“Competitive” Hearthstone

“Competitive” Hearthstone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Hearthstone vs Shadowverse

Hearthstone vs Shadowverse

I last compared digital card games when I compared Hearthstone with Magic Duels. I’m going to do a similar thing with a digital card game I recently started playing, Shadowverse. Because I am enjoying my time playing Shadowverse to a big degree, I expect to be blogging more about the game down the line. This is meant to be a more general comparison between the games, for Hearthstone players who are interested in trying Shadowverse.

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By the fire be purged! Or something

What is Shadowverse?

Shadowverse is a digital card game, released in June 2016 by Cygames. I cannot name another game Cygames has made, so one can assume they are a smallish indie company. Apparently, it is the most popular card game in Japan.

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The story mode was a bit comical after all the repetition

Getting past the boobwall

This may sound absurd, but I didn’t play Shadowverse for a while because of the artwork. The artwork is anime/manga styled, and features a lot of female characters with absolute cleavage, and partial nudity on a few followers. It even led to the Runecraft Leader, Isabelle, getting “nerfed” in the US version.

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Isabelle covered herself to follow lab safety protocol

While I have no issue with the art being the way it is, I thought this fanservicing concealed what the game had to offer, and that the game would be all smoke and mirrors. This turned out to be a horribly erroneous line of thought. This game is extremely thought-provoking and challenging. Just with a lot of boobs around.

Key differences between the games

  • Evolve

    • The hallmark of Shadowverse is Evolve, a function that allows you to promote your followers on the field. Typically a follower gets +2/+2 in stats, and gains Rush, the ability to Charge and attack an enemy follower. Other minions have more powerful abilities that come with Evolve, like deal damage or gain Ward (Taunt).
    • Evolve gives the game an extra layer of complexity, as you get to charge and buff a minion of your choosing, allowing you to get rid of summoning sickness. This ability can be used offensively, to add face damage, or trade on a minion. It can also be used defensively. Also, you either get 2 or 3 Evolves per game, so knowing when to use these charges is key.
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Evolving my follower
  • Class identity

    • In Hearthstone, each of the 9 classes are distinguished by class cards, and the 2-mana cost Hero Power. Certain classes have multiple workable archetypes, while other classes are stuck with one type of deck.
    • Shadowverse has 7 classes, with individual class cards as well. But each class is completely different from each other, based on the class trait, and class cards which work with the trait. For example, the control class, Havencraft, has pretty much no way of becoming an aggro class, as the card rely on anti-tempoing early on for big gain later. The Bloodcraft class is all about playing the game at 10 life, to empower all the other cards. Dragoncraft will always be a ramp class, as there cards rely on getting to (Mana) 7.
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Vengeance and Overflow traits

 

  • Gameplay

    • While both are digital card games, there are some key mechanical differences that influence gameplay. Hearthstone is a 30 life, 30 card game, while Shadowverse is a 20 life, 40 card game. Drawing to fatigue seems impossible in Shadowverse, while they happen often in a Reno mirror game in Hearthstone. With 20 life, your character seems to be in peril easily. Given that the Bloodcraft Class thrives on 10 life, every game must be a thrill.
    • The baseline minions in Shadowverse are weaker than those in Hearthstone. Typically, there aren’t good Turn 1 plays, and a 3/2 costs 3 for example.
    • The Evolve mechanic encourages trading, given that the Evolved minion can only attack minions on the first turn. With the 20 life cap, trading could be more important in Shadowverse than in Hearthstone.
    • Turn planning is extremely complex in Shadowverse, seemingly as complex or more complex than Miracle Rogue swing turns in Hearthstone. Forestcraft cards for example, have cards that require at least 2 cards to be played that turn for an effect to trigger. You just have to make a ton of turn planning decisions on playing cards for tempo or effects, holding onto cards for reactive moves vs tempo, etc. Just so many decisions to make, which vary by class.
    • Hearthstone has weapons, which gets the hero directly involved on the board. From what I can tell, the heroes in Shadowverse are just there to look pretty, throw out threats, and get hit.
    • Shadowverse has Amulets, which serve as the card  that isn’t a minion or spell. Amulets are best defined as things that have effects, but can’t attack and can’t be attacked. Given Shadowverse also only allows 5 things on the board (vs 7 in Hearthstone), the Amulets take a bunch of board space.
    • Oh yeah, like any other card game, Shadowverse has less RNG than Hearthstone. The Forestcraft has a bit of RNG like Avenging Wrath, but some classes, like Runecraft, seem to avoid it entirely.
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I spellboosted my guy to become a 12 dmg AoE on a 6/7 body. Eat it, Abyssal Enforcer.
  • Going 2nd possibly balanced

