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There’s been a bit of a shift in the meta since patch 18.4.2 came out, and I’ve been playing that meta (around 4.5K MMR on one account, 5.5K on the other, so nothing too crazy) a lot since that patch. Here’s an analysis.
Note: all opinions expressed are based on the author’s experience and publicly available data. You may disagree, and that’s okay.
First of all, what happened in patch 18.4.2? Well, you can find the full patch notes here: (https://playhearthstone.com/en-us/news/23537436), but in short, Ragnaros the Firelord and Maiev Shadowsong were nerfed, Chenvaala, Patchwerk, King Mukla, and Sindragosa were buffed, Selfless Hero and Deadly Spore were nerfed, Pirates got a small buff, and Elementals had a few changes that make their early game stronger and their late game weaker.
Pogo-Hopper was removed, likely as a Jandice Barov nerf, Whirlwind Tempest was removed, and Bartendotron was removed from the Hero pool.
I’m going to go over the specifics of each change, along with their impact so far.
Ragnaros the Firelord- Nerfed
Die, Insects! Passive Hero Power
Old: After you kill 20 minions, get Sulfuras. Sulfuras: At the end of your turn, give your left- and right-most minions +4/+4.
New: After you kill 25 minions, get Sulfuras. Sulfuras: At the end of your turn, give your left- and right-most minions +3/+3.
This was definitely a necessary nerf. Pre-nerf, getting Ragnaros was almost an automatic win. Once he had Sulfuras, only a really well-buffed comp stood much of a chance against him. Now, according to free data from HSReplay, he’s still by far the best Hero, but he isn’t averaging a placement better than 3. This could be due to HSReplay not being fully up-to-date yet, but he still feels like a strong Hero and him being the best wouldn’t surprise me.
In all honesty, he probably needs another nerf. Perhaps they should have kept the original, but have it only buff the left-most minion? He’s had his mid-game impacted for sure, and he isn’t able to get quite as many buffs as before, obviously, but his late-game is still super powerful. It’s especially good to have a Taunt minion on the very right getting buffed each turn and a Windfury or Poisonous minion on the very left, and removing one of those options would probably bring him in line. He’d probably be about on par with Kael’Thas and Dancin’ Deryl then.
Maiev Shadowsong- Nerfed
Imprison- One Gold
Old: Make a minion in Bob’s Tavern Dormant. After 2 turns, get it with +1/+1.
New: Make a minion in Bob’s Tavern Dormant. After 2 turns, get it with +1 Attack.
This is actually a really nice nerf, as it doesn’t hurt the best part of Maiev’s Hero Power- the flexibility it affords, nor does it nerf her ability to build a board a little bit faster than everyone else. However, it does weaken her board slightly, which makes her a little worse in the early and mid game. She’s still really good because she can fill out her comp or get stuff purely for its effect without losing Gold (think Deck Swabbie or a minion with a buff Battlecry), but she’s much more manageable during her early game and mid game, before she really gets rolling.
Maiev is probably in a perfect spot right now. She’s still really good, probably still a Top 5 Hero, but she can be dealt with much more easily early. Perfectly done nerf.
Pogo-Hopper- Removed. Jandice Barov- Indirectly Nerfed.
Yes, this was technically not a nerf to a specific Hero, and yes, Dinotamer Brann and Shudderwock have one less option and probably need to go Murlocs now… but this is very much a Jandice Barov nerf. You used to have Jandice Barov win games easily off the back of one giant Pogo-Hopper that she bounced into the Tavern, bought, and played each turn, and it was, quite frankly, toxic. My record’s pictured below, but I’m sure others have gotten even bigger ones.
As you can see, other than the Pogo-Hopper, that comp isn’t doing much.
As sad as it is to see the meme strategy go, this is definitely a good change. Jandice is still really good, repeating Battlecries is still really good, but no longer will we see easy wins carried by enormous bunny rabbits on pogo sticks.
Avalanche- Passive Hero Power
Old: After you play 3 Elementals, reduce the cost of upgrading Bob’s Tavern by (2).
New: After you play 3 Elementals, reduce the cost of upgrading Bob’s Tavern by (3).
Chenvaala probably needs another buff. Sure, she’s much better then she was before, but she suffers from the same issues.
