Blizzard recently announced that we're going to receive a balance patch on Thursday, May 19th, regarding both Battlegrounds and Constructed.

Speaking about the latter, Hearthstone's Standard format is in a peculiar position: there's one class that clearly dominates the meta, a few others that can boast somewhat playable strategies and finally there are others that are either completely one-dimensional or almost absent from ladder.

Quote From PlayHearthstone

Heads up, Adventurers!

Details on our newest patch are coming May 19. Look forward to adjustments to both Battlegrounds and Standard, including nerfs and buffs!

While the balance patch we received almost a month ago successfully addressed issues related to Ramp Druid, Pirate Warrior and part of Kazakusan's degeneracy, other problems have surfaced in the meantime, and we are beyond the point where the meta can successfully heal itself. With these premises, the announced balance patch comes with an excellent timing.

Even though Team 5 is yet to share the balance patch's details with the community, we know that we'll receive both nerfs and (as teased by Iksar in his last AMA) buffs, which are hopefully going to shake up the meta and increase the environment's diversity, waiting for the Sunken City Mini-Set to come.

In this article, we're going to focus on the nerf predictions, while some possible buffs (much more difficult to predict) are going to be discussed in a later article.

Nerf Predictions - A Premise

While buffs have historically been appreciated by the Hearthstone community, it is as clear as the sky that the current state of the Standard format desperately needs some archetypes to be toned down. Sure, we are not talking about Day 1 Demon Hunter levels of insanity (back then, the situation was so grim that Team 5 hotfixed a bunch of cards after just 24 hours from their launch!), but there are still some power outliers that are preventing the meta to develop further.

Disclaimer: we do not think that all the cards listed below should be nerfed - while this is the case for some classes, in other situations one of the proposed changes should be more than enough! Moreover, keep in mind that these are merely speculations, and therefore highly subjective: please take them with a grain of salt and be respectful of each other's opinion!


Drek'Thar Card Image

Proposed change: because of complexity, see at the end of the analysis.

Let's start with the major suspect. Drek'Thar currently represents what Barnes was 5 years ago: a swing turn that happens way earlier than it's supposed to be and that, most of the time, wins the game on the spot or immediately after - and there's very little your opponent can do about it.

In an average scenario, you're able to create a very strong board pressure or turn 4 (or even on turn 3 if you're going second), resulting in your opponent being forced to face more than they can actually handle at that point in the game.

Now, the million-dollar question: how do you nerf Drek'Thar? Here are some possible solutions:

  • Reduce its cost to 3 mana - We've read about people suggesting this change, but we think it's a rather short-sighted suggestion. Sure, you'd get to summon at best two 2-drop, but the swing turn would happen even earlier!
  • Reduce the summoned minions to 1 - The simplest and probably the most likely design Team 5 will follow. You literally halve Drek'Thar's swing potential.
    • It would break the character's flavor, but better this than breaking the meta!
  • Reduce Drek'Thar's stats - While bringing less stats on the board would certainly help, you'd miss the problematic part of the card, therefore circumventing the issue rather than solving it.


Multi-Strike Card Image

Proposed change: cost increased to 2 mana (up from 1) or Attack buff reduced to 1 (down from 2).

If Drek'Thar usually closes the deal, Multi-Strike is fundamental in negating opponents' early initiative. Not only this spell represents a total of 4 damage for 1 mana, but it has great synergy with many Demon Hunter cards that are currently seeing play:

  • Dreadprison Glaive allows you to push damage face while clearing the opponent's board.
  • Pufferfist - Basically a one-sided Immolation Aura which allows the Demon Hunter to get past most annoying units, like the ones with Divine Shield.
  • Battleworn Vanguard - even more board pressure for your opponent to deal with.

Even with Drek'Thar potentially deleted from the game, we are sure that Multi-Strike would still feel like a very strong card. However, we do not think that implementing any of the two aforementioned changes will irremediably cripple the card, as it should still be rather good (especially thanks to all the attack-related synergies Demon Hunter has). You just cannot expect any other board-based strategy to gain traction if you can negate their early game board so efficiently.

Dreadprison Glaive

Dreadprison Glaive Card Image

Proposed change: duration reduced to 2 (down from 3).

It took quite some time for Dreadprison Glaive to appear on the meta radar: when it was released back in Fractured in Alterac Valley, many players recognized it as a powerful tool, but only Voyage to the Sunken City allowed this weapon to find a place, and it is currently a fantastic card in the hands of the best Standard archetype.

Clearing the opponent's board while pushing for face damage is extremely relevant, as it puts your opponent under even more pressure. Demon Hunter has many Attack buffs (Fury (Rank 1), Multi-Strike, Chaos Strike), so fulfilling the Honorable Kill requirement isn't a problem often times.

