Blizzard nerfs Pyroblast and tweaks nine other Hearthstone cards

UPDATE: New patch out now, containing "last big set of balance changes" before open beta.

UPDATE 2: As those of you playing Hearthstone may have observed, the patch implementing the card changes promised below is now available, so it's time to boot out all those Novice Engineers and make tricky decisions about your Dark Iron Dwarfs and Defenders of Argus. The patch was around 5MB, I think.

It's also brought with it a few new issues, which are being rounded up on the official forum. The main new ones seem to be slowness operating the card collection pages and the occasional issue cancelling quests and receiving new ones, although anecdotally I didn't experience either of these when I played a few games just now.

The patch also seems to have hidden charms, too. For example, I noticed that the matchmaking process now shows you how long the average wait is for a game and how long you've waited so far. Has anyone spotted anything else?

UPDATE: Following the card changes announcement, Blizzard community manager Zeriyah tweeted to say the team was "shooting for sometime this week" with the patch that will introduce them.

Elsewhere, senior game designer Ben Brode tweeted that the minion-swapping, card overlap and hovering minion bugs wouldn't be dealt with in the same update. "No, that's next patch," he said.

This is just speculation on my part, but I would say Hearthstone is unlikely to go into open beta before those issues are confirmed resolved.

ORIGINAL STORY: Blizzard has announced a bunch of changes to cards in Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft as the game closes in on open beta.

The cards that will be impacted by an imminent patch are Unleash the Hounds, Sylvanas Windrunner, Blood Imp, Defender of Argus, Pyroblast, Dark Iron Dwarf, Abusive Sergeant, Warsong Commander, Charge (the card, not the keyword) and Novice Engineer.

"Thank you so much for continuing to play, test, and give feedback on Hearthstone as the closed beta testing phase begins to draw to a close," community manager Zeriyah wrote on the official forum.

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I can't believe they haven't nerfed this guy. He's so OP.

"We are monitoring card balance over time, and without your continued testing efforts, we wouldn't have the necessary data we need in order to make changes to cards that may warrant them.

"This should be our last big set of balance changes; once we go live, we plan to make very few card changes, and only if they are absolutely necessary."

Blizzard has yet to say exactly when Hearthstone will go into open beta. The open beta was originally scheduled before Christmas but was then delayed to add extra polish and squash a few remaining bugs.

In the meantime, closed beta players will now have to get to grips with more card changes that nerf common constructed decks used by mages and warlocks, among others.

Here is the full list of changes, along with Blizzard's notes on the thinking behind each:

Unleash the Hounds' mana cost is now 2 (down from 4)
"Unleash the Hounds was intended to give Hunters their own form of AoE and to have synergy with other beast cards, but its old cost was too prohibitive."

Pyroblast's mana cost is now 10 (up from 8)
"The 8-cost Pyroblast made for an un-interactive experience where the Mage only needed to do 10 damage during the course of a game and then double Pyroblast you for the win. We want Mages to be more interactive with the opponent to achieve victory, rather than delay the game until they can Pyroblast."

Blood Imp is now a 0/1 and now reads: "Stealth. At the end of your turn, give another random friendly minion +1 Health."
"The Warlock has three very strong 1-cost minions and that made the Warlock rush deck slightly stronger than we were comfortable with."

Warsong Commander has been reworked and now reads: "Whenever you play a minion with 3 or less Attack, give it Charge."

Charge (the spell, not the keyword) has been reworked and now costs 3 mana. The card's new power reads: "Give a friendly minion +2 Attack and Charge."
"Both of these cards were key components in 'One Turn Kill' or 'OTK' decks that kill your opponent in one turn without requiring any cards on the board. We want the game to be about playing minions and fighting for board control rather than just waiting until you can play your big combo and win in one turn with no interaction from your opponent."

Abusive Sergeant now reads: "Battlecry: Give a minion +2 Attack until end of turn."
"Abusive Sergeant was changed to make its power the same as the Dark Iron Dwarf and to give it additional versatility."

Dark Iron Dwarf's buff now only lasts until the end of the turn.
"This change was made to reduce the Dark Iron Dwarf's overall power slightly. We also wanted to make the Battlecry effect the same as Abusive Sergeant's as to not force you to permanently buff one of your opponent's creatures."

Defender of Argus is now a 2/3 (down from 3/3)
"Defender of Argus was a card that found itself automatically included in many decks due to its power and stats. We want players to have an option of what cards they put in their decks, so cards that feel like they must be in all decks (especially Neutral ones) are not ideal."

Novice Engineer is now a 1/1 (down from 1/2)
"The Novice Engineer was played in most non-rush decks (and even some rush decks) due to its cost and power. Similar in reasoning to our Defender of Argus change, we want players to have an option of what cards they put in their decks."

Sylvanas Windrunner's mana cost is now 6 (up from 5)
"Sylvanas had power and stats that made it a bit too powerful compared to other 5-cost cards, which made it automatically included in many decks. We want players to have an option of what cards they put in their decks, so cards that feel like they must be in all decks (especially Neutral ones) are not ideal."

Blizzard said it hoped these changes would "increase the variety of cards you will see at all levels of play" and confirmed that, as with previous updates to card values, it will be possible to disenchant expert cards affected by the changes at their original cost for a limited time after the patch.

If you're playing Hearthstone, what do you make of the changes? Me, I'll be glad to see the back of turn-eight Pyroblast finishers and hopefully the Blood Imp change will neuter those warlock murloc rush decks that keep kicking me back out of rank 14. It will also be interesting to see if hunter feels stronger now that Unleash the Hounds - the one card in this selection that seems to be receiving a boost - is a bit more potent again.

If you're not playing Hearthstone, incidentally, first of all well done on making it this far. Second, if you're a regular Eurogamer reader and want to play, drop me a direct message. I might have a couple of keys left...

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