Genn and Baku are some of the most powerful and controversial cards in the meta. By completely changing the dynamics of hero powers, they have created dozens of new decks. Many of these have ended up dominating large swathes of ladder. But while some see Even and Odd decks as two sides of the same coin, they have massively different impacts. In many respects, Baku is far more problematic than Genn.
The Midrange Maestro
Let’s start by looking at Genn. The mechanics of Genn are simple; include only even-costed cards, and your hero power costs one mana instead of the usual two. The effect of this is to create a consistent mid-range deck that focuses on 2 and 4 drops, and can afford to include a lot of late-game minions. We see this in Even Paladin, Even Shaman and Even Warlock, which all pursue a mid-range board-focused gameplan.
There are problems with Genn of course; it doesn’t benefit classes with reactive hero powers very much. For instance, being able to dagger up or ping turn one isn’t very useful, as half the time there’s nothing to shoot. Similarly, hero powers that affect life totals tend not to be used for their mana efficiency, so even Priest, Warrior and Hunter tend not to be too effective.
However, Genn overall seems to promote a lot of consistency without much downside. Especially in a Keleseth dominated meta, the near guarantee of a decent, “fair” curve in a Genn deck is refreshing. The midrange gameplan also helps keep polarization down, as they can fight for board against virtually any deck and win out with their ample late-game against control. In short, Genn promotes fair, consistent, flexible decks that reward skill and tend not to be especially RNG dependent.
All in with Baku
Baku certainly has a lot of positives. She’s a saving grace for aggro in a meta otherwise largely bereft. She also (to an extent) promotes some consistency, although not as much as Genn. And she’s kept Warrior relevant as the king of anti-aggro.
However, Odd decks aren’t as reliable as Genn decks for two reasons. Firstly, because they suffer more when on the coin (as they have no 2 drops to coin out), and because they rely on 1 drops more to fill tempo gaps. On turn 4 for instance, a Genn deck will almost always have either a 4 drop or two 2 drops to play. Whereas Odd decks need exactly a 3 drop and a 1 drop to utilise their mana efficiently.
And despite these minor benefits, the costs to the meta are prohibitive. The main problem is polarisation. By giving an extreme hero power, it forces the deck to go all in on a particular strategy; like face damage in Odd Hunter, early board control in Odd Rogue, board flood in Odd Paladin and fatigue in Odd Warrior. By making decks more extreme, it pushes polarisation. All Odd decks are incredibly strong versus decks that can’t counter their chosen strategy, but struggle massively against those that can. The apotheosis of this is the Odd Rogue vs Odd Warrior matchup, which is almost 90% favoured for the Warrior.
Impossible to fix?
The problem with trying to address any of this is how difficult it would be to nerf Baku. The flavour and design for Baku does not allow for many changes. The minion itself is irrelevant, the upgraded hero power is granular and hard to change and any other alterations would destroy the ‘soul’ of the card.
As such, an indirect approach is probably best. By strengthening class 2 and 4 drops, there will be less push of aggro towards Baku, and more reasons to run a less polarising strategy.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via hearthstone.gamepedia.com