A long time ago, I got really excited by Master of Evolution and decided to look at the effect of stat changes brought on by the new Evolve mechanic. I’ve only opened 1 legendary in 40 packs of Knights of the Frozen Throne so far (boo), but got the Hero Shaman card for completing the prologue, Thrall Deathseer. By running the updated Evolve Shaman for ranked play, I suddenly got excited about Master of Evolution again. So, I decided to update the Evolve chart.
I filtered all the minions that are currently playable in Standard, including the cards from this expansion.
All playable minions are grouped by mana cost and an average was taken from attack and health.
The transformed mana cost is either +1 or +2. I found the difference between the average attack and health by graduation in mana cost.
I look at percentages of the evolved minion having an ability. The abilities I looked at were Taunt, Charge, Spell Damage, Lifesteal, Divine Shield, and End Turn Effect.
I have a category called “Disaster.” This would be an evolved minion with something that could be really bad, causing you to lose your whole board or the game. The identified disaster evolves include Doomsayer, Ticking Abomination, Rattling Rascal, Bomb Squad and Anomalous.
For the 1-mana cost slot in original minion, I included the 4 basic Shaman totem tokens. I figured these would be the most common evolve targets on the board in a Shaman game.
While there are many more tokens that could be included in “original minion”, they were left out because there were too many.
There are caveats to abilities. Hogger was counted as a Taunt minion in the 6-slot, even though no Gnoll will be made on a full board. I did not include Twilight Elder as an end of turn ability in the 3-slot. I did not include Ethereal Arcanist as an end of turn ability in the 4-slot.
Valeera the Hollow is an insane card. This card essentially locks out the game with infinite Vanish followed by Arcane Giants allowing you to continuously swing in for 16 damage as long as your opponent doesn’t have removal for them. In addition, to that the stealth that gives you when it comes down allows you the time that it takes in order to set up the combo. The only decks that are going to punish this are burn mage and decks that play aggressively on the board, which brings me to my next point…
9. Druid is going to be the only class playing on the board.
With Mage and Taunt Warrior (particularly good matchups for Jade Druid) probably sticking around, Druid now has insane tools to combat aggro as well, especially Spreading Plague. This card is at worst a stall of probably two turns and at best clears their board in the process, but either way, aggro is losing one of it’s best matchups in the game. Rogue also has new tools to combat aggressive decks with the Shadowblade and it’s counterpart Doomerang which will undoubtedly see varying degrees of play depending on how long aggro sticks around. Either way you will have time to play your Death Knights because I predict a much slower meta where aggro will be punished.
Bonus Bold Prediction: Skulking Geist was printed for the sole purpose of beating Jade Druid and it will see some (if it makes up over 30% of the meta a lot of) play for that reason. (Note: I don’t count Taunt Warrior as a deck that plays on board)
8. Hunter is going to be worse.
The new hunter cards that are being introduced are terrible…I guess that’s all I really have to say. Deathstalker Rexxar is the worst Death Knight and arguably may give you a worse hero power than Steady Shot. For Hunter to continue to challenge the meta they needed more sticky aggressive minions to pressure the opponent, instead they got durdly, inefficient, clunky minions that when everything goes perfectly you probably still are going to lose a majority of your games…
7. The Lich King is the best neutral legendary in the game.
This one may be slightly hyperbolic, but if I said The Lich King is a very good card that wouldn’t exactly be a bold prediction. The Death Knight cards are as powerful as the Ysera Dream Cards, with taunt it gives it initiative, and if all goes right it can give you insane value while smashing face for 8. While I am less confident in this prediction than some of the other ones, I also have no doubt this will be in more meta decks than any other card currently in the game.
6. Ultimate Infestation was a mistake.
When you look at this card it instantly looks like a Firelands Portal that gains you some life and gives you approximately 8 mana worth of card draw. So we already have a card that should cost approximately 16 mana, but the card is actually better than that, doing all of this at the same time gives this card increased value. Normally we would have to play one card that is a Firelands Portal, one card that is an Iron Hide and one card that is a super-Sprint, now all of this is combined onto one card, meaning that this card kind of reads draw seven cards and play three of them…
5. Priest moves up a tick.
While most of their new cards are as disappointing as the Hunter cards, Eternal Servtiude should definitely see a good chunk of play and their Death Knight is a game-changer. While Shadowreaper Anduin on it’s surface may not be that impressive as far as the Death Knights go, it gives priest an opportunity to do something that it’s never been able to do very efficiently, close games. Raza the Chained also could see an appearance back in the meta allowing priest to machine-gun chain two damage as long as they can continue to play cards.
