Nerfing a card must be a traumatic experience for the development team. Cards have a ton of effort and love poured into them, with art, sound design, game mechanics and lore all intertwined. When balance forces a change, it loses a part of that card’s identity forever. Although Warsong Commander’s 2/3 soul was intact, it was never the same. The act of nerfing a card may even bear resemblance to losing a friend or loved one. Would it be too much to suggest that the developers might go through something similar to the famous “Five Stages of Grief”? Almost certainly yes. But hey, it might be fun to imagine how the balance decision might change as the balance team came to terms with their loss.
At first, it might be possible that the dev team might deny that a problem exists. After all, who would think lovable Corridor Creeper, with its fashionable pink glistening hide and charming growl that brings joy to so many, would be a problem? To start with, there would be the urge for caution. “We need to let the meta settle!”, or “wait till after the World Championship”. But the meta has settled, the World Championship came and went. Corridor Creeper is as much of an issue as ever. Is there no hope for Corridor Creeper to remain unscathed?
There is one last rallying cry for those that might see Corridor Creeper saved. It’s the argument made by Reynad, that the problem is less Corridor Creeper and more Patches and other early-game minions that quickly drive down the mana cost. Unfortunately, this argument is unlikely to hold water. Even without Patches, the card quickly gets far too cheap far too quickly for it to go unchanged.
It’s possible that in their darker moments, the devs might react with anger. What has Corridor Creeper ever done to hurt anyone (other than 5 damage per turn)? One might imagine Ben Brode angrily pacing the walls of Team 5’s development studio, punching a hole in the wall with despair and rage at how anyone would want to hurt such a magnificent, handsome tunnel worm.
When people get angry, they can lash out at easy targets. And in Hearthstone, easy targets are Classic cards. Perhaps Lightning Storm would go to 5 mana. Tirion might rotate to Hall of Fame. Shield Slam could only target friendly minions. Hopefully though, cooler heads will prevail.
After anger comes bargaining. Perhaps Corridor Creeper wasn’t so bad? Could it get away with a minor, Spreading Plague style nerf? After all, there are plenty of other cards with significant cost reductions. Sea Giants, Molten Giants and Arcane Giants all can get down to zero mana. Heck, even Nerubian Prophet does so relatively quickly. Surely a 1 mana increase would be enough? Probably not.
Unlike similar cards, Corridor Creeper is strong enough to keep off the mulligan. Only a couple of trades brings its cost down to 3, and three trades makes it cost only 1. An 8 cost Corridor Creeper would help, but ultimately do little but reduce the power of Forbidden Shaping and Free from Amber. The problem with Corridor Creeper is how fast it can reduce in cost, not just that the initial mana cost is too low. And that requires fundamental change.
It might be tempting at this stage to suggest that Corridor Creeper deserves to be nerfed into oblivion. With such game-breaking potential, it is even conceivable that like with Warsong Commander, the entire function of the card could change. Or more realistically, we could see a mana hike of 3 or more to push it out of the viability as an opening hand keep.
But there might yet be redemption for the Creeper. Having a card that benefits from dying minions, is a neat idea. It rewards decks that play minions but also want to trade defensively. Unfortunately, its sheer power level meant that even the bare minimum of trading made it incredibly potent.
A reasonable nerf to Corridor Creeper is possible. It’s a hard card to predict, purely because numbers don’t mean the same as it does with other cards. Not only mana cost, but rate of reduction must be considered. But there is a balance to be struck. Hit it too hard, and tempo mirrors no longer have interesting swing turns that make the winner less set in stone from the first two turns. Touch it too lightly, and it will continue to dominate the meta.
In the meantime, we all should take some time to craft and enjoy this lovely epic while we still have the chance. After all, there are very good odds we’ll get our dust back.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.
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