A Call to Action (Nerfs): Shadowverse vs Hearthstone

A Call to Action (Nerfs): Shadowverse vs Hearthstone

Owing to the busyness of life changes, I haven’t paid as much attention to Hearthstone news as I did in the past. I am making time to play the game, squeezing in regular Arenas (which are now more fun) and occasional Ranked games. When I want to get serious, I will play Deathseer Thrall Evolve Shaman. When I play for fun, I am playing random Rogue decks with new cards, including a Burgle Rogue and C’Thun Rogue. Hence, my winrate has been terrible this season, and I am still Rank 15.

I’ve been hearing that Druid has been a big problem since the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion release, and whenever I log onto to Twitter, I hear a call for nerfs. I haven’t played at high enough level in Ranked to experience this scourge, so I do not have any opinions on the matter. But such an early call for nerfing a class reminded me exactly of what happened in Shadowverse, following the Wonderland Dreams expansion. Let’s take a look at the problem in both games, and see what can be done.

Hearthstone Screenshot 08-19-17 00.17.50.png
“You don’t stand a ghost of a chance”

Shadowverse

The latest expansion for Shadowverse, Wonderland Dreams, was released on June 22, 2017 in America. For those unaware, this expansion had a theme for Neutral cards with strong Neutral synergy cards or craft-specific cards that have strong Neutral synergy. I’m not sure how much work was put into play-testing for balance, but messing around with Neutrals is complicated, as all the classes are affected in different ways. This manifested in the Bloodcraft class becoming too good.

Shadowverse writes really detailed patch notes, so here they are, if you want to gander.

Based on a sample of high ranking players, they determined the Neutral Bloodcraft decks were present in 38.1% of the ladder, with a 56% win rate. 56% is a manageable win rate, but the 38% is obviously glaringly high. It might be okay in a game with 4 deck building choices, but not in one with so many like Shadowverse. The company decided to put nerfs in July 30, 2017.

Vania.png
Someone’s waifu, everyone’s bane.

Neutral Blood Nerf

As stated, the goal of nerfing these 4 cards was to: 1) lower rate of Neutral Blood decks, and 2) reduce the gap between going first and second with these decks.

  • Tove – minus 1 attack, minus 1 defense.
  • Baphomet – opening effect became more random, cost reduction gone.
  • Spawn of the Abyss – effect damage reduced by 2.
  • Goblin Leader – +1 cost, +1 attack, +1 defense.

Ramp Dragon Nerf

As is common with Shadowverse, they typically nerf something else to go along with the highly-desired nerf. They targeted Ramp Dragon decks, in fear they would be too strong with the Neutral Blood nerf.

  • Grimnir, War Cyclone – no longer hits enemy hero for 4, just 4 damage AoE to minions.
  • Ouroboros – heal +3 ability to hero gone.
20170621232151_1.jpg
Grimnir, hurting young children since he was released.

Havencraft Nerf

Finally, it was mentioned that the second highest deck, Haven Aegis (7.6%!) needs to be kept in check with a nerf.

  • Princess Snow White – minus 1 defense.

The patch notes wrap up by saying they may make monthly changes at the end of the month, if data shows anomalies.

Hearthstone

Druid problem

Druids are apparently out of control right now in Hearthstone. From what I can tell, there are currently two main Druid decks in the meta now: 1) Big Druid (with other ridiculous stylizations), and 2) Jade Druid.

I went on HSReplay.net to filter decks with new cards, by win rate.

top 10 kft meta.PNG

6 out of 10 of the new decks are Druid, with the other 4 being Paladin. These are fairly high win rates, with the most common deck being a Jade Druid deck with 57k replays. To those wondering, if you just filter top decks including old decks, it is still all Druid and Paladin.

Let’s look at top 10 new decks in terms of overall usage.

top 10 kft usage.PNG

The people want Warlock bad! Desperately! Druid is quite common here as well, with the 57k, high win rate Druid likely to keep climbing. 100k games were played with a Taunt-based Druid, which was likely shared as “ground-breaking” before a better version was found.

Let’s take a look at the common, KFT Jade Druid.

kft jade druid.PNG

The by-class matchups are telling, with the deck only not doing great against the mirror. Every other class matchup is above average or exceptional.

