The very significant balance patch became a reality just a few days ago, extending its influence over more than just the most traditional of Hearthstone game modes. On the Constructed side of things, the second course correction within a month (following the previous set of buffs & nerfs, as well as the addition of the Throne of the Tides Mini-Set) has been the main talk of the tavern ever since. But even the less impactful balance touches for both Battlegrounds and Mercenaries serve as an indication of the ongoing design philosophy, in a way signifying what's yet to come.

Back then in May, we also saw Associate Game Designer Edward "Gallon" Goodwin take to Twitter in order to share a lot of crucial developer insights regarding all Standard/Wild cards that received adjustments at the time, while hinting at the ones that were still on the team's radar. It was all very informative, more than making up for the lack of any commentary in the official blog post.

Now, while we did get some public takes this time around (published along with the latest batch of the patch notes), the other members from Team 5 have additionally stepped up to offer us even more thoughts on the present and possible future paths their respective game modes might take. It's the most comprehensive peek behind the scenes that one could hope for, so once again we'll go over all of them below:

Constructed Hearthstone

First things first - Gallon has since passed the torch to another person within the team, as a result of these occasional internal shifts: 

Quote From Gallon
Quick update: Starting today I joined the Initial Design team! Really thrilled to help tackle new design challenges in Hearthstone. I’ll still be actively involved in live balance, but I’ll be passing the role of Final Design team’s spokesperson over to @AlecoGereco.

Aleco’s been an awesome addition to our team and I’m excited to see him take the reins. Be sure to follow him for great insight into future balance updates and general philosophy about final design!


Quote From Aleco
Hello and thanks to all the new followers! For those who are wondering, yes, I’m the guy that you should be tagging on here with your live balance feedback. Unless your feedback is snarky, in which case please feel free to keep tagging @GallonHS 😁

One more relevant personal clarification while we are at it: 

Quote From Aleco
To clear up some minor confusion, Aleco is my first name (short for Alexandros) and it rhymes with "gecko". Gereco is not my real last name, but it *was* the real last name of a great grandparent of mine and I like that it rhymes with Aleco 🇬🇷

As it's turned out, the new Final Design spokesperson certainly took this appointment to heart, coming up with the amount of insights that seemed to have caught even 'Q&A Master' Iksar by surprise

Quote From Aleco
Hello Hearthstone! Now that Gallon has moved to the initial design team, I’ll be taking over as the rep for the final design team (the team that handles live balance) on places like Twitter. We have a big patch coming your way today, so let’s dive into the details!

"Feels" Vs Data

We've heard of such a distinction before when balance considerations were being discussed - actually on more than one occasion - but perhaps not in as much detail: 

Quote From Aleco
I want to quickly highlight that roughly half of the cards in this patch are being changed primarily because of how they *feel*, rather than being changed because of their *balance*. We’ve done this in the past, but may want to do this more often going forward.

Quote From Aleco
Feels-based changes:

These are all changes we would not have made if we were only thinking about balance. Though a few of these cards have high playrates, and these cards are powerful, none of their winrates are alarming enough to justify a nerf. That said, when discussing each of these cards we felt that they all represented too much of their deck’s respective power, and that the meta would be better if these cards were slowed down a bit.

Mr. Smite Card Image Lightforged Cariel Card Image Spitelash Siren Card Image

Quote From Aleco
As for Earthen Scales, it felt like this card was closing the window of opportunity to attack Druid a little too reliably in the mid game. It should still work as a tool for keeping Druids alive late, but hopefully won’t put games out of reach as quickly as it did before.

School teacher is the most played card in the game right now by a decent margin. It has a powerful effect (especially when combined with Brann), and also has the most premium stats that we would generally ever give to a 4 drop with no downsides. These are probably the numbers we should have shipped School Teacher with, and it’s never too late to correct a small mistake like this.

Earthen Scales Card Image School Teacher Card Image

It would seem that pulling any craftable School Teacher copies (from your Voyage to the Sunken City or Standard packs) even well before getting the chance to grab the Golden Uncraftables from the Rewards Track might've paid off in this particular case. All previous 'free' Epic offerings were nowhere near as ubiquitous.

Quote From Aleco
Balance-based Changes:

This patch wasn’t all “feels”. Three classes stood out in the data in particular.

The Big Three

Warrior being the primary suspect here, gatekeeping a number of other class decks with all of its potent variants. Whereas Fel Demon Hunter and Rogues were mainly focused on abusing their occasional "scam" potential: 

Quote From Aleco
Control Warrior variants and Fel Demon Hunter were the most dominant decks in the game, with Demon Hunter performing better in lower ranks and Warrior performing better and better as you approach high legend.

