10 Bold Predictions for ‘Knights of the Frozen Throne’

10 Bold Predictions for ‘Knights of the Frozen Throne’

The following is a guest post from Tehl (@TehlHS), multi-legend player and my occasional arena co-op partner. He is the creator of Snakes and Drakes. You can catch him on the Hearthstone podcasts Top Deck Kings and Hearthcore.

10 Bold Predictions for The Frozen Throne

10. Rogue got the best Death Knight.

Valeera the Hollow(62876).png

Valeera the Hollow is an insane card.  This card essentially locks out the game with infinite Vanish followed by Arcane Giants allowing you to continuously swing in for 16 damage as long as your opponent doesn’t have removal for them.  In addition, to that the stealth that gives you when it comes down allows you the time that it takes in order to set up the combo.  The only decks that are going to punish this are burn mage and decks that play aggressively on the board,  which brings me to my next point…

9. Druid is going to be the only class playing on the board.

Spreading Plague(62841).png

With Mage and Taunt Warrior (particularly good matchups for Jade Druid) probably sticking around, Druid now has insane tools to combat aggro as well, especially Spreading Plague.  This card is at worst a stall of probably two turns and at best clears their board in the process, but either way, aggro is losing one of it’s best matchups in the game.  Rogue also has new tools to combat aggressive decks with the Shadowblade and it’s counterpart Doomerang which will undoubtedly see varying degrees of play depending on how long aggro sticks around.  Either way you will have time to play your Death Knights because I predict a much slower meta where aggro will be punished.

Bonus Bold Prediction: Skulking Geist was printed for the sole purpose of beating Jade Druid and it will see some (if it makes up over 30% of the meta a lot of) play for that reason.  (Note: I don’t count Taunt Warrior as a deck that plays on board)

8. Hunter is going to be worse.

Build-a-Beast(58725).png

The new hunter cards that are being introduced are terrible…I guess that’s all I really have to say.  Deathstalker Rexxar is the worst Death Knight and arguably may give you a worse hero power than Steady Shot.  For Hunter to continue to challenge the meta they needed more sticky aggressive minions to pressure the opponent, instead they got durdly, inefficient, clunky minions that when everything goes perfectly you probably still are going to lose a majority of your games…

7. The Lich King is the best neutral legendary in the game.

The Lich King(62922).png

This one may be slightly hyperbolic, but if I said The Lich King is a very good card that wouldn’t exactly be a bold prediction.  The Death Knight cards are as powerful as the Ysera Dream Cards, with taunt it gives it initiative, and if all goes right it can give you insane value while smashing face for 8.  While I am less confident in this prediction than some of the other ones, I also have no doubt this will be in more meta decks than any other card currently in the game.

6. Ultimate Infestation was a mistake.

Ultimate Infestation(62879).png

When you look at this card it instantly looks like a Firelands Portal that gains you some life and gives you approximately 8 mana worth of card draw.  So we already have a card that should cost approximately 16 mana, but the card is actually better than that, doing all of this at the same time gives this card increased value.  Normally we would have to play one card that is a Firelands Portal, one card that is an Iron Hide and one card that is a super-Sprint, now all of this is combined onto one card, meaning that this card kind of reads draw seven cards and play three of them…

5. Priest moves up a tick.

Shadowreaper Anduin(62889).png

While most of their new cards are as disappointing as the Hunter cards, Eternal Servtiude should definitely see a good chunk of play and their Death Knight is a game-changer.  While Shadowreaper Anduin on it’s surface may not be that impressive as far as the Death Knights go, it gives priest an opportunity to do something that it’s never been able to do very efficiently, close games.  Raza the Chained also could see an appearance back in the meta allowing priest to machine-gun chain two damage as long as they can continue to play cards.

4. Aggro Paladin will see a come-back.

Righteous Defender(62864).png

I know this is completely contrary to point number nine, that no one is going to be playing on the board, but on the backs of Bolvar Fireblood, Righteous Defender, and Light’s Sorrow all of the board clears that are going to be in the game may be playing right into this decks trap.  I don’t think this will be a very good deck, especially out of the gate, but with some tweaking and as the meta starts to settle, you may be able to catch some people off-guard with this old classic.

