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Hearthstone director Ben Brode talks about Shamans, balance and the current meta

Hearthstone Shaman

In a lengthy post over on the official Hearthstone forums, game director Ben Brode has offered up some findings and statistics gathered by the Hearthstone team, relating to the current state of the game’s meta. Looking at especially at Shaman and Pirate Warrior, the team have collated data relating to their relative power within the history of Hearthstone.

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The first major stat Brode cites is that at Legend, “30% of players are piloting Shaman” with “17% of [all] players playing Shaman.” Warriors that run the Pirate combo of Small-Time Buccaneer and Patches the Pirate currently make up “50% of all decks at rank 5 and above,” marking out these two classes as potential overcentralising decks. Compared to Hunter during the time of Undertaker Hunter, “35% of players across all ranks” were playing that class, with a highest win rate of around 60%.

With that in mind, Brode states that the average win rate of the current best deck in Hearthstone is around 53%, making it the “worst ‘best deck’ in Hearthstone’s history.” So, while decks like Pirate Warrior and Aggro Shaman are some of the most played, they have some of the worst win rates compared to other decks which have potentially over-centralised Hearthstone’s meta. Moreover, “Pirate Warrior hit peaks of 30%, but [has] shrank to as low as [a] 10%” win rate since the release of Gadgetzan, showing a meta which is still in the process of adapting to certain powerful options.

According to Brode, “Aggro Shaman is one of our highest win-rate decks, but [it] has a 35% win rate vs Control Warrior decks that are tuned to beat them.” So, while 30% of Legend players are using Shaman, there is still a significant amount of counter play to deal with that class, let alone a specific Shaman variant. Rather than simply nerfing a deck that is popular, the Hearthstone team want to allow clever players time to postulate on a meta shift before it happens, rather than stepping in with a series of card nerfs to force a non-stagnant meta change.

Moreover, sometimes it isn’t right for Blizzard to instantly nerf something, as they may have their own planned balance patch or content update coming that may fix a problem they already know about. Blizzard are currently working on a system to “stream balance adjustments (and other content) directly to players’ devices” but seeing as that isn’t quite ready, a whole balance patch is required to change a single problematic card.

Brode did finish by stating that a balance patch is “planned for around the end of this month” and Blizzard are hoping to share details on what will be changing in the week leading up to that patch release. While sharing these stats does enlighten fans on Blizzard’s balance process, there is the hope that they will do something to at least adjust decks like Pirate Warrior to be a little less polarising.