As part of the Hearthstone festivities leading up to the new expansion, the new Ahune Frost Festival is going on, which focuses on the Arena. Everyone is incentivized to play 3 Arena games (at least 1 run), to get a free card pack. Additionally, all Arena runs start off as 1-0. This is great news in general. Let’s think of the implications this has.
- Everyone will play at least 1 arena.
- People who have never played arena, or seldom play arena will be coming back.
- Unusual drafting choices will be encountered.
- Unusual gameplay will be encountered.
I’m going to make a point about #4 in this blog, but yes, these things are mostly true. I’ve played a few arenas in this event, and noticed that players don’t play the board as much as they should. It is a very important arena concept to fight for the board, as the ability to play off the board is not as tenable as it is in constructed, where you can actually choose your deck. Going off what I perceived as wrong arena play, I decided to take a look at some data to confirm this.
- The morning of the Ahune Festival, I went to hsreplay.net to find target usage of a few cards. Because I was aware that the hsreplay data would be contaminated by non-Arena players entering the game, I intercepted the data just hours into the event.
- I decided to look at spells and what they targeted, for Ranked Standard and Arena. I picked some popular spells that do damage to both minion and hero. I did not get every card, since I was strapped for time.
- I looked at a few minions that have target effects, for Ranked Standard and Arena. Part of the Arena is playing for tempo (to fight for the board), and not worrying about value. Again, I was strapped for time, so only picked a few.
- Opponent hero tgt in Arena = 4.02%
- Opponent hero tgt in Ranked = 18.02%
While there is a spread of 14% here between the formats, this was likely a bigger chasm when Frost Lance existed. Frostbolt also has more utility on minions, as it prevents one turn of damage. The 4% in Arena speaks to it being used for early board control.
- Opponent hero tgt in Arena = 4.96%
- Opponent hero tgt in Ranked = 17.65%
Flame Geyser has a slightly smaller difference, likely because it just does 2 damage. That likely isn’t much to go face with, and it best equipped for small minions.
- Opponent hero tgt in Arena = 21.12%
- Opponent hero tgt in Ranked = 44.61%
Here we have an over 23% spread. Fireball is one of the most effective face damage spells for the cost. Mages can play off the board better in Ranked.
- Opponent hero tgt in Arena = 8.65%
- Opponent hero tgt in Ranked = 29.26%
Firelands is more a board control tool given it’s cost, and it shows in the difference here. Burn Mages in Ranked still go face with it a lot, despite the heavy cost.
- Opponent hero tgt in Arena = 19.91%
- Opponent hero tgt in Ranked = 29.35%
Back when Hunter was actually good at going face, this might have been a much bigger difference. Now, Hunter has to fight for the board more often, as it struggles to survive in Ranked.
- Opponent hero tgt in Arena = 9.45%
- Opponent hero tgt in Ranked = 6.12%
Here we have reverse splits, as Arena Druids go face with Swipe more often than Standard Ranked Druids. I can’t really explain this, except I know that Druid is the most popular class in Standard. It could be torn by Jade Druid vs Aggro Druid, and how Swipe is employed in each deck.
- No tgt in Arena = 93.72%
- No tgt in Ranked = 72.58%
The Arena has been starved for solid 2-drops since the shift to Standard format, and the reduction of staples like River Crocolisk and Bloodfen Raptor. Golakka Crawler, a tech against Pirates, also has less fewer Pirate targets in Arena than Ranked.
- No tgt in Arena = 11.09%
- No tgt in Ranked = 4.54%
Houndmaster is rarely played as a 4-mana 4/3, as it is a pretty bad tempo play. This 7% different probably just accounts to it being less likely to get Beasts on the board in Arena.
- No tgt in Arena = 20.45%
- No tgt in Ranked = 7.72%
Unlike Houndmaster, Crackling Razormaw is fine being a 3/2 2-drop. I do find the 7% Ranked tempo play being a bit low, which might owe to how important adapt is for Hunter. It is also possible they just play some 1-drops or hero power instead of holding the board.
- No tgt in Arena = 83.37%
- No tgt in Ranked = 15.56%
Again, this speaks to how important 2-mana 2/3’s are in the arena. Murlocs aren’t prevalent in arena, and there is no reason to run this card outside of Paladin in Ranked. This big split isn’t really surprising at all.
- No tgt in Arena = 5.65%
- No tgt in Ranked = 8.63%
And we end at SI:7 Agent, which has the 3-mana 3/3 occurring more in Ranked. This is interesting but understandable. Miracle decks typically lack minions, so there is sometimes no other option. And Rogue is a board-control class in either format, so it is played just like that. Arena Rogues could be a bit more greedy with the value, as they have more minions at the disposal. Still, I think this is a very low percentage for both formats, I would’ve expected it to happen 10-20%.