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Ben Brode on End-of-Month Nerf Possibilities

by - 1 year ago

A few hours ago, Game Director Ben Brode took to the Blizzard forums to discuss the meta, Shaman, and upcoming potential nerfs. As was the case in his recent Reddit post regarding design philosophy (discussed in our “Brode Post Roundup“), Brode’s post included some interesting, fairly-detailed explanations of Hearthstone balance philosophies. Here are some highlights:

  • The post began with explanations of the terms “meta” and “balance.” Brode thinks the defining characteristic of  “meta” decks is frequency of use. Brode thinks “balance” has two meanings: 1) relative power levels of decks, and 2) relative frequency of use within the meta. He notes that usually people flock toward powerful decks, so the two forms of (im)balance tend to converge.
  • “[The Hearthstone team] believe[s], at its core, Hearthstone is more fun when you are having a variety of experiences… one of the biggest ways to give you different experiences (and problems to solve) each game is to give you different opponents with different decks…The value of Balance, then, is to keep giving players different experiences.”
  • In the past two weeks (including, of course, the final days of last season), 30% of players at Legend, and 17% of players at all ranks, were playing some form of Shaman. 50% of all decks at legend rank ran Small-Time Buccaneer and Patches. To put that in perspective, the most common single-archetype ever was Undertaker Hunter, which was used by 35% of players across all ranks.
  • The average winrate of the best deck in the present meta  (a deck which he does not specifically name) is 53%–not counting mirror matches (which are, obviously 50%). This is the lowest winrate for any “best deck in the meta” in the history of Hearthstone. (The highest winrate ever was, again, Undertaker Hunter, which won 60% of games).
  • The team considers a 50% winrate for all decks to be the impossible ideal. Traditionally, the best deck has been between 53-56%. What constitutes an “acceptable” winrate is more about “feel” than any scientific calculation.
  • Winrate is not the most important metric. An unpopular deck with an astounding 70% winrate is “great,” because it has not hurt gameplay variation.
  • The team likes to let players find and use “counters” to top decks, as this results in the metagame shifting naturally over time. They don’t like to change cards while the meta is still naturally shifting. Brode hint: Shaman is “countered” by Control Warrior, and struggles against Reno Mage.
  • The team likes to announce changes around scheduled game patches (when the changes will be implemented). Based on patch schedules, any possible card changes, will be towards the end of February. The team will continue to observe and reflect on the factors listed above, and will announce balance changes (or a lack thereof) a week or so before the patch.

The entire original post can be found here: link. Be sure to check back with Blizzpro frequently, so you don’t miss any upcoming nerf announcements.

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Nicholas Weiss

Is a lawyer by day and a cardslinger by night. He's decent at both. He's been playing Hearthstone since open beta and writing about it for the past year or so.