A Call to Action (Nerfs): Shadowverse vs Hearthstone

A Call to Action (Nerfs): Shadowverse vs Hearthstone

Owing to the busyness of life changes, I haven’t paid as much attention to Hearthstone news as I did in the past. I am making time to play the game, squeezing in regular Arenas (which are now more fun) and occasional Ranked games. When I want to get serious, I will play Deathseer Thrall Evolve Shaman. When I play for fun, I am playing random Rogue decks with new cards, including a Burgle Rogue and C’Thun Rogue. Hence, my winrate has been terrible this season, and I am still Rank 15.

I’ve been hearing that Druid has been a big problem since the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion release, and whenever I log onto to Twitter, I hear a call for nerfs. I haven’t played at high enough level in Ranked to experience this scourge, so I do not have any opinions on the matter. But such an early call for nerfing a class reminded me exactly of what happened in Shadowverse, following the Wonderland Dreams expansion. Let’s take a look at the problem in both games, and see what can be done.

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“You don’t stand a ghost of a chance”

Shadowverse

The latest expansion for Shadowverse, Wonderland Dreams, was released on June 22, 2017 in America. For those unaware, this expansion had a theme for Neutral cards with strong Neutral synergy cards or craft-specific cards that have strong Neutral synergy. I’m not sure how much work was put into play-testing for balance, but messing around with Neutrals is complicated, as all the classes are affected in different ways. This manifested in the Bloodcraft class becoming too good.

Shadowverse writes really detailed patch notes, so here they are, if you want to gander.

Based on a sample of high ranking players, they determined the Neutral Bloodcraft decks were present in 38.1% of the ladder, with a 56% win rate. 56% is a manageable win rate, but the 38% is obviously glaringly high. It might be okay in a game with 4 deck building choices, but not in one with so many like Shadowverse. The company decided to put nerfs in July 30, 2017.

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Someone’s waifu, everyone’s bane.

Neutral Blood Nerf

As stated, the goal of nerfing these 4 cards was to: 1) lower rate of Neutral Blood decks, and 2) reduce the gap between going first and second with these decks.

  • Tove – minus 1 attack, minus 1 defense.
  • Baphomet – opening effect became more random, cost reduction gone.
  • Spawn of the Abyss – effect damage reduced by 2.
  • Goblin Leader – +1 cost, +1 attack, +1 defense.

Ramp Dragon Nerf

As is common with Shadowverse, they typically nerf something else to go along with the highly-desired nerf. They targeted Ramp Dragon decks, in fear they would be too strong with the Neutral Blood nerf.

  • Grimnir, War Cyclone – no longer hits enemy hero for 4, just 4 damage AoE to minions.
  • Ouroboros – heal +3 ability to hero gone.
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Grimnir, hurting young children since he was released.

Havencraft Nerf

Finally, it was mentioned that the second highest deck, Haven Aegis (7.6%!) needs to be kept in check with a nerf.

  • Princess Snow White – minus 1 defense.

The patch notes wrap up by saying they may make monthly changes at the end of the month, if data shows anomalies.

Hearthstone

Druid problem

Druids are apparently out of control right now in Hearthstone. From what I can tell, there are currently two main Druid decks in the meta now: 1) Big Druid (with other ridiculous stylizations), and 2) Jade Druid.

I went on HSReplay.net to filter decks with new cards, by win rate.

top 10 kft meta.PNG

6 out of 10 of the new decks are Druid, with the other 4 being Paladin. These are fairly high win rates, with the most common deck being a Jade Druid deck with 57k replays. To those wondering, if you just filter top decks including old decks, it is still all Druid and Paladin.

Let’s look at top 10 new decks in terms of overall usage.

top 10 kft usage.PNG

The people want Warlock bad! Desperately! Druid is quite common here as well, with the 57k, high win rate Druid likely to keep climbing. 100k games were played with a Taunt-based Druid, which was likely shared as “ground-breaking” before a better version was found.

