By Eric Van Allen
A new patch for Hearthstone will make it easier to climb the ranks, and allow for a little more variety in the ladder.
As announced yesterday on Blizzard’s forums, there will now be floors to ranked play in Hearthstone. Once a player has reached certain milestones—at ranks 15, 10 and 5—they can no longer fall below those ranks during the current season. While it might encourage deck experimentation, it also helps ease the worries of players who get rankings anxiety while climbing the ladder.
A few balance changes are also coming to address some of the more prominent issues in the current Hearthstone meta, namely two cards: Small-Time Buccaneer and Spirit Claws.
These changes help to mitigate some of the staleness in current Hearthstone competitive play, as both the availability and power of cards like Small-Time Buccaneer has defined the meta around only a few viable deck archetypes. Popular Hearthstone streamer and commentator Kripparrian recently said on stream that “if I was a constructed player, I would have quit Hearthstone by now.”
Constructed is the standard set of cards that competitive and ranked players abide by, a set of base cards and the three most recent expansions. Arena and Wild formats allow for all cards ever released on the platform, and recently, it’s been the only haven from cards like Buccaneer.
The Buccaneer is a staple of any modern pirate-themed deck, the new flavour of the month for aggressive players who liked to weaponise early and start dealing damage. The Buccaneer, who gains two attack whenever his player has a weapon equipped, will have his health lowered to one, making it easier for multiple decks to answer.
Combined with Patches, a pirate legendary that enters the battlefield from the deck whenever a pirate card is played, a Warrior or Shaman could put a 1 / 2 and 1 / 1 on the board, or use a coin and N’Zoth’s First Mate to equip a weapon on turn one and have a 1 / 1, 3 / 2, 1 / 1, and a weapon. At one health, the Buccaneer can be dealt with by most every class in the game without extreme effort.
Spirit Claws, meanwhile, is a Shaman weapon that gains two attack if the player has a minion that increases Spell Power on the field, outputting a potential nine damage for just one mana. The bump up to two means that Spirit Claws will still be effective, but not as much of a no-brainer; shamans will have to choose whether to prioritise a Spirit Claws play over other turn-two options like Totem Golem or Maelstrom Portal.
Climbing the ladder recently has been a never-ending procession of Aggro Warriors and Midrange Shaman, accented by the few who can afford to put together a high-tier Reno deck for Warlock or Mage. Scaling back these cards opens up more synergy decks, like Jade Druid or even board control-centric Warriors, to ease back into a tenuous spot in the meta.
It’s a lot easier to plan a deck around turns four or five when you know there won’t be a board full of small but plentiful minions beating you down by then. Hopefully this change will ease some tension in the community and bring back some of the scorned players, rather than waiting for the next expansion to provide some stronger answers to these aggro-archetypes.