Death Knights Leaving Arena + Thoughts About the Community and Future

Death Knights Leaving Arena + Thoughts About the Community and Future

The newest Hearthstone Arena changes are coming in a few days, with the removal of Death Knight cards from the draft pool. Maybe because there is no relevant news for the game for the time being, this became a very controversial change. While the actual implications to the Arena are low with these removals, the precedent this has set is more important to discuss.

Arena Death Knights by the Numbers

overall dk

Here are the overall numbers, courtesy of hsreplay.net. This doesn’t really say much, as these are the overall numbers for each class, from the pool of all games and cards. All you can tell with this is that the Rogue DK card is pretty bad, the Shaman DK card is debatable, and the 7 others are pretty good. The played WR of the Rogue DK card is especially low, signifying poor initiative from the card.

class specific

Here are the numbers again, with class-specific percent rates. While their removal is relatively low impact, these numbers show that the DKs appear more than other cards. With the increased offering rate of legendaries, and with DKs generally being OP, they get picked nearly automatically for legendaries. You can see that there is approximately a 10% chance of facing a Death Knight in each Arena game. 10% isn’t enough for one to start playing around DKs, but it isn’t nothing either.

The deck winrates by rank are also very high. Malfurion, Jaina, Anduin, and Guldan are all the #1 Arena card for their respective classes, while Rexxar, Uther, and Garrosh are top tier. Thrall is around average, and Valeera is as good as Priestess of Elune.

So yes, DKs are generally really good in Arena. The Gul’dan and Jaina cards in particular, boast very high Played WR percentages, showing they have a bigger direct impact in flipping the board when played. Further, these cards were offered a lot during the forgettable “Synergy Pick Era,” planting the seed for complaints for the removal of all DKs.

Reaction

kibler death knight.PNG

This initial point, which sparked much discussion afterwards, is neither correct nor incorrect, as it depends on one’s perspective on the matter.

  • If you play a lot of Arena (daily), the chance of seeing a DK isn’t a rare thing.
  • DKs will be offered less by next expansion, but they will universally be drafted, making it close to 7% of matches.
  • Not sure if people play Arena just to play cards they don’t have.

Of course, any of my points above are dependent on your own individual experiences.

kibler iksar death knight.PNG

Here we see dev Iksar saying the changes were not targeting Arena balance. As correctly noted by Kibler, that is how many, myself included, initially interpreted the changes. This could also be a way to defend the inclusion of OP commons like Bonemare staying in Arena.

amaz death knights

Here, Amaz expresses his disappointment with the change. Amaz is a very good Arena player, but not a particularly long-time Arena player. His views of Arena may lean towards having more exciting and useful cards to draft.

A Dangerous Precedent (Changes)

The Hearthstone Arena is improving. The Hallow Arena event was a success, enjoyed by players of all types. The synergy picks got removed, approved of by most. Now the Death Knights are leaving, prompting the currently mixed response. Is the Arena changing too fast?

Old Arena players remember when the Arena stayed the same from 2013-2016. I come from the school of ADWCTA and Merps, of the Lightforge Podcast, and part-creators (yeah, I said it) of the HearthArena tier list. On the scale of 1-10 of willingness to criticize Team 5, they are on 11. They have criticized Team 5 for not caring about Arena, doing things poorly for Arena, not having played enough Arena, and communicating poorly about the Arena. They’ve gone all the way. Arena went unchanged until last year, when they decided to ban the first set of cards from drafting. Basically, complaints launched by the Lightforge went unanswered for a while. What I’m trying to say is that old Arena players are not used to change. They want change, but did not expect it that often.

Now you can just go on r/ArenaHS, and several posts by known members of the community calling for more cards to be banned from Arena. Are changes coming too often? Why is this a dangerous precedent?

Hearthstone Screenshot 08-28-17 12.15.06
“You don’t stand a ghost of a chance”

Who Asked?

Recent Arena bans have clued us into who asked for the bans. A co-op between Hafu and Mike Donais showed that she really wanted (and was pleased with) the Vicious Fledgling removal. Kripp recently posted a video complaining about Arena DKs, and here we are. It’s not surprising that Team 5 would listen to Hafu and Kripp, as they are the most known and prolific Arena players in the game.

My concern is a possible unfair weighing of views. Do Hafu and Kripp’s opinion on cards matter more than that of others? It’s known that Team 5 doesn’t particularly get along with the Lightforge, which is understandable. While they possess top-tier knowledge of Arena, do their opinions on cards matter less?

