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Nerfs vs. Hall of Fame: Is Hearthstone Doing It Right?

On April 4, 2017, Hearthstone introduced the Hall of Fame set. This set is composed of cards from all other sets, including Classic, and is available exclusively to the Wild format.

The Hall of Fame allows Hearthstone to give a home to overused or overpowered cards that serve a particular purpose but are dangerous to the Standard format. However, for the many years prior to this set’s creation, Blizzard relied on simply nerfing problematic cards—which they continue to do today.

This has created a situation where Blizzard now has to ask the question, “Does this card deserve to be nerfed or to retired to the Hall of Fame?”

Making the wrong choice can leave parts of the player base feeling betrayed. As we play Hearthstone, we get attached to certain decks and playstyles. When they’re taken from us, it’s hard to accept that we’ll never get to experience them again.

In this article, I’d like to talk about how Blizzard has handled nerfing cards and moving cards to the Hall of Fame in the past few years.

Doing it Wrong

There’s no better testament to Blizzard driving entire decks into the ground with a single nerf other than Warsong Commander.

Warsong Commander has historically seen no play in any competitive deck other than what many will argue was Hearthstone’s all-time most skill-intensive and exciting: Patron Warrior.

The interaction between Warsong Commander and Grim Patron, a 5-mana, 3/3 card that replicates itself upon taking non-fatal damage, allowed players to string together combos in a way we’d never seen before. The deck was unquestionably powerful, but piloting it demanded a level of skill that was unique to the Blackrock Mountain era.

Since Warsong Commander’s nerf on October 20th, 2015, neither Warsong Commander nor Grim Patron has been an important part of any meta deck in Wild. Warsong Commander is simply not good enough with the current pool of cards, and no other card has enabled Grim Patron quite like the pre-nerf Warsong Commander. Without it, Grim Patron is borderline useless.

This is the purest example of Hearthstone nerfing a card out of existence when they could have retired it to the Hall of Fame.

Patron Warrior is a nostalgic deck that will have a place in players’ hearts forever. Based on the current state of the Wild format, I have serious doubts that it’d be comparatively oppressive, too. It’s hard to justify what happened to this card when a more reasonable alternative is right in front of us.

Then, take a look at Azure Drake. Azure Drake was one of those cards that were being placed in just about every mid-range or control deck. Decent stats, card draw, and spell damage on a Dragon minion means serious value. This card was from the Classic set, meaning it was a permanent fixture to Standard. Rather than tweaking its numbers, Blizzard added it to the Hall of Fame set.

A card like this could have been nerfed down to something like a 6-mana 4/5 with the same text. It’d be played, although much less—which is good. The card wasn’t serving any niche purpose, it was just too good overall. Tossing it into the Wild pool just allows it to be broken in that format, too.

Doing it Right

It’s hard to deny that Blizzard has walked this tightrope properly on numerous other occasions. Ironbreak Owl is one of the first cards that come to mind.

You know it was a great move to nerf Ironbeak Owl, rather than put it in the Hall of Fame, because it’s still being used in decks today. It really has to fit properly now though, and it’s not an auto-inclusion in every aggro deck. Hunters especially love this card because it’s a Beast minion. You’ll find it in several Hunter decks across both formats.

Ice Lance and Ice Block are great examples, too.

Blizzard sent these two cards into the Hall of Fame instead of nerfing them into a state of sheer uselessness. This means that one of Hearthstone’s most iconic decks, Freeze Mage, is still playable in Wild. Furthermore, it’s not even considered to be a top-tier deck in that format. Hitting these cards with a stiff nerf would have been a huge mistake.

Last but not least, there’s Molten Giant.

Molten Giant is proof that Blizzard knows exactly what they’re doing, and that makes it all the more upsetting when they end up handling these cards the wrong way. In 2016, Blizzard nerfed this card to cost 25 mana instead of 20. (For context, the card’s cost lowers with each point of damage your hero takes.)

In 2018, a year after the Hall of Fame was released, Blizzard reverted this nerf and placed it into that set. Molten Giant was a staple card in decks like Handlock, and it was seeing no play at all as a 25-mana card. No deck could afford to let the hero drop low enough to where this minion could hit the board without instantly dying the next turn. Blizzard made the right move by restoring Molten Giant to its former glory and allowing it to be played in Wild. Good on them.

Closing Remarks

To answer my headline: yes and no.

I’d argue that Blizzard is properly discerning between which cards need to be nerfed versus moved to the Hall of Fame more often than not, but that makes it sting even worse if you’re someone who loved playing Patron Warrior.

I hope that Blizzard will continue to re-evaluate decisions like these, just like they did with Molten Giant. Being able to admit that you made a mistake and correcting it really goes a long way with the community.

What are your thoughts on the way that Blizzard currently handles nerfing cards in Hearthstone? Which other cards do you think deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame? Let me know in the comments and we’ll talk about it.

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  1. I quit Hearthstone after they released the info about the Standard/Wild model.

    I think a “standard” format was definitely needed, as the card pool was getting nutty, but I hate they way they executed it, with “classic” cards remaining in the game forever.

    IMO *ALL* cards should be rotated in and out on a seasonal basis. There should be a “core set” each season which consists of new and old cards. No card has permanence except maybe the free ones you start with, and likewise no card is gone from the meta forever.

    There is no need for a hall of fame, there is also no real need for nerfs for old cards. Just rotate them out, and if they can fit in during a later season, that’s great.

    Instead they decided to keep classic cards permanent, and of course half of them have been nerfed by now, and they are all completely stale. It was a dumb decision and I haven’t played since they made it.

  2. Rick Sanchez on February 16, 2019 at 10:57 pm said

    I hope they don’t ruin this game

  3. I played Hearthstone from launch to about 6 months ago and left the game happy.

    In terms of this issue I agree that they have been hit or miss. A nerfed card should NEVER be nerfed to oblivion. Even if you can’t make it work at all of the theme that it was built for…just nerf it into a functionally different but still compelling card for the class. Not doing so is especially bad for class cards as it hurts the early game experience for newer players almost exclusively to give them a dead card.

    Another complaint is the selection of cards to nerf. Genn and Baku represent a very real problem for the game. Anyone who follows Brian Kibler will know that he’s gone into detail about the issues of hero powers in Hearthstone. The fact that these cards haven’t been nerfed presents a very real problem both in standard and vintage. These are the most prominent examples now…but over the last 5 years there have been plenty which just never got tackled for one baffling reason or another.

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