Thoughts on Standard: Renathal
Today is the day that standard changes will be locked in and we'll see changes a week from now. I've thought about the meta more, and while I don't expect this to reach anyone who can make changes in time, I wanted to share my thoughts regardless.
Renthal. It's Renathal's world and we're just all living in it. Renathal is what is driving the Standard metagame right now. Before I criticize, I want to say I love Renthal as he encourages more card choice diversity between deck archetypes and playing a larger deck can be more fun because you have more room to include all your favorite cards. However, this card has had unintended consequences in the meta. Scaling cards like Guff and Magister suddenly become insane when you have 40 life, because you have so much more time to start scaling. Before Renathal, these card's power level was offset by the fact that games ended faster when you start at 30 life. Reaching 20 mana crystals or 8 damage hero power was a little more difficult and less consequential when there ways to kill your opponent faster.
What this means is that something needs to change. We either continue to live in a post Renathal world where scaling cards triumph over others, or we need to make Renathal less powerful so these scaling cards don't make a bigger difference. Either way, this is the first decision that needs to be made, because all other card changes will follow suit. For example, if we nerf Renathal, touching Guff and Magister and Sire is less relevant, but if we keep Renathal the same, then we need to nerf these scaling cards. I highlight Guff, Magister, and Sire because these are the outliers. Other heroes like Rokara and Cariel are powerful as well but don't necessarily end the game and there is more counterplea. I can Mutanus or Theo a buffed Smite in hand for example, but I can't stop my opponent from reaching 8 damage hero power or 20 mana crystals or killing me with a 30 damage Sire. Unless we're talking about Theo of course.
Theo which was probably originally meant to be a catch all solution for these problematic cards have now turned gameplay even more sour as its role is now just a way to high roll a way to end the game by stealing our opponent's win condition. But is Theo really the problem, or is it the fact that so many of our decks revolve around drawing our one powerful scaling card that if it's gets stolen, our deck no longer functions? I think it's the latter. In order to really solve this, we need to again either nerf Renathal so these slow scaling cards don't matter as much or we nerf the scaling cards so that we're forced to build decks that don't entirely revolve around drawing Guff/Magister.
This is where things get messy and why nerfing Renathal may be the more simplistic solution. If we just nerf Renathal, then tempo and aggro decks might start pushing these slower decks out of the meta, and we return to a more normal version of Hearthstone that we're used to. IF we keep Renathal, we need to learn how to live with him. How do we create a meta where decks don't revolve around their scaling card? If Guff or Magister or Sire can't hard carry a game anymore, then do these decks need to find alternate win conditions like Kazakusan? Then what if the meta starts devolving into Steam Cleaner/Kazakusan/what do you steal with Theo? As you can see things start to get more and more messy the more we dive into a post Renathal world.
As much as I don't want Renathal nerfed, I think it's the easiest change that will have the best consequence on the game. If we choose to keep Renathal unnerfed, then I don't think it's necessarily up to the balance team to keep things fresh, because we can buff and nerf cards all day long, but until we give decks the tools to win with cards other than their scaling cards, we're still going to be in trouble.
One solution to that may be we should add more scaling cards to the game. Cards that are weaker than Magister/Guff but can role-play a smaller scale version of what these cards try to do so that you can build meaningful incremental advantage. This is sort of what locations do, but aside from the DH location, none of them really build towards something bigger. This is why I said leaving Renathal unnerfed is more to be addressed in new sets than by balance team.
From the interview with Aleco, it seems that we're going to keep Renathal around. This means we either need to nerf Guff/Magister type cards into the ground (like very harsh nerfs), or we need to give more tools in future sets that will make it so you can win without drawing either of these two cards. Thanks for reading.