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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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.

Top-performing cards in the early Frozen Throne Arena meta

Top-performing cards in the early Frozen Throne Arena meta

Unlike Ranked, the Arena meta in Hearthstone typically doesn’t shift much during an expansion. People figure out which cards are good when they are released, and they are typically right on most of the evaluations. Through personal experience playing cards, a few cards will be reevaluated. Take Knights of the Frozen Throne for example. Upon the reveal of Bonemare, I think everyone knew it would be a top-3 Arena neutral for the set. The card will always be premium, probably until it gets rotated out of Standard.

The new Arena meta, or the so-called “Synergy Meta,” is a bit different, and we have seen upheavals from the previous power pyramid. I decided to look at the top cards from the new set for each class, and use that as a gauge to see how the class is doing.

Methodology

  • I went to hsreplay.net to look at Arena cards by deck winrate.
  • I sorted new cards to look at neutrals, and by-class.
  • I ranked each top-performing card by where they stand in the class card pool.

Top class card comparison

Gnash(62955).png

Gnash your teeth if you draft this, but don’t beat yourself up.

Druid

  1. Ultimate Infestation – 60.6% WR, #1 Druid card
  2. Malfurion the Pestilent – 60% WR, #2 Druid card
  3. Druid of the Swarm – 59.2% WR, #3 Druid card
  4. Fatespinner – 58.5% WR, #4 Druid card
  5. Webweave – 58.4%, t5 Druid card

If by some cruel twist, the main complaint of Ranked Hearthstone is also the best Druid class card for Arena. It is a new Arena development, as Druid was never top shelf in the format. The top Druid class cards all being new cards likely has something to do with the class’ rise in the ranks.

Play Dead(62891).png

The equilvalence of playing dead in arena.

Hunter

  1. Deathstalker Rexxar – 57.7% WR, #1 Hunter card
  2. Venomstrike Trap – 56.5% WR, #17 Hunter card
  3. Abominable Bowman – 55.7% WR, #31 Hunter card
  4. Corpse Widow – 55.7% WR, t31 Hunter card
  5. Professor Putricide – 55.5% WR, #34 Hunter card

Unlike other classes, Hunter doesn’t rely on card quality, rather playing the Aggro game to be faster than others. The new cards from this expansion weren’t too impressive relative to the Hunter class toolkit.

Glacial Mysteries(62869).png

Frankly a mystery why anyone would draft this.

Mage

  1. Frost Lich Jaina – 60.1% WR, #1 Mage card
  2. Sindragosa – 57.1% WR, #15 Mage card
  3. Coldwraith – 56.8% WR, #20 Mage card
  4. Ghastly Conjurer – 56.6% WR, #33 Mage card
  5. Breath of Sindragosa – 55.8% WR, #40 Mage card

How the mighty have fallen. The top two class cards for Mage are legendaries, but Frost Lich Jaina gets a decent boost (9.4% of all Arena Mages) from the synergy pick system. The Mage toolkit was lousy for the new set, with a couple of unplayable epic spells, and this helped bring the class down a bit. There were no “bomb spells.” Coldwraith is good, but everything else pales in comparison to the spells from Un’Goro and before.

Light's Sorrow(61833).png

This card is sad. Don’t draft it.

Paladin

  1. Uther of the Ebon Blade – 60.7% WR, #4 Paladin card
  2. Righteous Protector – 60% WR, #12 Paladin card
  3. Bolvar, Fireblood – 58.4% WR, #29 Paladin card
  4. Dark Conviction – 58.1% WR, #32 Paladin card
  5. Arrogant Crusader – 58% WR, #34 Paladin card

To show the quality of Paladin cards in Arena, Righteous Protector is just #12, and it is as good as it gets for a 1-drop. A lot of lackluster cards, but everything is overpowered to keep the class great. Note the reduction of Stonehill Defender, which makes it a must-pick draft rare.

Archbishop Benedictus(62856).png

This can be countered by blind drafting kappa.

