This One Stings A Little

This One Stings A Little

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

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

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

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What the heck? Basically:

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

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

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

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

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

Why Do We Play Games Nowadays?

Anyone who reads this blog closely or follows me on Twitter would know that I am at a bit of an identity crisis of sorts in gaming. I made this blog and Twitter with the sole purpose of talking Hearthstone. Lately, I’ve had issues with Hearthstone, mainly precipitated by my not enjoying the changed Arena format. I actually did not realize that I liked the Arena so much. In my taking a sabbatical from Arena play, I can barely play the game anymore.

By sinking in less time into Hearthstone, I have opened up time for other games. Notably, I am playing three other card games in addition to Hearthstone. Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links is the mobile game I have played since January and podcast about. Shadowverse is the secondary card game I played probably once a week, now more regularly. Gwent is a new card game released in open beta that I am trying out. Playing all these games together has given me some ideas which lead to this post. Why do we play games nowadays?

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The changed landscape

Gaming has evolved tremendously since I was young. While I wasn’t around for almost all of the 80s, I can say I sampled my share of old games. And by old games, I mean titles from SNES and Sega Genesis. I didn’t really play games regularly until my family got a computer, and I have been primarily a PC gamer since. The main evolution in gaming, besides the obvious upgrades to gameplay, graphics, and design, is the ubiquity of the Internet, and the ability to play games with people you’ve never met physically. I admit that I was playing games alone for a really long time, and it wasn’t until I started playing Diablo III that I started to play games with other people.

The fusion of gaming and Internet has not only changed the landscape of gaming, and also the reasons why we play games now. Back when I was playing Operation: Inner Space in my cold basement or Syphon Filter 3 in front of the TV, I can say I did it for fun. Sure, I wanted to set high scores in Inner Space and unlock secrets in Syphon Filter. But now the reasons are more complex and varied. I will try to dig into the reasons why we game using the games I am playing concurrently as an example.

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I feel really old saying I played this a lot

For fun

The generic umbrella reason for why we play games. Games are a hobby and it is something we do for fun when we’re not doing something else (more important) in life.

I have played Hearthstone almost daily since December 2013. While I have taken breaks now and then (including now lol), my enjoyable experiences have kept me in the game for all these years. I have logged thousands of Arena games just because I found it so fun. Arena is known for not being the most generous when it comes to rewards. You don’t make the 3.33 gold/win you get in Ranked play and even in Casual. According to Hearthstone, I have 3710 Arena wins. This equates to 12,366 gold I missed out on because they were Arena wins. When it comes to my enjoyment playing Hearthstone, it lives and dies with Arena.

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Good times before Arena 7.1

As mentioned before, my relationship with the Arena is currently strained. The fun factor is mostly gone as the Arena revamp with Patch 7.1 coupled with Journey to Un’Goro cards has brought on never-ending reactionary play and big power creep on card quality. And truthfully, it isn’t because I’m losing significantly in the Arena now. It’s important to note that these are just my feelings (and some other players), and not those of the entire Arena community. I don’t know if most people share my feelings on the Arena changes. I’m sure people who enjoy Control decks are having a blast.

To fill the void in gaming fun, I have resorted to the other card games. I am having a really fun time playing Gwent,  mostly from the Casual game mode available to me. As someone who is completely foreign to The Witcher universe, I have no idea what the underlying story is. I don’t even know what the ubiquitous keg-opening character is called. A lot of the fun is derived from the game just being a new experience, and a break from the Arena. I am also playing Shadowverse a bit, though the game hasn’t gotten more fun than before. I’ll explain later.

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I have no idea who this guy is, but he opens the kegs.

For fame

Those who graduate past the notion of playing games just for fun are more ambitious in the hobby and want to make something of their gaming career. By playing a game at a high enough level, one can be known for something, and springboard off a new height. This is a new development in gaming, given people were not connected to the Internet to track scores back in the day. It likely started with the seeds of eSports, and have known people play games. All four of the card games I am playing have leaderboards, with your legend tiers, points, or high scores. And by playing at a high enough level, you get invited to participate in tournaments. In the end, you fight the final boss (real life person) for a trophy. Gaming is just like real sports now!

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eSports!

Alternatively, you can achieve fame by doing something with your gaming experience. All of the “creation” nowadays associated with gaming, your streaming, recording, blogging, podcasting, and drawing would all fall into this category. A lot of people I follow on social media and associate with would fall into this category.

In all honestly, I started this blog for a reason. I wanted to be known in the Hearthstone community as an all-purpose writer who talked about Arena a lot. I had ambitions that it would all lead to opportunities in my future. While those dreams are at a moribund state, I was able to meet and talk to a lot of people in the process of creating the blog.

For money

Those who become really famous for gaming may eventually reach the top tier of gaming for money. There are those who are full-time video game players for a living, making money through tournaments, streaming, endorsements, and donations. Others work for a living or go to school, and have supplementary revenue streams from gaming. Obviously, gaming for money didn’t happen for decades, and is just a recent development.

