Hearthstone is getting its fastest nerfs ever, but will they be enough to stop Shaman?

(Image credit: Blizzard)

We noted when the Hearthstone expansion Descent of Dragons went live that it was widely considered one of the most overpowered sets to be released in years. It was almost inevitable that it would be so—Descent of Dragons is the third set to come out in 2019, so in order to impact the meta the designers tend to 'push' more over-tuned cards—but that sort of power injection always carries with it the risk of unforeseen consequences.

As it turns out, that's what happened: Almost immediately after the expansion went live, Blizzard began working on an update aimed at toning down the Galakrond Shaman deck, which within the first 24 hours had become, as Fraser put it, an "unstoppable, storm-summoning forces of nature." 

That update won't go live until tomorrow, but Blizzard revealed the coming changes today:

  • Corrupt Elementalist: Now costs 6 Mana (up from 5)
  • Sludge Slurper: Now has 1 Attack (down from 2)
  • Faceless Corruptor: Now has 4 Attack (down from 5)
  • Mogu Fleshshaper: Now costs 9 Mana (up from 7)

Calls for changes following the release of a Hearthstone expansion are nothing new, but this will be the fastest Blizzard has ever actually nerfed cards in a new expansion, which reflects how badly it needed to be done. But don't take my word for it. Here's Hearthstone data analytics site HSReplay.net with the numbers:

(Image credit: HSReplay.net)

As you can see, Shaman's dominance is total. Of the nine classes, it accounts for 41% of all games played, and is the only class with a positive winrate. According to our resident card slinger Tim Clark, there is a strong case for calling Galakrond Shaman the strongest deck the game has ever seen. The only thing holding it back from having an even higher win-rate is that it's mostly matching against itself.  

Of the announced nerfs, Clark isn't convinced they're going to do enough. "I really expected a change to the card Dragon's Pack, which can summon 10/12 of stats with Taunt as early as turn five," he opined. 

"I'm also surprised the amount of Rush in the deck hasn't been toned down. Was anyone actually asking for a Sludge Slurper nerf? That wouldn't make it into my top 20 cards that need to change. The other big surprise is that Rogue hasn't been touched at all. It has a card called Necrium Apothecary which can cheat out stuff worth a vast amount of Mana early in the game, and is swiftly becoming almost as much of an issue as Shaman is (though it arguably has more potential counterplay)."

If you do find that ladder remains an unpalatable experience, at least there's Battlegrounds to retreat to, which has also been tuned up a bit in this patch. The biggest change this time around is the removal of the Nightmare Amalgam minion: Minions rotate in and out of Battlegrounds regularly, but Nightmare Amalgam was a powerhouse because it has every tribal type, meaning every buff in the game works on it. That scalability, plus the fact it can receive Poison and Divine Shield, makes Nightmare Amalgam key to many of the best comps. Its removal should refresh the meta substantially. 

Here's the full list of Battlegrounds changes:

  • The Boogeymonster: Moved from Tavern Tier 5 to Tavern Tier 4.
  • Mechano-egg: Moved from Tavern Tier 5 to Tavern Tier 4.
  • The Beast: Moved from Tavern Tier 4 to Tavern Tier 3.
  • Coldlight Seer: Moved from Tavern Tier 2 to Tavern Tier 3.
  • Primalfin Lookout: (Changed last week) Moved from Tavern Tier 4 to Tavern Tier 5.
  • Nightmare Amalgam: Has been removed from the pool of available minions.
  • Brann Bronzebeard: Has been removed from the pool of available heroes.
  • Bartendotron: Has been added to the pool of available heroes.
Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.