Blizzard notified players via a post on its official forums this morning that it’s modifying the Warsong Commander — the lynchpin of the immensely successful Grim Patron deck archetype that has defined the metagame in the pro Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft scene for the nearly six months since the deck concept’s inception.
The timing could not be more significant, as this news comes only two weeks prior to the beginning of the Hearthstone World Championship finals, whose first rounds begin October 28.
What does this mean for the 16 pro players whose Road to BlizzCon performances hinged almost entirely on their ability to play — or counter — Patron Warrior?
The strict 3-class “trifecta” of Warrior, Warlock, Druid is toast
For ease of reference, here is a post from LiquidHearth showing what every player brought to their respective regional qualifiers. The overwhelming dominance of Midrange Druid and the Warlock’s Handlock deck can be specifically attributed to their strength against Patron Warrior as well as providing reasonable coverage against other matchups.
Without the specific requirement of ensuring that your decks can safely close out a Conquest format series against Patron Warrior, players will now have to think a lot harder about how they’re going to play their lineups, since no other deck archetype has quite the same consistency against all classes and styles that Patron Warrior did.
Handlock is specifically likely to be omitted by a lot of pros, since its meaningful resurgence was almost exclusively due to its better-than-average matchup against Patron Warrior — it doesn’t shine much outside of that.
Decks designed to “snipe” specific matchups in a series are much more playable
The prevalence of Warrior and Druid, in particular, have held down a number of deck styles. Druid is still a powerful choice, and it’s liable to be the most represented class at BlizzCon, but options like Midrange Hunter or Paladin decks now have a ton of potential that was previously unrealized because they were so vulnerable to the Patron Warrior win conditions (since they both flood the board with so many small minions).
A pro player could easily, for example, choose to put Freeze Mage back into their stable of decks for BlizzCon, since while it loses to Control Warrior and Midrange Druid fairly consistently, it beats nearly all other archetypes — almost guaranteeing it could net an easy win in a Conquest series. Dragon Priest and its great matchups against Druid, Hunter, and Mage could also potentially see play.
Tech cards and hyper-specific counters are massively up in the air
When players could safely assume they were going to see Warrior, they knew to bring Harrison Jones in at least one deck as a counter. In a Conquest format series, you’re still statistically likely to hit a weapon-using class, since a majority of the classes run weapons (and it’s even useful against Jaraxxus). But the necessity of removing a weapon is not anywhere near the same in most of those matchups as it was against Patron.
You saw things like Thijs winning in EU with multiple Big Game Hunters in his decks to answer the inevitable Handlock that would show up to counter Patron Warrior. A play like that is unlikely to be safe or effective at BlizzCon now.
Strong tech choices across multiple matchups will still probably make appearances — Loatheb is a smart choice to help counter the strong likelihood of seeing Druid combos or spell-heavy Mage decks — but players will not be able to do anywhere near the amount of hard-countering in a meta that is now officially back in flux.
One thing is certain — this is going to make for an exciting viewing experience for Hearthstone fans! Tune in to the Hearthstone World Championships beginning October 28 to October 31 and the finale at BlizzCon on November 6 and November 7. You can watch all of Blizzard’s esports championships for free on these two weekends in HD at www.blizzcon.com.