To surprise of everyone,  Patch 22.0.2 went live a few hours ago, and brought us a handful of card balance changes. As recently promised by Celestalon, Team 5 looked at the current situation in Standard and decided to intervene with 9 nerfs and 4 buffs, for a total of 13 card changes across the entire board.

These are all the nerfs that just went live:

Moreover, here are all the buffs:

As you might see, most of the nerfs were aimed at bringing down representatives of the so-called 'solitaire meta': Celestial Alignment Druid, Garrote Rogue, Freeze Shaman and Owl Warlock all got hit, and we'd be very surprised if these changes won't leave a mark in the new meta. Other nerfs (like the ones to Alliance Bannerman and Bloodsail Deckhand) were made by thinking at what's going to happen after the balance changes, adjusting some of those potential power outliers that would've gone rampant after the patch.

On the other hand, buffs to already existing strategies are always exciting and welcome, and the sole fact that two of these changes are aimed at Hero Cards will boost their playrate by a large margin - almost as if they released two new Hero cards!

To be completely honest, we would've liked to see another couple cards up here on the nerf list, but this patch already brought us a lot of changes, so there's the chance that we're are asking for too much: things may fix themselves without the need of further balance changes. In other words, Patch 22.0.2 represents a really good starting point for the meta to feel a lot more enjoyable, and we commend Team 5 for their effort in improving the game.

Card Nerfs

Celestial Alignment Card Image

Cost is now 8 mana (up from 7).

Here is the first hit to the solitaire meta that characterized all the Stormwind expansion and the Alterac launch. While you usually have no problem in beating Alignment Druid if you're playing Aggro, the same cannot be said if you're a Control/Combo player.

What's more annoying and borderline frustrating is that, if the Druid happens to have the right hand (which, let's be honest, it's not too rare of an occurrence), you just get drowned in immense mana cheating the exact following turn Alignment is played, with little to no counterplay since, you know, you only had one mana and therefore could play only one card.

Increasing Celestial Alignment's cost to 8 mana is a big deal: the deck is already pretty weak to aggressive strategies, and taking one more turn to cast Alignment will give more room for the opponents to set up a board and kill you. We dare to say that Alignment Druid has just returned to its meme tier status, and we aren't exactly sorry about it.

Alliance Bannerman Card Image

Now has 1 Health (down from 2).

Knight of Anointment, Hand of A'dal, Noble Mount, Alliance Bannerman, Cariel Roame, Lightforged Cariel: roughly speaking, these are the cards that go into every single viable Paladin deck, doesn't matter what is its goal. The fact that the class has such a solid backbone allows it to be extremely consistent in basically any meta, and even though this patch was mainly focused on bringing Combo decks down a peg, it is very likely that Team 5 envisioned a future meta in which Uther was the among the tyrants, and therefore decided to preventively intervene with a slight change.

While Bananaman's functionality remains the same (it will still draw a minion and will still buff you entire hand), having just one health means that the opponent will remove it fair more easily, and therefore you'll have one less body to buff in the following turns with the likes of Noble Mount or Blessing of Authority.

While we're personally sad to see this specific balance change, we cannot disagree with the decision. Card is still good and will still see plenty of play though: not even a single doubt about it.

Efficient Octo-bot Card Image

Cost is now 3 mana (up from 2).

It was about damn time that this card got hit. Ever since Efficient Octo-bot was released in Forged in the Barrens, it had always been part of the every single viable Rogue deck, with maybe just an exception in the fringe Poison Rogue.

Having an on-demand Emperor Thaurissan for 2 mana that you can just Shadowstep and trigger again had always been quite the effect, and always generated mixed feelings:

Even though Garrote was nerfed, it was still very popular in the most recent Worlds line-ups (it was brought by 7 players out of 8) and we can say that it defined that tournament's meta.

Nerfing Octo-bot to 3 mana will give its mana-cheating effect a more appropriate cost, while also slowing down all the degeneracy it allows. We suspect that the card won't just disappear from the game, and that it will still be run and played by different Rogue decks, but at least we won't be killed on turn 8 anymore.

Just in case someone comes up with this suggestion, reducing Octo-bot's Health to 3 wouldn't have made the slightest different, as we're not talking about a minion like Stonemaul Anchorman, whose Frenzy usually gets triggered by surviving a trade - Octo-bot's power comes from it costing little and from Rogue having multiple ways to damage without killing it. Increasing its mana cost was the only way to weaken the card and, to an extent, Garrote Rogue.

