Blizzard's Team 5 continues with their mission to find a proper balance in the Stormwind meta, with the latest patch bringing changes for 13 cards in Hearthstone. This will be the third balance patch following the release of the United in Stormwind expansion, as expansion's Questlines cards are dominating the meta since their introduction.
In particular, The Demon Seed Questline and the decks based around it were seen as the biggest culprits over the past few months, with several nerfs significantly toning down the power of several self-damaging Warlock cards. This hasn't stopped Warlock's quest from continuing to ravage the meta, and Blizzard has finally decided to nerf The Demon Seed directly, rather than nerfing supporting cards. And they didn't just nerf the quest, they have completely banned it from the Wild format, making it only available in Standard, until it rotates out.
Asides from Warlock nerfs, Shaman's Questline archetype is also adjusted down in power level, and strangely enough, Mindrender Illucia has received a really odd rework. As we've mentioned, there's also a set of buffs in this patch, mostly focusing on Mage Hero Power and Warrior Pirate archetypes. Let's check out all the changes and see how will they affect the meta.
Hearthstone patch 21.3: All buffs and nerfs
- Old: [Costs 7] → New: [Costs 8]
The Demon Hunter Questline deck was able to drop Irebound Brutes for 1 or 0 mana too consistently and too early, resulting in some insane power turns where opponents didn't have answers.
This is a good nerf as the card remains strong, but not too oppressive, and Irebound Brute will still see play.
- Old: Battlecry: Swap hands and decks with your opponent until your next turn. → New: Battlecry: Replace your hand with a copy of your opponent’s until end of turn.
This is probably the weirdest change in this patch, as it renders Illucia practically useless. What was once a great disruptive card now serves no purpose. Developers justify this change because the card was too powerful in the newly popular Aggro Preist but we still think that the change could have been done in a better way. The card is now essentially dead.
- Old: [Costs 1] → New: [Costs 2]
This was a well deserved nerf to a card that was quite strong on its own, and especially strong in Questline decks.
It was a very cheap and efficient early removal, and with the new cost it will still be a good card, but Shamans will need to sacrifice their tempo a bit more in order to squeeze in Perpetual Flame during their turns.
Command the Elements
- Tame the Flames (the third portion of the Questline)
- Old: Play 2 cards with Overload. Reward: Stormcaller Bru’kan. → New: Play 3 cards with Overload. Reward: Stormcaller Bru’kan
During the early weeks of the Stormwind meta, Elemental Shaman was the most popular Shaman deck but as people started figuring out new cards, Command the Elements archetype slowly became more popular.
Deck's popularity is now at its peak and Blizzard wants to slow it down by nerfing the final stage of the Questline. This should open up more options for counterplay, particularly for slower decks.
The Demon Seed
- The Demon Seed (part 1 of the Questline)
- Old: Take 6 damage on your turns. Reward: Lifesteal. Deal 3 damage to the enemy hero. → New: Take 8 damage on your turns. Reward: Lifesteal. Deal 3 damage to the enemy hero.
- Establish the Link (part 2 of the Questline)
- Old: Take 7 damage on your turns. Reward: Lifesteal. Deal 3 damage to the enemy hero. → New: Take 8 damage on your turns. Reward: Lifesteal. Deal 3 damage to the enemy hero.
- Additionally, The Demon Seed is now banned in Wild.
The most problematic card of the set, Warlock Questline The Demon Seed, is finally receiving direct nerfs.
Previously, Blizzard tried to nerf the card indirectly by nerfing several key cards of the deck, but The Demon Seed worked well in a lot of archetypes, so that didn't help.
With these nerfs, players will have more time to finish off Warlock before they complete the Questline.
Runed Mithril Rod
- Old: [Costs 3] → New: [Costs 4]
The last nerf of the patch increases the cost of Runed Mithril Rod by 1 mana.
Runed Mithril Rod provides a lot of mana reduction for Warlock and this seems like an appropriate nerf which keeps the card in a playable category. It will make the weapon a bit slower, as it will come online a turn later. In the grand scheme of things, however, it will still provide you with the same value.
- Old: [Costs 2] → New: [Costs 1]
Now we are entering the buff territory of the latest patch. Leatherworking Kit never really saw play in any Hunter deck but the problem is that "swarm" Hunter generally isn't a popular archetype. So, we are not sure if this mana reduction will help this weapon to become more popular. Perhaps the Rat Hunter will finally become a thing? We're not quite sure about that but we would definitely like to see it happen!
- Old: 1 Attack, 1 Health → New: 1 Attack, 3 Health
Selective Breeder saw some experimentation in Trampling Rhino decks but ultimately it was replaced by some more efficient aggro cards. This is a rather substantial HP buff but is that really the reason to play the card? We are compelled to say no.
- Old: [Costs 2] → New: [Costs 1]
Hero Power Mage was a previous expansion's gimmick and it was a big flop. Still, it seems that Blizzard hasn't yet given up on it. Additionally, this is a rather aggressive buff, which will make your tempo loss much less severe when playing Wildfire. This might actually make Hero Power Mage a viable archetype in the new meta but we will have to wait and see.
Mordresh Fire Eye
- Old: [Costs 10] 10 Attack, 10 Health → New: [Costs 8] 8 Attack, 8 Health
Mordresh Fire Eye is a major payoff/build-around card of the Hero Power Mage archetype but it was simply too slow with its previous cost.
I used to test this deck a lot before and was often in a situation where I've completed Mordresh's requirements but died before I was able to play it.
Together with the cost reduction of Wildfire, this makes Hero Power Mage an interesting deck to test in the next few days. I will definitely try it again!
- Old: 3 Attack, 3 Health → New: 3 Attack, 4 Health
Pirate Warrior is another archetype that didn't really take off in this meta, despite receiving a lot of support, including Warrior's Questline.
It seems that Blizzard really wants to see this deck becoming successful as this patch includes 3 buffs for Warrior's Pirate minions. Stormwind Freebooter now has premium stats on top of great Battlecry, and will definitely see play even on its own, not necessarily only in Pirate decks.
- Old: 4 Attack, 5 Health → New: 4 Attack, 6 Health
Another already strong card becoming even stronger. Stonemaul Anchorman now has almost premium stats paired with a strong effect.
Card draw, 2-for-1 removal, and a Pirate card? YES, please!
Just like Stormwind Freebooter, Stonemaul Anchorman has now become a top tier card independently of Pirate decks.
- Old: 2 Attack, 1 Health → New: 2 Attack, 2 Health
And finally, the last balance change of this patch, Bloodsail Deckhand buff. This is yet another Pirate card that is being buffed over the edge. This change now effectively makes her a 0 mana 2/2 minion, which is insane early game tempo.
Unlike the previous two Pirate cards, despite also being individually strong, we don't think that Bloodsail Deckhand will see play outside of Pirate decks.
And that's it, finally! If you have come this far, thank you for reading our extensive analysis! Which archetype are you excited to try when the patch releases?
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All images courtesy of Blizzard.