This year Blizzard began rotating problematic cards from the Classic set out of the Standard format, creating the tantalising prospect that everyone’s most hated cards will eventually be banished to Wild eventually. So, to help the designers at Team 5 make the right call next time, I selflessly decided to put together a hit list of cards that I feel should be put out to pasture next time around.
Standard still has plenty of powerful cards, as our list of the 20 best legendaries to craft shows.
I tried as best I could to stick to the loose ground rules that Blizzard operate by. The first and most important of which is that the cards must be from the Basic or Classic sets only. Cards from expansions and adventures, frustrating as they might be, will take care of themselves when their natural rotation comes around, but the Classic set is theoretically here forever, locking classes into certain strategies and limiting the variation that is possible when queuing into a particular class.
So as much as I would love to instantly nuke the Warrior Quest from orbit so I never have to look at a Die Insect coin flip again, I must make like Aldor and follow the rules. Secondly, the Hall of Fame was primarily reserved for powerful neutrals that were clearly “best in slot” for their Mana cost, and thus reduced the diversity of the game immensely. It’s worth noting, however, that those cards don’t really exist in the current Un’Goro meta, and so I've had to stray from the beaten path and pick on some core class cards.
Finally, in this magical world of theorycraft, this rotation would happen alongside an expansion, so where necessary I will mention the required cards that would need to be printed as replacements in order to not impact the affected classes too negatively. Also keep in mind when reading that these changes would hopefully be accompanied by a massive meta shakeup that fills the giant holes left by the rotations. With all that in mind, let's begin the bonfire of the cards, starting with...
Right off the bat, most players I’ve spoken to would go for the jugular and get rid of Ice Block. But I remain a fan of the card in theory. It creates interesting strategies and unique play styles that aren’t really possible with any other tool currently in the game. The problem is running Alexstrasza alongside Ice Block, which creates a massive one-two punch that can remove any and all feeling of interactivity from the game. Alex also opens up two-turn kill combo strategies in other decks, and while the life and death-bringing dragon isn't currently played in decks outside Mage, she does fit the bill of “limiting the design space” that we hear oh so often from the balance team.
Alex gets a big fat check in the ubiquity box too, as she's been a major part of numerous combo decks over the years, from the original old-school Charge combo Warriors, through various Combo Mage decks, to some fringe builds of Leeroy-burst Handlock.
Edwin Van Cleef
Okay, now I’m feeling like a monster. Freeze Mage and Miracle Rogue are two of my all-time favourite decks, and my first two choices involve running headlong at Jaina and Valeera with a big ol’ spiky nerf bat in hand. Edwin, however, has clearly become a problem since the addition of Counterfeit Coin and Razorpetal Lasher. Yes, those giant early Edwin draws only represent a small percentage of the total number of Miracle Rogue games played, but it doesn’t change the feeling that winning a game quite literally off the opening hand is not a rewarding experience, not to mention the feeling of abject misery when you’re the one staring across the board at a turn two 10/10.
If Edwin were to be banished to the Shadow Realm (sorry, wrong game), then Rogue would need some serious help in the accompanying expansion, as that small percentage of Edwin blowouts is one of the factors keeping Rogue strategies (outside of The Caverns Below) at a respectable win rate. Several cards would need to printed to assist Tempo or Combo Rogue strategies in order to keep them viable, because I'm pretty sure I speak for most people when I say that we don’t want to live in a world where Quest Rogue is the only viable archetype.
Fiery War Axe
I’m honestly surprised that this has stuck around for so long. Win Axe has been the poster child for autoinclude Warrior cards ever since the game released. From my perspective, this weapon ticks every box in terms of a card that should be targeted. In every Warrior deck? Check. Massive impact on a game’s outcome when it's present in the opening hand? Check. Immensely powerful overall? Checkerino. Come on, we call the card Win Axe. Win. Axe. How much more of an argument do I need to present?
The more interesting discussion is what Warrior would need in order to compensate for its absence. Early game plays are essential since the Warrior hero power is such a misery in terms of interacting with early board states. So in order for them to compete in the early game I would like to see some 1-Mana 1/3s or low cost Enrage minions reintroduced. This would enable fighting for early board presence and provide an added bonus of bringing cards like Cruel Taskmaster or Inner Rage out from the depths of obscurity to synergise and help contest the board more honestly alongside other existing cards like Armorsmith.
Mostly, I just want to have a different consideration against Warrior than what impact a Fiery War Axe draw has on my early-game. Surely we’re all bored of that by now?
Just go ahead and copy/paste the War Axe entry with the appropriate name substitutions. Innervate is another ridiculously powerful card that cuddles up with Fiery War Axe in all the same irritating categories. It offers a massive power spike when in your opening hand, juxtaposed with a miserably low power level as a late-game topdeck which accentuates the impact that natural draw RNG has on the game. Innervate has been an ever-present in just about every single Druid deck throughout the history of the game, and it creates absurd board states where the game is over before turn three without either player having to make a genuine decision.
For a while, Innervate redeemed itself as you got to queue into those people playing Aggro Druid for the first time that didn’t realise that Innervate + Living Mana didn’t work quite how they expected, but once the novelty of laughing at that misfortune wore off, it went right back to being a huge frustration again.
(Almost?) every nerfed card
Ok, plot twist. So far all of these entries have been about maintaining the health, interest, and competitive integrity of Standard as a format, but what about how we’re treating Wild? Wild as a format is at its best when it is truly bonkers. A format where everything is so overpowered, that by extension, nothing is. Wild should be to Standard what Marvel vs Capcom 3 was to Street Fighter IV, an insane sandbox where the usual rules don’t apply and the onus is on you as a player to find the most busted, degenerate strategy you can possibly imagine and make it work.
With that in mind, take a look back at the cards that have been nerfed over the last year or two; Force of Nature, Ancient of Lore, Leper Gnome, etc. None of these cards see any play whatsoever, so why not make them at least somewhat useful, revert them to their original form and send them packing to a world where they might be appreciated?
Of course we’ll have to keep an eye on any particular interactions that do just end up being an insta-win button, and cards that have received nerfs but still see play like Unleash the Hounds can stick around, but overall it feels like an elegant way to get some usage out of a relevant portion of the game’s card base that currently have zero impact on the game at almost any level.
I managed to get through all of that without even mentioning Warsong Commander or the Patron nerf, are you proud of me world?