Unfortunately, the window of gaming for money is closing for existing games, as the market is gets more and more saturated. Gamers who enter the game (lol) later are at a bigger disadvantage, as they have to compete with existing players and personalities. It is a more prudent idea to try to forecast the next big game, and become an established player in that realm. For example, it is much really difficult to make a name in Hearthstone, given it has been in existence for close to 4 years. Your big name competitive Hearthstone players are mostly making money with their streaming brand now. It has become really difficult to make a name for yourself, with so much competition. This goes for other forms of creation in Hearthstone. I doubt that a newbie bug-finder can dethrone Disguised Toast at this point.

It could be easier to game for money in newer games. Notably, Lifecoach has become the first professional Gwent player signed to a team. Right now, I don’t think there are any Duel Links players who play the game for money, but that could change, given the World Championships coming in August. I do not know if there are Shadowverse players who game for money. The challenge is knowing if the game will stick around for the long term, long enough for your efforts to come to fruition.

For community

Gaming has always had an occasional social aspect, as multiple people playing a console was a way to hang out. As a kid and teenager, I fondly remember going to friend’s houses to play video games for hours. With the availability of Internet, the social aspect of gaming has evolved into playing games with people online.

Hmm… I don’t remember girls being around

In the Blizzard world, Battle.net was once the site you used to connect to online servers. Now known as the Blizzard Launcher, it is a one-stop-shop with an instant messaging list to your friends, online news, etc. Hearthstone has quests for playing games with friends, and now allows questing to be done in friend games. Duel Links has the Vagabond sharing system with friends. Spectator mode is another aspect that gives a social aspect to gaming.

 

For rewards

In my card game carousel discussion, I mentioned I am playing more Shadowverse than in the past. This is because they are offering doubled rewards for completed daily missions. This means 2 free card packs for 4 Ranked Wins, or 100 rupies for 4 wins with x class. The rewards are so good that Shadowverse isn’t the second fiddle card game for this month. They also have the Freshman Lou promotion, so I am trying to earn those card sleeves.

Freshman Lou is quickly becoming my one of my favorite cards

Shadowverse has really exemplified the gaming for rewards aspect. We are playing games for in-game currency, so we don’t have to (or spend less) spend real money. This is something that clearly didn’t exist in older games. You bought your game at the store or online, and you paid it. That ended the spending. In the age of Internet and microtranscations, companies want you to continually spend money on a game, by adding more new features. It really is an interesting thought to think we are playing a game a lot because we don’t want to pay for it.

For experience

A lot of people play new games for the sheer experience of trying something new. Trying new games has numerous advantages, as you can discover really fun aspects of games that are not apparently obvious. Steam is now the go-to source for PC gamers to get access to a wide swath of games. Monthly Humble Bundle deals allow one to discover a lot of new games at a low price. One can also purchase old games online, though this is mostly a thing done on consoles now.

My fun playing Gwent is mostly a gaming for experience venture. Given all the comparisons to Hearthstone, I just had to play the game to see for myself. What I discovered is that Gwent is nothing like Hearthstone, and is just linked to it because of Lifecoach’s endorsement of the game. Part of the new experience is learning names in Gwent and trying to understand the unexplained rules in the game.

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An unfamliiar deck building interface

In climbing the Shadowverse Ranked ladder, the experience is turning less fun, as I start seeing the same “good decks.” I typically go in as a Tempo Runecraft deck, which is not a meta deck in a class that primarily plays the fun and interactive Dimensional Shift deck. However, I see a lot of Forest Roach decks, and Heavenly Aegis Haven, popular climbing decks. In Hearthstone, seeing the same variants of decks was always second nature to me, and something that was burned in the brain as normal. Going into a game like Shadowverse, the same emphasis on bringing the same good decks still applies, but I was just not inured to it.

For loyalty

By loyalty, I mean loyalty to a brand or franchise. It is unlikely that Hearthstone would’ve been the success it is without being under the “Heroes of Warcraft” title and Blizzard flagship. People who bought WoW, or Diablo, or Starcraft were willing to give Hearthstone a try since it was made by Blizzard. This is not unlike buying a brand of clothes or car. Trust is earned through reliable workmanship and satisfaction.

I bought into the loyalty to Blizzard games long ago when I first played Diablo when in 1997. Then I played Starcraft, Warcraft III, Diablo II, and flash foward to Diablo III and the Bnet launcher era. Who knew that entering the Cathedral, and spending hours and days walking (couldn’t run back then) through the labyrinth in Diablo would lead me to everything else Blizz has now.

Where it all started

The gaming for loyalty aspect is a also big reason for why I started playing Duel Links. @hsdecktech posted some screenshots one day on Twitter, and I haven’t put down the game since. My enjoyment playing the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG in 7th and 8th grade awoke, and I destined to relive the nostalgia I had playing cards. And this is allure to Yu-Gi-Oh is not a unique thing, as Duel Links is catching on like wildfire, hitting 45 million downloads recently. Konami created a great franchise, buoyed by a TV show and card game, and that loyalty now it is manifesting in Duel Links’ popularity.