Priest

  1. Shadowreaper Anduin – 59.4% WR, #1 Priest card
  2. Obsidian Statue – 55.4% WR, #20 Priest card
  3. Shadow Ascendant – 55.3% WR, #23 Priest card
  4. Embrace Darkness – 54.1% WR, #34 Priest card
  5. Spirit Lash – 54% WR, #35 Priest card

Seeing a trend here, yes the Death Knight heroes remain quite good. Obsidian Statue is a good card, but costing 9 likely has something to do it being just 20th best. Shadow Ascendant might be better in classes with more aggressive early game as well. Everything else is mediocre.

Leeching Poison(61821).png

A leech in your draft card quality.

Rogue

  1. Plague Scientist – 59.8% WR, #14 Rogue card
  2. Bone Baron – 59.7% WR, #16 Rogue card
  3. Shadowblade – 59.6% WR, #17 Rogue card
  4. Lilian Voss – 59.4% WR, #21 Rogue card
  5. Spectral Pillager – 58.4% WR, #36 Rogue card

It seems Death Knight Valeera is more of a Constructed build-around than Arena card. But, the Rogue got Plague Scientist, Bone Baron and Shadowblade, all decent cards to keep the class afloat. The class card kit is still spectacular, and the new cards don’t particularly hurt the class standing.

Moorabi(62845).png

Moorabi? More like, uh, Moo-don’t-draft-this.

Shaman

  1. Thrall, Deathseer – 54.2% WR, #17 Shaman card
  2. Brrrloc – 53.7% WR, #25 Shaman card
  3. Avalanche – 53.3% WR, #31 Shaman card
  4. Voodoo Hexxer – 52.8% WR, #41 Shaman card
  5. Snowfury Giant – 51.9% WR, #48 Shaman card

Shaman was definitely in the lower third in Un’Goro, and the new freeze class identity shift decelerated any Arena movement it had. I mean, the top class common/rare is Brrrloc, with a low winrate. Thrall, Deathseer seems solid in Constructed, where it might be easier to hold the board than in Ranked. The hero does nothing on an empty board. I expected Voodoo Hexxer to be one of the better cards, but that doesn’t appear to be the case right now. If the synergy pick is working correctly, Thrall, Deathseer should be offered 2x higher, like Frost Lich Jaina.

Howlfiend(62894).png

How to mill your deck in arena without clearing the board.

Warlock

  1. Bloodreaver Gul’dan – 59.9% WR, #1 Warlock card
  2. Despicable Dreadlord – 59.5% WR, #3 Warlock card
  3. Defile – 57.5% WR, #17 Warlock card
  4. Drain Soul – 56.5% WR, #30 Warlock card
  5. Gnomeferatu – 56.4% WR, #32 Warlock card

Arena Warlock was always fun in my book, and now is the time to reap. Some new ridiculous toys were added to the toolkit, and Bloodreaver Gul’dan (10.2%!) is seeing an offering bonus thanks to the synergy picks. Despicable Dreadlord is a stud. Defile will give humanities majors fits, but efficient board clear. The class has moved up a good deal.

Dead Man's Hand(62842).png

Literally a dead man or woman in arena because you drafted this.

Warrior

  1. Scourgelord Garrosh – 56.8% WR, #1 Warrior card
  2. Blood Razor – 52.1% WR, #12 Warrior card
  3. Forge of Souls – 52% WR, #13 Warrior card
  4. Mountainfire Armor – 51.3% WR, #16 Warrior card
  5. Val’kyr Soulclaimer – 49.3% WR, #37 Warrior card

The Arena doghouse class is still there. A lot of the cards had the “Whirlwind theme” which is more of a Constructed build around, than being good for Arena. Ravaging Ghoul is good since it fits being a 3-drop. Overcosted 5’s and 4’s aren’t that good. Maybe a fun challenge for good Arena players.

Wretched Tiller(62946).png
Funny voicelines but wretched pick.

Neutrals

  1. The Lich King – 59.9% WR
  2. Bonemare – 59.3% WR
  3. Keening Banshee – 58.8% WR
  4. Hyldnir Frostrider – 58.3% WR
  5. Deathspeaker – 57.9% WR

The Lich King is just OP and should be drafted over almost every legendary. You can make an exception for Death Knight heroes maybe, and a few good ones. The neutrals and rares on this list all are over-stated, or buff other minions to help preserve the board.

