Hearthstone’s ranked ladder always has a boogeyman. However, no card has been more maligned and picketed against than The Caverns Below, Rogue’s quest mechanic card from Hearthstone’s Journey to Un’Goro expansion. Blizzard has acknowledged the feedback, and finally responded with maybe the most unprecedented nerf in Hearthstone history.
From Patron Warrior and Secret Paladin, to Combo Druid and Midrange Shaman, Blizzard has made efforts in the past to correct their mistakes by issuing sometimes heavy-handed nerfs that often leave a card in a state of disrepair.
By nerfing The Caverns Below, which will now require playing five minions with the same name rather than four before triggering its incredibly powerful effect, Blizzard is making a firm statement that they want their game to be, above all else, fun. Quest Rogue came out of the gates sprinting on the Journey to Un’goro release day, and within hours popular streamer and Team Liquid player Dog had reached rank 1 on the North American ladder with a primitive version of the list.
As the metagame smoothed out, people figured out not only how to beat the deck, mostly through early pressure and a focus on board control, but also how to react to the quest card resolving. Due to this, Quest Rogue has been out of the top 15 list of ladder winrates for weeks, but it is still the most talked about archetype on social media. The reason for this is simple, Quest Rogue is the least fun deck to play against in the game’s history.
The issue with the deck is that it is a true, unabashed combo deck. It does not care what its opponent is doing, and only wants to do one thing: play four minions with the same name, and then play an endless stream of 5/5s until they either overrun their opponent or win the attrition war. Blizzard has taken a stance against “one turn kills” in the past, but Quest Rogue made it through testing due to not being a one turn kill, instead requiring several turns of setup.
Hearthstone has often been accused of being far too influenced by curves, in that players who have the ability to develop their board every turn and make optimal use of their mana often win regardless of play skill. With Quest Rogue, the play skill factor was minimized even further, with the game almost always coming down to whether or not the player playing Quest Rogue “had it” or not, regardless of the fact that they oftentimes simply didn’t.
Hearthstone streamer, caster, and former Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour winner Brian “Kibler” Kibler recently went viral on the Hearthstone subreddit, when a video from a recent stream of him reacting negatively to a loss to Quest Rogue hit the front page. In the video, he incredulously responds to a quick victory from his opponent before exclaiming, “I wonder why this card is getting nerfed?” sharing in a sentiment that a majority of the Hearthstone community has expressed since April.
While the utopia of a diverse, multi-archetype metagame might still be just over the horizon, this nerf will likely make laddering a whole lot more fun, and that’s a good place to start.