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January 8, 2017

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Standard 2017: Nerfing Classic Cards vs Moving Them To Wild Format


”Do you prefer some evergreen cards to be nerfed, rotated to wild, or kept in Standard even if it results in a staler meta?” – Ben Brode

So…this happened.

Hello, dearest readers, today I’ve got a juicy piece of discussion for you. There was a recent streak of blue posts from Ben Brode where he had talked about the current state of the standard format and what the standard format might look like this year when it comes to the classic set. If you’re interested, the summary of all posts can be found here but what I want to specifically discuss with you today is the question asked at the beginning of this article: nerfing classic cards vs moving them to the wild format?

Why Did It Come To This?

The developers have been listening to our feedback since the introduction of the standard format and they have been concerned about one crucial part of the feedback which is that the meta has become stale due to the presence of an evergreen set, the classic set, and a stale meta completely conflicts with their idea of what the standard format should be. The standard format serves to introduce the players to the fresh and ever-changing Hearthstone metagame while the wild format remains the stale and unchanging one. In order to fix this the developers have said that they will consider additional nerfs but they have also offered another possible solution which is moving cards from the classic set to the wild format which should result in some decks phasing out of the standard format. Why classic set? Because it is both evergreen and Ben Brode considers it the most powerful set in the standard format (which it objectively is).

Nerfing Cards vs Moving Them

Now that you know all that you need to know it is time to talk about the possible solution and the implications of the same.

So far we have never been in the situation like this before where we get an additional option regarding some problematic cards. Up until now cards that were considered to be unhealthy for the game were simply nerfed, some more and some less, and that was the end of it. Nerfing some cards had accomplished the goal of phasing out some more powerful decks, like Undertaker hunter, while it was unsuccessful with some other decks like miracle rogue which is remains strong even to this day. When the standard format came out there were 12 classic set cards nerfs in total with the goal of weakening some of the more powerful decks and getting rid of the cards that would potentially limit design space. Several cards have greatly suffered from these nerfs and some of them are Ancient of LoreBlade Flurry and Molten Giant. Did the nerfs accomplish what they were set to do? Yes, I believe that they have, but is continued nerfing of the classic set cards a correct path to take with balancing the game? No, it is not.

You see, when there is a talk about a stale meta it mostly refers to some decks and/or deck archetypes that have been around forever. I personally believe that all the truly problematic single cards from the classic set have been dealt with which in my opinion leaves only those cards that enable the continued success of the stale meta. Some decks are powerful because of certain cards which they can use. Some decks exists because certain cards exist. In order to phase those decks out of the metagame one would need to take the tools that make those decks work. Nerfing Force of Nature is a perfect example of completely phasing a persistent deck out of existence. That is what I consider problematic.

We have something that is called a wild format where all cards are available. If a card is nerfed to phase out a deck from standard, let’s say, Alexstrasza for freeze mage or Gadgetzan Auctioneer for miracle rogue, than that nerf affects the wild format as well and if the deck is phases out of the wild format that it simply no longer exists. No one, not players who have played this deck before nor new players can ever experienced it again. Nerfing key cards to phase them out of a single format can result in phasing them out of the entire game. This is why moving them from one format to another would be better because this way you’ve fixed the problem of the stale meta but the deck remains alive and untouched in a different format where both old and new players can experience it. This is why I believe that moving problematic cards to the wild format is healthier for the game overall than simply nerfing them.


That was my take on the proposed way of dealing with the stale meta. Now I wish to know what do you think? Should they just nerf cards and risk having them phase out of the game or should cards be moved to the wild format where the decks can still exist? Let me know in the comments below. I’m looking forward to your reading your opinions on this. As always  if you’ve liked this article do consider following me on twitter There you can ask me all sorts of Hearthstonequestions (unrelated to this article) and I’ll gladly answer them as best as I can.

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Communications expert and an aspiring community manager with a deep passion for card games and a writing. TCG veteran with competitive experience in almost every card game. Hearhtstone experimenter, researcher, wild format enthusiast and theory crafter.

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  1. Amanda Stein says:

    I vote for leaving the classic stuff alone. Most of the cards mentioned require skill to play successfully (auctioneer and alextrasza) and aren’t even the problem tilting people right now. I think it would be best to nerf the actual problematic cards, like small-time buccaneer and tunnel trogg. It’s really scary to me the direction they’re going with this because they say they’re listening to our feedback, but I’ve never even seen the community complain about the classic set. Everyone is just really mad about hyper aggressive decks and auto-lose matchups that have become a thing in Gagdetzan more than ever. If they just nerfed small-time buccaneer and jade idol that would honestly fix most of the problem, no need to obliterate interesting cards that enable combo decks – which by the way aren’t even strong right now – or entire archetypes (miracle). I was even hoping they might maybe move Reno into the classic set (imo one of the best and most interesting cards they ever printed, enables an entirely unique way to play), but I guess they’re moving in the exact opposite direction. :/

    • Anonymous says:

      I am not sure why there is the focus on the cards mentioned in the article. To my knowledge no-one from blizzard has mentioned those cards.
      Personally I would expect cards like preparation and van cleef to be targeted (if I was selecting rogue cards) as they are auto-include for all rogue decks

  2. SuperUai says:

    100% with your view. Nerfs should be used to fix broken things, like Undertaker or Tuskar Totemic, not to achieve diversity, that is done with rotation and new sinergical cards.