4. Aggro Paladin will see a come-back.
I know this is completely contrary to point number nine, that no one is going to be playing on the board, but on the backs of Bolvar Fireblood, Righteous Defender, and Light’s Sorrow all of the board clears that are going to be in the game may be playing right into this decks trap. I don’t think this will be a very good deck, especially out of the gate, but with some tweaking and as the meta starts to settle, you may be able to catch some people off-guard with this old classic.
3. Mage will not play any of the cards released, and it will still be good.
Frost Lich Jaina and Sindragosa are definitely cuspers, and I may end up being wrong about them not seeing play, but neither of these cards buy you the late game tempo advantage that Medivh the Guardian does that usually wins you the game just fine on his own. With the deck already relying on Alexstraza to stabilize, I don’t think there will be room for the new cards. That being said, this will be one of the most fun decks to mess around with, although I think the best Mage list is already established, and it will continue to stick around, as it is one of the premier decks to contend against new Rogue.
2. Freeze Shaman will not be a thing.
While you aren’t going to be bummed out ripping a Voodoo Hexxer from a Stonehill Defender, it is still going to be the third-best taunt that you are hoping for and that’s the best freeze card to be introduced by a mile. Blizzard is definitely afraid of making another overpowered Shaman deck and acknowledges the power of Jade/Token Shaman in the meta, so they do the thing they are apt to do, which is try to introduce a new mechanic. This deck will not be good, it will not be fun to play, and it will lose to everything in the game, maybe including new players playing Chillwind Yetis and Boulderfist Ogres. With nothing being implemented to help its existing archetypes, shaman will definitely be taking a major step back in the Frozen Throne meta.
1. Defile is the best card in the game, and Warlock still may not be playable in Standard.
This card was my whole reason for wanting to write this article to begin with. I rated Ultimate Infestation a 10/10 and could see a nerf, I rate this card an 11/10 and will probably see an emergency nerf. Everyone is sleeping on Defile. This is the most efficient, cheapest, and easy to accomplish board clear in the game, that requires little to no set-up. Next time you are playing a game pay attention to how many huge boards could be cleared with a Defile. On top of this, after this card stops clearing the minions on the board, it starts clearing their deathrattles, making minions like Dragon Egg and Haunted Creeper also susceptible to it’s reign of devastation, if you are playing Egg Druid or Pirate Warrior in Wild, I’m sorry to say that your days are numbered. On top of this, this card has an insane synergy with Grim Patron which allows you to defile ad infinitum and wipe all boards and leave yourself with 15-21 power on the board. Okay so we’ve established that this card is the most broken wild card ever printed, but will it have any impact on Standard?
If Warlock is viable in standard, it will be on the back of Defile. Possessed Villager is still around to kick the defile train off and it will really punish Token Druid, Shaman and Pirate Warrior, furthering point #9, but Warlock may not have powerful enough tools to contend in the late game, even with the most efficient AoE in the game. Honestly it makes my brain hurt trying to think of what a standard warlock deck would look like these days, cards like Kabal Trafficker have never seen any play and on an unchecked board, may make for an alright deck with the new warlock Death Knight which is okay and the Lich King definitely making a cameo, but even I am not bold enough to say that Kabal Trafficker Warlock will be the new meta.
In the world of card games, it is important for “classes” to be different. You want to play with a unique set of mechanics and archetypes for your specific class, and be different from the other classes. If two classes play too similarly, the demarcation of “class” has no meaning at all. A natural consequence of a card game going on longer is newer and better cards. And sometimes classes converge, in that a certain class starts taking on characteristics of another class.
Is class convergence an inevitable consequence for every card game? I’m not positive, but I think it is, unless the game evolves to an extremely complex entity where everything remains different. In games with limited mechanics, we can expect some class convergence down the line.
In this writing, I am going to examine class convergence in Hearthstone for the new expansion, Knights of the Frozen Throne. Class convergence is nothing new in Hearthstone, as it is meant to be a more simple game, with limited mechanics. I can assume that Hearthstone can afford more class convergence than a game like Shadowverse. The class hero power is something that will keep a class unique from another. Shadowverse has crafts with their unique set of cards, but the hero does nothing unique from a different one. Still too much class convergence is a bad thing. Let’s take a look at this set.
Crypt Lord – Druids buffed typically buff things 1 card at a time. This card, similar to Darkshire Councilman in Warlock, will grow in size.
Poisonous (Hard Removal) – Mulch is Wild-only and Naturalize is horrible so Druid has lacked in the hard removal department. They are now being pushed in the Poisonous keyword.
Malfurion the Pestilent
Druid of the Swarm
Hadronox – First resurrect ability for Druid.
