Why Do We Play Games Nowadays?

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?

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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.

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I feel really old saying I played this a lot

For fun

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.

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Good times before Arena 7.1

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.

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I have no idea who this guy is, but he opens the kegs.

For fame

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!

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eSports!

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.

For money

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.

For community

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.

Hmm… I don’t remember girls being around

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.

 

For rewards

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.

Freshman Lou is quickly becoming my one of my favorite cards

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.

For experience

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.

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An unfamliiar deck building interface

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.

For loyalty

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.

Where it all started

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.

For fulfillment

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?

Forecasting Arena Shifts by Class

Forecasting Arena Shifts by Class

As mentioned in the past, I love looking at data, and trying to use it to my advantage when possible. Hearthstone Replay officially made their collected data publicly available yesterday, much to my delight. I didn’t even know that this was planned for a release, but I knew data was collected through Hearthstone Decktracker, a tool I have used for years myself.  There’s lots of data about win rates for constructed decks in Standard and Wild, with great UI to see specific deck changes by deck. There’s also separate Arena data, which is what I was interested in the most, and will explore here.

Arena data

Not surprisingly, the Arena data has information about every single draftable card, as you’ll get a different deck each draft. These are the variables measured for each card:

  • Included in % of decks – What % of drafts have this card.
  • Copies  – Average copies of the card in each draft.
  • Deck winrate – Win% when card is in draft.
  • Times played – Raw times played.
  • Played winrate – Win% when card is played in game.

Assumptions

While having big data is great, it could be worse having data and misinterpreting it. Misinterpreting data leads to faulty reasoning and arguments. Let’s try to make some assumptions of this data before we proceed.

  • Players who use HS Decktracker are better Arena players than the average HS player.
    • HS Decktracker provides a ton of information in the game, which will allow the user to gain an advantage in getting intel. One could assume this helps, and the players who use it are more likely use other methods, like drafting tools.
  • Deck winrate and played winrate are independent by class.
    • As a class struggles, the overall winrates will plummet for the class. Just by looking at rates by class, we can see that Warrior and Druid are struggling a lot in the NA server over the last 14 days. Grimy Gadgeteer and Headcrack have the same deck winrate at 49.8%. One is a lot better than the other in reality, as Rogues win a lot more than Warriors.
  • Played winrate has bias depending on game situation.
    • I noticed that some pretty good cards had lower played winrates than expected. Flamestrike sits at 53.3%, the same winrate as Assassin’s Blade. Think about it this way, if you’re playing Flamestrike, chances are you are behind on the board. Mage players who choose not to, or don’t have to play Flamestrike likely have won already.
    • The same goes with card advantage cards. I often play card draw in a last ditch effort to draw into an out. This would skew card advantage cards to lower played winrates.
    • Pyroblast has a very high played winrate at 73.4%, but a 57% deck winrate. This signifies people playing Pyroblast to achieve lethal.

Methodology

  • I’m going to look at the top 10 class cards for each class in deck winrate. It has been established that deck winrate is likely better at evaluating a card than played winrate.
  • I will only look at commons, rares, and epics. Legendaries are omitted as they show up too infrequently. Arena 7.1 put epics back on the map with higher offering rates.
  • I will omit undraftable cards included from old drafts.
  • I will seek to identify the cards that will be rotating out in the Arena once Journey to Un’Goro releases.
  • These data were collected on 4/3/17, approximately around 4pm EST.

Druid

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  • Druid appears to be taking a huge blow to their Arena kit when TGT drops out. 7 cards in the top 10 will be leaving.
  • Without Mulch or any replacements in Un’Goro, Naturalize becomes the only Druid hard removal. While it becomes a better pick, it still isn’t great.
  • Shellshifter and Verdant Longneck are solid cards, but it isn’t enough help given what is dropping out.
  • Prediction: Druid might become one of the worst Arena classes.

