February 3, 2016
Table of Contents
How Ranked was Saved – Formats Discussion
Hello everyone, Blizzard just made a H U G E announcement regarding the directions the game is going to take from here onwards, and these changes are huge!
But you don’t have to open this link and read the changes, because this article is all about these changes! Here you’ll read not only a detailed resume of what will happen, we’ll also discuss the long term impact of these changes and the immediate impact we’ll have on our every-day gaming.
Are you ready for what is probably the most important article this year until now?
Explaining the Changes
So, firstly, what is this “format” thing everyone is talking about?
In a card game, format refers to the rules and restrictions that govern what kind of cards can be included in a deck.
In Hearthstone’s case, let’s just say that every expansion (with exception of Neutral and Classic) that isn’t from the current year or the year before the one we’re playing is going to be out of the standard format.
There will be two different formats for Ranked play: Wild (every card in the game allowed, a “casual” format where you can still earn ranked rewards and progress through the ranking system) and Standard (The format where you’ll be playing for WCS points).
Both ranking systems work separately, and there is an individual rank for each system.
As additional changes, this is going to be the official tournament formats from the moment the patch hits onwards. Blizzard also said they’ll re-evaluate classic cards to make the game more balanced since they’ll be eternal (in other words, I believe they’ll nerf Force of Nature to stop limiting Druid’s deck building options).
Another minor information, but also important, is that we’ll now have 18 deck slots, rather than the 9 we currently do.
Another minor information is that we’ll finally be able to dust those weak Naxxramas adventure cards!
This year, after the changes have been implemented, Naxxramas (Naxx) and Goblins versus Gnomes (GvG) won’t be Standard playable anymore.
Impact of the Changes
These changes bring a lot to the table in the game and its long-term healthiness. Because of these changes we’ll be able to experience an ever-changing metagame with different cards coming in and out. We’ll also see less and less overpowered combos and strategies that tend to take over the metagame simply because there are too many options for you to pick the perfect build from (I am looking at you, Secret Paladin!).
Now, to talk about the impact of this without talking about the cards coming in and out (since we’ll do that on a further section), let’s start by figuring what Naxxramas and Goblins versus Gnomes cards are based upon:
Naxxramas is a Deathrattle themed expansion, filled with persistent Deathrattle cards that gave early-mid game decks a huge boost and assurance in the game against mid-late game decks. Naxxramas was (ignoring Combo Druid, since we already said we believe it’ll get nerfed after the changes are applied) the big “check” for Control decks since its release – Sweepers became just too weak. Naxxramas is also the “secrets” expansion for mages, allowing the othertime dead Mage Secrets to be playable due to its powerful all-star minion Mad Scientist.
Goblins versus Gnomes was a randomness (RNG) based expansion. This expansion is marked as an expansion that both added a lot of very powerful and important minions which impact you can’t control as well as was the expansion that gave life to the long-dead Paladin class. As a side-note, GvG also introduced the not-so-good-anymore Mech strategy, that was adopted by the Mage class at the time.
After reading this, we start to understand that post-rotation the decks will be less explosive, minions will be less persistent and the Paladin class will lose almost its entirety of the deck. Scientist Classes also get a big hit.
The big losers in this rotation are:
Paladins: losing almost half of it’s deck base, Paladins are the ones who got the biggest hit with the changes.
Hunters: losing the only good cards it got since classic (After GvG, Hunters got almost no updates).
The big winners in this rotation are:
Shamans – Who got zero important cards in both Naxx as well as GvG. Despite still having weak Midrange and Control decks, Shamans have the totality of their face deck left untouched (with the exception of Crackle, which can easily be replaced). Not to mention that Midrange Shaman is favorable on a slow metagame as the one prior to Naxx and GvG.
Druids – That despite possibly losing the combo, will lose nothing else other than that (If the combo stops existing, so will the need for Shade of Naxxramas).
Priests – Who also got nothing from GvG and Naxxramas outside of Lightbomb, and has its real power based on the last 3 expansions released. All the Best-in-slot cards post-rotation are Dragon sinergy cards, because of this Dragon Priest should rise in popularity as one of the strongest decks post-rotation.
