Concerns About the Two Recent Patches

  • Sar
    In the past I felt that Team 5 was doing a good job in terms of balancing, but I'm concerned by what I'm seeing in the most recent patches. It's starting to feel like Team 5 is placing value in what placates people complaining on the forums over the value of making sure that things are actually balanced. Examples as to what I mean:

    1) Priest. Mind Control nerf. Now, granted, Mind Control is an arguably overpowered card. However, the class as a whole is relatively weak. Blizzard's statistics at Blizzcon even reflect this. Yet, the class was nerfed with no other buffs given to it, taking an underpowered class and making it even more unplayable.

    2) Hunter. Nerf to the OTK. Ok, fine, I understand why we want to avoid OTK decks, but the class was performing relatively poorly at high levels regardless. So Team 5 took a class that was performing sub-par to begin with, nerfed the Unleash the Hounds AND nerfed Starving Buzzard with no card buffs in exchange to counter this. So Team 5 took a class that was weak and made it even weaker.

    3) Mages. Mages from all the statistics I've seen have been performing average; not bad, but not great. You don't see them dominating tournaments, the win rates I've seen at least show them a little under 50%, etc. So Team 5 takes Pyroblast and nerfs its mana cost by 2 (making it WORSE than the standard damage curve I might add, which is damage = 1 + cost). There was no mention of statistics saying the class was winning too much to justify this, nor was there a buff to another card to compensate; if you take a balanced class and nerf a card, it becomes an underpowered class. Beyond that, the justification given doesn't even make sense. The justification was "We don't like that Mages could do 20 direct damage." And the fix to that was that they didn't change the damage, they changed the mana. So if 20 damage was too much to do before... why does double Pyroblast still do 20 damage? This sounds to me like Team 5 wanted to nerf the card and came up for a reason to do so after the fact.

    4) Warlock. Warlock might be a tad on the strong side. Nonetheless, the Blood Imp nerf was absurdly strong; it's now a Young Priestess with no attack but stealth. Warlocks rely on Blood Imp in order to not get massacred by aoe. I understand potentially wanting to nerf the card at least to some degree as it was a very strong card and the class did seem to be performing above average. But the justification was horrible; the justification was "Warlocks had too many 1-cost minions." So our solution? Well, we'll still let them have the same number of 1-cost minions. If the problem is that Warlocks have too many 1-cost minions, then why don't you change the cost of one of them to something higher (buffing them if necessary to compensate for the cost increase?) Instead, Team 5 essentially removed Blood Imp from the game. If you want to remove Blood Imp, then remove it and replace it with a new card, but don't nerf it into worthlessness. Like in the case of Mage, it sounded like Team 5 wanted to nerf the card and came up with a reason to do so after the fact.

    5) Warrior. I understand that Warrior OTK was a problem. But the class was still blatantly underperforming. So the result was to nerf several Warrior cards without ANY buffs to compensate. How is that going to result in a balanced class? Once again, it's just making things more out of balance. Beyond that, why does Team 5 keep ignoring the elephant in the room: Molten Giant. The fact that this card becomes 0-cost SO easily is an underlying issue in a TON of broken combos in the game, yet this card seems to escape scrutiny every time.

    6) Defender of Argus. Not a class, but a card. Blizzard's justification for nerfing the card was that every deck was running it. But that's not true; RUSH decks run it, many decks that weren't rush decks avoided using it.


    What does every card here have in common? They were cards that were endlessly whined about on the forums by players. The trend I'm starting to see here with all of these cards is that Team 5 nerfs these cards to placate complaints on the forums rather than for actual balance reasons.

    Now, don't get me wrong. If Blizzard could show some statistics to justify why they made these changes, then I'd be far more likely to be in favor of it. But such statistics weren't mentioned a single time in this patch, and the stats seem to be largely ignored when determining what nerfs to make in this patch and the last (i.e. nerfing some of the weakest classes in the game).

    If Team 5 were to say "We're doing an iterative process and are looking at buffing these classes to compensate," I'd be all for that as well (it is still beta). But I see no indication of that occurring.

    So my question is, in summation, are we going to see balance decisions made in the game based on what class is actually too strong or too weak, or are we going to see balance decisions made based on who complains the most on the forums? Because if it is the former, I haven't seen much indication of that happening recently. It used to happen but does not seem to be happening over the last few months; the recent patches seem to be making the game increasingly LESS balanced rather than more balanced.
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  • 01/15/2014 02:02 PMPosted by Sar

    I appreciate you responding to this thread Zeriyah as I know you're relatively busy and can't generally reply. Incase the point gets lost, the underlying concern I have is were any of these changes based on statistical data on Blizzard's end, and if so, can you give us some indication as to what the stats were that were the basis for it? Because the nerfs of the last two patches seem to simply be a checklist of the most complained about cards on the forums, and it seems as if the weakest classes to begin with were the ones that were being nerfed further.

    We do have extensive data that is collected from the beta testers that assists us in making the correct decisions for the overall balance of the game, however we do have to be mindful of the proper ways to convey this data, if at all. If we were to say that X class was performing well above and beyond other classes at X levels of play, we run into the risk of defining the state of the meta for our players rather than having it change and evolve on its own. We don't want to be defining the meta for Hearthstone - It should be a shifting, changing, evolving thing, facilitated by the players. That sort of change and variation is healthy for the overall state of the game, as it keeps people trying new things and pushes deck-building innovation.

    Card changes, when they are done, are generally done to promote this healthy gaming environment. Obviously, no one class or card should ever be dominating the state of the meta. It causes stagnation, frustration, and discourages that normally fun feeling of creativity and wonder when deck-building. The feeling of "well, I only can put 15 cards in my deck because my other 15 cards have to be these particular 15 cards because they're just better" puts limits everywhere.

    Sometimes the data we have aligns with the community sentiment. Some times it does not. We touched on some data briefly at BlizzCon; at that time, an example of data not lining up with community sentiment was with Priests. We monitor feedback extensively, through both numerical data and the pulse of the community. Nothing is truly black and white, and there is no such thing as an "obvious fix", as we always have to keep looking forward and not just at the here and now.

    We'll be discussing more about why we make changes to cards and the philosophy behind those changes more in the coming days. I've rambled a lot!