Hunter

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  • Things are looking up for Hunter lately thanks to Arena 7.1. Also, none of the top 10 cards are dropping out.
  • Houndmaster is looking even better in the Beast meta.
  • Hunter gets some amazing early game cards and a seemingly premium early removal with Grievous Bite.
  • Prediction: Hunter gets more tools and isn’t losing much. Beasts will help the class even more.

Mage

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  • Faceless Summoner and Forgotten Torch are undraftable cards, so ignore them here.
  • Mage will lose 2 cards in the top 10, Fallen Hero and Ethereal Conjurer. All the powerful spells are still here.
  • Primordial Glyph does the samething as Ethereal Conjurer albeit without the threat on board. A bunch of the other common cards are quite solid as well.
  • Prediction: Mage continues to be an Arena powerhouse. Elementals help bolster neutral minion picks.

Paladin

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  • Paladin loses Keeper of Uldaman, Argent Lance, and Seal of Champtions. These are 3 premium cards, but 3 out of 10 isn’t the worst.
  • Spikeridged Steed and Lost in the Jungle are solid gains.
  • Paladin also gainst other snowbally threats that are more win more.
  • Prediction: Paladin either stays the same or gets a little worse. In any case, it should remain in the middle of the pack, possibly still one of the better picks.

Priest

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  • Priest loses nothing from their top 10 list in the upcoming rotation.
  • The loss of Dragons from rotated set would peg a card like Drakonid Operative a little. 5-mana 5/6 is still great to get though. Dragonfire Potion is still a board wipe to pick.
  • Priests get some Elemental synergy with Radiant Elemental and Crystalline Oracle. Shellraiser and Mirage Caller are pretty good as well.
  • Prediction: Priests remain in their current position as a strong Arena class. Fewer Potions of Madness will be a relief.

Rogue

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  • Undercity Valiant is not a draftable card, so it isn’t in this top 10.
  • Rogue loses a couple tools in Dark Iron Skulker, Buccaneer, and Shady Dealer. The class was propelled to #1 thanks to Arena 7.1, and Dark Iron Skulker was likely the culprit for that.
  • The new Rogue toolkit is very solid. Vilespine Slayer, despite being an epic, looks like an autodraft. Obsidan Shard, Hallucination, Biteweed are all solid.
  • Prediction: Rogue remains a top tier Arena class. SI:7 Agent (top deck winrate card) and tools are all still here to keep the class competitive. Lack of AoE didn’t kill the class before, and it won’t now.

Shaman

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  • Whirling Zap-o-matic isn’t a draftable card, so not included in this top 10.
  • Shaman loses none of it’s top 10 cards.
  • Shaman is going all in with Elemental synergy, and I believe this will benefit greatly with all the neutral Elemental cards. The minions are all unimpressive with their stats, so drafting synergy will be key.
  • Prediction: Shaman makes the leap from middle of the pack to top tier. The ability to curve out in the Arena with Elementals will weigh heavily on how well it will do. Some drafts could possibly stall out, if synergy breaks down.

Warlock

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  • Darkbomb isn’t a draftable card, so it doesn’t belong in this top 10 list.
  • Warlock loses 4 cards from this top 10 list, including Imp Gang Boss, Dark Peddler, Tiny Knight of Evil, and Wrathguard. Really, IGB and Dark Peddler are really bad to lose, as they are really, really good.
  • The new Warlock cards are definitely decent, with the minions being good stat sticks. Chittering Tunneler could be the new Dark Peddler.
  • Prediction: Warlocks get worse and will need to focus on increased minion-based combat with taunts. Could possibly be forced out of top tier status to the middle.

Warrior

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  • These are some putrid winrates. We are looking at the top 10 here!
  • Warrior loses a couple from this top 10, including Obsidian Destroyer, King’s Defender, and Alexstraza’s Champion.
  • Warrior gets very good minion help from Un’Goro, but nonexistent spell support. The three spells they get are nearly undraftable. Sudden Genesis is draftable but win more.
  • Prediction: Is it possible Warriors become even worse? Going forward, the strategy might just be to taunt up and draft weapons, as the spells are no good. That or just continue not playing Warrior.

