Implications of Hearthstone Arena 10.4

Implications of Hearthstone Arena 10.4

In a blindsiding fashion, perhaps the biggest change to the Arena was announced not long ago, due for update 10.4 of the game. This change will do away with the rarity draft system, which has been in place since the beginning, and move towards a power level draft system. For the first time, one can potentially pick from 3 cards of different rarities (common, rare, epic) for a draft slot. Also added in the post are the upcoming new Arena-exclusives, for a limited time, but the removal of the rarity draft system warrants much more discussion on it’s own.

Let’s run through some potential implications this has on Arena.

Different drafting

By taking away the power level quantity to compare three cards with, the focus becomes other useful factors. Most Arena picks have a clear-cut “good card,” which results in an auto-pick. If the new system works as defined in the video, every pick should warrant some critical thinking, in regards to deck construction. The demoed example of Fireball vs Leyline Manipulator vs Primordial Drake isn’t easy. Fireball is usually automatic for being one of the best Mage spells. Primordial Drake is probably the best neutral epic minion though. Leyline Manipulator is an Elemental Yeti with plus side for RNG decks. Tough choice.

The test would be prioritizing mana curve, synergies, win condition, minion/spell balance, etc. In a way, this accomplishes what the dreaded Synergy Pick era never did in testing synergies. Synergies are explosive and powerful when they hit, but are they worth all the other factors. Skillful drafting is definitely reinforced, when you take away sheer power level.

In a way, this drafting system works better for individuals who drafted without using a tierlist. When you have used tierlists for years, you become inured to cards having a certain value attached to that. With the new system, this becomes much more fuzzy, and there is more wiggle room.

target dummy.png
Things only 2015 Arena players will get

 

Definition of power level

This brings the question, how does Blizzard define power level? As the entire draft system will now be based on power level, it would be important to find out what that quantity is. My first guess is it would be the “deck winrate” value, which usually demarcates good cards from average cards from bad cards. “Played winrate” is more of a swingy value I don’t like so much, but is an option as well. Blizz probably has more internal stats that will make the basis of what power level is.

Power level buckets

Once power level is defined (whenever that is), how many buckets are there? As this is the key basis for how the drafting system works, it would be important to know. We definitely will have at least three, with good, average, and bad. The Lightforge Tierlist has 7 buckets for their valuations. I have a feeling there won’t be that many in the Arena update, but there should be enough to make the draft pick between three “same power level cards” seem similar. I personally believe there may be 5 power level buckets, which goes neatly in a 1-5 scale, and divides into 30.

lftiers.PNG
Tiers of The Lightforge Tierlist

Valuation of neutral cards in classes

Thanks to class cards, hero power, and class identity, neutral cards have different values in different classes. An example is Violet Illusionist in Rogue, which is just a 3-mana 4/3 in another class. Taunts for Warlock are also great. The valuation of neutral cards should take class into consideration.

More epics

Epics are no longer bound by generally low appearance rates and should show up more in the new Arena. They usually have a reputation of being either really good or really bad. It is possible we may never see the really bad epics anymore, unless they were drafted for a specific deck synergy.

epic cards.PNG
Some Warrior Epics = Literally unplayable

Normalization of usage

If you look at class cards drafted by class, some cards appear in just short of 50% of decks. By grouping cards through power level, it is likely that the highest cards will fall in usage, and the lower cards will rise in usage. There should be a normalization of some sorts, just because cards of equal power level are pitted against one another, and you are bound to 30 picks.

shaman class.PNG
Crushing Hand vs Fire Elemental shouldn’t be this far apart.

Variability of power level

The biggest question regarding this change is how different each draft would be from another, in terms of power level offerings. And this probably will be determinant on how many power level buckets there are. If there are fewer buckets, like 3, you can easily say there will be 10 bad picks, 10 average picks, and 10 good picks. If you have 7 power level buckets, things get more complicated.

In the current rarity draft system, you typically don’t have crazy variability in terms of card rarity. Yes, you do see 3-4 legendary decks sometimes, but usually you will have 0 or 1. Power level is much more important than rarity though. Many legendary picks aren’t even all that good. Premium cards are often common cards.

