Card game expansions are supposed to be about trying out new decks and theorycrafting new stuff. Maybe. If that’s fun for you.
In the past, I would do seemingly only do this in Ranked Hearthstone games. I’m not sure if I didn’t care about winning back then. I remember a lot of Reno Rogue games, where I was greedy with fitting in legendaries like Anub’arak. I remember playing a Miracle Mill Rogue. I remember playing a lot of Mech Rogue for Voltron.
Today, a couple weeks after the release of Knights of the Frozen Throne, I found myself playing Pirate Warrior. A Pirate Warrior who never plays the deck, and trades a little more than he ought to. Thanks to hsreplay.net, below is a graphic of my last Ranked Warrior games. I basically started the playing the deck for the first time in 4 months, and seem to take month-long intervals. Yes, I play very little Ranked, and only play Rogue.
I guess a switch went off and I decided to hustle some wins. Here were my Ranked games prior to today.
Besides the meta Evolve Shaman that eats it to Druid, my Rogue games consisted of offbeat stuff like Burgle Rogue, C’Thun Rogue, etc. Besides the low volume and low wins, I just wasn’t digging the “explore fun decks” process. I wasn’t going to keep playing unless I won some games. Prior to touching Pirate Warrior, my Ranked win rate this month was less than 50%. I deleted the Burgle Rogue list I made myself.
I’m not here to complain about Druids. I’m just noting that at some point, I stopped caring about exploring fun decks. The expansion is still young, heck the adventure still has Week 3 to go. Just saying that at some point the concentration of winning took over, and nothing else mattered. And I’m not much of a Ranked player to begin with.
I’ll keep playing Pirate Warrior in Ranked for now. Maybe I’ll be content when I get to Ranked 10. I’m not really enjoying it I would a Rogue deck, but I’ll take the wins.
I can blame the “Information Meta” we can’t leave, and how everyone has access to every single decklist. I can blame pro players from being too good and figuring it out so fast. I can blame my own inability to keep composure after losing. It’s probably some recipe of all of it, and it is loosening my already tepid desire to play Ranked Hearthstone at all.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
Crystal Rogue wasn’t fun to play against.
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.
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:
Predicted card shifts
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
I’ve always been an honest person in my life, sometimes too much to a fault. I also have difficulty hiding emotions or disguising facial expressions, and this has gotten me in trouble now-and-then. So, I’m going to say it: I’ve played the least Hearthstone I have played in a while. I started this January 2017 season very strong, getting to Rank 8 or 9 within the first week, doing well with various Miracle Rogue decks. Then things slowed down to a halt, and I find myself barely getting by the past few weeks. I must note that I have listened to the first 8 minutes of the Top Deck Kings Podcast #79 (which you should totally listen to) as of this writing, and I have paused it, until I finish all my thoughts, to prevent any cross-contamination. But I have pinpointed a few obvious reasons to my playing Hearthstone at a minimum these days.
1. Real life getting in the way
One of the perks to being a professional gamer is that gaming is your “real life.” While you may have family and friends to interact with, the job portion of real life is bundled into your gaming space. My real life is definitely getting in the way, as I am looking for a new job. While people look for jobs all the time, I was rather complacent in that area, and I am in a bit of trouble. Writing cover letters, updating resumes, and applying takes time, but the more arduous task is figuring out what I want to do in my life. This is something I am unlikely to figure out by the time I get my next job, and will be a struggle for the future. But, I am cutting out time each day to look for and apply to jobs.
2. Other games getting in the way
When I am very enthused with Hearthstone, it is the only game I play and devote time to. With other games getting mixed into my more limited gaming time, I am starting to manage my interests. Heroes of the Storm has a Lunar New Year promotion Rooster Race, with the special golden rooster mount acquired with 25 Rooster Races completed. I completely suck at HotS, but by god, I want that golden rooster mount. Valeera is also a new hero that appeared in HotS. While she is difficult to play, and I have a habit of overextending, I am a big fan of the character, and she has brought me back to the game. Competing card games Shadowverse and Duelyst have daily login rewards that require my logging in to get as well.
And thanks to LA-based esquire Decktech (@hsdecktech), I have been hooked on Yugi-Oh Duel Links on my phone. The whole reason I got into Hearthstone likely is tied to my interests in Yugi-Oh, and now it has been recreated as an addictive phone game. This is not unlike the Pokemon Go craze, but I do not have to brave the outdoor elements to play Duel Links. Also unlike Pokemon Go, Duel Links is actually quite the strategic and interactive game, not just walking around and throwing a ball in different angles.
3. Meta getting in the way
The above two reasons are actual excuses for me, but let’s not sugarcoat the problems affecting Hearthstone. While I am hesitant to say that the meta has gotten stale already, the game just seems very “binary” now. There still remain various competitive decks in Hearthstone, and definitely more than there were in certain points of the game’s history. But it seems like “everything” is Face Aggro (Warrior, Shaman) or Highlander (Kazakus/Reno). Classes are clustering too much it seems, and deck types don’t seem too different by class. Rogues are still doing fine in their own thing, and Jade Druid is here now and then. But Paladins and Hunters are suffering now. These problems have been discussed at length by Devs in recent articles and tweets. The main problem of course is the high rate of Shaman play, something bolstered by seemingly-continual OP cards released for the class.