Thanks to hsreplay.net for all the data and screenshots!

Assessing the Fun and Interactivity of New Hearthstone Mechanics in Un’Goro

Assessing the Fun and Interactivity of New Hearthstone Mechanics in Un’Goro

While I typically don’t know what is going on, I think I know enough to eke by in conversation to get by. In a generation of youngins crawling the World Wide Web, it is important to know some memes, to “speak the language.” Memes come and go, but the very best have long-lasting value. There is no question that my favorite Hearthstone-related meme is the phrase “fun and interactive,” a phrase used to explain a card nerf many moons ago.

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The phrase is often conjured up by Hearthstone players and viewers and used in a facetious manner. When people use “fun and interactive,” they are referring to something that isn’t.

In the spirit of preserving the usage of “fun and interactive” in it’s intended way, I’ve decided to rate the new Hearthstone mechanics in Journey to Un’goro by fun and interactivity. There are a lot of new things done in this expansion, that warrant a deeper look. These ratings are subjective, but I think I’ve been around the block long enough to not be too far off.

My base definitions

  • Fun – How far off a card/mechanic is from Basic cards (vanilla minions, or deal damage spells).
  • Interactive – How well a card/mechanic can be countered by your opponent, through heroes, minions, and spells.

New mechanics/functions

Adapt Mechanic

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One of the new keywords, Adapt, will appear on 14 cards in the new expansion. For a single adapt, there is a 30% chance to pick each 1 of 10 abilities. I would say this falls in the vein of “good RNG,” given the opponent can expect only 10 outcomes. I think it is pretty fun try to figure out what Adapt ability to pick given the game situation to gain the advantage. It is a good test of skill and some luck. On the other hand, it isn’t too far off the regular Discover mechanic. 2 of 10 adapts, the Untargetable and Stealth gains aren’t too interactive, but the other outcomes definitely can be countered. Even Untargetable and Stealth can be interacted upon, depending on the class.

Fun = 6/10, Interactivity = 7/10

Elemental Battlecry Mechanic

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A staggering 24 new minions will be have the Elemental tribe, with an additional 12 other Standard minions gaining the tag. The main Elemental mechanic works in that a minion gains a big buff, if an Elemental was played in the turn before. Some of the battlecry effects are quite strong, like Blazecaller and Tol’vir Stoneshaper. I guess there is a bit of fun and forcing subpar Elemental cards in your deck to activate strong effects. It could also be fun playing strong minions on curve. Well, not really. In terms of interaction, there is no way to stop Elemental effects from activating. Nerub’ar Weblord is a Wild card, and no other card has been printed to offset Battlecry. Sure, you can remove whatever gets boosted by the Elemental Battlecry, but will force a great expenditure of resources. Truthfully, this mechanic isn’t really fun or interactive.

Fun = 3/10, Interactivity = 3/10

Quest Mechanic

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Quests are a new spell type, which hopefully does much to make the game more fun. Everything from deckbuilding and gameplay will hopefully be galvanized. So quests seem fun, just because they are new and will provoke new deckbuilding. In terms of interaction, there isn’t a way to specifically get rid of a quest. I guess the old fashion counter of rushing your opponent down to zero is a valid method.

Fun = 8/10, Interactivity = 3/10

Sherazin, Seed / Nether Portal

These 2 cards are the first in Hearthstone which leave something on the board that isn’t a minion. Both cards could be quite fun, as Sherazin provides an undying minion, and Nether Portal provides eternal tempo on the board. While playing with a new mechanic is fun, they provide fun deckbuilding challenges, along with gameplay. Neither card could be removed from the board by minions or spells. Sherazin could be silenced, preventing the Deathrattle effect from happening. Nether Portal can’t really be countered, and is more of a consequence of the Warlock discarding the right cards.

