Rebobson gives us an in-depth look at yesterday's announced card nerfs and how they could impact the THL meta-game.
Hey there, sexy people. It’s rebobson here, and as I definitely don’t have anything better to be doing with my time, let’s have a good old look at the freshly announced nerfs, and try and establish the effect they will have on the THL meta for this week and the weeks going forward! Now, if you have been living under a rock (or just stayed off the internet yesterday to avoid Game of Thrones spoilers - Snape kills Dumbledore btw), you may have missed what precisely the nerfs are, so let’s start with that. Nerfs are due to go live on the 22nd May, usually around 11am Pacific Time, though this has been known to vary, and they are:
EVIL Miscreant: 1/5 to 1/4:
Raiding Party: 3 Mana to 4 Mana:
Preparation: Reduces by 2 Mana, down from 3 Mana:
Archivist Elysiana: 8 Mana to 9 Mana:
So, variations upon a theme, and that theme is very much, ‘fuck off Valeera’. Team 5 have seemingly listened to the community on the Rogue issue (but not Dr. Boom, Mad Genius or Conjurer’s Calling, but that’s a discussion for another day), hitting several key tools in their arsenal; most notably Preparation, which having been omnipresent in every single Rogue deck besides KOFT Keleseth Rogue and was probably long overdue the "cement shoes". The combination of Preparation + Raiding Party now costing 2 Mana instead of 0 takes away the potential of some of the most obnoxious early Rogue turns involving Edwin Van Cleef. The reducing of ‘free’ mana available to Rogues hinders their ability to seize tempo early on (particularly through having to pay mana for Preparation & Fan of Knives against wider, board-centric decks), although the nerf to EVIL Miscreant does not really limit the cards play-ability in any meaningful way. Ironically, it seems the match-up this nerf is most relevant in is the mirror itself, as now Miscreant dies to Waggle Pick and Eviscerate! It is reasonably likely all 3 of these cards still see play in Rogue to some degree, although there may be a shift towards Spirit of the Shark-focused Rogue decks going forward. Meanwhile, Elysiana has been hit as a nod to the absolute devastation she has wreaked upon Masters Qualifiers, or ‘social euthanasia’ as I call them. Costing 9 Mana means there are still ways Baleful Banker or Youthful Brewmaster are played alongside her (starting on the coin, Jepetto Joybuzz, she somehow survives for 1 turn), but as none of these are very reliable methods, it seems like Warriors will have to stick to just one Elysiana from now on. If you want to hit the Turn Timer, it looks like Control Shaman is now your best bet.
But enough about vague implications, let’s try and picture what effect these have on the particular metagames in THL’s three disparate leagues:
Conquest, and Legacy, have always been the ideal home for the ‘bring 4 good decks’ strategy, and as such have been absolutely dominated by Lackey Rogue in the first 2 weeks. Across both Conferences, Rogue was brought 176/198 times, or around 89% of the time. Not bad for a class with one playable archetype (sorry Thief Rogue), and as a result Warrior has seen its fair share of play (72% of lineups), through a combination of simply being the best answer to Lackey Rogue, while also having access to Dr. Boom, Mad Genius. Interestingly enough, Rogue was also the most banned class, with 41% of players electing to not chance it against a turn 2 Edwin. This means that some of you were bringing Warrior whilst also banning Rogue… whoops. This Rogue prevalence is very likely to shake up going forward, with Hunter and Mage seeming the two strongest classes going forward, crucially for Legacy having access to more than one archetype. This meta shift is likely to be bad news for Warrior, who will see their strongest matchup fall out of favour slightly, while seeing an increase in several bad matchups (Dire Frenzy, Mechs, or multiple Giants are all bad news for Warriors). However, the loss in Rogue tempo might open up some space for other aggressive decks which Rogue was keeping at bay, particularly Murloc Shaman, but also to a lesser extent Zoo, while Token Druid remains just as powerful. There will be a search for the ideal ‘fourth class’ to round out lineups, and the default setting to board-based aggressive strategies might mean the nerfs aren’t quite as bad for Control Warrior as they could be, especially considering there will still be some Rogue. Plus, you’re less likely to have to play mirrors! The biggest point of interest will be if Control Shaman takes over as the grindy control deck of choice. It certainly has tools to fight with these board-based aggressive decks, and its issue has always been burst damage from hand, which Lackey Rogue provided in spades; the issue still remains as to the best way to build it. Shaman certainly seems like a much more viable class going forward, which is more than can be said for Paladin or Priest. If you want to play it safe this week, Druid, Hunter, Mage and either Shaman or Warrior seem the strongest bets.