3. Mage will not play any of the cards released, and it will still be good.

Frost Lich Jaina(61810).png

Frost Lich Jaina and Sindragosa are definitely cuspers, and I may end up being wrong about them not seeing play, but neither of these cards buy you the late game tempo advantage that Medivh the Guardian does that usually wins you the game just fine on his own.  With the deck already relying on Alexstraza to stabilize, I don’t think there will be room for the new cards.  That being said, this will be one of the most fun decks to mess around with, although I think the best Mage list is already established, and it will continue to stick around, as it is one of the premier decks to contend against new Rogue.

2. Freeze Shaman will not be a thing.

Moorabi(62845).png

While you aren’t going to be bummed out ripping a Voodoo Hexxer from a Stonehill Defender, it is still going to be the third-best taunt that you are hoping for and that’s the best freeze card to be introduced by a mile.  Blizzard is definitely afraid of making another overpowered Shaman deck and acknowledges the power of Jade/Token Shaman in the meta, so they do the thing they are apt to do, which is try to introduce a new mechanic.  This deck will not be good, it will not be fun to play, and it will lose to everything in the game, maybe including new players playing Chillwind Yetis and Boulderfist Ogres.  With nothing being implemented to help its existing archetypes, shaman will definitely be taking a major step back in the Frozen Throne meta.

1. Defile is the best card in the game, and Warlock still may not be playable in Standard.

Defile(62840).png

This card was my whole reason for wanting to write this article to begin with.  I rated Ultimate Infestation a 10/10 and could see a nerf, I rate this card an 11/10 and will probably see an emergency nerf. Everyone is sleeping on Defile.  This is the most efficient, cheapest, and easy to accomplish board clear in the game, that requires little to no set-up.  Next time you are playing a game pay attention to how many huge boards could be cleared with a Defile.  On top of this, after this card stops clearing the minions on the board, it starts clearing their deathrattles, making minions like Dragon Egg and Haunted Creeper also susceptible to it’s reign of devastation, if you are playing Egg Druid or Pirate Warrior in Wild, I’m sorry to say that your days are numbered.  On top of this, this card has an insane synergy with Grim Patron which allows you to defile ad infinitum and wipe all boards and leave yourself with 15-21 power on the board.  Okay so we’ve established that this card is the most broken wild card ever printed, but will it have any impact on Standard?

If Warlock is viable in standard, it will be on the back of Defile.  Possessed Villager is still around to kick the defile train off and it will really punish Token Druid, Shaman and Pirate Warrior, furthering point #9, but Warlock may not have powerful enough tools to contend in the late game, even with the most efficient AoE in the game.  Honestly it makes my brain hurt trying to think of what a standard warlock deck would look like these days, cards like Kabal Trafficker have never seen any play and on an unchecked board, may make for an alright deck with the new warlock Death Knight which is okay and the Lich King definitely making a cameo, but even I am not bold enough to say that Kabal Trafficker Warlock will be the new meta.

Speculation: Bringing Up New Valeera

In less than 24 hours, Hearthstone player Savjz will reveal the new Rogue Death Knight Hero card, for release for Knights of the Frozen Throne.

savjz reveal.PNG

Exciting! For the first time, we see the official artwork of the card. What could the card be?

What we know

  • Hero card – Like any other Hero card, we can expect the new Valeera to take over the existing Rogue hero. Also, you will gain 5 armor by playing this card.
  • Artwork differences – The Death Knight form of Valeera looks mostly the same, without the characteristic “Blood Elf green,” which glows like Kryptonite. The green daggers, green pendants and jewels are gone and replaced with glowing purple skulls. The new weapon is a bone dagger. Her chest armor is shorter and other vestments are more ragged. Her hair is now red and blonde.

Speculation

  • Comic clues – There is a promotional comic for the new expansion, which looks a lot like the Word of Warcraft Comic. This issue, Freedom, tells a tale of Garrosh and Valeera killing Anduin. Here are some snippets that give a clue of the new card.

freedom comic 1freedom comic 2

There’s a clue about growing power, which is something that is not unfamiliar to Miracle Rogue and Questing Adventurer. It is possible that each hero attack will be additive to more attack or power.