Fun = 6/10, Interactivity = 3/10

Time Warp

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When this was revealed, it immediately took me to Shadowverse, and the card Dimensional Shift. This was on the minds of many others, as “DSHIFT” spammed the Twitch Chat. Anyhow, this is super fun if you are the Mage, as getting a whole extra turn could be an easy win. You can either cast a bunch of spells or simply outtempo the board. Unfortunately, there is literally no way to interact with this mechanic as the enemy, besides rushing down the Mage before you the Quest. Loatheb can work in a Wild stall tactic, and Ice Block can stall as well. But no way to counter this.

Fun = 6/10, Interactivity = 0/10

Elise the Trailblazer

The new Elise provides the novel joy of opening a booster pack in the middle of a game. So fun! The packs also have a high chance for wacky cards like Legendaries and Epics, and span across all class cards and neutrals. In terms of interactivity, all you can expect are 5 cards from an entire set of 135 cards. There is no way for the opponent to prepare for it really, and it is a “bad RNG” example. I suppose you can try to find some way to fill your opponent’s hand, so they won’t get the 5 cards. Elise is heavy on the fun, not on the interactive side.

Fun = 9/10, Interactivity = 1/10

Elemental Invocation

This isn’t really a new mechanic at all, but just a spin on an old one. Kalimos allows the player to get 1 of 4 invocations, and it isn’t random at all. This is really just Discover with a 4th option. This makes you think about cards with Spare Parts and Xaril, which are random draws. Anyhow, this isn’t really fun, as they are very basic abilities granted by the invocation. But, as you can only expect 4 outcomes, the opponent shouldn’t be blown away by what happens.

Fun = 3/10, Interactivity = 5/10

Explore Un’Goro

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In typical wacky epic card fashion, this replaces your whole deck with 1-cost cards, to Discover random cards. This is another card like Elise, in that it is all fun and no interaction. Unlike Elise, this card will almost guarantee you have no chance of winning the game through conventional methods. Elise is a card that isn’t too bad statwise, and provides card advantage. This card is just for fun, and that only.

Fun = 10/10, Interactivity = 0/10

Curious Glimmerroot

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This is an extremely fun spin on Discover, which creates a guessing game of what your opponent is playing. I suppose this effect is less fun when the meta is stabilized, and you know what your opponent is playing. Additionally, there will likely be a big split of getting the right guess on Constructed vs Arena. You can really get anything in the Arena, where as you can tell bad from good in Constructed. It also can be interacted upon, as you know what is in your deck, and can calculate the probability of your opponent getting something. It isn’t too different from previous Priest steal mechanics.

Fun = 9/10, Interactivity = 7/10

Primalfin Champion

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This is a completely new mechanic, which can allow a Paladin to replenish their hand with buffs, after this guy bites the dust. As this provides an avenue for the Galvadon quest completion, and provides card advantage, it could be fun for the user. There are plenty of ways to interact with this card through silence, and bounce effects. You can also try to get rid of the board, so that no minions that remain can be buffed.

Fun = 4/10, Interactivity = 8/10

Tar Creeper/Lurker/Lord

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The new tar creatures were created solely for defense, all possessing taunt, tons of health, low attack, and counterattacking enemies only.  One could figure these cards were designed specifically to satisfy the fanbase’s general hatred for aggro in the game. While these cards are great, they pretty much are not fun in anyway. They are boring as heck, and don’t even represent fun on offense, as they hit for 1. They can be interacted by the opponent through spells and attacks as well as any minion in the game.

Fun = 1/10, Interactivity = 10/10

Living Mana

For the first time, mana crystals come to life! This is a card that could set up combos with Savage Roar and Mark of the Lotus. Cool and fun deckbuilding around it. I guess the concept of bring your mana to life is fun, but really it is just making a bunch of 2/2’s. Your opponent can also interact with the board well, or just deny you getting your mana back. Silences with Mass Dispel will ensure a loss.

Fun = 5/10, Interactivity = 10/10

Dinomancy

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Control Hunter was always not a thing, as the Hero Power is all about damage. That is no more, as Dinomancy allows the Hunter to build their board and minions for the first time. This is honestly revolutionary, as it opens an entire library of cards and deckbuilding possibilities for a class that was all aggro. Just amazing. Additionally, this hero power is more interactive than the standard one. Plus points for fun and interactivity.

