The Best Arena Cards Leaving in a Few Days

The Best Arena Cards Leaving in a Few Days

For those not in the know, there will be 2 upcoming waves of Arena draft cuts that will help transition it from Wild to Standard. With the much-desired Small-Time Buccaneer and Spirit Claws nerf, Curse of Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes will drop out of the Arena draft pool. A later drop wave, coming when the new expansion hits, will drop Blackrock Mountain, League of Explorers, and The Grand Tournament. Since the first drop wave is quite imminent, let’s look some lists I made about the best cards leaving us.

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Top 10 cards leaving

Honorable mention – Fel Reaver – From an insider view, Fel Reaver is often attributed to very high win rates, and is a great example of a skill-intensive card. For those reasons, and being an epic card, Fel Reaver did not make the top 10.

10. Powermace – 3/2 for 3 mana weapons are good for their cost, requiring the ability to make them great. The +2/+2 buff to a friendly Mech on the board is definitely an ability that has eroded over time, given the smaller amount of Mechs in the card pool. But the free tempo gain from a weapon that costs a fair amount is just too good. Shamans have Whirling-Zap-o-Matic as their class Mech, and there are other decent Turn 4 Mechs like Piloted Shredder, Mechanical Yeti, and Arcane Nullifier.

9. Coghammer – This 2/3 for 3 mana weapon has an odd distribution, and is slightly worse than the 3/2 for 3 distribution. Besides that though, the amazing ability of granting Taunt and Divine Shield to a friendly minion is pure value. Taunt is just worth 1 stat point, but getting free taunt never hurts. Getting Divine Shield is much more value, worth the attack points of a minion. This allows any minion to get an easy 2-for-1 in the trade department. Coghammer is incredible, but being an epic steps it down a few notches.

8. Imp-losion – This card suffers from what I like to call Shaman RNG, as it is a card that deals damage in a range, like a bunch of Shaman cards. It has big upside, as hitting for 4 is essentially combining two spells, Shadow Bolt and Call in the Finishers, a combined 7 mana worth of spells. The average damage value of 3 is good, a much better version of a spell like Bash. Rolling a 2 isn’t a great outcome at all, a value of about 2 mana. But leaving Imps to contend with the board is never a horrible thing. Overall, the ability to completely swing the board is what makes this great.

7. Haunted Creeper – This card is easily one of the best 2-drops around, being the stickiest early drop in the game. The Creeper and Spectral Spiders combine for 3/4 for just 2 mana, allowing an equal trade on any 3 health minion. The spiders are best used in conjunction with buff cards, which allow tokens to trade up. It also provides protection against AoE damage. It does a lot more than most 2-drops, and makes it a top card.

6. Zombie Chow – The merits of Zombie Chow have been validated by various data and confirmation by Mike Donais himself. While this card does not fare well in the late, close games, just being a 2/3 for 1 will allow it to be a 2-for-1 minion in most situations. And that on it’s own is why this card is so good. It will be weird not seeing the card, but Mistress of Mixtures does exist though, and will serve as an inferior understudy.

5. Death’s Bite – I think this is the best weapon in these two sets. You’re basically doing a guaranteed 9 damage for 4 mana, with the free Whirlwind ability on Deathrattle. Not only is the AoE good for clearing small things, but there is synergy with various Warrior cards. Ravaging Ghoul is one of the best cards around with a built-in Whirlwind. Death’s Bite just provides too much damage for just 4 mana.

4. Flamecannon – While Flamecannon suffers from random targets, it shines as a Turn 2 reactive play. 4 damage for 2 mana is just too good and can eliminate any 1 or 2-drop, and a lot of 3-drops. Also a great swing play on Turn 4, killing a 3 drop and allowing a 2-drop play.