Fatespinner – For the first time, Druid has a “secret” dynamic. While this is unique as a Deathrattle, it is the first thing they have to keep the enemy guessing.
Taunt buffs – Only seen with Warrior with cards like Bolster and Stolen Goods.
Strongshell Defender – Literally Bolster on a River Croc.
Hadronox – More Taunt support, rather than buffs.
Exploding Bloatbat – Hunter never had AoE, outside of cards that hit 3 things, based on positioning. Also Dreadscale existed, but it was a niche card.
Stitched Tracker – Hunter has the random card advantage card in Jeweled Macaw, but never had the ability to choose something. This card is very Priest-like.
Abominable Bowman – Hunter played with Deathrattle, but never had a resurrect ability like Priest.
Doomed Apprentice – Mage stays almost identical to it’s class identity, with more Freeze pushes, thanks to the icy theme. This is the first class card to mess with opponent mana manipulation.
Heal to damage
Blackguard – Paladins healed in big chunks, but never used it for offense. This is a similar effect to the Priest card Shadowboxer, except more explosive and control-oriented.
Destroy random minion
Obsidian Statue – A mechanic seen rarely with other classes like Dark Bargain for Warlock or Deadly Shot for Hunter.
Spirit Lash – Priests never had early game AoE. Almost Maelstrom Portal, but much worse for saving the board.
Survivability – Rogue could never Taunt or Heal, so now there are new mechanics that allow the Rogue to not take damage.
Leeching Poison – Lifesteal is everywhere in the new expansion, but heal is heal.
Shadowblade – Immune was also available previously through Violet Illusionist, but this is a one-turn effect, like Ice Block.
Doomerang – Unique card that is the first of it’s kind. Not unlike Blade Flurry, but still very different and helps survivability.
Valeera the Hollow – Close to a one-turn Ice Block, except you can still get hit by things that hit stealthed enemies.
Freeze – The heaviest and most blatant push in class convergence, with 6/10 Shaman cards having a Freeze synergy. While Frost Shock existed since Basic, it almost never saw play outside of Malygos shenanigans.
Cryostasis – Buffs and freeze in one!
Ice Breaker – A bit like Shatter in Mage.
Moorabi – Also has copy effects on enemies, so can work like a Priest card.
Voodoo Hexxer – Very similar to Alley Armorsmith in Warrior.
Enemy positioning – Flametongue Totem was self-positioning, but this is a new area.
Avalanche – Previously, you only had to worry about Betrayal in Rogue, Explosive Shot/Grievous Bite for Hunter, and Meteor/Cone of Cold in Mage. This one is like Betrayal, in that the fulcrum minion is undamaged.
Treachery – Reverse Mind Control, but still a new tactic for Warlock.
Despicable Dreadlord – Warlock cards typically hurt everything. This will be the first that only affects the opponent’s board.
Copy into deck
Dead Man’s Hand – Blood Warriors and Sudden Genesis were precursor Warrior class copy cards, but this is the first to put a bunch of cards in the deck. Almost like a Priest card.
Bonemare – This ability screams Paladin buffs.
Deathaxe Punisher – Similar to the Grimy Goons handbuff ability, but only for Lifesteal minions. This conditional nature makes it much worse than the clan ones.
Random card advantage
Bone Drake – This could get any Dragon for any class.
Shallow Gravedigger – This could get any Deathrattle for any class.
Death Knight cards
The Lich King and Arfus will give access to Death Knight cards, which scream class convergence. However, given there are 8 choices, you won’t likely be roleplaying as every class in a single game.
Anti-Magic Shells – Neutral board buffs.
Obliterate – Neutral hard removal.
Death Coil – Neutral removal, reach, or heal.
Frostmourne – Neutral weapon and resurrect abilities.
Doom Pact – Neutral self-mill and DOOM!
Death Grip – Neutral Entomb, but much faster and cheaper.
Death and Decay – Neutral Hellfire (AoE and Reach)
Army of the Dead – Neutral self-mill and a much stronger ability than the legendary Varian card.
That’s that. From what I could tell some classes barely veered into other class identity (Mage, Paladin, Warrior), while some like Druid and Shaman are starting to diversify a good amount.
In less than 24 hours, Hearthstone player Savjz will reveal the new Rogue Death Knight Hero card, for release for Knights of the Frozen Throne.
Exciting! For the first time, we see the official artwork of the card. What could the card be?
What we know
Hero card – Like any other Hero card, we can expect the new Valeera to take over the existing Rogue hero. Also, you will gain 5 armor by playing this card.