There you have it. Just by looking at class card rankings, you can estimate where the class is in the new Arena meta. Look forward to checking more data and numbers as the Arena meta keeps on moving.

This One Stings A Little

This One Stings A Little

After fighting off attempts for extra sleep in the morning, I either open 1 of 2 apps on my phone, Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links or Twitter. Those are just the priorities I have. This morning it happened to be Twitter. Hearthstone Arena extraordinaire @ADWCTA posted a tweet saying there were changes to the Lightforge Tier List because of offering changes. This was odd because I did not know of any mentioned changes to the offering rates of Arena cards. While I have been pissed off playing the Un’Goro Arena, I still would’ve heard of it. I expected that either the entire Un’Goro draft offering rate was back to baseline (1x), or certain OP cards were reduced.

I had to fire up Relay to scan the /r/ArenaHS and /r/Hearthstone subreddits before I found out what it was all about. Someone posted on Reddit complaining about Un’Goro offering rates, something I have done on this blog before.

reddit ungoro arena.PNG

Team 5 dev, Iksar, who is usually the spokesperson for all things Arena responded in the comments.

iksar response arena change.PNG

What the heck? Basically:

  1. The Arena offering rate of Un’Goro cards were changed from 100% more to 50%. This happened on the June 1, 2017 update. The communication above was posted in the comments section of a Reddit post on June 21, 2017. It was not in the Patch Notes.
  2. There are planned micro-tweaks to card offering rates in the future that will happen in the background.

I hope I’m not making a big deal out of nothing, but this is huge. Not putting minor details in Patch Notes is one thing, but this is another story. Arena costs 150 gold to enter or $1.99. I would not have wanted to have been the poor sap who paid $1.99 to draft an Arena on misinformation.

While I haven’t used The Lightforge or Heartharena to help draft in the Arena lately, a lot of people do. Both sides have their loyal fans that live and die by tierlists. Heartharena in particular, has their automated drafting scores and Kripp tooting the horn. This information was flawed for 3 weeks, as Un’Goro offering card adjustments will affect synergies, like Elementals.

I am lucky that I have only played 6 Arenas in June 2017, so my wins and loss haven’t really been affected to a big extent. But again, there are people who (somehow) played Arena the whole month, and some people shooting for the leaderboard. Overall, this one just stings. It feels like Arena doesn’t matter, despite what efforts have been communicated about improving it.

What concerns me is the future communication about the planned micro-changes. Knowing the Arena community, they would want to know if Primordial Glyph got reduced by 2%. Every detail affects tier lists and the overall psychology going into the draft. If this isn’t a harbinger of things to come, I think Arena will just get more murky than it is.

They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To

They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To

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.

Top neutrals

top neutrals.PNG

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:

paladin taunts.png

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.

shaman taunts.png

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.

Mages

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.

glyph.PNG

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.

cabalist.PNG

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.

pyroblast.PNG

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.

iceblock mirror.PNG

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.

Rogues’ removals

In order to create a smokescreen of fairness and equality, I will say some things about my favorite class, the Rogue.

rogue.PNG

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.

The feel

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.

Solutions

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.

Snapshots of the Early Un’Goro Arena Meta

Snapshots of the Early Un’Goro Arena Meta

I like to think of the current Hearthstone Un’Goro meta as the “trigger meta,” in that I have become annoyed with a lot of cards. A lot of this has to do with the meta decks in ranked play as Pirate Warrior, Quest (Caverns) Rogue, and Quest (Exodia) Mage are simply frustrating to lose against. While these constructed decks perturb me often, the same can be said about the Arena meta.

We are in the teeth of the new rotation, meaning that this is the lowest card pool in the Arena pool all year. When the second and third expansions come out in 2017, the draftable and playable card pool will increase. Thus, we will see more variety in the draft pool, as well as the Discover and random effect (Burgle, Transform) pool. Combined with the increase in spell rate, we are seeing a lot of cards over and over again. Let’s take an overview of the most common Arena cards, in this early Arena meta.