Important cards that will go out
Now, to discuss the important cards that will go out and the impact, let’s start with the Big Boys:
Piloted Shredder – The strongest 4-drop in the game. Has an RNG-Factor that was applied as a form of “balancing” a card that seems to be borderline broken. The removal of this card from competitive games opens up for a lot of differentiation between card choices all around the decks. There is no longer a go-to 4-drop card in the game, and the decks will now pick 4-Drops to fulfil their curve as best fits their strategy, rather than an all-star-musthave card.
Dr. Boom – Blizzard when made this card thought that the RNG on the bombs would balance the card out, but as was proven on every playable GvG card: that is not the case. Adding randomness to cards not only create “bad” situations for the user, they also add a lot of potential to the random cards, a lot more than the bad situations and that is what makes cards like Dr. Boom so good – The potential to win the game on its own. The Doctor is also a very powerful all-in-one board presence card, meaning the sole existence of this card made Aggro decks aim their curve higher to play a card with so much impact on the board. This card is so powerful and meta-defining that the non-existence of this card will completely shake the basis of the game and change the metagame completely.
Antique Healbot – The go-to healing card added to the game in GvG. I wished this was added in Classic as I will be missing this card a lot, the removal of the prime anti-super-aggressive 5-drops from the game makes it so “Face” decks, despite losing some tools, become a lot more powerful.
Sludge Belcher – The other anti-super-aggressive 5-drop card that is leaving the game. I still try to picture how Control decks will do without Belcher and/or Healbot, but there are bound to be other options, since Aggro decks (with exception of Face Shaman) won’t be as powerful and/or persistent anymore.
Mad Scientist – The loss of this card greatly affects Mage and Hunter strategies. The removal of this card also makes these decks more consistent, despite losing tons of power. Don’t get me wrong, I know that the removal of Mad Scientist from the competitive format will greatly affect the potential of Hunter and Mage decks, however these decks are bound to move from tempo-oriented decks into decks that do whatever they want to do with a lot more consistency, without the fear of being weaker than the other deck from the same class.
Haunted Creeper and Nerubian Egg – The Prime persistent Mid-Aggro cards that has always put Control in check and gave a boost to Mid-Aggressive decks are now gone too, this means that from now onwards mid-aggressive decks will run less persistent cards, yet stronger ones stat-wise. This means that the deck will be weaker against opponents prepared to face it, but will be able to close games a lot faster against opponents that aren’t prepared to respond them – Seeing these cards go makes me happy, but not as much as seeing Dr. Boom and Shredder leaving.
Loatheb – This one was an all-star card during its time, and we’ll never forget how powerful keeping an opponent from playing spells for a turn was. This was a card made in times where combo decks were much stronger than Aggro and Control decks (Does anyone recall the old Miracle Rogue?) and is no longer needed in the game. I feel glad this is going.
Zombie Chow – This card was the prime anti-aggro 1-drop in the game. Almost everyone who was playing something from Mid-Control to Pure-Control wanted to run these in their deck. Now with Zombie Chow gone and the game moving from Early-mid to Mid-late, I believe the slot for Zombie Chow will be filled with higher curve cards.
Now that we’ve seen the important neutral cards that left the game, we should take a closer look at class cards that left the game:
Paladin – Avenge, Shielded Minibot, Muster for Battle, Quartermaster – These cards going out are huge. None of them are particularly unhealthy to the game with the exception of Avenge which allowed for Secret Paladin to exist. Now, Paladins have lost a huge portion of their deck. Does anybody else remember when Paladins were the worst class in the game? That was before Minibot and Muster, and now with the removal of Paladin’s all-star cards I don’t see how the class will survive. Actually, come to think of it I do: Anyfin Paladin – The deck basically only lost Healbot and Belcher, but the whole deck base still exists! Well at least there is something you’ll be able to play as a Paladin, however you won’t be able to play anything from Mid-aggressive to pure-Mid after the formating hits the game because of these cards leaving.
