Dean “Iksar” Ayala gave us a unique insight into the ongoing internal design balance discussion at blizzard. In a clarifying Reddit comment, he gave a hit-list of 10 cards that Team 5 are specifically looking at. Among them were many targets of community and competitive ire. It’s a fair assumption that several or even most of the cards highlighted will be touched (my money’s on Call to Arms, Dark Pact, Lackey, Spiteful and one or more key Quest Rogue tools). But there is a decent chance that cards not on this hit-list will be adjusted. Here are some contenders.
Mushroom power or mushroom overpowered?
There’s a precedent for Blizzard nerfing omnipresent neutral buff minions in Bonemare. Fungalmancer may fall under the nerfhammer for the same reasons. Outside of Tempo Mage, there is no deck that seeks to control the early board that doesn’t run this card. Despite not appearing on Iksar’s hit-list, Baku Rogue, Baku Paladin, Zoo and Spiteful Druid all run it, leading it to have a whopping 18% ladder representation according to HSReplay.net.
But a neutral minion being so omnipresent wouldn’t itself be grounds for a nerf; as otherwise we’d surely see Tar Creeper and Fire Fly changed. What makes Fungalmancer at risk might be merely the dynamics of deck strength. With Warlock and Even Paladin likely targets, Odd Paladin might escape relatively unscathed to dominate the meta. But a huge part of Odd Paladin’s strength comes from Fungalmancer. If changing Baku’s hero power becomes too difficult and costly, Fungalmancer could be a simple, easy proxy.
The wyrm has turned
Though it wasn’t the one cost minion on the hit-list, Mana Wyrm is one hell of an opening minion. It continues to propel aggressive mages to consistent ladder performances. Might the original Tunnel Trogg be at risk? There’s a decent chance to think it might. Tempo Mage would surely blossom in a meta where Paladin was unable to dominate, with few being able to match its scary combination of early game pressure and late-game burn.
As Blizzard seeks to continue on the path of having strength in 1 drops being defined by value in cards like Fire Fly, Kobold Librarian and Town Crier, snowbally minions like Mana Wyrm stick out. In order to rein in tempo mage and support their overall design philosophy, Mana Wyrm might need to see its health reduced to two.
How long this can go on
Shudderwock may also be in the sights; though less for its power and more for the feelings of uninteractivity and polarisation it creates. Although it’s unlikely to see the card nerfed directly, some of its supporting cards might see a change, especially if they present design space or power level issues. Saronite Chain Gang might be a target; it enables the endless chain of 1 mana Shudderwocks, and also overperforms in decks like Even Val’anyr Paladin.
It potentially could see a change to its battlecry. If instead of summoning a copy of itself, it simply summoned specifically a second 2/3 taunt, it would be less powerful with Val’anyr and also make Shudderwock a bit less game-endingly uninteractive. However, Wild handbuff decks need not despair just yet, as Shudderwock’s poor winrate may lead it to evade attention for now.
Sucking out the fun?
While on the topic of Shudderwock synergy, it’s important to mention Lifedrinker. This deck is not only a vital Shaman combo piece, it also enables yet more burn in an efficient Neutral shell. This is one of the burn tools that pushed Tempo Mage over the edge, allowing for a truly obscene amount of direct damage in the deck.
It’s for this reason that I wouldn’t be surprised to see a minor reduction to the stats of this card, if only to prevent Mage or Hunter from reaching a critical mass of direct damage. Perhaps it could see its stats reduced to 2/2 or 2/3. However, it’s unlikely that this will be put into effect if the Mana Wyrm change goes through.
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