The second panel shows Valeera throwing a knife or using some psychokinetic ability. While throwing knives is depicted with Fan of Knives, which could allow a possible ranged ping attack, instead of using face damage.

  • New set themes – As of this writing, 4 Rogue class cards have been revealed, and they are interesting for the most part. Plague Scientist gives the Poisonous mechanic. Shadowblade gives one turn Immunity. Leeching Poison gives Lifesteal. Runeforge Haunter gives weapon Durability immunity. It would not be radical to expect the Hero card to deviate too much from these themes. Mostly, I see a theme of sustain, something Rogue never had prior to this expansion. I would also expect Poisonous to play a role somehow.
  • Minions – Back to the Savjz card reveal. We see a bunch of minions in the artwork, including Shadow Rager, Wailing Soul and a banshee of sorts. While a new hero power of summon a 5/1 Rager sounds fun for memes, it doesn’t seem too outstanding. There could be a way to summon stuff, give minions Poisonous or Deathrattle, etc.
  • Old tricks – Rogue has seen the Burgle and Coin mechanics pushed in recent sets. There is nothing in this set so far that has done that, and I don’t expect the new hero to be a thief. But never say never.

I will end this with a snippet of an interview with Mike Donais, which is something about the power level of the new card.

busted.PNG

Rogue legendaries haven’t disappointed recently (well, The Caverns Below, for other reasons), and this one is expected to be good as well. While I will auto-craft the card for reasons, I am still excited to explore potential new directions for Rogue.

 

Contesting the Board: Constructed vs Arena

Contesting the Board: Constructed vs Arena

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.

  1. Everyone will play at least 1 arena.
  2. People who have never played arena, or seldom play arena will be coming back.
  3. Unusual drafting choices will be encountered.
  4. 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.

Methodology

  • 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.

Examples

Spells

Frostbolt

  • 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.

Flame Geyser

  • 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.

Fireball

  • 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.

Firelands Portal

  • 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.

Kill Command

  • 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.

Swipe

  • 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.

Minions

Golakka Crawler

  • 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.

Houndmaster

  • 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.

Crackling Razormaw

  • 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.

Rockpool Hunter

  • 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.

SI:7 Agent

  • 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%.

Rogue Cards Banished to the Shadow Realm

Rogue Cards Banished to the Shadow Realm

By now, everyone who plays Hearthstone should be aware that Crystal Rogue aka Quest Rogue, is getting a nerf. Instead of requiring playing 4 cards with the same name, it will require playing 5 cards with the same name. There still isn’t word on when the card is going to get changed, but it is the only known card to get hit in the near future. Team 5 devs chalked up the nerf for two main reasons:

  1. Crystal Rogue wasn’t fun to play against.
  2. Crystal Rogue inhibited control decks and caused a more aggressive meta.

Despite being a Rogue apologist, I am mostly okay with this happening. Yes, I think Rogue gets hit with nerfs every time. Yes, I think other cards should have also been included in the nerf. I find losing to Primordial Glyph more damning than losing to Crystal Rogue. All in all, the story of this nerf makes me wonder how rigorous the play-testing process is. The negative effects it caused should have been expected I think.

That’s all the opinion I will provide. With any nerf, there is a chain reaction to other cards put in that deck. Crystal Rogue was unique in that the deck brought back a lot of old, boring cards. It was also very cheap to operate. Let’s look at some of the cards that will disappear from play once the nerf hits. Banished to the Shadow Realm, if you will.

A lay of the land

Below is a simple list (hsreplay.net) of all cards that appear in over 30% of Rogue decks, according to tracked Hearthstone Deck Tracker users.

rogue pop

One can assume the average Hearthstone player using HDT is better than the average Hearthstone player. But some good players use Track-o-Bot, and some use no tracker at all. This is just the population of HDT users.

The quest Caverns Below is in 56.5% of Rogue decks, so we could assume this is the representation of Crystal Rogue in all Rogue decks. Some cards have near identical usage, so we could assume those are definite staples. Other cards have higher usage, others lower.

