A couple of months ago I called Hearthstone’s Journey to Un’Goro the best expansion since the League of Explorers, noting how its innovative card design had led to the most diverse range of decks being played on ladder for a long time. However, there were a couple of caveats, the most notable of which was the joylessness of facing the Quest Rogue deck. At the time I said: “Losing pretty much always sucks, but there’s something particularly dispiriting about your opponent tenderising your face with a Stonetusk Boar on steroids.”
So I’m happy to report that it’s going to be a slightly less common experience in future because Blizzard has announced that The Caverns Below, which is the legendary card card which Quest Rogue is built around, is getting nerfed. Whereas previously you had to play four minions with the same name in order to complete the Quest and get the payoff, after the balance patch you’ll have to play five, which should slow the deck down slightly.
Here’s the statement from Blizzard explaining the change:
"Since the release of Journey to Un'Goro, Hearthstone has enjoyed a wider variety of competitively viable classes and decks than ever before. We’ve been monitoring overall gameplay, and we’ve decided that—even though everything is varied and many decks are viable—a change to The Caverns Below is still warranted. The Caverns Below is uniquely powerful versus several slower, control-oriented decks and played often enough that it’s pushing those decks out of play. This change should help expand the deck options available to players both now and after the release of the next expansion."
The strange thing about Quest Rogue is that pre-release almost nobody thought it was going to be good. And although it’s an undeniably powerful deck, particularly in the hands of a skilled pilot, it hasn’t been posting the kind of obnoxious win rate numbers seen from previous terrors like the Undertaker Hunter deck. The issue, as Blizzard’s statement acknowledges, is that Quest Rogue preys particularly ruthlessly on slow 'control' decks, effectively warping the meta to make that archetype all but unplayable.
If all this might as well be written in worgen for you: firstly, thanks for sticking around, but secondly, here’s some context. The reason The Caverns Below is so powerful is that if you successfully pull off the multiple minions with the same name trick, you’re rewarded with a powerful spell called The Crystal Core. Cast that and all your creatures thereafter become a 5/5 in stats, regardless of cost.
Players soon worked out how to optimise the deck by jamming it with cheap minions with useful Battlecry effects and other cards which ‘bounced’ them back to their hand. Against all but the most aggressive decks, a decent draw for the Quest Rogue pretty much locked the opponent out of the game, because few decks can deal with an endless stream of 5/5s hitting the board.
But don't take my word for how miserable that felt. Here's Brian Kibler explaining why Quest Rogue matches were about as much fun as watching someone burgle your house while they also took a dump on your carpet. (I'm paraphrasing.)
When I spoke to Hearthstone game director Ben Brode earlier this month, I asked him whether The Caverns Below was being completed so early and so consistently in Blizzard's testing. Brode noted he isn’t on the ‘final design’ team which monitors such things, but said: "I think it’s kind of interesting because that deck is very fun to play. It’s more fun to play than other decks of its win rate, and I think it’s less fun to lose to than decks of its win rate. It’s an interesting thing for us to be looking at in general. Why does that deck get more play than other decks of its win rate? Why does it get more play than other decks that are much better than it in win rate?"
Clearly, having time to evaluate the card for a little longer, Team 5 has deemed its impact unhealthy. And I think most players will agree with that. Personally I’d have liked to see The Crystal Core turned into a minion, so it couldn’t be combo'd with the cost-reducing spell Preparation. I doubt the planned nerf will drive Quest Rogue out of the game entirely—The Crystal Core’s effect is so powerful that even if it arrives a little later it will still be hard to handle—but I do expect the change will give control decks a little more room to breathe.
It’s also pleasing to see the situation addressed relatively swiftly (at least in comparison to how long previous nerfs took). Since Brode ascended to the throne, it feels like Team 5 have been more communicative than ever, and long may that continue. Speaking of which, Brode will be conducting a live Q&A on Twitch this Friday, June 30, alongside principal game designer Mike Donais, starting at 10.30am PDT. To be in with a chance of getting your question answered, tweet it to @PlayHearthstone with #QA. Just don’t be this guy...
List of users I've blocked on reddit. This guy is really committed to making sure I read his opinions about how I suck! pic.twitter.com/ecYeXB7uRkJune 18, 2017