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Hearthstone’s Balance Changes: Yogg-Saron Was Too Beautiful for This World

Why Blizzard’s joke character was a little too powerful for its own good. Plus: The complete list of today’s balance changes.

Yogg-Saron was never supposed to be anything more than a joke character. But when Hearthstone’s latest round of balance changes dropped earlier today, the legendary card introduced in Whispers of the Old Gods was front and center.

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“This is the most controversial card we’ve ever made,” Blizzard wrote last week. “Some people LOVE Yogg, and others hate it.”

How did Yogg get to this point? Simple: It was really, really good. So good that it was routinely appearing in dominant competitive decks. If the going got tough, players could “Pray to Yogg” as they would put it, and Yogg would usually deliver.

Obviously, this was not what Blizzard envisioned when they created Yogg-Saron. Yogg was conceived as the ultimate roll of the dice: A 10-mana monster who would randomly cast one spell for each spell its player had used to that point. It wasn’t supposed to be reliable enough to be a serious threat.

But competitive players pretty quickly decided that Yogg’s considerable benefits outweighed its equally considerable drawbacks. While completely random—Yogg would often kill itself in addition to whatever it was attacking—it had the power to completely flip the board. It soon became the ultimate trump card: A legend who could single-handedly turn a losing position into a winning one by clearing the board, buffing your minions, and refilling your hand. True, it could also put a fireball in your face; but when you were losing anyway, it was worth the risk.

Those who loved it were deeply amused by all the ways that it could save or utterly screw its player. Those who hated it despised it for the same reasons. For the latter camp, it was emblematic of everything they felt was wrong with Hearthstone: Too strong, too random, and too much of an automatic win button. It reduced skill and made high-level matches a flip of the coin.

Blizzard ultimately agreed. When they released their list of balance changes—which also included some considerable Shaman nerfs—they announced that Yogg’s spell casting would end if it killed itself in the process, rendering an already unreliable character pretty much unusable in the competitive game.

“We felt like seeing Yogg in tournaments was not where we originally hoped it would end up. Yogg should be for players who want to have a lot of fun, but maybe not the card you see frequently in high-level tournaments,” Blizzard wrote. They continued, “We tried a bunch of things and we think this is a significant enough nerf that it could reduce the amount it gets seen (especially in tournaments), while still maintaining the dream for people who love the card.”

So ends Yogg-Saron’s brief but amusing run at the top of Hearthstone’s competitive metagame. Soon enough it will be remembered alongside the Undertaker and the Grim Patron deck as a curiosity from Hearthstone’s past.

But man, what a ride. Rest in peace, Yogg. We’ll miss you.

Here are the rest of the changes in this latest patch: 

  • Call of the Wild now costs 9 mana, up from 8 mana.
  • Execute now costs 2 mana, up from 1 mana.
  • Rockbiter Weapon now costs 2 mana, up from 1 mana.
  • Tuskarr Totemic now reads “Battlecry: Summon a random basic Totem.”
  • Abusive Sergeant now has 1 Attack, down from 2.
  • Charge now costs 1 mana, down from 3, and reads “Give a friendly minion Charge. It can’t attack heroes this turn.”
  • Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End now stops casting spells when it leaves the battlefield or is silenced.
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