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Hearthstone: The Mountain Giant Problem

Mountain Giant is one of the most familiar cards of Hearthstone’s classic set. The lumbering 8/8 is cheaper the more cards you hold in your hand. As such, it can come out terrifyingly early – traditionally turn 4 for Handlock, but more recent decks like Evenlock and Dragon Mage can get it down as early as turn 3 on the coin. Recently, there are rumblings among pros of the problematic nature of such a dangerous early threat. But the card has been in the game for many years now. What’s changed?

Nerfed Counters

mountain giant
With more expensive counters, the risk of a Giant goes down

The increased problem of Mountain Giant becomes more apparent when you consider its counters. Hard removal is both more expensive and harder to come by than in 2014. Let’s look at the list of hard removal counters to Mountain Giant that got nerfed or rotated out.

Execute and Hex went up a mana. Big Game Hunter went up two, as did Hunter’s Mark. Naturalize rotated. That’s 5 separate answers to a turn 4 or turn 3 Mountain Giant that are now far less effective.

While these nerfs may not always mean that there aren’t answers to an early Giant, it massively improves the effectiveness of the giant. Less mana efficiency means fewer decks run them, after all. But beyond that, it also pushes the tempo back into the Mountain Giant players’ hands. If the card you’ve been building up to dies to a 0 mana hunter’s mark and a weapon swing, that’s a massive tempo loss. But if your opponent spends their whole turn dealing with it, then you risk far less by building your strategy around it.

Earlier Activation

Turn 3 giants are a real problem

Beyond an inability to deal with it, Mountain Giant can now come down earlier. Until Witchwood, the only reliable way to get Mountain Giant on turn 4 was as Warlock, tapping repeatedly to lower the cost and forgoing most early development. But with Evenlock, Mountain Giants could come down a full turn earlier when on the coin. And while Genn is no longer in standard, Mage can get Mountain Giants on turn three with Book of Specters.

Getting Mountain Giant down this early is a significant problem. The sheer quantity of damage it puts out and its massive 8 health body is incredibly hard to deal with on turn three. As long as the coin interacts the way it does with hand size calculations, Mountain Giant will make every early card-draw or generation effect extremely dangerous.

Conjurer’s Calling

The elephant in the room is not just the fact that Mountain Giant is so huge, but that it also has a base cost of 12. As a result, it has a brutally effective synergy with Conjurer’s Calling. There are only two possible outcomes; another Mountain Giant or a Grave Horror. This means that Mage can quickly combo out huge boards of massive minions far earlier than any other class.

Unless Blizzard prints terribly-statted 12 cost minions, the snowball potential for Mountain Giant may prove overly frustrating for two years of Conjurer’s Calling. Even worse, any other similar card will have to risk creating even more Mountain Giant-focused gameplay.

Nerf Giant? Or Other Solutions?

The easy option may be simply to nerf or rotate Mountain Giant. But other options are available. Blizzard could print more ways to deal with big minions early. They could rework the way the coin interacts with hand size reductions. And they could introduce more 12 mana minions to dilute Conjurer’s calling.

The biggest question is Blizzard’s priorities; do they change Hearthstone around an iconic Classic card to keep the game balanced? Or do they simply ditch it for newer options? Judging by previous responses to the Classic set, this writer wouldn’t hold out hope for our big rocky boy.

 

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via hearthstone.gamepedia.com


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