A bad scenario would be a highly variable system, as the number of premium picks afforded in a draft determines your fate. Hopefully this distribution of power level per draft is fairly consistent.

Advertisements

Latest Arena Scoop with Hafu and Mike Donais

Latest Arena Scoop with Hafu and Mike Donais

One year ago, I first reported on some Hearthstone Arena insights, thanks to top player Hafu and game designer Mike Donais playing Arena on Twitch. I became aware of another co-op that went on yesterday, which can be seen here. As a dedicated Arena player, any of these insights are especially juicy and interesting. I watched the co-op to pick up on any incoming news coming to Arena. The following declarations are not official, but come from now Principal Game Designer Mike Donais, so that for what it’s worth.

Vicious Fledgling out

Arguably one of the most snowbally cards in Arena history, Vicious Fledgling, is going to be on a banlist coming next patch. It definitely is not the best card in the rare pool when you look at wins, but it definitely was not a fair card. The card won’t be gone entirely, as it will come up in Discover/Random Effects/Transform. I for one will be glad to see it go, as the bad moments seem to come up much more than the good ones.

Mage is mid-tier

Mages got a subpar set of cards in KFT. Their best Arena card is a 3-mana 3/4. This coupled with microadjustments, has knocked Mage to being the 5th-best Arena class. Definitely an unfamiliar position for the class. While you’ll still run into those who have constant answers and board clears, the ones who don’t get victimized more in the low-win pool.

Speed mode?

Never cared for slow Hearthstone play. When asked about the possibility of a speed mode, Mike Donais mentioned that the team has tested it out. He mentioned there were problems with dragged out effects, and mobile play.

A card like Dinomancy

In the background noise of Blizzard HQ, there seemed to be a social gathering going on where Mike was playing Arena. There was laughter (not Brode), and people talking loudly, but indiscriminately. In this, Mike mentioned that Iksar was talking about a card that had a similar effect as Dinomancy. Dinomancy is predictably one of those cards that never went anywhere, is just for fun.

Auto-squelch

Mike Donais squelched every opponent in the run, something I am starting to do more of. He personally is a fan of implementing that feature for Hearthstone, but I have a feeling that decision isn’t up to him.

Robot drafts

Were synergy picks made to specifically combat Arena drafting tools? Hafu and Mike faced a few players who had amazing decks, but made a lot of bad plays. The subject of “robot drafts” came up, in how seemingly players have amazing decks everywhere, sometimes not matching up to skill. Mike mentioned synergy picks meaning to throw a wrinkle to the robot drafts.

Arena patch timing

The next patch, which would get rid of synergy picks, Vicious Fledgling, and possibly more, isn’t coming in the “next week or two.” Mid October or later October?

OP Death Knights

An Arena complaint that shows up every so often are Death Knights, which can swing the game right back in the favor of a player. A big-time “blue shell play.” Mike didn’t imply that Death Knights were leaving Arena, or were planned to do so yet.

Top-performing cards in the early Frozen Throne Arena meta

Top-performing cards in the early Frozen Throne Arena meta

Unlike Ranked, the Arena meta in Hearthstone typically doesn’t shift much during an expansion. People figure out which cards are good when they are released, and they are typically right on most of the evaluations. Through personal experience playing cards, a few cards will be reevaluated. Take Knights of the Frozen Throne for example. Upon the reveal of Bonemare, I think everyone knew it would be a top-3 Arena neutral for the set. The card will always be premium, probably until it gets rotated out of Standard.

The new Arena meta, or the so-called “Synergy Meta,” is a bit different, and we have seen upheavals from the previous power pyramid. I decided to look at the top cards from the new set for each class, and use that as a gauge to see how the class is doing.

Methodology

  • I went to hsreplay.net to look at Arena cards by deck winrate.
  • I sorted new cards to look at neutrals, and by-class.
  • I ranked each top-performing card by where they stand in the class card pool.

Top class card comparison

Gnash(62955).png

Gnash your teeth if you draft this, but don’t beat yourself up.