    • Anonymous says:

      I would disagree.
      Using Patches as an example. Blizzard is eventually going to have to nerf the card. In the short term the card is ok because it is a neutral card so multiple classes can make use of it, and as a result have viable decks. However longer term it clogs the design space (all aggro decks will run it) and adds a 1600 dust investment to all new players before they have a viable deck.

      Because of the power of the card and how early game it comes into play adding alternatives of similar power level is a massive escalation in card power. So a nerf is the most likely outcome. I guess rotating the card to wild would also be an option, but as the card is in the most recent expansion I doubt this will be done.

      • SuperUai says:

        I guess that you did not understand what I said. If you think Patches is too strong to the point it is broken, then nerf it, or rather fix it. But if you think Patches decks are easy to play and because of this you will only see Patches decks, let the players handle it, because eventually they will start playing with counters to it. IF the counters can not handle it (like Undertaker), then it is broken and needs to be fixed.

      • EternalHS says:

        I personally have a much lesser issue with them nerfing latest cards like Patches which are played in 3 decks than nerfing evergreen classic cards which are the backbone of so many decks in both standard and wild format. Nerfing classic cards in order to phase out certain decks will have a much bigger consequences to the game as a whole than nerfing the latest cards.

        Example, if you nerf Patches you’ve nerfed pirate decks. However, if you nerf Auctioneer even further than you’ve just phased out miracle decks (rogue, malyrogue and malydruid) out of the game entirely. Since Patches is a newer card than the game will get to recover from the nerf and adapt to it, but nerfing a classic cards that has been around forever and is the backbone of two decks will have much more dire consequences to the game as a whole.

        However, if you simply move those cards to the wild format than you’ve still nerfed problematic decks but didn’t phase them out of the game. You’ve still accomplished your original goal. I do believe that moving cards to wild, if that happens, will only affect the cards from the classic set (and refunds for those cards will be given).

        I do agree that the seriously problematic and broken cards like the undertaker should be nerfed instead of being moved.

  3. Anonymous says:

    My take is that a reasonable nerf is better than sending a card to wild. However if the card is going to become unplayable then sending the card to wild is preferable.

    So a the knife juggler nerf is good.
    But the blade flurry nerf would of been better just sending the card to wild.

    • dastirum says:

      Agreed. Same with Force of Nature. My favorit Deck (Aggro-)Combo Druid is not playable anymore in either format, which is kind of sad. And I would love to try the old Oil-Rogue which isn’t possible either.

      • EternalHS says:

        I absolutely agree on that one!
        Better to move cards than have some cards suffer the fate of Bladeflurry and Force of Nature.

    • Anonymous says:

      Imo, Anon nailed it. Moving a card to wild is the better option if the only alternative is nerfing it into oblivion (i.e. Buzzard, Flurry, Molten). That is not the only way to rebalance a card’s popularity and the staleness of Standard, though. Knife Juggler was probably the best example of something that was properly nerfed in recent times, although Abusive Sergeant is another good example. Imagine if instead of making Juggler a 2/2, Blizzard had kept a 3/2 Juggler in Wild, and Standard didn’t have Juggler. The implications that has on Zoolock’s viability are pretty enormous, especially considering Zoo is one of Druid’s best predators (Druid proved to be damn good this cycle).

      I think this idea of “new players getting to experience the old cards” is given a little too much credence in the community. It’s not totally void of merit, but sometimes something needs to be patched. It’s hard to guarantee that no card will ever accidentally be more powerful than intended, and will under no circumstances ever be part of a deck that hurts the meta. Playing Hearthstone’s saltiest cards and combos isn’t a birthright. It’s alright that they didn’t get to play with a Rogue hero power with a choose one effect, or a 2/3 Defias Ringleader, or that hilariously broken card called Adrenaline Rush. It’s not the end of the world they never used Bite when it gave +6 attack, or that they started playing after Undertaker was nerfed.

      I suspect that Blizzard considers Innervate as a source of staleness in Standard meta. I don’t think it’s very OP, but the fact it’s in virtually (literally?) every constructed druid deck, be it aggro, mill, ramp, etc., arguably decreases deck diversity among druids. Let’s say, hypothetically, Blizzard rebalanced Innervate so that it decreases the cost of your next minion by 2 mana. That would mitigate the number of spell-based combo plays that Innervate could be involved in, i.e. Force of Nature + double Savage Roar. The combo isn’t good just because of Innervate, but Innervate helped that spell combo close out games early, break though a lot of defenses, and severely outperform Ramp Druid. If that combo was maybe slightly less common and powerful, it might have been spared the nerf it received. This also makes Innervate a little clunkier with Gadgetzan Auctioneer. You’d have to play it before Auctioneer is played from hand, if you intended to do a purely spell-based chain with it. It’s not all bad news, though: Innervate could be used to play a Ysera that was hit with Freezing Trap. To cut to chase, the implications of a small nerf/rebalance are very different from Innervate being completely removed from Standard. Moving cards to Wild isn’t strictly healthier for Hearthstone’s future, maybe even less healthy than the Hearthstone team devising nerfs with more nuance and less apocalyptic fury.