After a pretty dismal start to the Kobolds and Catacombs meta, everything suddenly got better. Yes, things were pretty one-dimensional for a while. Aggro mirrors were largely determined by free 0 mana 5/5s and Patches or Keleseth draw RNG. Meanwhile, slower games often depended on when the Priest was able to start launching 0 mana hero powers at face. However, a number of carefully targeted nerfs widened the field significantly. Now, far more decks are viable, and far less of them are decided on draw RNG. So what ended up being the impact of the 10.2 nerfs?
An instant and immediate impact came from the change to Patches. No longer with Charge, Patches’ power level dipped dramatically. While this still allows him as a potent inclusion in Pirate decks, not every tempo strategy can simply jam in Patches and two Southsea Captains for a 3 mana 5/5.
This had two main impacts. One was an increase in diversity; with three deck slots no longer given over to this ubiquitous pirate package, tempo decks were free to experiment with more unique strategies. Take the rise of Dude Paladin, which capitalised on a slightly slower early game meta and more options for deckbuilding to overtake generic Aggro Paladin to be on par with Murlocs as the defining Paladin archetype.
The other benefit came from draw RNG reductions. The fewer decks run Patches, the fewer games are lost by drawing Patches. Moreover, losing Patches disincentivized Keleseth, further reducing the levels of early draw RNG.
Raza reined in
While the Patches change was wide-ranging, Raza was laser focused. There was one clear deck to target, because Raza itself supported a single archetype; Highlander Priest. This was arguably the most powerful burn-based deck ever created, with seemingly endless free hero powers grinding opponents down over multiple turns. But it was the burst potential that was truly hard to counter; with Mind Blasts, Prophet Velens, Holy Smites and Radiant Elementals potentially creating 50 damage mega-bursts of OTK damage.
By increasing the post-Raza hero power cost to 1 from 0, the deck lost its huge burst potential necessary to take down the massive heal potential of Mage, Warrior and especially Warlock. Without a crucial edge against control, the deck lost its reason to be. But this ended up being good for Priest. Instead of Priest representation being massively over-centralised around a single archetype, there are decent representations of 4 or more archetypes in Inner Fire, Control, Spiteful Summoner and Big.
Not only that, but in a recurring theme, we saw yet more reduction in draw RNG. Raza Priest wasn’t the most inconsistent deck of all time; at least its draw RNG was late-game and thus able to be ameliorated with card draw. However, being entirely dependent on exactly two cards for your win-condition was hardly a great-feeling experience.
Corridor Creeper looked to be one of the heaviest nerf targets, but in retrospect may have got off lightly. Admittedly, it was coming from an incredibly strong starting position. Corridor Creeper bears a reasonable challenge for the mantle of the most powerful and meta-warping Neutral cards ever printed. The 7 mana 5/5’s cost rapidly ticked down to zero with every minion death, leading to quick and devastating tempo swings.
The nerf to 2 attack however wasn’t as crippling as some other nerfs. Unlike Raza, Corridor Creeper still sees fringe play in fringe decks. The main impact was simply to remove it as a near-mandatory inclusion in almost every deck. This in itself is a massive boon to the overall meta. Not to diversity (after all, if everyone plays Corridor Creeper, they largely counter one another) and more as the reduction in power spikes that comes from how many free 5/5s you draw.
Bonemare toned down
This card wasn’t quite as impactful as the other three nerf targets, but it was probably still a smart move to adjust it. It had partially been squeezed out by the tempo of Corridor, but was still the strongest board presence card for 7 mana. The nerf to 8 mana feels fair, but maybe perhaps an overreaction, especially considering the strength of cards like those that make up the demon package of Cubelock.
Nonetheless, it has relegated the card to unplayed, if not unplayable status. The biggest positive impact may have come from Arena, where it was previously a terrifying presence. However, given the many huge changes that came to Arena offering rates, this was only impactful for a while. Overall, it seems a positive but uncharacteristically low-priority nerf.
Regardless, the proof is in the pudding, and the pudding sure is sweet. This meta is one of the best we’ve ever had, and with huge meta changes coming very soon, it might be worth taking a few games to truly appreciate it.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.