For fulfillment

Back in the day, playing a game for a new high score at the end was the goal. When my ship blew up in Operation: Inner Space, I wanted to get on that leaderboard. This isn’t lost in today’s games. In Hearthstone, competitive players have a goal of hitting Legend in Ranked Play. Some just want to do it, for the sake of doing it, and others have the goal of hitting it every month. This is playing games for fulfillment. You’re trying to hit a goal. Another common fulfillment goal in Hearthstone is getting golden characters. While getting Legend and golden characters technically result in rewards, it is more of a set goal, as the rewards are paltry.

As an Arena guy, hitting 12 wins for the Lightforge Key was a sense of fulfillment. I tracked my 12 win runs for a time with screenshots. I set a goal to hit 12 wins for every class, and that is something that still eludes me. I’ve never hit Legend in Ranked, but getting Golden Rogue was very satisfying.

Gaming for a sense of fulfillment really is a fascinating thing. Most of it is how one derives fun, by continually winning. I wouldn’t have fun if I lost a game many times. Some of it is fueled by competitive drive. Some of it is fueled by Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. But you’re sinking in hours into a game for something that isn’t even tenable. And by not hitting the goal, you could become angry or depressed (usually both). Crazy right? But hey, it is the reason many play games now.

Well, that’s all I have to say about why we play games in these present times. There probably are a lot more reasons out there, but this post is long enough already. Why do you play games?

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

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Snapshots of the Early Un’Goro Arena Meta

Snapshots of the Early Un’Goro Arena Meta

I like to think of the current Hearthstone Un’Goro meta as the “trigger meta,” in that I have become annoyed with a lot of cards. A lot of this has to do with the meta decks in ranked play as Pirate Warrior, Quest (Caverns) Rogue, and Quest (Exodia) Mage are simply frustrating to lose against. While these constructed decks perturb me often, the same can be said about the Arena meta.

We are in the teeth of the new rotation, meaning that this is the lowest card pool in the Arena pool all year. When the second and third expansions come out in 2017, the draftable and playable card pool will increase. Thus, we will see more variety in the draft pool, as well as the Discover and random effect (Burgle, Transform) pool. Combined with the increase in spell rate, we are seeing a lot of cards over and over again. Let’s take an overview of the most common Arena cards, in this early Arena meta.

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This interaction took a while

Data source

I just pulled the data from hsreplay.net, about 12 pm EST on 4/18/17. The data pulls numbers from the last 14 days. I filtered out cards that are now rotated into wild, but may still be present in “grandfathered” Arena decks. I also filtered out Legendaries, as they are not really important to Arena.

Top neutrals

Neutrals are the glue of the Arena. But with a new card pool, boost to rares and epics, and decreased offering rate to Basic cards, what should we expect?

Frequency

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9 of the 10 top neutral cards are from Un’Goro, with Bog Creeper being the sole holdout. It’s interesting that the two poisonous cards in Stubborn Gastropod and Giant Wasp have the lower played winrates, which goes to show that cards without intiative have lower played winrates. Really no surprises in this list, as they are all very good. It is obvious that Volanosaur is #1 despite not being the best card in this list, since everyone gets to draft a golden one.

 

Deck winrate

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Here we have the top 10 neutrals in terms of deck winrate, and hey there’s Primordial Drake again. I think Bright-Eyed Scout may be an underlooked card, as it could be a late game play on Turn 9 for big tempo. Silithid Swarmer and Naga Corsair are on the list because they are good Rogue cards. Charged Devilsaur is also proving it’s worth as a great epic neutral.

Top class cards by frequency

Finally, I will look at all the top class cards in terms of frequency. These are useful in playing matchups against a particular class, to play around certain cards. I am only looking at cards that are in over 30% of decks for each. I picked 30% for no particular reason.

Druid

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Tortollan Forager, despite having a dumb voiceline, will be seen in 50% of Druid decks. Just a very good card. Druids will have a bunch of removal spells from the boosted offering rate, though no hard removal. Moonglade Portal is in 33% of decks, and has the bad RNG aspect to help swing games. As expected, Druid is one of the worst Arena classes right now.

Hunter

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Hunters are seeing healthy winrates, and their top 3 neutral commons are from the new set. Plus, they all have solid deck winrates. Explosive Shot and Call of the Wild show up over 33% of the time, so come to expect those power cards on Turn 5 and 9. Play around Deadly Shot and Unleash.

Mage

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When Flamestrike saw it’s offering rate cut in half, there was debate as to why Flamestrike and not Firelands Portal. We’ll never get the answer why, but Firelands Portal continues to be the menace of having high deck winrate and played winrate. The initiative of leaving something on board is too good, and the chance to get Leeroy and Doomguard are as high as ever…

Anyhow, you’ve got a lot of powerful stuff appearing for Mage. Important to play around Meteor with good positioning on minion placement. They’ve got some early game now as well, so just a lot of good Mage stuff.

