Rogue hit with multiple nerfs in Hearthstone balance update

Since Hearthstone's Rise of Shadows expansion released last month, Rogue decks have been enjoying the kind of ubiquitous popularity on ladder that means two things: 1) Some of the class's cards are straight-up busted, and 2) Blizzard is about to take a trip to nerftown.

That visit will be happening later this week, on Wednesday May 22, when the developer will be addressing four problematic cards, three of which are Rogue-specific: EVIL Miscreant, Raiding Party, Preparation, and Archivist Elysiana, which is a neutral legendary.

Blizzard's reasoning for targeting Rogue quite so hard is there's currently only one real choice for building an anti-Rogue deck, and that's Warrior. To be honest, Rogue players can tech against that match-up by including cards like Chef Nomi and even Mountain Giants. 

Blizzard also argued in its announcement that the other most-played decks right now—Token Druid, Conjurer Mage, and Mech Hunter—all have multiple valid choices for how to most effectively combat them, though I do wonder if Mage in particular is going to become an issue. 

Anyway, for now it's mostly Rogue eating the nerf bat upside the head.

The four cards which will be changed in this week's update.

Here's how Blizzard explained the rationale for the changes:

EVIL Miscreant - Now has 4 Health. (Down from 5)

"EVIL Miscreant is meant to be a value-generating card that creates future swing turns, but having 5 Health on this minion meant Rogue players sacrificed very little to set up those turns. We still expect EVIL Miscreant to be a great option for Rogue decks, just at a power level that is more in line with other available cards."

Raiding Party – Now costs 4 mana. (Up from 3)

"Rogue already excels at drawing cards, so having another powerful draw card that offered consistent results has made Rogue games play out a little more similarly than we think is fun. We’re making this change to better represent the power level of drawing a very specific subset of cards."

Preparation – Now reads: The next spell you cast this turn costs (2) less.

"All changes we make to the Basic and Classic sets are directed at the long-term health of Hearthstone. Preparation is currently seen as such a powerful card that it appears in nearly all Rogue deck archetypes. The change we’ve landed on was a small one. We did want the power of the card to decrease, but also thought it was important Preparation remained a reasonable option since it fits the class fantasy for Rogue so well. Preparation is regularly used to reduce the cost of cards like Sap or Eviscerate, and those interactions will remain unchanged. Reducing the cost of your next spell by 2 as opposed to 3 opens our design options up a little more to create higher cost Rogue spells without having to balance so closely around casting them alongside Preparation."

Archivist Elysiana – Now costs 9 mana. (Up from 8)

"Our goal here was to preserve the feeling and power level of Archivist Elysiana in the general use case, while making the strategy of playing her multiple times in the same game much more difficult. Shaman will still be able to replay Elysiana through Shudderwock, but this is not as common or problematic as what we’ve seen in control Warrior decks. Now, playing Elysiana alongside cards like Baleful Banker or Youthful Brewmaster should be a less consistent strategy."

There you have it. But don't just take Blizzard's analysis for granted. To get an alternative stance on the changes, we spoke with one of the best Rogue players in the world (and sometime PC Gamer writer) Jesse Marczyk to get his take: "The Miscreant change is largely irrelevant. It will have no real impact on how the class plays and what decks include it. It gets a bit weaker and that’s fine," said Marczyk, who streams at j_alexander_hs

"Raiding Party is a change I recommended and, frankly, it’s the only one that really needed to happen. That card is the linchpin making the powerful Standard Myracle Rogue deck work. It’s what makes cards like Prep and Edwin feel busted to people, because they can be played without losing card advantage. This change slows the deck down by a full turn, and that can make or break a deck in terms of being tier one or three sometimes."

However, Marczyk is much less happy with the change to Prep, which he thinks the Hearthstone team has messed up badly: "It's totally unnecessary," he says. "It’s not like the Myracle deck is some unstoppable force in the meta or that any other deck abuses the card. At the time of writing, it's been relegated to tier two status. It’s a good deck, for sure, and the meta is trying to counter it, but it’s nowhere near the other problems of the past the team left unaddressed." 

Marczyk goes on to give several reasons why the Prep nerf sucks, which we'll summarise for reasons of space: 1) The continual deprecation of the classic set means new expansions have to work harder to shore up each class's weaknesses, and robs classes of their flavour. 2) Nerfing core cards to a class's identity can break players' emotional connection with that class, and what drew them to playing it in the first place. 3) Dr Boom, Mad Genius is more problematic than any of the cards being touched this week. And I'm not sure I'd argue with that.

As always with card alterations in Hearthstone, you'll be able to disenchant these cards for their full value for two weeks after the update. You can also see the cards with their new numbers on in the gallery below.

Tim Clark

With over two decades covering videogames, Tim has been there from the beginning. In his case, that meant playing Elite in 'co-op' on a BBC Micro (one player uses the movement keys, the other shoots) until his parents finally caved and bought an Amstrad CPC 6128. These days, when not steering the good ship PC Gamer, Tim spends his time complaining that all Priest mains in Hearthstone are degenerates and raiding in Destiny 2. He's almost certainly doing one of these right now.