3. Muster for Battle – Easily the best Paladin rare card, and we have a lot of good ones in that criteria. While the value doesn’t immediately blow you away, with 3/3 of recruits and a Light’s Justice for 3 mana, it is better in a tempo swing fashion. Populating the board with minions makes it good and gives opportunities for trading up, like in Imp-losion. The recruits also synergize well with cards like Warhorse Trainer and Quartermaster.

2. Bomb Lobber – This one hurts quite a bit. Again, the card suffers from hitting a random minion, and often results in frustrating 50/50 whiffs. But it does a great job on a single target, or in a clutch RNG spot. The card exists as a 3/3, allowing it to compete with 1-3 drops, so it is typically a 2-for-1 card. Also, it seems to fill a mana cost of 5, where that type of damage doesn’t exist. It really fills a hole where many spells or weapons can’t cover 4 damage. While it will be missed, Bomb Squad is a very good replacement.

1. Piloted Shredder – This one is quite obvious to most. Piloted Shredder is premium because it is a 4/3, dropping a random 2-drop. The 2-drop that comes out just has to be a vanilla 1/1 for Piloted Shredder to be worth it’s value. Anything extra is free lunch. The 2-drops are random, meaning you could just get 1/1, or get something like 4/4 Milhouse or Shielded Minibot. Shredder is also compatible with whatever mech synergies, and protects the board from AoE. All of these qualities makes Piloted Shredder the best card leaving the Arena.

Top fun interactions leaving

  • Spare parts – Without any GvG cards, there will no longer be Spare Parts. While the type of RNG isn’t the best, it adds a fun element to the game without being overpowered. The Spare Parts themselves aren’t overcosted, and come at really handy junctures, and require a little skill about when to use. Plus, as 1-mana spells, they provide boosts to any spellcasting or spell boosting synergies (Mana Addict).
  • Enhance-o-Mechano – Probably the most fun, but draftable epic cards around. Typically, the buffs make this card worth it’s anti-tempo cost. While this card can whiff, it often provides a memorable and entertaining way to end a game.
  • Wailing Soul – Neutral silence isn’t gone for good, but this was one of the three cards that did it, so it is going to reduce quite a bit. Wailing Soul shined in the department of making bad cards work well. Wailing Soul is not a good card, and can make other not good cards (Eerie Statue, Icehowl) go face. Additionally it had utility in rare situations of restoring weakened or frozen minions. Most of the time does nothing or has a negative effect on your own guys. The decision to put out a 3/5 on board, or to silence potentially good effects made it quite fun.

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On the Arena Ecosystem Disruption

On the Arena Ecosystem Disruption

A lot of fresh changes are coming to the Arena, starting soon (TM)! These changes were first announced in the first livestream, but now they are confirmed and coming to fruition. Let’s review the changes, and some immediate consequences that come to mind.

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The changes

Standard shift

Arena is officially moving to the Standard format, after being inclusive of all sets since it’s inception. While it is clear that the drafts will be of cards from the Standard sets, it is currently unclear whether Wild format cards would appear via Discover, Transform, or random drops from Shredders. Arena currently exists in a format where draft-banned cards, like the C’Thun cards, could be obtained during the course of a game. In contrast, the Standard Ranked Play does not allow an opportunity to get Wild cards during the game.

Rarity distribution change

The rarity distribution of the draft will change to reduce the offering rate of common cards. According to Dean Ayala, the new distribution will consist of 26 of 30 offered cards being 68% common, 20% rare, 9% epic, and 3% legendary. The remaining 4 cards, would be rare or higher. While the rarity distribution for the 4 cards is unknown, one can expect the most common scenario of 3 rare cards and 1 epic. With this estimation, one can expect 18 commons, 8 rares, 3 epics, and 1 legendary on average in a draft. The article cited common cards being 78% of drafts now, meaning there are 23 common cards in the draft now. There is a reduction of 5 common cards, into more rares, epics, and seemingly almost a guaranteed legendary card.