Control Warrior decks reliably generate large amounts of Armor, which they would often leverage to play Shield Shatter and clear away opposing boards. We wanted to find a place to shave away a bit of their incidental Armor generation (Tidal Revenant), and we wanted to make a change to Shield Shatter that didn’t disrupt the Frozen Buckler -> Shield Shatter synergy. The elegant change here was to reduce the damage on the spell instead of increasing its cost.

From the Depths has been a standout card for Warrior, but it has felt particularly strong when used to reduce the cost of combo pieces for Charge Warrior decks. We wanted to take some power out of the card without completely killing it, so we opted to go from 3 to 4 mana. 

Nellie has been pulling a bit too much weight since her release and has been doing so in occasionally frustrating ways. We tested out having the Pirates cost (2) less instead of (1) less, but we found that there were so many Pirates that cost 2 or less that this was actually a buff to Nellie in a lot of situations. We hope that this version of Nellie will add a lot more texture to the Pirate discover decisions, now that it’s not as often correct to just pick the most expensive Pirate each time.

Nellie, the Great Thresher Card Image Nellie's Pirate Ship Card Image

Quote From Aleco
Hey Aleco I was wondering on the control warrior nerfs why did you guys consider nerfing From The Depths by one mana instead of the amount of cards discounted?

We considered that change as well. We also considered lowering the amount it discounted by. Ultimately, we felt like this change did a good job of slowing down the card without completely killing it, and prefer to make changes to cost before making changes to text box.

Shield Shatter Card Image From the Depths Card Image Tidal Revenant Card Image

Quote From Aleco
Fel Demon Hunter was the other major standout deck which required some balance adjustments. Looking at the data, it was clear that the interaction between Caria Felsoul and Xhilag was too strong, and that something needed to change between these two cards.

Xhilag didn’t stand out nearly as much in the data as Caria, so we decided to slow her down instead of ratcheting Xhilag back down. We wanted to hit at least one more piece from the Demon Hunter decks, and in looking at the data we had plenty of options to choose from. 

We settled on Battleworn Vanguard because it was one of the best performing cards in the class overall and had the ability to snowball early games in a way that Fossil Fanatic (another statistical standout) wasn’t quite capable of.

Caria Felsoul Card Image Xhilag of the Abyss Card Image Xhilag's Stalk Card Image

Battleworn Vanguard Card Image Fossil Fanatic Card Image

Quote From Aleco
Rogue has been consistently the most played class in the game. When looking at the data it was clear that Wildpaw Gnoll was the biggest outlier. We've had some trouble with this card - it probably didn’t need to have its previous nerf fully reverted in the last patch.

Wildpaw Gnoll Card Image

That's Wild

Ask and you shall receive? 

Quote From Aleco
Now for our Wild change! We’ve been hearing a lot from the Wild community that Big Shaman was not a particularly fun deck to lose to, and we agree that some of the plays this deck could make in the early game were frequently leading to non-games.

The clear culprit here was Lightning Bloom, a card which was likely to continue to cause problems for the format in the future if we didn’t make a change.

Lightning Bloom Card Image

Quote From Aleco
Were there any other wild decks getting looked at or was it just big shaman?

Just big shaman


Lived To See Another Day

As always, it's highly interesting to learn what else might've been considered for balance/feels reasons, but was ultimately left alone - at least for the time being. It hints at all the other aspects of the current metagame that the Hearthstone team is clearly aware of.

Quote From Aleco
Finally, I’d like to address a few other cards that we considered nerfing this patch for feels-based reasons, but ultimately decided against: Elwynn Boar and Celestial Alignment. In the current high legend metagame, there is a game of cat and mouse going on where some players queue up Boar Priest to beat Control Warrior, while others queue up Alignment Druid to stomp Boar decks. These matchups are very sharp, with the Boar Priest into Alignment Druid being far more polarizing than we would like.

We ultimately decided not to touch these decks at this time. These decks are clearly underperforming across most ranks, and there are currently not many other options available for players who enjoy this type of gameplay. We want there to be something available for these kinds of players. Additionally, we’re hitting one of Boar Priest’s best matchups in Control Warrior, so we feel like we can afford to wait and see how things shake out before making a change here.

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading! As always, we'd love to hear your feedback, and hope you all enjoy the patch.


