An Update on Mediocrity

An Update on Mediocrity

I am fairly excited to play the Arena when Old Gods hits in a few days. With that in mind, I took a look at my class win averages, since I last wrote about it. I had an indication I was getting worse in the arena, and 98 games of proof is here.

Class Then Now
Rogue 5.8 5.65
Mage 5 4.77
Shaman 4.8 4.89
Warlock 4.6 4.41
Paladin 4.5 4.74
Hunter 4.2 4.19
Druid 3.8 3.88
Priest 3.2 3.64
Warrior 2.8 3.55

 

The Rogue and Warlock decreases are just part of the decline, and the Mage decrease has been felt the most, with me barely playing the class now. I have seen risers in Shaman and Paladin, and my trash tier classes. I do say I am very interested in playing Warrior and Shaman once the expansion hits the Arena. Mage and Paladin look OP again there, but my genuine inability to play Mage well hampers that a bit. I’ll probably still wind up autopicking Rogue in the Arena. I can’t wait.

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My last GvG pack!

My Top 10 Cards from Whispers of the Old Gods

All the cards from Whispers of the Old Gods are out in the open now before next week’s release. I watched the entire livestream, and spent the time afterwards feverishly checking the Facebook album releases.  From that point on, I tried to process all the new cards in my mind, how they work in the arena and constructed. Pro players are in the process of putting out their opinions on the cards. Heck, even two guys sitting next to me on the bus were busy looking at the cards and pointing out which cards sucked. Now that I have had a whole day to process the cards, here is my pre-release list of the Top 10 cards of Whispers of the Old Gods.

Honorable mentions: Twilight Summoner,  Embrace the Shadow, Call of the Wild

10. Thing From Below – This card was revealed fairly early on, and it’s power was recognized by many. Just by playing 1 totem in the game, the Thing will be worth it’s cost as a 5/5 taunt. With further reductions in cost, it will be an insane tempo play along with other stuff, or with removal spells.

9. Infested Wolf – This is clearly the spiritual successor to Haunted Creeper, with the deathrattle spider summons. It has a little synergy with Forlorn Stalker and Princess Huhuran. But the best part of it is that the Spiders summoned are beasts, and will have synergy with Houndmaster and Kill Command.

8. Forbidden Ritual – Zoolock will be hit very hard with the phasing out of Imp-losion and Haunted Creeper, and weakened to an extent with nerfs to Leper Gnome, Ironbeak Owl and Knife Juggler. While it’s possible the deck will never come back from this, this card provides Warlock a reliable token generator. These weak bodies are perfect for boosting with Power Overwhelming and Abusive Sergeant, as well as synergy with Sea Giant and Gormok.

7. Evolve – A while back, I took a look at Master of Evolution, and found that a minion will typically gain something short of +1/+1, when moving up a mana crystal. I have yet to rerun these numbers, but there is a net positive. Also, minions get an artificial heal, after being transformed. Evolve will transform an entire board to make better minions for just 1 mana. Shamans have no trouble flooding the board with minions and totems, so this card will be well worth it’s value. Of course, hesitations of this card are like that of Bloodlust, in that the board has to be there for this card to be worth something. But I think Shamans are getting enough tools, and have enough removal to protect their board.

6.  Journey Below – A tried to figure out if there’s a word that means “metaphor of itself” but I couldn’t find this word. This is exactly what Rogues are going through once Standard Play hits. A journey below, in order to find a viable deck that can compete in the meta. As seen with Priests, Museum Curator became a big hit in decks, and regularly fishes out legendary cards. Though deathrattles take a hit from Standard Play, this card should still usually yield something powerful. Throw in the fact that it is a cheap spell, it helps even more. The problem with it is that Rogues are completely aimless at the moment.

5. Master of Evolution – I talked about this card at length before, but this card just has nothing but upside. If there is nothing to transform, it doesn’t hurt you with the Yeti-stated body.

4. Blood to Ichor – This card was not on this list, but then I realized how good it is. It doesn’t look too useful to deal 1 damage, but it fits into what the Warrior needs. First of all, it can used to weaken a 4-health minion to put it in range to getting killed by a Fiery War Axe or King’s Defender. Second, it can be used to hurt your own minions, which has synergy with virtually any card in the Patron Warrior deck, along with the new Blood Warrior card. Third, the 2/2 Slime itself is worth the 1 mana, so it’s a free 1 damage. So much flexibility with this card.

3. Cabalist’s Tome – I was doubtful of this card at first, until I saw it in use during the playstream. Mage spells are likely the best spells of all the Hearthstone classes, so you’re getting pretty good cards. This card also allows reloading without using the deck, preventing fatigue against control decks. Further, this has a good chance of providing reach, when needed for lethal. The question remains whether Freeze Mage decks can afford to fit anything else, given it was mostly unaffected by the nerfs.

