The following details a regular night with my rotation of games.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links
I’ve actually had this game opened 5 different times during the course of the day, doing the auto-dueling and PvE events and whatnot. But after a layover of about 12 hours, I’m going to grind some of the PvP ladder! Geargias are such a good deck in this meta…
First opponent is Archfiends. Super difficult matchup, with all the milling and removal. Of course, you had your Archfiend’s Call not milled. That Wild Tornado tech to destroy your Archfiend Cavalry to get Archfiend Emperor at 3000 was pretty neat. Tough game, I wish I had the cards to play that deck.
Amazoness next, this is the archetype is making PvP fun again, for sure. Amazoness Princess down, Onslaught set. Hit, banish, special summon. Repeat a few times. Baby Tiger dead. Baby Tiger back. That was a close game, but just not enough. If only I had more than 1 Ties of the Breatheren.
Sylvans next, I thought this was the Masked HERO meta? My Geargiattacker, Pulse Mines, and Forbidden Chalice are down. I negate Komushroomo, but can’t do anything about that Guardioak. Carrot excavated, toss Rose Lover, I lose. I hate Sylvans. Back to Legend 1 I go.
Ah, a guy who hasn’t gotten more than Legend, this should end my losing streak. Fire Formation – Gyokkou, Tensu, Raven, Fire Formation – Gyokkou, Peryton, Sphynx, Beatdown. RIP.
Extra, Extra Mill/Stall Pegasus next. I can’t believe these stupid decks are back! I just wasted 10 minutes…
Oh right, here are some Sylvans again. Why did I take out my Memory Loss? I thought this was the Masked HERO meta? Oh yeah, that was last week’s meta.
Logging in for my daily reward. I definitely want to play this game more, and I realize I’ve been saying this for years. I’m still a B rank, and everyone’s probably easy pickings. My neutral Runecraft is still good when I play it. If only I didn’t have other games to play… Oh well, I ‘ll login tomorrow for another reward.
Turn on the Blizzard Launcher for Hearthstone, my Ex that I’m still awkwardly kinda friends with. I don’t really know what’s going on anymore with Hearthstone, but we had some great memories. Going to play that Warrior Arena I drafted last night.
Facing a Mage. She cleans up my board pretty well for the first half of the game, and I’m down to 13 life on Turn 7. I build a wall of taunts and Armor Up a lot. Remember when Warriors were literally unplayable in Arena? The Armor Up was the downfall? I’m here with 15 armor and 10 health, too well protected by 2 Pyroblasts and Chargers. I win.
Next up is a Priest. I do a lot of board value trading and eventually have 5 minions on the board on Turn 9. But you never expect that Spirit Lash into Thoughsteal into Blood Razor right? That Obsidian Destroyer I took care of is back… Free from Amber into Violet Wurm, the value is too much. Devour Mind and use my Commanding Shout and Fiery War Axe. I play all my cards and clear up the grubs. Another Free from Amber into Lich King, welp no point in continuing this game…
The old me would’ve found something enjoyable about playing Warrior in Arena. I don’t really know what is going on anymore.
Time to kick back with my new favorite game, Warframe. Such an amazing game that is so overlooked. While I am fairly bad at this game, the learning curve has to do with it. It’s DE’s way of weeding out people!
Tonight I am going to continuing some Tier 2 Spy missions. Building up my Vaykor Hek, which probably needs the Hell’s Chamber mod. Hell’s Chamber increases multishot for Shotguns. I frankly don’t even know what multishot is in Warframe. I think it gives your gun a chance to shoot extra bullets. The damage goes up a good amount with multishot mods. But do Shotguns get more out of multishot, since they are already shooting a bunch of projectiles?
While my Ivara is stabbing Corpus Crewmen and doing parkour, someone in my clan is complaining about the Razorback Armada not being here despite the bar being filled. He literally did this yesterday morning. And possibly every other time I was not logged in. I would probably say something funny, but I realized I made enemies in my last clan, which I left voluntarily. I’ll shut up. Everyone in the clan is annoyed about it. Someone even openly said that in the clan chat yesterday, but after this guy logged off. Finally, people say the Razorback Armada is not coming since DE has to remotely activate it. The guy pipes down finally.