First of all, you have to force a specific Tribe. There are 7 Heroes in the game right now who’s Hero Powers are synergistic with only one Tribe (not counting any Heroes that synergize with a specific Tribe but don’t explicitly have that Tribe as part of their Hero Power, and ignoring The Rat King and Queen Wagtoggle that force Menagerie), and most of them are pretty bad. Millificent Manastorm and Lord Jaraxxus are fairly good because their Hero Powers just benefit you because you have minions of that Tribe. Alexstrasza is decent because you don’t need an established composition for Dragons to use her, and she can get a Dragon composition going just off of the 2 Discovers.
Patches the Pirate, Fungalmancer Flurgl, and Chenvaala are all mediocre because you need to continually find minions from that Tribe for their Hero Powers to be of use. If you don’t find Pirates, Patches’s Hero Power is overpriced and not enough to put together a real Pirate comp anyway. If you don’t find a steady stream of Murlocs, Flurgl realistically doesn’t do enough. You can’t afford to just sell all the Murlocs you get to access Murlocs, because then you won’t have enough Murlocs on the board to put together a Murloc comp. Chenvaala’s Hero Power is useless if you can’t find Elementals continuously.
Ysera is a special case I might talk about in another article.
Chenvaala is awesome if you can find Elementals often. After her buff, if you can get going with her, you really start snowballing early, and accessing high Tavern Tier minions before everyone else is always going to be good. However, she’s still inconsistent and is going to have issues any time she doesn’t get rather lucky early, or whenever opponents also go Elementals.
In short- Chenvaala is just not flexible or consistent enough, and flexibility and consistency are both very important in Battlegrounds. Maybe if it only took 2 Elementals and was a 2 Gold reduction she’d be better.
All Patched Up- Passive Hero Power
Old: Start with 50 Health instead of 40.
New: Start with 55 Health instead of 40.
Not too much to say about this buff. Patchwerk is still a mediocre Hero that relies on surviving an extra hit or two (with the buff, maybe 2-3 now) to make Top 4. He can go Demons better than some other Heroes because the self damage isn’t as bad. However, he’s the only Hero in the game who’s Hero Power doesn’t help them develop a better comp, do better in battle, or advance their Tavern Tier, and it shows. His Hero Power is useless when it comes to developing, and that just isn’t good. All it does is help him live a little longer, but without the ability to develop his comp the way most Heroes can, he’ll lose much more easily and use up those extra chances early.
Back when he had 60 Health and Demons were super good, he had his moment in the spotlight. Now, he’s weaker, Demons are much more relatively balanced, and the meta is way too fast for him to take advantage of his Hero Power. Maybe something like “Start with 55 Health. Your Hero is Immune while in Bob’s Tavern.” would help, since you could use Wrath Weavers and Vulgar Homunculi without issue? Or “0 Gold. Destroy a friendly minion (do not trigger its Deathrattle). Heal 4 Health from your Hero”?
Stay Frosty- Passive Hero Power
Old: At the end of your turn, Frozen minions get +1/+1.
New: At the end of your turn, Frozen minions get +2/+1.
Sindragosa is definitely stronger than she was. Her core gameplay of freezing and buffing minions early has only gotten better, and her early to mid game are quite good because of it. Unfortunately, she has the same issue as before- you have to freeze the Tavern, which often leaves you with a bunch of minions you don’t want sitting in the Tavern. She has less flexibility because of it and misses out on the automatic refresh each turn, sort of the opposite of Nozdormu.
Sindragosa is carried by her early and mid game. She isn’t a Hero who’s bad because they flop out at 7th or 8th, but rather she’s bad because she has difficulty establishing a comp, which leaves her placement distribution heavy on the 3rd-6th range. She just doesn’t get close to as much mileage out of her Hero Power in the late game, and you often need to play as if it doesn’t exist. It’s a nice benefit when you need to save something for next turn, but isn’t super useful overall.
Something that gives more flexibility, like “You can Freeze individual minions”, or “At the end of your turn, if the minions in Bob’s Tavern are Frozen, add 2 Coins to your hand” would probably be a nice replacement for her current Hero Power. It’s a unique and interesting mechanic, but it just isn’t strong enough.
King Mukla- Buffed
Bananarama- 1 Gold
Get 2 Bananas. At the end of your turn, give everybody else one.