    • There are well-known splits in Hearthstone of the 1st player winning games over the 2nd player by a decent margin. A common topic of discussion is how The Coin just isn’t enough to make up for it.
    • Shadowverse gives the 2nd player 3 Evolve charges (1st player gets 2) and lets the 2nd player draw 2 cards on Turn 1. I don’t know if this makes things completely even, but I personally have felt getting 3 Evolve charges is well-worth going 2nd.
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Pretty good evolve ability
  • F2p considerations/economy

    • Shadowverse appears as a very free-to-play (F2p) game. Upon completing the tutorial, you get 10 free packs per set (30 total), a bunch of vouchers, and resources. There are additional rewards for leveling up, gaining achievements, etc. While you get continual rewards in Shadowverse, it appears that decks require a lot more investment of resources to play. Really good decks require about 18,000 vials (dust) to play for example. These rewards may just be scaling to 40 cards per deck.
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You earn little gifts pretty much the whole game.
  • Hearthstone has a handful of achievements, listed below. There is constant criticism about the game being anti-F2p, or not being friendly to new players. But unlike Shadowverse, there are relatively cheap decks that can be competitive in Hearthstone.

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  • Leveling/ranking

    • Hearthstone’s Ranked Mode, which was created back in Open Beta, is known for being Levels 1-25, with a Legend rank above that. The devs recently have acknowledged the community’s frustration with the “grind” it takes to level up in Hearthstone.
    • Shadowverse has a point system, which drives you through tiers of ranks. It is similar to earning experience on a quest, and leveling up that way. So far in the D ranks, I typically earn a lot of experience when winning a Ranked game, while losing only a few points when losing. There may also be implications, where not conceding is the better route in salvaging experience, but I am not sure if this is true. I won 16 Ranked games to get from Beginner 0 to D1. Not bad.

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  • One (Steam) server

    • Hearthstone is known for having separate servers: NA, EU, TW/KR, CN, with different server reliabilities. Shadowverse appears to have all players in the same Steam server. When playing my first few games of Shadowverse, I encountered a number of players with Asian characters as their battle names. This is not unexpected, given Shadowverse is a Japanese game.
    • Given everyone is on one server, there could be many disruptions, resulting in disconnects. I actually got my first Unranked, Ranked, and Take Two wins in Shadowverse via disconnect.
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Got 2 of these wins via forfeits.
  • Customization, UI, and more

    • Hearthstone definitely has the more solid user interface, with things being where they should be. It is simple with not too much going on. The UI for Shadowverse is a little discombobulated in comparison, with cards in hand either being oversized or undersized. The emoting system is also more challenging to use, but they do limit you on 3 emotes a turn!
    • Shadowverse has a lot of avenues for customization. You can set custom emblems, flairs, and even a country flag for national pride. Emblems are awarded through achievements, or when you get a legendary card. Further you can actually customize things like turning off emotes entirely. This request has long been desired by the Hearthstone community.
    • There are various leaderboards for public viewing in Shadowverse, and various stats about your wins and experience. Replays as well!
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Guys who spend more time playing children’s card games than me

Overall

Overall, Shadowverse is different from Hearthstone primarily through the more complex gameplay and turn-planning. There is also a lot more customization from the game, possibly borrowing from feedback that Hearthstone players desire. On the downside, it suffers a little just by being a smaller company, and being a lesser-known quantity (no real lore ties), and having less polish in the UI holding cards. I must say I am very impressed with the game, and will continue playing it.