Priest – Dark Cultist, Velen's Chosen, Vol'jin, Lightbomb – I believe Priests get more buffed than nerfed with these changes. Losing Lightbomb sure is a hit, but fighting against opponents with much less explosive and persistent decks is a huge, huge bonus and I don’t think Priests will be sad to see Naxx and GvG go. Dark Cultist is a strong tool that the Priest has lost, but there are just so many strong 3-drops for the Priest class that it won’t be a problem replacing the cultist (Or the Deathlord). Example of fine 3-drops that fits the Priest strategy perfectly: Fjola Lightbane, Eydis Darkbane and Blackwing Technician.
Rogue – Tinker's Sharpsword Oil – Rogues lost a single powerful card, but gained a persistent-free metagame. These persistent cards always put Rogue in check and I believe the class will be much stronger after these changes hits despite losing a major player in its deck. A special note to rogue “losing” Unearthed Raptor with the downfall of Naxxramas, which nearly never saw play anyway.
Shaman – Crackle – Nah, the class didn’t lose anything special, and now that all the persistency is gone from the game, Shaman’s sweepers are more powerful than never. Maybe it is a good time to give that Dragon Shaman another shot 😀
Warlock – Voidcaller, Mal'Ganis, Darkbomb, Imp-losion – Warlock took a great hit with this, but not as great as some other classes. The loss of its all-star cards Imp-Losion and Darkbomb are huge, and Warlocks will have to make up for this in some other way (maybe going back to using Soulfire??). The Demon-portion of the Warlock class was always more of a Tech than anything else, so I don’t think any existing deck that is Demon-oriented will die out completely, I just think it’ll stop “Demoning”.
Warrior – Death's Bite, Shieldmaiden, Unstable Ghoul – Basically, Warriors lost part of their Grim Patron centered cards and a small Control card. Since Warrior Control now have Justicar Trueheart I don’t think the loss of Shieldmaiden is that important and having all the persistent minions that was putting Control Warrior in check gone from Standard will make Warrior Control a much powerful strategy. Warrior Control also got stronger with Paladin Mid-early strategies going out of the game, so I believe that despite losing Death’s Bite and Shieldmaiden, Control Warrior is much stronger post-rotation. Patron Warrior however, I believe it won’t be getting much updates after these changes and will eventually be fully substituted by its older brother.
Mage – Duplicate and Unstable Portal – Ok, Mages also lost the Mech Strategy but that strategy wasn’t being played so much nowadays to begin with, so i’ll just narrow it down to these 2 cards. In the end we can say Mage greatest hit was losing Mad Scientist, and any other loss compared to that is nothing. However, I would like to express how important it is for the game healthiness to see a card like Unstable Portal go.
Hunter – Webspinner, Glaivezooka – Much like Mage, Hunter’s greatest hit was the loss of the beloved Scientist. Because of this, Hunter’s future is completely uncertain as of now. However, the removal of Healbot and Belcher from the game might make it so Face Hunter becomes a thing again, maybe even the comeback of Midrange Hunter with the removal of Shredder (since Hunters can take great advantage of Tomb Spider in long games).
Druid – Nothing, LOL!
Cards that Might see play
With the removal of all-star cards all across the curves, previously non-playable cards that were outshadowed might start seeing play, let us take a closer look to these cards:
Chillwind Yeti and Sen'jin Shieldmasta – The classic powerful 4-drops might make a comeback. I remember the time where Chillwind Yeti was the prime 4-drop card in the game back in vanilla, but let’s remember that Sen’jin is also good enough in other strategies, mostly defensive ones.
Refreshment Vendor – With Healbot gone, defensive decks might need another way to heal up. This card, despite not being so good for decks wishing to close out games, is a perfectly fit for Control strategies trying to gain more time.
Tomb Spider – A very powerful beast that was left aside because of Piloted Shredder existence. This card can now see play because of both the slot-opening as well as the speed decrease of the Metagame.
Savage Combatant – Another big candidate to take Piloted Shredder slot. I belive this card will end up being Druid’s all-star 4-drop after the Shredder rotates out. Maybe, because of this change, beast Druid becomes a thing and yet another 4-drop joins Druids side in the form of Tomb Spider or Wildwalker.
