RIP Witchwood Meta, No One Will Miss You

Today marked the last competitive events for the original Witchwood Meta. After the end of Hearthstone Championship Tour Dreamhack Grand Prix on the 21st of May there will be no competitive events until June. The nerfs that Blizzard previously announced will go live on the 22nd of May. In little over a month The Witchwood went from a new expansion brimming with hope to one of the most obnoxious Meta’s Hearthstones ever experienced. Honestly it’s impressive that each general deck archetype (Aggro, Combo & Control) managed to get it’s own special deck that everyone hated to play against. Now whether or not any single one of these deck’s is actually overpowered is up for debate (at least to me). I figured it would be the most productive to break down the newly deceased Meta by each deck type (not mid-range because reasons) and try to predict whats to come.

Aggro, Because Face Is The Place

Even Paladin had a monster weekend at HCT Asia Pacific Playoffs and the HCT Dreamhack Grand Prix. Here’s a more detailed analysis of the HCT Asia Pacific playoff but generally speaking Even Paladin is the most dominant Aggro deck in the Meta. Call To Arms is getting removed from this deck because it’s such an incredible tempo swing. Especially when Call To Arms brings out a Knife Juggler or two. Call To Arms also has the added benefit of thinning out the players deck so it’s easier to draw Val’anyr. Without Even Paladin around it’s possible the Meta could slow down from it’s blisteringly fast pace but honestly that’s probably not likely.

Thankfully most of the other Aggro decks in the current Meta lack the consistency of Even Paladin. Odd Rogue, Tempo Mage & Token Druid both made appearances this weekend and neither deck performed enough to warrant replacing Even Paladin’s in most pro players line-ups. While that could make for a good first week it’s highly likely that either of those decks will be refined as this week goes by and it’s possible they see more play on ladder before making an appearance at an HCT event. Tempo Mage doesn’t have the issue of refinement that the other two decks have and in fact Tempo Mage probably has the most consistency issues out of those three decks. When Tempo Mage doesn’t line up correctly (not perfectly, just in a way that’s usually best for the player) it’s disastrous for the player. Even when Tempo Mage does work the deck has a very limited range of damage and if your opponent can heal themselves out of that range Tempo Mage just straight up loses.

What concerns me most is Even Shaman. Shaman has had a rocky month with the Witchwood and before that Shaman was one of worst classes to play. Even Shaman takes advantage of Genn just like Even Paladin (albeit to a much lesser extent given Shaman’s lackluster Hero Power) but Even Shaman does not have any card similar to Call To Arms to generate an enormous board swing. Shaman standbys like Flametongue Totem and Flame Elemental can both swing the board and Hex could be crucial to Even Shaman’s success. Whats most worrisome about Even Shaman is the inclusion of Hagatha the Witch. Hagatha allows the player to generate additional random shaman class spells with every minion played. A high-roll on a random Hagatha spell could be game ending like a Bloodlust or an additional Hex. Low-rolls on Hagatha could mean cards as useless as Totemic Might and Ice Fishing. Having a card with such an unpredictable nature in competitive events can be infuriating, to say nothing of the rage Hagatha could unleash on the Ranked Ladder.

Combo, Mostly Just Aggro With Style

The nerf to Dark Pact will effect the winrate and playrate of Cubelock. Now to what degree no one can tell right now, only the healing on Dark Pact was touched, not it’s ability to easily combo a Carnivorous Cube on the same turn as playing the Cube. Hopefully the nerf to Cabal Lackey will bring Cubelock down to par with other Combo decks.

Now if there’s room in the new Meta for other Combo decks it will be interesting to see what rises to the top. Token Druid had a number of solid performances last weekend but like many other decks featured here it suffers from consistency issues. Taunt Druid is similar to Token Druid in that aspect but it’s easier for Taunt Druid to function as a straight-up Aggro Deck.

Combo is probably the most interesting archetype to think about right now. Without Quest Rogue looming over the Ranked Ladder it will be easier for many slower paced decks to function. Granted if the Meta doesn’t slow down enough it’ll still be hard to play anything other than the best Combo decks.

Control, Because Sometimes You Hate The Other People Who Play Hearthstone

Control Warlock could be in a good place after the nerfs, Cabal Lackey could still work as a 6 Mana card. If that works out Control Warlock is in a very good place to remain one of the top Control decks on the Ranked Ladder (or competitive for that matter). We won’t know until later this week (and probably a few more weeks after that) if Warlock is still a competitive class. As much as I despise Cubelock, I’d be excited to have Control Warlock around just to have a deck that uses Rin the First Disciple.

Priest and Mage are in a strange place right now. Both Classes have a control variant that actually works. Control Priest did have a place at both events last weekend though it was more of a niche pick than a mainstay of most players lineups. Now because of the awkward match-up situations that Control Priest has it’s not a very attractive class for ranked play. Control Mage sees slightly more play on the Ranked Ladder but it still has many of the match-up issues that Control Priest does. Both of these classes will be heavily reliant on what kind of meta forms after the nerfs go live.

