A special edition of the weekly lineup trends is here where Altenberg discusses the impact of the Mana Wyrm and Giggling Inventor nerfs on THL lineups.
Lineup Trends – Season 10 New Meta Edition
As you may have heard, Blizzard has decided that they ARE going to address the Hearthstone meta-game after all, and this morning they revealed what cards are going to be changed, and that those changes will go live sometime on Thursday, October 18th. We can speculate all day long on WHY they decided to change the meta-game now, when 4 weeks ago they seemed to think “everything is fine” with their “In the Works” post. But that’s not what this article will be about. Since a regular Lineup Trends article on last week’s meta-game will be mostly irrelevant going forward now, this week’s article will discuss the individual card changes and the ripple effect those changes might have on the meta-game.
Giggling Inventor to 7 Mana
The first change they announced was that the neutral taunt minion, Giggling Inventor, will change from 5 mana to 7 mana. I think the prevailing thought was a mana increase was coming for Giggling Inventor because of its prevalence in the meta-game. Giggling Inventor is pervasive in Hearthstone. According to HSReplay, Giggling Inventor has appeared in 30% of ALL decks in the entire standard ladder (ranks 25-legend) over the past two weeks. For reference, the next most common card in the meta-game is Saronite Chain Gang at 23%, and then Lich King at 22%. Mossy Horror, a terrible card whose main use is simply to counter Giggling Inventor, is being played in 20% of decks! Any argument that says that the prevalence of Giggling Inventor in the meta-game is not a problem, is (and I’m sorry, not sorry) flat out wrong. I think the change to 7 mana is particularly smart. They could have bumped it up to 6 mana, but then you would probably see the card in decks that are already pretty strong like Even Warlock, Even Shaman and Even Paladin, and those decks already run Saronite Chain Gang. Imagine being able to run both in an Even deck…yikes. They pretty much HAD to bump it up to 7 mana if they were going to make a simple mana adjustment. This makes the card much worse and lowers the value considerably. Having the neutral taunt wall come out 2 turns later will have a huge impact to the card, and I doubt it sees much play outside of strict odd-control decks.
That leads me to talk about the ripple effect of Giggling Inventor seeing much less play in the current meta-game. Which decks use Giggling Inventor…wait…maybe a better question is, which decks DON’T use Giggling Inventor, amirite? But seriously, those slower decks that relied on it as a stall tactic like most Maly Druid, Quest Rogue, Odd Warrior and the like will have to rely on other neutral taunt minions like Saronite Chain Gang, Tar Creeper and Stonehill Defender for early game stall. On the flipside, bad cards like Blood Knight and Mossy Horror that are solely being used as Giggling Inventor counters will no longer have to played, which will free up some design space in current decks. In general, I think the nerf to Giggling Inventor will have a pretty major shake-up in the meta-game and we might see some current Tier 1 decks fall out of use, and some other decks currently struggling in Tier 2 and 3 rise to Tier 1. Which of those decks move around will be impossible to predict. And who knows, maybe there is an even yet undefined deck waiting to make a grand appearance in a Giggling Inventor-less meta-game.
Mana Wyrm to 2 Mana
The other change in the standard meta-game is the 1-cost Mage card Mana Wyrm increasing to 2 mana. For me, this kind of comes out of left field, although at least one prominent pro player, Zalae, mentioned it in one of his recent feedback posts about the meta. Mana Wyrm is a very polarizing card in Tempo Mage in that if you play it on turn 1, your win-rate increases substantially. According to HSReplay, the card gives decks a 60% win rate when played on turn 1 and a 55-52% win rate when played on turns 2-5, compared with a sub-50% win rate when played after turn 5. It’s been a problem card for a LONG time since it is in the classic set, and I find it interesting that they have decided that NOW is the time to nerf the card after being in the meta since the game was released. Tempo Mage is not even a very good deck right now, outside of existing as a specific counter to Quest Rogue and some Warlock decks, and Quest Rogue may see less play because of the nerf to Giggling Inventor. Perhaps there is some interaction in a future set they are worried about? There have been other seemingly “out of left field” nerfs that had future implications, so perhaps this is one of them. In any case, if this card can’t be played until turn 2 and can’t be played in combo with 1-mana spells on turn 2 either, then it will kill that early advantage it gives to Tempo Mage, which will essentially kill that deck. When you look at other 2-mana 1/3 cards with powerful effects, not very many of them see play: Ice Walker, Red Band Wasp, Mana Addict, Master Swordsmith, and Vicious Scalehide. I would predict that Mana Wyrm will basically become a dead card for Mage. It's too bad Mage didn’t get any “even” mechanic cards, or else it could possibly create a new “Even Mage” deck that could run a lot of good Mage cards like Frost Bolt, Primordial Glyph, Pyros, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Fireball, Blizzard, Aluneth, Pyroblast...wait…is a 1-mana Mage Hero Power actually good? Nah…
Aviana to 10 Mana
I have to admit that I am not a wild player, so my analysis here might be flawed, but based on commentary by some prominent wild players recently, this seems like a good thing. It seemed like the “Aviana-Kun” combo in wild Druid was pretty much busted, especially with Juicy Pyschmelon, so I guess this is warranted. But nerfs in wild kind of open a can of worms that asks, “What is the Wild format supposed to be?” Is the Wild format supposed to be a viable format where Blizzard assesses issues in the meta-game and responds? Or is the format supposed to be virtual anarchy where it’s a “kill-or-be-killed” land where only the most busted card combos win and the rest shall wither away, balance be damned? I don’t know the answer to that, but this is now the second time they’ve addressed the wild format with a card change that only impacts the wild format, so perhaps they are interested in balancing it at least to some degree. If wild folks are happy with the change, then I think it has to be seen as positive. It won’t have any impact on THL, outside of the upcoming “Wild Open” tournament, but it is worth bringing up.