Druid

  1. Ultimate Infestation – 60.6% WR, #1 Druid card
  2. Malfurion the Pestilent – 60% WR, #2 Druid card
  3. Druid of the Swarm – 59.2% WR, #3 Druid card
  4. Fatespinner – 58.5% WR, #4 Druid card
  5. Webweave – 58.4%, t5 Druid card

If by some cruel twist, the main complaint of Ranked Hearthstone is also the best Druid class card for Arena. It is a new Arena development, as Druid was never top shelf in the format. The top Druid class cards all being new cards likely has something to do with the class’ rise in the ranks.

Play Dead(62891).png

The equilvalence of playing dead in arena.

Hunter

  1. Deathstalker Rexxar – 57.7% WR, #1 Hunter card
  2. Venomstrike Trap – 56.5% WR, #17 Hunter card
  3. Abominable Bowman – 55.7% WR, #31 Hunter card
  4. Corpse Widow – 55.7% WR, t31 Hunter card
  5. Professor Putricide – 55.5% WR, #34 Hunter card

Unlike other classes, Hunter doesn’t rely on card quality, rather playing the Aggro game to be faster than others. The new cards from this expansion weren’t too impressive relative to the Hunter class toolkit.

Glacial Mysteries(62869).png

Frankly a mystery why anyone would draft this.

Mage

  1. Frost Lich Jaina – 60.1% WR, #1 Mage card
  2. Sindragosa – 57.1% WR, #15 Mage card
  3. Coldwraith – 56.8% WR, #20 Mage card
  4. Ghastly Conjurer – 56.6% WR, #33 Mage card
  5. Breath of Sindragosa – 55.8% WR, #40 Mage card

How the mighty have fallen. The top two class cards for Mage are legendaries, but Frost Lich Jaina gets a decent boost (9.4% of all Arena Mages) from the synergy pick system. The Mage toolkit was lousy for the new set, with a couple of unplayable epic spells, and this helped bring the class down a bit. There were no “bomb spells.” Coldwraith is good, but everything else pales in comparison to the spells from Un’Goro and before.

Light's Sorrow(61833).png

This card is sad. Don’t draft it.

Paladin

  1. Uther of the Ebon Blade – 60.7% WR, #4 Paladin card
  2. Righteous Protector – 60% WR, #12 Paladin card
  3. Bolvar, Fireblood – 58.4% WR, #29 Paladin card
  4. Dark Conviction – 58.1% WR, #32 Paladin card
  5. Arrogant Crusader – 58% WR, #34 Paladin card

To show the quality of Paladin cards in Arena, Righteous Protector is just #12, and it is as good as it gets for a 1-drop. A lot of lackluster cards, but everything is overpowered to keep the class great. Note the reduction of Stonehill Defender, which makes it a must-pick draft rare.

Archbishop Benedictus(62856).png

This can be countered by blind drafting kappa.

Priest

  1. Shadowreaper Anduin – 59.4% WR, #1 Priest card
  2. Obsidian Statue – 55.4% WR, #20 Priest card
  3. Shadow Ascendant – 55.3% WR, #23 Priest card
  4. Embrace Darkness – 54.1% WR, #34 Priest card
  5. Spirit Lash – 54% WR, #35 Priest card

Seeing a trend here, yes the Death Knight heroes remain quite good. Obsidian Statue is a good card, but costing 9 likely has something to do it being just 20th best. Shadow Ascendant might be better in classes with more aggressive early game as well. Everything else is mediocre.

Leeching Poison(61821).png

A leech in your draft card quality.

Rogue

  1. Plague Scientist – 59.8% WR, #14 Rogue card
  2. Bone Baron – 59.7% WR, #16 Rogue card
  3. Shadowblade – 59.6% WR, #17 Rogue card
  4. Lilian Voss – 59.4% WR, #21 Rogue card
  5. Spectral Pillager – 58.4% WR, #36 Rogue card

It seems Death Knight Valeera is more of a Constructed build-around than Arena card. But, the Rogue got Plague Scientist, Bone Baron and Shadowblade, all decent cards to keep the class afloat. The class card kit is still spectacular, and the new cards don’t particularly hurt the class standing.

