Patch 10.2: Close Assessment and (Bold) Predictions
So… nerfs. The incoming Hearthstone patch is one of the biggest seen since Beta. A number of meta cornerstones are being changed drastically. It’s unlikely that the Ranked ladder as it is today will resemble anything similar in a week’s time. But how far has Blizzard gone? Are these changes simply a tap on the wrist, or a Warsong Commander-level annihilation?
What first jumped out to me when I read the patch(es) notes is how late they are. In particular, Patches the Pirate has been a major source of complaint since his release over two years ago. Professional players and commentators alike have panned this Pirate for being both overpowered and badly designed. It’s really not a popular card, and has never been so. This situation has not changed throughout all the expansions following Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. If it’s being nerfed now, why wasn’t it done earlier – when decks like Pirate Warrior were at their most oppressive?
Blizzard’s reason for changing Patches was as valid two years ago as it is now. They tell us: ‘Patches’ strength has caused almost every class to add some Pirates just to benefit from him, and his early game power forces control decks to include a good answer to him.’ The timing is certainly confusing. One LiquidHearth commenter, Hryul, argues as such - pointing out that Fiery War Axe was nerfed in order to deal with Pirate Warrior. The recent tournaments make the timing even more conspicuous.
The fact that the card is being nerfed only upon the its rotation into Wild shows delayed foresight at best and contempt for the Wild format at worst. I’m speculating that the coming expansions will include more Pirates, and that’s why Patches has had his Charge taken away. It’s peculiar, for sure, but at least we can all breathe a sigh of relief that the changes actually happened.
Will the loss of Charge kill poor Patches? The prominent Hearthstone YouTuber, Kripparrian, argues that everybody’s favorite Pirate will still be around in dedicated Pirate decks, which is more than fair. Pirates used to be a troll deck, much like Murlocs. It wasn’t until MSoG that the deck really took off towards the moon. Now the balance will be far more fair. As Kripparrian says, it’s healthy for the game that Patches has been mostly crushed by the nerf-hammer. A weak Patches the Pirate means a stronger Hearthstone. Pirates on the whole are still far better off than they were, and we’re yet to see any new ones for 2018.
Speaking of a stronger Hearthstone, the community has been unanimous in its dislike (verging on blind hatred) of Corridor Creeper. The card has only been in digital print for a few months, and it’s already gone the way of the Warsong Commander. I would go as far as to say Blizzard really dropped the ball on the design of this card, and this speedy nerf is perhaps proof. In my years of playing Hearthstone, I don’t think there has been a card nerfed so soon after release. Certain offenders have come close, such as The Caverns Below, but this is unprecedented as a Neutral card.
Corridor Creeper has lost three points of attack. That is not a light touch; it’s more like Shaman’s Crushing Hand. I think it’s very unlikely that this card will be seen outside Beast Hunter or token decks in future. Far from being played in virtually every deck, Standard and Wild, as it is today, it’s not going to be seen much in 2018. The board clear and double Creeper combo will still be around, but because the powerful tempo kick just isn’t there at two attack, it will fit only into decks with the best synergy. Houndmaster and Unleash the Hounds will keep Corridor Creeper alive in Hunter, but in most other classes it’s not going to be present.
Again, this is definitely a very positive change for the game as a whole. It will increase class diversity, through relegating it to classes where it fits, as opposed to a no-brainer from Thrall to Valeera. Two attack isn’t nearly as threatening as five, but it’s still a solid body especially at zero mana. The contemporaneous Patches nerf is also a hit to Corridor Creeper – it’s one less cheap minion to get a Mana reduction from. I can only speak for myself, but I won’t miss this creepy pink boi 🐛
Bonemare is closely linked to Corridor Creeper but has received a very different treatment, and as such has a very different future. It now costs eight mana, up from seven. This puts it alongside other Neutral heavy-hitters, safely out of the notorious Dr. Seven range. It’s certainly not a drastic change and won’t knock it entirely out of the running – even at eight mana it’s still 9/9 in stats, half of it effectively with Charge. As a result, it will remain a solid pick in Arena and in free-to-play decks.
Right now, Corridor Creeper and Bonemare are practically joined at the hip. They’re seen together along with Patches in a huge number of decks – if you see a Creeper you’re probably going to see a Bonemare too on turn seven. This deck archetype is probably going to vanish. Patches-Pirates-Creeper-Bonemare is without doubt the biggest package of Neutral cards in history that’s found its way into so many decks. It inhibits deck diversity and so it’s been nerfed.
Finally, we come to the Priest legendary. Raza Priest is currently the strongest deck in the game. Generally, the community seems to agree that its dominance will shortly be at an end. It’s also a conspicuously tardy change – Raza Priest has been on top since Knights of the Frozen Throne was released, and Anduin became true king of the meta after the Druid nerfs. Going forwards, I seriously doubt Priest is going to fall very far. Like with Bonemare, it’s not a huge change and the rotation into Wild was always going to force Priest to find new options anyway. The machine-gun lategame combo will still have a powerful impact but not overbearingly so.
Visions of the Future
To round up, I will do some brief soothsaying about the future meta. Aggro Paladin will become top tier, as will Cubelock. These two decks are already Tier 2, and very close to 1. The absence of Priest and the Jade classes opens up a very large power gap, a void that the powerful Carnivorous Cube combo can fill. Kripparrian has also floated the idea of Quest Rogue return, which I believe is a possibility. Such was the oppressive power of the cards I’ve discussed, there are going to be some real opportunities for those decks currently just inches away from viability.
Of course, once some time has passed after 10.2 is released, the reality on ladder could be quite different. Don’t put too much stock into speculation – after all, before Kobolds was released, nobody even dreamed that Corridor Creeper would be so strong. Feel free to add your own meta predictions in the comment section below!