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Hearthstone: Was One Nerf Enough for Leeroy Jenkins?

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a 4 mana Leeroy. The ‘neutral fireball’ has been 5 mana for years now. Yet despite once being far stronger, Leeroy still feels oppressive. According to HS Replay, Leeroy Jenkins is the second most popular card card in the game, and has a far higher win rate than the more-prevalent Ziliax. With Rogue looking powerful, Leeroy looks like a juicy Classic scapegoat to blame for EVIL Miscreant and Raiding Party’s sins. Does the impetuous finisher need another nerf? Or is the real culprit elsewhere?

Burst for All

leeroy
Finding lethal since 2014

One reason to consider a Leeroy nerf is his long-term ubiquity across aggro and burst-based combo decks. 6 damage for 5 mana is extremely good at ending games. Not only is it good face damage for the cost, but it can also synergise with minion buffs like Dire Wolf Alpha, Grim Rally, Savage Roar or Cold Blood.

What’s more, Leeroy can fit into classes that, by design, have extremely limited access to burst damage. For a while, it helped the normally burst-limited Warlock have a massive burst finisher with Faceless, Thaurrisan and Power Overwhelming. More recently, it gives Druids huge Savage Roar damage even when they’ve lost the board. Nerfing Leeroy further would tone down the damage every class has access to, improving class distinctions and incentivising more midrange playstyles.

Taking the Miracle out of Rogue

Rogue’s ability to perform ‘miracles’ used to be to swing the board while drawing through their whole deck with Gadgetzan. Now, its miracle is to push out massive amounts of burst. Between Raiding Party, Myra’s Unstable Element and Waggle Pick, Rogue can reliably assemble eye-watering amounts of face damage. Leeroy is what puts this package over the edge. Just one Waggle Pick and Leeroy represents 20 damage across two turns with only a 12 mana investment. And it can come down as soon as turn 8 (which, coincidentally, is when Leeroy has its highest played rate and winrate).

Between that and SI-7 Agent, Southsea Deckhands, Eviscerates, Lackeys and Captain Greenskins, Tempo Rogue decks can easily contain 40+ points of direct burn, all of which is exceedingly mana efficient. Is it any wonder that only the heavily-armoured Warrior can survive? Nerfing Leeroy again would let other classes have a better chance to be relatively secure once they’ve won the board.

But with that said, Rogue’s power isn’t just a Leeroy problem. The likes of Raiding Party, Edwin, Waggle pick and above all EVIL Miscreant are far more important to Rogue’s early success. Leeroy can’t just be a distraction for the real problems with Rogue.

Design Space?

leeroy
Leeroy’s caused all kinds of OTKs

However, there remains one convincing reason to lower the power of Leeroy: design space. Leeroy’s efficient damage has enabled many frustrating OTKs, and likely prevented many fun cards from ever being printed. Leeroy’s burst damage fits powerfully with buffs, copy effects, resurrection effects and bounce effects. Like Stonetusk Boar, he severely limits the kind of cards Team 5 can design.

If for no other reason, this should eventually guarantee a Leeroy nerf or his removal from Standard; it’s merely a matter of time. And the time seems right. With Rogues causing the exact same type of high-burst games famously rejected as insufficiently ‘fun and interactive’, Leeroy’s day in the sun might finally be over. At least he had chicken.

 

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via hearthstone.gamepedia.com

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