Latest Arena Scoop with Hafu and Mike Donais

Latest Arena Scoop with Hafu and Mike Donais

One year ago, I first reported on some Hearthstone Arena insights, thanks to top player Hafu and game designer Mike Donais playing Arena on Twitch. I became aware of another co-op that went on yesterday, which can be seen here. As a dedicated Arena player, any of these insights are especially juicy and interesting. I watched the co-op to pick up on any incoming news coming to Arena. The following declarations are not official, but come from now Principal Game Designer Mike Donais, so that for what it’s worth.

Vicious Fledgling out

Arguably one of the most snowbally cards in Arena history, Vicious Fledgling, is going to be on a banlist coming next patch. It definitely is not the best card in the rare pool when you look at wins, but it definitely was not a fair card. The card won’t be gone entirely, as it will come up in Discover/Random Effects/Transform. I for one will be glad to see it go, as the bad moments seem to come up much more than the good ones.

Mage is mid-tier

Mages got a subpar set of cards in KFT. Their best Arena card is a 3-mana 3/4. This coupled with microadjustments, has knocked Mage to being the 5th-best Arena class. Definitely an unfamiliar position for the class. While you’ll still run into those who have constant answers and board clears, the ones who don’t get victimized more in the low-win pool.

Speed mode?

Never cared for slow Hearthstone play. When asked about the possibility of a speed mode, Mike Donais mentioned that the team has tested it out. He mentioned there were problems with dragged out effects, and mobile play.

A card like Dinomancy

In the background noise of Blizzard HQ, there seemed to be a social gathering going on where Mike was playing Arena. There was laughter (not Brode), and people talking loudly, but indiscriminately. In this, Mike mentioned that Iksar was talking about a card that had a similar effect as Dinomancy. Dinomancy is predictably one of those cards that never went anywhere, is just for fun.

Auto-squelch

Mike Donais squelched every opponent in the run, something I am starting to do more of. He personally is a fan of implementing that feature for Hearthstone, but I have a feeling that decision isn’t up to him.

Robot drafts

Were synergy picks made to specifically combat Arena drafting tools? Hafu and Mike faced a few players who had amazing decks, but made a lot of bad plays. The subject of “robot drafts” came up, in how seemingly players have amazing decks everywhere, sometimes not matching up to skill. Mike mentioned synergy picks meaning to throw a wrinkle to the robot drafts.

Arena patch timing

The next patch, which would get rid of synergy picks, Vicious Fledgling, and possibly more, isn’t coming in the “next week or two.” Mid October or later October?

OP Death Knights

An Arena complaint that shows up every so often are Death Knights, which can swing the game right back in the favor of a player. A big-time “blue shell play.” Mike didn’t imply that Death Knights were leaving Arena, or were planned to do so yet.

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Stream of Consciousness: Hearthstone HCT Disconnects

Stream of Consciousness: Hearthstone HCT Disconnects

I’ve always been a skeptic regarding the sustainability and success of esports. It sounded really cool for a while, and I often joked that I should “drop everything and play games for a living.” Reality sank in, and continues to when you see esports teams disbanding all the time, or dropping their teams. Esports teams remind me of old automakers. Did you know there used to be hundreds of automakers? Now you can mostly name them in minutes. They don’t make Mercury and Oldsmobiles anymore!

A couple days ago, I went to an ASUS Republic of Gamers event to try to win free stuff. Notable esports host Rachel “Seltzer” Quirico was there, playing Overwatch and announcing the raffle. It was cool, I got to play Overwatch on a really fancy gaming rig. I got to sit on a gaming chair. I won a pillow. But in the middle of a busy electronics store, not a lot of people stopped by. Even the raffle itself was like 10 people vying for the grand prize. Which makes my not winning it feel worse… But even the ASUS employee asked if I was going to the ESL at Barclays Center, and my response was, “what game are they playing?” Is esports here in New York? Not sure.

In the realm of Hearthstone esports, my views have always been colored by RNG, not other problems. Once Yogg-Saron decided a game, all bets were off. The “anything can happen” aspect of Hearthstone isn’t the best vehicle for something important. It could be fun and spectacular, but fairly back-breaking to those who ultimately work for nothing.

The focus of this weekend, the 2017 Americas Summer Playoffs were mainly disconnects. This one is a doozie.

Here is something from Twitter:

Capture.PNG

Here is something from Reddit:

Capture2.PNG

Blizzard at least acknowledged the problems:

Capture3.PNG

If the internet gets everyone riled up enough, this seems like a big disaster. There could be some fixes down the line, but what if it isn’t enough.

Some practical ideas on how to fix it:

  • In-game tournament mode.

I’m just being a troll by mentioning this, and I don’t know if it will come. I don’t know if the game is built for it. I don’t know if it is worth the money to develop. I’m just going to assume this isn’t coming, and look for other solutions.

  • Scrap the current Innkeeper system and hold them at bigger venues.

