“Competitive” Hearthstone

“Competitive” Hearthstone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salty Rogue

Salty Rogue

Over the Thanksgiving break, I had limited access to Internet, but occasionally checked Reddit on my phone for Mean Streets of Gadgetzan card reveals. On Thanksgiving Day and Friday, I became aware of Hearthstone Reddit blowing up with Rogue players and other agitators joining in on the ruckus. As a Rogue player, I have been often frustrated when taking it to Standard Ranked Play, given the overwhelming presence of faster Shamans. The Rogue frustration can best be summarized in these points:

  1. Blade Flurry was nerfed for design space reasons. No weapon buff has been seen since. Fan of Knives and Dark Iron Skulker are the only AoE for Rogue. This came just as Shaman aggro and midrange swarms became popular.
  2. Rogues have no source of damage mitigation, whether healing or armor or immune. This combined with the propensity for Rogue to draw cards makes Rogue impossible to run as a control class. Any controlly Rogue class card is unplayable as such.
  3. Burgle Rogue is the main deck type being pushed in the last few sets. Burgle Rogue is fun but not competitive. You have no win condition and are literally playing Randomonium. Rogue has been consistently the 6th or 7th best class over the Old Gods/Karazhan meta.
  4. Combo decks are being nerfed as a whole, as they are not interactive, and this appears to be the only way Rogues can win with the cards.
  5. Rogues have a strong set of Evergreen cards, but this makes playing Rogue not fun, as you are playing the same set of cards you did before Naxx came out. (Did Naxx come out yet?) Also, Gadgetzan Auctioneer is a crutch that Rogue decks can’t play without.
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Little did she know, Broll gave her Thistle Tea.

Timeline of MSG Rogue Card Reveals

11/4/16 – BlizzCon

File:Lotus Assassin(49619).png
“Hey this card is neat. It’s like a Stranglehorn Tiger, but it could restealth! It doesn’t fit into what Rogue does, but okay…”
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“Hey, this looks good. This can be a coin for when Tomb Pillager rotates out, and this helps Auctioneer cycle cards.”

11/5/16 – BlizzCon Disguised Toast Leak

File:Shaku, the Collector(49657).png
“This card is garbage and shouldn’t be a legendary. Overcosted Undercity Huckster. Burgle Rogue sucks. Rogue cards suck confirmed.”

11/21/16 – Jade Lotus Reveal Week

File:Jade Shuriken(49711).png
“Another source of damage for Maly Rogue, probably will see play. I don’t know how this Jade Golem thing will work.”

11/22/16 – Stream Reveal

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“Sigh, a 1/1. We don’t know how this Jade Golem thing is going to shake out.”

11/24/16 – Jade Lotus Reveal Week

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“This is a Brewmaster that is a class rare for some reason. Team 5 doesn’t care about Rogue. Rogue dumpster class confirmed. We need someone from Blizz to explain why this card exists. Let’s complain so they make good Rogue cards in the next set.”

11/25/16 – Stream Reveal

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“Fuck it, I don’t care anymore.”

Hope is not lost yet, as there are still 2 class cards (1 common and 1 epic) to go. I expect 1 more Jade Golem mechanic card, which could save the class from complete ineptitude in Standard play. Dean Ayala did state that Rogue has the best ways to utilize the Jade Golem mechanic, with Shadowsteps and Unearthed Raptor. I also do long for a weapon buff in the epic slot, as there hasn’t been a viable weapon buff since Tinker’s Oil. Things don’t look good, and playing this class isn’t fun right now. We just need a good Jade card, and a weapon buff. Is that too much to ask? Well, we still can dominate arena at least. Right?

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Weapon buff?

The Hearthstone Nerf Everyone Wanted + Reynad’s Hot Take

The Hearthstone Nerf Everyone Wanted + Reynad’s Hot Take

Social media has been an impetus for forcing change in the world, and it seems to be happening more and more now. While Twitter and YouTube have been the vehicles for change in real-life events, Reddit has been the weapon of choice in Wizard Poker. The hive of Hearthstone Reddit has become the de facto voice for the Hearthstone community, and the devs claim to monitor it all the time. (I got most of my page views from posting on Reddit!) With that said, it’s not surprising that today’s nerfs (http://us.battle.net/hearthstone/en/blog/20303031/upcoming-balance-changes-update-613-9-28-2016) happened.

