Hex

PRIMORDIAL KNOWLEDGE – READY TO RUMBLE

October 21, 2016

by Varranis | Twitch | Twitter | Team Fade 2 Karma

The Radiant Rumble has come and gone and the constructed meta has continued to develop. While [champ]Kagulichu[/champ] took down the tournament, the popular Dragonborn Kagu Crusader build failed to crack top 8. This reflects positively on the current format’s diversity and capacity for counter play. In fact, seven distinct archetypes topped the tournament – and even the two [champ]Kagulichu[/champ] decks in top 8 were decidedly distinct compared to each other and popular variants.

I brought the standard Dragonborn Kagu Crusader list to the event despite knowing it would have a massive target on its back, and my results showed that the field was ready for it. D/S Ardent was my bane with two of my four losses on the day coming at the hands of [champ]Marshal Josephina[/champ] and [card]Ardent Crusader[/card]. Whether it was Ardent, [champ]Bloodspinner Zorath[/champ], or [champ]Angus the Arsonist[/champ], players were ready to take down Kagu Crusader.

What they weren’t ready for was Justiis’ unique take on the [champ]Kagulichu[/champ] powerhouse which eschewed aggression for ramp, removal, and [card]Mistress of Bones[/card]. I think Justiis had the right idea by bringing the format’s most powerful contender by adding enough of a twist that opponents would not be ready for his exact game plan. You can check out his winning list along with the other top 8 lists here.

RUNNING THE NUMBERS

While the top 8 of a major tournament is a great place to start when analyzing a constructed format, there are a lot of other data points worth investigating. With 435 participants and a $5,000 prize purse, the Radiant Rumble was one of the largest and most significant tournaments in Hex’s history. Such a significant event brings a significant amount of data with it. To understand the constructed meta better, I’m interested in identifying which decks were most popular and which decks performed the best. I dove into the data provided on hexmeta and created the chart below.

Deck # Players 7+ Wins % Popularity

Mono Wild 21 7 33% 8

Bloodspinner Zorath 51 14 27% 3

Kagulichu 61 12 20% 1

D/S Ardent 23 4 17% 7

Angus the Arsonist 52 6 12% 2

Winter Moon 25 2 8% 6

D/R Ardent 15 1 7% 10

D/S Banks 21 1 5% 8

Other 91 4 4%

Yotul Mogak 33 1 3% 5

Morgan McBombus 35 1 3% 4

W/D Banks 7 0 0% 11

Total 435 53

I filtered the hexmeta data by champion and thresholds in order to identify what decks were played and by how many players. I then filtered that data to only include players with seven or more wins. I felt a seven win threshold was low enough to provide a meaningful sample, but high enough to be considered a strong performance. The third column shows what percentage of players playing a specific deck achieved seven or more wins. The last column indicates the deck’s relative popularity.

Unsurprisingly, B/W [champ]Kagulichu[/champ] was the most popular deck in the tournament. Not only was it the most popular deck, but it was one of the best performing decks of the tournament with 20% of its pilots achieving seven or more wins, including the winner of the tournament, Justiis. It is, however, important to note that hamp]Kagulichu[/champ] decks allow for significant variation. While a large number of these lists were likely fairly standard, the two [champ]Kagulichu[champ] lists in the top 8 seem to indicate that variation bred success.

More surprisingly, Mono Wild and Mono Blood were two of the top performing decks of the tournament. Perhaps most surprising was just how popular [champ]Bloodspinner Zorath[/champ] was. Not only was he the third most popular champion, but more players achieved seven or more wins with Zorath than with any other champion. This is most likely due to Mono Blood’s strong match up against the tournament’s most popular deck, [champ]Kagulichu[/champ]. Note that some of the decks included under [champ]Bloodspinner Zorath[/champ] were Blood/Wild decks, but the vast majority were Mono Blood. I included all Zorath decks together as the champion generally encourages a more control oriented style of play associated with Mono Blood decks.

Mono Wild was arguably the best performing deck of the tournament, with a full third of its pilots achieving seven or more wins. This included JoeZimmers second place finishing list. Wild is arguably the strongest shard in the game at the moment, and no deck utilizes the new Herofall card[card]Mightsinger of Ages[/card] better than Mono Wild. Note that while a majority of the lists used [champ]Grandfather Elk[/champ] as the champion, a few used [champ]Shoku the Botanist[/champ].