However, with the Drek'Thar nerf basically guaranteed and a potential Multi-Strike hit, we do feel like addressing Dreadprison Glaive as well would be a bit of an overkill, risking to bring Demon Hunter into unplayability - and we do not want more unplayable classes.

Shield Shatter

Shield Shatter Card Image

Proposed change: cost increased to 12 mana (up from 10).

Let's imagine this scenario: Aggro Demon Hunter gets hit hard, falls off in both power level and popularity, the meta slows down a bit and new aggressive strategies are able to flourish - would things go this way? We're not sure.

See, if Control Warrior is the only deck that is able to consistently keep Demon Hunter in check, what would happen if such a strong removal kit were to meet other aggressive strategies that are not so fast? It is fair to say that the Warrior would have even more time to deal with whatever is thrown at them, resulting in a very strong viability gatekeeper for any fast archetype.

Curbing a portion of Warrior's removal package may allow the upcoming meta to not become too slow, resulting in the opposite problem of what we're experiencing these days.

From the Depths

From the Depths Card Image

Proposed change: discount reduced to 2 mana (down from 3) or number of cards discounted reduced to 3 (down from 5).

To be fair, this isn't something we personally thought about: after the announcement of an upcoming balance patch, Hearthstone pro Ike suggested that From the Depths could use some changes. In fact, the interaction with Sir Finley, Sea Guide allows for a lot of mana cheat in the first few turns of the game: it is not rare to see Rokara, the Valorous to be played as soon as turn 4, or other powerful cards being played either ahead of time or with very little mana investment - even without counting the highrolls, you can swing pretty hard when your entire hand costs 3 mana less.

Ike's suggestion was to limit From the Depths's discount to just the bottom 3 cards; on the other hand, if we were to give our two humble cents, we'd suggest to keep the number of discounted cards as it currently is, but reduce the overall impact of the spell by reducing the applied discount to 2 mana - still powerful, still versatile, but a little less swingy.

Nellie, the Great Thresher

Nellie, the Great Thresher Card Image

Proposed change: Pirates' cost increased to 2 mana (up from 1).

We've read about this nerf candidate multiple times: while in the end we do not agree with such suggestion, let us elaborate a little further. Nellie is currently seeing play in both Control Warrior and what remains of Raid the Docks Pirate Warrior: not only it works as a hand refill mechanism for extra value down the road, but it also represent a remarkable mana cheat effect - this second use is the one that usually ends up being problematic.

In particular, being able to Discover a 1 mana Mr. Smite turns Nellie's crew into a lethal tempo swing for the paltry cost of 3 mana. The situation becomes ever more swingy when you pair Nellie with Brann Bronzebeard in Control Warrior, basically guaranteeing yourself a Smite plus a large portion of stats to throw at your opponent's face - basically an OTK!

This interaction can be very frustrating at times; however, as we were saying, we think it has yet to reach the point where we cannot live another day without a Team 5 addressing Nellie. Maybe, with the Pirate pool increasing in number, this issue will solve itself, or maybe it will become even more relevant with the release of other Pirates, but right now this isn't something that needs to be changed as much as other cards on this list.

Defend the Dwarven District

Defend the Dwarven District Card Image Take the High Ground Card Image Knock 'Em Down Card Image Tavish, Master Marksman Card Image

Proposed change: Knock 'Em Down takes 3 spells to complete (up from 2).

Last, but not least, everyone's favorite: Questline Hunter! Basically the only survivor of the 5 OTK decks that defined a large portion of the Fractured in Alterac Valley meta, it has been able to carve out a rather sweet spot for itself in the Sunken City meta.

As an example of what a "solitaire deck" looks like, here's a quick representation of what it feels like to play against Questline Hunter and to why players have such strong feelings against it:

  • Did your opponent play any minions? Kill them with your spells and advance through your Questline.
  • Did your opponent not play any minions? Direct your spells towards your opponent's face and advance through your Questline.

Moreover, once Tavish, Master Marksman hits the board, you are literally on a clock: it won't take your Hunter opponent more than a couple turns (sometimes just one) to finish you off, regardless of what your gameplan was all along.

Worth noting is that, despite not being the deck's main goal, Questline Hunter, a deck with basically all spells and that doesn't care about board presence, runs Drek'Thar - not because it needs it, but just because it can. Maybe nerfing Drek will be more than enough to keep Defend the Dwarven District, or maybe it won't.

What we are really worried about is that, Big Beasts apart, Hunter doesn't seem to have many viable strategies available, so there's the risk that knocking out Questline Hunter too much could hurt the class' chances to see play on ladder.

What do you think about these nerf suggestions? Are there any other cards you'd like Team 5 to tone down? Let us know in the comments below!