More spells in draft

In an effort to devalue minion-based combat, there will be more spells in the Arena. While the blog did not have information on exactly what more spells means, Iksar stated in Reddit that spells will appear 20% more in drafts than previously. I don’t know the number of spells offered previously, but in the current draftable common card pool for all classes, spells comprise of 31.5% of cards. A 20% boost would be 37.8%, meaning you will see about 34 spells offered out of 90. This boost to spells means that common class card spells, from the most recent set will be cards that will show up most often in drafts.

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Specific card reduction

2 big-time AoE cards, Flamestrike and Abyssal Enforcer, will be offered 50% less than other cards of their variety. Meaning Flamestrike will appear 50% less than any common Mage spell in the Classic set, and Abyssal Enforcer will appear 50% less than any common Warlock minion in the Gadgetzan set. The reduction of Flamestrike is likely a response to the boost of spells in the draft. Abyssal Enforcer is likely the most broken arena card made, so there.

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Fewer neutral basic/classic minions

This one is a bit confusing, as the blog does not specify which minions will see a reduction from the draft. The blog uses the phrase “Classic” which refers to the first card set, and not the “Basic” cards you get for free. Iksar previously used the phrase “Neutral Basic Minions” when referring to what to target. Additionally, the staple vanilla minions, Chillwind Yeti and River Crocolisk, are Basic cards. While it is possible that Basic and Classic neutral minions will see a reduction together, the lack of distinction from this is unclear.

 

The consequences

Throw everything you know out

Being a veteran player, one of the “skills” that I possess for the arena is an encyclopedic knowledge of the cards. I know what every card is called, does, and how the stats are distributed. Shifting to Standard Arena will immediately scrub out Naxx and GvG next week, and BRM, LoE, and TGT will follow with the next card release. That is a lot of cards that I will need to “forget about.” While this type of adjustment is done every time a new card set is released, this is the biggest drop-off of cards ever. And every card lost represents a change in playstyle. For example, we are going to lose the Paladin secret Avenge in a week, and this is likely the most drafted secret in the Arena. Now, everyone will have to shift the mindset that the secret is probably Noble Sacrifice. Little adjustments like these will have to be made for every card, and it will add up to a whole new learning curve.

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Loss of staple cards

When you think of GvG and Naxx rotating out, some very good cards immediately come to mind. Haunted Creeper, Zombie Chow, Bomb Lobber, Piloted Shredder, etc. Even some more boring 2 drops like Mechwarper and Gilblin Stalker get the ax. The loss of cards from these earlier expansion, coupled with the reduction of Basic/Classic neutral minions is going take a huge chunk of adequately-stated minions. While I am aware that Blizz is targeting these appropriately-stated curve cards, these are current Arena staples. The whole methodology of what constitutes a “good card” in the Arena is affected by the loss of such cards.

Constructed convergence

One of the main concerns I had going into this whole change was the Arena’s loss of identity. The soul of the Arena is that you play with all the cards, and you try to play around the unpredictable. With the shift to Standard, you essentially play with all the same cards you will in Standard Constructed. This in turn allows a higher probability of Constructed deck synergies to line up for a draft. Coupled with the introduction of more spells, you are more likely to build something like a Constructed deck. Anyone who has ever drafted a “Constructed deck” in the Arena, knows that it is very powerful. The power of Constructed-feel decks could be the norm.

Another sense of loss are from players who play Arena as the “Wild escape” from the throes of stale Constructed. I guess the counter to this is Blizzard’s insistence of putting a lot more emphasis into the Wild format this year. I personally do consider Arena as a Wild escape, but could be willing to shed this mindset if I really wind up enjoying playing Wild.