This is all likely some sort of bias, losing to frustrating decks like Pirate Shaman and Warrior. But truthfully, If Hearthstone didn’t have it’s problems, I would likely not be playing other games as much.
Of course, what now? I actually expected possible nerfs to Small-Time Buccaneer by the end of this month, but it seems like the Devs are deciding what to do about that card, and perhaps others. I haven’t stopped playing Hearthstone, as I am still interested in completing dailies, and doing an Arena run almost nightly. But the already tepid desire I had to play Ranked has just gotten cold. If things don’t change, I will likely revert to my old self, and just play Arena until the last 2 weeks of the month, when I can pick on weaker competition. Yep, Scavenging Buzzard mode is likely for next month.
Unless you’ve quit the game of Hearthstone, you would know that Patches the Pirate has been one of the most popular cards in Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. The card has contributed to the wave of Pirate decks that are dominating the meta early on, seemingly making waves over than any of the swanky tri-class decks.
What I find most interesting about Patches the Pirate is that he is being used in a completely different way than when first revealed. It is a bit of a demonstration of competitive winning fundamentals, over an amazing play. The glory versus the story, if you will.
Patches the Pirate has an astoundingly long card development backstory (http://hearthstone.gamepedia.com/Patches_the_Pirate#History), possibly more than any other card. I first noticed a version of the card, the so-called Captain Scaleblade, being a teaser card in the The Grand Tournament trailer, and not being released in the card set. After a number of swaps with artwork, and drop out of some cards to Wild, Patches the Pirate is finally here, in a set with decent Pirate support.
First Impression: Gang Up
Patches was one of the first cards revealed at BlizzCon, and the gameplay demonstration showed him being involved in a wombo-combo. Basically, Patches was Ganged Up twice, and released with 6 clones upon playing a Southsea Captain. 12 damage!
Hearthstone devs also mentioned that Patches was not released earlier because of interactions with GvG cards Ship’s Cannon and One-Eyed Cheat. The Patches was advertised as a combo charge with the janky ingredient Gang Up.
Accurate Impression: Aggro-Control
Skilled players knew right away to not include Gang Up in their decks when playing Patches. Rogue decks often fail as a result of dead cards, like Cold Blood, Preparation, and Conceal. Adding 2x Gang Up would further exacerbate the matter. Rather, Patches shines without Gang Up because he embodies what Aggro-Control is all about. This is also a very basic Arena concept of grabbing the board early with big tempo, controlling the board, and playing aggressive. Small-Time Buccaneer is the early game hammer that works well with Patches, putting 2/3 worth of stats, that swells to 4/3 with a weapon. Other 1-cost pirates like N’Zoth’s First Mate and Swashburglar put out a total of 2/2 for 1 mana. All of this early game tempo, comboed with a weapon, allows the player to hold on to the board and let the aggression win the game.
The “Pirate Package”is so effective that amazing things are happening. Shamans have dropped cards from the bulletproof Midrange deck to include Jade Claws and the Pirate cards. Warriors have gazillions of decks and have all switched to one deck. Rogue is actually playable! While I expect the meta to adapt and stomp out the Patches Pirate package in the coming weeks, it is amazing how a perceived combo card became the Aggro-Control staple of MSG.
Hearthstone’s One Night in Karazhan adventure was released well over a month ago. While a very upbeat set thematically, the adventure caused a lot of consternation amongst competitive players from the get-go. Constructed players were mad about the release of Purify for the nonexistent ninth class, while the oppressive Shamans got more tools. Arena players were mad about Firelands Portal being a common, cementing Jaina as the tyrant queen of the arena. The backlash from the community so torrential and angry that the devs responded within weeks of Karazhan’s full release, with an arena card banlist, and card nerfs. We are just over a week since the card nerfs, and well, Midrange Shamans dominate the ranked meta and Mages still terrorize the arena.
While there is still some potential for new decks and strategies to emerge, there is only so much innovation that you can squeeze of the adventure and card nerfs. There won’t be a new Hearthstone card release for at least 1 or 2 months, and this is being optimistic that Blizzard is sticking to the 2 expansion + 1 adventure annual production goal. Though Hearthstone remains an amazing game despite the imbalance, even the most dedicated players can get bored during long stretches of nothingness. The meta starts to get stale, and it’s just the same old sauce curdling in your bowl. Luckily there are ways to keep Hearthstone fresh as we approach the stale meta phase of the game.
1. Play Arena
Tired of this oppressive and uninteractive meta? Play Arena! While some of us play Arena by default, I say this knowing that Hearthstone is defined by Constructed/Ranked. Good/pro players are known for how many times they achieved Legend and an overwhelming majority of players stick with Constructed.