Elwynn Boar Card Image Sword of a Thousand Truths Card Image Celestial Alignment Card Image

There were also a few more short answers provided to address various community questions: 

Quote From Aleco
Hey Aleco, I actually have a question! Harpoon Gun got (to my surprise) buffed in the big buff patch. Harpoon Gun ticks several of the boxes you pointed at in your thread for cards, such as performance outlier and a bad feels. Could you perhaps elaborate on that?

That was actually the card we discussed changing for Hunter the most. We decided against it because we worried the class would be in too rough a spot afterwards.


Quote From Aleco
Thank you for the insight! Out of curiosity, was Snowfall Guardian on your radar for a feels-based change? I know Shaman isn't very popular at the moment but a lot of people despise playing against this card.

Snowfall was on our shortlist for a feels-based change but didn't quite make the cut.

Harpoon Gun Card Image Snowfall Guardian Card Image

Quote From Aleco
Any concern about Wig Priest and bomb rogue becoming too dominant…they both feel awful to face.

These decks were on our radar but we decided against making changes at this time. With such a big patch, it can be hard to predict if the new meta will be kind these decks or not.

Serpent Wig Card Image Naval Mine Card Image Forsaken Lieutenant Card Image

Quote From Aleco
When you mention boar as one of the decks that "feel bad" and was a nerf candidate when it is at a desolating winrate its the most disconnected thing ever. How is it any more frustrating and "bad feel" that being rush but some aggro in turn 5? Or have ur combo immolated/mutanus?

That really depends on what kind of player you are. Some people are more frustrated by control decks than they are by OTK, other people are more frustrated by aggro, etc. We have to look at all the feedback and try to do what we think will make the most people happy.

Quote From Aleco
Lastly you state you nerfed Cariel based on feels but then the team decided to let Bomb Rogue, Celestial Alignment Druid and Boar Priest roam free? How is Cariel a bigger Outlier on that metric then the mentioned decks?

Cariel stands out much more in the data. Her current winrate/playrate wasn't high enough for us to make a purely balance-motivated change here, but the combination of feels + balance put her over the edge for us.

Never a shortage of topics to talk about, so it's good to see this extensive developer communication continue.


While focused insights for Constructed modes always end up taking a lot of space, that's not all there is. The recent balance efforts also had a number of Battlegrounds adjustments in mind (a common trend nowadays), and designer Mitchell Loewen was on point once again to share a handful of relevant thoughts; including what we should be looking forward to:

Quote From Mitchell Loewen
Well Met! Let's talk a bit about heroes in Battlegrounds. 🧵

Recently we've received a lot of feedback from players that some heroes feel less fun and exciting to play than others. We appreciate that feedback and agree that there are improvements that can be made.

It is our hope that when you look at your hero selection, there is always at least one (if not multiple!) heroes you are excited to play with.

In 23.4.3, we have included a few changes to some of our underperforming heroes (specifically Pyramad, Tamsin, and Onyxia). We have more changes like these planned over the next few months, and we're looking forward to sharing more on that soon. See you in the Battlegrounds!

P.S. Don't tell the others, but I'm rooting for you! 🤫


The improved Hero Power for Pyramad became the most discussed topic of the bunch, partially due to the initial version of the patch notes having the wrong description (it is not random, but targeted). Celestalon even went one step further, pondering various math implications and creating a whole spreadsheet for maximizing its usage.

Quote From Mitchell Loewen
Few clarifications on BGs 23.4.3!

  • The improvements to Pyramad's HP are permanent (e.g. it will not reset after use)
  • Pyramad's HP is now targeted (not random)
  • Updated Pyramad's HP can no longer be obtained by Nguyen.

Pyramad Card Image Brick by Brick Card Image

Incidentally, the final point regarding Master Nguyen caused a different follow-up:

Quote From Mitchell Loewen
Why not? +2 health to a minion is better than nothing. You can still have reasons to pick it with Nguyen.

The general rule is that upgradable hero powers cannot be obtained by Nguyen (e.g. New Pyramad, C'Thun, Saurfang, etc.)

That makes sense. What if you made the upgrades roll over. Pick c'thun and use his hp, then if you get it again it has +1 upgrade and so forth?

That's an interesting idea. I think the worry would be if you either never rolled it a 2nd (or 3rd+) time and feel bad, or that when you find the non-upgraded version for the first time on turn 10+ it's too weak to consider.

Master Nguyen Card Image Power of the Storm Card Image

Quote From Mitchell Loewen
More changes are coming. These 3 are just the start.

By the sound of that I assume hero pool rebalance will be a major focus of the team going forward for the next patches at least?