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Weirder drafts

Anyone who has an idea in the Arena knows that having legendary cards in the draft doesn’t really mean much. A lot of bad runs have occurred on my end, when I have drafted 2 mediocre-bad legendary cards. Epic cards have a bit of notoriety of being too niched to work in the Arena, and the pick of 3 bad epics is always a pickle. Common cards, the hallmark of consistent drafts, are going to see a reduction. Having more rares may help drafts, but the slight boost to Epics and Legendaries will not. From my calculations before, I expect 3 epics and 1 legendary per draft. While it may be a fun experience trying to make these cards work together, some drafts could just become a hot mess with all the epic cards.

 

More duplicates

The Naxx and GvG cuts will rid the arena of 141 draftable cards, while the BRM/LoE/TGT cuts will rid the arena of 193 draftable cards. Given the new expansion will plug in 130 cards, this will result in a net yield of about -200 draftable cards. With this massive reduction in the pool of cards, cards will show up multiple times in the draft, and by virtue of wise decision-making, the best cards will be picked more often. This is something that will regulate itself, as there will be close to 400 cards added to the entire pool by year’s end. But to start off the Year of the Mammoth, there will be repeats. Hopefully the days of 4 Flamestrike decks won’t be a thing, but don’t think you’ll be free of 3 Firelands Portal decks terrorizing everyone.

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Longer games

I’m not sure if this point has been made yet, but we are in for some longer games. By virtue of destroying the tempo curve-out strategy, and by adding more spells, games should last longer. While someone could draft a bunch of damage spells, spells typically bring reactive control to the equation. My last 12-1 run, lasted 79 minutes, or 6 minutes per game. This brisk pace of play will be compromised.

My thoughts

Given this is the biggest change to the Arena ever, it took some time to process. The shift to drop some sets was a necessary move to allow the Arena to exist, as too many cards would definitely be a mess. I had known about these upcoming changes for some time, and honestly have been dreading it a little. I struggle a bit with personal change, and the Arena is something that I pretty much partake in everyday. I won’t know for certain though, and I could actually have a great time. So I definitely won’t be abandoning the Arena just because it changed in a massive fashion. I will be writing more posts about this topic, stay posted!

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Amnesiac’s Heel Turn and What It Means for Hearthstone

Amnesiac’s Heel Turn and What It Means for Hearthstone

There’s no denying that Hearthstone is in a rut right now, so any rumblings, however small they are, get magnified. The 2017 HCT Europe Winter Playoffs have been going on the last few days, and there has been talk of cheating in the tournament and poor production. The most fresh drama has come from the Twitterverse just hours ago, where William “Amnesiac” Barton has started a ruckus, given that Pavel Beltukov, the reigning BlizzCon champ, got a spot on the 2017 HCT Winter Championship. Let’s look at a bunch of tweets, and I will explain why I think this whole thing is staged.

“Journalism”

Yesterday, Amnesiac fired some shots at Pavel, hoping he makes it and seeking to face him in a children’s card game.

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Today, Pavel makes it to the Bahamas. Chaos ensues:

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Here, you see a long chain of tweets of Amnesiac explaining what he has against Pavel. Barton namely criticizes Pavel’s gameplay decisions in matches, his lucky situations, and willingness to bring more experimental decks to tournaments. He even sends a shot against seemingly vanilla nice guys, like Thijs.

Of course someone who is a Hearthstone celebrity spouting off like that would garner some attention and equally strong reactions online:

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Kibler is putting in a reply which would express what most people are thinking. Amnesiac looks horrible tweeting out stuff like that. He is being unprofessional.

Frodan puts in an inkling of possibly what this drama is all about. He is a guy who has a pretty good ability to see past the myopic, so not surprising he felt this way.

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RDU, who was the runner up, the guy who lost of Pavel’s Babbling Book, comes in defense of Pavel as well.

Amnesiac’s Competitive Spirit

As evidenced by this drama blowing up, a lot of people are taking sides now. Some people agree with Amnesiac, as competitive players. More people are offended by his attacks. Let’s all agree that Amnesiac is an extremely competitive individual. This guy is still in high school, played a lot of competitive Hearthstone, and plays on his school’s basketball team. As a person who has played high school sports, I know that there is very little time to do anything else. Amnesiac is a busy dude, and is extremely competitive. This is a fact.