Shamanstone

Remember Shamanstone? Yeah, I scrubbed it from my memory as well. Let’s take a look at some Vicious Syndicate data tracking the highs of Shamanstone.

shaman highlight.PNG

Shaman as it is now, is a solid deck and 4th highest class today. Most decks are running the Evolve Shaman, so we can expect the deck to be around 10% of the Ranked meta. At the peak of Shamanstone, the class represented over 30% of all decks.

shamanstone.PNG

Here’s a look before Shaman hit 30%, which includes the release of One Night in Karazhan and Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. Of course, these expansions were known for not doing much at all the Shaman. Karazhan notably gave Shaman more tools in Maelstrom Portal and Spirit Claws. Pirate Warrior brought down Shaman for about 2 weeks, before it started climbing to the rate over 30%.

The listed 10/3/16 balance changes notably did this to Shaman:

  • Rockbiter Weapon – costs 2.
  • Tuskarr Totemic – summon random basic totem.

This didn’t do much. A 2/28/17 patch did this to Shaman:

  • Small-Time Buccaneer – 1 health.
  • Spirit Claws – costs 2.

Shamanstone was finally over. I think Small-Time Buccaneer represents a card that was the closest to being a new card being nerfed in it’s expansion timeframe. It was released on 11/29/16 and nerfed on 2/28/17, about 3 months.

Expectations

Shadowverse and Hearthstone are similar games, but very different when devs come to making changes. It is fairly entrenched in Hearthstone philosophy to be super conservative when cards are changed. And typically, cards are made worse. Shadowverse changes cards all of the time, and doesn’t seem to be afraid of pulling the trigger on newly released cards. I am not knowledgeable enough in card games to say which is better, so I don’t know.

But even if Druid is a problem, I don’t expect changes to be made for a while. Knights of the Frozen Throne is a fairly new expansion, and new cards are likely left the way they are for a few months. Would old Druid cards get nerfed? Also, Skulking Geist is the infamous Jade Druid hate card that came along in this expansion. How long of a leash does that card get as being the savior against Druid? Would running 2 minions with bad stats ameliorate the situation?

A zombie tumbling out of the sky. The hero we don’t deserve, but need.

 

 

Updated Evolve/Thrall, Deathseer Chart for Knights of the Frozen Throne

Updated Evolve/Thrall, Deathseer Chart for Knights of the Frozen Throne

A long time ago, I got really excited by Master of Evolution and decided to look at the effect of stat changes brought on by the new Evolve mechanic. I’ve only opened 1 legendary in 40 packs of Knights of the Frozen Throne so far (boo), but got the Hero Shaman card for completing the prologue, Thrall Deathseer. By running the updated Evolve Shaman for ranked play, I suddenly got excited about Master of Evolution again. So, I decided to update the Evolve chart.

Methodology

  • I filtered all the minions that are currently playable in Standard, including the cards from this expansion.
  • All playable minions are grouped by mana cost and an average was taken from attack and health.
  • The transformed mana cost is either +1 or +2. I found the difference between the average attack and health by graduation in mana cost.
  • I look at percentages of the evolved minion having an ability. The abilities I looked at were Taunt, Charge, Spell Damage, Lifesteal, Divine Shield, and End Turn Effect.
  • I have a category called “Disaster.” This would be an evolved minion with something that could be really bad, causing you to lose your whole board or the game. The identified disaster evolves include Doomsayer, Ticking Abomination, Rattling Rascal, Bomb Squad and Anomalous.
  • For the 1-mana cost slot in original minion, I included the 4 basic Shaman totem tokens. I figured these would be the most common evolve targets on the board in a Shaman game.
  • While there are many more tokens that could be included in “original minion”, they were left out because there were too many.
  • There are caveats to abilities. Hogger was counted as a Taunt minion in the 6-slot, even though no Gnoll will be made on a full board. I did not include Twilight Elder as an end of turn ability in the 3-slot. I did not include Ethereal Arcanist as an end of turn ability in the 4-slot.

1-mana Evolve chart (Evolve, Devolve, Master of Evolution, Thrall hero power)

KFT Evolve Chart 1

2-mana Evolve chart (Thrall hero battlecry)

KFT Evolve Chart 2

Takeaways

  • 2-mana Evolve from Thrall is really good, probably what makes the hero card so impactful on Turn 5.
  • 4 mana to 5 mana is the best intermediate cost evolution for stats. 6 to 7 and 7 to 8 are really good as well.
  • The ability to get Taunt goes up a good degree in the middle to late mana costs.
  • 8 mana seems to be where all the big effect cards are. A 1/19 for Anomalous though.
  • Once the minions get too big, they just become Snowfury Giant or Sea Giant. Probably shouldn’t evolve them by then, unless for healing purposes.