I ran 3 Spy runs, but no Hell’s Chamber. I did get Thermite Rounds though, I guess new mods are always exciting. More Spy runs tomorrow I guess.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links
I have some pressure to do well in this game, but the meta the last few hours has been very unenjoyable. I’m going to ambush some people with Ice Barriers!
After losing my only game with Ice Barriers, I go to bed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
The digital card game universe is at an interesting juncture now, with many big titles competing for our precious gaming time and (even more precious) money. While a lot of the online focus has pitted Hearthstone and Gwent in a Reddit-fueled brouhaha, Cygames’ Shadowverse has been preparing their new expansion, Wonderland Dreams. With the normal excitement that comes along with every new digital card expansion, the release of Wonderland Dreams also comes with a whole host of new updates for Shadowverse. These updates, I believe, will make Shadowverse the most feature-heavy digital card game in the market.
The new 104-card expansion is going to have an emphasis on Neutral cards. Considering that the leaders in Shadowverse don’t do anything unique themselves, and just rely on their class-specific cards, the entire Neutral card pool is fair play. Flavor-wise, many cards are based off classic fairy tales. You see cards based off The Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Alice, Wizard of Oz, Jabberwocky, Snow White, etc. Considering Shadowverse has a weaker story base, and is not really reliant on another game series for lore, it allowed them to take a somewhat radical direction for the flavor.
New Main Story Chapters
The PvE gets 9 new games in, as Chapters 9-11 are available for Rowen, Isabelle, and Urias. The last major update for Shadowverse included Chapters 9-11 for three other classes, and this resumes it for three classes. I assume these characters are going to go through a familiar story arc of being satisfied in a fake reality, getting tired of living in a fake reality, fighting Eris, and going back to reality. What’s interesting about this is that it leaves the Havencraft leader, Eris, out without Chapters 9-11. Given that this character is omnipresent in all the other storylines, something else could be cooking.
Solo player missions
Just another source of rewards for completing the Story missions or Practice mode. Another boost for people who like PvE more than PvP.
New private match features
I personally think this is the most exciting bit of news for the entire Shadowverse update. Currently, you can already have a regular match with a friend, or even a Take Two (draft mode) match with a friend. Best of 3 and Best of 5 matches are incoming. While this is a fun way to spend time playing card games with friends, this feature is obviously more useful for online tournaments. If it comes with a score tracker for the best of 3 or 5 for verification, even better.
A more curious new private match feature is spectating Take Two. You get to create your opponent’s deck! This wording is a bit ambiguous and could mean two different things. It is possible you can do a co-op on Take Two, by helping your friend draft the deck. It could also mean a new private match mode in Take Two, where you get to draft each other’s deck. I believe the latter is coming, which is an extremely interesting decision. This would result in the strategy of drafting the worst deck possible, to handicap your opponent. I would assume strategies would include drafting a very high-cost deck, drafting cards that have little synergy, or just drafting bad cards. Take Two is always a compromise, and I will be looking forward to this.
Set Leaders for individual decks
This doesn’t mean anything for f2p people like me who just have 1 leader for each class, but this lets you put different leaders for different decks. So if you want a hero to represent aggro, and another control, you can do that. A bit of a step up over Hearthstone’s favorite class hero for all decks. Again, this doesn’t apply to me since I only have 1 hero per craft. But that could change!
Buy Items with Vials
Vials are the resource you spend to make cards, the arcane dust if you will. For the first time, you get to spend vials on things that aren’t cards. Currently, all the customization features (extra leaders, card backs, etc) have to be bought with Crystals (real money). This may allow a person to buy customization features without spending real money. So it may be possible for me to buy a new hero after all. We still don’t know what the new items are yet.
Text/Voice language switching
I assume this allows us to change the languages in the client, without having to right click “Properties” in Steam. This is big, since the English version of Shadowverse is a little different from the Japanese version, and perhaps other language versions. There are different voice lines for example. Everyone wanted the Arisa “gasp” back. Isabelle wears a weird boob cover in the English version. This will just make things easier and more user-friendly. Have it your way!