My Rooting Interests for the HCT

My Rooting Interests for the HCT

While I often use the phrase “eSports” facetiously to denote unfavorable moments of RNG in Hearthstone, I haven’t really been up to snuff with being knowledgeable about competitive Hearthstone. This year, I have paid a bit more attention to Hearthstone eSports and have a better grasp on the tournament scene. The opening week for the Hearthstone World Championship (HCT) is about to wrap up tomorrow, leading up the games at BlizzCon next week. With some players officially knocked out today, I’m going to talk about the 3 remaining players I have some rooting interest for.

#3 Amnesiasc

Amnesiac is one of the most well-known American Hearthstone players around, notable for knowing the 15-year-old kid who won the Americas Winter Championship. Now 16, Amnesiac is a heavy favorite to win it all to be the next champion. Having a significantly younger individual competing is something that is exciting in real sports, and that has carried over to eSports. I like Amnesiac primarily because he is the horse for NA in the rivalry with the EU scene. Also, I like that he is seemingly more mature than a lot of professional players, despite his age.

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#2 Pavel

Pavel is a guy who’s name I have heard thrown around in various tournament games, and I am sure I have seen him competing multiple times. More recently, I saw Pavel beat RDU in the Europe Last Call decider. Going into this tournament, he was ranked as the 2nd best player in the EU by GosuGamers. My primary rooting interest for Pavel is because I selected him for the Choose Your Champion promotion. For every best-of-7 Pavel wins, I will get a TGT pack. Given his win today, I am up to 2 packs, and hoping for more, as he plays on. I also like that Pavel plays faster than most players.

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#1 BBGunGun

I didn’t know who BBGunGun was until the NA Last Call games. He is primarily known as a coach for a group of notable Chinese descent players like Eloise, Silent Storm and Neobility. But if you are looking for the ultimate underdog player to root for in the tournament, this is the guy. I am rooting for BBGunGun mainly because he is very easy to emphasize to the normal guy. He is a PhD student, which means unlike most of the competitors in the tournament, he has real-life commitments outside of eSports. As someone with a Master’s and works full-time, he is easier to relate with. His Twitter acount has a Red Sox hat as the avatar, and he says he likes baseball. While I will never be a Red Sox fan, I will root for anyone who says they like baseball. In his player interviews, he seems very honest, and not trying to show anyone up. BBGunGun also has a disability, requiring the use of a cane, something which makes Twitch Chat refer to him as Dr. House or House. Given the acerbic nature of Twitch Chat, the fact that people are not outright making fun of a disability, rather referring to him as a beloved TV character, shows that he appeals to everyman gamer.

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Arena Stew

Arena Stew

Less than 2 weeks from BlizzCon, Hearthstone news has been pushed out at a ballistic rate in the past week. There is simply an overload (RIP Yogg) of information, too much to cover. Because I haven’t solely discussed Arena in a while, I have decided to do that now. I will discuss what we learned about the Arena through a series of handy infographics, and what changes were made to the Arena this week.

Arena Infographics

Top players

The full post and infographics can be found at (http://us.battle.net/hearthstone/en/blog/20324474/inside-the-arena-10-18-2016), but basically, Blizz posted the first inforgraphics about the Arena ever. There are separate graphics for the 4 different regions. Most of the attention came to the best players in each region, as it is a first gauge of who the best Arena player is. From January 1, 2016 to present, the best players are Alumn, Hafu, and Kripp. While those results are not surprising, I really wanna know who this top NA Arena player Alumn is.

