Out with the old, in with the new. Hearthstone has officially done away with rarity-based drafting, and has gone on to a power level-based one. I had some questions in my previous look at the draft, but it is great to finally dive in myself, to see what it looks like.
I drafted a Paladin Arena in Arena 10.4. I took a screencap of every pick.
I went to hsreplay.net to find stats for Paladin Arenas. Stats are for the last 14 days, delayed half an hour, of this writing.
I copied the “Deck winrate” and “Played winrate” for each card.
I used Google Sheets to calculate the standard deviation for each pick. This was done for “Deck winrate” and “Played winrate.”
Deck winrate table
The cards were labeled A, B, C, from left to right.
SDdwr represents the standard deviation between the 2 or 3 picks.
A new Arena card, Hand of Salvation, was excluded from the data, in picks 27 and 28.
Played winrate table
The cards were labeled A, B, C, from left to right.
SDdwr represents the standard deviation between the 2 or 3 picks.
A new Arena card, Hand of Salvation, was excluded from the data, in picks 27 and 28.
This is just one draft, so small sample size. But it does provide 30 data points!
I drafted Paladin, a class with pretty good winrates. I suspect a bad Arena class would give more discrimination in winrates between cards.
The data was pooled from the last 14 days, which includes all of Wildfest. It is unclear if static Wildfest data was used to group cards, or if it will be a dynamic system with the winrates.
Standard deviation isn’t the best measure for 2 or 3 picks, but I was too lazy to figure out the best test.
The standard deviation of deck winrate was very low, with most values falling within 0-2%. Pick 11 (Street Trickster / Ebon Dragonsmith / Midnight Drake) had the highest deviation, and Pick 16 (Frostwolf Grunt / Eye for an Eye / Lesser Pearl Spellstone) second. These were the only standard deviations above 5%.
The standard deviation of played winrate was higher. Pick 11 had the highest rate again, and Pick 22 (Small-Time Recruits / Eye for an Eye / Sabretooth Stalker) had the second. Along with Pick 16, these were the three abnormally higher rates.
The power levels seemed to be grouped by deck winrate. While Hsreplay data is not perfect, it takes a sample from actual data. Overall, the deck winrates were fairly consistent among 3 picks.
There appears to be a distinction from premium cards from good cards. Cards like Vinecleaver, Spikeridged Steed, and Rallying Blade were grouped together often.
The premium pool was rather small for this draft. I drafted 2 Vinecleavers, 1 Rallying Bad, and 1 Spikeridged Steed. This could give Arena a more constructed feel, and definitely making playing around cards more important.
There were 2 legendary picks in this draft. I definitely saw a premium legendary group, and an average-ish legendary group.
The bad cards have greater variance in winrates. As shown in Pick 11, it appeared Street Trickster didn’t really belong with the other two picks. Possibly, there isn’t a really bad pool, and the really bad cards are grouped with just bad cards.
More data is needed. We don’t know how many card pools there are from this one draft, or what are acceptable differences in card winrates to be in the same pool. Obviously, more cards in other classes helps as well. Do your own analysis!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Hearthstone Arena is in a weird place now. Untouched for practically 3 years of the game’s existence, the format is now seeing changes here and there. One of the more recent changes, introduced around the time Knights of the Frozen Throne was released, are the synergy picks. Your first 2 picks out of 30 in the Arena all come from a much smaller pool of cards, the synergy pool.
Most people who play Hearthstone don’t care about the new synergies, or don’t know it exists. People seemingly only care about Ranked and even Tavern Brawl, more than Arena. In the minority of Arena players that do care, some people like the new synergy, and others don’t.
It won’t take a gun to my head to have me tell you that I don’t like the new synergy system. I don’t like being forced to pick a mediocre or subpar card, for the chance of a fringe synergy. My game is about tempo, and synergy is just extra. But that didn’t stop me from thinking about these picks, given how pervasive they are in the Arena now. How good are these synergy picks, and across classes?
I tried to determine how good each synergy pick is, in respect to the class-rarity pool. I used HSReplay.net to find where a card ranked in “Deck winrate,” out of all cards for that class, in that rarity. Deck winrate varies greatly among classes, so I decided to look ranks within class. Rank analysis is used in nonparametric study design, and is not outlandish.
