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Hearthstone December 19 Update Catches Players Off Guard

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Having a long history of adjustments, whether they're bufffs or nerfs, the Hearthstone meta has always seen change. The latest such alteration to the Hearthstone formula recently came down from on high, and players are still getting used to the new environment.

What makes this scenario more dramatic than others is that the change we are experiencing is sudden. The latest expansion, Rastakhan's Rumble, was released Dec. 4. Nearly 2 weeks later on Dec. 19, we were treated to a balance update. This is the closest gap we've seen yet between an expansion release and balance update, and the rebalancing patch was announced with less than 24 hours' notice.

Hearthstone Patch 13.1

Clearly, the developers were concerned about possible game-breaking or unbalanced effects from a few cards in the expansion, which is why they rushed this update through with such short notice. Also, it looks like Blizzard is trying to encourage the community to use cards from Rastakhan's Rumble because all of the new card modifications pose challenges to preexisting deck types from before the expansion was released.

Here are the big changes in Hearthstone's latest balance update for each affected class:


Wild Growth Card
Nourish Card

Wild Growth: Changed from 2 mana to 3 mana

Nourish: Changed from 5 mana to 6 mana

Although we haven't seen a tier 1 Druid deck within the latest expansions, to many, this balance change seems justified. The Druid archetype as of late has been nothing but “ramp up, play your combo” the game.

Wild Growth gives you an extra empty mana crystal. Being able to play this card on turn 2 would accelerate your play as if you were playing cards on turn 4.

Nourish is a bit unique giving you an option to either draw three cards or gain 2 mana crystals. Most users of this card would take advantage of the latter thus being able to accelerate their turn even more and gain an absurd mana advantage over their opponent.

The cry of oppressive gameplay from the community has been heard and Blizzard acted accordingly. The nerfs to these two cards were core to their very gameplay, and they are now much less useful with the additional turn required to play them. Some combos may work with this nerf and even without the two cards. There are still a few core cards that exist with the combo archetype. We will see how many Druid decklists survive going forward.


Level Up! Card

Level Up!: Changed from 5 mana to 6 mana

Directly hitting the ever-consistent Odd Paladin, the new mana cost of the Level Up! card may suffice to end the reign of terror of this deck. This iteration of Paladin makes use of the Baku the Mooneater ability "Start of the Game: If your deck contains only odd cost cards, upgrade your hero power." The upgraded hero power allows the Paladin to develop two 1/1 Silver Hand Recruits instead of one!

Over the past two expansions, Odd Paladin has had a killer combo of: Develop a board with your buffed hero power, use Level Up! on the three or four developed minions, then win the game. Level Up!'s text reads "Give your Silver Hand Recruits +2/+2 and Taunt". This combo has been able to allow the Odd Paladin archetype to maintain tier 1 status since “The Witchwood” expansion in April 2018.

The mana nerf may be welcomed into the likes of Even Paladin and other new potential Paladin decks. We await the consequences of this balance update for Paladin players.


Leeching Poison

Leeching Poison: Changed from 2 mana to 1 mana. Text changed from “Give your weapon Lifesteal.” to “Give your weapon Lifesteal this turn."

Originally, Leeching Poison used to read "Give your weapon Lifesteal." This text would induce lifesteal indefinitely until the weapon lost durability. For most Rogue weapons that utilize this effect, this would look like nothing more than a gimmick.

There is an Enemy Number One when it comes to lifesteal, though, and that is the Rogue weapon Kingsbane. This weapon reads "Deathrattle: Shuffle this into your Deck. It keeps any enchantments." This means that any power up that is put onto the weapon is kept until the game is over.

Pre-balance update, you'd be able to buff the damage output of your weapon with the likes of Captain Greenskin, Leeching Poison, and Toxicologist. You'd end up with an immortal Rogue with excellent late game. Fast-forward to the balance update and now you can only get the lifesteal enchantment for one single turn.


Saronite Chain Gang

Saronite Chain Gang: Text changed from “Summon a copy of this minion.” to “Summon another Saronite Chain Gang.”

Neutral cards aren't bound to any deck class but are utilized in various deck archetypes. The three decklists that are affected by this change the most are Shudderwock Shaman, Zoo Warlock, and Even Paladin.

Shudderwock Shaman revolves around the use of battlecries. Using Grumble, Worldshaker and Saronite Chain Gang are key to the Shudderwock's win condition. Once the win condition is achieved you are able to infinitely use Shudderwock's battlecry of repeating previously played battlecries during that game. The current change to the Saronite Chain Gang decimates the combo since now the battlecry reads “Summon another Saronite Chain Gang” rather than “Summon a copy of this minion.”

Zoo Warlock makes an aggressive approach by being able to overwhelm opponents with minions as its main source of damage. With the ability of Saronite Chain Gang in mind, one could see the benefit of having this card in your arsenal. With the text change, this deck shouldn't take too much of a hit, but it does suffer from not getting the full value of the Prince Keleseth buff. Prince Keleseth's battlecry reads "If your deck has no 2-Cost cards, give all minions in your deck +1/+1.” Previously, this would allow you to summon a copy of your now buffed “Saronite Chain Gang.” Now, the buff is only applied to the original copy you summon.

Even Paladin makes use of having only even-cost cards, taking full advantage of having a consistent value turn combined with the discounted hero power. Its main power turns usually occur during the middle parts of the game. One of the cards that offers a big swing to their advantage is Val'anyr. This card reads “Deathrattle: Give a minion in your hand +4/+2. When it dies, reequip this.” Getting this hand buff on a minion like Saronite Chain Gang can prove formidable since the old text would summon an exact copy with the buff. Now similar to the way Prince Keleseth interacts with the new change, the extra Saronite Chain Gang will not retain the buff.


Community Reaction

News of the new update was greeted with mixed reactions among Hearthstone players. Some praised it as a much-desired development that was needed to keep the game fresh and interesting while others felt that it was not necessary and led to people devoting resources to cards and decks that turned out to be useless.

Here's a sampling of representative comments left on one of the most popular Hearthstone message boards:

Positive Post About Hearthstone Patch
Negative Forum Post on Hearthstone Patch
Hearthstone Patch Favorable Forum Post
Forumite Dismayed by Hearthstone Patch

It's safe to say the Hearthstone community was blindsided by the new balance change. Not only was the announcement unexpected, but the change went live within record time. Now it's up in the air on what new decklists will arise with the latest expansion and the update. One can only imagine the scramble some Hearthstone players are in for with their decklist submissions to upcoming competitive events.

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