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The best NA Arena players

Top cards picked

This really piqued my interest, as I am arguably a better Arena drafter than Hearthstone player. With all the drafting resources available to the player, I wanted to see what lead the way. Let’s start with the commons, as they are the backbone to every Arena draft.

commons

Piloted Shredder is fitting to be the most drafted common. However the Jeweled Scarab and Tomb Spider being #2 and #3 are quite baffling in my mind. Both cards are under-stated cards that allow the player to discover a Beast. They really only give the best options for Druids and Hunters, middling classes at best. The anti-tempo of putting out a 2-drop or 4-drop like this is the immediate downside, one that I believe is too big. These are cards that get traded into by lesser-costed cards, and don’t fight well for the board. It’s possible these cards were picked a ton because of drafts that didn’t have card draw. The reality is that since the infographic measured from January 1, 2016 to present, the card offering bonus from LoE was present, which nixes great commons in Old Gods, like Bog Creeper. But that still doesn’t explain picking these cards over North Sea Kraken or even something like Stormwind Champion.

rares

The value rare taunts effectively trade a lot of little guys, so they are great for that regard. Azure Drake is a card I love in Constructed, but less so in the Arena. While not a bad card at all, I see much better rares to be picked, namely Bomb Lobber and Stampeding Kodo. Does nobody care about contesting the board?

epics

Epic card selections are a wasteland in the Arena. Piloted Sky Golem and Kodorider are rightfully in the top 3. Grand Crusader I would argue is more average than good, but it is a value card overall. Sea Giant is pretty easy to pull off great value in the Arena. While Fel Reaver provides insanely high win rates for those who pick it, I can see the downside being too much for a player to draft with confidence.

legendaries

Arena legendaries don’t mean much at all, but I just find it hilarious that Herald Volazj being the least picked card is indicative that nobody plays Priest in the Arena.

And we end this segment with people who need their heads checked and are willing to throw away 150 gold.

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Karazhan Bonus Out

As of Thursday’s patch, the Karazhan increased offering bonus in the draft is no more. I believe this is the first time an Arena offering bonus ending was explicitly stated, which means yay Arena exposure. I also believe that the Arena bonus lasting about 1-2 months is the shortest it has gone. We are now in the most variegated Arena meta ever, with equal offering rates across the sets. It’s possible that Mage has pulled too far ahead of the other classes, and Blizz had to finally intervene.With the Karazhan offering bonus no more, let’s look at the top 5 Karazhan cards (IMO).

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Closing the Dark Portal is a big plot line in Warcraft. They should’ve closed this portal.
  1. Fool’s Bane – Anyone who got to play with this card knew how bonkers it was. While the Warrior took tons of damage, the ability to get off an AoE clear was too good a tempo swing. I was lucky enough to have the combo with Violet Illusionist a couple times, pretty much the greatest feeling.
  2. Firelands Portal – It was recognized as OP from the start, and remained so through the Karazhan Arena meta. I had 11-win Mage runs with 4 Firelands and 3 Firelands drafts.
  3. Swashburglar – The entire burgle mechanic is not great because there is always a chance to whiff on a pick. The thing is that the best Arena classes aren’t classes you whiff on. Warlock, Warrior, and Hunter are classes that give a chance for getting a useless card. Mages and Paladin will provide useful cards. Further, Swashburglar had that RNG that the opponent couldn’t play around or predict.
  4. Medivh’s Valet – While seemingly like a regular 2 drop with great upside, people started picking Secrets a lot. The Epic card pool is never great, allowing a Spellbender or Ice Block, while Rares and Commons gave Mages more Secrets. This card becomes mediocre to amazing in a draft with 2 Secrets.
  5. Pompous Thespian – While far from sexy, this card did a lot of work in the Karazhan Arena meta. The 2-mana for a 3/2 taunt made it essentially a neutral card with class card stats. Just having that extra point made it better than a lot of other commons. Now we’ll see it less, and be forced to draft more River Crocs and Raptors.

Card Changes

Finally, I will talk about the Arena implications of changed cards.

