Tech cards are crucial to a balanced meta. Should any one strategy become overwhelmingly powerful, smart players can add these powerful but situational tools to boost their winrate and help keep the flavor of the month in check. Cards like Harrison Jones for Weapons, Hungry Crab for Murlocs, Big Game Hunter for high-attack minions, and The Black Knight for Taunts slip in and out of the meta depending on what’s powerful.
However, there’s only so much that can be done in the face of today’s super-powered strategies. Pirates, Jade Golems, and Kazakus Potions run rampant. The power level of these cards means that traditional tech cards can’t keep up. Anti-aggro tools can’t face up to swarms of Pirates; Big Game Hunter helps little against endless Jade Golems, and Dirty Rat only rarely prevents a Brann-Kazakus finisher. In the next expansion we need more specific and impactful tools to control the meta-warping of certain stratagems.
I drew up a few hypothetical cards as an example of what successful new tech cards could look like
It’s easy for people to see the strength of Pirate openings and their limited counters. There’s no easy counter to a Small-time Buccaneer/Patches into two-mana weapon opener that isn’t vastly more expensive in terms of mana, cards, or both. This started a meta of aggressive decks with incredibly explosive openers; often checked only by Reno or hyper-anti-aggro decks.
To allow more midrange decks a chance at survival (outside of potential nerfs), counter cards along the line of “Hungry Crab” could be printed. These would force aggressive decks to adopt alternative openers if too many are seen. Who knows, perhaps even Hunter and Tempo Mage could thrive if all those pirates were gobbled up by Ravenous Nagas?
However, there is a risk that suppressing Pirates too much could lead to Jade Golems overrunning the meta even more. This could be an argument for the next sort of tech card…
Jamming up Jades
There is little counterplay to Jade Golems. They’re simply big, dumb minions that ramp up more and more. Short of out-tempoing your opponent before they can summon them all, you have little option but to be rolled over by their green army.
If future Control decks are going to survive, one of two things need to happen. Either every class needs access to a super-powered end-game combo that can deal tons of damage or generate huge value off little board presence, or Jade counter-cards need to be printed.
The latter option surely has the least likelihood of creating overpowered and oppressive situations, with more “fun and interactive” gameplay. The example of this hypothetical Jade Swallower may seem extreme; but given the specificity and strength of the mechanic, it is hard to argue it’s not warranted.
Fire-proofing against Burn
A perennial problem for late-game oriented Mage, Warlock, and Rogue decks has been the inability to protect against burn spells without healing mechanics. Especially with the rise of Aggro Shaman, Taunts simply can’t cut it against Lava Burst and Jade Lightning.
A card like “Spell Shield” would partially protect against it, by forcing your opponent to use their spells or minion damage on it before sending it to face. While understatted and expensive, the extremely defensive effect would be very desirable in some archetypes.
Giving these classes (and others) a tech option to survive direct damage burn more easily will allow more diversity, and force aggro decks to respect board clears without the guarantee of follow-up spells finding lethal. With Reno Jackson rotating out soon, cards like this will be vital for keeping these late-game archetypes alive.
Balancing resurrect mechanics are a tricky proposition. Against some classes, like Druid, Warrior, or Warlock, they’re a potent proposition. However, classes with powerful transform or stealing effects like Mage, Shaman, and Priest can laugh off their impact.
In order to prevent their impact from being too polarizing, some kind of counter-card could even things out. If an emergency stop-valve is present, Team 5 can print more powerful mass-resurrect effects without worrying that they will define the meta for years to come.
Corpse Desecrator would be a clunky and hyper-specific counter; but the power of its effect would make it worth running in some situations. It could also lead to some interesting mind-games as to the most efficient time to drop it.
Underpowered? Definitely. Useful? Unlikely. Better safe than sorry? Probably
Mill and fatigue have never been overwhelming archetypes. But Team 5 need to look into preventing alternative strategies from having zero counterplay beyond killing the opponent, in the way that certain mill strategies can. While cards like “Proto-Wisp” on the left are ludicrously underpowered, their existence can help prevent broken situations from occurring. It’s easy for game designers to underestimate the creativity of their audience; an overlooked, powerful mill strategy could be gamebreaking (especially given the infrequency of balance changes and content releases).
Given that Mill decks rarely force the opponent to draw far more than they themselves do, a five card fatigue advantage would turn any Coldlight Oracle shenanigans into at best, a suicide pact. A solution to a very unlikely problem, granted; but giving players unique and interesting counterplay tools is hardly a disaster in itself.
Game designers are only human, they make mistakes. In a game that is as committed to the fantasy of physicality in card collections as Hearthstone is, imbalances can take a while to fix. Meaningful tech cards can help make the time between balance change or new content release that bit more bearable, and the meta that bit more diverse.
Thanks to hearthcards.net for the easy to use and powerful card editing tool; go check them out if you fancy making your own tech cards.
Other images courtesy of hearthstone.gamepedia.com and Blizzard Entertainment
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