Background

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Courtesy of Vicious Syndicate Meta Report #19

Hey, we’re also in the Information Meta! While it may not be easy to quantify what you’re facing in Ranked. Shaman has skyrocketed to the top of the meta, well ahead of the nearest classes. It has been dominant since Old Gods put things together, and Karazhan made the class more well-rounded. Warrior was once top dog, and was brought down a bit by the Hunter rise. That in turn, shot the Shamans back up. Mage and Druid seem to be the “healthy” meta classes, while Warlock has fallen. Paladin, Rogue, and Priest have been in the cellar.

Quick takes on the changes

  • Rockbiter Weapon – A little torn about this one, given I won’t think of Rockbiter not being 1-mana. The pressure to combine it with Doomhammer likely did it in, but honestly when has a Shaman deck not run 2x Rockbiter? Opens up room for spell Shaman.
  • Tuskarr Totemic – This one is really well-deserved. Getting the result of Totem Golem and Mana Tide Totem is virtually 5 mana of things for 3 mana.
  • Call of the Wild – This one doesn’t seem too significant at first, but think about having 2 9-mana cards in your deck. Seems a bit heavy, though the card is too good still to not run 1 copy.
  • Execute – I think this is way overdue. Warrior removal is so good, this shouldn’t hurt too much. Honestly, Warriors often have the leftover mana to armor up.
  • Charge – While requiring more setup than Leeroy + Shadowstep, 20+ damage in 1 turn is still not very fun or interactive. This is consistent with the anti-charge philosophy the game is heading.
  • Abusive Sergeant – Like Leper Gnome, Abusive Sergeant is long known as an Aggro deck announcer. While this target may be for Shamans, it does hurt Zoolock decks. Could aggro decks now consider Lance Carrier?
  • Yogg-Saron – Stop the presses!

About Yogg

The devs floated some ideas about how to deal with Yogg in some recent interviews, given the outcome of competitive tournament games being decided by him. There was talk of the card being outright removed for tournament play, relegated to Wild permanently, or nerfs. The Yogg changes are two-fold, stopping the stream of spells when Yogg dies, and adding Overload on certain Shaman spells. I have no quantitative evidence, but it seems like Yogg kills himself over 50% of the time. So, we’re in for much shorter Yogg spell barrages. To use a football analogy, Yogg was always a hail mary pass, with a very strong-armed quarterback, and tall receivers. Or maybe like a 55-60 yard field goal. Now Yogg is more like trying to score a touchdown on laterals with the whole team. This primarily will hurt Druid, given it is a near staple for the class, and to a smaller extent Mage. On the plus side, a Yogg story is going to be more epic, and not happening a decent amount of the time.

“Everyone”

This is a fair point, in that the “everyone” that wanted these changes are the vocal minority. Points have been made that most people are more casual players. Hearthstone Reddit represents a minority that is more competitive (and possibly more immature) than the average player. The ban list cuts down on randomness in Tuskarr and Yogg, which are simply rewarding lesser players with wins over better ones. On the other hand, Yogg is much less fun, with spells ending sooner.

Reynad’s Hot Take

Reynad has never been afraid to take unpopular positions, and that continued today. While the majority of folks liked the nerf list, he didn’t think it did much.

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Is he right or wrong? The claim that Shaman got a buff is odd at first, but check this out.

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Courtesy of Vicious Syndicate Meta Reaper #19

Shaman fails against Warrior are no secret, and there is a little red in those matchups. Control Shaman is pretty bad against Yogg Druid and Tempo Mage, so that get’s a bump. The dominant decks in Aggro and Midrange Shaman were kept in check by Control/Dragon Warrior, so that is probably what Reynad is talking about. Of course, we have to consider how the 2 nerfs on Shaman would affect matchups against other classes in this grid.

Final thoughts

Rogue didn’t get touched (thank the Old Gods) so overall, this is fairly ho-hum. Shaman is obviously dominant, and the feedback has caused real change. I think a few changes were overdue and necessary. I’m glad this will shut people up for a little while, until there is the next thing to complain about.

Extra: Phrases to Use for Future Hearthstone Memeing

With Keeping Hearthstone Fresh in mind

too oppressive to our players

improve the Standard format in a more permanent way

the most fun type of randomness

we intend to tone down its power enough that it won’t be an automatic inclusion in every Hunter deck and overshadow other strategies

closer in power level to other existing and future removal tools

We’ve redesigned the card Charge in a way that provides opportunities for minion combat, but does not enable strategies that intend to win without allowing opponents to interact.