Let’s take a look at the common, KFT Jade Druid.

kft jade druid.PNG

The by-class matchups are telling, with the deck only not doing great against the mirror. Every other class matchup is above average or exceptional.

Shamanstone

Remember Shamanstone? Yeah, I scrubbed it from my memory as well. Let’s take a look at some Vicious Syndicate data tracking the highs of Shamanstone.

shaman highlight.PNG

Shaman as it is now, is a solid deck and 4th highest class today. Most decks are running the Evolve Shaman, so we can expect the deck to be around 10% of the Ranked meta. At the peak of Shamanstone, the class represented over 30% of all decks.

shamanstone.PNG

Here’s a look before Shaman hit 30%, which includes the release of One Night in Karazhan and Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. Of course, these expansions were known for not doing much at all the Shaman. Karazhan notably gave Shaman more tools in Maelstrom Portal and Spirit Claws. Pirate Warrior brought down Shaman for about 2 weeks, before it started climbing to the rate over 30%.

The listed 10/3/16 balance changes notably did this to Shaman:

  • Rockbiter Weapon – costs 2.
  • Tuskarr Totemic – summon random basic totem.

This didn’t do much. A 2/28/17 patch did this to Shaman:

  • Small-Time Buccaneer – 1 health.
  • Spirit Claws – costs 2.

Shamanstone was finally over. I think Small-Time Buccaneer represents a card that was the closest to being a new card being nerfed in it’s expansion timeframe. It was released on 11/29/16 and nerfed on 2/28/17, about 3 months.

Expectations

Shadowverse and Hearthstone are similar games, but very different when devs come to making changes. It is fairly entrenched in Hearthstone philosophy to be super conservative when cards are changed. And typically, cards are made worse. Shadowverse changes cards all of the time, and doesn’t seem to be afraid of pulling the trigger on newly released cards. I am not knowledgeable enough in card games to say which is better, so I don’t know.

But even if Druid is a problem, I don’t expect changes to be made for a while. Knights of the Frozen Throne is a fairly new expansion, and new cards are likely left the way they are for a few months. Would old Druid cards get nerfed? Also, Skulking Geist is the infamous Jade Druid hate card that came along in this expansion. How long of a leash does that card get as being the savior against Druid? Would running 2 minions with bad stats ameliorate the situation?

A zombie tumbling out of the sky. The hero we don’t deserve, but need.

 

 

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Shadowverse’s Next Update Comes with a Bang and a Boom

Shadowverse’s Next Update Comes with a Bang and a Boom

The digital card game universe is at an interesting juncture now, with many big titles competing for our precious gaming time and (even more precious) money. While a lot of the online focus has pitted Hearthstone and Gwent in a Reddit-fueled brouhaha, Cygames’ Shadowverse has been preparing their new expansion, Wonderland Dreams. With the normal excitement that comes along with every new digital card expansion, the release of Wonderland Dreams also comes with a whole host of new updates for Shadowverse. These updates, I believe, will make Shadowverse the most feature-heavy digital card game in the market.

Wonderland Dreams

The new 104-card expansion is going to have an emphasis on Neutral cards. Considering that the leaders in Shadowverse don’t do anything unique themselves, and just rely on their class-specific cards, the entire Neutral card pool is fair play. Flavor-wise, many cards are based off classic fairy tales. You see cards based off The Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Alice, Wizard of Oz, Jabberwocky, Snow White, etc. Considering Shadowverse has a weaker story base, and is not really reliant on another game series for lore, it allowed them to take a somewhat radical direction for the flavor.

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New cards with a theme

New Main Story Chapters

The PvE gets 9 new games in, as Chapters 9-11 are available for Rowen, Isabelle, and Urias. The last major update for Shadowverse included Chapters 9-11 for three other classes, and this resumes it for three classes. I assume these characters are going to go through a familiar story arc of being satisfied in a fake reality, getting tired of living in a fake reality, fighting Eris, and going back to reality. What’s interesting about this is that it leaves the Havencraft leader, Eris, out without Chapters 9-11. Given that this character is omnipresent in all the other storylines, something else could be cooking.