This also spreads to that of the masses of lesser players online. Are r/Hearthstone and r/ArenaHS on the same level in voice? The dedicated players are probably on r/ArenaHS, but they have low upvotes/participation, which may not catch the eye of Team 5.

Hearthstone Screenshot 10-23-17 14.50.45.png
A deck full of cards that could be banned

A More Boring Arena

Just like literally anything in the world currently, the future of Arena is murky. With Death Knights being gone, we can admit that Arena drafts get less interesting. Besides gameplay changes, the thrill of getting a new hero power, affecting the board, and implanting a new hero portrait is gone.

Games will be closer. Often, the play of the DK hero led to the end of the game. While there are plenty of win conditions still available in the draft, the removal of DKs got rid of very flashy and effective closers. Almost like removing a second Deathwing from the game. Now you’ll have to do your dirty work with things like Eldritch Horror.

In terms of class balance, getting rid of 1 legendary really isn’t much. This probably does hurt Warrior the most, as the Warrior DK does give a draft some hope. Mages aren’t living their glory days, but I can’t say the Mage DK keeps them up high. Warlocks definitely have a lesser incentive to draft demons for synergy.

Overall, the removal of DKs isn’t a big deal at all. The more important discussion is what will change next, and who Team 5 is actually listening to.

 

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Hearthstone’s Arena-Exclusive Cards

Hearthstone’s Arena-Exclusive Cards

BlizzCon wrapped up last night, and a lot new features were announced for Hearthstone over the past few days. Announcements include the new expansion, Kobolds and Catacombs, card reveals, the new PvE mode, Dungeon Run, and more. What got me most excited were some new Arena-exclusive cards coming to the game in a future event. Let’s talk about these cards, which ones were picked, and the implications of it all.

Arena now

Today is the last day of Hallow Arena, which has gone on for nearly 2 weeks. The reception to the event was mostly positive from hardcore Arena players and never Arena players. I even got my 12 win run yesterday with the Shaman-Hunter combo, so I am satisfied. It was great for being new, testing new skills, and not lasting too long. Tomorrow we revert to a new Arena state, of KFT bonuses, but no grandfathered cards from Wild expansions. And no Vicious Fledgling.

The voting process

Yesterday, the Hearthstone Live Q&A began with a session where the attendees were shown three new cards from each class, and they picked the card that would make it to Arena. From what I know, it was a verbal shouting vote, not unlike a band giving you two options for their encore song.

This part feels a little bad. Arena is a bit of the black sheep among Hearthstone players, with a few hardcore players, and most players not touching it. I even regularly see people complain about being forced to play Arena with the free tickets. It is not the most popular mode, but those who love it, love it. I expected the crowd to reflect this mindset. There were concerns that Arena would be “ruined” by voters unaware of the class balance issues, and more.

Further, the voting was a gut reaction. The crowd was shown new cards, and forced to vote for 1 of 3 right there. No analysis was made. So this gives a chance for a flashy, but bad card to make it.

The new Arena-exclusives

Now, I will display the cards by class, talk about them a little, and the winners. It is important to note that these may not be the final version of the cards. Or they could be. Further, they will not be permanent Arena additions, but inserted for a special event.

Druid

druid1

  • Thornstrike – This would’ve been OP, as it covers a weak spot for Druid in little AoE. And you get into the issues of every class having a 1 damage AoE.
  • Boon of Elune – A bit of a Rogue constructed card calling back to Razorpetal Volley. It does give 4 reach, and makes Gadgetzan Auctioneer and Spell buffers a little better. Bad Arena card overall.
  • (W) Nature’s Champion – This was my vote, and the crowd agreed. The +5/+5 is bigger than Blessing of Kings, but it must be bounced. You can think greedy with big things, but this is probably best with small things. Stonetusk Boar, or another cheap charger can make good use of this in one turn. Druid of the Swarm and Crypt Lord probably will get even more sticky with this.

Hunter

hunter1

  • Reload – I like this card, but probably way too good. Hunters should play aggressively with reliance on the hero power, and this is too much card draw, for probably discarding nothing important in the hand.
  • Volley – RNG card that can give you pretty good cards. The shots like Deadly Shot, Arcane Shot, Multi-Shot, are all pretty good. The bad shot, Cobra Shot, is already gone. So a bit like Cabalist’s Tome, where it feels bad to face.
  • (W) Deadeye – The winner, which harkens back to Steamwheedle Sniper, a good Arena card back in the day. Control Hunter is the darling of every Hearthstone player, and this is good for the Arena, allowing Hunter to support a draft that doesn’t give aggro cards.

