I've been gaming for over 25 years. Now I play and write about it full-time. Have a question? Feel free to ask it in the comment section.
I’ve been playing Hearthstone since the closed beta stage in the game. The online card game gathers together a group of gamers with “superior” intellect to form decks of 30 cards. The point of the game is just like any other, win. Eliminate your opponents 30 health and they’ll shatter like a shiny glass window. While the RNG aspect of the game means that even a pro can get defeated by a rank 25, intelligence, deck-making ability, and exploiting the best possible cards in the game will allow you to rank up and get to legendary over time.
All that exploitation means a card that is too powerful will get used over and over again. When that happens, Blizzard, the creator of Hearthstone, takes out its enormous Gorehowl and chops the card in half. Dr. Boom is a good example of a card that hit the chopping block. Back in the day he was used in nearly 38% of all decks and chosen in arena 100% of the time. Simply put, the card worked in every deck and forced opponents to use a card like Big Game Hunter for a counter. Even then, his boom bots would wreak havoc on the opponent's board. Today, he's used in .85% of all decks.
Ideally, Blizzard nerfs cards in a way where the card is still useful. However, more often than not, it’s better to get the dust from it and use it to make the next to best exploitable card. While some may do the proverbial “cry every time” over such nerfs, they make the game more skill-oriented rather than simply luck.
While lots of crazy weird things happened during the Alpha stage in the game, we’re going to begin this history with the closed beta while putting an emphasis on changes that happened during or after the open beta when cards had already achieved a reasonable level of balance.
1. Unleash The Hounds
This is a card that Blizzard just can’t seem to get right. Unleash the Hounds was changed in the closed beta patch from a 1 cast cost card the gave your beasts +1 attack and charge to a 4 cast cost card that basically does what it does today. On May 8th, 2014, the card was changed again to reflect a higher casting cost. With 69% of hunter decks still using this card, it’s possible that there will be further changes down the line, but it is definitely more balanced without the next card on our list.
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2. Starving Buzzard
Starving Buzzard definitely deserves a place here. During the closed beta stage of the game, the card was changed from a 2 2 to a 2 1. However, that change alone wouldn’t be enough to tame the hunter onslaught brought on by the card when used with Unleash the Hounds.
In response, Blizzard nerfed it to the ground by changing its casting cost to 5. With 3 attack and 2 health, the poor board presence and high cost was too much to try and use in a combo. It’s currently used in just 7% of all Hunter decks and chosen 14% of the time in arena. Rest in Pepperonis.
3. Leeroy Jenkins
Leeroy Jenkins used to mean the game was over. Used in combination with power overwhelming, cold blood, faceless manipulator, and more Leeroy Jenkins often made it easy to do massive amounts of damage to an opponent during the early stages of the game. The 1 1 whelps given to opponents were rarely meaningful to opponents as Leeroy was out for blood. While changing the cost from 4 to 5 might not seem like a big deal, it gave opponents enough time to prepare and respond to the threat. Today, Leeroy is used in just 2.37% of all decks. Rest in Pepperonis.
4. Blood Imp
Blood Imp used to be a card played in nearly every Warlock deck. The temptation to keep him in stealth mode and give all your early minions a leg up on the opponent was too good to pass up. Blizzard put its Gorehowl to this card by removing its attack and giving a random minion a single health point. It’s now used in just 5.6% of all Warlock decks. Rest in Pepperonis my friend, you won’t be missed.
5. Pyroblast and Mind Control
As they were nerfed in much of the same way, the next cards on our list are Pyroblast and Mind Control.
Unknown to many Hearthstone players, Pyroblast has actually been changed twice. It was first changed in the Alpha patch of August 12, 2013, when the damage was changed from 9 to 10.
On January 16, 2014, it was changed to 10 mana vs the previous 8. 8 mana for a spell that could end the game at anytime was simply too much.
The card is now used in around 14% of mage decks but still holds a strong presence in arena as it’s chosen nearly 88% of the time. It’s also that card we still hate to face. At least now it’s balanced.
During the closed beta patch on December 10, 2013, Mind Control was changed from 8 mana to 10. While stealing minions with cards like Shadow Madness and Cabal Shadow Priest is still a big part of priest decks, Mind Control took some of the best that your opponent had to play and completely changed the tempo of the game.
It’s still used in just over 50% of priest decks and chosen 86% of the time in arena.
6. The Freeze Nerf
While the freeze mage is still a very viable deck it used to be unstoppable. During the closed beta patch of December 18, 2013, Blizzard changed three freeze related cards to all have 1 more mana cost; Blizzard, Cone of Cold, and Frost Nova.
- Frost Nova: 18% of mage decks/36.67% of Arena Pick
- Cone of Cold: 11% of mage decks/35% of Arena Pick
- Blizzard: 25% of mage decks/86.36% of Arena Pick
7. Nat Pagle
Fishing used to be a lot more common in Hearthstone. Nat Pagle, the famed fisherman, used to give you a 50% chance to draw a card at the end of your turn and regularly stuck around for a couple of rounds. With the card now reading at the start rather than end, it’s rarely used because if it’s removed it provides 0 value. It’s now used in less than 1% of all decks and picked essentially 0% of the time in arena. Rest in Pepperonis mate.
8. Tinkmaster Overspark
Another highly used legendary, before the March 2014 nerf, was Tinkmaster Overpark. Previously, you were able to choose which minion turned into a 5/5 devilsaur or 1/1 squirrel. The modern Tinkmaster Overspark is now a 3/3 and chooses a random minion to do the same effect.
The nerf basically destroyed the card, which is now used in less than 1% of all decks and chosen nearly 0% of the time in arena. This is one nerf that was probably overdone. In the future, we hope to see Tinkmaster’s prison sentence reduced.
One card to rule them all. Undertaker, a 1 mana cost card, changed the face of Hearthstone after its release through the Naxxramas adventure. It was played turn 1 and then opponents were forced to remove it or watch it grow while their opponent played deathrattle after deathrattle minion. Nearly every class tried to get this card into their decks. It’s been nerfed to now just give +1attack. It’s now used in just 3% of all decks. Rest in Pepperonis mate.
10. Warsong Commander
This card used to be known for the “One Turn Kill” or OTK in conjunction with molten giants and its ability to give all your summoned minions charge. Simply let your opponent get you down to low health, cast this along with 2 molten giant, and then use youthful brewmaster to cast another molten giant. Warsong Commander is now used in just 11% of warrior decks. Rest in pepperonis mate.
As of October 14, 2015:
Because of its excessive use with Grim Patron, Warsong Commander has been nerfed to read “Your Charge minions have +1 attack.” Further information on why Blizzard has made the change can be found on the forums.
11. Edwin VanCleef
In the closed beta, Edwin Vancleef was a 1/1 that had stealth. This allowed it to get superior value for a 3 cast cost card. It’s especially good with the low cast of many other rogue cards. Edwin VanCleef is still used in 18% of all rogue decks.
Easily combined with the low cast of many other rogue cards, he was commonly unstoppable in the early game.
12. Rogue Hero Power
While the Rogue Hero Power of 2 mana for a 1/2 weapon is already good, it used to be better and allowed you to stack +1 onto an equipped weapon. This made not only the hero power unbalanced when used with itself, but also when used with cards like Assassin’s Blade. As a side note, as you can see in the picture, Defias Ringleader also used to be a 2 3 minion and backstab could target an undamaged minion. This led Rogue to be an unmatched class at the time.
While the above is not listed in any particular order we appreciate your vote so we can modify this list as necessary. Don’t forget to comment below with your thoughts.