Another surprising factoid was the poor performance of aggressive Ruby decks. Despite a large showing by both [champ]Angus the Arsonist[/champ] and [champ]Yotul Mogak[/champ], neither deck saw many pilots succeeding. This is likely due to the number of player prepared for the match up. Talking to players before and after the event, everyone had Ruby on the mind and ensured their reserves could handle the deck effectively.

OUR PRIMORDIAL BREW

After running the numbers, I was particularly impressed with the success of Mono Wild and felt it was a deck exploring further. Lately, I have been battling at the very top end of the Cosmic ladder (hitting rank 1 Cosmic this past Wednesday) with this modified version of JoeZimmers second place list.

CHAMPION: [champ]Grandfather Elk[/champ]

[Decklist]

[Deck]

24 Wild Shard

4 Howling Brave

4 Chlorophyllia

4 Carnasaurus

4 Mightsinger of Ages

4 Rune Ear Hierophant

4 Justicar of Aryndel

4 Wrathwood Master Moss

2 Crocosaur

3 Dreamweaver Ancient

3 Balthasar

[/Deck]

[Reserves]

4 Succulent Cluckodon

2 Lullaby

2 Scorn of Oberon

1 Grove Warden

2 Gargalith

1 Chomposaur

1 Dreamweaver Ancient

2 Crocosaur

[/Reserves]

[/Decklist]

Rune Ear Hierophant socketed with [card]Minor Wild Orb of Brawn[/card] and [card]Major Wild Orb of

Conjuration[/card]

The deck is incredibly proactive and consistent. Your typical game plan is to use [card]Howling Brave[/card] or [card]Chlorophyllia[/card] to accelerate a powerful curve of [card]Rune Ear Hierophant[/card], [card]Wrathwood Master Moss[/card], and [card]Dreamweaver Ancient[/card].

Alternatively, the deck can drop [card]Mightsinger of Ages[/card] on turn two to generate card advantage and possibly even swing for seven damage on turn four.

Let’s take a look at how to use your reserves with Mono Wild.

<h4>VS ANGUS</h4>

<h5 style="color: #00ff00;">BRING IN:</h5>

[res]

2 Lullaby

4 Succulent Cluckodon

[/res]

<h5 style="color: #FF0000;">TAKE OUT:</h5>

[res]

2 Wrathwood Master Moss

3 Dreamweaver Ancient

1 Balthasar

[/res]

Against [champ]Angus the Arsonist[/champ] we want to bring down the curve of the deck and play more

life gain. [card]Dreamweaver Ancient[card] comes out as it is particularly susceptible to

[card]Fireball[/card]. Losing your five drop to a one cost action is a good way to lose games. In

aggressive match ups I also typically switch Rune Ear’s [card]Minor Wild Orb of Brawn[/card] for

[card]Minor Wild Orb of Vigil[/card] as steadfast is often more relevant in those matches than crush.

<h4>VS D/S BANKS</h4>

<h5 style="color: #00ff00;">BRING IN:</h5>

[res]

2 Scorn of Oberon

1 Lullaby

2 Gargalith

1 Dreamweaver Ancient

[/res]

<h5 style="color: #FF0000;">TAKE OUT:</h5>

[res]

4 Carnasaurus

2 Crocosaur

[/res]

You have few to no targets for your dinos to fight in this match up. Bring in your hardest hitting threats

as well as [card]Gargalith[/card] to protect from removal. [card]Lullaby[/card] is solely intended to

revert your board after being hit with [card]Mass Polymorph: Dingler[/card]. [card]Scorn of

Oberon[/card] is both good against [card]Mass Polymorph: Dingler[/card] and [card]Dark Heart of

Nulzann[/card]. Do not bring in [card]Scorn of Oberon[/card] in this match up if your opponent is not

running [card]Dark Heart of Nulzann[/card].

