One of the most persistently annoying mechanics in Hearthstone is Taunt. When a minion has Taunt, you have to attack it—you can’t attack other minions or the enemy Hero. Usually, Taunt minions are not that difficult to deal with, as they typically have weaker stats than their Taunt-less counterparts.
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Sometimes, though, Blizzard decides to create Taunt cards that create multiple Taunt minions, and throughout the game’s history, those have been some of the strongest cards in the game. Naxxramas saw Sludge Belcher, which replaced itself with a smaller Taunt minion after dying. Kobolds and Catacombs saw Voidlord, which replaces itself with three smaller Taunt minions after dying.
Now, in the game’s Boomsday expansion, we’re forced to deal with a new Taunt-generating plague called Giggling Inventor, which generates a 2-attack 1-health minion and two 1-attack 2-health Taunt minions with Divine Shield—meaning you have to get through both the shields and the minions before you can attack anything else.
It’s the worst, and therefore it’s everywhere right now. According to the Hearthstone stat-tracking site HSReplay, Giggling Inventor can currently be found in 36 percent of all Hearthstone decks. Decks that use it boast an average 54 percent win rate. Apparently, 1.9 percent of all cards played are now Giggling Inventors.
If you’re playing an aggressive deck against a Giggling Inventor, it will stop you dead in your tracks, sometimes for more than one turn. If you’re playing a slower, more control-style deck against it, you might find yourself in trouble when the enemy buffs any of the three minions this card produces. The fact that the two Taunt minions produced by Giggling Inventor are called “Annoy-o-tron” is no coincidence; these little bastards are unbelievably annoying to deal with, and turn five has become a definitive turning point in aggro-versus-control matchups that hinge on whether or not this card is played.
Of course, Blizzard knew this card would be strong, and we know this because we talked with Lead Balance Designer Dean Ayala two days before the Boomsday expansion dropped.
“I think that cards like Giggling Inventor are kinda sleeper-y,” Ayala told me at a pre-expansion promotional event. “When Giggling Inventor becomes very very prevalent, which I believe that it will, I would assume that Mossy Horror will become more prevalent to deal with that.”
Mossy Horror is a card that destroys minions with 2 or less attack, like the ones generated by Inventor. On August 6th, the day before Boomsday dropped, Mossy Horror could be found in approximately 2.31 percent of all decks. As of yesterday, August 30th, it’s now in 13.19 percent of decks, which is huge when you consider that Mossy Horror’s most important purpose is to deal with Giggling Inventor. The same thing happened with Blood Knight, a card that counters Giggling Inventor by removing the Divine Shields on the Taunt minions. Before Boomsday it sat at a 0.13 percent play rate, and it can now be found in 13 percent of all decks.
You know a card is strong when other decks start making adjustments just to deal with it, but it’s difficult to know whether that means it’s too strong. The card’s win rates are way above average but don’t top the list. And while Inventor is certainly annoying to deal with, it often presents more of a hurdle than a brick wall. One exception is when this card is run in Quest Rogue, a deck that gives all its minions 4 attack and 4 health after meeting certain conditions. In that deck, Giggling Inventor becomes an instant board swing that pro players like Paul “Zalae” Nemeth thinks should receive a nerf as soon as possible.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: just because a card or mechanic is balanced doesn’t mean it’s fun, and I’m of the firm belief that multi-taunt generators like Giggling Inventor typically tend to lean toward the “unfun” side of things, especially when they become this prevalent in the metagame. Feel free to disagree with me on that, but for now, catch me running Mossy Horror in pretty much every single deck where it makes sense.