tier card in Rogue.
This new Edwin is a bit different, relying heavily on the support available in the Rogue class. Yet, it's pretty clear that we are living in a good time for Edwin to rule and reign.
Whether you want to dig into your deck or present a big threat to your opponent, Van Cleef now costing 3 mana should improve a ton. This is very clearly the scary buff of the bunch.
4. Shaman takes the biggest hit
While the change to Celestial Alignment is the biggest card change in the patch, I believe Shaman is the class which lost the most power overall.
Indeed, Druid can easily bounce back with Ramp and keep on abusing its classic mechanics there. I do expect Druid to be weaker as it lost some flexibility. But Shaman's nerf impacted a card that was arguably an auto-include in all its archetypes.
The one-two punch of Snowfall Guardian into Brilliant Macaw allowed Shaman to race those decks back because these units would be huge and their board would be dead in the water. That option is now gone since the stat growth has been removed.
I don't expect Shaman to become a bad class because of the change. Snowfall is likely to continue finding a place in Shaman just like Hunter won't stop playing the Wild Seeds and Imp Warlock won't stop running copies of Vile Library. But I think this could cost Thrall a substantial amount of games in the long run.
Aggressive decks are still going to have a run for their money up against such freeze effects. Shaman probably will need to find a way to defend for a couple more turns now, or maybe play a bit more AoE or healing cards to keep that momentum going.
Another road to explore for Shaman could be to put the emphasis on the Evolve mechanic a bit more in their builds. Snowfall Guardian without its buffs ends up being a great target for Muck Pools.
While I am pleased to see this many changes all at once, I am also a bit disappointed to see so many of them look like they won't impact much of the metagame.
Warrior and Paladin aren't looking like they got enough help in order to challenge the already established classes in a competitive environment. And Druid, Hunter, Shaman, and Warlock didn't look like they took a big enough hit in order to leave their spots either.
I do have some hope for Demon Hunter which looks like it received impactful changes, and I am very curious about how the class will develop in the coming days and weeks.
Lastly, I am worried about Rogue. Although it might never become a problematic class below the diamond ranks, as Garrote Rogue never did back when it was destroying the legend ladder at the end of 2021, the class could be a powerhouse in the competitive ranks. And this could mask the improvements that would otherwise appear in the other classes.
That is it for this lengthy article about Patch 24.0.3. I hope you enjoyed it! Feel free to discuss or share some feedback on Twitter @den_CCG.
Good Game Everyone,