Moorabi(62845).png

Moorabi? More like, uh, Moo-don’t-draft-this.

Shaman

  1. Thrall, Deathseer – 54.2% WR, #17 Shaman card
  2. Brrrloc – 53.7% WR, #25 Shaman card
  3. Avalanche – 53.3% WR, #31 Shaman card
  4. Voodoo Hexxer – 52.8% WR, #41 Shaman card
  5. Snowfury Giant – 51.9% WR, #48 Shaman card

Shaman was definitely in the lower third in Un’Goro, and the new freeze class identity shift decelerated any Arena movement it had. I mean, the top class common/rare is Brrrloc, with a low winrate. Thrall, Deathseer seems solid in Constructed, where it might be easier to hold the board than in Ranked. The hero does nothing on an empty board. I expected Voodoo Hexxer to be one of the better cards, but that doesn’t appear to be the case right now. If the synergy pick is working correctly, Thrall, Deathseer should be offered 2x higher, like Frost Lich Jaina.

Howlfiend(62894).png

How to mill your deck in arena without clearing the board.

Warlock

  1. Bloodreaver Gul’dan – 59.9% WR, #1 Warlock card
  2. Despicable Dreadlord – 59.5% WR, #3 Warlock card
  3. Defile – 57.5% WR, #17 Warlock card
  4. Drain Soul – 56.5% WR, #30 Warlock card
  5. Gnomeferatu – 56.4% WR, #32 Warlock card

Arena Warlock was always fun in my book, and now is the time to reap. Some new ridiculous toys were added to the toolkit, and Bloodreaver Gul’dan (10.2%!) is seeing an offering bonus thanks to the synergy picks. Despicable Dreadlord is a stud. Defile will give humanities majors fits, but efficient board clear. The class has moved up a good deal.

Dead Man's Hand(62842).png

Literally a dead man or woman in arena because you drafted this.

Warrior

  1. Scourgelord Garrosh – 56.8% WR, #1 Warrior card
  2. Blood Razor – 52.1% WR, #12 Warrior card
  3. Forge of Souls – 52% WR, #13 Warrior card
  4. Mountainfire Armor – 51.3% WR, #16 Warrior card
  5. Val’kyr Soulclaimer – 49.3% WR, #37 Warrior card

The Arena doghouse class is still there. A lot of the cards had the “Whirlwind theme” which is more of a Constructed build around, than being good for Arena. Ravaging Ghoul is good since it fits being a 3-drop. Overcosted 5’s and 4’s aren’t that good. Maybe a fun challenge for good Arena players.

Wretched Tiller(62946).png
Funny voicelines but wretched pick.

Neutrals

  1. The Lich King – 59.9% WR
  2. Bonemare – 59.3% WR
  3. Keening Banshee – 58.8% WR
  4. Hyldnir Frostrider – 58.3% WR
  5. Deathspeaker – 57.9% WR

The Lich King is just OP and should be drafted over almost every legendary. You can make an exception for Death Knight heroes maybe, and a few good ones. The neutrals and rares on this list all are over-stated, or buff other minions to help preserve the board.

There you have it. Just by looking at class card rankings, you can estimate where the class is in the new Arena meta. Look forward to checking more data and numbers as the Arena meta keeps on moving.

This One Stings A Little

This One Stings A Little

After fighting off attempts for extra sleep in the morning, I either open 1 of 2 apps on my phone, Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links or Twitter. Those are just the priorities I have. This morning it happened to be Twitter. Hearthstone Arena extraordinaire @ADWCTA posted a tweet saying there were changes to the Lightforge Tier List because of offering changes. This was odd because I did not know of any mentioned changes to the offering rates of Arena cards. While I have been pissed off playing the Un’Goro Arena, I still would’ve heard of it. I expected that either the entire Un’Goro draft offering rate was back to baseline (1x), or certain OP cards were reduced.