Paladin

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Paladin dropped to the middle tiers it seems with Gadgetzan, but seems to have cards with higher deck winrates now. Spikeridged Steed is seen a ton, as it has the spell offering buff, and is just a very OP card. Dinosize is a card that I like a lot myself, despite initial impression, and is sporting a solid played winrate, as a finisher. Vinecleaver is also another sneaky card that looked bad to me at first, but has a huge played winrate. Paladin is back, and these cards are quite fun.

Priest

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Priest has the biggest list in terms of diversity, and they are mostly spells. Potion of Madness is still appearing in a maddening 41% of decks, so continue playing around that card. Free From Amber is as I expected, overrated, as the guy you get is a neutral card with likely no battlecry effect. Nothing really new to report, but Priests are doing their thing with reactive spells and just a big variety of choices.

Rogue

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Vilespine Slayer, possibly the strongest card in Un’Goro, predictably has high winrates and is the autopick in the epic slot. Hallucination is amazing, but falls victim to RNG gets now and then. But Rogue just has a ton of hard removal, as almost every card in this list is just that. Still great for Arena.

Shaman

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With the loss of strong early game tempo minions, Shaman has become a reactive Arena class. Volcano, despite it’s horrible played winrate, will be seen in half of Arena Shaman drafts. A lot of other spells are present, with the Hot Spring Guardian being an okay card seen a bit. Shaman doesn’t seem to be in a great spot, but if you like flashy looking spells, Shaman could be fun.

Warlock

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Warlock took a step back after being top dog. While Abyssal Enforcer getting reduced is the sexy answer, it is most likely because Imp Gang Boss is gone. Warlocks still have hard removal and AoE options, with things that hurt the player. It is interesting that the power epic cards like DOOM! and Twister Nether aren’t being picked more often. Ravenous Pterrordax is showing up a bit, and could be snowbally like the neutral Pterrordax.

Warrior

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Bringing up the rear as always is Warrior. There’s a short list here, because Warriors likely have to hedge picks for weapons, which inexplicably don’t get the increased offering rate that spells do. Weapons are spells for weapon classes! Direhorn Hatchling isn’t a great Arena card, since it relies on getting the draw for value, but it is the default leader. Just as a fun exercise, Ornery Direhorn, the class common was played 51,000 times in the last 2 weeks. Meteor, the Mage 6-mana epic, a situational removal play, was played 260,000 times in the last 2 weeks. That can show you what state Warrior is in.

Forecasting Arena Shifts by Class

Forecasting Arena Shifts by Class

As mentioned in the past, I love looking at data, and trying to use it to my advantage when possible. Hearthstone Replay officially made their collected data publicly available yesterday, much to my delight. I didn’t even know that this was planned for a release, but I knew data was collected through Hearthstone Decktracker, a tool I have used for years myself.  There’s lots of data about win rates for constructed decks in Standard and Wild, with great UI to see specific deck changes by deck. There’s also separate Arena data, which is what I was interested in the most, and will explore here.

Arena data

Not surprisingly, the Arena data has information about every single draftable card, as you’ll get a different deck each draft. These are the variables measured for each card:

  • Included in % of decks – What % of drafts have this card.
  • Copies  – Average copies of the card in each draft.
  • Deck winrate – Win% when card is in draft.
  • Times played – Raw times played.
  • Played winrate – Win% when card is played in game.

Assumptions

While having big data is great, it could be worse having data and misinterpreting it. Misinterpreting data leads to faulty reasoning and arguments. Let’s try to make some assumptions of this data before we proceed.

  • Players who use HS Decktracker are better Arena players than the average HS player.
    • HS Decktracker provides a ton of information in the game, which will allow the user to gain an advantage in getting intel. One could assume this helps, and the players who use it are more likely use other methods, like drafting tools.
  • Deck winrate and played winrate are independent by class.
    • As a class struggles, the overall winrates will plummet for the class. Just by looking at rates by class, we can see that Warrior and Druid are struggling a lot in the NA server over the last 14 days. Grimy Gadgeteer and Headcrack have the same deck winrate at 49.8%. One is a lot better than the other in reality, as Rogues win a lot more than Warriors.
  • Played winrate has bias depending on game situation.
    • I noticed that some pretty good cards had lower played winrates than expected. Flamestrike sits at 53.3%, the same winrate as Assassin’s Blade. Think about it this way, if you’re playing Flamestrike, chances are you are behind on the board. Mage players who choose not to, or don’t have to play Flamestrike likely have won already.
    • The same goes with card advantage cards. I often play card draw in a last ditch effort to draw into an out. This would skew card advantage cards to lower played winrates.
    • Pyroblast has a very high played winrate at 73.4%, but a 57% deck winrate. This signifies people playing Pyroblast to achieve lethal.

Methodology

  • I’m going to look at the top 10 class cards for each class in deck winrate. It has been established that deck winrate is likely better at evaluating a card than played winrate.
  • I will only look at commons, rares, and epics. Legendaries are omitted as they show up too infrequently. Arena 7.1 put epics back on the map with higher offering rates.
  • I will omit undraftable cards included from old drafts.
  • I will seek to identify the cards that will be rotating out in the Arena once Journey to Un’Goro releases.
  • These data were collected on 4/3/17, approximately around 4pm EST.