<h4>VS KAGULICHU</h4>

<h5 style="color: #00ff00;">BRING IN:</h5>

[res]

2 Gargalith

2 Crocosaur

[/res]

<h5 style="color: #FF0000;">TAKE OUT:</h5>

[res]

4 Carnasaurus

[/res]

These changes increase your threat density, improve your removal, and protect you from

[card]Herofall[/card]. While [card]Carnasaurus[/card] is reasonable against certain builds of

[champ]Kagulichu[/champ], I generally find the improved removal and protection more meaningful.

<h4>VS ZORATH</h4>

<h5 style="color: #00ff00;">BRING IN:</h5>

[res]

1 Scorn of Oberon

1 Chomposaur

1 Grove Warden

2 Gargalith

1 Dreamweaver Ancient

[/res]

<h5 style="color: #FF0000;">TAKE OUT:</h5>

[res]

4 Carnasaurus

2 Crocosaur

[/res]

Similar to the D/S Banks match up, you want to increase your threat density and include answers to

their most powerful cards. [card]Scorn of Oberon[/card], [card]Chomposaur[/card], and [card]Grove

Warden[/card] are necessary to combat Zorath’s powerful constant. Consider bringing in the second

Scorn if your opponent also plays artifacts. If your opponent is heavy on vampires, it can be correct to

keep in some number of [card]Crocosaur[/card].

<h4>VS ARDENT</h4>

<h5 style="color: #00ff00;">BRING IN:</h5>

[res]

2 Lullaby

2 Crocosaur

[/res]

<h5 style="color: #FF0000;">TAKE OUT:</h5>

[res]

3 Dreamweaver Ancient

1 Balthasar

[/res]

[card]Crocosaur[/card] is your MVP against Ardent decks while [card]Dreamweaver Ancient[/card] will

frequently be stymied by the high defense of their troops. [card]Lullaby[/card] helps you save life and

clear their troops of valor.

<h4>VS MONO WILD</h4>

<h5 style="color: #00ff00;">BRING IN:</h5>

[res]

2 Crocosaur

[/res]

<h5 style="color: #FF0000;">TAKE OUT:</h5>

[res]

2 Carnasaurus

[/res]

I generally like to go slightly bigger in the mirror match by playing the full set of [card]Crocosaur[/card]

over [card]Carnasaurus[/card]. While [card]Carnasaurus[/card] is great against [card]Holwing

Brave[/card] and [card]Mightsinger of Ages[/card], it is incredibly lackluster against the majority of the

deck. [card]Crocosaur[/card] is great at nearly every point of the game and can quickly seal games if

ramped into.

GOING GREEN

I’m excited at how diverse the current meta is. Mono Wild is just one of the many viable decks in the

current format and I can’t wait to see how the format continues to evolve.

Be sure to tune in to my stream tonight at 3:30 PM PST. I will be piloting today’s Primordial Brew on the

Constructed Ladder (likely fighting to take back the rank 1 spot!). As always, there will be Primal Pack

and free Draft, Sealed, and Evolving Gauntlet code giveaways.

See you on the ladder,

Varranis | Twitch | Twitter | Team Fade 2 Karma

Varranis is an analyst for professional gaming organization Fade 2 Karma. He has played countless TCGs

over the last eighteen years and brings a unique lens to HEX theory crafting and deck building based on

his historical experience. Varranis has numerous tournament wins and top finishes to his name across

several popular TCGs and has coached and supported players in world championship level events.

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Season 18/19 Control Shaman Recap

This article was originally posted on /r/CompetitiveHS – 5 Weeks with Control Shaman (Guide, Stats/Meta over 515 games)

You may remember me from my previous write-up on Control Shaman awhile back:

Fade2Karma’s Pure Control Shaman

Well I’m back again with more Control Shaman shenanigans and a massive write-up on BlizzPro from playing the deck for a full week in Season 18:

A Week In The Life of Control Shaman

The article goes into detail about how we arrived at our more refined list at the end of Season 18 and includes an exhaustive discussion of options for the deck and how they performed in testing. What the article doesn’t discuss, however, is that we also played the deck for the entirety of Season 19. In total I recorded 515 games with the deck and took detailed statistics the whole way. Between the two seasons, we came up with two strong variations of the original Shaman Control decklist:

Season 18 Control Shaman Decklist

Season 19 Control Shaman Decklist

The Season 18 list performed exceptionally well with an overall 60% win rate before the season came to a tragic end. For Season 19, I worked to weigh the list more toward combating Paladin as I expected it to be by far the most popular deck. Unfortunately, Paladin proved to be our Achilles heel for the season despite our success against it one season prior. Check out the statistics for the full story:

Season 18 Statistics

Season 19 Statistics

While the meta shifted pretty much how we expected – Paladin, Mage, and Hunter rose to the top while Druid fell and most of the rest stayed constant – the decline in our win rate against Paladin is pretty stark. I expect that it was due to the greater adoption of Dr. Boom and Tirion in the deck as it matured in Season 19. While very strong against Paladin’s early curve, our deck can struggle against the dreaded curve of Mysterious Challenger, Dr. Boom, and Tirion. I believe the decline in our Hunter match-up win rate was due to the exclusion of Molten Giants and Defender of Argus in our Season 19 list. Despite our crazy heals, we’ll still lose to a Hunter if we can’t end the game in a reasonable amount of time. Molten Giants not only end the game quickly but are particularly easy to play on the cheap against Hunter.

On the plus side, our deck continued to show strong positive win rates against Mage and Priest and vastly improved against Druid. I expect the rise in popularity of Aggro Druid and our inclusion of Forked Lightning in Season 19 were largely responsible for the improved Druid match-up. Many of our spells, such as Lightning Storm, are weak against standard Midrange Druid, but very strong against Aggro Druid. We also run more direct answers to Fel Reaver than most other decks. Forked Lightning proved effective against Druid for its ability to snipe Shade of Naxxramus and to provide a little extra power alongside other spells in order to finish off Druid’s beefy minions. Forked Lightning was honestly one of the most impressive inclusions in our Season 19 list. It was often as effective as Lightning Storm for less mana due to the frequency with which current decks deploy strong early starts. It was also very effective at popping shredders when aided by spell power.

It’s also worth noting that our deck is incredibly effective against Dragon Priest, Oil Rogue, and New Patron Warrior. I expect all of these decks to rise in popularity over the next month due to their solid Paladin match-up and performance by pro players. Elemental Destruction cripples slower midrange decks like Priest and Patron while our heals allow us to exhaust Rogue of their limited resources.

With Paladin so prominent, I have difficulty suggesting Control Shaman as an efficient laddering deck until we see a Mysterious Challenger nerf. However, I think Control Shaman is a strong pick for tournament play. Mage, Priest, and Rogue are especially popular tournament decks. Control Shaman can particularly shine in one ban last hero standing formats where it can be used to target the archetypes it excels against.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Shaman write-ups! Feel free to ask me anything about Control Shaman in the comments!

Being Part of the Solution: Improving Hearthstone’s Future

There’s been a lot of negativity on /r/hearthstone lately. I thought it would be interesting to take the issues players have raised and propose some solutions. I feel there are three things Blizzard can do now and moving forward to improve Hearthstone’s player interaction and skill cap:

  1. Create Powerful Reactive Spells
  2. Limit Artificial Variance
  3. Re-Balance Current Cards

The first two items will take time to take effect, guaranteeing the future health of the game. Re-balancing current cards will improve the game in the short-term until future card design is able to catch up.

Create Powerful Reactive Spells

Hearthstone’s core strengths revolve around the trading of minions and tug of war of board control. Nearly all elements of the game receiving criticism at the moment go against these core strengths by allowing one player to ignore the board (Druid/Hunter) or to gain too much value from a singular card (Mysterious Challenger/Divine Favor). While individual cards are easy to point to as scapegoats, I believe the magnitude of their crime is exacerbated by the poor quality of reactive spells in Hearthstone. The vast majority of reactive spells in any CCG are removal. Effective reactive spells are cheap to play and provide a tempo advantage or punish a player for making a particularly greedy play. Examples include using Flamecannon to remove a Dark Iron Dwarf or Flamestrike to punish a player who played too many creatures.