2. Bloodhoof Brave – Let’s address the scrollophant in the room. It gets wrecked (or stolen) by Priests. With that class aside, I feel this card will be effective against every other class. First of all, it cannot be removed on Turn 4 by anything except for Mage Fireballs. The extra health over Sludge Belcher and Sen’jin Shieldmasta is big in allowing in to stick around. While it doesn’t hit the first minion hard for 2 attack, the enrage mechanic will force it to trade up with the next minion on the board. With 5 attack, it will usually be strong enough to clean up something around 4 mana. With Warriors, there is upside of becoming a 7/5 taunt with Inner Rage and Cruel Taskmaster, letting it trade with something even bigger. As a hefty taunt, it can protect a board of Patrons or Berserkers. Further, there is potential with taunt Warrior becoming a thing and the card Bolster. The possibilities are endless with Bloodhoof Brave, with it possibly fitting into any type of Warrior deck and really good in the arena as well.

  1. Hallazeal the Ascended – Whuspers of the Old Gods doesn’t seem to have outrageously OP legendaries at the moment, but this guy rises to the occasion. As a 4/6, it is just a shade under-stated. The thing you have to consider is that healing costs mana, and damage costs mana. When you get a card that does both like Holy Nova, it only damages/heals for 2 for 5 mana. Consider this: Shamans have a ton of damage spells. Single-target spells like Lightning Bolt (3), Lava Burst (5), and even the new Stormcrack (4). Shamans have decent AoE with Lightning Storm (2-3) and Elemental Destruction (4-5). Further, spellpower Totems are likely to be around to give a magic boost. Shaman overload has been mitigated with Lava Shock, and a new card Eternal Sentinal. With this card, a Shaman can control a board, deal damage, and heal himself completely, in the process. The value is just off-the-charts. The question is where this card will be, given the seemingly myriad of Shaman deckbuilding options.

Bonus: Bold Prediction

Fandral Staghelm will be the Troggzor of this set.

 

Blades (Not) Ready

Blades (Not) Ready

Speak softly and carry a big Nerf bat.

These are some wise words regarding game balance for any game developer. With a bit of a lull before the big upcoming card reveals, Blizzard dropped the bombshell news today, of the much-awaited nerfs to the Evergreen Set. There are 12 cards affected overall, but as a Rogue player, I’m going to mostly focus on the changes to Blade Flurry.

Image courtesy of above hyperlinked page.
  1. Blade Flurry costs 4 now
  2. Blade Flurry will no longer hit face

My first reaction was that “it’s not a big deal” because Tinker’s Oil is dropping out of Standard Play. Then I realized I was in denial.

Implications of the nerf

  • No more AoE – I get why Blade Flurry was nerfed. The Southsea Deckhand + Tinker’s Oil + Blade Flurry attack was a bit strong on the face. But with this change, Rogues essentially have lost the main AoE spell. Fan of Knives is a fine card, but it will do 1 damage most of the time, sometimes 2. And against Control Decks, Fan of Knives is a 3-mana card to draw a card. Dark Iron Skulker is another AoE consideration, but it is useless against damaged minions, like a Patron Warrior deck. And as a 5-mana card, it is a worse version of Bloodmage Thalnos + FoK. Aggro Shaman is going to absolutely destroy Rogue.
  • Soul of the class – “Soul of the card” is a term thrown around a lot to make fun of Ben Brode, but there is a class essence. And a hallmark of Rogue is cheap removal spells. By costing 4, Blade Flurry is a bit costly, especially given it costs 2 to charge up a dagger. Combos with other spells are much harder to pull off. With this cost, it is more like a Flamestrike, which doesn’t work with the Rogue fast playstyle.
  • Most Rogue cards get worse – By costing 4, Blade Flurry makes every Combo card worse. From Eviscerate, to SI:7 Agent, to Kidnapper. But this cost also makes other less obvious cards worse. Violet Teacher, Gadgetzan Auctioneer, Malygos, etc all lose value from this nerf. Edwin VanCleef also got worse from this nerf, but got much better from Ironbeak Owl and Big Game Hunter nerfs. Even weapon buffs and weapons themselves are worse, as they are more single-target focused now.
  • Forced playstyle change – A useful Rogue gameplay strategy is holding a charged weapon in order to wait for more enemy minions to get knocked down by Blade Flurry. Now weapon charges can be used more liberally. And I guess, a lesser chance of getting destroyed by Harrison Jones.
  • A weak constructed class gets worse – For a long time now, Rogues have been one of the worst constructed classes. They are rarely seen in the ladder, and the only real viable deck is Oil Rogue, and a smattering of Malygos Rogues. Losing the only real AoE is pretty devastating. The impact in the arena makes is much lessened for a rare card with deck-dependent synergy, but it becomes a bad arena card as well. We can only hope for help with the rest of the expansion.