The Grand Scheme

While there is likely real emotion fueling this Twitter fire, I honestly think there are ulterior motives in Amnesiac’s ranting, and it is the need to build a narrative in Hearthstone. Good storytelling needs strong characters and villains. A good example of this is professional wrestling. The most famous wrestlers are guys who had really good characters, which got fans involved. Scott Levy, the wrestler known as Raven, once said that wrestling is all about emotional attachment, and that the actual athletics themselves are the least important factor. This hold true for actual sports as well. I think there is a reason why American football remains the most popular sport, and why the NFL is the moneymaker it is: football players are characters and have narratives. While you get casual weekly villains in the form of a strong safety who wants to knock a WR into the next dimension, you get long-lasting narratives with QBs often. The story of Tom Brady’s “revenge” from Deflategate played big this past season. Tony Romo and Dak Prescott had a never-ending teacher vs mentor storyline this season. The list just goes on in football. The same goes on in basketball, where Lebron James had a tv special about signing with the Miami Heat. The Chicago Bulls had Jordan, Rodman, and Pippen all on the same team for a run, all guys with distinct characters.

Building a Character

Amnesiac didn’t have to create his first character, just by being 15 or 16, he had the “phenom” brand down pat. Now, I believe he is building the competitive villain angle. Check out these tweets:

Here, Amnesiac is a bit upset about being 2nd in the month of January 2017, angry at the point awarding system, and throwing a little shade.

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Here, he is upset at the Ben Brode post about the state of the game, and Shamans. I actually do agree with this tweet, in that it tried to present the data in that there are fewer Shamans than there actually are. But anyways, he is attacking the presentation of data by Team 5 devs.

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Here, Amnesiac is yelling about sports, following the Super Bowl. He alludes to himself being a “jaded individual.”

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And finally this tweet. I think this is definitive evidence of Amnesiac’s motives.

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Sure, Amnesiac is talking about the Patriots playing the Super Bowl, and their miraculous comeback. But I do find it weird for a guy to retweet himself.

There you have it. I think Amnesiac is trying to become a villain to build his brand by being a whiny guy online. While this trash-talking comes off as bad, I think it is a valiant effort in jump starting a game with a floundering eSports scene.

Getting to Know the Duel Links NPCs

Getting to Know the Duel Links NPCs

Yu-Gi-Oh!, being a fairly big money name with anime, movies, manga, video games, and card game, has numerous memorable characters. These characters are put through very dark and unforgiving storylines, which allow for much introspection into characters, and opportunity for character development. Duel Links, the new mobile phone game, has been rolling out these characters for use in the game, with Maximillion Pegasus coming out recently (lol), and characters like Mokuba, Bakura, and Marik coming down the line. While these legendary duelists are the characters you get to use, and provide opportunities to win good prizes, you can’t face them all of the time. You need to spend colored keys in order to face the brand name characters typically. So, a lot of the dirty work playing Duel Links involves fighting NPCs. The NPCs in Duel Links fill many roles:

  1. Quest Completion – You need to do a certain number of things each stage to advance to the next. Since the NPCs show up freqeuntly and respawn, their typical loss will allow you to check off requirements for questing.
  2. Experience Gain – Your characters level up, and you get good rewards for this. Grinding through NPCs will get you most of your experience.
  3. Resource Gain – Depending on what score you get in your duel assessment, you’ll get chests of rewards. The NPCs will always give at least 2 chests for a win, and you can prolong a game, to get more.
  4. Practice – Of course, they are the easiest competition around, so good for practice.

Now that you see that the NPCs are quite important in Duel Links, here’s the kicker: nothing is known about them! They have no backstory, and are just in the game. No guides online have any articles on them either. So, I am here to provide images and possibly provide some backstory for each NPC in this game. Cannon fodder have feelings too!