Unfortunately, minions are much more efficient than spells in Hearthstone. Minions not only double as removal since they can attack other minions, but many spells are over costed. Twisting Nether is perhaps the best example of this. Day of Judgment effects (“destroy all creatures”) are a major component of what keeps aggressive decks in check in Magic. The vast majority of spells with this effect in Hearthstone cost so much mana that they cannot be played before losing to an aggressive deck. At 8 mana, Twisting Nether’s only possible role is as symmetrical removal in midrange or control mirrors. While every card doesn’t have to be good, the design philosophy behind Twisting Nether speaks volumes about Blizzard’s overall philosophy regarding reactive spells. Early in design, Blizzard decided reactive spells should come at a high cost.

I believe this design decision has harmed the game and that changing it going forward for new expansions will greatly improve the game’s interactive elements. Quality reactive spells make a player think, “Should I play this minion?” Quality reactive spells require players play around them. For example, maybe if I play my Wyrmrest Agent before my Twilight Whelp, I won’t lose the Whelp to Fiery War Axe. I cannot stress enough how important the question “Should I play X” is to the health of a CCG. The more a player has to ask themselves that question, the more decisions they are making and the more skill is being tested. A designer’s goal should be to cause the players to stop and ask that question before playing every card. The unfortunate truth is that a large number of minions and decks nearly play themselves. Shielded Minibot is nearly always the correct play on turn 2. Piloted Shredder is almost never a bad play on turn 4. While not every turn should be a brain teaser, Hearthstone would be well served if Shielded Minibot and Piloted Shredder were not so frequently the best plays on their respective turns. Making powerful reactive spells which efficiently answer them is an excellent way to add skill to the game, and far healthier than printing more minions as powerful as or more powerful than the aforementioned mechs.

The sheer quality of Fiery War Axe compared to the majority of removal spells says a lot about how poor the pool is to select from. Fiery War Axe is an excellent example of a quality reactive “spell.” While it can two for one most aggressive decks, your hero will take damage from it and it is relatively weak against control decks. Developers have to be careful when designing reactive spells since powerful direct damage spells can lead to non-interactive games as well. Fortunately quality removal spells don’t have to deal direct damage like Frostbolt and Fireball. Flamecannon is an example of a well-designed reactive spell. It provides an above average payout for mana investment and punishes an opponent for playing certain minions by themselves. If your opponent suspects that you’re playing Flamecannon, they have to think “Should I play Azure Drake? Should I play Flamewaker?” Perhaps they’ll decide to play a Sorcerer’s Apprentice off curve on turn 3 in order to save their Flamewaker from Flamecannon. I believe Blizzard should proactively create more cost efficient reactive spells like Flamecannon. The following are a few cards I came up with which I think could make the game more interesting and interactive.

Shaman – Chain Lightning – 2 mana – Deal 1 damage, then deal 2 damage to a random enemy minion.

Rogue – Kidney Shot – 1 mana – Freeze and Silence a minion. Combo: Draw a card.

Warlock – Banish – 5 mana – Silence all minions and deal 3 damage to them.

Chain Lightning in particular punishes many common aggressive starts such as Leper Gnome into Mad Scientist or Knife Juggler as well as having the potential to answer a Shielded Minibot by itself. It’s important that Blizzard creates new spells which cause players to consider their plays instead of making the default “best play.”

Limit Artificial Variance

Blizzard isn’t necessarily wrong when they say randomness adds skill to the game and makes the game interesting. There truly is a sense of excitement and anticipation waiting for a shredder pilot to drop or a Ragnaros fireball to strike. Piloted Shredder dropping a taunt or Nerub’ar Weblord can make a player go through mental gymnastics seeking an optimal route of play now that the scenario has changed. However, cards like Ram Wrangler and Unstable Portal are actively bad for the game. I sincerely doubt the joy a player gleans from winning with a King Krush summoned by Ram Wrangler outweighs the frustration felt by the losing player in a close match. It’s important that variance on cards is limited in some measureable way. Piloted Shredder dropping a 2 mana minion is honestly a reasonable form of variance. The power level of the minion Shredder delivers is capped at 2 mana. While this can take the form of Millhouse Manastorm, the delta between Manastorm and Captain’s Parrot is much smaller than that between Captain’s Parrot and Gahz’rilla. While I would choose to print few to no cards with significant variable elements, I can understand Blizzard’s desire for such cards and accept variances in cases like Piloted Shredder.