Warrior is in a very strange place right now. The class has similar match-up issues to Priest and Mage but to a lesser extend because of the nature of Warrior decks right now. Both Odd Warrior and Dead Man’s Hand Warrior were featured this weekend and both decks had good results. Despite the aggressive Meta both decks try to force the opponent into fatigue while keeping their armor total high enough to slowly kill of their opponent.

Honestly I feel hopeful about tomorrow. I am genuinely excited for Even Paladin to (probably) meet its demise and maybe the Meta slows down a bit. Maybe someone will make a competitive deck with Dollmaster Dorian or Countess Ashmore. Personally I’d love to see the Last Kaleidosuar be viable but I think I’m hoping for too much there.

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Ragnarok Cometh To The Witchwood, Hearthstone Balance Changes Announced

There’s way too much to discuss here so let’s get right into it, here is the direct link to the Blizzard announcement and now we can get into each card individually;

Naga Sea Witch Will Now Cost 8 Mana, up from 5

Now I know it will come as a shock to some of you but I don’t play that much Wild Mode. I have been checking various Meta Reports about Standard and Wild Mode and most people agree that Naga Sea Witch + Giants has been a menace to Wild since players starting using those cards together. This change strikes me as one that Blizz have been contemplating for a while but they wanted to hold it for a larger balance update so as not to show Wild Mode any favoritism.

Now onto the actual nerf itself. This is what the nuclear option looks like for Hearthstone card nerfs. It’s not as severe as Warsong Commander but nothing will ever be. I sincerely hope that this change insures that Naga Sea Witch + Giants ceases to exists as a deck archetype in Wild. People who spend time playing Wild Mode haven’t stopped asking for this change since the deck became widespread. Honestly I hope this is enough, it’s difficult enough being a Wild player without this obnoxious deck ruining the fun.

Spiteful Summoner will now Cost 7 Mana, up from 6

I’m actually kind of torn on this nerf. On the one Spiteful Summoner decks are often the most frustrating decks to play against since the Witchwood was released. A typical game against a Spiteful deck involves you doing what you need to do each turn then your opponent plays Spiteful Summoner on turn 6 and gets a Tyrantus, at that point a lot of players concede. Before the Witchwood Spiteful Summoner was good but not consistent. Without the Old Gods in the pool of Minions that can summoned from a 10 Mana spell, Spiteful Summoner got significantly better (the worst possible 10 Mana minion is now an 8/8). That’s my problem with this nerf, Blizzard could have added additional 10 Mana minions with deliberately poor stats to keep Spiteful Summoner in check. That seemed to be Blizzard’s strategy around Evolve or any other minion summoning effect. Since that didn’t happen this is Blizzard’s only option.

Call To Arms will now cost 5 Mana, up from 4 Mana

I’ll be brief, this spell was doing too much. The most surprising thing about this particular nerf was these lines from Blizzard’s blog post:

We expect that players will experiment with Call to Arms at 5 mana in Odd Paladin decks, but we don’t expect this card to have much of an impact. This is because Odd Paladin can’t access 2 mana minions (meaning Call to Arms could only ever summon three 1 mana minions if played in that deck).

This nerf points to Blizzard either wanting to slow the meta down or just give other decks more room to breathe. Either way this change is in the same vein as Spiteful Summoner; too strong, too fast, too consistent.

The Crystal Core will now make minions 4/4, down from 5/5

Quest Rogue was far too good against any deck that wasn’t aggro or control decks that have fantastic board clear. This is the second nerf to the Rogue quest and this nerf is just as warranted as the first one. Honestly I think of Quest Rogue as similar to Giants + Naga Sea Witch, I won’t be sad to see this card (and deck) fall off a cliff.

Dark Pact will restore 4 health, down from 8

There’s two Warlock nerfs in this balance update, I think this one will have the least impact out of the two. Cutting down the healing in Cubelock and Control Warlock is a huge deal but I think it’s important to remember that Dark Pact is also incredibly useful to combo Carnivorous Cube and Possessed Lackey. With the same Mana cost Dark Pact can still do that job, speaking of Possessed Lackey;

Possessed Lackey will now cost 6 Mana, up from 5

This is the second nerf to Warlock and I’m 99% certain this will be the most significant nerf of this entire balance update. Just like Dark Pact I still think that Possessed Lackey can still do it’s job. The issue with this change is that Possessed Lackey will now be moving to the 6 Mana slot in any deck it’s included in. If players still want to use Possessed Lackey (because it’s effect is still awesome) it will definitely mess with the Mana curve of any netdeck list. I think this is a more significant change than simply slowing down Warlock deck’s that use card because they can no longer quickly get out a Voidlord (or Doomguard) on turn 5 (assuming you use coin). My reasoning follows that if Blizzard intends this balance update to slow the meta of The Witchwood, Warlock will benefit from this change. It may not be necessary for Warlock to have to get a Voidlord out on Turn 5.

This balance update goes live after the conclusion of the Hearthstone Championship Tour playoffs. The HCT Summer Asia-Pacific Playoffs will begin on May, 15th and can be viewed live here!