The Innkeeper makes the tournament experience seem grassroots and is definitely very flavorful. It helps build human relationships in a digital game. But in the end, is it worth it? The problems associated with this weekend in Hearthstone esports could likely have been avoided. I mentioned the Barclays Center earlier, where they are playing CS:GO at ESL. They have concerts there. It will definitely have the capacity for an esports tournament. Internet problems seem to be an issue of 1) not having strong enough wireless fidelity and capacity (sorry I don’t know the tech words), 2) not having enough manpower to build/strategize/create better, 3) not having enough money to build something better.

Remember when Buffalo Wild Wings was a bit of a meme? That actually turned out quite decently, and people at those venues didn’t have disconnection issues. I don’t think it was luck that Buffalo Wild Wings had good enough internet. They have standards for quality, and can afford it.

  • Force everyone to play on a wired connection.

Earlier in the year when I had a job, I had college student interns. Once when trying to connect a printer, I asked her where the ethernet port was on the printer. She didn’t know what it was, responding, “I’ve had WiFi all my life.” I was shocked and the moment will likely remain with me forever.

I don’t trust WiFi. I’m not sure if it is because I literally can’t see it or what, but I just don’t believe in it. Not only are your speeds slower, but interference can come from anywhere. Background applications and programs can hog bandwidth. A train could be passing outside and cause a disturbance. I just had to install a WiFi extender, since my room can’t get connect right.

A trusty ethernet cord will eliminate most disconnect problems. Sure, you could have issues with the router/modem. Sure, you could mess up with ethernet in other ways. But having a tenable connection is better than something floating in the air.

The dark truth (NA Internet)

It’s also possible that the problems can never be resolved. Not unlike our healthcare system, the internet in America sucks. Anyone who has paid for internet here knows they aren’t getting a good deal. You have to pay an arm and a leg for internet (and no, I don’t want phone in this day and age), and have to pay a lot after the contract year. Disconnections happen, and they may not resolve for a while. Internet companies are greedy and can do whatever they want. They aren’t regulated too much by the FCC, and the consumer has very little say at all.

Innkeepers may never have the capability to have decent internet, given the poor built environment for it. No matter what upgrades you can make, it will always be shaky footing. While a big venue like the Barclays Center can shoulder the load, costs are costs. I don’t think it is in the cards to borrow a big venue for these Hearthstone esports events.

 

Visualizing the Hearthstone Arena Synergy Picks

Visualizing the Hearthstone Arena Synergy Picks

The Hearthstone Arena is in a weird place now. Untouched for practically 3 years of the game’s existence, the format is now seeing changes here and there. One of the more recent changes, introduced around the time Knights of the Frozen Throne was released, are the synergy picks. Your first 2 picks out of 30 in the Arena all come from a much smaller pool of cards, the synergy pool.

Most people who play Hearthstone don’t care about the new synergies, or don’t know it exists. People seemingly only care about Ranked and even Tavern Brawl, more than Arena. In the minority of Arena players that do care, some people like the new synergy, and others don’t.

It won’t take a gun to my head to have me tell you that I don’t like the new synergy system. I don’t like being forced to pick a mediocre or subpar card, for the chance of a fringe synergy. My game is about tempo, and synergy is just extra. But that didn’t stop me from thinking about these picks, given how pervasive they are in the Arena now. How good are these synergy picks, and across classes?

Methodology

  • I tried to determine how good each synergy pick is, in respect to the class-rarity pool. I used HSReplay.net to find where a card ranked in “Deck winrate,” out of all cards for that class, in that rarity. Deck winrate varies greatly among classes, so I decided to look ranks within class. Rank analysis is used in nonparametric study design, and is not outlandish.
  • I pulled the source of synergy picks from Heartharena. I’m not sure if this list is complete, but from a visual check, it seems correct.
  • I made 3 tables for Synergy Commons, Synergy Rares, and Synergy Epics.
  • Each card received a percentage. This percentage stands for percentile in the class-rarity pool. e.g. The #10 deck winrate card out of 100 will be 10%.
  • I added a color scale on the spreadsheet for visualization. Green is good, yellow is meh, and red is bad.

Assumptions

Misinterpreting or having misleading data is worse than having no data, so let’s make some assumptions before the results:

  • HSReplay data is not representative of everyone – People who track all their games, and have decktracking lists are probably better than the average Hearthstone player. While this doesn’t include very good players who play on their phones, I would assume more casual players don’t use the technology that exists for computers.
  • Deck winrate is not perfect – Far from a perfect metric, but the best we have to evaluate card performance. Bad cards in 12-win drafts and good cards in 0-win drafts get muddled in the metric. This goes into the fact that high-performing decks typically have better cards. But individual player skill, outside of the draft isn’t really taken into account.
  • Intervals between ranks are not uniform – Cards next to each other on the rank aren’t separated equally. Typically, the worst card is really bad, and a few percent worse than the penultimate. You may even have cards with the same exact winrate, but placed arbitrarily on the rank order.
  • Data is dynamic – HSReplay data constantly refreshes, and the free version looks at the last 14 days. To avoid changing data in the dataset for analysis, I did not refresh the page I looked at, to make sure I had a static snapshot for all data used.
  • Statistical power is equal – Power is basically the bigger a sample size, the more reliable the results. In the ranks, I included every card not considered sparse. So the rank of a card played 100,000 times is on the same level as a card played 2,000 times. The card played 2,000 times probably needs more reps to see it’s “true deck winrate.”