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  • Murlocs – Basically, Murloc cards no longer buff enemy Murlocs. The most common Murlocs you’ll see are Puddlestomper, Bilefin Hunter, Bluegill Warrior, Corrupted Seer, and Murloc Knight. Murloc Knight is the main factor, as it has the ability to produce Warleaders, while being a great pick itself. Murloc Warleader, Coldlight Seer, and Grimscale Oracle are the cards that this affects directly. Murloc Warleader, being a 3-mana 3/3, could be the best of 3 horrid epics, and this will be marginally better against the opponent. Coldlight Seer should remain not being picked in the Arena, being a 3-mana 2/3. Grimscale Oracle is a 1-mana 1/1, and shouldn’t be picked over any 1-mana 2/1’s.
  • Ethereal Peddler – A Rogue v Rogue mirror in the Arena is quite common, but having Ethereal Peddler + bugled cards makes it a rarer scenario. The Ethereal Peddler is still a fine minion to have in any arena draft, even when you aren’t discounting Rogue cards. I think this was just done to not confuse new players.
  • Yogg-Saron – I don’t think I have seen Yogg-Saron in the Arena, so this change doesn’t do a whole lot. Adding Overload to Yogg, and the general lack of spells in the Arena will cement Yogg is one of the worst legendaries to pick for your draft.

Heroic Tavern Brawl: Hearthstone’s Foray Into Tournament Mode

Big news emerged on the Hearthstone front, as Heroic Tavern Brawl was just announced. The initial scan of my Twitter feed upon hearing the news showed a lot of enthusiastic tweets and positive remarks about the upcoming Brawl. Let’s take a look at the Heroic Tavern Brawl, and what implications it has on the game.

What is Heroic Tavern Brawl?

As the name suggests, Heroic Tavern Brawl is going to be a Tavern Brawl that lasts for 1 week. The difference is that it is a tournament. You make a Standard card deck, you lock it in, and you play against other people. Like the Arena, you play until you lose 3 games, or until you reach 12 wins. So Heroic Tavern Brawl is basically a Tavern Brawl, that is Standard Constructed, but has the Arena win-loss system. Oh yeah, and it costs 1000 gold to participate.

Barriers to Entry

Hey, that was an easy transition. 1000 gold is not easy to earn in Hearthstone. Quests that require players to “win x games with class I don’t play” are the worst offenders towards gold-earning. While we are in the “gold-saving phase” before the next expansion, some people just don’t have a lot of gold saved up. Typically, these people are buying packs to try to expand their collections. I personally have an Arena reserve, where I spend on Arena everyday, but am able to replenish my coffers through Arena rewards and daily quests. Thanks to recent subpar play however, I currently do not have 1000 gold.

Blizzard is also making it no secret that Heroic Tavern Brawl will be difficult. I don’t think I have seen Team 5 take this point of view for anything in the game so far. They encourage people to play the game modes, never explicitly saying “avoid this” for any mode. Heroic Tavern Brawl, being a high-risk investment, comes with fair warning. So this could drive away the meek, or those who willingly admit their gameplay shortcomings.

The unpleasant Standard meta game could drive people away. Because the stakes are so high for Heroic Tavern Brawl and participants are confined to one deck, expect to see the ugliest, most draconian style of decks and gameplay. There are some jokes about the entire tournament being Shaman, but other classes are tough in this meta. Recently, I lost against a Mage in 7 turns (3 minutes)! That’s classic Face Hunter territory.
Also, we must consider the people who don’t have the time. The details are unknown, but it appears you can play this Heroic Tavern Brawl through a Wednesday – Sunday timeframe. That’s somewhere between 3 to 15 games. While that may not sound like a lot to many Hearthstone diehards, it is for those who are genuinely pressed for time.

Some Great Rewards

Blizzard’s post included a sample 12-win reward for the Heroic Tavern Brawl.