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Story Mode gets weird sometimes

Solo player missions

Just another source of rewards for completing the Story missions or Practice mode. Another boost for people who like PvE more than PvP.

New private match features

I personally think this is the most exciting bit of news for the entire Shadowverse update. Currently, you can already have a regular match with a friend, or even a Take Two (draft mode) match with a friend. Best of 3 and Best of 5 matches are incoming. While this is a fun way to spend time playing card games with friends, this feature is obviously more useful for online tournaments. If it comes with a score tracker for the best of 3 or 5 for verification, even better.

A more curious new private match feature is spectating Take Two. You get to create your opponent’s deck! This wording is a bit ambiguous and could mean two different things. It is possible you can do a co-op on Take Two, by helping your friend draft the deck. It could also mean a new private match mode in Take Two, where you get to draft each other’s deck. I believe the latter is coming, which is an extremely interesting decision. This would result in the strategy of drafting the worst deck possible, to handicap your opponent. I would assume strategies would include drafting a very high-cost deck, drafting cards that have little synergy, or just drafting bad cards. Take Two is always a compromise, and I will be looking forward to this.

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Random action shot

Set Leaders for individual decks

This doesn’t mean anything for f2p people like me who just have 1 leader for each class, but this lets you put different leaders for different decks. So if you want a hero to represent aggro, and another control, you can do that. A bit of a step up over Hearthstone’s favorite class hero for all decks. Again, this doesn’t apply to me since I only have 1 hero per craft. But that could change!

Forte
Forte, a leader I don’t have

Buy Items with Vials

Vials are the resource you spend to make cards, the arcane dust if you will. For the first time, you get to spend vials on things that aren’t cards. Currently, all the customization features (extra leaders, card backs, etc) have to be bought with Crystals (real money). This may allow a person to buy customization features without spending real money. So it may be possible for me to buy a new hero after all. We still don’t know what the new items are yet.

Text/Voice language switching

I assume this allows us to change the languages in the client, without having to right click “Properties” in Steam. This is big, since the English version of Shadowverse is a little different from the Japanese version, and perhaps other language versions. There are different voice lines for example. Everyone wanted the Arisa “gasp” back. Isabelle wears a weird boob cover in the English version. This will just make things easier and more user-friendly. Have it your way!

Arisa.png
(GASP)!

Take Two card changes

Given that I haven’t sunk too much time playing Shadowverse and am less familiar with the game, I don’t know much about Take Two. Unlike Hearthstone, where I am 95% geared towards the Arena mode, I don’t really have that bias for Take Two in Shadowverse. Basically the card offering pool is going to change. All the cards from the expansions will be available, all Bronze-class cards, and prize cards (Basic) cards will also be avaiable. This means that all Silver, Gold, Legendary Standard cards, plus one Havencraft card, will be out of Take Two. This is pretty much the opposite rotation that Hearthstone does, as they retain the Standard card set never rotates out. Having too many cards in Take Two is definitely a problem, and they are taking an interesting approach to dealing with it. I would assume the cards in the Standard set are more boring, and provide the on-curve stability for cost.

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More than just a generous game?

In sum, Shadowverse is going to get a lot of new features coming with the new expansion, next week (6/28). Shadowverse has been known to be the most generous digital card game around, giving out card packs and Take Two tickets often. I think with this update next week, Shadowverse will be known as the most customized and feature-heavy digital card game period. While adverse reactions to fanservicy anime artwork and brand loyalty will still keep people from playing Shadowverse, there is a lot to like with what is to come for this game.

Hearthstone vs Shadowverse

Hearthstone vs Shadowverse

I last compared digital card games when I compared Hearthstone with Magic Duels. I’m going to do a similar thing with a digital card game I recently started playing, Shadowverse. Because I am enjoying my time playing Shadowverse to a big degree, I expect to be blogging more about the game down the line. This is meant to be a more general comparison between the games, for Hearthstone players who are interested in trying Shadowverse.

