Silence is one of the core mechanics used in Hearthstone. It was implemented with the launch of the game. It removes all abilities and stat changes of a card, leaving them with their basic stats. The game launched with six instances of Silence, two of which were neutral. Since then they’ve launched very few new cards with Silence have been introduced. In fact, Blizzard have nerfed two of the existing cards. This has left the game in a state where abilities are very strong, especially Deathrattle. Where has our beloved Silence gone?
The Great Silence Drought
Silence was only on a few key playable minions, namely Ironbeak Owl, for a long time. However, the mechanic was so important that nearly every deck ran Owl. Blizzard has a real issue with cards that are auto-include, and Owl had become this. Its ability was simply too strong for its cost, so they nerfed it. At the same time they also nerfed Keeper of the Grove, the other very playable Silence minion. The cards were overstated for their abilities, fine. The problem is that they didn’t add new silences.
Since the release of Hearthstone, only three cards with the keyword Silence have been printed. Light’s Champion, which only works on Demons. Wailing Soul which only works on your own minions, and now Purify with the same issue. This means that in terms of silencing enemy minions, it is harder to do it now than at launch. There are no new options, and two of the six original options have been nerfed.
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The big problem is that Hearthstone works within very binary statlines. A card is good if its stats add up to its mana cost doubled, plus one. So a two mana card is good if it has five stats, three mana is good at seven, etc. This does not leave a lot of wiggle room in terms of creativity, so they had to turn to abilities. Nowadays almost every playable minion has an ability of some sort. In this style of game, it is extremely powerful to simply remove a minions ability entirely. However, for most minions, being silenced by a two mana 2/1 Owl is very fair.
The big problem is cards like Tirion and Sylvanas. Their abilities are a large part of their existence, silencing them is a huge swing. Far more than two mana should warrant. Which creates a problem, where Owl is balanced on low mana minions, but too strong on high mana minions. Rather than attempt to balance out this in some way, Blizzard decided it would be better to remove Silence entirely. Unfortunately this makes cards like Tirion, who are worth around thirteen mana, extremely overpowered.
I think the solution would be something that many other card games have implemented. Non-static mana costs. Hearthstone in the past has been very committed to mana costs remaining the same no matter what. However, with the recent sets they added Forbidden cards, which simply take up your remaining mana. I propose another similar change.
Rather than have Ironbeak Owl at three mana, I believe it should stay at two, with a caveat. If the target is over five mana, then Owl costs an additional two mana. This would allow it to be extremely useful against early game minions like Kindly Grandmother, while still being useful against Tirion and Sylvanas. The design certainly isn’t perfect, but it’s far better than removing Silence from the game entirely!