After what has been a disappointing announcement regarding 2023 Hearthstone eSports, the community turns to the second most important announcement of January: “A pretty big patch."
In this god-sent announcement, Final Design Lead AlecoGereco let us know a patch note was on its way, and it should be this week. Considering Hearthstone balance patches happen on Tuesdays, we might be just hours away from it now!
There are two big takeaways to discuss from this simple tweet, which will be at the core of this article :
- What needs to be done in this pretty big patch? Mostly covering the issues that have plagued the March of the Lich King expansion so far.
- What surprises can we expect in order to shake things up until the Mini-Set comes around?
The first part is quite self-explanatory and is the biggest reason why the community so demanded this patch. Miracle Rogue and Quest Spell Demon Hunter have dominated the legend metagame for the whole month of January. Even if other decks, such as Shockspitter Hunter, managed to rise during the month, there is a clear exasperation around the two dominant classes in the community.
The second question is often the most important part of a patch, although it is the less visible one. This part is about making the aftermath of the changes as little obvious as possible.
Indeed, this patch could simply nuke the dominant classes and be done with it. But if that happened, the next decks in line would just take over, with Shockspitter Hunter, Ramp Druid, or Big Spell Mage being easy to figure out in that position.
As a result, this patch is not only highly awaited to solve the current problems of the metagame, but it is also creating a new puzzle that players won't be able to solve on the first day.
How to nerf but not demolish Demon Hunter and Rogue
There is absolutely no doubt Rogue and Demon Hunter will be impacted in some way in the upcoming balance patch.
Rogue should be the focal point, currently representing 17% of the metagame and largely impacting what is or isn't played on the higher ranks of the ladder.
If Demon Hunter managed to post good results against Miracle Rogue lately, Rogue had Hearthstone in the palm of her hand for most of this season. No class has managed to find a reliable way to counter the mix of Sinstone Graveyard, Wildpaw Gnoll, and the new Concoction package.
If the last additions from March of the Lich King should remain a strong component of the Rogue arsenal, many are wondering whether the location should be nerfed once again. And most agree the Wildpaw Gnoll and Maestra interaction has lived long enough. It needs to be gone as one of the strongest Rogue identities in Hearthstone.
Overall, it is the explosive side of Rogue that is heavily criticized. The class's ability to generate or kill opposing tempo early in the game has made it very difficult for classes like Paladin or Shaman, who rely on early board investment, to exist.
At the very least, Wildpaw Gnoll should go back to its nerfed self, as a 3/6, 6-cost card. Sinstone Graveyard could be looking at costing one more mana again, going from 2 to 4 in the span of a month and a half.
Other cards in the discussion are Shadowstep and Preparation, two of the biggest culprits when it comes to Rogue being able to cheat some Mana. Some of them want to see the cards changed, gaining a mana at the very least to slow the play patterns these cards enable. Others consider it a murder attempt at the class's identity and too much of a change to keep the class relevant until the next rotation.
Demon Hunter, on the other end, feels ahead of the other classes but also features established bad matchups, such as Ramp Druid or Bless Priest. As such, one could believe the class doesn't need to be tuned down as hard as Rogue.
The logic here is that if Rogue is nerfed, Demon Hunter will logically rise as the best class, but its counters won't see Rogue ruin their plans. Demon Hunter would be forced to go back in line.
Even if this scenario was a probable outcome, there is one card that a lot of the community has agreed upon as nerf-worthy: Lady S'Theno. The card sees play in every Demon Hunter archetype currently, be it Quest, Aggro, or Spell.
A change I saw proposed and liked a lot was to change her ability to only trigger with a Fel spell. It seems like a good way of connecting the card to an iconic part of the Demon Hunter class, rather than have it be the best all-around minion Demon Hunter can slot in every single deck. The card costing 4 mana is also a very likely outcome.
At the very least, these are the changes to expect when reading the patch notes, and nerfs could only represent 3 to 4 changes overall. Unless Blizzard feels the need to also anticipate the next dominant decks and throw a punch at Hunter, Mage, Death Knight, or Druid as a precautionary action. Jackpot Rogue could also be caught in the friendly fire, even though the deck is currently shadowed by Miracle Rogue in the class.
Some neutrals are being mentioned, such as Astalor Bloodsworn, a card played in almost every deck except for Demon Hunter currently.
It could represent a good way to nerf Druid. The Ramp deck uses Astalor as part of its combo, alongside removing a current auto include for most of the damage-based decks in the classes mentioned above.
Most of the excitement around this patch, and whether it will be considered a success or not, should be based on its ability to offer new patterns of play to discover. Something nerfs don't tend to do so well, most of the time reducing the field of possibilities. A lot of us, then, are expecting numerous buffs as part of this big patch.
The Hearthstone community wants some new puzzles
I like this tweet from J_Alexander a lot, and I believe it embodies what this patch should be about: change.
In my opinion, a metagame in a card game is very similar to an exciting puzzle, which feels very rewarding as long as it lasts, but quickly fades once resolved.
Especially in the case of the March of the Lich King expansion, a lot of us expected to be wowed by the new class and all the possibilities it would bring. And instead, we were met by an ocean of Rogues who took most of the attention away from the shiny new toys everyone wanted to play with.
As such, while there isn't a need to push the Death Knight over the edge in this patch, a lot of people are hoping to get a similar excitement to what an expansion release feels like when reading the notes.
This is exactly the idea of the tweet above. We need to see change in the upcoming patch, even if it means the balance is questionable. Throw the weirdest buffs at us, push some unused mechanics, and make decks feel overpowered for a bit. It really feels like the Hearthstone community is craving for a peculiar metagame, where no one really has an idea of what is good and what isn't. It would be a good way to get past the eSports announcement, and would especially help to reconcile the player base with their love to play Hearthstone.
So how do we do this? It is quite a challenge, and I don't think I have the necessary skills to tell the developers what they should do in that regard. Yet, it feels clear that for this big patch, the more, the better when it comes to buffing cards.
For what it is worth, here are a few ideas that could push the community to reconsider some cards, in addition to buffing the body of numerous unused units :
Seaweed Strike now reads :
Give your hero +4 Attack this turn. If you played a Naga while holding this, also deal 4 damage to a minion.
Marked Shot is now an Arcane Spell
Hope of Quel'Thalas now costs 5 mana.
Grand Magister Rommarth now targets enemies if possible.
Sword of the Fallen gains an extra durability
Lightbringer's Hammer can attack wherever.
Pirate Admiral Hooktusk is now a 7 mana 7/7, and requires only 7 pirates to trigger its battlecry.
Lothar now attacks the enemy hero if their side of the board is empty.
Nellie, the Great Thresher now reduces the cost of the discovered pirates by (2)
Vengeful Walloper now costs (6)
Ur'zul Giant now costs (11)
Good Game, Everyone!
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