Day After the Nerfs: Prepare for Hearthstone’s New Meta!

Knights of the Frozen Throne introduced a ton of powerful new cards, but the Hearthstone meta has revolved around a few strategies for the past month… The community had been clamoring for Blizzard to make changes, but the ones announced aren’t quite what was expected! The long-awaited nerfs target some key cards that have dominated since the earliest days of Hearthstone. These unlucky few are Fiery War Axe, Innervate, Hex, Murloc Warleader, and the newly released Spreading Plague. Let’s look at each and discuss how they’ll be played after the nerfs go through!


Book with this Sensei now!


Nerfed: Murloc Warleader


Let’s begin with our green Murloc buddy! As a Classic card, he’s been around for quite a while now and started out by granting a +1/+1 buff. But Blizzard wanted to push the Murloc archetype, so in 2013 they changed him to grant +2/+1 instead. This board-wide buff could make for very complex situations, especially since it affected all Murlocs – not just friendly ones! In October of 2016 that negative effect was removed and compared to the similar Southsea Captain (which gives +1/+1 to all friendly Pirates), the Murloc was straight up better.


Slightly nerfing this card is completely reasonable. Murlocs are very dominant in the recent meta and Warleader is usually the card that makes for the most swingy games. It’s important to note that the Health buff was a key part of the card. The extra Health point was retained even after the Warleader was removed from the board, which could make for very favorable trades.


Will It See Play?

Yes! It’s not a small nerf, but the Murloc archetype still needs its Warleader. Rockpool Hunter and Gentle Megasaur will be key cards going forward.


Nerfed: Hex


Hex might have been the biggest surprise among the nerf targets, since it wasn’t exactly dominant. At the same time, it’s very strong removal and probably one of the best spells in the entire game. Mages are willing to play Polymorph at 4 Mana and Hex is very similar since the Taunt minion is usually not a liability for slow decks. I expect Control Shaman to get some love in future expansions and thus putting Hex on par with its cousins seems reasonable.

Will It See Play?

Right now Token Shaman still seems like the best variant for that class and the Cost increase really hurts there. But Hex could easily come back into favor if the coming metagame is buff / effect heavy!


Nerfed: Innervate


One of the most controversial and powerful cards in the history of Hearthstone, Innervate gives Druids a huge Mana advantage at the cost of a card. Aggressive decks benefited enormously, as this temporary Mana let them create huge tempo swings (see my previous article on key resources of Hearthstone)! These decks could present threats way ahead of curve, either playing numerous small minions or a single scary one such as Vicious Fledgling, Bittertide Hydra, or Finja, the Flying Star.


Some of the most popular “abuses” of Innervate have been toned down, as we will no longer see plays like:

Druid (and to a lesser extent, Rogue) is the only class in Hearthstone that can really “cheat” the Mana system, and because of that they have consistently been among the top few. The nerf makes this card near unplayable – it’s unappealing to dedicate a deck slot to The Coin – and thus Malfurion loses one of his ways to manipulate Mana.

Will It See Play?

Probably not. There’s still a case for this card in a Gadgetzan Auctioneer-based deck, but it’s much, much weaker than before.


Nerfed: Fiery War Axe (aka the best weapon in the game)


Due to its Hero Power, Warrior has traditionally favored Control archetypes. With access to strong board clears like Brawl, armor gain in Armorsmith and Shield Block, and beefy taunt minions, Warrior is perfectly positioned to out-value opponents and exhaust their resources. However due to the sheer power of some weapons and aggressive minions like Kor’Kron Elite and Frothing Berserker, aggro Warrior decks have been around since the early days of Hearthstone. As more and more Pirates were introduced, they found a natural home until the release of Patches the Pirate and Bloodsail Cultist turned Pirate Warrior into one of the most dominant archetypes in the game.

Although Blizzard could have targeted a Pirate-specific card for nerfs, hitting War Axe does have a certain logic. The difference in win rates when you have the Axe is huge! This is most notable in slower decks, since War Axe on turn 2 is often their optimal play. Removing two minions for just 2 Mana is incredibly powerful, especially for a deck that can afford to use Health as a resource.


Will It See Play?

Probably not. Most 3 Attack, 3 Cost weapons come with another effect and the 3-mana slot in Pirate Warrior is already extremely crowded between Cultist, Captain, and Berserker. These decks could experiment with Arathi Weaponsmith (underwhelming at first glance) or simply return to old staples like Leeroy Jenkins, Mortal Strike, or Naga Corsair.


Nerfed: Spreading Plague


Numerous pros and sites have analyzed Spreading Plague, and this card is in a league of its own when it comes to absorbing damage! The Plague was a “sleeper” and I myself missed it in my Frozen Throne set review. It’s turned out to be one of the strongest cards of the expansion! Blizzard clearly misjudged the power level here and for the very first time, they’ve decided to change a card’s Cost just a month after release!


Much of this spell’s power comes from its flexibility, since it can be cast after the player has manipulated the board. You can sacrifice your minions to weaken the opponent’s, leaving them at 1 Health and then playing Spreading Plague before clearing their minions with a Swipe! You can also hard reset the board with Spreading Plague into Doomsayer: talk about a comeback!


Will It See Play?

Yes, it’s still quite good at 6 Mana – especially against classes which rely on board control like Shaman. This also did very little to impact the synergy of Spreading Plague with Strongshell Scavenger (that combo now costs 10 Mana instead of 9) or Mark of the Lotus.


You Are Not Prepared!

Overall, the game is poised to change enormously with the upcoming patch. It will most likely go live next week following the Americas HCT Playoffs. As always, the players who adapt quickly will benefit the most and easily climb to the highest ranks of ladder! If you’re still wondering what to play after the patch hits, try out a lesson… Our coaches will help you conquer the metagame and secure that ez Legend!


Book with this Sensei now!