I had to fire up Relay to scan the /r/ArenaHS and /r/Hearthstone subreddits before I found out what it was all about. Someone posted on Reddit complaining about Un’Goro offering rates, something I have done on this blog before.

reddit ungoro arena.PNG

Team 5 dev, Iksar, who is usually the spokesperson for all things Arena responded in the comments.

iksar response arena change.PNG

What the heck? Basically:

  1. The Arena offering rate of Un’Goro cards were changed from 100% more to 50%. This happened on the June 1, 2017 update. The communication above was posted in the comments section of a Reddit post on June 21, 2017. It was not in the Patch Notes.
  2. There are planned micro-tweaks to card offering rates in the future that will happen in the background.

I hope I’m not making a big deal out of nothing, but this is huge. Not putting minor details in Patch Notes is one thing, but this is another story. Arena costs 150 gold to enter or $1.99. I would not have wanted to have been the poor sap who paid $1.99 to draft an Arena on misinformation.

While I haven’t used The Lightforge or Heartharena to help draft in the Arena lately, a lot of people do. Both sides have their loyal fans that live and die by tierlists. Heartharena in particular, has their automated drafting scores and Kripp tooting the horn. This information was flawed for 3 weeks, as Un’Goro offering card adjustments will affect synergies, like Elementals.

I am lucky that I have only played 6 Arenas in June 2017, so my wins and loss haven’t really been affected to a big extent. But again, there are people who (somehow) played Arena the whole month, and some people shooting for the leaderboard. Overall, this one just stings. It feels like Arena doesn’t matter, despite what efforts have been communicated about improving it.

What concerns me is the future communication about the planned micro-changes. Knowing the Arena community, they would want to know if Primordial Glyph got reduced by 2%. Every detail affects tier lists and the overall psychology going into the draft. If this isn’t a harbinger of things to come, I think Arena will just get more murky than it is.

They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To

They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To

I haven’t written anything for a while on this site. And it hasn’t been because I stopped playing Hearthstone or suddenly got very busy in life. I just don’t like playing the Arena anymore, and as a result, have thought less about Hearthstone. While I have competed in some fun tournaments of late and have been playing the Ranked ladder, my core way of thinking about Hearthstone is through the Arena, and it is decaying.

I mostly recently discussed the Arena changes brought forth by the “Arena 7.1,” what The Lightforge guys called “The Threat and Response Meta.” I struggled with the Arena meta then for a while, but did eventually muster a couple of 12-win runs. With Journey to Un’Goro, the changes from Arena 7.1 persisted, just with a new card set and the loss of many other cards. I will try to discuss some of the problems I feel are hurting the Arena to a big degree in an attempt to sound coherent and controlled.

Top neutrals

top neutrals.PNG

Most of my posts recently have extracted data from hsreplay.net, and this one will be no exception. Here I’ve isolated the top neutral cards picked from all classes. I cut it off at 18%, to specifically highlight some problem cards I think are ruining the Arena.

  • Stonehill Defender – This is card is regular plain good in some classes, absolutely broken in others. Will discuss further later.
  • Vicious Fledgling – Reminds me a lot like the olden days of a Micro Machine or Gurubashi Berserker that ran away with a game. Certainly a fair card, but the ability to get Windfury for another adapt is just back-breaking.
  • Primodial Drake – Corrupted Seer was a fair card as it was grossly under-stated, and did nothing to Murloc enemies. Primordial Drake, just costly 2 more mana, is only under-stated by 3 points, with the neutral AoE ability that screams class convergence.
  • Servant of Kalimos – Elemental decks just get out of hand and feel like Constructed decks. Servant of Kalimost is just the on-curve play after Fire Plume Phoenix with the powerful Discover. I haven’t used Heartharena in this meta, but I would assume this guy gets gross amounts of tier score points with just a few elementals in the draft.

