Rant warning - personal opinion ahead. Approach with caution.
United in Stormwind brought a bunch of Questlines as one of the main mechanic, and the initial skepticism of their potential viability quickly vanished when the true power level of the cards became apparent. We've now enjoyed their presence for about a month and the opinions on those Legendaries, as well as the meta in general, are currently very split. I, for one, think that while fun to play for some time the Questlines are unhealthy for the game in the long run and I will spend too many words on discussing why and making suggestions to make them more fair. So try to hang on.
In case you happen to be one of the naysayers enjoying the current meta, I may have to explain why exactly I think the Questlines should be changed. While I don't hate the current Standard meta, I still think Control (as all other archetypes) should have room in it. Right now the strength of the Questline rewards makes it very difficult for them to exist and it's basically the combo-ish Questlines vs aggressive decks that have the ability to rush them down.
The real issue becomes very apparent in Wild. By taking a look at HSReplay's stats (arguably from low ranks, but regardless) we can see that:
- Questline Warrior: Several lists at 80-85 % winrate.
- Questline Warlock: Same.
- Questline Hunter: Several lists at 75-80 %.
Why is it, when someone wins in Wild, it is always you three?
I know that Blizzard intends Wild to be the crazy, near-broken place of madness and combos but these numbers don't seem fine. While the winrates of these decks do go down on higher ranks (possibly due to increasing number of matches against each other), they still keep dominating the meta. These three biggest offenders also share the solitaire-like nature: while they do interact with the board to some extent, their quest completion is unstoppable. You just have to try and rush them before they get you and as the numbers suggest, you usually fail at that.
The General Problems
Let's dive straight into the issue - plenty of Questlines offer game-winning rewards which, as it stands, can be obtained either on curve or not long after. This, for me and many others, is way too fast. Not only that, playing a 7/7 around turn five will cause problems to many decks in itself even if we ignore the Battlecries altogether. Although winning games before hitting double-digit turns is nothing new as aggro has existed since the dawn of Hearthstone, the usual aggro tends to be much more interactive. Remove their board and heal the damage they've made and their progress on their gameplan is thwarted. The questlines' counters merely move on towards the inevitable final reward and what happens along the way doesn't matter that much for them.
As one of the main issues is that Questlines in general are too fast, a simple change knocking them all back a bit would be to make all Mercenary rewards 7-mana. That would not only justify the 7/7 body (I really don't get the current "overstatted with massive upside"-approach, I like to assume that the devs didn't intend the rewards to be obtained this fast) but also delay the power spike turns of many of these decks, and possibly force a different deckbuilding approach for some as you suddenly have to survive a couple of turns longer. However, I do not think it would solve all the issues so I will address the Questlines individually as well.
No Further Changes Needed(?)
There are some Questlines which do not dish out insta-wins after completion, so I would be willing to let them be after the 7-mana reward nerf and see if any problems still linger.
You still need to have something to discount, and potential issues are more likely to arise from that something being too powerful rather than the Questline effect being too powerful, in my opinion. Making the reward 7-mana would make it very clunky to play in e.g. Il'gynoth decks, I feel.
Caught in the crossfire. I think the deck makes quite fair things as it stands, and I do think Control could easily outvalue the reward if given the chance. For the sake of consistency I'd still make the 7-mana 7/7 treatment for Rogue too.
This is a weird one for me. Many Mercenaries feel like they win the game when played and this one quite literally creates a card saying "win the game", yet it's inherently so slow to complete that it's not an issue at all (especially in the current meta). I think it'd be just fine although insta-win cards always bug me.
Additionally, I'm tempted to give a pass to a couple of more even if I'm not entirely convinced they're fine with just this:
I'm half-tempted at suggesting further nerfs because I just hate when the arrows start pointing at your face, you have next to no healing potential and you need to try and rush them down while their armor total just keeps growing. I'm still hopeful that making the reward 7-mana would help with the Mark of the Spikeshell combo, which quite often really decides the game. I might still remove the card draw from the second Quest's reward.
It doesn't see much play as is. Hard to say if that would change should the meta get slower, but I think this would be another questline I'd be prepared to wait and see. I think the Hero Power reward would be hard to change without killing the entire point of the deck.
Now to the good part - let's smack some cards even more!
I mean, this has to see some changes for Wild's sake, in Standard it doesn't seem that strong right now though. I can tell you from experience that playing against Odd Questline Hunter is an absolutely horrible feeling - you just basically have to hope their draws don't allow them to get there in time. However, too many changes to the Questline can easily kill the whole gimmick. The quest reward cost nerf would certainly help, but I'd still be ready to either increase the total required damage spells with 1-2 or make it so that (at least) the final form of the Hero Power is the base form of it with 2 damage. Might be just personal bias though, I really despise the matches against it.