Fun = 9/10, Interactivity = 9/10

Envenom Weapon

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No, Envenom won’t make Blade Flurry playable again. But it is a novel mechanic. Rogues still don’t Taunt or Heal, so a lot of face-tanking will continue to occur. In a way, it is bringing back the days of Blade Flurry, where Rogues held on to the weapon. So it will be fun picking what to destroy. There are numerous ways for the enemy to counter Envenom, including weapon removal, playing taunts, playing high attack guys, etc.

Fun = 4/10, Interactivity = 10/10

Razorpetals

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This is a new token spell, which is 1-mana, deal 1 damage. A bit over-costed for what it does, but Rogue mechanics have always been a bit janky. Also, they are still cheap spells. Mostly, this is fun in that it represents a deck building challenge with the new plant cards. Most likely it will circle back to how Auctioneer could be used. It might even have consequences in a Malygos deck. Otherwise, 1-mana and 1-damage doesn’t represent anything new. In terms of interaction, the opponent knows how many Razorpetals you get. There isn’t really anything to do to counter a 1-cost, 1 damage card.

Fun = 4/10, Interactivity = 5/10

“Competitive” Hearthstone

“Competitive” Hearthstone

Yesterday, UK Hearthstone player Greensheep revealed that he would not be bringing his Noggenfogger Zoo deck to the HCT Winter Championships. For those uninformed, Mayor Noggenfogger is a card that weighs heavily on the “fun” side, and has no competitive advantage over other cards. He previously stated that he would bring the deck to the tournament if he had received 5,000 retweets. With the apparent help of viewbots (Twitterbots?) it happened.

I posted my thoughts on a comment on Hearthstone Reddit. Reddit is a pretty useful website because it allows you to run the gamut of emotions. One minute you could be arguing with someone you’ll never know, and the next you’ll be reduced to tears from laughing at something amazing. The site runs through the upvote/downvote system, which could be a form of validation or embarrassment.

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The debate on this matter is quite lively. Basically, my argument is that it was pretty stupid to do renege on a promise, as it marks your brand as being a liar. It probably isn’t worse than other offenses like cheating or viewbotting, but lying is lying. A lot of fellow Hearthstone players laughed it off, and other people online said it was expected. Greensheep himself tweeted about it, giving the following justification:

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Okay, I don’t know what compels someone to do something for the memes, but apparently it was a joke the whole time. Even as someone who enjoys memes from time to time, there is a line when you are outright lying. Not to mention whatever interaction this may have had in influencing what decks other pros bring to the tournament. I guess he values competitive Hearthstone above living up to his word. Fine.

This made me think about the ugly truth in how competitive Hearthstone isn’t really a thing. I forget where I read this before, or who said this before, but people who make money in Hearthstone are streamers, content creators, people with a brand. If you think the people who are quite successful making a living in Hearthstone, you think of guys who have been around a while, but are no longer in the active competitive scene. Your Reynads, Forsens, Amazes. Kripp is super successful as a Hearthstone personality, and is an Arena player. Rising star Disguised Toast is a content creator, and got invited to Blizz HQ today (for something big likely). LifeCoach leaving the competitive Hearthstone scene was another point. And the dagger today just now:

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The first world champ of Hearthstone, Firebat, is heading a different direction than competitive play. Firebat earned a lot of praise among the community for being a very good caster, despite starting it recently.

In the end, the writing was on the wall if you put everything into perspective. Everyone in competitive Hearthstone really has the same win rate, with very small margins differentiating the best player from the 100th player. Throw in a high standard error due to card design randomness, and you’ll have a bit of variation on who vies for the top seeds. There is a lot of turnover for Hearthstone players banking on tournament wins. You’ll probably see someone who competed in the Top 8, and you’ll never see them again. The rewards aren’t there to keep someone competitive for long, and it won’t be long till you are thrown from the competitive scene by factors outside your control. The likelihood is that anyone holding a regular job likely made more money than many top Hearthstone players just vying for tournament fame. You’ll definitely need your views and videos to keep you afloat financially.

