Hearthstone designer responds to criticism of Warsong Commander nerf in video

BEN BRODE-cropped

On Monday Blizzard didn’t so much nerf Warsong Commander as took her out back and shot her in the head. Twice. Just to be sure. Previously the card gave any minion which had less than 3 attack the ‘charge’ ability, enabling them to attack immediately, which led to degenerate mega damage combos in the Grim Patron Warrior deck. After a balance patch slated to go live next week the card will now only give minions which already have charge +1 attack. In practice that means Warsong Commander will go from being one of the most dangerous 3-mana creatures in Hearthstone to a card that’s worse than Raid Leader, a card itself considered dumpster tier unplayable.

Perhaps surprisingly, given that the Hearthstone community has mostly been begging for a nerf to the Grim Patron deck in which Warsong Commander is a key component for over six months, there was quite a bit of consternation about the nerf, with many players arguing that a lighter touch could have been applied to reduce the card’s power without effectively destroying the entire deck archetype.

warsong commander

Warsong Commander193

This is the current version of the card. Next week she's unlikely to be see ever again. Perhaps she will go to live on a farm upstate and look after the Starving Buzzards there.

In response to that reaction, Hearthstone senior game designer Ben Brode has taken to video to explain the logic behind such a drastic nerf. In the video (embedded at the top of the page here) he reflects on the fact that Warsong Commander has long been a problem card, and the real mistake the design team made was not removing its charge-granting ability after it caused a previous problem with ludicrous Molten Giant-based one-turn-kills during the game’s beta.

As for why Blizzard didn’t opt for the often suggested solution of only making minions whose attack remained at 3 or below able to charge, Brode explains that they tried around 30 different tweaks, but ultimately granting charge is the issue. He has previously talked at length about how problematic charge is to design around, and in the video says: “There are other designs we’ve been trying, but just can’t do because Warsong Commander exists in Warrior. Granting charge is so powerful. Helping stop this type of gameplay, and helping free up some future designs we’re excited about... it felt like Warsong Commander was the right card to hit.”

Whether that will be enough to cool the ire of Patron players upset that their favourite deck has effectively been deleted remains to be seen. Probably not. Nonetheless, I think these videos are a welcome part of the Hearthstone team’s communication with the playerbase. (Brode also recorded one responding to a criticism from the streamer Kripparian that Blizzard never buffs bad old cards.) The real complaint, in my opinion, is that it’s taken this long for such an obviously broken deck to get fixed. We’ll have reaction from some pro players later on in the week. Meanwhile, for those who hated the Grim Patron deck, enjoy this...

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.