Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Hearthstone's Druid Power Level: IT'S OVER 9000!!!

Right now in Hearthstone, the Druid class is absurdly powerful, and it's actually a very bad thing for the health of the game. It's not just a single deck either, as both Token Druid and Jade Druid are equally strong. Unlike other decks that have stabilized over time, as new strategies and counters have arisen, the Druid problem is so severe that it's actually effecting the meta. Unconventional decks like Exodia mage, which were fun gimmicky decks, have actually become viable in the meta because they are so effective at beating druid. We've really got a whole "Grim Patron" situation on our hands now: every single deck is either A) Druid, or B) deck that is specifically good against Druid, and that's bad because it limits creativity, and lessens the impact of a lot of cool cards and archetypes.

Blizzard should not take a "wait and see" approach to this problem. The time for wait and see has passed, especially when you consider that 41% of all games being played are against Druids. They need to act right now.

How did Druid get so powerful?

Druid has always been a popular, powerful class in Hearthstone, but the latest patch has given it the exact tools it needed to propel it into the unstoppable monster it is right now. Specifically: Spreading Plague and Ultimate Infestation. To understand why these cards are so powerful, you first need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the class.

Ramp it up

Ramp effects let you cheat out mana ahead of the usual curve, allowing you to play bigger minion and spells earlier in the game. They are countered by the fact that they cost a card, and have minimal effect on the board state. Playing Wild Growth on turn 2 means that you have one less card and no two drop on the board. Ramping has always been a gamble because it leaves you vulnerable, but Ultimate Infestation negates all of those negatives.

A Druid player can spend the first four turns ramping up (Wild Growth, Jade Blossom, Nourish), and then just innervate out an Ultimate Infestation. He now likely controls the board, has healed, has replenished all the cards he spent ramping, and is a full six mana ahead of you. Just watch this clip to understand how stupid this combination is.

Wall of Scarabs

Traditionally, Druid's weakness has been big boards. It lacks the hard removal of Rogue and Priest, and the AOE removal of Mage and Warlock. The best way to play against a Druid is to put down multiple, high health creatures. Once the board has been flooded, its quite hard for them to regain control. This is a natural counter to both Jade/Ramp Druid AND Token Druid. Against Jade/Ramp Druid, it stops them from being too greedy. They have to play minions and fight for board control or they will be overwhelmed. Against Token Druid, it helps control their own waves of minions it tries to flood the board with.

But here comes Spreading Plague, which a lot of the time reads: 5 Mana - Summon 7 1/5 Scarabs With Taunt. Not only does this card negate Druid's most major weakness by cockblocking the whole board, it also combos exceedingly well with cards like Power of The Wild, Mark of The Lotus and the new Bolster Bear. It's not uncommon for those 1/5's to become 2/6's, or even 3/7's within the same turn. Imagine a card that read: 6 Mana - Summon Seven 2/6 Scarabs with Taunt. Discard a card.

Innervation Intervention

All of these new tools circle back to Innervate, a card that has been a part of the core Druid kit since the beginning, and limits card design space more and more the longer it remains a part of the game. Again, Innervate is a card that was limited by the fact that it cost you a card. Yeah, you could cheat out a big drop on an early turn, but then you were down a card, and could get fucked over by hard removal. Now, Druids can use Innervate to cheat out Ultimate Infestation, which instantly replenishes their hand, negating its detrimental effect. Reynad made a strong case on the removal of Innervate from Standard, which is a possible solution to the Druid problem.

What's the solution?

Whatever Blizzard decides on doing, it needs to happen now, before we have another Grim Patron/Undertaker Hunter situation on our hand. Shifting Innervate to Standard is a good solution, but I honestly believe that the two most offensive cards: Spreading Plague and Ultimate Infestation need to additionally be directly nerfed. Possible solutions:
Related image

  • Ultimate Infestation: 8 Mana - Deal 5 Damage, Summon a 5/5 Ghoul, Gain 5 Armor - This completely removes the card draw from the card, but still keeps it as a decent card, considering that Firelands portal is basically "Deal 5 Damage, Summon a 5/5", and is considered a good card for 7 mana. 
  • Ultimate Infestation: 10 Mana. Deal 4 Damage, Summon a 4/4 Ghoul, Gain 4 Armor, Draw 4 Cards - This keeps the card draw but reduces all of the effects by 1. Honestly, I think it needs to go even further and reduce card draw to 3, but that would be a bit of overkill.
  • Spreading Plague: 5 Mana. Summon a 1/5 Scarab with Taunt. If your Opponent Has More Minions, Repeat up to Two Times - This caps out the number of Scarabs that can be summoned at 3, which still provides a tool for defensive druid decks, but doesn't become absurdly powerful when combo'd with board buff spells.
  • Spreading Plague: 4 Mana. Summon a 1/2 Scarab with Taunt for each enemy minion - Sound familiar? This is basically Protect the King, a Warrior card that never saw play. 1/1 Tokens are pretty terrible, so buffing them up to 1/2 means that they can't just be whirlwinded away, but still die to big AOE effects like Flamestrike or Holy Nova (as they should).