The Nerf Heard ‘Round the World

Mark it on the calendar, 19 December 2018. Blizzard announced The Nerf Heard ‘Round the World. The “balance changes” (read nerfs) targeted Saronite Chaingang, Leeching Poison, Wild Growth, Nourish, and Level Up. The most important part of these nerfs is the effect they will have on the meta. A larger effect than the 2 most recent expansions combined. These balance changes primarily nerf Shudderwock Shaman, Kingsbane Rogue, Zoo Warlock, Odd Paladin, and all Druid Decks. The Blizzard balance team was clearly listening to the Hearthstone community by nerfing the decks that many felt were not fun to play against.

Wild Growth

Wild Growth is a card from the basic set. Many consider it to be one of the staples to every Druid deck, so why nerf it? Other classes have basic cards that are auto-includes (e.g. Tracking, Kill Command, Consecration, Northshire Cleric,  Backstab). Wild Growth is different because it allows the Druid to “cheat” turns. Jumping ahead on the curve, especially so early, provides such a tempo advantage that it may become insurmountable.

It’s conceivable to play Ultimate Infestation (10 mana, deal 5 damage, gain 5 armor, draw 5 cards, put a 5/5 on the board) before the enemy plays Mojomaster Zihi (6 mana 5/5 set both players to 5 mana crystals). Wild Growth allows the Druid to play their value cards before any other deck has a chance to play around it. Nerfing Wild Growth to 3 mana puts it on a similar power level to many of the other Basic Cards


You know what is good in card games? Card draw. You know what else is good in card games? Versatility. How about if you had a card that can gain you a 2 mana advantage or a 2 card advantage (you draw 3 cards, but you spend 1 card to do it)? Nourish is so good that it has been used in nearly every non-Spiteful Druid that I can recall. It allows you versatility even in Togwaggle or Malygos Druid, being that while you have 10 mana, you can Nourish for mana crystals, play Arcane Tyrant, and then Dreampetal Florist.

Playing Nourish in this manner allows you to ensure you can play Dreampetal Florist and hit your desired target (Malygos, Togwaggle, or Gonk, the Raptor most commonly) without losing too much to the board. Nourish, by itself, is not the problem, but alongside the other powerful Druid cards it was a good target to nerf, allowing for other potential Druid archetypes to emerge. It was tiresome playing against Druid decks that all ran the same 19 cards, only changing 11 to enable their win condition! 21 if you count Arcane Tyrant!

The 19 cards in question; Jasper Spellstone, Naturalize, Wild Growth, Ferocious Howl, Branching Paths, Swipe, Nourish, Spreading Plague, Malfurion, Ultimate Infestation

Level Up!

The most common comment I see throughout Twitch is that Odd Paladin is the easiest deck in the game to play. That anyone can play Odd Paladin to legend. I do not believe that to be the case, however it is a deck that has not changed, even by a single card, since Witchwood. To beat this deck you must play around Level Up!, which becomes an issue when your hero power is 2 mana summon 2 1/1 recruits.

Level Up! enables the final push for lethal against many decks. However, the biggest issue, in my opinion, is giving them taunt. Turning your Silverhand Recruits into 3/3 taunts allows Odd Paladin to completely disregard the board, and have no urgency to trade. Every other Aggro deck must pay attention to the board and make intelligent trades in order to win the game. I don’t love this nerf, as it seems to completely gut Odd Paladin, but I know the Hearthstone community will rejoice at this change.

Saronite Chain Gang

Saronite Chain Gang is a fair card on its own. A 4 mana card that creates a 2/3 taunt and a copy of that minion. For reference, Feral Spirit, a Shaman class card (most class cards are of slightly higher power level than neutral cards) costs 3 mana (Overload 1) and puts 2 2/3 minions on the board. The change in wording is important, though, as a Saronite Chain Gang is a 2/3 taunt. This means that it does not copy Shudderwock, completely destroying the Shudderwock OTK deck.

