It’s been just short of a month since the Hearthstone Closed Beta patch went live and we’ve seen a flurry of changes in the culture of the game as a result. Rogues are out, as we’ve discussed extensively, and Mages and Priests are in, having received buffs. Hunters, utilizing the Unleash the Hounds combo, along with Paladins, through the used of a number of diverse strategies have also risen to prominence, despite receiving almost little to no buffs. Druids, Shamans and Warlocks, while all seemingly viable, are not as commonly seen in Play Mode, but remain a factor in high tier competitive play.
This window, prior to soft release in the form of open beta, seems like a proper time to evaluate the state of the classes, and to decide if more changes need to be made. Those in charge of balancing the various decks have to consider empirical date and wonder if the most successfully used classes are winning because of a solid balance, or because some spells and minions are simply too strong. On the other side of the coin, it has to be decided if Rogues were perhaps nerfed overmuch, or if the class simply needs an innovator to come along and show the world once more the looming threat the class possesses.
I’ve spoken at length in my stream, on ManaGrind’s ManaCast and in articles that I feel certain classes need slight adjustments, and I’m curious to see what the rest of the community thinks of our proposed balance changes.
CARD: Unleash the Hounds
PROBLEM: Presently, the most prevalent strategy used in conjunction with the Hunter decks is a combo wherein the player waits until about turn eight or nine and plays three or more small, cheap beasts along with the Unleash the Hounds spell, creating a combo that can do upwards of 20 damage within one turn, if there are no taunt creatures or traps such as a Paladin’s Noble Sacrifice on the board. The preparation for this is constant use of the Hunter hero power Steady Shot to whittle down the opponent, while making use of traps or any of the powerful forms of crowd control the deck features in order to keep their own health from dipping too low. The main issue here is that, this combo features little to no counter. The minions are all played on the same turn along with the Unleash the Hounds card, meaning instant death, most of the time.
SOLUTION: This might be too complex, but my suggestion would be to increase the mana cost of Unleash the Hounds by one per minion on the board. It would stay at one mana for one beast, but increase to two with the second and so on and so forth, until reaching a cap of four, beyond which it no longer charged additional mana. Not only would this reduce the total number of minions that the Hunter could utilize in one turn, it would force them to be choosier. A Hunter might have seven minions in hand, but it would behoove him to choose the combination of minions which can do the most damage that turn. Finally, this would handle the issue of two Unleash the Hounds being played on one turn. The Unleash the Hounds combo would still be able to do double digit damage and punish individuals for having no defenses, but it wouldn’t be a 90% of the time lethal combo, unless played when their opponent is low on health.
PROBLEM: Presently, Mages have three different damaging area of effect spells that unconditionally hit everything on the opposing board. In conjunction with spell power, mounting an offense against a Mage can be incredibly difficult, especially if your offense consists of crowding the board with smaller creatures. This wouldn’t be so bad except that the Mage deck already features the potential for incredible single target DPS with spells such as Fireblast, Frostbolt, Fireball and Pyroblast, as well as the more circumstantial Ice Lance.
SOLUTION: Change Flamestrike’s functionality to target four creatures on your opponents board. This would force players to strategically position their forces, just as players are currently forced to against spells such as Cone of Cold and Explosive Shot. If an opponent is sporting four or less creatures on the board, Flamestrike would function essentially as it does now. This change would still leave Mages with Blizzard and Arcane Explosion as unconditional damaging area of effect spells, but would give token decks a chance to have success against the casters.
CARD: Mind Control
PROBLEM: Depending on who you ask, Mind Control is either clunky, inflexible and doesn’t do enough or it is the single most overpowered spell in the game. The Priest deck win condition, it’s largely gimmicky, costs a whopping eight mana and will go as far as the minion it steals. In some instances, it’s absolutely crushing, robbing an opponent of a necessary, powerful minion. In other instances, against smarter opponents, it’s a one turn rental, before the stolen minion is summarily executed. It can also be a measure in futility, if the board is already hopelessly overrun and there’s no Tirion Fordring/Sunwalker for you to lift. In Priest versus Priest games, matches often comes down to attrition, waiting on your opponent to use their mind controls before you use your own. The card is, right now, decidedly not fun to deal with and limits the Priest to a slow, ponderous play speed.
SOLUTION: My proposed solution is a rework to the spell. Mind Control would be a five mana Priest spell that takes over an opposing unit, also silencing it and giving it a -2/-2, something along the lines of ‘Mental Fatigue’ after being possessed. The spell would be useful in the early to midgame for stealing a bruiser creature such as Chillwind Yeti (a card that right now gives the set fits) but its reduced mana cost would allow the Priest some flexibility and the potential for a more aggressive play style. If played later in the game, the Priest could still combo it with spells such as Power Word: Shield, Holy Smite, Holy Nova, Shadow Word: Death, Shadow Word: Pain, et cetera, but not Holy Fire, or minions such as Cabal Shadow Priest or Temple Enforcer. If the Priest did want to try and recycle the unit in order to remove the Mental Fatigue debuff, Youthful Brewmaster or Ancient Brewmaster would suddenly have great value as tech cards in the deck. With this change, I believe Priest could still be played as control, but could also be run more offensively.
PROBLEM: In its current incarnation, Backstab is decidedly rigid, and inflexible. Although it gained utility in the last patch in the form of being able to injure friendly minions (in order to trigger enrage conditions, as well as cards such as Gurubashi Berserker) it is no longer capable of activating the combo mechanic for cards such as Eviscerate in order to bring down larger minions. Moreover, if the card is top decked in a dire situation, the Rogue cannot use to harm an already damaged minion.
SOLUTION: Given the significant changes Rogues saw in the previous patch, consider reverting the card to its previous incarnation, or, continue to allow it to be used on friendly minions, while removing the ‘undamaged’ tag. This would restore flexibility to the card, and given the nerfs to other cards the Miracle Rogue deck such as Edwin VanCleef and Conceal, it shouldn’t be an issue.
PROBLEM: In the last patch, Shiv saw its mana cost bumped from one to two, and while the number might not seem incredibly significant, the change, in addition to mana cost changes to cards such as Headcrack, Conceal (both completely warranted) has slowed down the class significantly, severely brutalizing the effectiveness of the aggressive spell based Rogue build.
SOLUTION: Revert the mana cost of Shiv to one. The Rogue set has been slowed down in a couple of areas, so see how this change affects the viability of the aggressive spell based Rogue build.
CARD: Battle Rage
PROBLEM: Battle Rage has received a couple of different changes, and in its most recent incarnation, it actually feels worse than it did in its original form. It’s incredibly difficult in Hearthstone to keep your minions alive, meaning that, quite often, this card is a two mana, draw one card spell. The original version at least helped you if your opponents had damaged minions on the board, as it could possibly be a tool to turn the tide. The real issue with Battle Rage right now is, if you’re already getting run over and have no minions on the board, all the card does is cycle to another card for two mana.
SOLUTION: Revert Battle Rage back to its second form (three mana, draw a card for each injured hero/minion on the board) with the caveat that card draw caps out at three. The text could read something like ‘Draw a card for each damaged character on the board, up to a maximum of three cards.’ This would give the Warrior a reliable means of card draw, even when the chips are down, along with a risk that it could be worthless if neither heroes are injured and the board’s clear.
What about ..
There are other cards that players would undoubtedly like to see repurposed, Brawl and Farsight being two of the most noteworthy offenders. That’s for another conversation though. This article is solely looking at balancing problematic, or overly weak cards.
What do you think though? Do these changes make sense? Would you do have other answers? Did we miss a card? We want to see your opinions in the comments below.