So now that we have the patch notes and what cards are getting changed, let’s take a look at some of the winners and losers and some other changes a little more in depth and how they will affect the game.
The “Free” Players – I’ve been trying to think of a term for these players for the last 10 minutes and simply can’t come up with anything. These are basically the people who don’t want to spend any money on the game and want to unlock everything by grinding. Either they like the challenge of doing so or simply can’t afford to put money in to open packs – either is really ok. Now Hearthstone makes it even easier to acquire gold for these players as before you had to basically win 1 game for 1 gold and that felt not fun. Now they have increased it to 10 gold per 3 wins – a huge percentage increase. Add this to the daily quests and you can jump into an arena once every 2 or 3 days pretty easily or at least average a new pack of cards every 2 days (or less) depending on how much time you want to put into the game.
The New Players – Daily quests are a pain for new players when you are forced to play a deck you may not have fully unlocked yet or a deck you aren’t used to playing, it can be very frustrating. Now if you get a daily quest that requires you to win with a specific class you will be given 2 choices of classes and you’ll get to pick 1. Still, you might get 2 classes you don’t like but at least this way you’ll get to pick your poison. Another great change for new players will be the crafting UI, the old UI even confused me when I was trying to figure out how it worked so this should be a welcome addition to the game.
Twilight Drake – Twilight Drake went from a 1/1 for 4 mana with battle cry “Gain +1/+1 for each card in your hand” to a 4/1 for 4 mana with a battlecry of “Gain +1 Health for each card in your hand”. I know some of you might be calling foul on this being a winner because you’re no longer going to see those turn 4 9/9’s hit the battlefield but I’ll explain my reasoning here. In arena, Twilight Drake is a terrific card early game, I’ve won several matches with it. In constructed though, it was a terrible card, especially if you played against higher ranked players. You save up your cards for 3 or 4 turns to play it only to have your opponent silence it and turn it to a 1/1 minion. Not only that but if you top decked it late game it was the worst 4 mana cost 1/1 creature ever – wasn’t even worth playing. Now Twilight Drake has a chance to make a living in constructed as you’re still guaranteed a 4/1 if they silence it or you draw it late game. In my opinion that is a pretty major buff for the card despite it losing it’s early game potential of hitting your opponent for 8 or 9 damage (which maybe worked 30% of the time).
Lightwarden – Lightwarden was always an interesting card, especially for the Priest deck but it always seemed to fall flat. It cost 1 mana, is a 1/2 and whenever a character is healed it gains +1 attack. It’s been buffed now to gain +2 attack which makes this card a lot more powerful. A really powerful combo with this card being out in play is possibly casting whirlwind as a warrior (1 damage to each minion) and then casting Darkscale Healer (5 mana for a 4/5 minion with battlecry “restore 2 health to all friendly characters) and you could be causing a pretty big attack to your opponent that turn.
Priests – It’s no secret that the Priest deck was my most hated deck to play. I avoided it like the plague. I don’t like their hero power (which does nothing for you early game) and they had a hard time dealing with other classes mid game. The Hearthstone developers saw some of this frustration and buffed the Priest class up a bit (although not fixing their hero power). Fade (2 mana and gives all your minions taunt) goes away, which definitely would put that in the loser category but it is replaced by Shadow Word: Death (3 mana to destroy a minion with attach 5 or more). Add this with Greater Heal getting replaced (2 mana to restore 2 health per card in your opponents hand) with a new card called Holy Fire (6 mana to deal 5 damage and restore 5 health to your hero) and suddenly the Priest deck has some ways to handle some bigger minions in the mid game. Lightspawn (4 mana for a previously 4/4 minion that has it’s attack equal it’s health) gets an extra 1 health (making it a 5/5 for 4 mana out the gate) and you start seeing more power coming from Priests – especially if next turn you play the newly revamped Power World: Shield on him (1 mana, give a minion +3 health and draw a card) and you’re now looking at a turn five 8/8 (or 11/11 if you have 2 in your hand) where you also get to draw a card (or 2). There is definitely some new combo mechanics that will make Priests more fun to play.
Warriors – Warriors get a little bit of a buff in terms of card draw advantage. Battle Rage now costs 3 mana (instead of 2) but instead of drawing a card for each damaged minion you will draw a card for each damaged character (minions and heroes). This makes Battle Rage the best card draw for 3 mana in the game quite considerably if you play it at the right time. Commanding Shout gets increased a mana (now 2 mana and your minions don’t drop below 1 health this turn, making them indestructible basically) adds an ability of drawing a card giving it more value. Inner Rage also gets a nice buff in which it’s +2 attack is now permanent (0 mana to deal 1 damage to a minion and it gains + 2 attack this turn), this now makes it even more powerful to use on something like Gurubashi Beserker (5 mana for a 2/7 minion that whenever it takes damage gains +3 attack) making him a turn 6 7/6 (or larger minion) since it’s better to wait a turn to cast inner rage on it unless you also happen to give it charge. Enrage minions will also benefit greatly with this change.