The point to win an argument on Reddit has spiraled into a dark realization that competitive Hearthstone isn’t a thing. Yes, I still think Greensheep made a mistake by lying to his followers on Twitter. I just don’t see it being a net positive to his bottom line brand as a player.The best move would’ve been to bring Mayor Noggenfogger to the tournament. I think it would’ve had a bigger bang than rolling the 20-sided dice on 1 outcome, given the nature of variability playing a role in competitive Hearthstone.

A Nerdy Look at Chakki Blowing Up the Arena

A Nerdy Look at Chakki Blowing Up the Arena

REVISION (3/10/17, 8:51 pm EST): The numbers were updated after this was written, so all the numbers listed are wrong. Chakki’s feat becomes even more impressive.

I have been getting immersed into statistical analysis more and more now, and I couldn’t help but notice the anomaly in the Hearthstone NA Top 100 Arena Leaderboard for February 2017. Hearthstone professional memer, Chakki, grabbed the top spot in NA with a 8.65 average. The notable thing about this average is that it is a whole 0.55 games higher than the #2 ranking. Let’s look at a few stat things and check out how amazing this is.

Summary

This is Stata output of Average Wins of the top 100 players. The main takeaway here is that Chakki got 8.65, which is well above the 99 percentile in this list of the top 100 players. If you dabble with standard deviation, he was over 4 standard deviations above the mean for the top 100.

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Check out this box chart. This box and whisker shows the quartiles and inter-quartile ranges. Everything in the shaded box represents the 25 – 75 percentile, and everything past the upper hash is considered an outlier. Chakki is way up there, and the other outliers were scores 2-4. Remember this population is just the top 100 again.

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And finally a scatterplot showing how many runs were done versus average wins. It’s no secret that the highest achieving scores stopped right around the minimum 30 wins, while some of the grinders shooting for the top 100 spot had to put in 90 or 100 runs in the month. This graph is likely what will lead to this being the last cumulative arena leaderboard, with March starting the first “best of 30 consecutive” counts.

Of note, Chakki had a 0-0 run counted against him, so he would have a more ridiculous average of close to 9. This was an amazing performance, and provided a statistical outlier that showed how well he did, even in the subpopulation of the top 100 players.

 

On the Hearthstone Price Hike

Various Hearthstone boards were lit ablaze when I was sleeping, as the prices for Hearthstone packs were raised in many countries. The official post was put on the EU Hearthstone site. This thread is compiling the revised prices for different countries, and adding to it. So this begs the question: was Ben Brode’s rap concocted to drum up interest in a game that is getting more expensive? That we will never know, but I will touch on other observations and possibly a few facts.

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r/hearthstonecirclejerk got this down
  • Prices aren’t going up in America and Canada (for now)

I’ll admit it. I was a bit shocked to hear of the news, even logging into my store to see the new prices. My usual go to purchase, 15 packs for $20, was unchanged. I found out that prices were going up in a lot of other countries to adjust for the US Dollar. The complaints were so loud and rampant, I thought the markup was universal.

  • Something something complex global economy

Despite being an owner of stocks (Activision Blizzard included), I don’t know a whole lot about how economics and the market works. From what I know though, the US Dollar has been strong the last few months, as evidence by market shares being at highs (Dow Jones Industrial). I also do know that these high shares are a bit inflated, and an imminent fed rate hike will likely bring some shares down to Earth.

Anyways, these price hikes seem to be adjustments to the supposed strength of the US Dollar, and basic adjustments of currency exchange. I won’t pretend to know how things are going on in Europe, so I won’t comment on it. If you know how things are going in Europe, and around the world, let me know!

  • Prices go up all the time

No matter where you’re from, you don’t like paying more for the same exact thing. Life is basically a money game. You spend so much of your day working, try to pay for a lot of shit, and hopefully have extra money to spare. And what you do with your money, whether it be investing, buying a house, going on a vacation, spending it on children’s digital cards, dictates who you are, and what you are doing in life.

