Hearthstone’s competitive scene has undergone a massive shift this past week, with a slew of nerfs headlining the full story. This isn’t exactly unprecedented territory, but the cards that have been affected are almost all key components to heavily played decks and archetypes.

One of the more subtle changes that, in my opinion, will have a bigger impact than players will initially realize, is Abusive Sergeant.

Making it a 1/1 will have a pretty substantial effect on the things it can trade with. Not being able to get an X/2 is a pretty big deal, especially in the decks that need early trades the most, like Zoo and Aggro Shaman. Not being able to trade with Shaman’s 0/2 totems might be the most glaring problem from the get-go. Later on, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the card slowly fall out of favor, especially if the early game winds up more sticky in future expansions.

Speaking of Aggro Shaman, Abusive Sergeant wasn’t the only hit that this particular deck took. Tuskarr Totemic only being able to summon a basic Totem is a pretty big problem now if you’re trying to be as aggressive as possible. Totem Golem was almost always the best possible way to come out incredibly ahead on turn three, with Mana Tide Totem being a pretty solid second in slower games (not to mention Flametongue Totem being overall great). Now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more Aggro Shaman decks adopt Spirit Claws (perhaps instead of Abusive Sergeant?) to make up for the lack of power on the front end, as well as the increased chance for Spell Damage. It’s also possible that Tuskarr Totemic gets cut entirely for another three drop, but it’s too early to tell right now.

The hits keep on coming though. Rockbiter Weapon going up to two mana shouldn’t have much effect on the burst damage turns, or on the midrange decks, but aggro’s ability to go one for one on turn one is only Lightning Bolt, which shuts off Rockbiter on turn two, which overall results in a bit more awkwardness when going into your mid-game against similar aggressive draws.

One of the bigger changes among these nerfs is definitely Call of the Wild. It may seem like it’s not a massive change, but the shift from 8 to 9 mana prevents the top deck plus Hero Power capabilities, which added that much exclamation to the swings in the late game. Waiting to turn nine in general is a whole lot worse than turn eight, especially considering how many other cards compete on that turn in Standard.

Execute moving to two mana messes with the efficiency of Warrior quite a bit, but it’s going to have a similar effect as Rockbiter Weapon in Shaman: The slower/more controlling your deck, the less impactful this change will be. So, unfortunately for this particular change, I don’t see this doing too many negative things across the board, except to possibly Dragon Warrior.

Charge pretty much guts OTK Warrior, which is unfortunate, but this probably affects tournaments a lot more than it does ladder, as OTK Warrior is, in my view, a much better tournament deck.

And lastly, there’s everyone’s favorite.

Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End is one of the most polarizing cards in any card game’s history. For the casual player, and for the kind-of tournament player that watches events regularly, Yogg-Saron is incredibly exciting to watch, and has been the focal point of some incredible swings, highlights, lowlights, and duds in tournament play.

But that might have been exactly the problem.

While it is a very exciting thing for tens of thousands of people to watch, it may not be the healthiest thing to go through from a competitive standpoint. It’s certainly not the greatest thing to have a card that feels like there isn’t much counter-play to it, or a card that can essentially blackjack you when you’re far ahead. To play an entire game and work really hard, just to get randomed out is a highly debatable topic among competitive players (though it’s not necessarily how I would go about that line of thinking).

Even from a “PR” standpoint, the nerf makes sense. You want to keep the players that are into this kind of thing to keep playing the card, while also making it just barely outside the scope of serious competitive play. Whether it winds up being the case remains to be seen, but this is what makes Hearthstone a great platform. If something needs to be fixed, it will be!

Overall, I expect the following impacts to be made:

  • Aggro Shaman will see far less play, but it will happen slowly.
  • There will be a rise of Midrange Shaman to accomodate.
  • The Yogg decks, Tempo Mage and Druid, will remain powerful, but will need another top-end spell to compliment Archmage Antonidas and Malygos, respectively. (I expect more in the middle end for Tempo Mage.)
  • Zoo will benefit from these changes the most.

It’ll be very interesting to see where things will settle, but I welcome these new changes, and will be looking very closely at both tournaments and the ladder to see where things wind up.

Anthony has been competing in games for the better part of his adult life and is dedicated to improving his game, improving his community, improving himself as a person, and most importantly having fun and enjoying himself while doing so. You can check out his stream to find out which video game is the latest to catch his attention.

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