It is definitely a focus


Onyxia Card Image Broodmother Card Image

Quote From Mitchell Loewen
Thanks for the insight! Having the vast majority of heroes feel interesting/different would be a huge step forward for the “fun” factor. That and performance improvements feel like top priority changes to me. This first step definitely helps, and I’d love to see more. :)

Agreed! Those are both priorities for the team.

Tamsin Roame Card Image Fragrant Phylactery Card Image

It's only been a little while, so understandably not everyone has yet forgotten about these 'Buddy' individuals:

Quote From Mitchell Loewen
I love that you guys interact with the BG community. Just curious, did buddies make it easier to try and balance because you could use buddies to balance out really bad hero powers, or did they make it much harder because of the added complexity?

Hmm good question. They gave more knobs to adjust so that there were more way to change heroes, but they also added a lot of general power to the game and more interactions to consider. To me it wasn't really easier/harder to balance, it was just different if that makes sense.


Stay tuned for more to come soon (tm):

Quote From Mitchell Loewen
Improving communication between the BGs team and the community is a high personal priority. I'm looking forward to doing more going forward 😁


It's been more than a couple of months since the last huge set of various adjustments for numerous characters took place within the Mercenaries game mode (the other patch that we got meanwhile was mainly focused on minor spell school changes and reworking Refresh), so even this smaller selection of buffs arriving just a moment ago was a welcome sight. 

Alas, we are generally not used to receiving any regular developer insights for Mercs. So when this question was asked during the most recent Hearthstone Q&A from Dean 'Iksar' Ayala, the expectations weren't nearly as high: 

Quote From Iksar
In the recent update we saw some great mercs buffs. I'm curious what goes into the decision making when buffs are considered. Yulon felt like a clear better Valeera answer but for more subtle changes like HP buffs or smaller adjustments what makes a merc considered for buffs?

I'm not quite close enough to mercs balance to have commentary on this @TinMan354leaves some great insights, he's your guy if you ever have questions like this


Following this prompt, Contract Game Designer Charles 'TinMan354' Dunn did indeed step up to talk about a range of subjects for Mercenaries (something we've actually seen him do before): 

Quote From Charles Dunn
For some Mercs, we look at whether or not they are fulfilling a niche. Yu'lon like you mentioned, same with Alexstrasza and Athissa in the last patch. Those Mercs were not being played much, even though the things they should have been countering were fairly popular.

As for more subtle buffs, we often look for teams that are good but not quite top tier, and could use a slight bump. We will typically buff one of the weakest members of that team, Holy for instance with the Uther buff. This buff alone won't make Holy top tier, but it is a nice bonus to an older Merc who has not been able to shine recently. Players can now reevaluate all Holy characters in light of a single buff. (heh, get it, Holy light? I'll see myself out)

Appreciate the insight! Much like Onyxia would appreciate some more hp like our friend rexxar got 😉 🐉

We were pretty scared of Onyxia in development. She could gain a ton of Fire damage with Deep Breath and that went crazy with Diablo's Flame Stomp. We positioned her as a glass cannon because of it. She hasn't proven that strong though, so maybe a slight buff would be ok

Onyxia Card Image Deep Breath 1 Card Image

For a moment there it seemed that would be it, but then an unexpected challenger appeared - another Contract Game Designer we haven't really heard from before, Tess Leiman. As it quickly became evident, Tess had a lot of detailed insights to throw at us: 

Quote From Charles Dunn
Everyone curous about Merc balance changes, go read this thread by @DaBessTess. She has been the drriving force behind a lot of recent (and upcoming) changes.

It all starts with a more in-depth look into the whole balancing process: 

Quote From Tess Leiman
I championed this balance patch when I heard we had the opportunity to make one. It started with me drafting up my ideal changelist and sending it to our design lead to review. After feedback, I reworked it and went again. After several times until we arrived at this version.

Throughout the process, I received many changes completely denied for various reasons. There were also a lot of changes that were decided would need more time to effectively implement, so they were consider a "we can do this later potentially" option.

We ended up with the current list after removing the ones that fell under either criteria. I can go through the ones that did make it live and give some insight.

The Newly Buffed Mercs

Specific commentary on all buffed Mercenaries along with a dash of general musings as follows: 

Quote From Tess Leiman
Alexstrasza: Dragonqueen’s Gambit

Old: Cooldown 2 → New: Cooldown 1

Honestly this abilities should just be 0 Cooldown, but I decided to keep it at 1 because of the equipment that makes it 1 speed. Most of the time it's dealing less damage than Dragon's Breath.