Many Shaman cards present another form of unhealthy variance. Crackle, for example, is a decidedly frustrating card to play with. The card is strong and should warrant play. Paying 2 mana and 1 overload for 4 to 6 damage is a bargain. However, 25% of the time when it hits for 3 and fails to dispatch a minion, the card can lose you the game. Once again, the difference between the best outcome and the worst outcome is fairly extreme. Instead of balancing a card’s strong upside with a strong downside, Blizzard should seek to limit the range of outcomes by toning down the upside and making the worst outcome worth the investment.

A couple cards like Ram Wrangler and Unstable Portal won’t ruin the game on their own. They will see marginal play in the grand scheme of things. However, I suggest that Blizzard seeks to proactively limit future variable effects with some form of measurement or to cost the variance as an upside. Doing so will allow exciting variable cards to exist, but will limit the impact they have on competitive matches.

Re-Balance Current Cards

The fixes highlighted above will take time to take effect and there’s no denying Hearthstone could use some help now. The following suggested changes are intended to increase player interaction and diversify the meta.

Savage Roar – Change mana cost to 4

Savage Roar is one of the game’s oldest and most notorious inhibitors of interactive gameplay. It largely flies under the radar as the Druid decks it’s included in do mostly fair things apart from Savage Roar. Savage Roar’s effectiveness largely comes from its efficiency. Savage Roar is frequently a 3 mana burn spell for 8 or more damage – a rate unrivaled by any other spell in the game. The spell also only needs minimal prior investment to reap its rewards as it provides a base of 2 damage under any circumstances. Compare to Bloodlust which sees much more limited play. Bloodlust has a potentially more powerful effect, but requires a significant investment in board control to make work. It is also costed in such a way to give your opponent time to counter your strategy. Bloodlust provides an ample reward at a reasonable cost for a Shaman player who invests in early board control. Savage Roar, however, encourages reckless aggressive play, rewarding timely top decks more than board manipulation. Changing Savage Roar’s cost to 4 keeps the combo with Force of Nature intact while delaying it a turn and making it more difficult to play Savage Roar alongside charge minions like Druid of the Claw and Druid of the Saber. This change should retain Combo Druid’s aggressive nature while hopefully encouraging players to look beyond the Force of Nature/Savage Roar combo for finishers. It’s possible a further adjustment could be required to balance Savage Roar as more cards are released which interact favorably with it. Such a change could easily be made in the future due to Hearthstone’s digital format if Savage Roar were to continue to prove problematic.

Divine Favor – Increase mana cost to 5

Divine Favor throws the concept of card advantage out the window by allowing an aggressive Paladin deck to catch up with slower, reactive control decks. The card has significant downsides, being close to unplayable against other aggressive decks. However, the card feels overly punishing to archetypes that are already struggling in Hearthstone. While cards like Divine Favor exist in other CCGs, they typically come at a much higher price. The card Balance of Power in Magic has the exact same effect as Divine Favor, but at the cost of 5 mana.  It has seen essentially no competitive play due to resource restrictions in Magic (namely the need to draw lands combined with opportunity cost). Hearthstone has much fewer resource restrictions, making a card like Divine Favor much more powerful. Divine Favor’s low mana cost allows you to dump cheap spells on the same turn you play it in order to maximize its effect. Divine Favor is most punishing on turns 3 through 5 when many decks haven’t had a chance to play more than a card or two. Increasing the cost on Divine Favor but keeping the card text allows it to still have a potentially powerful effect while relegating it to a less punishing stage of the game.

Mysterious Challenger – Reduce stats to 5/5 and increase mana cost to 7

This is the big one that’s got everyone talking. Personally I think the intentions behind Mysterious Challenger are interesting. Blizzard clearly recognized that Paladin secrets were underpowered and wanted to create a card which allowed them to see play. However, it’s become clear that the card does too much. For the low price of 6 mana, Mysterious Challenger provides card advantage, tempo, and even thins your deck, improving your draws on future turns.