Take Two card changes
Given that I haven’t sunk too much time playing Shadowverse and am less familiar with the game, I don’t know much about Take Two. Unlike Hearthstone, where I am 95% geared towards the Arena mode, I don’t really have that bias for Take Two in Shadowverse. Basically the card offering pool is going to change. All the cards from the expansions will be available, all Bronze-class cards, and prize cards (Basic) cards will also be avaiable. This means that all Silver, Gold, Legendary Standard cards, plus one Havencraft card, will be out of Take Two. This is pretty much the opposite rotation that Hearthstone does, as they retain the Standard card set never rotates out. Having too many cards in Take Two is definitely a problem, and they are taking an interesting approach to dealing with it. I would assume the cards in the Standard set are more boring, and provide the on-curve stability for cost.
In sum, Shadowverse is going to get a lot of new features coming with the new expansion, next week (6/28). Shadowverse has been known to be the most generous digital card game around, giving out card packs and Take Two tickets often. I think with this update next week, Shadowverse will be known as the most customized and feature-heavy digital card game period. While adverse reactions to fanservicy anime artwork and brand loyalty will still keep people from playing Shadowverse, there is a lot to like with what is to come for this game.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
I last compared digital card games when I compared Hearthstone with Magic Duels. I’m going to do a similar thing with a digital card game I recently started playing, Shadowverse. Because I am enjoying my time playing Shadowverse to a big degree, I expect to be blogging more about the game down the line. This is meant to be a more general comparison between the games, for Hearthstone players who are interested in trying Shadowverse.
What is Shadowverse?
Shadowverse is a digital card game, released in June 2016 by Cygames. I cannot name another game Cygames has made, so one can assume they are a smallish indie company. Apparently, it is the most popular card game in Japan.
Getting past the boobwall
This may sound absurd, but I didn’t play Shadowverse for a while because of the artwork. The artwork is anime/manga styled, and features a lot of female characters with absolute cleavage, and partial nudity on a few followers. It even led to the Runecraft Leader, Isabelle, getting “nerfed” in the US version.
While I have no issue with the art being the way it is, I thought this fanservicing concealed what the game had to offer, and that the game would be all smoke and mirrors. This turned out to be a horribly erroneous line of thought. This game is extremely thought-provoking and challenging. Just with a lot of boobs around.
Key differences between the games
The hallmark of Shadowverse is Evolve, a function that allows you to promote your followers on the field. Typically a follower gets +2/+2 in stats, and gains Rush, the ability to Charge and attack an enemy follower. Other minions have more powerful abilities that come with Evolve, like deal damage or gain Ward (Taunt).
Evolve gives the game an extra layer of complexity, as you get to charge and buff a minion of your choosing, allowing you to get rid of summoning sickness. This ability can be used offensively, to add face damage, or trade on a minion. It can also be used defensively. Also, you either get 2 or 3 Evolves per game, so knowing when to use these charges is key.
In Hearthstone, each of the 9 classes are distinguished by class cards, and the 2-mana cost Hero Power. Certain classes have multiple workable archetypes, while other classes are stuck with one type of deck.
Shadowverse has 7 classes, with individual class cards as well. But each class is completely different from each other, based on the class trait, and class cards which work with the trait. For example, the control class, Havencraft, has pretty much no way of becoming an aggro class, as the card rely on anti-tempoing early on for big gain later. The Bloodcraft class is all about playing the game at 10 life, to empower all the other cards. Dragoncraft will always be a ramp class, as there cards rely on getting to (Mana) 7.
While both are digital card games, there are some key mechanical differences that influence gameplay. Hearthstone is a 30 life, 30 card game, while Shadowverse is a 20 life, 40 card game. Drawing to fatigue seems impossible in Shadowverse, while they happen often in a Reno mirror game in Hearthstone. With 20 life, your character seems to be in peril easily. Given that the Bloodcraft Class thrives on 10 life, every game must be a thrill.
The baseline minions in Shadowverse are weaker than those in Hearthstone. Typically, there aren’t good Turn 1 plays, and a 3/2 costs 3 for example.
The Evolve mechanic encourages trading, given that the Evolved minion can only attack minions on the first turn. With the 20 life cap, trading could be more important in Shadowverse than in Hearthstone.
