I thoroughly enjoyed our recent interview with Hearthstone lead designer Dean "Iksar" Ayala, in which he discussed how the game's current meta became one of the most balanced Hearthstone has ever seen, with all classes pretty much viable. But balanced doesn't always mean fun, and there was quite a bit of pushback after from players who argued that the best decks are way too reliant on 'created by' effects—ie cards which randomly generate other cards. And in the case of Mage: a lot of other cards.
Today, snuck out alongside the news that next week we're going to get a Fall Reveal event detailing the next wave of content coming this year, were some patch notes for incoming nerfs. The cards affected are some of the most RNG-heavy designs that the game has ever seen (which really is saying something).
Here are the changes, which will also be implemented next week:
Old: [Cost 1] → New: [Cost 2]
Old: Solarian Prime [Cost 7] → New: Solarian Prime [Cost 9]
I don't think there's any surprise about the cards being targeted. Evocation is one of the most insane cards in Hearthstone history. It fills your hand with random spells that disappear at the end of the turn unless cast. Combined with Sorcerer's Apprentice, Evocation enables Mage players to have incredible 'pop off' turns, reducing the cost of Mana Giants (because none of these generated spells started in your deck), and providing vital tools for whatever the board state demands. The important thing to note about this nerf is that by moving the Mana cost to 2, Evocation will no longer be found by Wandmaker and Cobalt Spellkin.
The change to Solarian Prime is also long overdue, as reflected by the fact that its cost is being increased by two Mana. The problem here is how wide the card's potential to 'high roll' is. Solarian Prime casts five completely random Mage spells, but crucially it will attempt to target enemies if possible. Although it does have the potential to whiff, particularly when played on an empty board, it tends to be incredibly strong when played into contested board states.
In fact, it's not uncommon to have Solarian Prime play 20+ Mana's worth of beneficial spells, including stuff like juicy stuff like Flamestrike, Deep Freeze, Power of Creation, and even the dreaded Puzzle Box of Yogg Saron, which will cast a further 10 entirely random spells. In short, Solarian is the kind of card which gives clown fiestas a bad name.
After the announcement, senior game designer Alec Dawson took to Twitter to explain the thinking with these nerfs. (Another example, alongside the more interventionist approach to balancing, of Team 5's more hands-on approach.) The full thread is worth a read, particularly as he hints that some of the less powerful classes (hello Shaman) are being looked at with a view to future changes.
While looking at the current environment and future metas, Evocation helped enable a lot of early game swings that could feel insurmountable. We want to smooth that out. At 2 mana, it's not as fluid with Sorcerer's Apprentice and won't be generated from Wandmaker/Spellkin.October 15, 2020
On our side, we are continuing to discuss opportunities to bring up some of the weaker classes and/or touch up other play patterns in the near future. Thank again for your feedback, we read all of it (no matter how long that twitlonger is).October 15, 2020
Hopefully these nerfs will take some of the frustration out of what I would otherwise maintain is a relatively healthy meta. For reference, Mage is right in the middle of the pack when it comes to the current class power ranking on HSReplay.net. As ever, following the balance patch both cards will be eligible for a full dust refund for two weeks. I have golden versions of both cards (because I'm a monster) but honestly doubt I'll disenchant either.