Discover in a small card pool

Stonehill Defender is great on it’s own and broken in two classes in particular, Paladin and Shaman. Paladin has 3 top-tier taunt minions in Sunkeeper Tarim, Tirion Fordring, and Wickerflame Burnbristle. Grimestreet Protector ain’t bad either. With a reduced card pool and a 4x Discover rate on class cards, you’re going to get one of these cards quite often. Check out this table:

paladin taunts.png

The % of decks metric specifically refers to the card draft. So in the last 2 weeks, 7% of Paladin decks had Sunkeeper Tarim and 4% of Paladin decks had Tirion Fordring drafted. Fair enough. But if you look at the Time Played metric, you’ll see that Tarim and Tirion were played just as much as Lay on Hands and Stand Against Darkness respectively. Stonehill Defender is just so adept at getting these cards, you’ll see them as if they are in 18% of Paladin decks.

shaman taunts.png

The Shaman taunts aren’t as good as Paladin but still a force. Al’Akir shows up as much as epic cards in Far Sight and Eternal Sentinel. White Eyes is being played just less than Lotus Illusionist. These weaker numbers are indicative of Shaman being a lackluster Arena class, but still demonstrate the power of Stonehill Defender.

Mages

I rage against Arena Mages a lot because I never got 12 wins with the class, and I consistently lose most against them. But Mages are on a new level. They are just on an absolute level of Discover magic, RNG, and power cards.

glyph.PNG

In the table of top drafted Mage cards, you see a lot of power, but one card is crooked here. Primordial Glyph, despite being 8th in the draft, is the 2nd most played card, only losing out to Flame Geyser. Mages are chaining the Discover of Primordial Glyph to get a free-cost Primordial Glyph to get a second round of Discovers. And Primordial Glyph has resulted in some ridiculous gets.

cabalist.PNG

Above is Cabalist’s Tome, played a good amount despite a modest 19% draft rate. A 3-mana Cabalist’s Tome is great value, and will lead to more Discover chains.

pyroblast.PNG

Here’s Pyroblast, a card that should suffer from a lower play count, since it is just a finisher, and has to be held longer than other cards. It is played as much as Nerubian Prophet.

iceblock mirror.PNG

Finally some rarely drafted Mage spells in Ice Block and Mirror Image. They just blow out the other cards in this list in play counts, despite being drafted so rarely as well.

Mages aren’t the #1 class right now, but they will definitely make you shake your head in games. Or curse aloud. Or both.

Rogues’ removals

In order to create a smokescreen of fairness and equality, I will say some things about my favorite class, the Rogue.

rogue.PNG

By simply sorting the top drafted cards for Arena Rogues, you see hard removal up the Wazoo. Vilespine Slayer, is just as bonkers as it looked at first glance. The saving grace with all the Envenom Weapons is that properly-drafted face decks like Hunter can clearly take advantage of winning the game. But still Rogue is likely the #1 class because of these removals, brought on by the boosted spell offering rates.

The feel

A bit of my anguish isn’t expressed well with data but just comes from within. Arena doesn’t feel like Arena anymore. It feels like a bastard spawn from Constructed and some RNG servant. The minion-based combat and playing sturdy things on curve feel isn’t there very often. Playing against Priest feels most like playing against a Constructed class, since you can predict what a Priest will do based on cards kept in hand. No card (Free from Amber) should be in 67.5% of all drafted decks.

Solutions

Not sure if anyone has made it this far, but here are some thoughts:

  • Cut the spell boost – Spells are clearly not made equally, and does nothing to rebalance for classes. Warriors are played at historically low levels because their spells suck.
  • Reduce percentages of specific cards – I would like to see reductions for the highest drafted cards like Stonehill Defender. Arena should be about being forced to play bad cards, not ramping up a Discover to get something amazing.
  • Reduce outlandish RNG cards – A lot of random things have gone on in this game, but some Arena games have things going too far. A lot of this has to do with the Mage random Discovers, but things are getting out of control in this department.

That’s really all I have to say for now. I just know that I got a 11-2 run on May 10th, and proceeded to not play an arena on May 11th. I played a 4-1 Warlock yesterday and didn’t finish the run in that sitting. My waning interest in the Arena isn’t because I’m losing at historical levels. It just feels wrong and different, and something that I am sadly struggling to have fun with. I hope other original Arena hardcores feel the same.