Small-Time Buccaneer artwork from Hearthstone

If you haven't been paying attention to Hearthstone the past few weeks, all you need to really know is that the game is currently in a terrible state as far as balance is concerned. According to Ben Brode himself 50% of all ranked decks use the incredibly aggressive pirate package, while around 40% of all Legend players are piloting Shaman decks! Things have gotten stale in Hearthstone before, but I'm pretty sure this is the first time the game has ever become this homogenized.

Thankfully, there is hope on the horizon as Blizzard has announced some much needed nerfs to Small-Time Bucaaneer and Spirit Claws, two cards that are in pretty much every deck that can run them. And as an additional bonus, they have also announced that they will soon implement stop-gaps on ranks 15, 10, and 5, so once you reach them you will not be able to drop below them for that season. If you're interested in all of the details, you'll find the brief announcement post down below:

Update 7.1 Ranked Play Changes – Floors

We’re continuously looking for ways to refine the Ranked Play experience. One thing we can do immediately to help the Ranked Play experience is to make the overall climb from rank to rank feel like more an accomplishment once you hit a certain milestone. In order to promote deck experimentation and reduce some of the feelings of ladder anxiety some players may face, we’re introducing additional Ranked Play floors.

Once a player hits Rank 15, 10, or 5, they will no longer be able to de-rank past that rank once it is achieved within a season, similar to the existing floors at Rank 20 and Legend. For example, when a player achieves Rank 15, regardless of how many losses a player accumulates within the season, that player will not de-rank back to 16. We hope this promotes additional deck experimentation between ranks, and that any losses that may occur feel less punishing.

Update 7.1 Balance Changes

With the upcoming update, we will be making balance changes to the following two cards: Small-Time Buccaneer and Spirit Claws.

Small-Time Buccaneer now has 1 Health (Down from 2)

The combination of Small Time Buccaneer and Patches the Pirate has been showing up too often in the meta. Weapon-utilizing classes have been heavily utilizing this combination of cards, especially Shaman, and we’d like to see more diversity in the meta overall. Small Time Buccaneer’s Health will be reduced to 1 to make it easier for additional classes to remove from the board.

Spirit Claws now costs 2 Mana (Up from 1)

Spirit Claws has been a notably powerful Shaman weapon. At one mana, Spirit Claws has been able to capitalize on cards such as Bloodmage Thalnos or the Shaman Hero power to provide extremely efficient minion removal on curve. Increasing its mana by one will slow down Spirit Claws’ ability to curve out as efficiently.

These changes will occur in an upcoming update near the end of February. We’ll see you in the Tavern!

While these changes will not affect the rampant popularity of Shaman decks, it is a step in the right direction as far as diversity goes. My only worry is that this might make Jade or Reno decks overly powerful as aggro was the one thing keeping them in check, but then again in Hearthstone aggro decks don't stay dead for very long. Sooner or later someone will reinvent aggro Shaman and we'll be back into some sort of equilibrium, hopefully with some more interesting gameplay styles this time around.