Time flies when you are hanging out in a bustling city - as we've been following various United in Stormwind developments for almost two weeks now. And while there have been some noticeable outliers nearly from the very start, it's been quite interesting to observe several of the less expected twists and turns. People in the community have also kept very busy: with numerous arguments on how much combo is exactly too much, whether anyone even misses attrition-style strategies, or what exactly is this so called "solitaire" Hearthstone experience; if it even exists, that is. This particular meta seems to have its loud supporters and detractors alike.
Certain decks rose to prominence very early and saw very few card changes (if any) along the way - see your Face Hunters and Elemental Shamans (with Doomhammer or without). Mages and Lifesteal Demon Hunters were quick to adopt their Questlines (the first trying out a selection of spells before coming up with Wand Thief/Gadgetzan Auctioneer variants; the latter mostly adding in more Tradeable cards). The Demon Seed Warlocks eventually exploded into several different strategies vying for superiority, and even Paladins dared to explore Secret/Stealth directions (often with Blessing of Authority) rather than just going all in on Divine Shields.
So it made sense for the developers to want to wait a little longer before intervening. We know that a balance patch should be right around the corner - with Tuesday being the expectation for the time being. Presumably it's all going to be about toning down extremely powerful card interactions that are guilty of creating "non-games", and at least slightly slowing down the overall pace. But perhaps there might be room even for an unlikely early buff (or reverting a past nerf)?
Join in for a round of everyone's favorite guessing game and a closer look at potential candidates for the balance changes, be it now or in the foreseeable future:
Lifesteal Demon Hunter might've exchanged Skull of Gul'dan for Final Showdown, but its essence remains the same. Draw your combo pieces (preferably discounted), blow up your opponent. Which means it's often favored by the 'high skill cap' crowd while universally loathed by many for its 'non-interactivity'.
Personally I used to hate the deck and what it previously stood for, but now the Questline seems to have made it considerably more... fun? Interesting? At least it's not all about moving your Skull of Gul'dan to the left or the right and hoping. Be that as it may, it is an undeniable fact that anything slower without early big threatening boards (or Mindrender Illucia) usually falls prey to Il'gynoth. So once the meta becomes less volatile, it's bound to do better. Can it dodge the nerfs again, or has the time come?
Increasing the mana cost of Il'gynoth to 5-6 while adding more stats is a common suggestion. Same with Mo'arg Artificer, not that hard to imagine as a 3 mana 3/5 (it's also technically a Neutral card, even though it mainly feels like it has been fully adopted by Lifesteal DH at this point). Failing that, some sort of rework to its functionality could be in order. There is also that matter of Felosophy - the Mo'arg Artificer copy it creates tends to retain the non-temporary discounted mana cost of the original (which ideally means having it at 0-1 mana), but should it be operating in this way? It could also be moved up to 2 mana and just resemble Bulk Up, although that's unlikely to make enough of a difference on its own.
We've witnessed her synergy with Germination and Arbor Up, and more recently Celestial Alignment and C'Thun, the Shattered becoming a thing again. Good pals with Gadgetzan Auctioneer in that latter case.
As anything with 'mana discount' wording on it, Lady Anacondra is capable of creating some silly games. It just takes more setup and stars aligning, so to speak. If you would like to see a perfect example, just spare a minute and a half to watch how this turn unfolds for Muzzy in Americas Grandmasters (who needs new cards anyway). The card might thrive more in a slower meta, but for the time being it's mostly a rare guest in tournaments or on ladder.
I'd be surprised if anything in Druid truly got hit at this point, so let's just call this one due dilligence.
'Face is the place' - if this isn't the motto you can sympathize with, you would probably love to be left alone while you try to play your Mages and Warlocks (or just anything that's quite vulnerable to this strategy and without lots of healing at hand) and not have these bastards chip away at your Health total.
This approach always does well during unrefined periods, but this time around it's been even more noticeable. Taking the deck's aggressive potential down a notch could well be worth some consideration. The problem here is that it's mostly the strength and inevitability of the package as a whole rather than one singular standout card.
Kolkar Pack Runner occasionally comes up in these conversations, as one tool capable of creating early big board swings when paired with a number of cheap spells. And then if you can't clear any of the remaining 1/1s, they will whittle you down with no mercy. Making the card 3 mana (and a 3/3? 3/4? Keep the old stats?) might lower that urgency. When it comes to the newcomer Aimed Shot, there is relatively little wiggle room - it could be adjusted so the next Hero Power only deals 1 extra damage.
