So, something I’ve notice from many of the complaints around these forums is that people tend to complain that Hearthstone is going downhill because of “overpowered” or “broken” cards. While I disagree with the assertion that Hearthstone is dying or even particularly unhealthy at the moment, I can understand complaints regarding some of the particularly strong classes right now. However, I would posit that the problem isn’t that cards are overpowered at the moment. In fact, I think it’s been quite some time since Blizzard actually printed anything truly broken. The real problem is the incredible synergy among cards that have been printed that has made some of these decks fairly oppressive.
Let’s start with the deck that tends to attract the most complaints: Control Warrior. Usually, these complaints center around Dr. Boom, Mad Genius, who, as a hero card, people love to hate on because of his “infinite value.” Now, putting aside the fact that every starting hero power and most of the newly released quests offer some degree of infinite value, I’d say that Dr. Boom is a perfectly fair and flavorful card. He costs 7 mana for 7 armor and does nothing the turn he comes down. His hero power is randomized each turn, and the passive rush, while powerful, is limited to mechs. The fairness of the card was evident for a long time, when he saw little play for many months. However, he is now currently probably the most hated card in Hearthstone. The card itself didn’t change, so what else did?
What changed was the plethora of options released that directly benefit from Dr. Boom and/or the control warrior archetype. Perhaps the biggest offender is Omega Devastator, a card that made my jaw drop when it was first revealed. Yeti stats on a 4 drop that can also kill nearly anything if played on or after turn 10? Sign me up! However, there are obviously other insane additions as well: restless mummy is a great card that can be tutored up with Town Crier, which most warriors were already running to find Zilliax or Militia Commander, Frightened Flunky, which can find many powerful taunt cards, and the new 8 mana mech that essentially comes down as a 6/12 spread across 2 bodies. It can also be found from Omega Assembly, Delivery Drone, and Frightened Flunky. Notice a trend? All of these cards are fine on their own, but put together, there’s so much synergy that it’s hard for decks that don’t have the same level of power and redundancy to deal with it. Earlier, Dr. Boom decks had to either commit to mechs or run a small package (usually Dynomatic and Zilliax), and rely on Omega Assembly and Delivery Drone to find additional ways to take advantage of the passive Rush effect. Now, there are a ton of outstandingly powerful mechs or ways to find more mechs without sacrificing any strength or consistency in the deck.
That’s the problem. It’s not Hero cards, and certainly not Dr. Boom himself. It’s the level of synergy and consistency that the last year and a half of expansions have given to the control warrior archetype.
As a second example, let’s look at Conjurer’s Calling Mage decks, which are probably the second most hated decks in the game at the moment. Now, let’s look at the card itself: for 3 mana, you get to destroy a minion and replace it with 2 random minions of the same cost, and because it has twin spell, you get a second use out of it. That’s not particularly concerning on its own. If it’s used on an enemy minion, it gives them more resources, and in order to use it on a friendly minion, you have to already have a minion in play. That means you’re either ahead and already winning, or you’re only duplicating a relatively cheap and weak minion.
Except, that’s not how it’s worked out. 2 cards have made this possible: Luna’s Pocket Galaxy, and Mountain Giant. With these cards, you can cheat out enormous minions and immediately target them with CC, not giving your opponent a chance to respond. It turns CC from a fun, relatively fair card into an obscenely strong tool. Now, Phaoris can help boost the card as well, by creating a huge, difficult to remove board with some good, high cost options to target with CC in the likely case that your opponent is unable to remove everything.
So, the issue isn’t necessarily the power level of individual cards. I think that we’ve gone for a while without anything truly busted slipping through. The problem is that more cards that meld too well with other existing cards and strategies have been added. I think that the best thing to satisfy the player base would be to release cards that support new strategies and that can’t simply be dropped into existing archetypes. They’ve done this before to great effect, and I think that it should be the goal to continue with this in order to maintain a balance in the game without a need to change or rotate other (ultimately fair) cards.
TLDR: The cards in standard right now are individually fine and fairly balanced, but their synergies with other cards are what generate oppressive strategies; the solution is then to release cards that can’t be easily used by existing archetypes but which instead support entirely new decks.