This change is exciting to me as it encourages other Shudderwock decks to be created. This is low-key a small nerf to Prince Keleseth, as well! Zoo in particular has a need for Keleseth into Chain Gang in order to maintain its momentum. Playing 2 3/4 taunt minions for 4 mana is insane value, protecting the board in a meaningful way while simultaneously being threats in their own right. Every other Aggro deck addresses this need with Tar Creeper, which means they must sacrifice playing an aggressively statted minion on turn 3. This nerf will bring more balance to the force, making Chain Gang more of a role-player, rather than an auto-include, in Keleseth decks.

Leeching Poison

Goodnight Kingsbane Rogue. This deck is one of my most frustrating decks. Raiding Party reintroduced Kingsbane Rogue to the meta (being that it is one of the top 3 cards from the Rastakhan expansion). The biggest problem with Kingsbane Rogue is that there is no counterplay. The way to win is to pray they don’t turn 1 Kingsbane into turn 2 Leeching Poison. Any deck where the counterplay is praying seems un-fun.

Leeching Poison was the perfect target because it allows the deck to go nearly infinite. The weapon can easily become a 15/4 lifesteal, meaning that any minion based strategy has no chance to win. This has made its bad match-ups much worse, and gives control decks a chance to win against it.

Overall Effects

These balance changes will have a large effect on the state of Hearthstone. Shudderwock OTK? Dead. Kingsbane Rogue? Dead. Odd Paladin? Nerfed to a low tier 2 deck. Zoo? Still a tier 2 deck, just slightly worse. Druid combo decks? Dead.

This has sweeping consequences. Spell Hunter got a HUGE buff, being that its worst match-ups were Odd Paladin and Kingsbane Rogue. Even Shaman is poised to make a return in a large way as the premium Aggro deck in the format, which in turn is a nerf to Even Paladin. Secret Hunter will benefit from seeing less Odd Paladins. Token Druid completely disappears, as it was only treading water by taking advantage of Odd Paladin and Shudderwock Shaman.

What do I play now?

Hunter. Just play Hunter. Alongside the patch going live, Blizzard took a page out of Paul Revere’s book shouting, “The Hunters are coming! The Hunters are coming!” However, the current nerfs indicate that Blizzard may be listening to the community closer, meaning that Deathstalker Rexxar and Frost Lich Jaina are next on the chopping block. The most powerful decks will now be:

  1. Secret Hunter
  2. Even Shaman
  3. Spell Hunter
  4. Tempo Rogue
  5. Recruit Hunter

Overall, I am pleased with all of these nerfs. Mostly Leeching Poison, but they all fill me with a little joy in their own way. I am surprised by the balance team’s decision to nerf these cards so early after an expansion, but not surprised that they were nerfed in general. Many of the nerfs were much needed. I am so excited for all the experimentation that will spur from these changes! This truly was The Nerf Heard ‘Round the World.

What decks do you think will come out on top? What is your favorite nerf? Comment below or chat with me about it on my stream!

For more information take a look at Hearthstone’s Balance Update post.


ExilesRhythm (TwitchTwitter)

ExilesRhythm is a Hearthstone streamer with a reputation for deck building and deck optimization. He is continuously testing the best strategies for ladder and tournament play while playing at a high level. With multiple top 1000 finishes, and a passion for coaching ExilesRhythm is the perfect streamer to watch for those desiring to improve their gameplay. ExilesRhythm also offers individualized coaching. ExilesRhythm streams Monday-Saturday at 10:00 A.M. Pacific.


Comments (1)

  1. Kikopaff


    Excellent article. Love the title! I’m glad to see Kingsbane Rogue and Druid getting a good punch in the gut. I am kinda sad about Level Up, as Odd Paladin is one of my most played decks. It’s interesting to note that Blizzard hasn’t touched a single Hunter card, but these balance changes make me excited for the future of Hearthstone.

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