Ever since Hearthstone's Blackrock Mountain adventure add-on released earlier this year, there's a single deck that has completely dominated the game: the Grim Patron warrior. Today, Blizzard announced a major change that should significantly diminish patron warriors, if not knocking them out of the game altogether.
What's the problem?
Here's how it works: Grim Patron is a card that costs five mana to play but only has three attack and three health. However, it also has some very special card text: "Whenever this minion survives damage, summon another Grim Patron." Coupled with the warrior class' many spells or abilities that do one damage to all minions on the board, it's possible to have an endlessly respawning army of Grim Patrons.
There's a trick, though. See, Grim Patron is not actually the problem card of the Grim Patron deck. That goes to Warsong Commander, a three-mana cost card that reads "Whenever you summon a minion with 3 or less attack, give it Charge." Charge allows a minion to attack the same turn it's summoned, so suddenly that army full of Grim Patrons can attack all at once without the warrior's opponent getting a chance to react.
Even worse, the Warsong Commander can be paired up with Frothing Berserker, a warrior minion that gains one attack power every time a minion on board is injured. Warriors have used combinations of Warsong Commander, Grim Patron and Frothing Berserker to do absurd amounts of damage in a single turn, ending games immediately.
What's the fix?
Blizzard has identified Warsong Commander as the biggest problem in this whole combo and have come up with a huge change to shake things up, as announced in a post on the Hearthstone forums. In an upcoming patch, Warsong Commander's text will be changed to read: "Your Charge minions have +1 attack."
Warsong Commander will no longer grant the charge ability to minions; it will simply buff minions who already have charge. It's a pretty drastic change that will likely make the card (and the Grim Patron deck, as it's currently set up) unplayable in serious ranked play.
"Over the course of the short but impactful history of Hearthstone, we've taken a strong stance that we'd like to make changes to cards only when they are completely necessary," reads the forum post from Blizzard community manager Zeriyah. The post goes on to explain that the developer prefers shaking the game up by introducing new cards rather than hurting cards that are already in the game.
"In the case of Warsong Commander, we felt this change was necessary to help expand both the future design space and to stand by our overarching game philosophy that battles between minions and fighting for board control is what makes Hearthstone fun and compelling," the post concludes.
Was this the right choice?
Let me be clear: I completely hate the Grim Patron warrior deck. It's not that it doesn't take skill to play; it absolutely does. The problem comes in that when you play against a Grim Patron deck, it's no longer a game between you and your opponent. The question is simply can your opponent make the right, smart moves at the right times. There's very little, if anything, that you can do to stop them. All you can do is hope and pray that they screw up.
In that sense, I completely support any change that knocks this awful, un-fun deck out of the current metagame. Warriors also have a number of other strong, competitive deck options, so it's not like this change will completely screw over the class as a whole.
On the other hand, there is something disappointing in that the only solution Blizzard could find was to completely ruin a card. Maybe there will be some further stat changes to Warsong Commander lowering its mana cost or increasing its health or attack power. But as of right now, a three-cost minion whose only bonus is a buff to minions with charge ... just isn't good enough.
As one friend pointed out to me on Twitter, look at Raid Leader. This is a three-cost card as well, with just one health less than Warsong Commander, but it gives its plus-one attack buff to every minion. It's hard not to see Warsong Commander as anything but a strictly worse Raid Leader. And Raid Leader is not a card that gets played.
One of the bonuses of Hearthstone being a digital rather than physical card game is that Blizzard has the ability to step in and make changes when there's one deck absolutely destroying everything else that's out there. That's been the case with Grim Patron warrior for too long, so I'm glad we're finally getting this change. Let's just have a moment of silence for Warsong Commander, the once-most frustrating card in Hearthstone which will never see serious play again.