Turn planning is extremely complex in Shadowverse, seemingly as complex or more complex than Miracle Rogue swing turns in Hearthstone. Forestcraft cards for example, have cards that require at least 2 cards to be played that turn for an effect to trigger. You just have to make a ton of turn planning decisions on playing cards for tempo or effects, holding onto cards for reactive moves vs tempo, etc. Just so many decisions to make, which vary by class.
Hearthstone has weapons, which gets the hero directly involved on the board. From what I can tell, the heroes in Shadowverse are just there to look pretty, throw out threats, and get hit.
Shadowverse has Amulets, which serve as the card that isn’t a minion or spell. Amulets are best defined as things that have effects, but can’t attack and can’t be attacked. Given Shadowverse also only allows 5 things on the board (vs 7 in Hearthstone), the Amulets take a bunch of board space.
Oh yeah, like any other card game, Shadowverse has less RNG than Hearthstone. The Forestcraft has a bit of RNG like Avenging Wrath, but some classes, like Runecraft, seem to avoid it entirely.
Going 2nd possibly balanced
There are well-known splits in Hearthstone of the 1st player winning games over the 2nd player by a decent margin. A common topic of discussion is how The Coin just isn’t enough to make up for it.
Shadowverse gives the 2nd player 3 Evolve charges (1st player gets 2) and lets the 2nd player draw 2 cards on Turn 1. I don’t know if this makes things completely even, but I personally have felt getting 3 Evolve charges is well-worth going 2nd.
Shadowverse appears as a very free-to-play (F2p) game. Upon completing the tutorial, you get 10 free packs per set (30 total), a bunch of vouchers, and resources. There are additional rewards for leveling up, gaining achievements, etc. While you get continual rewards in Shadowverse, it appears that decks require a lot more investment of resources to play. Really good decks require about 18,000 vials (dust) to play for example. These rewards may just be scaling to 40 cards per deck.
Hearthstone has a handful of achievements, listed below. There is constant criticism about the game being anti-F2p, or not being friendly to new players. But unlike Shadowverse, there are relatively cheap decks that can be competitive in Hearthstone.
Hearthstone’s Ranked Mode, which was created back in Open Beta, is known for being Levels 1-25, with a Legend rank above that. The devs recently have acknowledged the community’s frustration with the “grind” it takes to level up in Hearthstone.
Shadowverse has a point system, which drives you through tiers of ranks. It is similar to earning experience on a quest, and leveling up that way. So far in the D ranks, I typically earn a lot of experience when winning a Ranked game, while losing only a few points when losing. There may also be implications, where not conceding is the better route in salvaging experience, but I am not sure if this is true. I won 16 Ranked games to get from Beginner 0 to D1. Not bad.
One (Steam) server
Hearthstone is known for having separate servers: NA, EU, TW/KR, CN, with different server reliabilities. Shadowverse appears to have all players in the same Steam server. When playing my first few games of Shadowverse, I encountered a number of players with Asian characters as their battle names. This is not unexpected, given Shadowverse is a Japanese game.
Given everyone is on one server, there could be many disruptions, resulting in disconnects. I actually got my first Unranked, Ranked, and Take Two wins in Shadowverse via disconnect.
Customization, UI, and more
Hearthstone definitely has the more solid user interface, with things being where they should be. It is simple with not too much going on. The UI for Shadowverse is a little discombobulated in comparison, with cards in hand either being oversized or undersized. The emoting system is also more challenging to use, but they do limit you on 3 emotes a turn!
Shadowverse has a lot of avenues for customization. You can set custom emblems, flairs, and even a country flag for national pride. Emblems are awarded through achievements, or when you get a legendary card. Further you can actually customize things like turning off emotes entirely. This request has long been desired by the Hearthstone community.
There are various leaderboards for public viewing in Shadowverse, and various stats about your wins and experience. Replays as well!
Overall, Shadowverse is different from Hearthstone primarily through the more complex gameplay and turn-planning. There is also a lot more customization from the game, possibly borrowing from feedback that Hearthstone players desire. On the downside, it suffers a little just by being a smaller company, and being a lesser-known quantity (no real lore ties), and having less polish in the UI holding cards. I must say I am very impressed with the game, and will continue playing it.