Mage is in a curious spot as it's a non-issue in Wild but usually somewhat unfun to play against in Standard. Again, the reward nerf would help, possibly incentivizing using higher-Cost spells to complete the quest instead of aiming to puke out your hand for turn 5 reward. However, having played a version with no Ignites (as I somehow got both Mage legendaries but not a single epic) I can say that the deck can indeed run out of damage if spells like Runed Orb and Fireball are used too liberally in the early turns. Even though the infinite copies are the entire reason of Ignite, I still think any further nerfs should be aimed at it rather than the Questline itself. That could even cause Mages to include spell-creating minions more often, which in turn would soft-nerf Incanter's Flow even further.
Now this is a hard one. When you take a downside and turn it into an upside, things can get weird. Most of the truly broken stuff arises from outside the Questline itself, I feel. Overdraft just needs to lose the damage part, no question about it; it's a massive power creep on Lava Shock and it can create insane amounts of burst damage, especially in Wild. Charged Call is another card that seems a tad too efficient at the moment. A simple mana cost increase or capping the mana cost of the created minions should suffice though, otherwise we're approaching the "my opponent isn't allowed to have a win condition"-territory.
Sorry for triggering your OCD but I'm going to ditch the alphabetical order here and save "the best" for last. The Warrior questline is another interesting one for me, and I daresay most of the issues arise from the fact that even if you removed the Questline you'd still have a decent aggro deck in your hands. This is especially true in Wild where Cap'n Rokara merely adds to the power of the deck and allows a more long-term gameplans instead of "win before turn X or bust". Unlike in previous cases, I would probably change the questline itself here to require more Pirates (possibly 3+3+3) and consider also changing the first reward as it allows a consistent tutor effect for Ancharrr, which is often important for guaranteed Pirate refill. Removing one of the effect of The Juggernaut would be next in line if the deck was still too powerful, or possibly even making the three effects rotate instead of all happening every turn.
The elephant has entered the room. The deck has so many powerful things going for it that I don't even know where to start. I'm just going to toss around a ton of ideas and see if any will stick:
Removing the heals for Quest rewards is probably a no go; even though it would slow down Flesh Giants it would likely just offer the deck for aggro as lunch on a silver platter. Same is likely true for raising the required amount of self-damage as well. A more interesting change (in my opinion): instead of taking damage, I would make the quests require Health changes just like Flesh Giants. Warlocks could no longer just slam down armor gain whenever but actually plan ahead with their self damage. It would also help with one of the biggest Wild offenders, Crystallizer.
Another interesting suggestion I've heard is to make the reward ignore Fatigue damage. Right now (mostly in Standard, I guess) Warlocks can just draw draw draw and get the final points of damage through fatigue, but what if the fatigue still damaged them. By changing the wording to "take damage from your cards or Hero Power", you could still tap to damage your opponent but would have to calculate if you can afford the fatigue yourself. It would also give a much needed win condition for Control against the extremely unfavorable matchup that it currently is.
Those were my questline suggestions, but the deck is filled with other offenders:
Stealer of Souls
Yesterday's news by now as the recent nerfs have toned it down, but I kinda hoped for a change in its effect instead - make it become once per turn or similar. That kind of change could have had drastic consequences to the card's playability, but so did the mana cost change they went with. At least I don't have to watch my opponent drawing and playing half a deck in a turn anymore, even though it undeniably required some skill to navigate correctly.
Another infinite mana generator. Arguably slowed down a bit since the first round of nerfs but still hard to deal with on curve and still generates big swings in Wild where it wasn't the most popular card even before Questlines. I'd smack the Health, possibly hard, to make it easier to deal with as the effect itself is hard to nerf any further (without making it once per turn, which would make the card relatively useless).
Remember when Control Priest was an actually good Standard deck with tons of annoying card generation, I do. Renew got smacked (I'm not saying wrongly) but I really hoped this card would also see changes but it wasn't good in Warlock at that point. Oh how the times have changed. How about now, Blizzard? Again, the situation is even worse in Wild with Crystallizer & co being a thing. I'd bring out the big bonker for this one and smack it to two mana, just outside the grasp of Wandmaker. Another option would be to only bring back one minion for 2 damage. It's just way too efficient right now.
As a final note, I don't see Questlines as the worst thing ever. They're an interesting mechanic that just came out too strong and should be adjusted accordingly. They too should have a chance to thrive in the meta but not at the expense of everything else, especially Control.
What do you think? Did you just waste your time reading useless ramblings or is there wisdom in these words? What would you change first and why, if anything?