Druid

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  • Druid appears to be taking a huge blow to their Arena kit when TGT drops out. 7 cards in the top 10 will be leaving.
  • Without Mulch or any replacements in Un’Goro, Naturalize becomes the only Druid hard removal. While it becomes a better pick, it still isn’t great.
  • Shellshifter and Verdant Longneck are solid cards, but it isn’t enough help given what is dropping out.
  • Prediction: Druid might become one of the worst Arena classes.

Hunter

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  • Things are looking up for Hunter lately thanks to Arena 7.1. Also, none of the top 10 cards are dropping out.
  • Houndmaster is looking even better in the Beast meta.
  • Hunter gets some amazing early game cards and a seemingly premium early removal with Grievous Bite.
  • Prediction: Hunter gets more tools and isn’t losing much. Beasts will help the class even more.

Mage

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  • Faceless Summoner and Forgotten Torch are undraftable cards, so ignore them here.
  • Mage will lose 2 cards in the top 10, Fallen Hero and Ethereal Conjurer. All the powerful spells are still here.
  • Primordial Glyph does the samething as Ethereal Conjurer albeit without the threat on board. A bunch of the other common cards are quite solid as well.
  • Prediction: Mage continues to be an Arena powerhouse. Elementals help bolster neutral minion picks.

Paladin

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  • Paladin loses Keeper of Uldaman, Argent Lance, and Seal of Champtions. These are 3 premium cards, but 3 out of 10 isn’t the worst.
  • Spikeridged Steed and Lost in the Jungle are solid gains.
  • Paladin also gainst other snowbally threats that are more win more.
  • Prediction: Paladin either stays the same or gets a little worse. In any case, it should remain in the middle of the pack, possibly still one of the better picks.

Priest

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  • Priest loses nothing from their top 10 list in the upcoming rotation.
  • The loss of Dragons from rotated set would peg a card like Drakonid Operative a little. 5-mana 5/6 is still great to get though. Dragonfire Potion is still a board wipe to pick.
  • Priests get some Elemental synergy with Radiant Elemental and Crystalline Oracle. Shellraiser and Mirage Caller are pretty good as well.
  • Prediction: Priests remain in their current position as a strong Arena class. Fewer Potions of Madness will be a relief.

Rogue

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  • Undercity Valiant is not a draftable card, so it isn’t in this top 10.
  • Rogue loses a couple tools in Dark Iron Skulker, Buccaneer, and Shady Dealer. The class was propelled to #1 thanks to Arena 7.1, and Dark Iron Skulker was likely the culprit for that.
  • The new Rogue toolkit is very solid. Vilespine Slayer, despite being an epic, looks like an autodraft. Obsidan Shard, Hallucination, Biteweed are all solid.
  • Prediction: Rogue remains a top tier Arena class. SI:7 Agent (top deck winrate card) and tools are all still here to keep the class competitive. Lack of AoE didn’t kill the class before, and it won’t now.

Shaman

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  • Whirling Zap-o-matic isn’t a draftable card, so not included in this top 10.
  • Shaman loses none of it’s top 10 cards.
  • Shaman is going all in with Elemental synergy, and I believe this will benefit greatly with all the neutral Elemental cards. The minions are all unimpressive with their stats, so drafting synergy will be key.
  • Prediction: Shaman makes the leap from middle of the pack to top tier. The ability to curve out in the Arena with Elementals will weigh heavily on how well it will do. Some drafts could possibly stall out, if synergy breaks down.

Warlock

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  • Darkbomb isn’t a draftable card, so it doesn’t belong in this top 10 list.
  • Warlock loses 4 cards from this top 10 list, including Imp Gang Boss, Dark Peddler, Tiny Knight of Evil, and Wrathguard. Really, IGB and Dark Peddler are really bad to lose, as they are really, really good.
  • The new Warlock cards are definitely decent, with the minions being good stat sticks. Chittering Tunneler could be the new Dark Peddler.
  • Prediction: Warlocks get worse and will need to focus on increased minion-based combat with taunts. Could possibly be forced out of top tier status to the middle.

Warrior

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  • These are some putrid winrates. We are looking at the top 10 here!
  • Warrior loses a couple from this top 10, including Obsidian Destroyer, King’s Defender, and Alexstraza’s Champion.
  • Warrior gets very good minion help from Un’Goro, but nonexistent spell support. The three spells they get are nearly undraftable. Sudden Genesis is draftable but win more.
  • Prediction: Is it possible Warriors become even worse? Going forward, the strategy might just be to taunt up and draft weapons, as the spells are no good. That or just continue not playing Warrior.

Thanks to hsreplay.net for all the data and screenshots!

RNG Series: Un’Goro Edition

EDIT: Thanks to @Old_GuardianHS for reminding me adapt is 3/10 not 3/9. Post fixed.