Most popular Crystal Rogue

The most played Crystal Rogue list, by a big margin, is listed below:

top list.JPG

Predicted card shifts

  1. The Caverns Below – If the history of nerfs in Hearthstone are any indication, the cards typically become literally unplayable. While cards like Gadgetzan Auctioneer and Leeroy Jenkins have survived, more often than not, the card is gone. Aggro decks would feast on the extra turn, and any other decks should be able to get use from the extra turn. Really you are getting two turns on Crystal Rogue, since you need to play the 5-cost Caverns Below. The Paladin quest is represented in 1.3% of Paladin decks now. While I don’t expect it to sink this low, I think it will definitely be dropped by most players. There may be a few players who will continually trying to make it work.
  2. Youthful Brewmaster – Cheap bounce effects were Crystal Rogue’s MO, and this was identified immediately. While it will disappear almost entirely, it is a neutral card, so it will not be gone completely. In the past two weeks, the card was played 20k times outside of Rogue, notably 10k times by Priests, who sought to reuse powerful Battlecries.
  3. Gadgetzan Ferryman – This card has been through a lot in it’s short history, first being known as a bad card reveal for Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, when the class was in trouble. It finally saw use specifically for Crystal Rogue. This card will fall with the nerf, and I expect it to be played just as much as the Quest card.
  4. Vanish – Vanish will literally vanish once the nerf hits. It was a card used in the past when Mill Rogue was a thing, and has no uses outside of that. With the future list of Quest Rogue in flux, it is possible that Vanish just becomes too expensive to play. Best case scenario is that it remains a Quest staple.
  5. Novice Engineer – This card did a lot for completing the Rogue quest, and was often the trigger card for activating the quest. Being a free card and plus card advantage, Novice Engineer may never go away. Novice Engineer was played 100k times outside of Rogue in the past two weeks. It will see play in Mage, which would serve as extra card draw.
  6. Stonetusk Boar – One of the most boaring cards around, this fit well as a 5/5 charge after the Quest was achieved. Another free Neutral card, this card would never disappear completely. It was played 40k times in the past two weeks outside of Rogue, and will likely only appear in Hunter.
  7. Bilefin Tidehunter – Bilefin was not immediately identified by the pros as an optimal card for the list, but was just too good at providing 10/10 for 2 mana. Being a token creator and a Murloc, the card will still see play, as it was played 170k times outside of Rogue in the past two weeks. I expect it being played in Token Druid and Shaman.
  8. Glacial Shard – Another later addition to the final optimized list. It had use in protecting the weak minions on the board to get bounced. The card was played 50k times outside of Rogue in the past two weeks, mostly in Shaman (24k).
  9. Igneous Elemental – The Flame Elemental generator was identified right away as a good Quest Rogue card, and this one provided 2 of them. The card isn’t really going anywhere, as it was played 130k times outside of Rogue in the past two weeks. It saw most play in Shaman again (59k), owing to token and elemental synergy.
  10. Fire Fly – Out of all the known Crystal Rogue ingredients, I think Fire Fly will take the smallest hit. It was played 2.3 million times outside of Rogue in the past two weeks by other classes. The card is just too much value. Still an elemental and having token synergy, it provides a lot of stats for the cost. I do play this myself in Aggro Water Rogue, and it is just a good Rogue card for what it does. It will see play in Druid and Shaman, and some Rogue.

Upshot

Rogue decks are going to be seen a lot less. In some ways, Crystal Rogue was the budget deck to play for people who don’t have a bunch of legendaries for the class. The new Miracle Rogue has expenses and Water Rogue sure isn’t cheap either. The card quality will improve with some boring cards leaving.

All of it is really up in the air, as we still don’t know when this nerf is coming, and there is an expansion coming out in August. We may have this changed Rogue pool for just a little while. Or it will be completely moot when new cards are here.

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.

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.

circlejerk prices.PNG
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.

