Ever since Blizzard released the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan as the latest expansion for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft late last year, the game’s meta and ranked ladder has been dominated by gamers playing two specific decks: Aggro Shaman and Pirate Warrior. Both decks attempt to swarm the board with minions from the start of the match and each deck has enough firepower to quickly emerge victorious, sometimes as soon as Turn 4 or 5.
Many players throughout the Hearthstone community have been openly complaining about the state of the game because of the two decks in question and have been begging Blizzard for a fix for weeks. On Tuesday, Blizzard finally answered those prayers by announcing that nerfs are coming to two different overpowered cards.
When the next update hits at the end of February, neutral card Small-Time Buccaneer and Shaman card Spirit Claws will both be less powerful. Blizzard detailed the reasons for the changes on Hearthstone‘s official forums:
Small-Time Buccaneer now has 1 Health (Down from 2)
The combination of Small Time Buccaneer and Patches the Pirate has been showing up too often in the meta. Weapon-utilizing classes have been heavily utilizing this combination of cards, especially Shaman, and we’d like to see more diversity in the meta overall. Small Time Buccaneer’s Health will be reduced to 1 to make it easier for additional classes to remove from the board.
Spirit Claws now costs 2 Mana (Up from 1)
Spirit Claws has been a notably powerful Shaman weapon. At one mana, Spirit Claws has been able to capitalize on cards such as Bloodmage Thalnos or the Shaman Hero power to provide extremely efficient minion removal on curve. Increasing its mana by one will slow down Spirit Claws’ ability to curve out as efficiently.
Essentially, the aggro Shaman deck is the hardest hit by this nerf, as both Small-Time Buccaneer and Spirit Claws are key parts of what made that deck so good. Pirate Warriors get off a little easier with only the nerf to Small-Time Buccaneer hurting them. We should also note that Small-Time Buccaneer is a popular card for some other classes like Rogue, who will be affected as well. Most players in the comments on Blizzard’s forums seem to agree with the changes so far, with many pointing out that the nerfs are gentle enough that Aggro Shaman and Pirate Warrior decks might still be viable with a couple of adjustments.
In addition to announcing the nerfs, Blizzard also revealed in its post yesterday that the coming update will introduce a key change to the way Hearthstone‘s Ranked Play mode works. Once the patch is live, players who progress to Rank 15, 10, or 5 will no longer de-rank past that rank if they should go on a long losing streak. This “floor” has been in place for Rank 20 since Hearthstone first launched, but now it will play a much bigger role throughout the entire ladder.
Blizzard said it is hoping the change will lead to additional deck experimentation and notes that this should also lead to reduced anxiety for players attempting to climb the ladder. It’s very true that attempting to get to Legend Rank at the very top of the ladder can be quite a grind, and players at Rank 5 and above have often resorted to playing only the current best decks in the game (like Aggro Shaman and Pirate Warrior) in order to avoid losing their precious progress as they reach the top.
The Ranked Play changes combined with the nerfs should really shake things up once the March Ranked Play season begins. Aggro Shaman and Pirate Warrior have proven to be so powerful for so long that there will likely be some gamers who will try to keep using the same decks, but this should also at least open the door to a little more experimentation in the game’s meta while players await the next Hearthstone expansion. Blizzard has been accused of being too slow to make changes to Hearthstone in the past, but it does seem like they got it right this time, even if it took a while.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is out now on PC, Mac, iOS and Android.