Artwork differences – The Death Knight form of Valeera looks mostly the same, without the characteristic “Blood Elf green,” which glows like Kryptonite. The green daggers, green pendants and jewels are gone and replaced with glowing purple skulls. The new weapon is a bone dagger. Her chest armor is shorter and other vestments are more ragged. Her hair is now red and blonde.
Comic clues – There is a promotional comic for the new expansion, which looks a lot like the Word of Warcraft Comic. This issue, Freedom, tells a tale of Garrosh and Valeera killing Anduin. Here are some snippets that give a clue of the new card.
There’s a clue about growing power, which is something that is not unfamiliar to Miracle Rogue and Questing Adventurer. It is possible that each hero attack will be additive to more attack or power.
The second panel shows Valeera throwing a knife or using some psychokinetic ability. While throwing knives is depicted with Fan of Knives, which could allow a possible ranged ping attack, instead of using face damage.
New set themes – As of this writing, 4 Rogue class cards have been revealed, and they are interesting for the most part. Plague Scientist gives the Poisonous mechanic. Shadowblade gives one turn Immunity. Leeching Poison gives Lifesteal. Runeforge Haunter gives weapon Durability immunity. It would not be radical to expect the Hero card to deviate too much from these themes. Mostly, I see a theme of sustain, something Rogue never had prior to this expansion. I would also expect Poisonous to play a role somehow.
Minions – Back to the Savjz card reveal. We see a bunch of minions in the artwork, including Shadow Rager, Wailing Soul and a banshee of sorts. While a new hero power of summon a 5/1 Rager sounds fun for memes, it doesn’t seem too outstanding. There could be a way to summon stuff, give minions Poisonous or Deathrattle, etc.
Old tricks – Rogue has seen the Burgle and Coin mechanics pushed in recent sets. There is nothing in this set so far that has done that, and I don’t expect the new hero to be a thief. But never say never.
I will end this with a snippet of an interview with Mike Donais, which is something about the power level of the new card.
Rogue legendaries haven’t disappointed recently (well, The Caverns Below, for other reasons), and this one is expected to be good as well. While I will auto-craft the card for reasons, I am still excited to explore potential new directions for Rogue.
As part of the Hearthstone festivities leading up to the new expansion, the new Ahune Frost Festival is going on, which focuses on the Arena. Everyone is incentivized to play 3 Arena games (at least 1 run), to get a free card pack. Additionally, all Arena runs start off as 1-0. This is great news in general. Let’s think of the implications this has.
Everyone will play at least 1 arena.
People who have never played arena, or seldom play arena will be coming back.
Unusual drafting choices will be encountered.
Unusual gameplay will be encountered.
I’m going to make a point about #4 in this blog, but yes, these things are mostly true. I’ve played a few arenas in this event, and noticed that players don’t play the board as much as they should. It is a very important arena concept to fight for the board, as the ability to play off the board is not as tenable as it is in constructed, where you can actually choose your deck. Going off what I perceived as wrong arena play, I decided to take a look at some data to confirm this.
The morning of the Ahune Festival, I went to hsreplay.net to find target usage of a few cards. Because I was aware that the hsreplay data would be contaminated by non-Arena players entering the game, I intercepted the data just hours into the event.
I decided to look at spells and what they targeted, for Ranked Standard and Arena. I picked some popular spells that do damage to both minion and hero. I did not get every card, since I was strapped for time.
I looked at a few minions that have target effects, for Ranked Standard and Arena. Part of the Arena is playing for tempo (to fight for the board), and not worrying about value. Again, I was strapped for time, so only picked a few.
Opponent hero tgt in Arena = 4.02%
Opponent hero tgt in Ranked = 18.02%
While there is a spread of 14% here between the formats, this was likely a bigger chasm when Frost Lance existed. Frostbolt also has more utility on minions, as it prevents one turn of damage. The 4% in Arena speaks to it being used for early board control.
Opponent hero tgt in Arena = 4.96%
Opponent hero tgt in Ranked = 17.65%
Flame Geyser has a slightly smaller difference, likely because it just does 2 damage. That likely isn’t much to go face with, and it best equipped for small minions.
Opponent hero tgt in Arena = 21.12%
Opponent hero tgt in Ranked = 44.61%
Here we have an over 23% spread. Fireball is one of the most effective face damage spells for the cost. Mages can play off the board better in Ranked.
Opponent hero tgt in Arena = 8.65%
Opponent hero tgt in Ranked = 29.26%
Firelands is more a board control tool given it’s cost, and it shows in the difference here. Burn Mages in Ranked still go face with it a lot, despite the heavy cost.
