The Hearthstone team at Blizzard are notoriously slow to make changes to the game. They prefer, instead, to see if inventive deck builders in the community can solve problems on their behalf.
Sometimes, though, a problem becomes so clear they their hands get forced. Now is one such time: in the wake of The Witchwood expansion, a bunch of cards got nerfed.
What are these changes, and what do they mean for the game?
The biggest slam got reserved for the control Warlock archetype, particularly Cubelock. It got hit twice. First, Dark Pact now only heals 4 health. Second, Possessed Lackey costs one mana point extra, up to 6.
Cubelock was so powerful and so popular that it was essentially dictating how all the other decks could play. Its access to heals and early board clears forced aggro decks out of contention. And its ability to summon Voidlord walls early lead to every deck running Silence effects. Having its dark wings clipped is very welcome.
At first glance, though, these changes look well balanced. Both cards are still playable, albeit at a reduced level of power. And Cubelock has plenty of other tricks to keep it alive, some of which got used by variant versions of the deck.
Plated Beetles is still a great defensive early minion. Siphon Soul is still a terrific board clear and removal combo. And if it can survive long enough, Twisting Nether and Faceless Manipulator can keep it in contention.
The deck is down, but it's not out yet.
Call to Arms, often reckoned as about the best single card in the game right now, also took a hit. Its cost has gone up by one to 5 mana.
This is super smart design. The card saw most frequent use in the Even Paladin deck. It was very powerful there because the even-cost only restriction meant it always pulled out three 2-cost minions. However, now the cost is odd, so it no longer fits.
It does, of course, fit in Odd Paladin. But it's far less useful there as, again, due to the cost restrictions, it will only pull 1-cost minions. So although this may be the end of the Even archetype, Paladin players still have Odd (and Murloc) to fall back on. But they won't want to run this card.
Call to Arms is so useful, though, that we may now see a return for the previous "dude" Paladin deck, without any of this cost-restriction nonsense.
Caverns Below, the Rogue Quest, is likely the most hated card in Standard format. If you can pull off its awkward requirements, its owner is almost guaranteed to win. And watching them freeze and dismiss your board while they try is no fun at all.
The loathing started as soon as it got released, so it had a cost increase back then to make it less effective. Some cards in The Witchwood made it viable again, though, so now it's suffered the ignominy of a second downgrade. Now it's no longer as powerful as once it was, although it's still a potential game winner.
Don't give it to the temptation of that potential. It's a hateful card. Good riddance to bad rubbish. If you want to play the class, try Odd Rogue or Tempo Rogue while the meta settles.
Spiteful Summoner is yet another victim of a cost increase. This one feels like the least fair of the changes, but it's still valid. If the Summoner pulled something like an 8/8 giant, it wasn't such a big deal. But it had just as much chance of pulling Tyrantus or Deathwing and that was often game over.
Much like the change to Possessed Lacky, this one leaves the card viable. Spiteful Priest wasn't a top-tier deck but it worked, and it will continue to work despite this change. Spiteful Druid, however, isn't looking so great.
Ironically, because the Summoner is still worthwhile, it's not this change that's done for Druid but the ones to Warlock. Cubelock was keeping aggro decks out of the game. And the lack of aggro decks let Spiteful Druid, with its lack of early threat, into contention. If we see less Cubelock, we'll likely see more aggressive play and that in turn will wipe out Spiteful Summoner.
All is not lost for Druids, though. The slow but nasty Hadronox-based Taunt deck remains a strong contender for the class.
The final change won't affect the majority of players. It targets a deck you'll only see if you're regularly playing the Wild ladder, Naga Sea Witch. It's another cost increase but instead of one, it goes up a whopping three mana.
That puts the card out of contention. And it should. It facilitated a degenerate combo that let a player spew out multiple giants on turn six.
So, if you haven't seen it, now you won't ever see it. Be glad.