The newest Hearthstone Arena changes are coming in a few days, with the removal of Death Knight cards from the draft pool. Maybe because there is no relevant news for the game for the time being, this became a very controversial change. While the actual implications to the Arena are low with these removals, the precedent this has set is more important to discuss.
Arena Death Knights by the Numbers
Here are the overall numbers, courtesy of hsreplay.net. This doesn’t really say much, as these are the overall numbers for each class, from the pool of all games and cards. All you can tell with this is that the Rogue DK card is pretty bad, the Shaman DK card is debatable, and the 7 others are pretty good. The played WR of the Rogue DK card is especially low, signifying poor initiative from the card.
Here are the numbers again, with class-specific percent rates. While their removal is relatively low impact, these numbers show that the DKs appear more than other cards. With the increased offering rate of legendaries, and with DKs generally being OP, they get picked nearly automatically for legendaries. You can see that there is approximately a 10% chance of facing a Death Knight in each Arena game. 10% isn’t enough for one to start playing around DKs, but it isn’t nothing either.
The deck winrates by rank are also very high. Malfurion, Jaina, Anduin, and Guldan are all the #1 Arena card for their respective classes, while Rexxar, Uther, and Garrosh are top tier. Thrall is around average, and Valeera is as good as Priestess of Elune.
So yes, DKs are generally really good in Arena. The Gul’dan and Jaina cards in particular, boast very high Played WR percentages, showing they have a bigger direct impact in flipping the board when played. Further, these cards were offered a lot during the forgettable “Synergy Pick Era,” planting the seed for complaints for the removal of all DKs.
This initial point, which sparked much discussion afterwards, is neither correct nor incorrect, as it depends on one’s perspective on the matter.
- If you play a lot of Arena (daily), the chance of seeing a DK isn’t a rare thing.
- DKs will be offered less by next expansion, but they will universally be drafted, making it close to 7% of matches.
- Not sure if people play Arena just to play cards they don’t have.
Of course, any of my points above are dependent on your own individual experiences.
Here we see dev Iksar saying the changes were not targeting Arena balance. As correctly noted by Kibler, that is how many, myself included, initially interpreted the changes. This could also be a way to defend the inclusion of OP commons like Bonemare staying in Arena.
Here, Amaz expresses his disappointment with the change. Amaz is a very good Arena player, but not a particularly long-time Arena player. His views of Arena may lean towards having more exciting and useful cards to draft.
A Dangerous Precedent (Changes)
The Hearthstone Arena is improving. The Hallow Arena event was a success, enjoyed by players of all types. The synergy picks got removed, approved of by most. Now the Death Knights are leaving, prompting the currently mixed response. Is the Arena changing too fast?
Old Arena players remember when the Arena stayed the same from 2013-2016. I come from the school of ADWCTA and Merps, of the Lightforge Podcast, and part-creators (yeah, I said it) of the HearthArena tier list. On the scale of 1-10 of willingness to criticize Team 5, they are on 11. They have criticized Team 5 for not caring about Arena, doing things poorly for Arena, not having played enough Arena, and communicating poorly about the Arena. They’ve gone all the way. Arena went unchanged until last year, when they decided to ban the first set of cards from drafting. Basically, complaints launched by the Lightforge went unanswered for a while. What I’m trying to say is that old Arena players are not used to change. They want change, but did not expect it that often.
Now you can just go on r/ArenaHS, and several posts by known members of the community calling for more cards to be banned from Arena. Are changes coming too often? Why is this a dangerous precedent?
Recent Arena bans have clued us into who asked for the bans. A co-op between Hafu and Mike Donais showed that she really wanted (and was pleased with) the Vicious Fledgling removal. Kripp recently posted a video complaining about Arena DKs, and here we are. It’s not surprising that Team 5 would listen to Hafu and Kripp, as they are the most known and prolific Arena players in the game.
My concern is a possible unfair weighing of views. Do Hafu and Kripp’s opinion on cards matter more than that of others? It’s known that Team 5 doesn’t particularly get along with the Lightforge, which is understandable. While they possess top-tier knowledge of Arena, do their opinions on cards matter less?
This also spreads to that of the masses of lesser players online. Are r/Hearthstone and r/ArenaHS on the same level in voice? The dedicated players are probably on r/ArenaHS, but they have low upvotes/participation, which may not catch the eye of Team 5.
A More Boring Arena
Just like literally anything in the world currently, the future of Arena is murky. With Death Knights being gone, we can admit that Arena drafts get less interesting. Besides gameplay changes, the thrill of getting a new hero power, affecting the board, and implanting a new hero portrait is gone.
Games will be closer. Often, the play of the DK hero led to the end of the game. While there are plenty of win conditions still available in the draft, the removal of DKs got rid of very flashy and effective closers. Almost like removing a second Deathwing from the game. Now you’ll have to do your dirty work with things like Eldritch Horror.
In terms of class balance, getting rid of 1 legendary really isn’t much. This probably does hurt Warrior the most, as the Warrior DK does give a draft some hope. Mages aren’t living their glory days, but I can’t say the Mage DK keeps them up high. Warlocks definitely have a lesser incentive to draft demons for synergy.
Overall, the removal of DKs isn’t a big deal at all. The more important discussion is what will change next, and who Team 5 is actually listening to.