Opponent hero tgt in Arena = 19.91%
Opponent hero tgt in Ranked = 29.35%
Back when Hunter was actually good at going face, this might have been a much bigger difference. Now, Hunter has to fight for the board more often, as it struggles to survive in Ranked.
Opponent hero tgt in Arena = 9.45%
Opponent hero tgt in Ranked = 6.12%
Here we have reverse splits, as Arena Druids go face with Swipe more often than Standard Ranked Druids. I can’t really explain this, except I know that Druid is the most popular class in Standard. It could be torn by Jade Druid vs Aggro Druid, and how Swipe is employed in each deck.
No tgt in Arena = 93.72%
No tgt in Ranked = 72.58%
The Arena has been starved for solid 2-drops since the shift to Standard format, and the reduction of staples like River Crocolisk and Bloodfen Raptor. Golakka Crawler, a tech against Pirates, also has less fewer Pirate targets in Arena than Ranked.
No tgt in Arena = 11.09%
No tgt in Ranked = 4.54%
Houndmaster is rarely played as a 4-mana 4/3, as it is a pretty bad tempo play. This 7% different probably just accounts to it being less likely to get Beasts on the board in Arena.
No tgt in Arena = 20.45%
No tgt in Ranked = 7.72%
Unlike Houndmaster, Crackling Razormaw is fine being a 3/2 2-drop. I do find the 7% Ranked tempo play being a bit low, which might owe to how important adapt is for Hunter. It is also possible they just play some 1-drops or hero power instead of holding the board.
No tgt in Arena = 83.37%
No tgt in Ranked = 15.56%
Again, this speaks to how important 2-mana 2/3’s are in the arena. Murlocs aren’t prevalent in arena, and there is no reason to run this card outside of Paladin in Ranked. This big split isn’t really surprising at all.
No tgt in Arena = 5.65%
No tgt in Ranked = 8.63%
And we end at SI:7 Agent, which has the 3-mana 3/3 occurring more in Ranked. This is interesting but understandable. Miracle decks typically lack minions, so there is sometimes no other option. And Rogue is a board-control class in either format, so it is played just like that. Arena Rogues could be a bit more greedy with the value, as they have more minions at the disposal. Still, I think this is a very low percentage for both formats, I would’ve expected it to happen 10-20%.
By now, everyone who plays Hearthstone should be aware that Crystal Rogue aka Quest Rogue, is getting a nerf. Instead of requiring playing 4 cards with the same name, it will require playing 5 cards with the same name. There still isn’t word on when the card is going to get changed, but it is the only known card to get hit in the near future. Team 5 devs chalked up the nerf for two main reasons:
Crystal Rogue wasn’t fun to play against.
Crystal Rogue inhibited control decks and caused a more aggressive meta.
Despite being a Rogue apologist, I am mostly okay with this happening. Yes, I think Rogue gets hit with nerfs every time. Yes, I think other cards should have also been included in the nerf. I find losing to Primordial Glyph more damning than losing to Crystal Rogue. All in all, the story of this nerf makes me wonder how rigorous the play-testing process is. The negative effects it caused should have been expected I think.
That’s all the opinion I will provide. With any nerf, there is a chain reaction to other cards put in that deck. Crystal Rogue was unique in that the deck brought back a lot of old, boring cards. It was also very cheap to operate. Let’s look at some of the cards that will disappear from play once the nerf hits. Banished to the Shadow Realm, if you will.
A lay of the land
Below is a simple list (hsreplay.net) of all cards that appear in over 30% of Rogue decks, according to tracked Hearthstone Deck Tracker users.
One can assume the average Hearthstone player using HDT is better than the average Hearthstone player. But some good players use Track-o-Bot, and some use no tracker at all. This is just the population of HDT users.
The quest Caverns Below is in 56.5% of Rogue decks, so we could assume this is the representation of Crystal Rogue in all Rogue decks. Some cards have near identical usage, so we could assume those are definite staples. Other cards have higher usage, others lower.
Most popular Crystal Rogue
The most played Crystal Rogue list, by a big margin, is listed below:
Predicted card shifts
The Caverns Below – If the history of nerfs in Hearthstone are any indication, the cards typically become literally unplayable. While cards like Gadgetzan Auctioneer and Leeroy Jenkins have survived, more often than not, the card is gone. Aggro decks would feast on the extra turn, and any other decks should be able to get use from the extra turn. Really you are getting two turns on Crystal Rogue, since you need to play the 5-cost Caverns Below. The Paladin quest is represented in 1.3% of Paladin decks now. While I don’t expect it to sink this low, I think it will definitely be dropped by most players. There may be a few players who will continually trying to make it work.