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By the fire be purged! Or something

What is Shadowverse?

Shadowverse is a digital card game, released in June 2016 by Cygames. I cannot name another game Cygames has made, so one can assume they are a smallish indie company. Apparently, it is the most popular card game in Japan.

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The story mode was a bit comical after all the repetition

Getting past the boobwall

This may sound absurd, but I didn’t play Shadowverse for a while because of the artwork. The artwork is anime/manga styled, and features a lot of female characters with absolute cleavage, and partial nudity on a few followers. It even led to the Runecraft Leader, Isabelle, getting “nerfed” in the US version.

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Isabelle covered herself to follow lab safety protocol

While I have no issue with the art being the way it is, I thought this fanservicing concealed what the game had to offer, and that the game would be all smoke and mirrors. This turned out to be a horribly erroneous line of thought. This game is extremely thought-provoking and challenging. Just with a lot of boobs around.

Key differences between the games

  • Evolve

    • The hallmark of Shadowverse is Evolve, a function that allows you to promote your followers on the field. Typically a follower gets +2/+2 in stats, and gains Rush, the ability to Charge and attack an enemy follower. Other minions have more powerful abilities that come with Evolve, like deal damage or gain Ward (Taunt).
    • Evolve gives the game an extra layer of complexity, as you get to charge and buff a minion of your choosing, allowing you to get rid of summoning sickness. This ability can be used offensively, to add face damage, or trade on a minion. It can also be used defensively. Also, you either get 2 or 3 Evolves per game, so knowing when to use these charges is key.
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Evolving my follower
  • Class identity

    • In Hearthstone, each of the 9 classes are distinguished by class cards, and the 2-mana cost Hero Power. Certain classes have multiple workable archetypes, while other classes are stuck with one type of deck.
    • Shadowverse has 7 classes, with individual class cards as well. But each class is completely different from each other, based on the class trait, and class cards which work with the trait. For example, the control class, Havencraft, has pretty much no way of becoming an aggro class, as the card rely on anti-tempoing early on for big gain later. The Bloodcraft class is all about playing the game at 10 life, to empower all the other cards. Dragoncraft will always be a ramp class, as there cards rely on getting to (Mana) 7.
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Vengeance and Overflow traits

 

  • Gameplay

    • While both are digital card games, there are some key mechanical differences that influence gameplay. Hearthstone is a 30 life, 30 card game, while Shadowverse is a 20 life, 40 card game. Drawing to fatigue seems impossible in Shadowverse, while they happen often in a Reno mirror game in Hearthstone. With 20 life, your character seems to be in peril easily. Given that the Bloodcraft Class thrives on 10 life, every game must be a thrill.
    • The baseline minions in Shadowverse are weaker than those in Hearthstone. Typically, there aren’t good Turn 1 plays, and a 3/2 costs 3 for example.
    • The Evolve mechanic encourages trading, given that the Evolved minion can only attack minions on the first turn. With the 20 life cap, trading could be more important in Shadowverse than in Hearthstone.
    • Turn planning is extremely complex in Shadowverse, seemingly as complex or more complex than Miracle Rogue swing turns in Hearthstone. Forestcraft cards for example, have cards that require at least 2 cards to be played that turn for an effect to trigger. You just have to make a ton of turn planning decisions on playing cards for tempo or effects, holding onto cards for reactive moves vs tempo, etc. Just so many decisions to make, which vary by class.
    • Hearthstone has weapons, which gets the hero directly involved on the board. From what I can tell, the heroes in Shadowverse are just there to look pretty, throw out threats, and get hit.
    • Shadowverse has Amulets, which serve as the card  that isn’t a minion or spell. Amulets are best defined as things that have effects, but can’t attack and can’t be attacked. Given Shadowverse also only allows 5 things on the board (vs 7 in Hearthstone), the Amulets take a bunch of board space.
    • Oh yeah, like any other card game, Shadowverse has less RNG than Hearthstone. The Forestcraft has a bit of RNG like Avenging Wrath, but some classes, like Runecraft, seem to avoid it entirely.
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I spellboosted my guy to become a 12 dmg AoE on a 6/7 body. Eat it, Abyssal Enforcer.
  • Going 2nd possibly balanced