Mage

mage1.jpg

  • Arcane Flux – Bad 2-cost spells that also cycle a card are everywhere. Flare, Roll the Bones, Purify (whoops). This has that Servant of Yogg-Saron ability that is purely dangerous when playing Mage. Probably wouldn’t have had a huge impact in most cases, but possibly frustrating when it does have one.
  • (W) Polymorph: ??? – The winner, and probably the best choice. It is flexible, allowing it to boost a friendly minion, or downgrade an enemy minion. And with Discover, you are getting a good range of cards. The question is whether this Discover has the 4x Mage bonus. My guess is it does.
  • Power Cosmic – This is the seemingly OP card of the 3. With Discover, you are leaning towards a 4x Mage bonus, so Sindragosa and Antonidas were likely outcomes.

Paladin

paladin1.jpg

  • Retribution – Has the same trigger as Eye for an Eye, and probably worse than Noble Sacrifice in that it doesn’t cover minions. Would’ve been an okay Paladin card, definitely worse than many.
  • Relic of Hope – The RNG card of the group, giving you something bad or good. There are actually a good number of bad Paladin spells around, and some really good ones.
  • (W) Hand of Salvation – I was firmly stuck on this one, and the crowd liked it as well. I think I liked it just because it is a new mechanic. These three cards aren’t exciting at all, and the Paladin would’ve been fine if they all sucked more.

Priest

priest1.jpg

  • Aboslution – A bit like the Paladin spell that gives +1/+2, making this fit the Priest theme of LIfesteal. It probably would’ve brought Priest up a little bit, allowing the early game to compete a bit better. This card probably would’ve helped the most.
  • Mass Resurrection – Corpse Taker is a really solid 5-mana 3/3, and this does it at the same cost. This is a card that either gives you a ton of value, or is useless on an empty board.
  • (W) Generous Spirit – This was my pick, and that of the crowd as well. Priests shouldn’t have a ton of problems drawing cards, so this would help out those with fast Priest drafts. People probably won’t draft really bad cards to make this work, but some steal combos are in order.

Rogue

rogue1.jpg

  • Assassin’s Training – Debatable whether is good or not. It is not a good card, as it is a 2-for-1 without leaving anything on the board. Plague Scientist is good for the 2/3, and having the same effect. It could also be good as it provides a ton of value on trading a little guy on a big guy.
  • (W) Smoke Bomb – This is good for being card draw, which Rogue’s struggle with in Arena usually. Conceal was never a good card, but Rogues have tend to have reach and play fast. I like this card, and don’t think it was too strong for a strong class.
  • Mindspike – Classify this with some epic rarity weapon that sucks. Probably better than Poisoned Blade.

Shaman

shaman1.jpg

  • Refreshing Jolt – This was my choice, but honestly is powercreeping over the 4-cost Tidal Surge. This is cheaper, does more flexible damage, heals more, and heals flexibly. I feel this is a good card for an underwhelming Arena class, but doesn’t make sense with Tidal Surge around.
  • Magma Shock – A big Earth Shock. Shamans already have a really good 4-cost Jade Lightning, and this is just worse in every way.
  • (W) Crackling Doom – Somehow this card won the vote, and it is flashy as all. Definitely reminds me of a Warlock bomb spell, except the ability to win right away is much higher. I don’t like this card, as it allows the infinite board swing that you cannot play around. There is no playing around this card. While Shamans do need help, making a very unfair board state isn’t the way. Very disappointed with this vote.

Warlock

warlock2.PNG

  • (W) Bottled Madness – You read this right, Bottled Madness was selected by one random audience member after this vote tied. The fate of Arena decided by one person. Incredible. Anyways a very good refill card for Warlock, and most Demons are pretty good. Good thing Howlfiend exists for balance I guess.
  • From Beyond – Similar to the Hunter Reload card, except Warlocks never had trouble drawing cards. Insane late game value.
  • Combust – Definitely OP, as it is Siphon Soul packaged with Hellfire, a 10-mana value.

Warrior

warrior1

  • Training Blade – All of the Warrior cards are very solid, and it is good to see some help for the class. This on it’s own is very good for the Warrior early game, which doesn’t exist due to the hero power. Think how good Light’s Justice is for Paladin. I think this should’ve been the pick.
  • Axe of the Eclipse – The flashy card, which definitely is very good as well. 4/2 on 5 isn’t bad at all, as Twilight Hammer has the same stats.
  • (W) Blazing Longsword – The winner of a tough choice, and pretty good.  Best board control card of the bunch, and has built in Cleaves.

 

 

 

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.

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.