Good times with Blade Flurry

Quick hits about the other nerfs

  1. Ancient of Lore – a big hit to this card, it is rather overcosted now
  2. Force of Nature – this kills the Druid combo finally, but can be used for token Druid as well
  3. Keeper of the Grove – i think this card is rather overcosted now with the 2/2 body
  4. Ironbeak Owl – perfectly fine with this, can help diversity with Spellbreaker
  5. Big Game Hunter – i don’t think this is too bad, anti-tempoing 2.5 mana for hard removal is okay
  6. Hunter’s Mark – fine with this, somewhat overdue
  7. Knife Juggler – not much of a nerf at all really, still a really annoying card
  8. Leper Gnome – pretty good nerf
  9. Arcane Golem – Warsong’d
  10. Molten Giant – pretty good nerf
  11. Master of Disguise – sure, nerfing a unique card for the greater good of card creation

 

Halftime Grumblings

With over half of Whispers of the Old Gods released, some of the cards revealed have told some very telling things about the new card set. While managing expectations is a normal part of the card reveal experience, there are some big implications here!

  1. Classes aren’t following a linear path – When it was revealed that the Warlock was receiving Renounce Darkness and DOOM!, it became apparent that not every class is getting a “Forbidden” x-spend card. This point was reinforced, with the reveal of Dark Arakkoa, giving Druids 2 C’Thun helper cards. Given that there are 16 C’Thun help cards in all, this means that one or more classes may get 1 or even 0 C’Thun help cards. Warrior also has a rare C’Thun help card, so chances are the Warrior is getting the C’Thun support like Druid.
  2. Arena imbalance – From Point 1, it is apparent that the classes are getting varying number of C’Thun help cards. Because it has been stated that C’Thun and help cards are exclusive to Constructed, Druids will definitely have an arena imbalance, with regard to offering rates on cards. This will lead to a increased markup on cards like Mire Keeper and Mark of Y’Shaarj, which is a good thing of Arena Druids. If Warriors follow the same trend as Druid, they might get a big boost on some pretty good Arena minions.
  3. RNG is blowing up – With GvG dropping out, it has been conjectured that RNG will be lessened, with the removal of things like Piloted Shredder and Madder Bomber. Then Yogg-Saron dropped in. And then his Servant. And today, Shifter Zerus. It seems the somewhat restrained RNG of damage from goblin bombs and machinery has translated to eSports! levels of RNG. Pulling out spells and minions from the Hearthstone universe into your game is becoming a thing. Good luck playing around that!
  4. Boring cards, cool design – If there’s anything this expansion has brought, it is good card design. Cards that are considered OP aren’t exactly broken, and there is a lane for variation among bad cards, making them playable in certain decks. There has been a disproportionate amount of legendaries and epics released, so the rest of the cards in the set are likely boring, relative to what has been released. But one should expect some well-designed cards that will spice up decks and the arena.

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#ArenaStruggles

#ArenaStruggles

If everything goes according to plan, by this time next week, all of the cards from Whispers of the Old Gods should be revealed. There was a leaked released date for April 26th. Ben Brode and Frodan are doing some livestream on April 21st. I’m expecting Card Dump Day to be the next day.

While there is eager excitement for the game, my gameplay of late has been bad. I mean really bad.

struggles

The graphic above, courtesy of Arena Mastery shows an 11-win run on April 4th, and nothing much after that. My average over the last week has been 1.8. As a mainly arena player, this has been unsettling and somewhat depressing. There are several thoughts about what has brought on these struggles.