When I first started this blog in the last quarter of 2015, I wrote a bunch of posts where I tried to quantify RNG in the game, the RNG Series. I guess doing the math became too much work for me, as it appears I have not written one of these in 2016 or 2017. Upon the release of all the Journey to Un’Goro cards yesterday, I felt that this expansion had quite a bit of reduction in randomness. Let’s go in and see look at all the random effect cards, and try to quantify some probabilities.

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Un’Goro RNG ain’t your Old Gods’ RNG

Adapt

  • Single Adapt (12 cards) = 3/10 = 30%
  • Double Adapt (2 cards) = 1 – (7/10)^2 = 51%
  • Galvadon = 1 – (7/10)^5 = 83%

Single Adapts are easy to calculate, just 3 out of 10 outcomes. For multiple Adapts, the events are independent, meaning each roll will be 3/10. So when Galvadon screws you over by not getting Stealth, that was a 17% chance. It will happen.

Discover

  • Hydrologist = 3/5 = 60%
  • Primalfin Lookout = [3/18, 3/14] = [16.7%, 21.4%]
  • Chittering Tunneler = 3/25 = 12%
  • Tortollan Primalist = [3/32, 3/25] = [9.4%, 12%]
  • Free from Amber = 3/30 = 10%
  • Primordial Glyph = 3/32 = 9.4%
  • Servant of Kalimos = 3/36 = 8.3%
  • Stonehill Defender = [3/56, 3/49] = [5.4%, 6.1%]
  • Curious Glimmerroot = 3/59 = 5.1% + Your Brain
  • Hallucination = 3/59 = 5.1%
  • Explore Un’Goro = 3/366 = 0.8%

Discover cards all have a numerator of 3, since you are selecting 1 of 3 picks. The denominator will vary quite a range. Hydrologist has a fairly low RNG, as there will only be 5 Paladin secrets in Standard. While Curious Glimmerroot has an inherent 5.1% of a card, you will likely know what class card is in the opponent’s deck. Also since Discover picks from the pool of Class + Neutral, some cards will vary like Primalfin Lookout for Murlocs, Tortollan Primalist for Spells and Stonehill Defender for Taunts. Explore Un’Goro draws from a pool of Warrior + Neutral cards, giving a 0.8% chance for each card.

Random Card Advantage + Molten Blade

  • Crystalline Oracle = [1/26, 1/1] = [3.8%, 100%]
  • Megafin = 1/19 = 5.3%
  • Molten Blade = 1/23 = 4.3%
  • Elise the Trailblazer = 5/135 = 3.7%
  • Lyra the Sunshard = 1/31 = 3.2%
  • Shimmering Tempest = 1/32 = 3.1%
  • Stampede / Jeweled Macaw = 1/76 = 1.3%

Crystalline Oracle will vary depending on how many cards are left in the deck, so highly variable, but limited in Constructed with repeated cards. Megafin will give a 5.3% chance for each Murloc, and that probability will increase depending on how many cards you get to draw. Stampede and Jeweled Macaw had the probability for a desired Beast plummet after the heavy insertion of Beasts in the new set.

Draw

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  • Tortollan Forager = Turn 2 – 5 attack minions
  • Arcanologist = Turn 2 – Secret
  • Tol’vir Warden = Turn 5 – 2 1-cost minions
  • Mimic Pod = Turn 3 – Anything

Draw cards always start off with a limited denominator of how many cards are left in a deck. Turn 1 players start with 26 cards, while the Coin player starts with 25 cards in deck. Then you subtract what turn a card can be played on inherent card draw. So, the Tol’vir Warden for example, will likely be drawing cards from the smallest deck pool, on average. Mimic Pod is the most variable of these cards, as there is no limiter on what is drawn, like Thistle Tea. Getting 5-attack guys and Secrets are likely more discriminating than 1-cost minions, but these are all random outcomes of limited probability, given the parameters of 30 card decks.

Damage

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  • Volatile Elemental = [1/7, 1/1] = [14.3%, 100%]
  • Sulfuras = [1/8, 1/1] = [12.5%, 100%]
  • Volcano
    • Chance of getting hit with no minions = 99.9%
    • Chance of not getting hit with 14 minions on board = 38%

Back in GvG, random damage appeared to be the main mechanic. Surprisingly, there are only 3 cards like this in the expansion. Volatile Elemental will range from 1/1 to 1/7, so that can obviously be modified. The Ragnaros hero power from Sulfuras will include the hero, so that bumps an extra character. Volcano, obviously is highly variable, depending on it’s own randomness and how much stuff is on the board. With an empty board, the chance of a hero dodging 15 shots is 0.0031%, so nary impossible. On a full board of 14 minions and 2 heroes, the chance of something not getting hit once is 38%. Of course, there are more complicated calculations depending on how much health everything has, as a minion with 1 health dying off will increase the odds of everyone else getting hit. Too complicated.