 

 

10 Bold Predictions for ‘Knights of the Frozen Throne’

10 Bold Predictions for ‘Knights of the Frozen Throne’

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

10 Bold Predictions for The Frozen Throne

10. Rogue got the best Death Knight.

Valeera the Hollow(62876).png

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

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

Spreading Plague(62841).png

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

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

8. Hunter is going to be worse.

Build-a-Beast(58725).png

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

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

The Lich King(62922).png

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

6. Ultimate Infestation was a mistake.

Ultimate Infestation(62879).png

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

5. Priest moves up a tick.

Shadowreaper Anduin(62889).png

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

4. Aggro Paladin will see a come-back.

Righteous Defender(62864).png

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

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

Frost Lich Jaina(61810).png

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

2. Freeze Shaman will not be a thing.

Moorabi(62845).png

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

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

Defile(62840).png

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

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

Class Convergence in Knights of the Frozen Throne

Class Convergence in Knights of the Frozen Throne

In the world of card games, it is important for “classes” to be different. You want to play with a unique set of mechanics and archetypes for your specific class, and be different from the other classes. If two classes play too similarly, the demarcation of “class” has no meaning at all. A natural consequence of a card game going on longer is newer and better cards. And sometimes classes converge, in that a certain class starts taking on characteristics of another class.

Is class convergence an inevitable consequence for every card game? I’m not positive, but I think it is, unless the game evolves to an extremely complex entity where everything remains different. In games with limited mechanics, we can expect some class convergence down the line.

In this writing, I am going to examine class convergence in Hearthstone for the new expansion, Knights of the Frozen Throne. Class convergence is nothing new in Hearthstone, as it is meant to be a more simple game, with limited mechanics. I can assume that Hearthstone can afford more class convergence than a game like Shadowverse. The class hero power is something that will keep a class unique from another. Shadowverse has crafts with their unique set of cards, but the hero does nothing unique from a different one. Still too much class convergence is a bad thing. Let’s take a look at this set.

Druid

Continuous buffs

Crypt Lord – Druids buffed typically buff things 1 card at a time. This card, similar to Darkshire Councilman in Warlock, will grow in size.

Poisonous (Hard Removal) – Mulch is Wild-only and Naturalize is horrible so Druid has lacked in the hard removal department. They are now being pushed in the Poisonous keyword.

Malfurion the Pestilent

Druid of the Swarm

Webweave

Resurrect

Hadronox – First resurrect ability for Druid.

Secret deathrattle

Fatespinner – For the first time, Druid has a “secret” dynamic. While this is unique as a Deathrattle, it is the first thing they have to keep the enemy guessing.

Taunt buffs – Only seen with Warrior with cards like Bolster and Stolen Goods.

Strongshell Defender – Literally Bolster on a River Croc.

Hadronox – More Taunt support, rather than buffs.

Hunter

AoE

Exploding Bloatbat – Hunter never had AoE, outside of cards that hit 3 things, based on positioning. Also Dreadscale existed, but it was a niche card.

Discover

Stitched Tracker – Hunter has the random card advantage card in Jeweled Macaw, but never had the ability to choose something. This card is very Priest-like.

Resurrect

Abominable Bowman – Hunter played with Deathrattle, but never had a resurrect ability like Priest.

Mage

Hero picture because not really any class convergence.

Mana manipulation

Doomed Apprentice  – Mage stays almost identical to it’s class identity, with more Freeze pushes, thanks to the icy theme. This is the first class card to mess with opponent mana manipulation.

Paladin

Also barely any class converagence

 

Heal to damage

Blackguard – Paladins healed in big chunks, but never used it for offense. This is a similar effect to the Priest card Shadowboxer, except more explosive and control-oriented.

Priest

Destroy random minion

Obsidian Statue – A mechanic seen rarely with other classes like Dark Bargain for Warlock or Deadly Shot for Hunter.