Snowfall Guardian Card Image

Cost is now 6 mana (up from 5).

Freeze Shaman was one of the most successful (if not the most successful) Alterac archetypes in the first two weeks of the expansion, but there's one problem: Freeze effects are generally fine, but when they reach a certain quantity (or efficiency) they become unhealthy for the game.

This is exactly the reason why Snowfall Guardian got nerfed. It is clear that, being Freeze Shaman a new archetype with no support in Standard, Team 5 had to print some pretty powerful stuff for it to be competitive, but it is clear that Snowfall Guardian crossed the aforementioned line. What was particularly problematic wasn't the Freeze effect itself (don't mistake us: very strong and annoying to deal with, since it can lock your entire board), but the fact that you could repeat it across multiple turns with the help of Brilliant Macaw, generating a rather frustrating situation for the one who was on the short side of the stick.

Increasing Snowfall Guardian's cost to 6 mana will allow for more counterplay from the opponents, and the "Frost Nova" chain will take at least one more turn to take place. Standard had bigger problems, but it doesn't change the fact that this is a deserved and welcome change.

Touch of the Nathrezim Card Image

Now restores 3 Health (down from 4).

Warlock's healing tools recently reached a point where they showed to have become way too efficient. While the class has rights to have good recovery cards, the problems come when they're so good that you rarely feel not in control of the board.

Since it's quite a simple nerf, we're going to cut it to the bone: Touch of the Nathrezim will still act as a removal tool, will still heal you for a bunch and will still see abundant play, but it will be less effective as it has been until now. Therefore, all the slow Warlock strategies just suffered a small but significant hit.

Runed Mithril Rod Card Image

Cost is now 5 mana (up from 4, and previously from 3).

Although we didn't know what cards were going to get nerfed and how, we were pretty much sure that Runed Mithril Rod would've been on the list, and we weren't wrong. To be honest, this wasn't the most difficult call ever, as half the meta teched double Rustrot Viper, so it was clear that the situation needed to be addressed.

Regarding the weapon itself, it appears that the previous nerf to Mithril Rod (from 3 to 4 mana) was too light, as Warlock's great cycle tool (with Dreadlich Tamsin as the new, and very powerful, addition) was able to trigger the discount effect too efficiently, allowing for stupid combos of 100+ damage as early as turn 8.

We still think that having the chance to discount your entire time 4 times in a single game is never going to be bad, but the question is how slow will be the meta to forgive someone passing turn 5 without doing nothing. Matches should take longer to end now, but 5 mana is still quite a lot: Owl Warlock isn't dead technically, but given that it received three (!) nerfs we doubt it will be as popular as it was in the last two weeks. Which we don't mind at all.

Bloodsail Deckhand Card Image

Now has 1 Health (down from 2: this is a buff revert).

We were all pretty surprised to see Bloodsail Deckhand buffed in September, mostly because it was an already playable card in Questline Raid the Docks Warrior, and a 2/2 with an upside is pretty ridiculous if you remember that Blazing Battlemage was a meta defining card for all its lifetime in Standard. Moreover, the Pirate-themed Deadmines mini-set made that buff look even more out of place, as Pirate Warrior received lots of Neutral and class support there.

Reverting this change will make Pirate Warrior's presence on the board a little less exhausting, as Bloodsail Deckhand will be easier to remove from the board, and therefore you'll be able to save up some damage that would've been directed to your face otherwise.

Hitting Pirate Warrior with this patch has the same goal as the Alliance Bannerman nerf: setting up the field for the upcoming meta, toning down those decks that Team 5 sees as potentially oppressive in the nearest future.

Irondeep Trogg Card Image

Now summons a plain Irondeep Trogg (and not a copy of itself).

Snowbally 1-drops that decide games from the turn one if not swiftly removed have always been problematic , and Irondeep Trogg is no exception. While this unit had the important role of hard-countering combo decks, it's undeniable that fighting against a buffed Trogg was a pretty infuriating experience, as even coining out an answer triggered its effect, making your response basically useless.