Mages – Mages don’t benefit as much as the Warriors and Priests but they will see some increase in power. Frostbolt (3 damage to a character and freeze it) becomes more powerful early game with it’s mana cost reduced to 2 from 3. Mirror Image (1 mana cost) becomes more annoying as it now creates two 0/2 minions instead of two 0/1 minions. Sorcerer’s Apprentice also becomes better as it keeps it’s “spells cost 1 less” ability but becomes a 3/2 minion for 2 mana instead of a 2/2 minion.
Rogues – Rogues will be a lot less annoying and some rogue players may not like these changes. The most devastating in my opinion is the nerfing of the rogue hero power, effectively making it one of the worst in the game now, it no longer has the ability to buff a currently equipped weapon. Backstab (0 mana) now only deals 2 damage to undamaged minions so it becomes a bit more restrictive. Shiv (1 damage and draw a card) now costs 2 mana instead of 1. Conceal (give all your minions stealth) now costs 1 mana instead of 0. Headcrack (2 damage with combo of returning to your hand) now costs 3 mana instead of 2. Edwin Vancleef (3 mana legendary minion, gains +2/+2 for each spell played before him) now loses his stealth ability. Defias Ringleader (2 mana, combo summons a 2/1 minion) now becomes a 2/2 minion himself instead of the original 2/3.
Needless to say rogues took a massive hit. The Miracle build and the spell power rogues will be less powerful to play and the hero ability change is going to be really tough. I don’t think you’ll see rogues dominating in competitive play much anymore.
Spell Power Druids – With Wrath (2 mana, choose one, 1 damage and draw a card or deal 3 damage) and Starfall (5 mana, choose one – 2 damage to all enemies or 5 damage to one enemy) losing their ability to target heroes it really kills the power of the Spell Power Druid deck as that takes off a potential 16 damage (or more) away. Savagery (Previously 3 mana and does damage to all characters was also one of my favorite board clear cards when partnered with Claw or Bite (gives your hero attack +2 or +4). Now Savagery costs 1 mana and you can only target 1 minion with it.
Sunfury Protector – Especially in arena decks or in some shaman decks Sunfury Protector became a staple card. Taunt is extremely powerful and 2 mana this 2/3 minion and it’s battlecry would give all your other minions taunt. Blizzard gave this card a much needed nerf and it now only gives adjacent minions taunt. Still a good card, but definitely not the power it was.
The Strategy Changers
Frostwolf Warlord – Frostwolf Warlord was a 4/4 minion for 5 mana that gained +1/+1 for every friendly minion in play. One of my favorite ways to use him was drop him, if he lived next turn dump a bunch of small minions and make him bigger and swing in for a big attack. Defensively you could work around him by killing off minions and then taking care of him when he was just a 4/4. Now Frostwolf Warlord’s ability is a battlecry so if you drop him with 4 minions in play he’ll permanently be an 8/8. This definitely changes your strategy in not only how you play this card, but also how you will have to deal with this card. It makes him a bit stronger overall but also loses out on that chance of dumping a bunch of minions in one turn that your opponent won’t be able to deal with him as much.
Hunter’s Mark – Hunter’s Mark costs 0 mana and makes a creatures health 1. It was the most annoying card because I’d always forget it only happened on the turn you cast it on. Now it’s a permanent effect and will give hunter’s an opportunity to use this card in more scenarios – such as casting it on a large creature after dropping an explosive trap (which does 2 damage to each enemy).
Captain Greenskin – Captain Greenskin is a legendary minion that costs 5 mana. He used to be a 5/5 but now he’s a 5/4. His ability though is a game changer – it used to be draw a card anytime your hero attacks, which was ok but not that great. Now he has a battlecry ability that gives your weapon +1/+1. This will work great in warrior decks that are very weapon heavy, rogue decks, and probably works best with the Doomhammer in Shaman decks.
Healing Totem – Healing totem will no longer heal the hero. It used to heal all friendly characters for 1. The way this changes strategy is it means if the Shaman gets a healing totem out early I might be more willing to hit the hero instead of the Healing totem knowing my damage won’t be negated. It also gives the shaman a little less survivablity.
What We Still Want to See
There are some changes we don’t see in this patch that we would love to see in Hearthstone. Blizzard did a great job of listening to the community on these changes and implemented a lot of things that players had issues with. You should all know by now we want to see Spectator Mode. Even though we want it we won’t see it in beta or before release though. Blizzard has said the features we see now are the ones we will see in release, but I’m placing it here anyway because I still think it’s very important to drill home how important we feel a spectator mode in this game is.
Most of all though, I want to know how the constructed ranking system will work. Right now it’s very easy to just grind up to grandmaster because you don’t ever lose your rank if you lose, so it’s more about just grinding out wins rather than your win/loss ratio factoring in. However, Zeriyah did release a top 50 player leaderboard today to show who were the best players in the Hearthstone Closed Beta before the wipe – so does that mean Blizzard is thinking more about the ranking system and could we see some kind of ladder leaderboard much the same way that StarCraft 2 works? One can certainly hope.