Yes, they were all nerfed. But beyond that, these cards had, in their heyday, one defining feature that made them powerful and incredibly frustrating. They had the ability to turn games around that far exceeded that of a normal comeback card, that was both their greatest strength and their ultimate flaw. Essentially these cards not only allowed you to equalise from being behind by most of Hearthstone’s usual desirable goals, but actively punish your opponent to ‘win’. Instead of comeback, these are win-back cards.
The power of Buzzard
Way back in the yonder years of Vanilla Hearthstone, Hunter terrorized with incredibly powerful reload. Starving Buzzard, when combined with Unleash the Hounds, gave the class an incredible draw engine that scaled with the opponent’s board state. Since Hunter was often burn-based and ran out of cards fast, this usually gave them the tools they needed to win.
This was inherently frustrating to play against. In order to beat Hunter, it was vital to play minions to counter-clock them before you get burnt out. But those same minions would punish you by giving Hunter the tools to win. While this was skill-testing to find the exact balance of aggression and restraint, it fundamentally created a stressful tension that players didn’t enjoy. This, more than anything else, contributed to a backbreaking nerf up to five mana.
Warsong, Frothing and ludicrous OTKs
Warsong Commander, like Starving Buzzard, also used the opponent’s minions against them. When combined with Grim Patron or Frothing Beserker, it actively punished the opponent by generating huge boards of Patrons or making massive charge damage out of nowhere with Frothing.
And like Buzzard, Warsong was nerfed, and hard. Blizzard ultimately decided this wasn’t the kind of interaction they wanted in the game. It didn’t help that the deck was majorly oppressive both in tournaments and on ladder; but there is an argument that the deck would not have been changed to the extent it was without the fundamental issue of frustration.
Comeback vs win-back
You can see where I’m going with this. Spreading Plague, while not necessarily destroying the meta, produces similar feelings of ire. Once again, we see the issue arising of players feeling bad about losing due to what feels like winning. This is different than simply overextending into an AOE.
OE, at worst, leaves you slightly behind on tempo and card advantage, and usually slightly ahead. It takes other, high value cards for a slower deck to completely flip the board control using AOE.
This may go some way to explaining why players feel so strongly about Plague and Druid in general. Maybe Warsong Commander and Starving Buzzard’s nerfs were justified in retrospect. The alternative may be just not enough considering the feelings these cards evoke.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via hearthstone.gamepedia.com.