The sample shows 50 packs, 3 golden legendaries, about 1100 gold and 1100 dust. The total value of this is about 6100 gold and 5900 dust. These spoils reap about 12 times the initial 1000 gold entry fee.
Obviously, the 12-win reward image is a lure to get people to participate. The reality is that almost everyone who participates will fall short of 12, and it can only be accomplished through some combination of broken deck, extraordinary gameplay, and luck. So what would the scaling of rewards be? Ben Brode already stated that a 0-3 run will result in 1 pack. The image below shows the rewards by wins for the Heroic Tavern Brawl. It looks like 5-3 will be the breakeven record for this game mode. This equates to a 62.5% winrate, a similar winrate to those advertised by successful “legend decks.” The difference in rewards from 11 and 12 are seismic, making the 12-win mantle a true victory.

Who Will Play

Everyone who calls themselves a professional constructed Hearthstone player should participate. I mean, this is the ultimate test! Most players will likely be of the competitive-but-relatively-unknown ilk, those who have gotten legend a bunch, or are high on the ladder typically. There will also likely be a smattering of filthy casuals or mid-level scrubs who want to participate in the brawl, but ultimately provide free wins in the shallow end of the tournament. So I expect a wide range of players to participate, but the seasonal Rank 5 – Legend crowd will likely be the majority.

Tactics

With so much on the line, it would not be wise to go into the Heroic Tavern Brawl having done no research on the Standard Constructed meta. The Vicious Syndicate Data Reaper Report, will likely prove invaluable in providing hard data to help shape what deck you will play for the brawl. Decks are likely going to be aggressive, as those decks are still stronger than control decks with the card sets in place. The confusingly-named but somewhat variegated Midrange Shaman deck is the early favorite to dominate this brawl.

If the Heroic Tavern Brawl is replayable during the course of the brawl schedule, it might be prudent to wait for some intel before going in yourself. Getting a feel of the most powerful decks in the Heroic Brawl and bringing the best counter against that deck seems the best move. Tech choices become magnified to a great extent, and need to be justified for inclusion.

Future Heroic Brawls

Tavern Brawl always has been the proving grounds for future Hearthstone content. Obviously, this is testing for a possible in-game tournament mode. The question is how frequent these Heroic Tavern Brawls will appear before the real thing? Better yet, will it be a real thing? The rewards/cost of entry seem too extreme in my opinion for the prospective in-game tournament mode. The great players will “game the system” and earn infinite rewards, while others will be constantly broke. I can see these being a monthly or bi-monthly feature, until the in-game tournament mode is established. What if it all fails? Flaws in the upcoming Heroic Tavern Brawl can push everything back, so the data obtained from it will be extremely useful.

The End Game?

It is important that the Heroic Tavern Brawl either be a success, or exist as a valuable intermediate towards building tournament mode. In a way, there hasn’t been a good way to validate how good a player is in Hearthstone. Getting legend status for seasons has been the measuring tool for this, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. A player could just have tons of time (no job/school/commitments) to grind the ladder with a mediocre win rate, and achieve legend. The clientele who play this Heroic Tavern Brawl will be funneled down to the most competitive, making the environment more difficult than regular Ranked. Further, our overall win rates are unknown to us without using deck tracking programs. The future in-game tournament mode is a better gauge for measuring raw skill in Hearthstone than legend status. This extra layer of validation also has value for competitive Hearthstone. Winning these Heroic Tavern Brawls could possibly award BlizzCon points, with more value than getting legend in a season.

Overall, I am excited for the Heroic Tavern Brawl, even though I probably won’t be playing myself. I am more excited about the effect this would have on Hearthstone’s direction moving forward.

A Letter to Yogg-Saron

A Letter to Yogg-Saron

A Yogg-Saron golden. I don’t know if I’m going to keep it. Cuz it can yield me any legendary I want. Em. I mean, it’s nice to have gold cards. But gold legendaries are a bit too much dust. I’m gonna play with it in the meantime, considering Rogues don’t have any endgame anymore. I might just keep it around.

