With Tinkmaster Overspark and Nat Pagle being hot topics over the past few months within both the competitive and casual Hearthstone scenes, it was obvious a change was coming. Blizzard have released this balance patch to go hand in hand with the release of the game – also releasing with it golden hero portraits (for 500 wins in Ranked mode with each hero), a large amount of bug fixes as well as the generally celebrated announcement that higher ranked players of the last season will start at a higher ranking than they usually would when a new season kicks in.
That being said, certain classes have benefited more from the downfall of monsieurs Pagle and Overspark and some of them have suffered massively from it. In this article, I’ll be looking at the winners and losers of this beta patch and some of the ways they can adapt to the new patch.
With Shaman already having Mana Tide Totem as their guaranteed source of card draw, Pagle was a luxury – a 0/4 body for 2 mana gave them a more durable version of the Mana Tide Totem to be played earlier, forcing removal and putting pressure on during the early game. As well as that, with Pagle’s 4 health, he made a perfect body for Flametongue Totem to utilise and take out some pesky low health minions. With Pagle being nerfed to (in my opinion) uselessness in the tournament scene, another Mana Tide Totem is an easy fix. Shaman doesn’t really suffer at all from the Pagle nerf and benefits from the other classes’ dependency on it being exploited now.
Another factor that makes Shaman even stronger within this patch is their non-reliability on Tinkmaster Overspark. Some decks used Overspark as a tech card to perhaps throw him out on turn 3 and turn your healing totem into a 5/5 Devilsaur, however the real use of him which most other classes depended on him for was for taking out large threats. Shaman has never had this issue due to their amazing hard removal card Hex and it will be interesting to see whether Shaman is played more within the current metagame due to these changes.
This patch is actually a much needed bonus for Mage. With Mage being bottom 3 in competitive play at the minute, the fall of Tinkmaster could help to boost it back up and we could be seeing more Jaina within the tournament scene. Polymorph is extremely good hard removal (and you can even have 2 of them, unlike Tinkmaster) and the disintegration of Tinkmaster within the competitive scene will give classes with hard removal spells an upper hand within the battle of the classes.
Pagle isn’t such a big issue for Mage – you have Arcane Intellect, and the potential to abuse Acolytes of Pain with your hero ability, which means card draw is very rarely lacking within Mage decks. Generally speaking for Mage this patch is an amazing boost to a class that felt like it was severely lacking within the last metagame.
Druid is one of the biggest losers for sure. With Tinkmaster being it’s only reliable form of hard removal (apart from Naturalize, blegh!) Druid probably suffers the most from this patch. It makes its matchups vs Handlock and most other control much, much harder than they previously were, and because of this we might see the fall of Druid within control matchups and it only being used to counter aggro within the tournament scene.
It also suffers massively from the Pagle nerf – with no class specific card draw in the early game, Pagle was the main source of cards for the Druid within the early game – now, we may see the inclusion of Loot Hoarders into Druid, or even the fall of the midrange/control druid and the Token druid take its place within the metagame as the top Druid deck in the scene.
Again, with Warrior having no real source of hard removal (I'm not classifying Execute as hard removal – it’s still useless vs Cairne, Sylvanas, etc) it suffers heavily from the loss of Tinkmaster. Warrior has few ways now to deal with Cairne Bloodhoof, one of the more popular control cards in the game, and I feel that this could impact on the relativity of the control Warrior deck. New decklists are popping up without Tinkmaster and Pagle but only time can tell whether they will be successful within the tournament scene against other top tier decks.
However, the Pagle nerf isn’t actually that bad for Warrior. It’s a really nice target for Cruel Taskmasters and more to turn into a critter-killing machine, however the control Warrior deck doesn’t actually lack that much card draw – with Acolytes of Pain readily available to be abused using Taskmasters, Whirlwind, and more, the control Warrior deck is still going strong on card draw. The Pagle nerf stings, but it isn’t a gaping wound like it is for Druid.
The rise of Aggro and a shift in the metagame
This patch is in general a nerf to control – with two of the most prominent control deck tech cards being nerfed, Aggro is slowly becoming stronger and stronger within the current metagame. Due to the small card pool, Hearthstone’s natural metagame is already innately shifted towards aggro, and Blizzard are doing control players no favours in nerfing these control cards. I predict within the next few months that we will see possible changes to Unleash the Hounds (again) as well as some Warlock cards – perhaps Doomguard due to its prominent rise within Warlock early board control/rush decks recently.
In general I would say that I am a massive fan of both Tinkmaster and Pagle being nerfed – however, not in this fashion. I think the Pagle nerf is fine – he’s still playable, however he’s no longer a mainstay in every non-aggro deck – however, the Tinkmaster nerf is completely over the top. It makes the card completely garbage and only usable in fun decks (like Randuin Wrynn!). However I think this is how Blizzard envisioned the card when they designed it – and I think it will stay in its current state for the foreseeable future.