As far as the standard meta-game is concerned if these two nerfed cards are functionally removed from the game, are any decks also simply removed from the game? And what would that do to the Hearthstone landscape? The easiest call is that the nerf to Mana Wyrm will destroy Tempo Mage. So if we assume that Tempo Mage is pretty much dead, what kind of ripple effect would that have? According to HSReplay, the following decks all see a dramatic increase to their overall win-rate of at least 2% or more when Tempo Mage is removed from the meta: Cube/Mecha’thun/Control Warlock, Resurrect/Mecha’thun Priest, and Quest/Kingsbane/Pogo/Malygos Rogue. Those were all excellent matchups for Tempo Mage, so those decks all see a little gain in the overall meta-game with Tempo Mage disappearing. Decks that were feasting on Tempo Mage and that see a decline in win-rate of 2% of more with no Tempo Mage include: Odd Warrior. That’s it. There just aren’t too many decks that hard-target Tempo Mage in that way. So perhaps we see a little more late-game Warlock and Priest decks, and maybe anti-control Rogue decks like Kingsbane/Pogo/Maly Rogue see a little uptick as well.
Because Giggling Inventor is so pervasive, it’s difficult to predict what kind of effect it will have. In general, it makes sense to assume that aggro decks will get a little more breathing room as they won’t have to face down a turn 4-5 Giggling Inventor on their way to face. But on the other hand, Saronite Chain Gang, Tar Creeper and Stonehill Defender are still cards that slow down aggro, and all of them show up BEFORE turn 5. So I think we’ll see more of those cards back in the meta. From a pure class perspective, Rogue, Druid and Warrior were the three classes that used Giggling Inventor the most, making up nearly 63% of the usage for the card. Decks like Quest/Odd Rogue, Token/Maly Druid and Odd Warrior all made heavy use of the card. Quest Rogue likely takes a hit and sees less representation in the meta. But Odd Rogue and Token/Maly Druid will probably be fine without Giggling Inventor. In fact Odd Rogue will probably be even better without it, since it was included as more of an arms race card that also required a tech card to answer it. Odd Rogue will likely become more streamlined and aggressive without it. Odd Warrior becomes a little weaker without Giggling Inventor, but honestly the core strategy of the deck: Tank Up and Control the board remains unchanged, so I expect we’ll continue to see plenty of Odd Warrior. So let’s imagine a meta with less Quest Rogue as well as less Tempo Mage. In that kind of world, the following decks see a slight uptick in win-rate: Big Druid, Big Spell Mage, Mecha-thun Druid and Resurrect/Mecha’thun Priest.
My instinct is that less Giggling Inventor means that other neutral taunts see more play instead like Tar Creeper, Saronite Chain Gang and Stonehill Defender. And while Quest Rogue sees less play, we might see other anti-control Rogue decks replace it like Kingsbane/Pogo/Deathrattle/Maly Rogue. The lack of Tempo Mage might also allow some late-game Warlock and Priest decks a little more viability. In the end, it’s impossible to predict what will happen after the balance changes. But you can bet I’ll be tracking as much as I can in the next few weeks of Lineup Trends.
So what are your thoughts? How do you think the meta-game will evolve with the announcement of new balance changes? Let us know in the comments below!
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