Early AoE

Spirit Lash – Priests never had early game AoE. Almost Maelstrom Portal, but much worse for saving the board.

Rogue

Survivability – Rogue could never Taunt or Heal, so now there are new mechanics that allow the Rogue to not take damage.

Leeching Poison – Lifesteal is everywhere in the new expansion, but heal is heal.

Shadowblade – Immune was also available previously through Violet Illusionist, but this is a one-turn effect, like Ice Block.

Doomerang – Unique card that is the first of it’s kind. Not unlike Blade Flurry, but still very different and helps survivability.

Valeera the Hollow – Close to a one-turn Ice Block, except you can still get hit by things that hit stealthed enemies.

Shaman

Freeze – The heaviest and most blatant push in class convergence, with 6/10 Shaman cards having a Freeze synergy. While Frost Shock existed since Basic, it almost never saw play outside of Malygos shenanigans.

Avalanche

Brrrloc

Cryostasis – Buffs and freeze in one!

Ice Breaker – A bit like Shatter in Mage.

Moorabi – Also has copy effects on enemies, so can work like a Priest card.

Voodoo Hexxer – Very similar to Alley Armorsmith in Warrior.

Enemy positioning – Flametongue Totem was self-positioning, but this is a new area.

Avalanche – Previously, you only had to worry about Betrayal in Rogue, Explosive Shot/Grievous Bite for Hunter, and Meteor/Cone of Cold in Mage. This one is like Betrayal, in that the fulcrum minion is undamaged.

Warlock

Mind Control

Treachery – Reverse Mind Control, but still a new tactic for Warlock.

One-sided damage

Despicable Dreadlord – Warlock cards typically hurt everything. This will be the first that only affects the opponent’s board.

Warrior

Warriors hit the survive damage thing hard.

Copy into deck

Dead Man’s Hand – Blood Warriors and Sudden Genesis were precursor Warrior class copy cards, but this is the first to put a bunch of cards in the deck. Almost like a Priest card.

Neutral

Big buffs

Bonemare – This ability screams Paladin buffs.

Handbuffs

Deathaxe Punisher – Similar to the Grimy Goons handbuff ability, but only for Lifesteal minions. This conditional nature makes it much worse than the clan ones.

Random card advantage

Bone Drake – This could get any Dragon for any class.

Shallow Gravedigger – This could get any Deathrattle for any class.

Death Knight cards

The Lich King and Arfus will give access to Death Knight cards, which scream class convergence. However, given there are 8 choices, you won’t likely be roleplaying as every class in a single game.

OP

Anti-Magic Shells – Neutral board buffs.

Obliterate – Neutral hard removal.

Death Coil – Neutral removal, reach, or heal.

Frostmourne – Neutral weapon and resurrect abilities.

Doom Pact – Neutral self-mill and DOOM!

Death Grip – Neutral Entomb, but much faster and cheaper.

Death and Decay – Neutral Hellfire (AoE and Reach)

Army of the Dead – Neutral self-mill and a much stronger ability than the legendary Varian card.

That’s that. From what I could tell some classes barely veered into other class identity (Mage, Paladin, Warrior), while some like Druid and Shaman are starting to diversify a good amount.

Speculation: Bringing Up New Valeera

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

savjz reveal.PNG

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

What we know

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

Speculation

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

freedom comic 1freedom comic 2

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

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

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

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

busted.PNG

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

 

Contesting the Board: Constructed vs Arena

Contesting the Board: Constructed vs Arena

As part of the Hearthstone festivities leading up to the new expansion, the new Ahune Frost Festival is going on, which focuses on the Arena. Everyone is incentivized to play 3 Arena games (at least 1 run), to get a free card pack. Additionally, all Arena runs start off as 1-0. This is great news in general. Let’s think of the implications this has.

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

I’m going to make a point about #4 in this blog, but yes, these things are mostly true. I’ve played a few arenas in this event, and noticed that players don’t play the board as much as they should. It is a very important arena concept to fight for the board, as the ability to play off the board is not as tenable as it is in constructed, where you can actually choose your deck. Going off what I perceived as wrong arena play, I decided to take a look at some data to confirm this.