Now that Irondeep Trogg summons just another Trogg and not a copy of itself anymore, there's a chance this unit will see play in token decks that wants to go wide on the board (and then buff it) rather than tall, but other than than Trogg lost what made it a menace to an entire meta, and therefore we expect its playrate to drop off significantly.

In the end, you can cast as many spells as you want now, as long as you have a 2 mana AoE ready to go. Hell, you could even fill your opponent's board on purpose just to lock them out!

Mo'arg Artificer Card Image

Reworked into a 3 mana 2/5 (up from a 2 mana 2/4).

There was only one instance where Mo'arg Artificer felt part of 'the good guys'. It was right after Ashes of Outland released, and everyone and their mother on ladder were either playing an OP Demon Hunter or desperately trying to counter it. While it took a crapload of nerfs to slow down Illidan, Mo'arg Artificer was able to allow remarkable Lifesteal recovery thanks to Nether Breath.

This niche scenario apart, Artificer was always included in degenerate decks: first OTK Il'gynoth Demon Hunter, and recently Owl Warlock - when you see it hitting the board, you know that bad news are coming. Moreover, Mo'arg Artificer recently became a core component of Warlock's efficient healing and removal toolkit, which allowed the class to keep doing its own thing while not having to be worried about dying.

Nerfing this unit to 3 mana not only will make Owl Warlock slower and therefore less impactful overall, but it will also weaken Lifesteal Demon Hunter by a remarkable margin - two birds with a single stone!

Card Buffs

Beaststalker Tavish Card Image

Summon Pet now costs 2 mana (down from 3).

Animal Companion was very good on turn 3 because Huffer, Misha and Leokk were all more valuable than the average 3-drop, but never really had to be nerfed because of its random part.

However, paying 3 mana for the same effect when you find yourself in the mid-late game may not be much better than the basic Steady Shot. Long story short, we think that the buff to Beaststalker Tavish's Summon Pet was basically owed, and gives slow Hunter strategies a very valid tool. We like it and we're eager to try it.

Grey Sage Parrot Card Image

Reworked into a 6 mana 4/5 (up from a 8 mana 6/6).

We passed from seeing Grey Sage Parrot as a fun card to a... wow... a strong unit. Costing 2 mana, less, Parrot becomes a lot more manageable to play, and it will also be able to come down earlier, hence potentially contributing to fight against aggressive strategies.

The obvious power-curve is turn 5 Arcane Overflow into turn 6 Grey Sage Parrot casting another Overflow and developing your board even further, but even casting more expensive spells in the late game will be more practical, as you'll have more leftover mana to do something else, like playing a Deepwater Evoker or finishing off the opponent with a Fireball.

Magister Dawngrasp Card Image

Cost is now 7 mana (down from 8); Arcane Burst now deals 2 damage (up from 1).

Magister Dawngrasp was the most underwhelming Hero card of Fractured in Alterac Valley, from both the predictions and gameplay points of view. Reducing its cost is sure something valuable, but that alone isn't probably going to make Dawngrasp that much better, as it still needs you to spend mana on spells belonging to different Schools in order to make an impact upon being played.

For this exact reason, we're happy to see that also Arcane Burst received some love: starting from 2 damage will make your Honorable Kill scaling faster and more dangerous, especially with the new version of Wildfire (see below).

All in all, we still think there are far better Hero cards than Magister Dawngrasp, but at least this change is a step in the right direction.

Wildfire Card Image

The buff now carries over when you change your Hero Power in the course of the match.

Since Wildfire was released, everyone was so upset seeing that the damage buff couldn't be preserved in case you changed your Hero Power throughout the course of a match: many players were eager to have some fun with Frost Lich Jaina's Icy Touch, but the way Wildfire was initially intended denied that interaction.

Fast forward 8 months, Magister Dawngrasp is printed, but the issue remains:

  • Not only playing Dawngrasp reset all the Wildfire buffs you had obtained until that point of the game,
  • If Dawngrasp itself were to cast Wildfire as your Fire spell, it wouldn't have counted towards Arcane Burst, as you always get a Hero card's Hero Power only after its Battlecry is resolved.

Being this situation rather underwhelming, we appreciate that Team 5 decided to rethink their initial position and changed Wildfire in a way that, from now on, it will persist even after swapping Hero Powers. We can say that this is what the card should've looked like from the very start, but better late than ever!

What do you think about these changes? Are there any other cards you would've liked to see nerfed? Let us know in the comments below!