Beyond that, it's hard to think of anything else - would lowering the health of Trampling Rhino to 4 even matter enough so it's more easily cleared afterwards in the instance it survives? It's usually all about that initial attack.
This one seems very clear cut. The card has already dodged nerfs before when Refreshing Spring Water was put on the chopping block in order to keep the class playable, but it's become arguably even more infuriating with the introduction of Sorcerer's Gambit.
While most players tend to agree Incanter's Flow is problematic - especially when used very early - not everyone agrees on how it should be addressed. Increasing the mana cost to 3 is the obvious solution here. Would Mage survive then, maybe have to try become slightly more minion based? Reverting the nerf of Refreshing Spring Water at the same time could be seen as balancing the scales, although that pushes us right back into more spell heavy territory.
I've also seen some interesting suggestions to rework the card: for example imagine a discover option where you pick one of the three spell schools to receive a discount. Or grant it to one of them randomly. Would that still keep it viable?
There aren't any other class cards that truly stand out, and it's worth noting it took stacking several nerfs throughout Forged in the Barrens to finally topple the meta tyrant (and we could argue whether it wasn't a nerf too much at one point).
Prismatic Jewel Kit was another early consideration that might eventually need to go the route of Sword of the Fallen and lose a point of durability, but currently the primary focus seems to be on resolving a number of strange interactions when it comes to Divine Shield procs (such as minions being transformed or returned to hand counting as well), then seeing the effects.
Conviction (Rank 2) became more offensive again with the introduction of Battleground Battlemaster, and Paladins trying to stick even just a couple minions for that one great swing. But it's not such a simple case if we would like to keep the card playable. Increasing the mana cost to 2 without compensating at all is of course possible (adding 1 extra attack does carry a rather big risk with it). Same as simply reducing the attack buff to 2, period. The other alternative would be to try to rework its functionality so it always hits max 3 minions but starts with a 1 attack bonus. It's an interesting concept, which on average should result in lower amounts of early burst damage that cannot be mitigated.
It took almost an entire previous expansion, but the class finally saw some very deserved nerfs and hasn't retaken its oppressive 'I shall obliterate your will to live' spot near the top during these early Stormwind weeks. Make no mistake - its 'healing and control' ways can still be very powerful against any slower board based strategies with a limited amount of damage and cards at their disposal (while Rustrot Viper ensures no weapon class could bypass them). It's just that the kings and queens of Stormwind have so far been more concerned with different kinds of pressure: often off-board, combo-y, quick and decisive rather than prolonged over many turns.
So even the much maligned Mindrender Illucia hasn't been as much of an 'I W.I.N. button' as might be expected. But that doesn't mean we are done hearing about it. In a world where everything slows down and Questlines become more commonly completed around turns 7-8 or later instead of by turn 5-6, it sure wouldn't be fun to have your reward or all relevant cheap pieces thrown away right after.
Will that even be the case going forward? We can't say for sure one way or another, but as always it's something to keep an eye on. It's still that one divisive card I would be most tempted to 'delete' from the game.
Most likely nothing at this point, the class looked fairly balanced for early Stormwind purposes (if not downright underpowered at times). The SI:7 variant tried to pull off Paladin with Noggen-Fog Generator and Battleground Battlemaster with moderate success at best, as its minions are usually smaller early on and survivability tools somewhat lacking.
There is the silliness of Loan Shark plus Gadgetzan Auctioneer plus Garrote, but it wasn't exactly able to match the trio of Mage/Warlock/Demon Hunter doing a similar thing far better. Some Weapon Rogues have also adopted Garrote, and what cheap Cloak of Shadows allows them to do along with mad card draw is always a cause for concern; but it hasn't been very powerful on average (also Rustrot Viper awaits). Perhaps we can get back to debating whether Prize Plunderer is too good/cheap some other day.
Oh, the Elementals. Who would've thought the support package might eventually be extended to become this strong and versatile so quickly. Ironically enough, that previous buff to Lilypad Lurker's stats doesn't look so justified in retrospect.
If we were to take any of them down a notch, there are several different options. Giving Wailing Vapor the stats of Battlefiend, so it's easier to remove early on. Making Granite Forgeborn a 3/4, a 4/3, or at the very least a 4/4 so Chillwind Yeti doesn't feel so unloved (the effect itself is very notable even without a larger body). Going one step further and increasing the mana cost and stats of Cagematch Custodian, staple as it has become to help draw weapons easily on curve. There are also arguments to be made for Arid Stormer to have 4 Health and Canal Slogger 5 Attack instead. Whichever one or two you might personally believe to be necessary (trying to hit more cards all at once would be over the top), something should probably happen. Unless the developers decide to take the risk and give it a full pass for now.
