In what will be remembered as an historic day for Hearthstone nerfs, Blizzard finally revealed the twelve classic set cards that will be nerfed in anticipation of the game’s upcoming Whispers of the Old Gods expansion and formatting changes.
Considering Blizzard has always been somewhat hesitant to lay down nerfs, this represents their largest attempt to restore balance to the Hearthstone world. While many of the cards on this nerf list represent troublemakers that Hearthstone veterans have long hoped would be brought to justice, there are also those cards which have perhaps been forever changed in a way that will hinder the game moving forward.
Force of Nature
In what just may be the most anticipated nerf of all-time, Force of Nature no longer grants charge to its summoned Treants. The trade-off is that the card now costs one less mana.
Force of Nature has long given Druid players the ability to do massive amounts of damage in a single turn, and this nerf effectively kills the many decks that revolved around that ability. The best thing about this nerf, though, is that it doesn’t completely make the card unplayable. While Force of Nature is certainly no longer a card to be feared, from a pure value perspective it is still playable in certain decks that emphasize putting as many minions on the board as possible.
Ironbeak Owl is an interesting nerf. While the card is not outright powerful on its own, its ability to shutdown many of the game’s strongest cards for a mere two mana makes it the perfect set-up for many devastating turns.
The card’s transition from two mana to three mana may not sound like a big deal at first, but it should prove to be enough of an increase to remove the “auto-include” status that Ironbeak Owl has had in aggressive decks for some time.
Even though many Hearthstone players weren’t outright calling for a Hunter’s Mark nerf, the decision to change this card’s mana cost from zero to one makes a lot of sense.
Hunter’s Mark was a fundamentally broken card that could effectively destroy a minion for zero mana. The fact it wasn’t played that much leading up to the nerf is more of a comment on the state of the class it’s in, rather than the balance of the card as it existed.
Since Hearthstone’s early days, Leper Gnome’s “I feel icky” battle cry has long meant that you are about to face an incredibly aggressive player who is going to try to end the game in the next few rounds. Leper Gnome’s almost guaranteed ability to deal two damage to the enemy hero made him a must-have in every aggro deck.
This nerf may not completely change that, but changing Leper Gnome’s attack from two to one does at least minimize the potential damage that aggressive decks are able to squeeze out of a turn one play.
Arcane Golem is another one of those cards that many people didn’t realize needed a nerf until it happened. This card has become the resident game finisher since the Leeroy Jenkins nerf, and allows for savvy players to do tremendous amounts of almost unstoppable damage.
While it’s true that this nerf does mean that Arcane Golem will likely never see play in competitive Hearthstone decks again, the removal of its charge ability does eliminate one of the last remaining sources of unfair burst damage in the game.
I’m honestly still a little on the fence regarding Molten Giant’s change. Given that the ability to play Molten Giant on early turns was simply a side effect of the player losing massive amounts of health, most players felt the design wasn’t really that big of an issue.
Still, increasing the card cost by five mana does make sense. There are plenty of ways to maximize the value of Molten Giant in its current form without really suffering the intended penalty, and this nerf should help ensure the card still sees play without being quite as easy to abuse.
Big Game Hunter
Along with Force of Nature, this is the Hearthstone nerf that most players assumed was inevitable.
Opinions are going to vary on this one, but it is appreciated that Big Game Hunter was allowed to keep its powerful ability. The problem was never that Big Game Hunter could destroy larger minions, but rather that it was able to do so for a paltry mana investment. This rise in mana cost should help ensure that the card is able to serve its crucial role without feeling so abusive.