Youthful Brewmaster – Cheap bounce effects were Crystal Rogue’s MO, and this was identified immediately. While it will disappear almost entirely, it is a neutral card, so it will not be gone completely. In the past two weeks, the card was played 20k times outside of Rogue, notably 10k times by Priests, who sought to reuse powerful Battlecries.
Gadgetzan Ferryman – This card has been through a lot in it’s short history, first being known as a bad card reveal for Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, when the class was in trouble. It finally saw use specifically for Crystal Rogue. This card will fall with the nerf, and I expect it to be played just as much as the Quest card.
Vanish – Vanish will literally vanish once the nerf hits. It was a card used in the past when Mill Rogue was a thing, and has no uses outside of that. With the future list of Quest Rogue in flux, it is possible that Vanish just becomes too expensive to play. Best case scenario is that it remains a Quest staple.
Novice Engineer – This card did a lot for completing the Rogue quest, and was often the trigger card for activating the quest. Being a free card and plus card advantage, Novice Engineer may never go away. Novice Engineer was played 100k times outside of Rogue in the past two weeks. It will see play in Mage, which would serve as extra card draw.
Stonetusk Boar – One of the most boaring cards around, this fit well as a 5/5 charge after the Quest was achieved. Another free Neutral card, this card would never disappear completely. It was played 40k times in the past two weeks outside of Rogue, and will likely only appear in Hunter.
Bilefin Tidehunter – Bilefin was not immediately identified by the pros as an optimal card for the list, but was just too good at providing 10/10 for 2 mana. Being a token creator and a Murloc, the card will still see play, as it was played 170k times outside of Rogue in the past two weeks. I expect it being played in Token Druid and Shaman.
Glacial Shard – Another later addition to the final optimized list. It had use in protecting the weak minions on the board to get bounced. The card was played 50k times outside of Rogue in the past two weeks, mostly in Shaman (24k).
Igneous Elemental – The Flame Elemental generator was identified right away as a good Quest Rogue card, and this one provided 2 of them. The card isn’t really going anywhere, as it was played 130k times outside of Rogue in the past two weeks. It saw most play in Shaman again (59k), owing to token and elemental synergy.
Fire Fly – Out of all the known Crystal Rogue ingredients, I think Fire Fly will take the smallest hit. It was played 2.3 million times outside of Rogue in the past two weeks by other classes. The card is just too much value. Still an elemental and having token synergy, it provides a lot of stats for the cost. I do play this myself in Aggro Water Rogue, and it is just a good Rogue card for what it does. It will see play in Druid and Shaman, and some Rogue.
Rogue decks are going to be seen a lot less. In some ways, Crystal Rogue was the budget deck to play for people who don’t have a bunch of legendaries for the class. The new Miracle Rogue has expenses and Water Rogue sure isn’t cheap either. The card quality will improve with some boring cards leaving.
All of it is really up in the air, as we still don’t know when this nerf is coming, and there is an expansion coming out in August. We may have this changed Rogue pool for just a little while. Or it will be completely moot when new cards are here.
Anyone who reads this blog closely or follows me on Twitter would know that I am at a bit of an identity crisis of sorts in gaming. I made this blog and Twitter with the sole purpose of talking Hearthstone. Lately, I’ve had issues with Hearthstone, mainly precipitated by my not enjoying the changed Arena format. I actually did not realize that I liked the Arena so much. In my taking a sabbatical from Arena play, I can barely play the game anymore.
By sinking in less time into Hearthstone, I have opened up time for other games. Notably, I am playing three other card games in addition to Hearthstone. Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links is the mobile game I have played since January and podcast about. Shadowverse is the secondary card game I played probably once a week, now more regularly. Gwent is a new card game released in open beta that I am trying out. Playing all these games together has given me some ideas which lead to this post. Why do we play games nowadays?
The changed landscape
Gaming has evolved tremendously since I was young. While I wasn’t around for almost all of the 80s, I can say I sampled my share of old games. And by old games, I mean titles from SNES and Sega Genesis. I didn’t really play games regularly until my family got a computer, and I have been primarily a PC gamer since. The main evolution in gaming, besides the obvious upgrades to gameplay, graphics, and design, is the ubiquity of the Internet, and the ability to play games with people you’ve never met physically. I admit that I was playing games alone for a really long time, and it wasn’t until I started playing Diablo III that I started to play games with other people.
The fusion of gaming and Internet has not only changed the landscape of gaming, and also the reasons why we play games now. Back when I was playing Operation: Inner Space in my cold basement or Syphon Filter 3 in front of the TV, I can say I did it for fun. Sure, I wanted to set high scores in Inner Space and unlock secrets in Syphon Filter. But now the reasons are more complex and varied. I will try to dig into the reasons why we game using the games I am playing concurrently as an example.