I believe it’s important that Mysterious Challenger retains a powerful effect. At a minimum, however, it requires a reduction in pure stats. Compare Mysterious Challenger to Mistcaller. Both are 6 mana minions, however, one has both a weaker ability and stats. To top this off, the weaker card is a Legendary, restricting it to one per deck. 6/6 stats for 6 mana is far too generous given the card’s battlecry. Mysterious Challenger needs a minimum of 4 attack so that it can still be answered with Big Game Hunter if Avenge buffs the Challenger. Reducing Mysterious Challenger’s health is important as well to make the turn he is played less insurmountable to counter.

The most important change that needs to be made to Mysterious Challenger is an increase to its mana cost. This is important for two reasons. First, it makes Secret Paladin less consistent. One of Secret Paladin’s weaknesses is that Mysterious Challenger is less effective the more secrets are drawn before he is played. Increasing his mana cost not only makes him slower but increases the odds the Paladin player draws his secrets before playing him. Second, and most importantly, it disrupts Paladin’s ability to play Mysterious Challenger, Dr. Boom, and Tirion on curve. While powerful, Mysterious Challenger is far less intimidating without his powerful companions. Increasing Mysterious Challenger’s mana cost to 7 still allows the Paladin to Coin Challenger on turn 6, play Dr. Boom on turn 7, and Tirion on turn 8. Increasing his mana cost to 8 would prevent this. If Mysterious Challenger is adjusted to 8 mana, keeping the 6/6 stats is likely fine.

Flame Juggler – Change Battlecry to: Deal 1 damage to a random enemy minion

I saw this suggestion on another Reddit post and thought it was rather brilliant. This change feels incredibly natural and makes Flame Juggler an effective tool with which to combat aggressive decks. Creating tools to combat aggressive decks is important. It’s very difficult to nerf aggressive decks like Hunter. Such decks are not powerful so much due to the power of a few cards but the aggregation of many cards which work well together. And that’s not a bad thing. Aggressive decks serve an important role in the meta by keeping particularly greedy decks in check. There are generally many tools to keep aggressive decks in check. These tools typically manifest within removal laden midrange decks which go slightly over the top of the aggressive decks. An example of such a deck was Patron Warrior. However, without Patron, Secret Paladin has suppressed other more fair midrange decks and allowed Hunter to run free. Improving Flame Juggler and weakening Secret Paladin gives the meta another powerful tool to combat aggressive strategies and frees up a lot of midrange and control strategies to see the light of day.

Cards to Keep an Eye On

The above cards are certainly not Hearthstone’s only problem children. Making too many changes at once, however, could lead to its own issues. The following are a few cards worth keeping an eye on in case they would lead to future problems.

Dr. Boom – I’m in the camp that Dr. Boom is largely as strong as he is due to the weakness of other seven drops. That being said, Dr. Boom is incredibly powerful. If a nerf was necessary, I would lean toward reducing the damage done by his bombs. The deathrattle on the bombs is what makes Dr. Boom more than just a pile of stats. Adjusting the damage done by the bombs would go a long way toward making the doctor slightly more balanced.

Shielded Minibot – I don’t feel Shielded Minibot will ever warrant a change despite its effectiveness as a two drop. However, it’s worth noting that the card could easily be changed to a 2/1 and still be a quality Paladin minion.

Mad Scientist – Mad Scientist can generate significant value in Hunter and Mage by effectively drawing a card and playing it for free while thinning your deck. I actually think Mad Scientist is fine as is for the time being as he gives secrets significantly more playability without being a format warping card. If a change is required in the future, he could become a 3 mana 3/2 or require a successful joust to trigger his deathrattle.

Flamewaker – The more cheap spells Mage gets, the more powerful this card becomes. Design must be careful with any card that triggers when another is played (such as Undertaker and Gadgetzan Auctioneer). Flamewaker’s effect is powerful enough to potentially limit future card design for Mage spells and should be watched closely.

Conclusion

What do you think Blizzard can do to improve Hearthstone? Do you think the changes posited above are enough? How would you re-balance current cards? Hopefully Blizzard will take our recommendations to heart and continue to improve Hearthstone.

1,000 Twitch Followers!

We just hit 1,000 followers on Twitch!  I wanted to say a big thank you to all of you for your continued support and viewership. I’ve had a blast streaming and writing about Shaman and I look forward to many more fun interactions with all you fine folks.