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.
Team 5 dev, Iksar, who is usually the spokesperson for all things Arena responded in the comments.
What the heck? Basically:
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.
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.
I haven’t written anything for a while on this site. And it hasn’t been because I stopped playing Hearthstone or suddenly got very busy in life. I just don’t like playing the Arena anymore, and as a result, have thought less about Hearthstone. While I have competed in some fun tournaments of late and have been playing the Ranked ladder, my core way of thinking about Hearthstone is through the Arena, and it is decaying.
I mostly recently discussed the Arena changes brought forth by the “Arena 7.1,” what The Lightforge guys called “The Threat and Response Meta.” I struggled with the Arena meta then for a while, but did eventually muster a couple of 12-win runs. With Journey to Un’Goro, the changes from Arena 7.1 persisted, just with a new card set and the loss of many other cards. I will try to discuss some of the problems I feel are hurting the Arena to a big degree in an attempt to sound coherent and controlled.
Most of my posts recently have extracted data from hsreplay.net, and this one will be no exception. Here I’ve isolated the top neutral cards picked from all classes. I cut it off at 18%, to specifically highlight some problem cards I think are ruining the Arena.
Stonehill Defender – This is card is regular plain good in some classes, absolutely broken in others. Will discuss further later.
Vicious Fledgling – Reminds me a lot like the olden days of a Micro Machine or Gurubashi Berserker that ran away with a game. Certainly a fair card, but the ability to get Windfury for another adapt is just back-breaking.
Primodial Drake – Corrupted Seer was a fair card as it was grossly under-stated, and did nothing to Murloc enemies. Primordial Drake, just costly 2 more mana, is only under-stated by 3 points, with the neutral AoE ability that screams class convergence.
Servant of Kalimos – Elemental decks just get out of hand and feel like Constructed decks. Servant of Kalimost is just the on-curve play after Fire Plume Phoenix with the powerful Discover. I haven’t used Heartharena in this meta, but I would assume this guy gets gross amounts of tier score points with just a few elementals in the draft.
Discover in a small card pool
Stonehill Defender is great on it’s own and broken in two classes in particular, Paladin and Shaman. Paladin has 3 top-tier taunt minions in Sunkeeper Tarim, Tirion Fordring, and Wickerflame Burnbristle. Grimestreet Protector ain’t bad either. With a reduced card pool and a 4x Discover rate on class cards, you’re going to get one of these cards quite often. Check out this table:
The % of decks metric specifically refers to the card draft. So in the last 2 weeks, 7% of Paladin decks had Sunkeeper Tarim and 4% of Paladin decks had Tirion Fordring drafted. Fair enough. But if you look at the Time Played metric, you’ll see that Tarim and Tirion were played just as much as Lay on Hands and Stand Against Darkness respectively. Stonehill Defender is just so adept at getting these cards, you’ll see them as if they are in 18% of Paladin decks.
The Shaman taunts aren’t as good as Paladin but still a force. Al’Akir shows up as much as epic cards in Far Sight and Eternal Sentinel. White Eyes is being played just less than Lotus Illusionist. These weaker numbers are indicative of Shaman being a lackluster Arena class, but still demonstrate the power of Stonehill Defender.
I rage against Arena Mages a lot because I never got 12 wins with the class, and I consistently lose most against them. But Mages are on a new level. They are just on an absolute level of Discover magic, RNG, and power cards.
In the table of top drafted Mage cards, you see a lot of power, but one card is crooked here. Primordial Glyph, despite being 8th in the draft, is the 2nd most played card, only losing out to Flame Geyser. Mages are chaining the Discover of Primordial Glyph to get a free-cost Primordial Glyph to get a second round of Discovers. And Primordial Glyph has resulted in some ridiculous gets.
Above is Cabalist’s Tome, played a good amount despite a modest 19% draft rate. A 3-mana Cabalist’s Tome is great value, and will lead to more Discover chains.
Here’s Pyroblast, a card that should suffer from a lower play count, since it is just a finisher, and has to be held longer than other cards. It is played as much as Nerubian Prophet.
Finally some rarely drafted Mage spells in Ice Block and Mirror Image. They just blow out the other cards in this list in play counts, despite being drafted so rarely as well.
Mages aren’t the #1 class right now, but they will definitely make you shake your head in games. Or curse aloud. Or both.
In order to create a smokescreen of fairness and equality, I will say some things about my favorite class, the Rogue.
By simply sorting the top drafted cards for Arena Rogues, you see hard removal up the Wazoo. Vilespine Slayer, is just as bonkers as it looked at first glance. The saving grace with all the Envenom Weapons is that properly-drafted face decks like Hunter can clearly take advantage of winning the game. But still Rogue is likely the #1 class because of these removals, brought on by the boosted spell offering rates.
A bit of my anguish isn’t expressed well with data but just comes from within. Arena doesn’t feel like Arena anymore. It feels like a bastard spawn from Constructed and some RNG servant. The minion-based combat and playing sturdy things on curve feel isn’t there very often. Playing against Priest feels most like playing against a Constructed class, since you can predict what a Priest will do based on cards kept in hand. No card (Free from Amber) should be in 67.5% of all drafted decks.
