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If you have seen any of the Hearthstone community lately, it’s mostly filled with discussion about either the strength of Shaman or the weakness of Priest. Many consider Shaman to be not necessarily overpowered, but extremely effective in the Meta right now. On the contrary, Priest is not in good shape, as they have had a lot of their win conditions and overall deck archetypes removed since the release of Standard Format (if you haven’t read my previous article about what is wrong with Priest, you can find it here).
Before I get started here, I want to say that I do not, at all, agree with Blizzard’s ‘spotlight balance’ method. I think it makes too much of their game, which includes only 9 classes, virtually unplayable.
Anyways, let’s get started.
The highest we saw Priest in the tier list since the Old Gods release was tier 2, with N’Zoth Priest. Since then, it and any other variation of Priest that caught on during the Year of the Kraken have been tier 3 and below. This is unfortunate for someone like me, who primarily plays late game control decks, as I feel that their mirror matches are true displays or skill. That fact aside, my point is that Priest in general is in a very, very poor place in the Meta.
Let’s look back to before the Old Gods expansion, or the Year of the Kraken. If anyone remembers, Shaman was in just as poor of a place as Priest is now. It was almost a joke. The best thing we had was Mech Shaman, an aggro variation that went for high – risk, high – reward scenarios. Overall, it really wasn’t bad, many just deemed it too RNG based and left it at that. Any attempt at control or late game variations of Shaman were just as bad as people trying to run Aggro Priest – it just gets the spotlight stolen from it due to the fact that other classes simply have better variations of that deck. Unless something crazy happens, Face Hunter will almost always outperform Aggro Priest.
When the Old Gods came around, suddenly it was like Shaman turned up a new leaf. Rocketing to top tier in a matter of days, maybe even hours, the community initially met it with relief. Thank goodness! Shaman is finally playable again, and reliably so at that! Blizzard’s balance team were exchanging high fives at the sight of that. It took us a while to realize that they killed Priest beyond belief in the process.
It is certainly almost a guarantee, however, that many will, at least for a period of time, see one class as the best. This is inevitable in a competitive community. However, Blizzard is taking a different approach on it, and I like to refer to this as the Spotlight Balance.
The concept is simple – take a class that is suffering from strengths of another class (such as Paladin – Secret Paladin was considered one of if not the strongest deck in the game), and give it enormous power spikes in its gameplay. In doing so, class balance is shuffled, and the one that ends up at the bottom is the most likely to be buffed all over again. This, at least in my opinion, is not how Balance should work. Some classes will be seen as the best, but that doesn’t mean that some have to be virtually unplayable in the same Meta.