Methodology

  • The morning of the Ahune Festival, I went to hsreplay.net to find target usage of a few cards. Because I was aware that the hsreplay data would be contaminated by non-Arena players entering the game, I intercepted the data just hours into the event.
  • I decided to look at spells and what they targeted, for Ranked Standard and Arena. I picked some popular spells that do damage to both minion and hero. I did not get every card, since I was strapped for time.
  • I looked at a few minions that have target effects, for Ranked Standard and Arena. Part of the Arena is playing for tempo (to fight for the board), and not worrying about value. Again, I was strapped for time, so only picked a few.

Examples

Spells

Frostbolt

  • Opponent hero tgt in Arena = 4.02%
  • Opponent hero tgt in Ranked = 18.02%

While there is a spread of 14% here between the formats, this was likely a bigger chasm when Frost Lance existed. Frostbolt also has more utility on minions, as it prevents one turn of damage. The 4% in Arena speaks to it being used for early board control.

Flame Geyser

  • Opponent hero tgt in Arena = 4.96%
  • Opponent hero tgt in Ranked = 17.65%

Flame Geyser has a slightly smaller difference, likely because it just does 2 damage. That likely isn’t much to go face with, and it best equipped for small minions.

Fireball

  • Opponent hero tgt in Arena = 21.12%
  • Opponent hero tgt in Ranked = 44.61%

Here we have an over 23% spread. Fireball is one of the most effective face damage spells for the cost. Mages can play off the board better in Ranked.

Firelands Portal

  • Opponent hero tgt in Arena = 8.65%
  • Opponent hero tgt in Ranked = 29.26%

Firelands is more a board control tool given it’s cost, and it shows in the difference here. Burn Mages in Ranked still go face with it a lot, despite the heavy cost.

Kill Command

  • Opponent hero tgt in Arena = 19.91%
  • Opponent hero tgt in Ranked = 29.35%

Back when Hunter was actually good at going face, this might have been a much bigger difference. Now, Hunter has to fight for the board more often, as it struggles to survive in Ranked.

Swipe

  • Opponent hero tgt in Arena = 9.45%
  • Opponent hero tgt in Ranked = 6.12%

Here we have reverse splits, as Arena Druids go face with Swipe more often than Standard Ranked Druids. I can’t really explain this, except I know that Druid is the most popular class in Standard. It could be torn by Jade Druid vs Aggro Druid, and how Swipe is employed in each deck.

Minions

Golakka Crawler

  • No tgt in Arena = 93.72%
  • No tgt in Ranked = 72.58%

The Arena has been starved for solid 2-drops since the shift to Standard format, and the reduction of staples like River Crocolisk and Bloodfen Raptor. Golakka Crawler, a tech against Pirates, also has less fewer Pirate targets in Arena than Ranked.

Houndmaster

  • No tgt in Arena = 11.09%
  • No tgt in Ranked = 4.54%

Houndmaster is rarely played as a 4-mana 4/3, as it is a pretty bad tempo play. This 7% different probably just accounts to it being less likely to get Beasts on the board in Arena.

Crackling Razormaw

  • No tgt in Arena = 20.45%
  • No tgt in Ranked = 7.72%

Unlike Houndmaster, Crackling Razormaw is fine being a 3/2 2-drop. I do find the 7% Ranked tempo play being a bit low, which might owe to how important adapt is for Hunter. It is also possible they just play some 1-drops or hero power instead of holding the board.

Rockpool Hunter

  • No tgt in Arena = 83.37%
  • No tgt in Ranked = 15.56%

Again, this speaks to how important 2-mana 2/3’s are in the arena. Murlocs aren’t prevalent in arena, and there is no reason to run this card outside of Paladin in Ranked. This big split isn’t really surprising at all.

SI:7 Agent

  • No tgt in Arena = 5.65%
  • No tgt in Ranked = 8.63%

And we end at SI:7 Agent, which has the 3-mana 3/3 occurring more in Ranked. This is interesting but understandable. Miracle decks typically lack minions, so there is sometimes no other option. And Rogue is a board-control class in either format, so it is played just like that. Arena Rogues could be a bit more greedy with the value, as they have more minions at the disposal. Still, I think this is a very low percentage for both formats, I would’ve expected it to happen 10-20%.

Rogue Cards Banished to the Shadow Realm

Rogue Cards Banished to the Shadow Realm

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

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

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

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

A lay of the land

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

rogue pop

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

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

Most popular Crystal Rogue

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

top list.JPG

Predicted card shifts

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

Upshot

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

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