Not sure if anyone has made it this far, but here are some thoughts:
Cut the spell boost – Spells are clearly not made equally, and does nothing to rebalance for classes. Warriors are played at historically low levels because their spells suck.
Reduce percentages of specific cards – I would like to see reductions for the highest drafted cards like Stonehill Defender. Arena should be about being forced to play bad cards, not ramping up a Discover to get something amazing.
Reduce outlandish RNG cards – A lot of random things have gone on in this game, but some Arena games have things going too far. A lot of this has to do with the Mage random Discovers, but things are getting out of control in this department.
That’s really all I have to say for now. I just know that I got a 11-2 run on May 10th, and proceeded to not play an arena on May 11th. I played a 4-1 Warlock yesterday and didn’t finish the run in that sitting. My waning interest in the Arena isn’t because I’m losing at historical levels. It just feels wrong and different, and something that I am sadly struggling to have fun with. I hope other original Arena hardcores feel the same.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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/
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
Arena will become standard.
There will be fewer common cards offered in a typical draft, compared to now.
There will be fewer minions offered in a typical draft, compared to now.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
Starting a new series about playing Arena since the major Hearthstone banlist of 45 cards.
I’ve always been proud of being a Rogue player in Hearthstone, and I make no secret that it is my favorite class. While the class repeatedly is put down in Ranked Play, Rogue always had dominance in the Arena, vying with the top spot with Mage. The Great Arena Rebalance hit Mage and Rogue, and anyone in the know knew that Rogue was hit considerably harder with the banlist. Mages would be affected a good deal, if it weren’t for the 200% offering rate of Firelands Portals. Yes, we are currently being smothered by Firelands Portals.
I’ve completed 11 Arena runs since the Arena rebalance on September 15th. Here are what the numbers look like.
Huh. Let’s separate that by Rogue and non-Rogue runs.
In this small sample size, Rogue is weighing me down, while the other classes (Shaman, Druid, Warrior) are well into infinite wins. What is going on here? Was the effect of the banlist too strong? Is Rogue just crap now?
The first deck in this list got 6, so the other 4 decks yielded the low wins. When looking at these, I have to consider what Common cards would’ve been replaced by Goblin Auto-Barber and Undercity Valiant. Maiden of the Lake, a subpar minion, got drafted a whole lot. Karazhan bonus guy Swashburglar is a near autopick in Rogue runs now. Twisted Worgen was picked twice as a 2-drop.
Defias Ringleader is a fine card, but relies on The Coin to be good, or is played on Turn 3. While premium neutral 2’s will still be around, the loss of GAB and Undercity Valiant forces the need to fill 2-drop consistency with mediocre cards. Because the two removed cards were 3/2’s, the Rogue is forced to have more 2/3 minions, which have less initiative as aggressors on the board.
Dealing with early game
I really liked Undercity Valiant becuase it dealt with 1-drops very well. Coin + Undercity Valiant was just amazing in Turn 1 board presence. I find myself having to dagger up with my Coin or do something else to deal with a 1-drop. Goblin Auto-Barber was better for sharpening a dagger and dealing with some 2-drop.
Karazhan vs Old Gods bonus
The shift to the new expansion forces a loss of the Old Gods bonus, and creates a 200% offering rate for Karazhan cards. While Swashburglar is a fine card, it is subject to heavy RNG, and can occasionally whiff. Shadow Strike is just a top-tier efficient removal, that is offered less.
How to Make Rogue Great Again
While 6-wins is not a paragon, my 6-win deck had no minions greater than 5, with a heavy 1-3 presence. Given that the Rogue loses a bit of removal from the banlist, it is more important than ever to get a faster start on the board.
Mages are still top dog, and expect to see Firelands Portal from Turn 7 onwards. It is important to push the damage while you can. Against other resurgent classes, they will have slightly faster starts, due to better early game consistency. Play fast and push damage. Cold Blood and Tinker’s Oil could be useful threats in helping the Rogue play fast. Violet Illusionist is a near autopick for Rogue, given it is an aggressive minion, with incentive to trade using your weapons.
Get cheap taunts
I grudgingly drafted the 0/2 Target Dummy in my 6-win Rogue. It did a ton of work. Just by existing, it helped protect my early game board, and allow me to work trades better. Arcanosmith’s 0/5 Animated Shield (I am glorious!) also had a similar function on Turn 4. While cheap taunts aren’t great value picks, they do quite a bit for the Rogue.
Look for synergy in mediocrity
While looking for synergy in the draft hasn’t changed, Swashburglar is everywhere. Swashburglar is a Pirate! Ship’s Cannon, Shady Dealer, Southsea Captain, maybe even One-Eyed Cheat are all a bit better with the synergy of having infinite pirates around.
It’s only been a little more than a week since the Arena rebalance. More Arenas have to be completed to confirm that I now suck at Rogue. I need to definitely rethink my drafts, and more importantly, how to play the game. I might consider not autopicking Rogues in the draft until I figure it all out, while riding some hot-hand classes (Shaman).