 

Amnesiac’s Heel Turn and What It Means for Hearthstone

Amnesiac’s Heel Turn and What It Means for Hearthstone

There’s no denying that Hearthstone is in a rut right now, so any rumblings, however small they are, get magnified. The 2017 HCT Europe Winter Playoffs have been going on the last few days, and there has been talk of cheating in the tournament and poor production. The most fresh drama has come from the Twitterverse just hours ago, where William “Amnesiac” Barton has started a ruckus, given that Pavel Beltukov, the reigning BlizzCon champ, got a spot on the 2017 HCT Winter Championship. Let’s look at a bunch of tweets, and I will explain why I think this whole thing is staged.

“Journalism”

Yesterday, Amnesiac fired some shots at Pavel, hoping he makes it and seeking to face him in a children’s card game.

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Today, Pavel makes it to the Bahamas. Chaos ensues:

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Here, you see a long chain of tweets of Amnesiac explaining what he has against Pavel. Barton namely criticizes Pavel’s gameplay decisions in matches, his lucky situations, and willingness to bring more experimental decks to tournaments. He even sends a shot against seemingly vanilla nice guys, like Thijs.

Of course someone who is a Hearthstone celebrity spouting off like that would garner some attention and equally strong reactions online:

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Kibler is putting in a reply which would express what most people are thinking. Amnesiac looks horrible tweeting out stuff like that. He is being unprofessional.

Frodan puts in an inkling of possibly what this drama is all about. He is a guy who has a pretty good ability to see past the myopic, so not surprising he felt this way.

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RDU, who was the runner up, the guy who lost of Pavel’s Babbling Book, comes in defense of Pavel as well.

Amnesiac’s Competitive Spirit

As evidenced by this drama blowing up, a lot of people are taking sides now. Some people agree with Amnesiac, as competitive players. More people are offended by his attacks. Let’s all agree that Amnesiac is an extremely competitive individual. This guy is still in high school, played a lot of competitive Hearthstone, and plays on his school’s basketball team. As a person who has played high school sports, I know that there is very little time to do anything else. Amnesiac is a busy dude, and is extremely competitive. This is a fact.

The Grand Scheme

While there is likely real emotion fueling this Twitter fire, I honestly think there are ulterior motives in Amnesiac’s ranting, and it is the need to build a narrative in Hearthstone. Good storytelling needs strong characters and villains. A good example of this is professional wrestling. The most famous wrestlers are guys who had really good characters, which got fans involved. Scott Levy, the wrestler known as Raven, once said that wrestling is all about emotional attachment, and that the actual athletics themselves are the least important factor. This hold true for actual sports as well. I think there is a reason why American football remains the most popular sport, and why the NFL is the moneymaker it is: football players are characters and have narratives. While you get casual weekly villains in the form of a strong safety who wants to knock a WR into the next dimension, you get long-lasting narratives with QBs often. The story of Tom Brady’s “revenge” from Deflategate played big this past season. Tony Romo and Dak Prescott had a never-ending teacher vs mentor storyline this season. The list just goes on in football. The same goes on in basketball, where Lebron James had a tv special about signing with the Miami Heat. The Chicago Bulls had Jordan, Rodman, and Pippen all on the same team for a run, all guys with distinct characters.

Building a Character

Amnesiac didn’t have to create his first character, just by being 15 or 16, he had the “phenom” brand down pat. Now, I believe he is building the competitive villain angle. Check out these tweets:

Here, Amnesiac is a bit upset about being 2nd in the month of January 2017, angry at the point awarding system, and throwing a little shade.

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Here, he is upset at the Ben Brode post about the state of the game, and Shamans. I actually do agree with this tweet, in that it tried to present the data in that there are fewer Shamans than there actually are. But anyways, he is attacking the presentation of data by Team 5 devs.

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Here, Amnesiac is yelling about sports, following the Super Bowl. He alludes to himself being a “jaded individual.”

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And finally this tweet. I think this is definitive evidence of Amnesiac’s motives.

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Sure, Amnesiac is talking about the Patriots playing the Super Bowl, and their miraculous comeback. But I do find it weird for a guy to retweet himself.

There you have it. I think Amnesiac is trying to become a villain to build his brand by being a whiny guy online. While this trash-talking comes off as bad, I think it is a valiant effort in jump starting a game with a floundering eSports scene.