Mike Donais once infamously said that one of the most design-space limiting cards was Stonetusk Boar. The truth of this statement came to the fore in the days of pre-nerf Quest Rogue, where charging 5/5s dominated the ladder. Charge cards faced nerf after nerf; often remaining in the meta. Just take Leeroy Jenkins; the infamous chicken-loving finisher that still terrorizes in Tempo Rogue. Or Cubelock, that dominates with charging Demons. With so many frustrating, powerful and hard to predict interactions, is it time to rethink Charge?
Leeroy is a single card that is the most emblematic of the problems with charge. Ubiquitous in aggro, his 6 damage burst and combo potential both creates a huge neutral power spike and limits design space.
Already nerfed from 4 to 5 mana, Leeroy looks to be in line for a change. Perhaps the best would simply to be a move to wild. But Leeroy’s problems aren’t shared by other charge minions. As the only efficient standalone neutral charge finisher, his problems are more related to power level than design space. Other cards offer more troubling implications outside of mere power level. New mechanics interact with charge in a way that threatens to greatly reduce what can be printed in the future.
The Cubelock warning
The latest Charge card to have scary combo potential is Zoo staple Doomguard, but in Cubelock’s combo/control shell. While this is fun for now, twenty or more charge damage with very little counterplay may grow tiresome; especially since the deck loses almost nothing after the next rotation.
The deck’s combo revolves around cheating out Doomguard with either Skull of the Man’ari or Possessed Lackey and copying multiple times with Carivorous Cube Spiritsinger Umbra and Dark Pact. Then, those Doomguards can be revived with Bloodreaver Gul’dan for even more damage. The deck is powerful, innovative and fun as hell; but it’s also a warning sign. Recruit is an interesting mechanic, but so far its primary use is throwing damage at face in unexpected ways. This can restrict the design space of future interesting recruit or duplication cards.
Charge’s passive problem
The problem Charge faces with recruit is similar to that posed with resurrect effects. Big Priest has an ineffective but interesting aggro variant, that revives Charged Devilsaurs for huge face damage. Despite its poor performance, it provides an interesting parallel to Cubelock. Crucially, Charge minions often have downsides to counteract their combo potential and power. These downsides, such as Doomguard’s Discard or Devilsaur’s inability to go face, tend to be as a battlecry. However, Charge is not a battlecry effect, it is a passive and permanent one. As such, when the downsides are averted by non-standard summon effects, charge remains.
This creates a problem, as interesting summon effects are becoming core to a number of new archetypes. As these strategies increase, the potential for broken interactions goes up exponentially.
Should Charge be a battlecry?
Making certain cards grant Charge as a battlecry would alleviate this issue. Downsides exist for a reason; so if something circumvents them, it makes sense that Charge should be circumvented too. This would severely cut into some fun new decks that are appearing; like Cubelock, Woecleaver Warrior or Dino Priest. But perhaps this is a price worth paying for a greater design space?
Well maybe. But in a world where Priest is dishing out insane OTKs with Shadowreaper, and Mage has a legitimate infinite-damage engine, is a few charging minions really so bad? Any change to charge minions may be necessary long term. But it might make sense to wait until the next rotation to do so.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.
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