I pulled the source of synergy picks from Heartharena. I’m not sure if this list is complete, but from a visual check, it seems correct.
I made 3 tables for Synergy Commons, Synergy Rares, and Synergy Epics.
Each card received a percentage. This percentage stands for percentile in the class-rarity pool. e.g. The #10 deck winrate card out of 100 will be 10%.
I added a color scale on the spreadsheet for visualization. Green is good, yellow is meh, and red is bad.
Misinterpreting or having misleading data is worse than having no data, so let’s make some assumptions before the results:
HSReplay data is not representative of everyone – People who track all their games, and have decktracking lists are probably better than the average Hearthstone player. While this doesn’t include very good players who play on their phones, I would assume more casual players don’t use the technology that exists for computers.
Deck winrate is not perfect – Far from a perfect metric, but the best we have to evaluate card performance. Bad cards in 12-win drafts and good cards in 0-win drafts get muddled in the metric. This goes into the fact that high-performing decks typically have better cards. But individual player skill, outside of the draft isn’t really taken into account.
Intervals between ranks are not uniform – Cards next to each other on the rank aren’t separated equally. Typically, the worst card is really bad, and a few percent worse than the penultimate. You may even have cards with the same exact winrate, but placed arbitrarily on the rank order.
Data is dynamic – HSReplay data constantly refreshes, and the free version looks at the last 14 days. To avoid changing data in the dataset for analysis, I did not refresh the page I looked at, to make sure I had a static snapshot for all data used.
Statistical power is equal – Power is basically the bigger a sample size, the more reliable the results. In the ranks, I included every card not considered sparse. So the rank of a card played 100,000 times is on the same level as a card played 2,000 times. The card played 2,000 times probably needs more reps to see it’s “true deck winrate.”
Also some limitations of this analysis/visualization:
No legendaries – Legendary picks make up a good portion of the synergy picks actually. But when looking at the data, there wasn’t enough power to have a definitive denominator for each class. For example, The Voraxx, a synergy legendary, was only picked 360 times in 2 weeks by Hunters. Everyone knows it is horrible by now, and avoids it. With that, I scrapped evaluation of legendaries. Know that Medivh, Kazakus and the DK Heroes are all very good.
No sparse data – HSReplay automatically filters out cards that haven’t been played much. This is done primarily to weed out old drafts that include Wild or banned cards. However, picks perceived as bad by the public (and subsequently undrafted) sometimes don’t show up. An example would be Am’gam Rager, which is very seldom drafted by Mages, or Blood of the Ancient One for Druids. While it feels bad to leave out currently draftable cards from the ranks, their lack of statistical power had to be considered. Ultimately, only a few cards were left out for each class, which won’t significantly affect the rankings for the synergy picks .
Synergy pick commons
Rockpool Hunter shows up consistently as a high-ranking deck winrate card, primarily because it serves as 2-drop stability.
Primalfin Lookout is the worst neutral common synergy pick, likely because very few Murlocs were found after picking it.
Netherspite Historian is actually in the top third of Priest commons, given Dragon synergy.
Warlock got some great expansion cards, but the solid synergy pick commons help too. Same for Druid.
Synergy pick rares
Tol’vir Stoneshaper is everywhere, as the 4-mana 3/5 is not backbreaking, being off 1 point. Much better than picking Gadgetzan Auctioneer or Coldlight Seer.
Devilsaur Egg performs much better in Warlock, possibly due to Unwilling Sacrifice.
Book Wyrm confirms Priest Dragon synergy.
Warrior has relatively better ranks in the synergy rares, which could mean their overall card pool is worse compared to the synergy picks.
Synergy pick epics
There are a few relatively safe epic synergy picks in Murloc Warleader, Blazecaller, and Southsea Captain.
Blubber Baron is as bad as advertised. Don’t try to make that “synergy” work.
The Paladin epic class synergy picks are mostly horrendous.
Corpsetaker is predictably best in Paladin, thanks to Divine Shield, but is just the 50th percentile.
Warrior has relatively better ranks again in the epic synergy picks. Horrible card pool overall confirmed.
It’s 12:30pm here in East Coast, USA, and big news is coming shortly in the world of Hearthstone.
