Incoming Hearthstone balance changes hit Warlock and Paladin hard (and address Wild's Enemy Number One)

Hearthstone's most recent expansion, The Witchwood, has been live for just over a month now - but it seemed like the massive playerbase only needed a few days to figure out the meta and zero in on which decks were the strongest. The problem was, even after the Year of the Raven rotation for Standard, the same two classes were in a dominant position: Warlock, with its bountiful life gain and oppressive control of the board, and Paladin, able to unload a small army of minions before the opponent can do anything to retaliate. Thankfully, with the HCT Playoffs now behind us, the Hearthstone team is finally setting its sights on taking the strongest Standard decks down a peg - as well as nerfing a troublesome card that's been tormenting Wild players for weeks. 

The changes are all explained in detail in an official blog post, but the short version is that a whopping six cards are getting nerfed: Naga Sea Witch, Spiteful Summoner, The Caverns Below, Dark Pact, Possessed Lackey, and Call to Arms. The latter three should have the most notable impact on the Standard meta, as they're some of the most powerful card at Warlocks' and Paladins' disposal, respectively, thanks to their ability to cheat out minions without paying their full mana cost. The potent Warlock combo of Dark Pact and Lackey is greatly weakened by Lackey's increase cost and Dark Pact's reduced life gain for less survivability. Meanwhile, increasing Call to Arms' cost to 5 mana excludes it from the prevalent Even Paladin deck, and gives opponents an extra turn to prepare for three incoming minions.

While it's great to see Warlock and Paladin take a hit after so many player complaints that they've been facing these decks ad nauseum, the adjustments to Spiteful Summoner and The Caverns Below seem a little too generous to Druids and Rogue at the moment. Spiteful Summoner is the main engine in the powerful Spiteful Druid deck, and increasing its mana cost by one may not matter much when the deck has access to so many other swingy minions while they wait an extra turn. Meanwhile, tweaking the Crystal Core reward from Rogue's quest The Caverns Below to make minions 4/4s instead of 5/5s doesn't seem to adequately nullify the burst potential from Charge minions or surprise lifegain from Vicious Scalehide. It also neuters Priests' comeback potential with Shadowreaper Anduin, now that it has no 5-attack minions to clear. Obviously, time will tell how these changes impact the meta, but at the moment these particular nerfs feel too soft on the already-pervasive Druid and Rogue standbys.   

Meanwhile, a Wild change that's been a long time coming is the nerf bat walloping Naga Sea Witch. This minion shifts the cost of all your cards to 5 mana - but due to an interaction with the many 8/8 giants cards that could have further reduced costs, these decks could fill the board early on with ridiculously huge, hard-to-deal-with minions for zero mana and effectively lock the opposing player out of the game on the spot. After endless complaints from the Wild playerbase that this combo was far too oppressive, Blizzard has finally taken action and bumped the cost of Naga Sea Witch from 5 to 8 mana, giving the opponent much more time to find a boardclear or finish out the game before they're overwhelmed. With this single card nerf, players that became fed up with the Wild format as a whole might be coaxed into coming back.

It's great to see such sweeping changes on the way, even if some players feel like the response took far too long given how prevalent and problematic these incredibly strong cards had clearly become. Of course, there will always be some decks that rise to the top of the Hearthstone heap, and there will always be demands for even more nerfs, so you can't please everybody. Blizzard hasn't yet given an exact date for when these changes will go live, but you can probably expect them to go live within the next week or so (with full dust refunds for the cards in question, should you choose to dust them). Once the nerfs arrive, hopefully we can look back on the hard times and laugh - like with this Twitch clip from notable Wild streamer Dane where he seemingly descends into madness in the face of such overpowered cards.

If you or someone you know is just starting out in Hearthstone, be sure to check out our guide to the best Hearthstone decks for beginners!    

Lucas Sullivan

Lucas Sullivan is the former US Managing Editor of GamesRadar+. Lucas spent seven years working for GR, starting as an Associate Editor in 2012 before climbing the ranks. He left us in 2019 to pursue a career path on the other side of the fence, joining 2K Games as a Global Content Manager. Lucas doesn't get to write about games like Borderlands and Mafia anymore, but he does get to help make and market them.