Summon

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  • Giant Anaconda = [1/10, 1/1] = [10%, 100%]
  • Cruel Dinomancer = varies

Again, we’re not in GvG, when Piloted Shredder dropped off anything. Giant Anaconda at the least has a 10% chance, and this is the highly unlikely scenario of having a hand of 10 5-attack guys. Cruel Dinomancer can be controlled by how much discard you are running. If Clutchmother Zavas was thrown away a lot, she will likely be the most likely outcome of summon, as a 2/2.

The upshot

It’s safe to say that Team 5 took the feedback that bad RNG is bad for the game and competitive Hearthstone. Most of the RNG in Un’Goro is Discover and Adapt, outcomes which have a skill requirement to it. Cards with really wacky RNG outcomes likely won’t be all that good in this set. A card like Stampede is likely a card advantage engine, where you’ll just be looking to get “A Beast” rather than “OP Beasts.”

I think that state of the RNG discussion will focus on the Discover cards, since there will always be variation in a pool of 59 or so cards. Adapt is pretty safe as a mechanic, with the 30% probability floor (not to mention multiple good Adapts).

Assessing the Fun and Interactivity of New Hearthstone Mechanics in Un’Goro

Assessing the Fun and Interactivity of New Hearthstone Mechanics in Un’Goro

While I typically don’t know what is going on, I think I know enough to eke by in conversation to get by. In a generation of youngins crawling the World Wide Web, it is important to know some memes, to “speak the language.” Memes come and go, but the very best have long-lasting value. There is no question that my favorite Hearthstone-related meme is the phrase “fun and interactive,” a phrase used to explain a card nerf many moons ago.

fun and interactive.PNG

The phrase is often conjured up by Hearthstone players and viewers and used in a facetious manner. When people use “fun and interactive,” they are referring to something that isn’t.

In the spirit of preserving the usage of “fun and interactive” in it’s intended way, I’ve decided to rate the new Hearthstone mechanics in Journey to Un’goro by fun and interactivity. There are a lot of new things done in this expansion, that warrant a deeper look. These ratings are subjective, but I think I’ve been around the block long enough to not be too far off.

My base definitions

  • Fun – How far off a card/mechanic is from Basic cards (vanilla minions, or deal damage spells).
  • Interactive – How well a card/mechanic can be countered by your opponent, through heroes, minions, and spells.

New mechanics/functions

Adapt Mechanic

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One of the new keywords, Adapt, will appear on 14 cards in the new expansion. For a single adapt, there is a 30% chance to pick each 1 of 10 abilities. I would say this falls in the vein of “good RNG,” given the opponent can expect only 10 outcomes. I think it is pretty fun try to figure out what Adapt ability to pick given the game situation to gain the advantage. It is a good test of skill and some luck. On the other hand, it isn’t too far off the regular Discover mechanic. 2 of 10 adapts, the Untargetable and Stealth gains aren’t too interactive, but the other outcomes definitely can be countered. Even Untargetable and Stealth can be interacted upon, depending on the class.

Fun = 6/10, Interactivity = 7/10

Elemental Battlecry Mechanic

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A staggering 24 new minions will be have the Elemental tribe, with an additional 12 other Standard minions gaining the tag. The main Elemental mechanic works in that a minion gains a big buff, if an Elemental was played in the turn before. Some of the battlecry effects are quite strong, like Blazecaller and Tol’vir Stoneshaper. I guess there is a bit of fun and forcing subpar Elemental cards in your deck to activate strong effects. It could also be fun playing strong minions on curve. Well, not really. In terms of interaction, there is no way to stop Elemental effects from activating. Nerub’ar Weblord is a Wild card, and no other card has been printed to offset Battlecry. Sure, you can remove whatever gets boosted by the Elemental Battlecry, but will force a great expenditure of resources. Truthfully, this mechanic isn’t really fun or interactive.

Fun = 3/10, Interactivity = 3/10

Quest Mechanic

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Quests are a new spell type, which hopefully does much to make the game more fun. Everything from deckbuilding and gameplay will hopefully be galvanized. So quests seem fun, just because they are new and will provoke new deckbuilding. In terms of interaction, there isn’t a way to specifically get rid of a quest. I guess the old fashion counter of rushing your opponent down to zero is a valid method.

Fun = 8/10, Interactivity = 3/10

Sherazin, Seed / Nether Portal

These 2 cards are the first in Hearthstone which leave something on the board that isn’t a minion. Both cards could be quite fun, as Sherazin provides an undying minion, and Nether Portal provides eternal tempo on the board. While playing with a new mechanic is fun, they provide fun deckbuilding challenges, along with gameplay. Neither card could be removed from the board by minions or spells. Sherazin could be silenced, preventing the Deathrattle effect from happening. Nether Portal can’t really be countered, and is more of a consequence of the Warlock discarding the right cards.

Fun = 6/10, Interactivity = 3/10

Time Warp

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When this was revealed, it immediately took me to Shadowverse, and the card Dimensional Shift. This was on the minds of many others, as “DSHIFT” spammed the Twitch Chat. Anyhow, this is super fun if you are the Mage, as getting a whole extra turn could be an easy win. You can either cast a bunch of spells or simply outtempo the board. Unfortunately, there is literally no way to interact with this mechanic as the enemy, besides rushing down the Mage before you the Quest. Loatheb can work in a Wild stall tactic, and Ice Block can stall as well. But no way to counter this.