Kor'kron Elite – This card might come back to Warrior Control’s core to take back Death’s Bite throne. This card used to be a 2-of in every Control Warrior deck prior to Naxxramas, and I believe it has great chances of making a comeback.
Azure Drake – But Nuuuubaaa, this card is already played! Well, back in Classic Azure Drake was the prime 5-drop in the game and there was nothing else better than this, so everyone would play Azure Drake in their decks – Even Control Warriors. I believe this might come back to being a thing after the rotation because of the lack of good 5-drop cards.
King's Elekk and Fallen Hero – Possible substitution for Mad Scientist once it rotates out in Pure-mid strategies for both classes. Secrets are now gone for mage, but probably not for Hunters as their 2-mana secrets (mostly Explosive and Freezing) are pretty good on their own. However, Mad Scientist will still leave an empty slot even in Hunters, and these cards can easily replace these slots with other good cantrips.
As an additional Note I would like to express how powerful I believe the Dragon strategy is going to be once these cards rotate, and maybe we’ll start seeing the Dragon theme on Warrior to be the dominant one over the standard Control Warrior we are used to see. Maybe Dragon Paladin can become a thing, but I highly doubt that.
Cards that might stop seeing play
Now, there are side-effects to cards leaving, which is not only cards that start seeing play, but also cards that stop seeing play – Let’s take a look at a couple of them:
Big Game Hunter – The prime anti-Dr. Boom card added to every deck. Since Dr. Boom was a thing in most decks, Big Game Hunter also became a thing in most decks. With Dr. Boom gone, strategies are going to be a lot more “pure” than they were before, and things like seeing an Aggro deck with its curve going up to the 7-drop won’t be a thing anymore. Because of this, I believe Big Game Hunter will take a major hit and will stop seeing play in most decks after the changes have been made.
Mind Control Tech – Another card that was great due to Dr. Boom and Muster for Battle, might stop seeing play as Mid-early Paladin strategies won’t exist anymore, and the sole use against Aggro decks won’t justify its main deck inclusion.
Mirror Entity and Counterspell – Mage’s prime Aggro secrets will now be gone from the metagame with Mad Scientist being cut from the game. However, Freeze Mage gains a lot more than loses with these changes, so Freeze’s secrets won’t take a hit and will still be playable after the rotation.
Mysterious Challenger and Paladin’s Secrets – With the whole curve of Paladin gone, combined with the rotation of Avenge, Secret Paladin took a huge hit and I don’t think it will be able to keep being a powerful player in the next months – THANK GOD!!!!
Of course, there are other cards that might stop seeing play after the rotation, but these are the major hits taken by the metagame – In case you think of another card that might stop seeing play, let me know in the comments!
Possible Standard Nerfs
Now, Blizzard already said they’ll change a couple of classic cards to make it so the eternal portion of the Standard Format stays healthy, which almost absolutely means: NERFING DRUID’S COMBO!!!
As long as Force of Nature+Savage Roar exists, Druid’s strategy will always be limited towards combo, and Blizzard doesn’t want that. Because of it, I am positive that either Force of Nature or Savage Roar will take a hit after the rotation and something tells me that it is going to be Force of Nature, as Savage Roar also enables for Aggro decks to have an Edge, while Force of Nature is a combo-only thing.
If I would take a guess, the 2/2 treants won’t be able to hit face after the nerf hits.
I can’t think of other changes that might happen to the game, but these are the ones I can think about. However, these last 3 changes I mentioned aren’t likely to happen and it might just be my heart – but once again, I am positive Druid’s combo will take a hit of the Nerf bat.
These changes are huge, the game never changed as much as it will post-rotation and I for once love every single one of these changes – Being able to play different cards for the same slot across classes, playing a more consistent and skill-oriented game, and most importantly never needing to see Dr. Boom and Piloted Shredder ever again.
I hope you guys enjoyed this read, it was fun writing about all this and you just wait for me to post thousands and thousands of playable deck-lists for you guys to play once the rotation takes place!
I love you all, see ya in the next article, if you want to take anything, go to the comment section and i’ll be responding ASAP!