But let’s face it, prices go up all the time. Well, at least in America they do. Rent and housing prices go up all the time. Grocery items (Thanks Trump for Mexican Coca-Cola price hikes) go up all the time. Education is ridiculously expensive. Even in the sphere of gaming, I believe it is getting more expensive. The shift to microtransaction-based purchases is a way to get more money. If you’ve ever played Heroes of the Storm, they have all these sales for skins, and I’m sure Overwatch does as well. Microtransactions are a way to lure people to pay more for something they are invested in. But  I personally have not been lured by these tactics. Guess what, I’m not paying $10 so my digital character looks cool or weird. I suck anyways, so I’ll just use what they give me.

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Basically real life
  • Be mad at Blizzard, not Team 5

This one is important. I highly doubt Ben Brode, Mike Donais, or any of the other guys and gals from Team 5 had any say in this. They often get heat for anything bad that happens in Hearthstone, but this was most likely not up to them.

  • I’m f2p btw

The price hike really affects people who buy packs all the time. If you’re doing multiple 40 pack purchases, you will feel that increase with every transaction. People who who spend hundreds and possibly thousands on continual pack purchases are likely 1) professional gamers; 2) really rich and can afford it; 3) willing to spend; or 4) people who really shouldn’t spend that much but can’t control temptation.

While there are Hearthstone players all across the spending spectrum, I would wager that most people are like me. I am a one-time spender, paying real money once at the release of each new expansion. I have bought 40 packs before, but I have only spent $20 when MSG was released. So for example, if I live in the EU, I would spend for 15 packs once. I would’ve spent 17.99 Euro in the old/current pricing, and 19.99 Euro in the new pricing. This is a difference of $2.12 US dollars. I’m not sure if I would feel the pinch of $2.12 across a few months.

It’s also possible that a lot of true free-to-play people exist. True f2p people have become a meme, as it is hard to believe how many of these people actually exist. But if there are so many f2ps, there shouldn’t be that many complaints!

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Portrait of Blizzard Entertainment CEO

In the end, I don’t disagree that this sucks, it does. But price hikes are things that happen all the time! And real-life pressures are seeping into the realm of children’s card games.

 

The Best Arena Cards Leaving Next Month

The Best Arena Cards Leaving Next Month

Days ago, I talked about the top cards from Curse of Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes that have now departed the Arena. This shall be a Part 2, a commemoration of the top cards leaving the Arena from Blackrock Mountain, League of Explorers, and The Grand Tournament. The exodus of these cards correspond with the arrival of Journey to Un’goro, and will take place in April. Let’s look at my personal list of the cards with limited shelf life in the Arena.

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Pour one out for Rag too!

 

Top 10 cards leaving

Honorable mention – Flame Juggler/Argent Horserider/Evil Heckler – This trio of TGT commons was far from flashy, but each became a staple card in the Arena. These cards would likely make a Top 20 list, but fall short in this exclusive list.

10. Kodorider – This card loses points for being an epic card, but it was pretty close to being an automatic pick in the epic slot. Kodorider was basically a neutral Jaraxxus-lite, which provided infinite tempo on the board, and immediately demanded attention. It is such a good card that opponents often conceded in close matchups when seeing it.

9. Living Roots – The Druid once had early game issues, with limited early game plays. Living Roots solved that issue for the Druid, provided the quick 2/2 tempo on Turn 1. The Saplings allowed the Druid to control the board early. Added versatility as spot removal or face damage contributes to making Living Roots great.

8. Murloc Knight – Murloc Knight was larger-than-life, in that it served as Hearthstone’s factotum entering TGT. The card bundled some of the zany Team 5 ideas with Warcraft Murlocs, into a cute package. Gameplay-wise, the card was snowbally like Kodorider, as an Inspire tempo engine, except it was much more accessible as a Turn 6 play, and the Murlocs occasionally had synergy. This card just won a lot of games, from being a little broken.