Hearthstone Screenshot 04-16-17 22.29.30.png
This interaction took a while

Data source

I just pulled the data from hsreplay.net, about 12 pm EST on 4/18/17. The data pulls numbers from the last 14 days. I filtered out cards that are now rotated into wild, but may still be present in “grandfathered” Arena decks. I also filtered out Legendaries, as they are not really important to Arena.

Top neutrals

Neutrals are the glue of the Arena. But with a new card pool, boost to rares and epics, and decreased offering rate to Basic cards, what should we expect?

Frequency

hsreplay_top10neutral.PNG

9 of the 10 top neutral cards are from Un’Goro, with Bog Creeper being the sole holdout. It’s interesting that the two poisonous cards in Stubborn Gastropod and Giant Wasp have the lower played winrates, which goes to show that cards without intiative have lower played winrates. Really no surprises in this list, as they are all very good. It is obvious that Volanosaur is #1 despite not being the best card in this list, since everyone gets to draft a golden one.

 

Deck winrate

hsreplay_neutraltop10win.PNG

Here we have the top 10 neutrals in terms of deck winrate, and hey there’s Primordial Drake again. I think Bright-Eyed Scout may be an underlooked card, as it could be a late game play on Turn 9 for big tempo. Silithid Swarmer and Naga Corsair are on the list because they are good Rogue cards. Charged Devilsaur is also proving it’s worth as a great epic neutral.

Top class cards by frequency

Finally, I will look at all the top class cards in terms of frequency. These are useful in playing matchups against a particular class, to play around certain cards. I am only looking at cards that are in over 30% of decks for each. I picked 30% for no particular reason.

Druid

hsreplay_druid30pct.PNG

Tortollan Forager, despite having a dumb voiceline, will be seen in 50% of Druid decks. Just a very good card. Druids will have a bunch of removal spells from the boosted offering rate, though no hard removal. Moonglade Portal is in 33% of decks, and has the bad RNG aspect to help swing games. As expected, Druid is one of the worst Arena classes right now.

Hunter

hsreplay_hunter30pct.PNG

Hunters are seeing healthy winrates, and their top 3 neutral commons are from the new set. Plus, they all have solid deck winrates. Explosive Shot and Call of the Wild show up over 33% of the time, so come to expect those power cards on Turn 5 and 9. Play around Deadly Shot and Unleash.

Mage

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When Flamestrike saw it’s offering rate cut in half, there was debate as to why Flamestrike and not Firelands Portal. We’ll never get the answer why, but Firelands Portal continues to be the menace of having high deck winrate and played winrate. The initiative of leaving something on board is too good, and the chance to get Leeroy and Doomguard are as high as ever…

Anyhow, you’ve got a lot of powerful stuff appearing for Mage. Important to play around Meteor with good positioning on minion placement. They’ve got some early game now as well, so just a lot of good Mage stuff.

Paladin

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Paladin dropped to the middle tiers it seems with Gadgetzan, but seems to have cards with higher deck winrates now. Spikeridged Steed is seen a ton, as it has the spell offering buff, and is just a very OP card. Dinosize is a card that I like a lot myself, despite initial impression, and is sporting a solid played winrate, as a finisher. Vinecleaver is also another sneaky card that looked bad to me at first, but has a huge played winrate. Paladin is back, and these cards are quite fun.

Priest

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Priest has the biggest list in terms of diversity, and they are mostly spells. Potion of Madness is still appearing in a maddening 41% of decks, so continue playing around that card. Free From Amber is as I expected, overrated, as the guy you get is a neutral card with likely no battlecry effect. Nothing really new to report, but Priests are doing their thing with reactive spells and just a big variety of choices.

Rogue

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Vilespine Slayer, possibly the strongest card in Un’Goro, predictably has high winrates and is the autopick in the epic slot. Hallucination is amazing, but falls victim to RNG gets now and then. But Rogue just has a ton of hard removal, as almost every card in this list is just that. Still great for Arena.

