I haven’t written anything for a while on this site. And it hasn’t been because I stopped playing Hearthstone or suddenly got very busy in life. I just don’t like playing the Arena anymore, and as a result, have thought less about Hearthstone. While I have competed in some fun tournaments of late and have been playing the Ranked ladder, my core way of thinking about Hearthstone is through the Arena, and it is decaying.
I mostly recently discussed the Arena changes brought forth by the “Arena 7.1,” what The Lightforge guys called “The Threat and Response Meta.” I struggled with the Arena meta then for a while, but did eventually muster a couple of 12-win runs. With Journey to Un’Goro, the changes from Arena 7.1 persisted, just with a new card set and the loss of many other cards. I will try to discuss some of the problems I feel are hurting the Arena to a big degree in an attempt to sound coherent and controlled.
Most of my posts recently have extracted data from hsreplay.net, and this one will be no exception. Here I’ve isolated the top neutral cards picked from all classes. I cut it off at 18%, to specifically highlight some problem cards I think are ruining the Arena.
- Stonehill Defender – This is card is regular plain good in some classes, absolutely broken in others. Will discuss further later.
- Vicious Fledgling – Reminds me a lot like the olden days of a Micro Machine or Gurubashi Berserker that ran away with a game. Certainly a fair card, but the ability to get Windfury for another adapt is just back-breaking.
- Primodial Drake – Corrupted Seer was a fair card as it was grossly under-stated, and did nothing to Murloc enemies. Primordial Drake, just costly 2 more mana, is only under-stated by 3 points, with the neutral AoE ability that screams class convergence.
- Servant of Kalimos – Elemental decks just get out of hand and feel like Constructed decks. Servant of Kalimost is just the on-curve play after Fire Plume Phoenix with the powerful Discover. I haven’t used Heartharena in this meta, but I would assume this guy gets gross amounts of tier score points with just a few elementals in the draft.
Discover in a small card pool
Stonehill Defender is great on it’s own and broken in two classes in particular, Paladin and Shaman. Paladin has 3 top-tier taunt minions in Sunkeeper Tarim, Tirion Fordring, and Wickerflame Burnbristle. Grimestreet Protector ain’t bad either. With a reduced card pool and a 4x Discover rate on class cards, you’re going to get one of these cards quite often. Check out this table:
The % of decks metric specifically refers to the card draft. So in the last 2 weeks, 7% of Paladin decks had Sunkeeper Tarim and 4% of Paladin decks had Tirion Fordring drafted. Fair enough. But if you look at the Time Played metric, you’ll see that Tarim and Tirion were played just as much as Lay on Hands and Stand Against Darkness respectively. Stonehill Defender is just so adept at getting these cards, you’ll see them as if they are in 18% of Paladin decks.
The Shaman taunts aren’t as good as Paladin but still a force. Al’Akir shows up as much as epic cards in Far Sight and Eternal Sentinel. White Eyes is being played just less than Lotus Illusionist. These weaker numbers are indicative of Shaman being a lackluster Arena class, but still demonstrate the power of Stonehill Defender.
I rage against Arena Mages a lot because I never got 12 wins with the class, and I consistently lose most against them. But Mages are on a new level. They are just on an absolute level of Discover magic, RNG, and power cards.
In the table of top drafted Mage cards, you see a lot of power, but one card is crooked here. Primordial Glyph, despite being 8th in the draft, is the 2nd most played card, only losing out to Flame Geyser. Mages are chaining the Discover of Primordial Glyph to get a free-cost Primordial Glyph to get a second round of Discovers. And Primordial Glyph has resulted in some ridiculous gets.
Above is Cabalist’s Tome, played a good amount despite a modest 19% draft rate. A 3-mana Cabalist’s Tome is great value, and will lead to more Discover chains.
Here’s Pyroblast, a card that should suffer from a lower play count, since it is just a finisher, and has to be held longer than other cards. It is played as much as Nerubian Prophet.
Finally some rarely drafted Mage spells in Ice Block and Mirror Image. They just blow out the other cards in this list in play counts, despite being drafted so rarely as well.
Mages aren’t the #1 class right now, but they will definitely make you shake your head in games. Or curse aloud. Or both.
In order to create a smokescreen of fairness and equality, I will say some things about my favorite class, the Rogue.
By simply sorting the top drafted cards for Arena Rogues, you see hard removal up the Wazoo. Vilespine Slayer, is just as bonkers as it looked at first glance. The saving grace with all the Envenom Weapons is that properly-drafted face decks like Hunter can clearly take advantage of winning the game. But still Rogue is likely the #1 class because of these removals, brought on by the boosted spell offering rates.
A bit of my anguish isn’t expressed well with data but just comes from within. Arena doesn’t feel like Arena anymore. It feels like a bastard spawn from Constructed and some RNG servant. The minion-based combat and playing sturdy things on curve feel isn’t there very often. Playing against Priest feels most like playing against a Constructed class, since you can predict what a Priest will do based on cards kept in hand. No card (Free from Amber) should be in 67.5% of all drafted decks.
Not sure if anyone has made it this far, but here are some thoughts:
- Cut the spell boost – Spells are clearly not made equally, and does nothing to rebalance for classes. Warriors are played at historically low levels because their spells suck.
- Reduce percentages of specific cards – I would like to see reductions for the highest drafted cards like Stonehill Defender. Arena should be about being forced to play bad cards, not ramping up a Discover to get something amazing.
- Reduce outlandish RNG cards – A lot of random things have gone on in this game, but some Arena games have things going too far. A lot of this has to do with the Mage random Discovers, but things are getting out of control in this department.
That’s really all I have to say for now. I just know that I got a 11-2 run on May 10th, and proceeded to not play an arena on May 11th. I played a 4-1 Warlock yesterday and didn’t finish the run in that sitting. My waning interest in the Arena isn’t because I’m losing at historical levels. It just feels wrong and different, and something that I am sadly struggling to have fun with. I hope other original Arena hardcores feel the same.