To those unaware, or not currently playing Hearthstone, there has been a big Druid problem (and Jade Druid, and Aggro Druid). This probably refers to what Ben Brode teased recently:
The news will break some time in the next few hours, and something will be announced. Something regarding Druid, and perhaps more. Let’s state some things are mostly true:
Druid is busted in it’s current state, for many different reasons.
There are other problems in Hearthstone, with other classes.
The Arena synergy draft system is a disaster.
There’s no denying Druid is a problem in Ranked, and other problems exist. Let’s get to point 2, I think Ice Block is an example of a card that has existed far too long, as it reneges on the “fun and interactive” promise of the game. Some Arena players don’t think 3 is much of an issue, but most are on the train that it sucks. Nobody has to draft Blubber Baron. There’s no reason Frost Lich Jaina appears in 10% of Arenas.
Let me state some other things that are mostly true:
Hearthstone is an amazing game that has kept a lot of players playing it for years.
Hearthstone hype is hyped very well.
Here’s my thought, one that may not be all that original:
Hype should not be invested on things that shouldn’t have been broken to begin with.
I’m really excited about these upcoming announcements today (or announcements of announcements). Even if I have no interest in playing Ranked right now, the news excites me as a Hearthstone player. I want lots of change in a game mode I don’t really play.
But these things shouldn’t be hyped about it. These Druid cards shouldn’t have been allowed to hit the factory floor like they are now. The Arena synergy system shouldn’t have been put in live in it’s current state, without more thought or testing.
I don’t want to be excited about these changes. But there is, for a lack of a better phrase, a hypnotic attraction that Hearthstone has on me that built the hype automatically.
Hype in this game should be spent on announcing new things and content. If this announcement bundles Druid patch changes with a new Ranked laddering system, I take some of it back.
I’m not happy that I will be routinely checking Twitter and Reddit to get on the news today. But I will!
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.
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
Ultimate Infestation – 60.6% WR, #1 Druid card
Malfurion the Pestilent – 60% WR, #2 Druid card
Druid of the Swarm – 59.2% WR, #3 Druid card
Fatespinner – 58.5% WR, #4 Druid card
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.
Deathstalker Rexxar – 57.7% WR, #1 Hunter card
Venomstrike Trap – 56.5% WR, #17 Hunter card
Abominable Bowman – 55.7% WR, #31 Hunter card
Corpse Widow – 55.7% WR, t31 Hunter card
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.
Frost Lich Jaina – 60.1% WR, #1 Mage card
Sindragosa – 57.1% WR, #15 Mage card
Coldwraith – 56.8% WR, #20 Mage card
Ghastly Conjurer – 56.6% WR, #33 Mage card
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.
Uther of the Ebon Blade – 60.7% WR, #4 Paladin card
Righteous Protector – 60% WR, #12 Paladin card
Bolvar, Fireblood – 58.4% WR, #29 Paladin card
Dark Conviction – 58.1% WR, #32 Paladin card
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.
Shadowreaper Anduin – 59.4% WR, #1 Priest card
Obsidian Statue – 55.4% WR, #20 Priest card
Shadow Ascendant – 55.3% WR, #23 Priest card
Embrace Darkness – 54.1% WR, #34 Priest card
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.
Plague Scientist – 59.8% WR, #14 Rogue card
Bone Baron – 59.7% WR, #16 Rogue card
Shadowblade – 59.6% WR, #17 Rogue card
Lilian Voss – 59.4% WR, #21 Rogue card
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.
Thrall, Deathseer – 54.2% WR, #17 Shaman card
Brrrloc – 53.7% WR, #25 Shaman card
Avalanche – 53.3% WR, #31 Shaman card
Voodoo Hexxer – 52.8% WR, #41 Shaman card
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.
Bloodreaver Gul’dan – 59.9% WR, #1 Warlock card
Despicable Dreadlord – 59.5% WR, #3 Warlock card
Defile – 57.5% WR, #17 Warlock card
Drain Soul – 56.5% WR, #30 Warlock card
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.
Scourgelord Garrosh – 56.8% WR, #1 Warrior card
Blood Razor – 52.1% WR, #12 Warrior card
Forge of Souls – 52% WR, #13 Warrior card
Mountainfire Armor – 51.3% WR, #16 Warrior card
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.
The Lich King – 59.9% WR
Bonemare – 59.3% WR
Keening Banshee – 58.8% WR
Hyldnir Frostrider – 58.3% WR
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.
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%.