Limitations

Also some limitations of this analysis/visualization:

  • No legendaries – Legendary picks make up a good portion of the synergy picks actually. But when looking at the data, there wasn’t enough power to have a definitive denominator for each class. For example, The Voraxx, a synergy legendary, was only picked 360 times in 2 weeks by Hunters. Everyone knows it is horrible by now, and avoids it. With that, I scrapped evaluation of legendaries. Know that Medivh, Kazakus and the DK Heroes are all very good.
  • No sparse data – HSReplay automatically filters out cards that haven’t been played much. This is done primarily to weed out old drafts that include Wild or banned cards. However, picks perceived as bad by the public (and subsequently undrafted) sometimes don’t show up. An example would be Am’gam Rager, which is very seldom drafted by Mages, or Blood of the Ancient One for Druids. While it feels bad to leave out currently draftable cards from the ranks, their lack of statistical power had to be considered. Ultimately, only a few cards were left out for each class, which won’t significantly affect the rankings for the synergy picks .

Synergy pick commons

synergy_chart_common

  • Rockpool Hunter shows up consistently as a high-ranking deck winrate card, primarily because it serves as 2-drop stability.
  • Primalfin Lookout is the worst neutral common synergy pick, likely because very few Murlocs were found after picking it.
  • Netherspite Historian is actually in the top third of Priest commons, given Dragon synergy.
  • Warlock got some great expansion cards, but the solid synergy pick commons help too. Same for Druid.

Synergy pick rares

synergy_chart_rare.PNG

  • Tol’vir Stoneshaper is everywhere, as the 4-mana 3/5 is not backbreaking, being off 1 point. Much better than picking Gadgetzan Auctioneer or Coldlight Seer.
  • Devilsaur Egg performs much better in Warlock, possibly due to Unwilling Sacrifice.
  • Book Wyrm confirms Priest Dragon synergy.
  • Warrior has relatively better ranks in the synergy rares, which could mean their overall card pool is worse compared to the synergy picks.

Synergy pick epics

synergy_chart_epic.PNG

  • There are a few relatively safe epic synergy picks in Murloc Warleader, Blazecaller, and Southsea Captain.
  • Blubber Baron is as bad as advertised. Don’t try to make that “synergy” work.
  • The Paladin epic class synergy picks are mostly horrendous.
  • Corpsetaker is predictably best in Paladin, thanks to Divine Shield, but is just the 50th percentile.
  • Warrior has relatively better ranks again in the epic synergy picks. Horrible card pool overall confirmed.

Stream of Consciousness: Hype Should Not Be Fixing Something Broken

It’s 12:30pm here in East Coast, USA, and big news is coming shortly in the world of Hearthstone.

celestial.JPG

To those unaware, or not currently playing Hearthstone, there has been a big Druid problem (and Jade Druid, and Aggro Druid). This probably refers to what Ben Brode teased recently:

brode druid.JPG

The news will break some time in the next few hours, and something will be announced. Something regarding Druid, and perhaps more. Let’s state some things are mostly true:

  1. Druid is busted in it’s current state, for many different reasons.
  2. There are other problems in Hearthstone, with other classes.
  3. The Arena synergy draft system is a disaster.

There’s no denying Druid is a problem in Ranked, and other problems exist. Let’s get to point 2, I think Ice Block is an example of a card that has existed far too long, as it reneges on the “fun and interactive” promise of the game. Some Arena players don’t think 3 is much of an issue, but most are on the train that it sucks. Nobody has to draft Blubber Baron. There’s no reason Frost Lich Jaina appears in 10% of Arenas.

Let me state some other things that are mostly true:

  1. Hearthstone is an amazing game that has kept a lot of players playing it for years.
  2. Hearthstone hype is hyped very well.

Here’s my thought, one that may not be all that original:

Hype should not be invested on things that shouldn’t have been broken to begin with.

I’m really excited about these upcoming announcements today (or announcements of announcements). Even if I have no interest in playing Ranked right now, the news excites me as a Hearthstone player. I want lots of change in a game mode I don’t really play.

But these things shouldn’t be hyped about it. These Druid cards shouldn’t have been allowed to hit the factory floor like they are now. The Arena synergy system shouldn’t have been put in live in it’s current state, without more thought or testing.

I don’t want to be excited about these changes. But there is, for a lack of a better phrase, a hypnotic attraction that Hearthstone has on me that built the hype automatically.

Hype in this game should be spent on announcing new things and content. If this announcement bundles Druid patch changes with a new Ranked laddering system, I take some of it back.

I’m not happy that I will be routinely checking Twitter and Reddit to get on the news today. But I will!