It’s been over a month since Hearthstone’s latest expansion, The Grand Tournament, was released. I think it’s safe to say the dust has settled enough at this point to be able to judge the expansion’s impact on the game. Unfortunately, Hearthstone’s Grand Tournament has been anything but grand for a massive 132 card expansion.
Prior to the expansion’s release, there were many players who were skeptical of the viability of TGT’s two new mechanics in Inspire and Joust. I took the dissenting view, believing that there was no way Blizzard would invest so heavily in these mechanics only to have them fall short, but it looks like I was wrong. More than a month out and no one is playing Inspire or Joust based decks, and to make matters worse, players are mostly playing the same decks we’ve seen forever now. Patron Warrior is still the most dominant deck and the only contributions to the meta that TGT has offered have come in the form of Secret Paladin and Dragon themed decks (mainly Priest). Aside from that, players are mostly tweaking older decks like Handlock and mid-range Druid with a couple of cards from the expansion.
Blizzard was simply too conservative in designing these new Inspire and Joust cards and now players will have to wait six months for a small infusion of new cards for another chance to shake things up. There’s really no reason that a deck like Grim Patron Warrior, which became popular all the way back in April, shouldn’t have been knocked down a peg with 132 new cards flooding into the game. Frankly, it’s embarrassing.
Tournament play is now boiling down to Grim Patron and decks that counter Grim Patron. Tuning in to a random tournament on Twitch, I can expect to find players playing Grim Patron Warrior, mid-range Druid, and Handlock. Sure, you’ll sometimes see some other things, but these decks make up the vast majority of the decks being played now. I don’t think Blizzard was aiming to put people to sleep at BlizzCon’s Hearthstone World Championship, but there’s a very real chance the tournament will end up being a snooze fest due to the insane level of stagnation in Hearthstone’s meta game. Blizzard needs to decide: either be proactive with nerfs and buffs to existing cards or be willing to design new cards aggressively enough to make an impact on the status quo.
On top of the disappointing overall impact of the new expansion, The Grand Tournament did a whole lot of nothing for Shaman, arguably the game’s worst class. TempoStorm’s latest Meta Snapshot features a healthy variety of Shaman deck archetypes, five to be precise, but guess what? They make up the entirety of Tier 4 (with the exception of Oil Rogue). Players have even joked about renaming Tier 4 to Tier Shaman. Yeah, it’s that bad. Shaman had some incredibly promising cards in TGT, but even with all the deck archetypes available to the class, it just can’t pull ahead. Why? Because the class is fundamentally flawed. The combination of RNG effects and Overload just don’t work.
I would argue Rogue is in a similar boat as Shaman, but at least the class manages to be viable in the meta when Oil Rogue works. Also, unlike Shaman, Rogue is a completely fixable situation. The issue is that Blizzard simply refuses to give the class the cards it needs. There are existing Rogue archetypes that could be improved, such as Tempo, Oil, and Mech Rogue. But instead, Blizzard has opted to continually push the Pirate archetype and more recently, control archetype, on the class.
The slow drip of cards towards enabling these new archetypes just isn’t working out and Rogue is instead left stagnating with only Oil Rogue to fall back on. If you want to make pirates or control happen, do it all at once. Cards like Beneath the Grounds and Anub’Arak could work in control Rogue, if control Rogue actually worked at all. Without a real way to drag things out into the late game without killing yourself in the process, Rogue just isn’t equipped to play this kind of deck right now. We’ve got some of the fun pieces, but not a viable overall control shell to put them in. Pirates are in the same boat. Each new expansion or adventure mode introduces new pirates, but they still don’t work. I imagine the pieces will all come together for pirates at some point like they did with dragons, but if Rogue is going to be the home for pirates and only has one remotely viable archetype, Blizzard could probably stand to speed things up here.
The worst part of the entire Shaman and Rogue situation is that it may be up to a year before we even have a chance at seeing these classes broadly improve in a meaningful way. Sure, we’ll see 30 or so new cards in the next adventure mode, but individual classes only receive a single new card in these adventure modes, so it will be up to new neutral cards to do all the heavy lifting. I simply don’t see new neutrals as being able to sort out issues for either Shaman or Rogue (aside from pirates) and waiting a whole year for the next full expansion just for another opportunity borders on insane to me. Team 5 can rely on new cards over buffs and nerfs to deal with meta decks (e.g. Patron), but they also need to re-evaluate their stance on these adjustments when it comes to classes that are in terrible spots overall.