So long, Combo Druid.
Blizzard revealed which of the Classic cards from its popular digital game Hearthstone will soon see changes. The developer is doing this to address balancing issues, as many of the Basic and Standard minions and spells have dominated the game since its release in 2014. These nerfs (the industry term for changes that weaken units and abilities in games) will become active when the new expansion, Whispers of the Old Gods, releases on April 26. The digital card game market is worth $1.2 billion, and Hearthstone easily tops its competitors. Joost van Dreunen, analyst at market research firm SuperData Research, told GamesBeat that Hearthstone (which is available on PC, iOS, and Android devices) makes $20 million a month.
Many of these nerfed cards have become mainstays in the most popular decks. The Druid spell Force of Nature previously summoned three 2/2 minions with Charge (meaning they could attack right away). Combined with spells that could increase minions’ strength, this was a deadly card that could easily win games. Now, those 2/2 Treants won’t have Charge.
Other Druid class cards saw downgrades. Ancient of Lore, which previously let players draw 2 cards or restore 5 health, had its first option reduced to drawing 1 card. Keeper of the Grove, a 4 mana minion with 2/4 stats that could Silence a minion or deal 2 damage, had its health reduced to 2.
Many nerfs target spells and creature that excelled at silencing and removal. Silence would remove special abilities (like Taunt, Charge, or buffs from other spells currently on a minion), while removal would immediately destroy a minion. These cards have prevented many of the game’s stronger minions from being effective, since silencing or removing them was so easy.
Other class nerfs include Hunter’s Mark (a Hunter card). It cost 0 mana and can set any minion’s health to 1. It now costs 1 mana. Rogue saw two cards receive changes. Class spell Blade Fury used to destroy your equipped weapon and deal its damage to all enemies for 2 mana. It now costs 4 mana and only damages enemy minions. Master of Disguise is a Rogue minion card that grants Stealth to a friendly minion, making it impossible to target with minions, spells, and hero powers. Now, that Stealth effect will only last until the next turn.
Some of the nerfs focus on mana cost. Big Game Hunter, a 3 mana neutral card that could kill any minion with 7 attack or more as soon as it was played, now costs 5 mana. Ironbeak Owl, a 2/1 neutral minion with a 2 mana cost that could Silence another card, now costs 3 mana.
Other powerful neutral minions also saw downgrades. Knife Juggler, a 2 mana 2/3 minion that would randomly deal 1 damage to an enemy whenever you played another friendly minion, now only has 2 attack. The 2 mana Leper Gnome, the popular, aggressive 2/1 that deals to damage to the enemy hero when killed, now has 1 attack.
The Arcane Golem, previously a 3 mana, 4/2 minion with Charge that would give your opponent a Mana Crystal, saw a more complex nerf. It no longer has Charge, but its health went up to 4.
Molten Giant, previously a 20 mana card with 8/8 stats that became 1 mana cheaper for each damage your hero had taken, now starts at 25 mana.
In general, these nerfs will help slow Hearthstone down. For a long time, fast-paced decks built around low mana costs and removal have dominated the game. These nerfs, along with the removal of a lot of the aggressive-friendly cards from the Nexxramas and Goblins vs. Gnomes sets, will turn Hearthstone into a very different game on April 26.