There are many benefits to playing Hearthstone Arena. First of all, the satisfaction of doing well in the Arena with your draft can’t be rivaled by any other feeling. The Arena forces you to make tough decisions during your draft, as you are building a deck from scratch. You will be forced to take bad cards from time to time. And winning a game with some crappy card is just an amazing feeling. You learn to appreciate underlooked cards that don’t ever appear in Constructed. That brings me to my second point, you get a much deeper connection to all the cards from Arena play. You start developing an encyclopedic knowledge of cards from the exposure. You begin to have affinities to cards that you become comfortable playing (Addled Grizzly is bae). Thirdly, I believe that there are much greater stories that stem from the Arena. All the factors that come into play, from the two differently-built drafts, the bigger card pool, the gameplay decision-making, all collide into something magical. You will remember epic moments in the Arena, and also certain runs.
From a resource standpoint, Arena runs typically break even around 3 wins, which is a completely achievable 50% win rate. With deeper Arena runs, you start making gold profits, but Arena runs will typically help you build your collection through card packs and build up your dust. Building up dust is underrated, but can easily help you get a leg up in crafting whatever you want for the next card expansion.
2. Try Something New
Playing Arena as a Constructed player is technically trying something new, but there are other things you can do in the game. Despite being a wasteland for broken cards, Wild Hearthstone will instantly provide relief from seeing the same deck rotation in Standard. Overall, is more deck and class diversity, with things like viable Priests running amok. A player in Wild also has the chance to create deeper decks, with all the cards around. While things are unsettled, Wild Hearthstone has a chance to appeal to a distinct audience once more card sets are in the game.
It also isn’t a horrible idea to try a new deck if you are sticking with the Standard meta. We are still fresh off the recent nerfs, and decks are still in the process of optimization. Before everyone “figures things out,” bust out some new deck to take advantage. It doesn’t even have to be some whole new deck, just variations and techs off a popular archetype. I recently made a RenoLock deck without any guides, and it came out quite different than the conventional Reno deck. And it has a 67% win rate now at Rank 10! I don’t expect this to keep up as I climb the ranks, but it is fun to win with such a deck.
Hearthstone can also be made a fun experience when playing with other people. I recently started playing Arena co-ops with Tweeps who also love the Arena as much as I do. I have always seen Arena co-ops on streams, but would never imagine I would be part of one myself. There are so many benefits in being part of an Arena co-op, namely having an extra set of eyes to evaluate the board state, as well as learning the playstyle of other players. Arguing/debating plays and picks is also a great quality of the Arena co-op.
3. Set New Goals
Sometimes you won’t even notice the arduous Ranked meta when you have a set goal in mind. While grinding to legend status or some other arbitrary rank are real goals, the ability to keep a winning streak is all the more magnified on the path to attaining said goal. You’ll probably get more bummed out than before.
In my opinion, grinding for a golden hero, with 500 ranked wins, is the best way to not notice the meta. I acquired golden Rogue in the throes of the Huntertaker meta, shortly after the release of Blackrock Mountain. I had about 400 wins when I picked up the “Fast/Cycle Rogue” deck, which was essentially an aggro deck that tried to outrace Face Hunters. While my winrate was fairly close to 50%, the games were not only fast, but also fun, as I was playing a whole new Rogue deck. Though I am nowhere close towards earning another golden hero, the push I had for golden Rogue was a great experience in not noticing what was going on in the meta.
Another goal one could take on is beating the Heroic difficulty on the adventures. While Heroic difficulty guides exist on Hearthpwn and elsewhere, this isn’t really a fun way to go about it, more of a quick cheese to get the cardbacks. Take the time to go through the Heroic adventure levels, refine your deck strategy, and repeat. It could be a new rewarding experience within the game you are tired of playing.
4. Play Less Hearthstone
Despite being classified once as a stress-relieving game on Google Play, Hearthstone is far from relaxing. The time going into a stale meta is a good time to try out some other games. The natural digression from Hearthstone would be other electronic card games. TES: Legends is a similar card game from The Elder Scrolls franchise, and has a greater deckbuilding capacity, with at least 50 cards in a deck. Further, there are fun “lane effects” which remind me of “field power bonuses” from Yugi-Oh, as well as unique qualities in runes and prophecies. Duelyst is another cool card game that has elements of grid movement and positioning. Also, Duelyst is a game that releases 4 new cards every month, allowing things to not go completely stale.
If one needs a little time off Hearthstone, there are plenty of gaming options right on the Battle.net launcher. WoW and Heroes of the Storm are free-to-play games that one can jump right into. I personally have gone back to playing occasional HotS games in group games versus computers. WoW is a different beast within itself, and can potentially suck you in for eternity. Overwatch, Blizzard’s FPS endeavor, seems to remain going strong and is staking it’s claim as a competitive eSport.
5. Create Something
Taking a prolonged break from Hearthstone could be detrimental to one’s long term prospects as you get behind earning gold and understanding the competitive meta. A dull grinding phase should not be a reason to walk away from such an amazing game. There are ways to dial back your Hearthstone play, but maintain your love for the game. Get creative. Start streaming your matches on Twitch and YouTube. Write about it, vlog about it. Record podcasts about the game. If you can draw, create a Hearthstone masterpiece! Channel your inability to play the game into something positive for the community!