Lately, Blizzard has been tinkering with Hearthstone's balance much more actively than usual. Team 5 nerfed Rogue before it got totally out of hand, and made the first card buffs we've seen since the game was in beta as part of the recent Rise of the Mechs update. The result has been a meta which has felt fresh and healthy longer into the latest expansion's lifespan.
Using various combinations of Malygos, Prophet Velen and Archmage Vargoth to burn your opponent for a bajillion damage will soon only be a thing in Wild.
In another surprise, Blizzard has just announced that two spells from the Basic set are being Hall of Famed—meaning they'll only be playable in Wild rather than Standard format. Previously, the Hall of Fame process has only happened when Standard rotates at the start of the year. (This April Genn, Baku, Doomguard and several others all got the treatment). The cards leaving are relatively unexpected, too: Vanish and Mind Blast.
It's part of a piece of rebalancing which Blizzard calls "Addressing Identity Issues" in the accompanying blog post. It explains that these cards didn't fit with their respective classes' themes. Vanish let Rogues clear the board of all minions, returning them to their owner's hand, while Mind Blast let Priests deal five points of face damage for just 2 Mana.
The replacement cards will "better speak to their classes’ core fantasies" as Blizzard put it. In contrast with how Hall of Fame has worked in the past, these cards are being immediately replaced with brand new alternatives. Rogue gets Plaguebringer, which makes a friendly minion Poisonous, while Priests get Radiance, a healing spell. These being new Basic cards, it's no surprise that neither card immediately screams OP.
That's not all that's changing in the next update, which currently doesn't have a due date, but on past experience should arrive in the next couple of weeks. Eight new cards are being added to Classic at the same time in order to compensate for cards which have been sent to the Hall of Fame in the past. You can see them throughout this article and in the gallery at the bottom, but here's a summary:
- Arcane Devourer, an 8-Mana 5/5 Elemental who gains +2/+2 whenever you cast a spell
- Barrens Stablehand, a 7-Mana 4/4 minion who summons a random Beast as a Battlecry
- Brightwing, a faerie dragon from WoW who is perhaps best-known as a playable hero from Heroes of the Storm, and is now a 3-Mana Dragon who adds a random Legendary minion to your hand as a Battlecry
- Gift of the Wild, an 8-Mana Druid spell which buffs all your minions by +2/+2, and gives them Taunt
- High Inquisitor Whitemane, a new version of WoW character Sally Whitemane (previously available as a Paladin minion summonable via the Four Horsemen hero power from Knights of the Frozen Throne) and is now a 7-Mana 6/8 minion who summons any friendly minions who died this turn as a Battlecry
- Righteousness, which costs 5 Mana and gives Divine Shield to all your minions
- SI:7 Infiltrator, a 4-Mana 5/4 minion who destroys a random enemy Secret as a Battlecry
- Siegebreaker, a 7-Mana 5/8 Demon with Taunt for Warlock which gives your other Demons +1 Attack
Decks like Mill, Quest and Pogo Rogue exploited Vanish as a cheap board clear that also 'bounced' back cheap minions which you wanted to re-play.
The Developer Insights blog also spends a lot of time explaining what Blizzard see as the identity of each Hearthstone class, breaking down their strengths and weaknesses. "We’ll continue to adjust the Basic and Classic sets as needed", they say, so we can expect future changes to line up with the identities set out here.
Druids, for instance, are described as having Mana generation, giant minions, minion swarms, card draw, and Beasts as their strengths, and destroying big minions and board clearance as their weaknesses. So don't expect any juicy hard removal to be added to Druid in the future.
From a player perspective it's exciting to see Blizzard's thinking laid out clearly like this, even if we're bound to disagree with some of the finer points. For example card generation is listed as a Warrior weakness, which a certain Dr Boom, Mad Genius, might take issue with.
We'll let you know as soon as Blizzard confirms the date this update is due to go live, but the injection of new cards, almost regardless of their exact power level, is bound to trigger another phase of experimentation. In particular pay attention to High Inquistor Whitemane (above), the new neutral legendary minion with an effect so powerful she may even make our top 20 crafting guide.