    • There are well-known splits in Hearthstone of the 1st player winning games over the 2nd player by a decent margin. A common topic of discussion is how The Coin just isn’t enough to make up for it.
    • Shadowverse gives the 2nd player 3 Evolve charges (1st player gets 2) and lets the 2nd player draw 2 cards on Turn 1. I don’t know if this makes things completely even, but I personally have felt getting 3 Evolve charges is well-worth going 2nd.
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Pretty good evolve ability
  • F2p considerations/economy

    • Shadowverse appears as a very free-to-play (F2p) game. Upon completing the tutorial, you get 10 free packs per set (30 total), a bunch of vouchers, and resources. There are additional rewards for leveling up, gaining achievements, etc. While you get continual rewards in Shadowverse, it appears that decks require a lot more investment of resources to play. Really good decks require about 18,000 vials (dust) to play for example. These rewards may just be scaling to 40 cards per deck.
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You earn little gifts pretty much the whole game.
  • Hearthstone has a handful of achievements, listed below. There is constant criticism about the game being anti-F2p, or not being friendly to new players. But unlike Shadowverse, there are relatively cheap decks that can be competitive in Hearthstone.

hearthstone-achievements

  • Leveling/ranking

    • Hearthstone’s Ranked Mode, which was created back in Open Beta, is known for being Levels 1-25, with a Legend rank above that. The devs recently have acknowledged the community’s frustration with the “grind” it takes to level up in Hearthstone.
    • Shadowverse has a point system, which drives you through tiers of ranks. It is similar to earning experience on a quest, and leveling up that way. So far in the D ranks, I typically earn a lot of experience when winning a Ranked game, while losing only a few points when losing. There may also be implications, where not conceding is the better route in salvaging experience, but I am not sure if this is true. I won 16 Ranked games to get from Beginner 0 to D1. Not bad.

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  • One (Steam) server

    • Hearthstone is known for having separate servers: NA, EU, TW/KR, CN, with different server reliabilities. Shadowverse appears to have all players in the same Steam server. When playing my first few games of Shadowverse, I encountered a number of players with Asian characters as their battle names. This is not unexpected, given Shadowverse is a Japanese game.
    • Given everyone is on one server, there could be many disruptions, resulting in disconnects. I actually got my first Unranked, Ranked, and Take Two wins in Shadowverse via disconnect.
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Got 2 of these wins via forfeits.
  • Customization, UI, and more

    • Hearthstone definitely has the more solid user interface, with things being where they should be. It is simple with not too much going on. The UI for Shadowverse is a little discombobulated in comparison, with cards in hand either being oversized or undersized. The emoting system is also more challenging to use, but they do limit you on 3 emotes a turn!
    • Shadowverse has a lot of avenues for customization. You can set custom emblems, flairs, and even a country flag for national pride. Emblems are awarded through achievements, or when you get a legendary card. Further you can actually customize things like turning off emotes entirely. This request has long been desired by the Hearthstone community.
    • There are various leaderboards for public viewing in Shadowverse, and various stats about your wins and experience. Replays as well!
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Guys who spend more time playing children’s card games than me

Overall

Overall, Shadowverse is different from Hearthstone primarily through the more complex gameplay and turn-planning. There is also a lot more customization from the game, possibly borrowing from feedback that Hearthstone players desire. On the downside, it suffers a little just by being a smaller company, and being a lesser-known quantity (no real lore ties), and having less polish in the UI holding cards. I must say I am very impressed with the game, and will continue playing it.