Just like most of the other products, before showing it to a wider audience, hearthstone was tested – mostly by the devs themselves, their families and friends. This period was called “Alpha” testing and it was over way before most of you have ever heard about the game – on August 16th, 2013 – when the game turned into the Closed Beta instead. Closed Beta was still hard to get into and there were still a lot of changes going on, but nothing as big as in Alpha.
The thing is – during the game designing period or the Alpha testing, there were a few cards in hearthstone that aren’t available to us right now. For different reasons – some of them were too strong, some of them allowed broken combos to exist, some of them they just didn’t like and the rest were remade into cards we all know right now. While in most cases the reasoning behind making and removing those cards were unknown, I’ll try to take a closer look at them and answer one important question – would the card be strong right now?
P.S. Some cards have very poor quality, because they’re taken out of some old videos or screenshots. Some of the cards were also remade using the existing tools in order to keep them up to date or increase their overall quality.
I’ll go through them alphabetically. But first of all, I want to bundle up together 3 cards here and 2 cards below that I won’t focus on for different reasons.
In pretty much every article or video about removed cards, there is a lot on focus on those three. But I won’t focus on them for one simple reason – they were just experimental cards. They were never meant to really get out of the testing period the way they look. Blizzard decided that since it’s a digital card game, it allows for some interesting mechanics to exist – stuff that would never work in the paper card game. So they’ve tried to explore it by making cards that would be impossible to pull off in let’s say Magic the Gathering.
Results were really interesting, but interesting is the only word I can use. Auto-Pecker and Worldflipper don’t really accomplish anything besides confusing the enemy. And Devouring Ooze is broken mechanic. It’s a card that would land in every deck after a losing streak. And sure, it would increase your chance to win the next game if it was a 6/6 or something, but imagine being on the receiving side. It’s just not fair, it would feel like cheating. It’s not your fault that enemy lost last X games and yet you have to deal with an overpowered minion. For those simple reasons, those ideas were threw into the trash.
One thing I’d like to mention, however, is that they should learn something from that. They used to test different ideas that wouldn’t be possible in paper card games. But they’ve decided to stick with probably the worst one – excessive amount of RNG. And they seem to forget that being digital card game means that they can adjust the card’s power level any time they want. Not only nerfing, which they do from time to time, but also buffing – which they haven’t done in a long while.
And those are the other cards I won’t focus on, because they basically exist in the game in different forms. Satyr was changed into Stranglethorn Tiger
But let’s get started with the other cards now. Some of which actually did make some sense and I’d like to see them again!
Even a 1 mana “draw a card” would make cut into most of the Rogue lists. A way to cycle through the deck to get closer into the Auctioneer / Leeroy combos / Malygos / N’Zoth / whatever the deck needs. A cheap way to activate combo cards, without even losing a card (because it would cycle). And insane synergy with Auctioneer himself.
But no, it wasn’t just a 1 mana “draw a card”. If you combo’d it, it would be a 1 mana Arcane Intellect
In the end, they did the right thing and replaced the card with Shiv
Remember how I’ve just talked about the old version of the Shiv? Yes, old Shiv was basically the same thing as the old Arcane Blast. In other words, insane. The current Arcane Blast
Oh, and not to mention that it would be pretty strong in Freeze Mage. Big part of playing Freeze Mage is cycling. And this card would be really good at it. You could often kill a 1-drop or finish something off after the AoE or just combo it with the ping to kill a 2 health minion and still draw a card out of it.
I think that in the early stages, Blizzard has underrated the card draw mechanics and made them too strong. Some of them still made it through, but they weren’t THAT strong and right now they’re balanced by the class they’re played in (Power Word: Shield
A bigger version of the Pint-Sized Summoner
And in the rare scenarios it would survive, it would boost the player’s tempo. I think that the card would be fine right now. I don’t even think it would be played that much. It seems like a fit into more tempo-oriented decks, but that would mean that you have to put a 5/3 for 5 in that kind of deck, which is a tempo loss, that only has the POTENTIAL upside (tempo gain) if it survives. So after thinking about it for a while, think the card would be only mediocre right now.
We had a stronger version of this card released recently in Druid – Addled Grizzly
Oh, and one keyword here – it’s whenever you PLAY a Beast, not SUMMON. It means that the card wouldn’t work with Unleash the Hounds
P.S. Savannah Highmane
I’m really glad that the card got changed, because it would be too strong in certain matchups. On the other hand, Control Warrior would be way weaker without Shield Slam
A pretty interesting card, but it would be way too strong in this form. It’s like the opposite of Bloodlust
I still think the idea behind the card is good – it’s strong, but situational. It promotes playing for the board – doing trades etc. instead of rushing face, which ultimately still gives enemy more time to find some answers. However, the numbers on the card would need to be tweaked to make it balanced.
Part of the infamous Rogue combo. To explain it best, I’d need to start with how the old Rogue’s Hero Power looked like. It used to not only give Rogue a 1/2 Dagger, but also have an option to add +1 Attack to the existing weapon instead. So back in the Alpha, Rogues used a strategy – stack weapon’s attack to 7-8, then play 2x Envenom and just kill the enemy with HUGE weapon. This lead to nerfing the Rogue’s Hero Power and changing this for Blade Flurry
But that was back in the Alpha. Would this card be still strong? I don’t think so. Rogue doesn’t have very strong weapons. Weapon buffs? Sure, but it’s still hard to make a big one. The best thing we could hope for right now would be playing Assassin’s Blade and buffing it with 2x Deadly Poison
I think it might be comparable to the current Malygos decks, but Malygos can also double-up as a board clear with Fan of Knives
That card is… pretty fine, actually. Priest has a lot of situational cards, but I like this one, because if unnecessary, it can still be cycled. Control Priest is the deck that floats so much mana, so spending 2 mana to cycle wouldn’t be terrible if you’d need to. And then, this might be a cool anti-Aggro card. Not terrific, because you’d still need board presence in the first place, but I could see it being used in something like Resurrect
I honestly think that people wouldn’t mind adding such a card to Priest in the future. It’s definitely not something Priest desperately needs right now, as the worst class in the game, but it might be okay in the future.