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Murlocalypse

7. Quick Shot – This was Hunter’s Frostbolt, if you will, and fit the Hunter playstyle well, by providing the gas needed to draw cards. The only reason this card makes this list is because of scarcity in the Hunter toolbox, as they don’t have removal. Arena Hunters have never been all that good, and missing this card would put a huge void in the Hunter’s ability to remove early threats.

6. North Sea Kraken – While unseen in Ranked play, the Kraken took the Arena by storm, being the first meta-defining common neutral card. Yes, the card was unwieldy at 9 mana, and prevented a 2-drop or hero power being used on Turn 10. But as I have waxed on before, the ability to do controllable effect damage is big. Think about how good Fire Elemental is. This was the neutral common that did all that, being the essential late game threat.

5. Dark Iron Skulker – In going along with cards being the only part of a toolkit, this was the rare AoE for Rogues. It provided Rogues with the Bloodmage + Fan of Knives play in the Arena, with a 4/3 body on the board. While there are sometimes awkward situations with damaged minions not getting hit, those scenarios were few and far between. Just a tremendous card.

4. Ethereal Conjurer – Mages are continually good in the Arena, because they have access to the best spells. Best damage spells, best AoE, best hard removal, you name it. Slapping the Discover mechanic on Mage spells almost always guaranteed a good get. Put that on a 6/3 threat, and you’re just paying 1 mana for a spell. Conjurer got the Mage out of bad spots often, or provided clutch picks for wins. Having 6 attack also helped making it a priority for removal.

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Keeper of Uldaman came at a time when memes were ripe

3. Keeper of Uldaman – Whoever decided keeper of uldaman should be a common card definitely never played any arena, screw him. Blizzard not giving any fuck about arena balance really remind me about WoW arena balance where it was obvious you were considered a second zone citizen compared to PvE or even battlegrounds, even though they kept saying it wasn’t the case. Only a few changes would help, but they still don’t even want to bother. Well I don’t care, I play mainly constructed now, but still, blizzard never changes.

Keeper shits on every card in the game. Literally the worst card Blizzard designed. It trades with whatever it makes a 3/3, it also acts as a buff for small drops. Card is out of control.

2. Dark Peddler – 2-mana 2/2’s better be good to be this high up on the list. This was more about the card being both versatile and opportune. Warlocks just have some ridiculous 1-mana cards for Arena purposes, like Voidwalker, Flame Imp, Power Overwhelming (rip), and Soulfire. Sometimes bit players like Elven Archer and Bloodsail Corsair come in a pinch. I picked Hungry Crab last week! Whether being played for 2/2 tempo, or being played as a 2+1 on coin, this card is tremendously flexible, and provides solutions for putting the Warlock ahead.

1. Imp Gang Boss – I can’t really think of a scenario where you pick another common card over IGB in the Arena. I don’t remember having done so. The card simply doesn’t die on Turn 3, which means it will generate at least 2 tokens. That there is 10 points of stats already. It also trades evenly with 4/3’s on the board. Throw in various buffs, demon synergy, and a 2-drop meta, you have a tempo machine. The ability to generate 1/1’s, while being a formidable board minion made IGB the best card in this set.

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Screw that guy

Top fun interactions leaving

  • Crowd Favorite + Battlecries – One of my favorite cards in the epic slot, Crowd Favorite often got out of control because of the number of available battlecries. The card often affected a draft (for me), making me think about picking inferior Battlecry cards just to make it work.
  • Jeweled Scarab – While never an amazing card, Jeweled Scarab had the skill-testing ability that Discover shined at. Further, it spanned a wide range of cards across the 3-mana catchment, forcing players to think about not only what class is being played.
  • Joust – Joust isn’t good RNG. I’m pretty sure I lost over 50% of my jousts, because I like drafting on the lower end of the mana curve. But it did provide the element of suspense. And when you got that critical joust, victory!
  • Coliseum Manager – Despite being a boring card, it often resulted in misplays, of people forgetting what it did. And of course, “Back to the office!”
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Never worked out in Ranked, but hey these were some good Arena cards