New: Has a ⅕ chance (according to associate game designer Cora) to give a Big Banana that buffs by +2/+2. It’s still unclear at time of writing whether this applies to each use (eg, every 1 in 5 uses of the Hero Power gives a Big Banana) or to individual Bananas (so every 2.5 uses of the Hero Power would give a Big Banana). I’m guessing it’s the former, because King Mukla hasn’t been performing much better post-patch.
Quite frankly, King Mukla is weak. Ignoring the potential Big Bananas, everybody else gets half of what you got for free. He just isn’t good. The buff is negligible, and everybody else gets a free buff too.
If King Mukla didn’t give everybody else a Banana, he’d possibly be mid tier. Since he does, even with the buff, he isn’t very good.
- Whirlwind Tempest has been removed from the Battleground minion pool
This doesn’t really matter that much. There aren’t many Windfury minions in Battlegrounds anyway and you didn’t really run Whirlwind Tempest in Elemental comps. Al’Akir may miss him slightly, but all in all, this just increases the consistency of the Tier 4 pool.
Selfless Hero- Nerfed
Moved from Tier 1 to Tier 2.
This doesn’t make an enormous difference to Selfless Hero. Yes, you have to wait a turn more to get it, but you didn’t really need it in the first 1-3 turns anyway. This increases the Tier 1 minion pool’s consistency, you won’t have the occasional turn one where you get something like two of this and a Wrath Weaver offered, and is honestly just good in general.
Deadly Spore- Nerfed
Moved from Tier 4 to Tier 5.
I’m not entirely sure if this is a good change, but it is good to have the card for the same reason as it’s good to have Unstable Ghoul- if the meta trends towards big minions (Divine Shields for Unstable Ghoul), it’s a tech. It isn’t fun for opponents to have Poison on the board early, but at the same time, it isn’t like Deadly Spore was especially problematic. I guess this makes games go longer and Big Demons/Elementals better, but at least from my perspective it isn’t a huge deal.
Salty Looter and Bloodsail Cannoneer- Buffed
Pirates needed a buff, and they had these small changes. Salty Looter went from being a 3/3 to a 4/4, and Bloodsail Cannoneer from a 4/2 to a 4/3. Neither change is a huge deal that’ll dramatically shift Pirates into a new and exciting playstyle, but they’re nice changes to smooth out the mid-game rough patch a little bit.
Party Elemental and Arcane Assistant- Buffed
Both of these are nice ways to buff Elemental comps’ early-mid game. Party Elemental went from a 2/2 to a 3/2, while Arcane Assistant went from a 3/2 to a 3/3. Even though you’ll want to drop Party Elemental in the late game and Arcane Assistant probably won’t hang around for long, this makes Elementals a little more consistent mid-game and is a nice way to change the comp’s style when combined with the next two changes…
Lil’ Rag- Stats Buffed, Tier Nerfed
Gentle Djinni- Tier Buffed, Stats Nerfed
Lil’ Rag went from a 4/4 Tier 5 minion to a 6/6 Tier 6, and Gentle Djinni went from a 6/8 Tier 6 to a 4/5 Tier 5. Both are nice changes- Gentle Djinni is based around resource generation, which is more useful earlier, and Lil’ Rag is just super good, so him getting bumped back is nice as well.
All in all, ignoring the Majordomo Executus change (I assume they’re adding a Hero or minion that summons stuff at end of turn or something?), Elementals have received a nice playstyle change. Chef Nomi is still super good and probably needs a nerf, but the loading of really good Elemental pieces towards Tier 5 and 6 combined with a decent early and mid game puts Elementals in a pretty good place. Still good, but not as crazy as they were on release.
Lastly, I know they weren’t changed, but I’m going to take a quick look at the other 2 new Heroes, Rakanishu and Al’Akir the Windlord.
Al’Akir is good. Being able to have a Windfury Divine Shielded big or Poisonous minion allows you to take out an opposing minion or two right off the bat, and the Taunt is a nice bonus on big minions. Al’Akir is good, not overpowered, and all in all a highly interesting Hero that tends to do well.
Rakanishu is not doing so well. As awesome and unique as his Hero Power is, it being random isn’t very helpful. If it were targeted he’d probably be top tier, as buffing a normally unbuffable Tribeless minion is excellent, but it’s random. So he sits towards the bottom of the tier list.
Well, until next time, check out some of our other Hearthstone articles, and make sure to have fun playing