There is also the matter of the Doomhammer variant and its silly burst potential, but it also hasn't felt that overpowered thus far. The weapon itself already feels very expensive with a heavy Overload tax - increasing the mana cost further doesn't seem like a valid option if anything will ever have to be done in this regard. If it becomes a notable problem and we are not to rely on Rustrot Viper to bail us out, then I'd rather look towards lowering the durability to 6 or have Stormstrike give the hero +2 Attack instead.
The Demon Seed gave especially Darkglare and Stealer of Souls a new lease on life, unsurprisingly. If you haven't yet seen the crazy magic the likes of Gaby or xBlyzes have been capable of with it while laddering to the very top and competing at the highest Grandmasters level, do note that it is a sight to behold (and a feat that mere mortals might find difficult to pull off as consistently). It's also one of the best arguments for speeding up animation times in Constructed Hearthstone that has been made to date.
Both cards are problematic in their own right. Stealer of Souls earned the very first Constructed ban in Wild for a good reason. And ask anyone over there just how much they 'love' Darkglare. The power levels in Standard are never as ridiculously high, but watching all these interactions unfold still gives one the nagging feeling of "it's just not quite right". Darkglare used to be a 3 mana 3/4 that gave 2 mana crystals upon hit, so perhaps it should return to that cost and stats while keeping the 1 mana crystal returns. The issue with Stealer of Souls will only become more profound with each good new card in support of the Questline being printed - increasing the mana cost seems like the only natural direction, short of just reworking the card entirely to work akin to G'huun the Blood God.
Flesh Giant is a different consideration for different types of decks (which just became more pronounced again with the introduction of The Demon Seed). It's also a Priest card as well, but that class generally can't drop it down as early through self-harm mechanics. We have seen what Giants can do when landing by turn 4 and followed by the likes of Battleground Battlemaster. But even without the added Windfury, it's a tad too soon for a small army of 8/8s that Raise Dead then consequently allows. Making it join its brethren Sea Giant and Frost Giant in mana cost sounds like a fair step to take.
Just like Rogue (and to a lesser extent Druid), nothing particularly offensive to report for our Stormwind sheet of grave sins. The class has seen relatively little play, and it's been mainly the good ol' Rush Warriors knocking about without making any huge impact. Raid the Docks did not cause Pirates to rule the land.
Perhaps a round of nerfs to most other classes will allow for some strategies here to shine again, but we're just going to have to wait and see with this one.
It's probably just this one (to be fair Mo'arg Artificer also belongs to the Neutral category, it's just not making any lasting impact outside of Demon Hunter). No other neutral card comes up in conversations nearly as much. Calling it a Loatheb has somehow caught on (in case you wonder why or how), and we are not going to debate how relevant or not it is when Paladins, Warlocks, and even Rogues have clearly shown us just why the current state of affairs is worrisome (this 'Windfury giver' has demonstrated its prowess in Arena mode as well).
It only takes a couple of mid-sized minions that are hard to remove/target and can be further buffed to deliver a huge chunk of face damage to the opponent. Later on it might even easily become lethal. And so you never feel safe leaving anything on the board. The most common suggestion is to just increase the mana cost by at least 1; lower the stats slightly if need be. Will that actually prove to be enough to delay the threat, or will the relevant decks just adopt to landing their killing blows a little later (especially if the pace of gameplay indeed slows down)? Not being able to play a cheap 1-2 mana card alongside it on the same turn should make for a more noticeable difference.
It's been quite a lot to think about, and maybe we will find out where Team 5 stands on the balance matters later today (if patch notes can be finalized earlier). Even if not, then the big reveal is expected to happen tomorrow regardless; putting the speculations to rest at least for a while before it all ignites again.
For reference, proficient community members such as Zacho from Vicious Syndicate had their own share of good takes to offer, as always. And their podcast along with Ridiculous Hat tends to delve even deeper into such topics (here is a very fine summary of the latest one if you are not much of a careful listener). J Alexander offered his own share of thoughts on the subject. Celestalon has actually praised Brian Kibler for his constructive manner of providing critical feedback. Zeddy is more of a non-believer, which might not be exactly surprising. You will of course also find many other notable players with more or less valid opinions of their own - how you feel about any of their suggestions most likely depends on your own experiences with this meta.
Do you believe there are any other nerfs (or maybe buffs) to consider that haven't been sufficiently talked about? Get your predictions in for the guessing roulette while there is still time!