Last Hero Standing on the other hand, has always lended itself to bringing wacky decks with specific purposes in mind. As such, Warrior is actually quite likely to still do well in this format. The concept of bringing a deck purely for anti-aggro purposes without having to worry about all that fatigue avoiding nonsense lends itself perfectly to LHS, so the Elysiana nerf is unlikely to show itself in any meaningful way. The Rogue nerfs, however, are likely to have a far greater impact in this format. Rogues strength both as a counter to multiple archetypes as well as just an overall sweeper has led to the majority of strategies being based around either banning it or beating it. Token Druid remains an eminently viable LHS deck due to its very level matchup spread, Shaman will potentially be able to capitalise on both of its archetypes getting a slight buff overall, while Warlock’s one-dimensional game plan means it is likely to stay firmly on the bottom rung of the tier lists, despite a nerf to one of its biggest counters. We are likely to see a lot of Hunter and Mage, with Hunters overall perhaps switching to Mech builds rather than Secret in order to target Mage rather than Rogue. Paladin and Priest have very niche applications in this format, mostly revolving around countering Warrior, but both seem as unconvincing going forward as they do right now. Druid, Hunter, Mage and Warrior seems the safest lineup going forward, though there may be some merit to that Warrior being a Shaman.
This is the format where the nerfs are going to be the most notable. Archivist Elysiana has been a central part of Masters Tour Qualifiers in the Specialist format taking quite so bloody long, as she is a quintessential ‘sideboard card’; while you may not want to run her in your Legacy deck, being able to run the card in your secondary or tertiary list in Specialist for mirrors is crucial. Warrior is still likely to remain as the best class in Specialist, though now the main challenger is likely to be Mage instead of Rogue, which will likely fall down to fourth place, just after Hunter, or perhaps even further, with Druid enjoying marked success in the first two weeks. As such, Warriors will be looking to tech for Mage matchups specifically (Supercolliders and Big Game Hunters galore), and will likely be looking for mirror winning strategies that do not center around Elysiana, with Mecha’thun being a contender, as well as a much more tempo/damage-oriented route with Grommash/Alexstraza and the like. Rogue, meanwhile, with the Prep and Raiding Party nerfs, has lost a lot of highroll potential in the early game, which makes a much more marked difference in Specialist than in multiple deck formats. Being unable to consistently hit Mage hard enough in the face in the early game, unable to make giant Edwins vs. Warriors quite so easily, and losing some tempo vs. aggressive strategies is likely to hurt Rogue in Specialist quite a lot, and it may even be relegated to a fringe strategy, alongside Paladin and Shaman. Again, Priest and Warlock are just non-existent. Warrior and Mage seem like the safest options for this week, while Rogue is one for the extremely adventurous.
So, enough of my nattering. Agree with what I have to say? Disagree? If you do disagree, please for the love of God don’t @ me. Instead, write your message on a piece of paper, add it to a glass, corked bottle, and throw it into the Atlantic, it’ll reach me over here in Europe eventually I’m sure. Now, if you’re reading this on your lunch break or at your office computer, get back to work you filthy slackers, and make sure you don’t get too caught out in trying to make Rogue work that you forget to submit classes tomorrow!
Peace out, motherfuckers.
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