If you’ve been laddering on Hearthstone for any amount of time in the last 6 months, coming across a hunter deck is a very common occurrence. Nearly 100% of the time that hunter deck is going to be aggro and will be running Undertaker in the deck.
If the Hunter gets out an early Undertaker turn 1, or worse, gets a coin and an Undertaker with another 1 drop with death rattle you know immediately that your chances of winning this battle are pretty slim unless you have something to deal with that card. Unfortunately, short of running an Ironbeak Owl in your deck there are only a handful of classes that can deal with that opening. Mage with Frostbolt, Druid with Wrath, Warrior with Fiery War Axe, and Rogue with Backstab + Hero power. Now, there are other possibilities, but once you start putting cards in your deck specifically to defeat one card that one class runs, then you know there’s a problem specifically with that card.
So why is Undertaker such a powerful card to begin with? It’s a one drop and it synergizes well with death rattle since it’s ability gives it +1/+1 anytime you play a minion with death rattle. This was a bit of a problem with Curse of Naxxramas since more cards got death rattle. However, many were hoping with Goblins vs. Gnomes that the damage could be mitigated some and Blizzard would introduce some new cards to deal with Undertaker. What happened though is the complete opposite, since Goblins vs. Gnomes Undertaker has become even more powerful now that he has Clockwork Gnome at his disposable giving Hunters another 1 drop death rattle. Most hunters are now running 2x Undertaker, 2x Webspinner, 2x Leper Gnome, and 2x Clockwork Gnome in their decks. On turn 2 they are dropping 2x Haunted Creeper, 2x Mad Scientist, and 1 to sometimes 2x Loot Hoarder. It’s entirely possible that turn 2 you have a 3/4 Undertaker with 2 other minions and turn 3 you’ve already lost the game, especially if he’s able to kill your 2 drop with Mad Scientist and now has a Freezing Trap to protect him.
The entire strategy of the Huntertaker deck is to aggressively mulligan for Undertaker and if you’re going second try and get Undertaker paired up with another 1 drop. If a hunter can do that and the other player has no answer, the chances are extremely high in the hunter’s favor as he can constantly apply pressure and then in the late game drop down Savannah Highmane and then Kill Command and Hero Power his way to victory.
The problem with Undertaker is simple. For a 1 drop it poses way too much pressure for the opponent early game and by turn 2 or 3 nearly become impossible to deal, and even if you can deal with it at that point, it’s too late unless you have a deck specifically geared to take on this deck which you’ll have trouble laddering against other classes with.
So let’s take a look at some of the cards Blizzard has nerfed in the past.
Defias Ringleader used to be the best 1 drop in the game with the coin. Drop the coin and you get a 2/3 and a 2/1. That was deemed too powerful and now he’s a 2/2. Blizzard nerfed this card because like Undertaker, it applied too much pressure early game and it was difficult to deal with a 2/3 on turn 1 while also having a 2/1 to deal with. And this card is a 2 mana cost card that only worked well if you went 2nd with the coin!
Nat Pagle used to give you a 50% chance of drawing a card at the end of your turn. He was nerfed so it only gave you the card at the beginning of your turn so you didn’t get the advantage when you played him (virtually making him unplayable). Nat Pagle is another 2 drop (that you would sometimes use the coin with to drop turn 1) that Blizzard thought was too powerful. He gave card advantage early on (sometimes) but he didn’t apply pressure the way Undertaker does.
Micro Machine is a good example of what needs to happen with Undertaker. He’s a 2 drop but will sit there and increase in attack each turn but his health stays the same. Micro Machine is a fun card when you can get him to work and he’s not terribly difficult to get to work. However, he’s not terribly difficult for the opponent to deal with either since his health stays at 2.
One of the solutions is to make Undertaker a 2 drop instead of a 1 drop, however, I don’t think that is completely necessary as that will make Micro Machine a better card since Undertaker needs other cards to activate it’s ability.
I think the sweet spot for Undertaker is to keep him as a 1 drop but make him a 1/3 instead of a 1/2. The kicker will be make him like Micro Machine so only his attack is increased by +1 when a death rattle minion is played instead of increasing his health as well. This will still give undertaker some of that early game pressure without making him completely difficult to deal with on turn 3 and after with cards that are good to play against all decks.
In my opinion, something needs to happen to Undertaker and it needs to happen soon. He was a problem in Curse of Naxxramas and has become an even bigger problem in Goblins vs. Gnomes. It’s time to allow the meta to finally advance past being controlled by Hunter.