Shaman

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With the loss of strong early game tempo minions, Shaman has become a reactive Arena class. Volcano, despite it’s horrible played winrate, will be seen in half of Arena Shaman drafts. A lot of other spells are present, with the Hot Spring Guardian being an okay card seen a bit. Shaman doesn’t seem to be in a great spot, but if you like flashy looking spells, Shaman could be fun.

Warlock

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Warlock took a step back after being top dog. While Abyssal Enforcer getting reduced is the sexy answer, it is most likely because Imp Gang Boss is gone. Warlocks still have hard removal and AoE options, with things that hurt the player. It is interesting that the power epic cards like DOOM! and Twister Nether aren’t being picked more often. Ravenous Pterrordax is showing up a bit, and could be snowbally like the neutral Pterrordax.

Warrior

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Bringing up the rear as always is Warrior. There’s a short list here, because Warriors likely have to hedge picks for weapons, which inexplicably don’t get the increased offering rate that spells do. Weapons are spells for weapon classes! Direhorn Hatchling isn’t a great Arena card, since it relies on getting the draw for value, but it is the default leader. Just as a fun exercise, Ornery Direhorn, the class common was played 51,000 times in the last 2 weeks. Meteor, the Mage 6-mana epic, a situational removal play, was played 260,000 times in the last 2 weeks. That can show you what state Warrior is in.

Coming to a Hearthstone Arena Near You

Coming to a Hearthstone Arena Near You

tldr; Arena is changing, and I have more questions

Today, Hearthstone devs Ben Brode and Dean Ayala headed the first ever “Hearthstone Livestream Q&A stream,” fielding questions from various outlets like their blog, Twitter, and Twitch Chat. This session was mentioned well in advance, so you can imagine how many questions were headed their way. Most of it was funneled, so only about 10 or so topics made the cut for an hour. A fairly complete summary can be found here: https://www.reddit.com/r/hearthstone/comments/5ns018/summary_of_the_qa_stream/

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TM

I mostly tuned out while listening to it, as I was doing the impossible task of managing my staff and watching it at the same time. But I was able to catch the most important 2 minutes or so that I got from the whole thing. That was the brief mention by Dean about what changes are coming for the arena.

What will [possibly/likely] happen to the arena

  1. Arena will become standard.
  2. There will be fewer common cards offered in a typical draft, compared to now.
  3. There will be fewer minions offered in a typical draft, compared to now.
  4. There will be fewer basic, neutral minions offered in a typical draft, compared to now.

While the phrasing of Dean’s summary is not exact, I would rather not put words into people’s mouths, so I think the language I used in the four points above don’t imply anything more than it should.

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Just shocking news

Standard arena

I ain’t burying no lede, so here is the real galvanizing lightning rod of the arena news, though I don’t think it is the most “impactful.” I’ll explain in a bit. But this is surely divisive news.

One point is that you need to rotate out cards in the arena, or else it becomes impossible to draft a cogent deck. Any hope for synergy would be gone with too many cards, and it will be impossible to play around anything the opponent plays. There won’t be much “arena skill” that will come into play, if there are too many cards in the mix.

The counterpoint is more of an emotional response, in that arena loses it’s identity. The arena has always been about having knowledge of a wider range of cards, and being forced to play obscure cards. With sets of cards being rotated out, there will be a lot fewer cards to play with, and it will resemble Standard Ranked play much more.

It is important to point out though Dean used the phrase “Standard,” we don’t know what this means exactly. While it is heavily implied this means a reduction of card sets available to play with in arena, we don’t know the details. This includes:

  • Will arena follow the same standard rotation as ranked?
  • Will this standard arena set be permanent, or will there be certain months where certain cards come back? There was previous chatter about themed set arena months.
  • Will the upcoming “wild” arena cards be gone for good? We have a banlist now, but those banned cards occasionally show up in Discover or through a random minion outcome.
  • A number of cards are banned in the arena draft (e.g. Undercity Valiant, Snowchugger). Will any of these card be reinstated, or remain banned?
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takes aplenty

Fewer commons

Dean mentioned cards like Flamestrike, Firelands Portal, and Abyssal Enforcer (best card in this meta) being too powerful, where the arena meta is dictated by these powerful cards. Thus, he mentioned having fewer common cards in an arena draft.