The generic umbrella reason for why we play games. Games are a hobby and it is something we do for fun when we’re not doing something else (more important) in life.
I have played Hearthstone almost daily since December 2013. While I have taken breaks now and then (including now lol), my enjoyable experiences have kept me in the game for all these years. I have logged thousands of Arena games just because I found it so fun. Arena is known for not being the most generous when it comes to rewards. You don’t make the 3.33 gold/win you get in Ranked play and even in Casual. According to Hearthstone, I have 3710 Arena wins. This equates to 12,366 gold I missed out on because they were Arena wins. When it comes to my enjoyment playing Hearthstone, it lives and dies with Arena.
As mentioned before, my relationship with the Arena is currently strained. The fun factor is mostly gone as the Arena revamp with Patch 7.1 coupled with Journey to Un’Goro cards has brought on never-ending reactionary play and big power creep on card quality. And truthfully, it isn’t because I’m losing significantly in the Arena now. It’s important to note that these are just my feelings (and some other players), and not those of the entire Arena community. I don’t know if most people share my feelings on the Arena changes. I’m sure people who enjoy Control decks are having a blast.
To fill the void in gaming fun, I have resorted to the other card games. I am having a really fun time playing Gwent, mostly from the Casual game mode available to me. As someone who is completely foreign to The Witcher universe, I have no idea what the underlying story is. I don’t even know what the ubiquitous keg-opening character is called. A lot of the fun is derived from the game just being a new experience, and a break from the Arena. I am also playing Shadowverse a bit, though the game hasn’t gotten more fun than before. I’ll explain later.
Those who graduate past the notion of playing games just for fun are more ambitious in the hobby and want to make something of their gaming career. By playing a game at a high enough level, one can be known for something, and springboard off a new height. This is a new development in gaming, given people were not connected to the Internet to track scores back in the day. It likely started with the seeds of eSports, and have known people play games. All four of the card games I am playing have leaderboards, with your legend tiers, points, or high scores. And by playing at a high enough level, you get invited to participate in tournaments. In the end, you fight the final boss (real life person) for a trophy. Gaming is just like real sports now!
Alternatively, you can achieve fame by doing something with your gaming experience. All of the “creation” nowadays associated with gaming, your streaming, recording, blogging, podcasting, and drawing would all fall into this category. A lot of people I follow on social media and associate with would fall into this category.
In all honestly, I started this blog for a reason. I wanted to be known in the Hearthstone community as an all-purpose writer who talked about Arena a lot. I had ambitions that it would all lead to opportunities in my future. While those dreams are at a moribund state, I was able to meet and talk to a lot of people in the process of creating the blog.
Those who become really famous for gaming may eventually reach the top tier of gaming for money. There are those who are full-time video game players for a living, making money through tournaments, streaming, endorsements, and donations. Others work for a living or go to school, and have supplementary revenue streams from gaming. Obviously, gaming for money didn’t happen for decades, and is just a recent development.
Unfortunately, the window of gaming for money is closing for existing games, as the market is gets more and more saturated. Gamers who enter the game (lol) later are at a bigger disadvantage, as they have to compete with existing players and personalities. It is a more prudent idea to try to forecast the next big game, and become an established player in that realm. For example, it is much really difficult to make a name in Hearthstone, given it has been in existence for close to 4 years. Your big name competitive Hearthstone players are mostly making money with their streaming brand now. It has become really difficult to make a name for yourself, with so much competition. This goes for other forms of creation in Hearthstone. I doubt that a newbie bug-finder can dethrone Disguised Toast at this point.
It could be easier to game for money in newer games. Notably, Lifecoach has become the first professional Gwent player signed to a team. Right now, I don’t think there are any Duel Links players who play the game for money, but that could change, given the World Championships coming in August. I do not know if there are Shadowverse players who game for money. The challenge is knowing if the game will stick around for the long term, long enough for your efforts to come to fruition.
Gaming has always had an occasional social aspect, as multiple people playing a console was a way to hang out. As a kid and teenager, I fondly remember going to friend’s houses to play video games for hours. With the availability of Internet, the social aspect of gaming has evolved into playing games with people online.
In the Blizzard world, Battle.net was once the site you used to connect to online servers. Now known as the Blizzard Launcher, it is a one-stop-shop with an instant messaging list to your friends, online news, etc. Hearthstone has quests for playing games with friends, and now allows questing to be done in friend games. Duel Links has the Vagabond sharing system with friends. Spectator mode is another aspect that gives a social aspect to gaming.