Fun = 6/10, Interactivity = 0/10

Elise the Trailblazer

The new Elise provides the novel joy of opening a booster pack in the middle of a game. So fun! The packs also have a high chance for wacky cards like Legendaries and Epics, and span across all class cards and neutrals. In terms of interactivity, all you can expect are 5 cards from an entire set of 135 cards. There is no way for the opponent to prepare for it really, and it is a “bad RNG” example. I suppose you can try to find some way to fill your opponent’s hand, so they won’t get the 5 cards. Elise is heavy on the fun, not on the interactive side.

Fun = 9/10, Interactivity = 1/10

Elemental Invocation

This isn’t really a new mechanic at all, but just a spin on an old one. Kalimos allows the player to get 1 of 4 invocations, and it isn’t random at all. This is really just Discover with a 4th option. This makes you think about cards with Spare Parts and Xaril, which are random draws. Anyhow, this isn’t really fun, as they are very basic abilities granted by the invocation. But, as you can only expect 4 outcomes, the opponent shouldn’t be blown away by what happens.

Fun = 3/10, Interactivity = 5/10

Explore Un’Goro

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In typical wacky epic card fashion, this replaces your whole deck with 1-cost cards, to Discover random cards. This is another card like Elise, in that it is all fun and no interaction. Unlike Elise, this card will almost guarantee you have no chance of winning the game through conventional methods. Elise is a card that isn’t too bad statwise, and provides card advantage. This card is just for fun, and that only.

Fun = 10/10, Interactivity = 0/10

Curious Glimmerroot

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This is an extremely fun spin on Discover, which creates a guessing game of what your opponent is playing. I suppose this effect is less fun when the meta is stabilized, and you know what your opponent is playing. Additionally, there will likely be a big split of getting the right guess on Constructed vs Arena. You can really get anything in the Arena, where as you can tell bad from good in Constructed. It also can be interacted upon, as you know what is in your deck, and can calculate the probability of your opponent getting something. It isn’t too different from previous Priest steal mechanics.

Fun = 9/10, Interactivity = 7/10

Primalfin Champion

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This is a completely new mechanic, which can allow a Paladin to replenish their hand with buffs, after this guy bites the dust. As this provides an avenue for the Galvadon quest completion, and provides card advantage, it could be fun for the user. There are plenty of ways to interact with this card through silence, and bounce effects. You can also try to get rid of the board, so that no minions that remain can be buffed.

Fun = 4/10, Interactivity = 8/10

Tar Creeper/Lurker/Lord

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The new tar creatures were created solely for defense, all possessing taunt, tons of health, low attack, and counterattacking enemies only.  One could figure these cards were designed specifically to satisfy the fanbase’s general hatred for aggro in the game. While these cards are great, they pretty much are not fun in anyway. They are boring as heck, and don’t even represent fun on offense, as they hit for 1. They can be interacted by the opponent through spells and attacks as well as any minion in the game.

Fun = 1/10, Interactivity = 10/10

Living Mana

For the first time, mana crystals come to life! This is a card that could set up combos with Savage Roar and Mark of the Lotus. Cool and fun deckbuilding around it. I guess the concept of bring your mana to life is fun, but really it is just making a bunch of 2/2’s. Your opponent can also interact with the board well, or just deny you getting your mana back. Silences with Mass Dispel will ensure a loss.

Fun = 5/10, Interactivity = 10/10

Dinomancy

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Control Hunter was always not a thing, as the Hero Power is all about damage. That is no more, as Dinomancy allows the Hunter to build their board and minions for the first time. This is honestly revolutionary, as it opens an entire library of cards and deckbuilding possibilities for a class that was all aggro. Just amazing. Additionally, this hero power is more interactive than the standard one. Plus points for fun and interactivity.

Fun = 9/10, Interactivity = 9/10

Envenom Weapon

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No, Envenom won’t make Blade Flurry playable again. But it is a novel mechanic. Rogues still don’t Taunt or Heal, so a lot of face-tanking will continue to occur. In a way, it is bringing back the days of Blade Flurry, where Rogues held on to the weapon. So it will be fun picking what to destroy. There are numerous ways for the enemy to counter Envenom, including weapon removal, playing taunts, playing high attack guys, etc.

Fun = 4/10, Interactivity = 10/10

Razorpetals

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This is a new token spell, which is 1-mana, deal 1 damage. A bit over-costed for what it does, but Rogue mechanics have always been a bit janky. Also, they are still cheap spells. Mostly, this is fun in that it represents a deck building challenge with the new plant cards. Most likely it will circle back to how Auctioneer could be used. It might even have consequences in a Malygos deck. Otherwise, 1-mana and 1-damage doesn’t represent anything new. In terms of interaction, the opponent knows how many Razorpetals you get. There isn’t really anything to do to counter a 1-cost, 1 damage card.

Fun = 4/10, Interactivity = 5/10