Alexstrasza Card Image Dragonqueen's Gambit 1 Card Image

Quote From Tess Leiman
The Lich King: Death Coil

Old: Cooldown 1 → New: Cooldown 0

Pre-launch this ability was 4 speed and had no cooldown. It seemed pretty fine in PvP that way, but it was nerfed because it was particularly strong when enemies used it in PvE.

Since then, we've almost doubled the amount of Mercenaries released, so the chance of encountering any singular Mercenary is PvE is much lower. The frequency of fights against collectible Mercenaries in PvE were also reduce pre-launch, but post Death Coil nerf.

The Lich King Card Image Death Coil 1 Card Image

Quote From Tess Leiman
Yu’Lon: Jadeflame Buffet

Old: Cooldown 1 → New: Cooldown 0

This was made mostly to help reduce the impact of Valeera. I didn't actually think it was going to be as impactful as it seemingly has been, but it's cool seeing Mercs that were previously underplayed finally showing up.

Yu'lon Card Image Jadeflame Buffet 1 Card Image

Quote From Tess Leiman
Tidemistress Athissa:

Wave Crush: Old: Speed 7 → New: Speed 6

Riptide: Old: Cooldown 1 → New: Cooldown: 0

Wave Crush was increased in speed to activate the Frost Combo on Tidal Strike. Previously, there were multiple abilities that activated this Frost Combo across the Naga, but as their designs change those abilities were scrapped. This left the Naga with only 1 ability to activate this combo, so I wanted to rectify that.

Riptide just felt underpowered compared to similar options, specifically Jade Gust. Jade Gust deals 40 damage when one character Attacks, while Riptide deals 20. Riptide has pros and cons compared to Jade Gust, but not enough pros where the cooldown seemed justified.

Tidemistress Athissa Card Image Wave Crush 1 Card Image Riptide 1 Card Image

Quote From Tess Leiman
Rexxar: Old: 11/72 Maxed Stats → New: 11/82 Maxed Stats

Rexxar has always been pretty frail, but nothing in his moveset really required him to be. If he's trying to get value off of Mama Bear Claws, he needs to be alive long enough to see more beasts summoned.

Rexxar Card Image Mama Bear's Claws 1 Card Image

Quote From Tess Leiman
Xuen, the White Tiger: Equalizing Strike

Old: Speed 7 → New: Speed 5

Because Pounce is Speed 4 and generally provides +15 Attack, Equalizing strike is almost never going to be used. It'd require making the ability something like 2 speed for it to be close to parity, but that seems extremely dangerous on its own. I wanted to increase the speed to 5 regardless to make the niche situations where you do want to use it over Pounce a little bit more common.

Xuen Card Image Equalizing Strike 1 Card Image

Quote From Tess Leiman
Captain Hooktusk: Cutthroat Negotiation

Old: Speed 7 → New: Speed 2

Hooktusk is just super slow and that's hurting her overall playability. There was a lot of fear around her when she was initially implemented because of role changing, but the many characters implemented since her also can change roles. The ability needs to be fast to both gain any utility from it, and for it to provide skill testing mind games.

Captain Hooktusk Card Image Cutthroat Negotiations 1 Card Image

Quote From Tess Leiman
Uther: Blessing of Protection

Old: Speed 3 → New: Speed 1

There were bigger plans for Uther, but this is the only change that made it in this patch. This one was mainly a change to just tighten up the usability of the Taunt.

Uther Lightbringer Card Image Blessing of Protection 1 Card Image

Now this is a fine mission statement to stand by: 

Quote From Tess Leiman
Overall the number 1 thing I was aiming for was to make players have a bit more fun while playing these characters.

I knew I couldn't create the perfect meta with this changelist, but I pushed for doing something to make our players happier. If someone playing with Rexxar loves having 10 more Health, then it was worth just giving Rexxar 10 more Health.

Quote From Tess Leiman
I'm curious what were some of the changes that got nixed? It's interesting to see the ideas being bounced around

I don't wanna say because I don't want to disappoint anyone who would've liked those changes. Especially ones that might be more discussed by the community. Hopefully some of the buffs will see the light of day sometime soon.

Sounds like there is a lot more in store as far as the balancing act is concerned. We'll always take some bonus Mercenaries communication; perhaps this won't even be the only time.

That should about cover everything of significance for our (arguably) most expansive chapter of developer communication to date. If you've managed to internalize most or all of these particular insights, well done! But perhaps you only really care about one or two of the game modes in question, while skimming throughout the rest. Where do you stand regarding all these changes, thoughts, and potential future adjustments being hinted at?