This week, the game designers behind Hearthstone held a Rise of Shadows Q&A session on the official forums. They tackled questions about nerfs, card changes, and cosmetics. To save you the time of sifting through nearly 400 questions posted by the Hearthstone community at large, here are Blizzard’s responses to some key questions about the future of the game.
When asked if Saronite Chain Gang could be changed in the Wild format now that it has left the Standard rotation, game designer Liv Breeden answered:
We nerfed Saronite Chain Gang as a result of combinations with Shudderwock being an unfun experience to play against. It can be exhausting spending a huge amount of time on a single turn just watching everything play out without you interacting at all. There’s an unfortunate side-effect that Chain Gang loses hand buff synergies, but it felt like the right decision to make.
The question further inquired into a possible change of Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End – a card which mainly got altered for its impact on the Standard format. Breeden added:
As for Yogg, it’s a pretty dangerous effect for us to have in Neutral sticking around forever. If we were to do this sort of thing again, we’d rather put it in a class where it’s a little more contained.
One user asked about Blizzard’s plans for the current problem decks in the Wild format. The main two problematic decks are Big Priest and Darkest Hour Warlock. In a now-removed reply, a designer stated they are currently considering changes to Barnes and Bloodbloom, but need “more data.”
On a personal note, I have played the Wild format of Hearthstone for years and Barnes has been a problematic card since it was first announced. Looking at the stats of Hsreplay, Barnes has a win rate of 78.5% when drawn in your starting hand. That’s 13.9% higher than the next best card. This difference, as well as the win rate in your starting hand, is more than any other deck in the entire game for a single card. It’s unclear what other stats they believe they need before taking action.
In a series of replies, Hearthstone designer Stephen Chang talked through Hero cards and their impact on the game. Specifically, he touched on cards like Hagatha the Witch and Dr. Boom, Mad Genius.
We learned a lot about Hero cards after we introduced the Death Knights and applied that knowledge to the Hero cards in the Year of the Raven. The type of value that cards like Dr. Boom, Mad Genius and Hagatha the Witch provide are less reliable than those found on some of the Death Knights. We’re continuing to learn from these Hero cards as well and will continue to monitor their use in the current meta. Dr. Boom, Mad Genius saw a lot of play at the start of Rise of Shadows, but his use is starting to taper off as the meta evolves and players are playing decks that counter Warrior. It’s unlikely that we’ll rotate these to the Hall of Fame early and if we felt a change were needed to any of these Hero cards that we would nerf them instead.
Chang further talked about the most popular card in the Standard format right now, Zilliax.
We like the way Zilliax is being used. As such a flexible card (due to having so many keywords) Zilliax naturally finds his way into a variety of decks for different reasons, and we like this. Some decks really value the Lifesteal, some value the Mech minion type, some use him to synergize with Rush or Taunt cards. Often how he interacts in each game or deck feels different and less repetitive. In general, Zilliax just feels great to play and doesn’t feel awful to play against so we’re pretty happy where he is right now.
The last card that is important to talk about is the single biggest issue in the Standard format right now. Archivist Elysiana replaces your remaining deck with two copies of five different cards you get to discover. The problem with this is that Control match-ups don’t reach an end anymore.
For example, in the match-up of Control Warrior against a Control Shaman or other Warrior, the game is nearly always going to the turn limit as neither player will ever take fatigue damage. This occurs because both players will combine Archivist Elysiana with Youthful Brewmaster to further extend the number of card resources they have.
Stephen Chang’s response wasn’t what most of us were hoping for as the team is holding off for more information. However, changes might be coming if the card is as big of an issue at the upcoming World Championship as it is for us players on the ladder. The event will run until April 29, so salvation might be coming for next season.
On a final note, a user asked if Baku the Mooneater and Genn Greymane – two legendaries that were hall-of-famed – are also being replaced after earlier comments about replacing the hall-of-famed cards from the Classic set. Lead designer Peter Whalen simply responded, “Yes, that’s the plan.”
This remark has us very intrigued as new Classic-set legendaries will be able to strongly impact Hearthstone for the foreseeable future. When exactly the new cards will be added is not yet announced, although some comments suggested this will happen before the next Hearthstone expansion.
That is all for now! If you want to know more about the upcoming Hearthstone World Championship, make sure to check out our coverage showcasing some of the unique decks being played this week. Blizzard’s full Rise of Shadows designer Q&A can be found on the official forums.
I’m Arend Zijdenbos, from the Netherlands. Gamer for as long as I can remember. My current focus is further improving at esports journalism. Currently, I write for Daily Esports and PCInvasion. For more of me, find me on twitter @Azijdenbos.