Hearthstone team considering nerfing Cubelock, Quest Rogue and Paladin once HCT playoffs are over

The annual rotation of the Standard format is usually the most exciting time in Hearthstone, with multiple expansions leaving and a new set arriving at once. But so far the Year of the Raven has felt a little stale, and that feeling is backed up by the numbers. According to HSReplay.net, the impact of The Witchwood on the meta has been much less than that of the previous rotation set:

"Journey to Un'Goro cards saw play rates over 25% in its first week, whereas The Witchwood is closer to 10%... Currently, The Witchwood is arguably the least relevant set, and even more concerning is the continuing decline."

With variants of Warlock, Paladin and Rogue overwhelmingly dominant, plenty of players are unhappy about the lack of change that was ushered in by The Witchwood. Thankfully, according to a Blizzard post today, nerfs are on the way—but the community will need to stay patient a little longer until the current round of esports tournaments is out of the way. 

"Team 5 has been reviewing the feedback everyone has been providing, along with data at all play levels, and the concerns raised are ones they agree with," said community manager Jesse Hill. "After the HCT Playoffs at the end of May, Team 5 is planning some balance changes. Full details are not yet available but we will get that info out as soon as specifics are finalized." 

The playoffs in question end on May 19, but these balance changes probably won't arrive until June at the earliest. However, while we don't know exactly what they will be, we do have some clues thanks to Hearthstone senior game designer Dean "Iksar" Ayala. Following a recent Twitter discussion, Ayala wrapped up his thoughts on balance and shared them on Reddit in the hopes of shedding some light on what Team 5 is actively considering nerfing.

Ayala began with Naga Sea Witch, which has been terrorizing the Wild ladder for months by enabling free giants. "It takes time to understand whether a strategy is a flavor of the week, but in the case of [Naga Sea Witch] decks, that time has passed," he said. "We’ve been discussing a variety of changes for either just the cost or design. We haven’t 100 percent landed on one yet, but will continue this discussion when we do." 

Ayala also listed the problem Standard cards and decks that Team 5 has discussed changing, with the stipulation that "we would not change all of these cards." Those under consideration for nerfs are:

  •  Sunkeeper Tarim 
  •  Call to Arms 
  •  Baku the Mooneater's upgraded Paladin hero power 
  •  Spiteful Summoner  
  •  Possessed Lackey 
  •  Bloodreaver Gul'dan 
  •  Dark Pact 
  •  Kobold Librarian  
  •  Quest Rogue 
  •  Doomguard 

Five of the 10 plausible nerf targets are Warlock cards, so it's safe to say Gul'dan is due for a chill pill. Carnivorous Cube, which enables Cubelock's devastating combos, is notably absent, as is the Skull of the Man'ari, the Warlock legendary weapon which cheats out Doomguards and Voidlords on early turns. However, if some of the other cards on the list are changed, those cards may no longer be a problem. In any case, for many it's just good to know that something is going to be done.

Austin Wood
Staff writer, GamesRadar

Austin freelanced for PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and has been a full-time writer at PC Gamer's sister publication GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a staff writer is just a cover-up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news, the occasional feature, and as much Genshin Impact as he can get away with.