In my card game carousel discussion, I mentioned I am playing more Shadowverse than in the past. This is because they are offering doubled rewards for completed daily missions. This means 2 free card packs for 4 Ranked Wins, or 100 rupies for 4 wins with x class. The rewards are so good that Shadowverse isn’t the second fiddle card game for this month. They also have the Freshman Lou promotion, so I am trying to earn those card sleeves.
Shadowverse has really exemplified the gaming for rewards aspect. We are playing games for in-game currency, so we don’t have to (or spend less) spend real money. This is something that clearly didn’t exist in older games. You bought your game at the store or online, and you paid it. That ended the spending. In the age of Internet and microtranscations, companies want you to continually spend money on a game, by adding more new features. It really is an interesting thought to think we are playing a game a lot because we don’t want to pay for it.
A lot of people play new games for the sheer experience of trying something new. Trying new games has numerous advantages, as you can discover really fun aspects of games that are not apparently obvious. Steam is now the go-to source for PC gamers to get access to a wide swath of games. Monthly Humble Bundle deals allow one to discover a lot of new games at a low price. One can also purchase old games online, though this is mostly a thing done on consoles now.
My fun playing Gwent is mostly a gaming for experience venture. Given all the comparisons to Hearthstone, I just had to play the game to see for myself. What I discovered is that Gwent is nothing like Hearthstone, and is just linked to it because of Lifecoach’s endorsement of the game. Part of the new experience is learning names in Gwent and trying to understand the unexplained rules in the game.
In climbing the Shadowverse Ranked ladder, the experience is turning less fun, as I start seeing the same “good decks.” I typically go in as a Tempo Runecraft deck, which is not a meta deck in a class that primarily plays the fun and interactive Dimensional Shift deck. However, I see a lot of Forest Roach decks, and Heavenly Aegis Haven, popular climbing decks. In Hearthstone, seeing the same variants of decks was always second nature to me, and something that was burned in the brain as normal. Going into a game like Shadowverse, the same emphasis on bringing the same good decks still applies, but I was just not inured to it.
By loyalty, I mean loyalty to a brand or franchise. It is unlikely that Hearthstone would’ve been the success it is without being under the “Heroes of Warcraft” title and Blizzard flagship. People who bought WoW, or Diablo, or Starcraft were willing to give Hearthstone a try since it was made by Blizzard. This is not unlike buying a brand of clothes or car. Trust is earned through reliable workmanship and satisfaction.
I bought into the loyalty to Blizzard games long ago when I first played Diablo when in 1997. Then I played Starcraft, Warcraft III, Diablo II, and flash foward to Diablo III and the Bnet launcher era. Who knew that entering the Cathedral, and spending hours and days walking (couldn’t run back then) through the labyrinth in Diablo would lead me to everything else Blizz has now.
The gaming for loyalty aspect is a also big reason for why I started playing Duel Links. @hsdecktech posted some screenshots one day on Twitter, and I haven’t put down the game since. My enjoyment playing the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG in 7th and 8th grade awoke, and I destined to relive the nostalgia I had playing cards. And this is allure to Yu-Gi-Oh is not a unique thing, as Duel Links is catching on like wildfire, hitting 45 million downloads recently. Konami created a great franchise, buoyed by a TV show and card game, and that loyalty now it is manifesting in Duel Links’ popularity.
Back in the day, playing a game for a new high score at the end was the goal. When my ship blew up in Operation: Inner Space, I wanted to get on that leaderboard. This isn’t lost in today’s games. In Hearthstone, competitive players have a goal of hitting Legend in Ranked Play. Some just want to do it, for the sake of doing it, and others have the goal of hitting it every month. This is playing games for fulfillment. You’re trying to hit a goal. Another common fulfillment goal in Hearthstone is getting golden characters. While getting Legend and golden characters technically result in rewards, it is more of a set goal, as the rewards are paltry.
As an Arena guy, hitting 12 wins for the Lightforge Key was a sense of fulfillment. I tracked my 12 win runs for a time with screenshots. I set a goal to hit 12 wins for every class, and that is something that still eludes me. I’ve never hit Legend in Ranked, but getting Golden Rogue was very satisfying.
Gaming for a sense of fulfillment really is a fascinating thing. Most of it is how one derives fun, by continually winning. I wouldn’t have fun if I lost a game many times. Some of it is fueled by competitive drive. Some of it is fueled by Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. But you’re sinking in hours into a game for something that isn’t even tenable. And by not hitting the goal, you could become angry or depressed (usually both). Crazy right? But hey, it is the reason many play games now.
Well, that’s all I have to say about why we play games in these present times. There probably are a lot more reasons out there, but this post is long enough already. Why do you play games?