-GreenRanger 4.26.16

Dear Yogg,

Hi, Old God of Death. Or whatever your title is. You don’t know who I am, I’m sure you interact with tens of thousands of people each day. We first met just a little over 5 months ago. I didn’t know what to think of you at first. I thought you were a little ridiculous at first.

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Don’t know if I’m keeping it.

I slotted you into the deck I played a bit. MalyRogue deck I think. You were to be the secondary win condition to Malygos, given the heavy spell usage of the deck. What the hell, why not.

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Yogg’s first victim.

Weird things started happening in my Hearthstone games. I mean, why wouldn’t weird and unpredictable things happen when you are virtually rolling a 300-sided die for eternity? I got weird combinations of minions, secrets for a non-secret class, lots of card draw, and random mass destruction! The game was out of control when you took over, but it felt just so awesome! It felt great to be bailed out of an impossible escape. It felt great to have all these random cards working in no particular order. It felt just fun. You were the doomsday device I set upon the world when the muscular, square-jawed hero had beat me up good and had the pistol pressed against my forehead.

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Boars and trees and dogs and wolves and imps and dragons.

I had the most fun I ever had. I wasn’t even all that upset when you caused my demise in games. It was hella fun.

Of course, the initial impression of pure silly madness was not an immediate dismissal of your talents. Other people were discovering the same thing that I was, while not completely reliable, you did win more games than you lost. And that is all that really matters in this game. Good players started spreading your gospel in decks online. First in some weird Hunter deck called Yogg n Load. Then in some weird Mage deck called Chinese Tempo Mage. I played various decks that season, and with your help, I achieved Rank 5, a new high in Ranked Play.

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eSports! I lost this game by the end of this sequence.

All was well.

The grinding summer of 2016 came, one that seemed very agitated in Hearthstone. The meta became, for the lack of a better phrase, “stale as fuck,” and people grew restless.  While chaos was festering within the Hearthstone community, you, the quintessential madman, were just doing your thing. Becoming a Druid staple minion, and still stealing games, and awarding people with putting you in your deck.

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Too confusing for new Murloc heroes.

Tensions often ran high, and you caught everyone’s attention. People realized you were unfairly deciding games. A rogue arbiter who played by his own rules of judication. Didn’t give a flying fuck about the board state or the score. You did your thing. After the initial joy of running you out there in my decks, your popularity turned the tide against me. I saw you for the scoundrel you were, stealing my games, and lowering my win percentage. I wasn’t particularly angry about games I lost to you, just accepting the spectacle for what it was. Blizzard was getting heat for your card design, but remained steadfast in the pros of your existence. You were fun and catered to people who enjoyed the fun you provided.

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Last loss to Yogg?

The tipping point came in a tournament game, when a player discounted all his hard work and preparation, and just cited you as the sole reason he is currently playing professional eSports. Just by playing a card, you can be immediately transformed from some guy in a dark, dusty apartment, with cracked paint, to some guy playing professional eSports in a fancy tavern-styled computer set, with a headset and sitting in a fancy gaming chair. It was too much. You were the card that was single-handedly going to destroy the reputation of competitive Hearthstone. You were the card that was going to toss skill out of the equation. You were going to be the death of Wizard Poker.

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Heal me high and give me armor.

Things are quieter now. People are a little happier, and frankly have a little more confidence in this game. The new retirement community is nice I hear. Plenty of green space out in the pasture. Or is it a light arcane blue I hear? Lots of lively folks like Warsong Commander and Starving Buzzard to talk to. Tuskarr Totemic is heading out too, not sure if you have lodging plans. I’m sure I haven’t seen the last of you. No, one day, you’re gonna surprise me straight out of the blue. I won’t see it coming. Whether you win the game is another thing, but I sure will miss seeing you around here. You brought upon an inexorable feeling that made me feel like a kid again. It felt good. But in the end, this is no child’s game.

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Later, Yogg. It’s been real.

Sincerely,

GreenRanger

Yogg Photo Album