P.S. Shadow Word: Death
This card seems very specific and something that would fit more into Magic the Gathering than Hearthstone. The reason is that HS has no sideboard. You never want to play tech cards that are so incredibly specific that they work only against a small part of the decks. Because they would decrease your win rate overall instead of increasing it. This would be a great counter to Freeze Mage in something like Zoo, but you wouldn’t want to play it against any other deck. So it would see virtually zero ladder play, maybe some fringe tournament play to counter certain lineup.
Maybe they’ve realized that the card is too specific for Hearthstone. Maybe they’ve planned to add a sideboard to the game (at least to the tournaments), thus making cards like that more useful. Or maybe they’ve planned to make Freeze effect much more common than it is right now. At this point, we’ll probably never know.
Initially, Priest was supposed to be the class that can “interact” with opponent’s hand and deck. We’ll see another card like that down the line and we still have some some cards that remind us of that plan – Mind Vision
If they followed that idea – left those cards and printed some more, the Priest might have a Fatigue/Mill deck right now, which might actually be a cool thing.
This card is pretty strong nonetheless. With just 4 cards in the opponent’s hand, that would be 8 healing for 2 mana. It would go up to 20 healing vs 10 cards, but that’s nearly impossible. It’s a healing card that would be stronger in the slower matchups than in the faster ones, which might be counter-intuitive. But it would also be broken with Auchenai Soulpriest
It’s a cool idea, but it would be very hard to balance properly.
P.S. The card was changed into Holy Fire
On the first glance, the card seems extremely weak. And it is – it could as well say “this turn”, because at 1 health it means that enemy will kill it for free immediately. To get value out of this card, you’d need to immediately follow it with at least 5 other cards – because this card costs 4 mana and that would gain you 5 mana.
But the thing is, the card got removed, because it could be abused. Dropping 2x of those for 8 mana would mean that any card under 2 mana is free to cast. And so it means that you could use Youthful Brewmaster
That was most likely the reason why the card was first nerfed from 2 to 4 mana (it used to cost 2 at the start) and later removed. And it wasn’t even a well designed card in the first place.
P.S. The card was changed into the Far Sight
That’s the other Priest card I was talking about. This one, however, is significantly weaker than the last one. It has only one job – dealing damage to the opponent’s face. On average, it would be another Mind Blast
With Greater Heal being mostly superior and probably borderline broken, I don’t think that this card would see any play. I mean, Mind Blast
P.S. The card was replaced with Lightspawn
A bad card with unnecessary RNG element involved. It is good 25% of the time and it sucks 75% of the time, which is a great example of a terrible card design. So I’m glad that it didn’t get into the game in the end. It probably still wouldn’t be played, because 25% chance is too low, but it might lead to some outrageous scenarios of enemy dropping two of those early and cashing in on a lot value after some lucky rolls. In the end, Nat Pagle
Doesn’t that remind you of something? Yes, it is very, very similar to the current Warrior’s Bash
P.S. The card was replaced with Temple Enforcer
It seems like a very strong card, but it would probably be unplayable. Priest is NOT a board flood class. Such a card would be great in Zoo, Aggro Paladin or Token Druid (they have Power of the Wild
I remember how Murlocs were a dominating force in the early days, especially Murloc Warlock. It was one of the first strong and consistent Aggro decks. And I can’t imagine him having this card too. I mean, the deck has played Murloc Raider
So yeah, I understand the reason why it was removed. Murloc decks would be beyond broken in the early days with this card.
An interesting bonus I felt like showing you guys. Blizzard had a lot of struggle to balance the win rate between going first and going second. Avatar of the Coin was one of the ideas – instead of the Coin (Gain 1 mana this turn), you used to get a free Wisp
There were quite a few fun and interesting cards that were removed during the game’s Alpha. I feel like some could make a comeback right now and they wouldn’t be as broken or weird as they were be back in the day. And one thing I have learned from studying the removed cards is that Blizzard has always struggled with Priest’s identity. Is it interacting with opponent’s hand/deck? Is it healing? Is it dealing damage? Is it focusing on removals? Is it buffing minions? Is it powerful, but situational cards? It kinda shows right now – Priest class is that weird mish-mash of different ideas instead of focusing on some strong identity that nearly every other class has.
I didn’t play during the days where those cards were in the game (not many did, after all Alpha wasn’t something easy to access) so I can’t really know how strong they are and if that was the reason they were removed. But I did play pretty soon after, in the Closed Beta, so I can imagine a lot of those cards making a big fuzz in those days where only Basic + Classic cards were available to the players. I’d still like to see some of them making a comeback, because something that was broken back in Alpha might not be right now – people have learned how ot play the game, build the decks, counter stuff and we have much, much more cards that are high on the power level. What do you think?
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below. If you want to be up to date with my articles, you can follow me on Twitter.
Good luck on the ladder and until next time!