  1. The Constructed Meta is so stale, that the Arena is at a high – Given that Old Gods may likely come out at month’s end, one could assume that April 2016 has been rather uncompetitive so far. I mean someone could unpack a load of new cards, and just destroy the ladder with their new cards. I have seen really tough competition in the Arena. Even the 0-2 or 1-2 games aren’t cheap anymore. Talented constructed players are taking their talents to the arena and having fun.
  2. Weaker players have limited funds and are saving up – While you can be a pretty good player without spending money, there is likely some positive correlation between resources spent in Hearthstone, and success. A lot of people are saving money to buy some Old Gods packs, and for a lot of people, this means not paying for the Arena. This leaves the infinite arena players, who make money by playing arena, comfortable in staying in. This makes the overall competition really tough.
  3. I am in a funk – My arena experience generally ebbs and flows one week at a time. One week an infinite player, the next week below 3 average. I think my drafting hasn’t been ruined by anything, so it could just be misplays in game play, or just forgetting to play around enemy threats.
  4. My alcohol choice is screwing me up – I typically play Hearthstone at night, and have an arena run around 10pm. This goes along with drinking, and while that doesn’t screw me up completely, I have noticed that I haven’t had a Shock Top in quite some time. The vodka + grape juice drink of late must be screwing me up.
  5. Losing effect – I’m a really chill person typically, but losing in Hearthstone is something that just upsets me. Mostly it is through my own misplays, but any type of loss will weigh on me. A snowball effect seems to have occurred in the arena, setting in paranoia and fears.

I have tried things like taking a break and playing constructed, playing other games (thanks Duelyst) more often, etc. But due to the loss of gold, I will be attempting to play more ranked games in the near future, than the arena. I’ll be ready to jump back in when I am tired of the constructed meta. I’ll definitely be back when the new cards are offered in the arena, because that is a super fun time.

Yogg-Saron – Making Sense of Insanity

Yogg-Saron was released today, and he (it?) promptly became the manifestation of RNG itself.

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This effect prompted a flurry of questions on Twitter, clarifications of Yogg-Saron can be found in this well-arranged thread.

Like the Master of Evolution, I wanted to know what the raw probabilities of things happening were. How insane will this Old God be?

Methodology

  • All 224 collectable spells so far from Basic, Classic, GvG, Naxx, BRM, TGT and LoE. Old Gods is not included, and neither is the distinction between Wild and Standard Play. A future update might have these figures.
  • I calculated percentages for “Target affected.” These will add up to 100%.
  • I calculated percentages for Spell Type. These do not add up to 100%, as some spells have multiple abilities in one card.
  • Choose one cards are a 50% probability, so are counted as half cards for each effect.
  • Certain cards have a less than 100% probability of the effect carrying out. Such cards include 4 Demon spells and certain cards that draw for you when something dies. I chose not to deduct probability from these cards, but just know the percentages are slightly inflated. So these are assumptions that I made for this data.

Target affected

Yogg effect

  • All characters (both teams) – no target, everyone is healed or damaged
  • All minions (both boards) – no target, every minion is affected
  • One board – 50% probability of something happening to the top or bottom of the board. Could be AOE, reinforcements, etc.
  • One character – probability divided among all characters (minions + 2 heroes)
  • One hero – 50% probability of either hero getting benefit or harm
  • One minion – probability divided among all minions on the board
  • One team (minions + hero) – 50% probability of either team
  • Secrets – kept separate, as they interact with various characters at different junctures

Spell type

Yogg type.PNG

 

  • Buff – exclusive to minions, anything that helps a minion in someway. This figure is overinflated, in should be closer to 14%, not including the demon buffs.
  • Damage – any time some character loses health
  • Debuff – a negative effect that isn’t damage, like health reduction, silence, or freeze
  • Hard Removal – exclusive to minions, a minion is destroyed without damage being dealt
  • Heal – any time some character gains health
  • Reinforcement – any time a minion is summoned to the board by card effect
  • Resource Gain – exclusive to heroes, any gain in mana crystals, card draw, deck additions
  • Secret – secrets kept separate
  • Weapon – exclusive to heroes, any time a hero is granted attack

A few spells didn’t really fit into the traditional bins.

  • Shadowform – I put it under the “Weapon” bin, as it allows a steady damage source to enemy minions or faces
  • Astral Communion – I begrudgingly put this under “Resource Gain.” It affects resources, but will have an actual negative effect, as Yogg can’t be played before Turn 10.
  • Beneath the Grounds – This is a delayed reinforcement, so I put it under “Reinforcement.”
  • Confuse – I put this as 1/2 Buff and 1/2 Debuff. It is too complicated to know whether there is any benefit when Confuse is played, so I split the difference.

What this tells us

  • 30% of the Yogg-Saron’s spells affect only 1 minion at a time.
  • Pyroblasts to the face are always a concern, but only 36.4% of spells will affect the heroes. This makes Pyroblasts to the face less likely than perceived..
  • Hard removal to a minion will occur 13% of the time.
  • 1 of 10 of Yogg-Saron’s spells will be secrets.
  • Most spells are some kind of damage (35%), with some resource gain occurring in about 1/5 of spells.
  • Overall, Yogg-Saron seems more fun than good, as his battlecry will cause the game to be a virtual coin flip. Of course the hero with higher health and minions on the board will have a better chance of withstanding whatever comes from the battlecry.