With the latest balance patch, Blizzard is doling out a number of substantial nerfs that are likely to have big consequences on some of the more popular decks currently part of the Hearthstone meta. The Druid class will see the biggest changes though the many, many players who've come to rely on Fiery War Axe will also be in for an upset.
Instead of throwing out changes without any sort of explanation, Blizzard has instead issued its thought processes behind each of the major changes they've made. They are as follows:
Innervate – Now reads: Gain 1 Mana Crystal this turn only. (Down from 2)
Several powerful variations of Druid are currently seeing play, and all of them utilize Innervate. Innervate creates explosive starts to the game that can be difficult for the opposing player to recover from. This change leaves Innervate as a simple Basic card and slows down the explosive start potential, while ensuring that it will be utilized in decks that revolve around playing inexpensive spells.
Since Innervate is a basic card, we need it to be clear and simple. Along with Wild Growth, these cards inform newer players that Druids create mana as a part of their class identity.
We kept in mind that cards like Counterfeit Coin were strong in combination with other support cards, such as Gadgetzan Auctioneer, Edwin VanCleef, and Combo cards. With the right support cards for Innervate, it may end up still seeing play, but won’t be in every deck—which is ultimately what we’re aiming for with this change.
Fiery War Axe – Now costs 3 mana. (Up from 2)
Fiery War Axe has been a powerful Warrior weapon since the launch of Hearthstone. Already great tempo for its cost, Fiery War Axe is well complemented by Pirates and cards that synergize with weapons. Raising its mana cost by 1 will slow down the Warrior’s tempo and lower the overall power level of the card.
Hex – Now costs 4 mana. (Up from 3)
We’re not making the change to Hex due to a current power-level problem. Shaman is a class that currently has a lot of flexibility, but is lacking in both class identity and identifiable weaknesses. Changing Hex makes Shaman a bit weaker against big minions and worse at silencing—having both strengths and weaknesses in a class is important.
We are very wary of cards that also incidentally work as a silence. If a player wants to utilize a card with a silence effect, they should be giving up something else. For example, if a player decides to include Spellbreaker in their deck, then they are playing a card that is weak in some situations. Priest is an exception to this rule—silence is a part of their class identity.
Even though Hex is not always played in the more aggressive Shaman decks, we will be making this forward-thinking change with the overall identity of the class in mind. This includes avoiding Shaman cards that function as direct and powerful removal. We will continue moving forward with this design philosophy to help reinforce that ideal.
Murloc Warleader – Now reads: Your other Murlocs have +2 Attack. (Down from +2 Attack, +1 Health)
Murlocs are good at taking an early lead, and if a player can’t clear the board in time, the game can ultimately snowball to victory using cards like Murloc Warleader. Removing the Health buff from Murloc Warleader will make it easier for players to clear the board of murlocs, and still have it remain a Classic build-around card. Simplifying health buff interactions is an additional benefit of this change. For example, in its current state, having a Murloc Warleader in play then using Wild Pyromancer and Equality would not destroy other murlocs on the board, leading to unclear interactions for some players.
Spreading Plague – Now costs 6 mana. (Up from 5)
Spreading Plague is a great defensive tool for Druid to protect themselves against aggressive decks, but it was too efficient at 5 mana. Raising the mana cost to 6 will slow the card down slightly, while still allowing for the defensive minions Spreading Plague creates to be utilized in the later stages of the game.
What other changes did you consider?
We considered changing Spreading Plague to 7 mana rather than 6, since it is currently the top performing card in Jade and Taunt Druid decks. However, since we are also changing Innervate, we decided to only add 1 mana to the cost of Spreading Plague.
With Jade Druid and Murloc Paladin taking a dip in effectiveness, the Priest could now be sitting atop the tier list until the next patch drops. For more info about Blizzard's thoughts on the Hall of Fame, alternatives to the card tweaks they made, and thoughts on other hotly debated cards, check out their developer's post.