The NPCs can broadly be broken down into 3 groups, by possible age:

  • Children
  • High schoolers
  • Young adults

Children

No better way to remind the player they are playing a children’s card game than with actual children. These kids are likely less than 10 years of age.

  • Emma – A child with a limited vocabulary, speaking with very simple words. She is not very competitive, and appears to take the game casually. Likely has not endured the rigors of life.

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  • Bella – She is a more mature girl than Emma, in that she often thanks you for dueling with her. Actually, might be the NPC who thanks you the most. Owing to being a little child, she has a limited vocabulary and speaks slowly.

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  • Mickey – This kid is just a stereotypical boy NPC. A little cocky and talkative, but with not much substance to back up his words.

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  • Nick – The most interesting of all the little kid NPCs. Nick talks about homework and Duel School a lot, which means he likely spends some time training. He speaks better than the other children, so he might be older. He also never smiles, which gives him a sense of cool confidence.

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High schoolers (teens)

The teens are easily distinguished because they wear school uniforms that the better-known characters wear. The male characters wear a blue jacket and pants, like Yugi and Joey. The female characters wear a pink jacks and blue skirt, like Tea. Because of this, one can assume these NPCs go to Domino High School, and may possibly have outside interaction with the main cast.

  • Christine – One of the most competitive NPCs around, she seeks to be Duel World Queen. Her arrogance comes out bad often, and she just seems very pushy. Also has an annoying catchphrase, “Hecks to the yeah.”

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  • Jess – She is easily distinguished with the dark grey hair. Is apparently a big admirer of all the legendary duelists, as she often says “You are the one I look most forward to facing.” Comes off as timid and lacking confidence during the matches.

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  • Hailey – Her tone of voice is more confident than that of Jess, but she talks about having fun more than her. Overall, is fairly similar to Jess, as being a lot less uptight than Christine.

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  • Andrew – The male high school counterpart to Christine. He is apparently a tactician of some sorts, referencing probabilities and numbers he ran. Is overtly cocky and wonders why he isn’t a legendary duelist. Arguably the most bitter and angry NPC. Always has a chip on his shoulder.

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  • Josh – The overconfident but ultimately harmless NPC. Has a strong front, but loses confidence quickly while losing a duel.

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  • Daniel – A chill dude of a few words. He just says “Fine, let’s duel.” He might not wanted to have gone to Duel World with all his classmates, or he didn’t really care he had to go. Maybe he was the 6th best duelist in the school, and he was selected. He didn’t really care about the honor.

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Young adults

I have no idea what age these duelists are, but they look older than the high school students, and don’t wear school uniforms. These people could be of college age or young professionals. Likely in their 20s. These characters have the least personality, and were likely created in the last minute as filler.

  • Meg – She has a weird catchphrase of “let’s get the lead out.” I had to look up what this meant, and it is something you just don’t hear people say in public nowadays. Anyways she is nice, but not much personality.

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  • Ashley – She talks about having fun a lot, like the little children. She puts more emphasis on deck building being the fun aspect of the game, so she likes that. She also wears the same outfit as Meg, but a different color.

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  • David – This guy looks chill and just has some generic lines about dueling. Really no personality at all.

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  • Jay – This guy is very similar to David, but mentions being in the fantasy world, so he might be onto something. Wears the same outfit as David, but different colors. Lacks personality like the other young adults.

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  • The Vagabond – Nobody knows much about this guy, but I assume he is an adult. He has the special challenge matches, which are the hardest duels to do at any given time and stage. His style could be an homage to Red in the Pokemon series, or other nondescript player characters. He pretty much says nothing, until the end of the game, or if he wants to challenge your friends.

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Overall, the NPCs just get by, and shuffle along Duel World, waiting to get beat by you. Eventually they get their comeuppance, when they become difficult competition and not free auto-duel wins, when you hit stage 40.

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