Big deal here for arena, I think bigger than the possibility of Standard rotation.When you play the current version of arena, you typically play around powerful commons, you sometimes play around powerful rares, and you never really play around powerful epics/legendaries. Reducing commons in the arena will completely break this fundamental dynamic, and will completely change how you play the arena.

The power level of great common cards is further magnified when you consider increased class offering rate, and set offering rate.

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<You kill my family>

e.g. Abyssal Enforcer OP = (Bonkers value) x (Common rate) x (Class bonus) x (MSG bonus)

Right now, I’d say about 66-70% of a draft is made of common cards, over 20 of your cards should be common in most drafts. Rares are likely to be the prime beneficiary of in the reduction of common cards. But what if Epics were increased to a big level? That would make the arena a virtual clown fiesta, given the zany nature of Epic cards. More Legendary cards will also be interesting, though Legendary cards tend to be feast or famine in the arena, and people will be going for stuff like Deathwing and Dr. Boom most of the time.

Fewer minions

Dean mentioned that they are looking to have more spells in the arena, given that there seems to be a 50-50 split of spells and minions in constructed. I guess there is a want for arena to focus less on having a mana curve, to play minions on each turn.

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Arena has always been about minion-based combat. The reason for this is mainly because:

  • Minions “do more” than spells. They contend with the board better, they can attack things, they fill turn curves, etc.
  • While damage/removal spells are premium, a lot of spells are situational, and thus not good for the arena, given it may not help your current deck. Reliability is the key.

While this idea may sound good, I am not a big fan of it at all. It devalues the need to fight for the board, which is such a key skill for arena. Knowing when to trade versus when to go face is huge. This variety of fighting for the board with weird cards is a big appeal in the arena for me.

Having more spells leads to less board interactions. Mages are notorious for being the class that plays off the board best in the arena, given the big availability of good board clears. It is always frustrating to play against Mages with nut decks in the arena, and this just plays to the Mage’s strengths. While the spells would go up concurrently for all classes, some classes will benefit, while others won’t.

The ability to reduce the number of minions in a draft also leads to questions like, what happens to the value of weapons? Are they treated like spells or minions or just themselves?

Fewer neutral basic minions

This point is a bit of an amalgamation of the above two, but Dean did specifically state changes to “neutral, basic minions” mentioning cards like River Crocolisk and Magma Rager. Mentioning River Crocolisk as a problem gets at the point of attacking the need for a minion-based mana curve. Magma Rager was likely thrown in as a defense mechanism to not give too much information away, as mentioning Chillwind Yeti would’ve put the icing on the cake.

The mention of reducing fewer neutral basic minions opens up a slew of questions on its own. As basic/free cards, these minions should be part of the standard rotation of cards. Does this confirm that the standard rotation set in Arena is different than that of Ranked? Exactly how much lower of a chance will we see these cards, compared to Classic set neutral? Does this reduction also apply to basic class cards?

Of course, some of the vanilla curve minions like River Crocolisk, Chillwind Yeti, Boulderfist Ogre and War Golem are on here. While reducing/removing these cards would definitely spice up the minion quality of any draft, a lot of these cards are great. Shattered Sun Cleric! (You will pay for that, cur!) Sen’jin Shieldmasta! (taz’dingo!)

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Confirmed?

A very important point is that Dean mentioned that [some of] these changes are all but confirmed, and slated for a future patch release. I doubt that all four of the changes I mentioned are set in stone as of now, but I would venture that they are likely to happen. I don’t want to say they are confirmed changes to the arena, but it is the plan.

Final thoughts

  • This is a bitter pill to take, but a necessary move to preserve arena. The soul of the arena is corrupted, for continued survival.
  • This change is a first, that is why it is an unfamiliar and uncomfortable change. If this game persists longer, such rotations would be accepted easier down the line.
  • While we have an idea of where the arena is headed, the Q&A today opened up many, many more questions, as I had feared it would.
  • Arena gameplay is changing drastically. I hope to adjust well enough to at least play at my normal level.

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