I have a confession. I went down a dark, dark path on my way to earning my Golden Rogue hero portrait in Hearthstone last year. I was having trouble getting victories with any deck under Valeera Sanguinar’s banner, and I was getting desperate. So I turned to … Mill Rogue. Coldlight Oracle and I became best buds for a couple of weeks.
So it was a bit of a shock when I learned Monday that Blizzard Entertainment was moving the beloved-yet-hated Murloc, which has each player drawing two cards as its Battlecry when you play it. It’s a card that factors into Mill-style decks that try to make you lose, or “burn,” cards because you have too many in your hand to draw any more. Some players would shudder every time this minion let out its “Murgle-gurgle-gurgle” cry whenever it plopped down on the board. It also appears a a card-draw engine in some decks that depend on complicated combos, like Quest Mage. You sometimes see it in rarer decks like Mill Warrior as well.
“It’s a beloved card,” Hearthstone game director Ben Brode said, noting this is the other thing that Reddit will have an opinion about, along with Blizzard’s other Hall of Fame choices (Ice Block and Molten Giant) from Monday’s press briefing on the upcoming Year of the Raven. “It doesn’t feel like same level of impact as cards like Ice Block.”
According to the deck-tracking site HSReplay.net, Coldlight Oracle is in 9.2 percent of decks of those who use the tracking service (this is not by all means the entire Hearthstone community, but it does provide an instructive snapshot into what’s being played). Fifty-five other cards appear more often, so it’s by no means running rampant on this meta. The winrates of these decks is 44.9 percent, and when played, that goes up to 52.4 percent. Right now, the highest card winrate of any deck on HSReplay is Unidentified Maul at 58.4 percent, to give context on where Coldlight fits into this.
Brode said that the team decided to move Coldlight to Wild for four major reasons.
“This has been preventing us from making certain kinds of designs that we’ve been excited to make in Standard, things that interact with Battlecries and things that bounce minions into your hand,” Brode said. Mill Rogue takes advantage of both of these, bouncing the Coldlight Oracle back into their hands with cards like Shadowstep.
“[Coldlight Oracle] has been one of the most powerful Battlecrys in the game, especially for enabling crazy combos,” he said. “The cheaper the card-draw is, the more samey games get. The more often you draw your whole deck, the more powerful combos can be. It puts limits on our design in a way that we were excited to explore and wanted that space”
Hearthstone’s boss also notes that moving Coldlight into Wild helps preserve class identity when you have fewer Neutral cards and have card draw in the classes themselves. “Also, the way it draws cards has a down side, but the way that down side [happens] often means you’re burning your opponents cards or destroying your opponents deck, and something that’s a little frustrating.
“Taken as a group, all of these reasons had us pushing Coldlight into Wild this year.”
And Brode does have a point — watching Coldlight Oracles bounce on-and-off the board while you deck burns isn’t fun and interactive, and some players quit once they see they’re facing a Mill deck. And since the Hearthstone client doesn’t show what cards are burned, you need to pay attention to which minions, secrets, spells, and weapons are no longer in your draw pile, so this will relieve some players of the frustration of dealing with Coldlight Oracle-based Mill decks.
When the Year of the Raven begins, I won’t be missing cards like Yogg-Saron or Medivh. I’ll be pouring one out for Coldlight Oracle and all the Hearthstone players who love playing Mill decks in Standard … and may never get to again.