After many months of complaints about how frustrating it is to climb up Hearthstone’s ranked ladder each month, Blizzard has announced today that it will finally implement changes to the game’s ranked system to ease player pain.
Blizzard’s specific solution to this problem is something it’s calling “floors.” Beginning with update 7.1, players climbing the ranked ladders in either Standard or Wild mode will hit “floors” at ranks 15, 10 and 5. Upon hitting these floors, they will no longer be able to de-rank with losses for the remainder of the month.
In Hearthstone’s ranked modes, players begin at rank 25 and must achieve consecutive wins to work from that point all the way up to rank 1, but losses can de-rank you, stifling progress. If players achieve enough wins at rank 1, they’ll enter the vaunted Legend rank, at which point they’ll be able to see their actual place on the leaderboards compared to every other player who has hit Legend this season.
Those seasons in Hearthstone are only a month long, at which point placement on the ladder is reset. This reset is part of the reason many players have complained about how the game’s ladder system works. To this point, the only floors in the game are at rank 20 and Legend rank. Having to grind out enough wins and avoid enough losses to get Legend once can be exhausting; doing it every month is demoralizing and has led to many players sticking to aggressive decks that can get them wins as quickly as possible.
“We hope this promotes additional deck experimentation between ranks, and that any losses that may occur feel less punishing,” Blizzard said in its statement about the change.
In addition to the ranked ladder tweaks, update 7.1 will see balance changes to two of the most used cards in the game right now.
First up, the shaman card Spirit Claws will have its mana cost increased from one to two. Spirit Claws is a weapon that has a mere one attack, but that increases to three attack when a minion with spell damage is on the shaman’s side of the board. Since the card’s introduction in the One Night in Karazhan adventure, the shaman class has dominated the meta in part thanks to the powerful early game opportunities the weapon provides.
Another big change is coming to the Small-Time Buccaneer card. This one mana-cost minion will see its health reduced from two to one. The Buccaneer will keep its powerful card text, which adds two attack to the minion if the player controlling it has a weapon equipped, but the health reduction will make it easier to clear off the board.
Since debuting in December’s Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion, Small-Time Buccaneer has been a key part of the aggressive pirate decks that are ruling Hearthstone’s ranked ladder at the moment. Blizzard admits as much in the post, saying: “The combination of Small-Time Buccaneer and Patches the Pirate has been showing up too often in the meta.”
Blizzard says that both the ranked ladder changes and these two card updates will occur in update 7.1, which will hit the game “near the end of February.” You can read more about the developer’s struggles with pirate decks and other concerns about the state of the game in our recent interview with game director Ben Brode.