What a week. BunnyHoppor cemented his status of absolute legend of the game, capping his already huge list of accomplishments with a world title. Europe took back the crown after Asia won it for three years in a row. And we had a showcase of a Team Liquid finals with DeadDraw as the runner-up.
Most of the talks about the tournament were focused around the metagame and how limited it was during the tournament. Indeed, the World Championship felt like a face-off between the current dominant combo decks and their immediate counters. With the counters emerging victorious as both BunnyHoppor and DeadDraw shared the same line-up with rather control-oriented decks.
This line-up being very successful during the tournament could be a great sign. It shows that the expected quartet of combo decks (Ramp Druid, Quest DH, Miracle Rogue, and Bless Priest) is beatable and the metagame isn't in such a dead end as it seemed before the tournament.
Most of the talks that could be seen in the chat during matches or on social media were referring to how long or boring some matches were when two control decks faced each other. This led to the impression that the current dominant decks getting nerfed wouldn't lead to a more enjoyable play environment.
As a result, even with a great World Championships tournament, the community wasn't going to settle for anything less than a big balance patch.
And Blizzard seemed to agree, as a massive patch note was recently released with several nerfs to the dominant classes and a ton of buffs for the Death Knight class. One could argue other classes might have deserved a bit of love, such as Warrior which is dead last in the ranking for some time now. But this massive patch note feels like a jump in the right direction.
Let's analyze the repercussions of this patch, and how it should shake the entire Hearthstone metagame.
Everyone is weaker to aggressive decks now
Demon Hunter's two best cards have been hit, which should slow any deck for the class quite a lot.
With Unleash Fel now only healing your healing on turn six, aggressive decks have a much better shot at punishing Demon Hunter before the class can recover. Especially decks with the ability to switch towards direct damage in the late game, such as Curse Imp Warlock, should be extremely glad to see Unleash Fel being changed.
As for the Relic of Dimensions, the card was amongst the strongest for the class. Paired with the Relic Vault, it was often the reason Quest Demon Hunter didn't even need to play Kurtrus in order to combo their opponent for a ton of damage. This should slow every Demon Hunter deck, while not impairing their ability to mana cheat in the late game.
Rogue and Priest are suffering a similar fate, seeing their highly synergistic archetypes being changed and now looking much slower. As a result, Miracle Rogue, Undead or Bless Priest should feel much weaker, either giving their opponent more time to set up their defenses, or aggressive decks more time to pressure them.
This second part is extremely important, as both decks tend to keep a lot of cards in hand for their combo turns. Against an aggressive opponent, they might be forced to use cards to answer their opponent's development, reducing how much they can do during their combo turns.
Decks like Aggro Druid, Pure Paladin, or Enrage Warrior could now have a shot at building enough board to be able to compete with those now.
Lastly, Druid is the least impacted by the wave of nerfs in regard to its defensive capacities. But the class is already the weakest of the bunch against swarming strategies. And there is another nerf that will heavily those matchups, but we'll come to that one a bit later.
How good is Death Knight now?
With the only nine buffs of this patch going to the new class, you can't help but wonder how much better will the Lich King be.
The Frost Rune only got an additional attack point to its Rime Sculptor, which doesn't seem to be much impactful. But the Unholy and Blood synergies got more help, enough to likely make a difference.
In the Unholy rune, I'm especially curious about the changes to Stitched Giant and Blightfang.
The first one means we could now consider playing the Giant on turn five routinely. The goal would be to summon a ton of cheap units in the first three turns and then curve Tomb Guardians and Army of the Dead, now joined by a big 8/8 giant. Most of the time until now, the card couldn't be played before turn six, and ended up feeling very slow as a result. Malignant Horror is another card that might be able to enter the equation now, filling a similar role as Tomb Guardians in the curve.
On fringe occasions, I imagine Corpse Bride can also unlock a pretty ridiculous turn five, where we would summon a 9/9 or 10/10 Risen Groom and discount Stitched Giant to zero in the process.
Blightfang might have been buffed twice in this patch. First, because it gained a health point, aligning it with the traditional 3/4 body expected for a 3-cost card in Hearthstone. Second, if combo decks indeed reduce in number, the card might see more decks it can abuse its battlecry against.
Lastly, a buff I am quite excited about is Obliterate, a card that wasn't seeing much play in the Blood Rune deck so far. Changing its condition to only taking 3 damage should make it much more versatile and give the deck another way to deal with big units. It is entirely possible for the deck to not need it in the end, but it is a nice card to have in the Lich King's arsenal.
Prince Renathal's nerf changes everything
When Hearthstone went from a 30-health game to a 40-health one, the way we played changed drastically. It probably is the reason Druid has been so good for the last five months or why aggressive decks have been struggling ever since.
It honestly feels impossible to measure how big of a change this one is, as it impacts virtually every single deck in Hearthstone.
First, I think we need to take a look at some burn decks that couldn't exist in the Prince Renathal era and wonder if they could come back. Decks like Quest Hunter, Garrote or Mine Rogue, or Bioluminescence Shaman to name a few, are all decks that had their life expectancy shortened by Prince Renathal. Their damage output usually lacked to consistently beat opponents starting with 40 health.
Almost every aggressive deck could also be extremely happy with the news. Such as Aggro Demon Hunter or Aggro Shadow Priest, for example, who might become viable options in the nerfed classes.
And last but not least, this could actually be a huge buff to the class needing it the most: Warrior.
With Prince Renathal arguably killing the aggressive archetype as a whole, Garrosh lost what he was best at: demolishing damage-based decks with way too much armor to hope of getting through. And with its best match-up gone from the metagame, Warrior never felt like an appealing class, although it still possesses the best defensive arsenal in the game.
If decks like the ones I mentioned above come back, Warrior might gain a reason to resuscitate its control archetype as well, joining Paladin and Blood Death Knight among potential counters to these decks.
Overall, the single biggest loser from this change probably is Druid, which explains why the class got nerfed less than its counterpart dominant classes. As a return of some aggressive decks might be precursory to Ramp Druid struggling much more than it did for the second part of 2022.
The cards have been reshuffled, and a whole new testing period starts for the Christmas Holidays.
What should you play?
Of course, I wasn't going to leave you without a few decks to try for this new metagame. So here is a list of decks I think have merit to be tested early on in the new metagame.
Board-based decks :
Curse Imp Warlock
Unholy Blood Death Knight
Aggro, Burn based decks :
Aggro Demon Hunter
Aggro Shadow Priest
Likely still very good decks :
Good Game, Everyone!
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