Should Small-time Buccaneer get a big-time nerf?

 

The card in its current state

Small-Time Buccaneer has become arguably the most meta-warping card in the game. Warrior, Shaman and Rogue have risen on the back of its insane synergy with Patches and low-cost weapons. Meanwhile Paladin and Hunter’s lack of cheap weapons for the “pirate package” has lead to their near-extinction from the meta. This power has not gone unnoticed; in a recent IGN interview Mike Donais, principle game designer, indicated that the strength of the card was raising eyebrows at Team 5.

The card that I’m most worried about is Small-Time Buccaneer. That’d be the card I’m watching most closely.

– Mike Donais, speaking to IGN

So far, there seems to be growing community and developer desire for a rebalancing of Small-time Buccaneer to bring it in line with other one drops. But is such a change necessary? And what happens if the change makes the card unplayable, as happened with one drops like Leper Gnome?

 

Hunter is unviable without the ability to use or compete with Pirates like Small-time Buccaneer

Patching the Patches-summoner

 

The arguments for a nerf seem clear. They can be summed up as follows;

 

  • Power: The card is simply better than almost any other one drop if you have the necessary weapon synergy

 

  • Variance: While it does not explicitly contain any random effects, it massively increases the impact that your starting mulligan makes. The difference between Small-Time Buccaneer with a weapon and no Patches in hand and STB without and Patches in hand is equivalent to 5 stat points; and that’s assuming you draw it! It functions to make aggro matchups less strategic and more of a coin-flip

 

  • Aggression: Small-Time Buccaneer pushes aggro decks to become more potent than perhaps they’ve ever been. Where turn 4 or 5 lethals were previously outliers, now they can be routine against many decks. Board snowballing can happen straight from turn one and happen incredibly quickly. While the level of aggro in the meta can be a matter of taste, the lack of midrange viability outside of pirate-aggro and Reno/control is surely detrimental to those who prefer that playstyle.

 

  • Class balance: Paladin and Hunter have almost no ladder representation and few, if any, viable decks. A huge part of this is their inability to take part in or counter the swathes of Pirate decks due to their lack of early-game removal and potent, cheap weapons.

 

  • Diversity: There is no meta-viable aggressive deck that does not incorporate Small-Time Buccaneer and the Pirate package. Unless a change is implemented, it could be argued that this will crowd out other innovative aggro decks until it rotates out of Standard.

 

Are Pirates necessary to keep Jade Druid in check?

                                                                         A necess-arrrr-ry evil?

I’m not sure anyone would deny that Small-Time Buccaneer is one of the most powerful cards in the meta. However, it does have competition. Cards like Kazakus and Jade Idol, while miles slower, still have the ability to generate massive value and win games. it could be argued that Small Time Buccaneer’s power is required to prevent decks like Jade Druid and Reno Warlock, with their incredible value generation capabilities, from taking over the meta completely.

However, there are some flaws with this argument. Even greedy Renolocks can win if they draw Reno and some AOE in time. Jade Druids can hold off the aggression with a few well placed Swipes and Wraths and hide behind an Ancient of War or similar beefy taunt. While greedy control decks are indeed countered by hyper-aggressive face decks, they are arguably even harder countered by aggressive midrange. But it’s these aggressive midrange decks (in particular Midrange Hunter) that are being forced out hardest by Small-Time Buccaneer and the Pirates package. If Small-Time Buccaneer was brought down in power, then aggressive-leaning decks would likely just curve higher, play stickier minions and punish greed harder.

 

                                                                            A Smaller-time Buccaneer

 

So if we take a rebalancing as necessary, what would a weaker Small-Time Buccaneer look like? Balancing one drops is notoriously tricky. With Hearthstone’s granular nature, even a single point of stats can be the difference between ubiquity and ignominy (just ask Abusive Sergeant!) Here are a few examples of how Small-Time Buccaneer could be changed while keeping it as a decent choice for Pirate decks (if not an ever-present staple for non-pirate aggro decks)

Should only Valeera get this level of 1 drop power?

The Rogueification

 

As I and others predicted a while ago, Small-Time Buccaneer quickly became a Rogue staple. Instead of providing the aggro springboard, its reliance on an anti-tempo hero power on Turn 2 made it a board control option rather than an all-in face tool. One popular community suggestion for Small-Time Buccaneer is to restrict it to a Rogue-only class card. By making Small-Time Buccaneer a Rogue-only card, the card’s aggro potential would be massively limited. In return, perhaps Rogue class card and meme Shadow Rager could go neutral with the other Ragers.

However, this is not a perfect solution. As well as being an unprecedented way of altering a card post-release, it would also make miracle Rogue relatively strong in a time where it is already top tier, while weakening its main counters. It’s also pretty unlikely that Team 5 would alter a neutral card’s “Soul” so drastically.

 

 

 

                                          The Predictable

Hardly imaginative, but surely a likely candidate

 

One sure-fire way to reduce a card’s power is to make the good numbers smaller or the bad numbers bigger. This change simply reduces the benefit from synergy by one, making it less of a powerhouse by a significant amount. While a conditional 2/2 may seem bad compared to the 2/2 Mistress of Mixtures or Enchanted Raven, the benefit from being a Pirate cannot be discounted, considering the huge stat benefit that Patches brings.

This version would likely still see play in the exact same decks, and be just somewhat less potent. While this change may seem like an easy one, the fact that it may not shake up the meta enough to bring about significant change may be a reason to discount it. It’s worth expecting that given Team 5’s extreme infrequency in balance changes, that the changes should make a big difference.

 

 

 

 

Hits just has hard, but much less sticky

 

              The All-in

Perhaps a more divisive option would be to reduce the health of Small-Time Buccaneer to 1. No 3/1 minion for one has ever been printed (outside the cripplingly overloading Dust Devil). Reducing health would make the card far more vulnerable to pings, cheap AOE and 1 attack minions. The vulnerability would make more difference in some cases than others; Rogues, Druids and Mages would likely gain greatly from being able to hero-power it down, while Warrior and Shaman’s plethora of 1 damage options would also let them take it out with ease.

However, Hunter, Paladin, Warlock and Priest would likely still struggle, giving it a high likelihood of trading up regardless. Since Hunter and Paladin are the worst classes in the current meta, this hardly seems optimal.

 

 

 

 

 

Would this make for more tactical decision making with weaponry?

                                                                      The Situational

One of the problems with Small-Time Buccaneer is its ease of activation. Any weapon at all counts, as long as it is equipped. Making it only work with weapons with 2 or more durability would mean more tactical choices and less all-purpose power in the dream scenario (turn one Small-Time Buccaneer into turn two weapon). Warriors and Shamans would have to choose between losing Small Time Buccaneer’s buff and a weapon charge off Fiery War Axe or Jade Claws or losing the STB altogether. As well as promoting more interesting decisions, it would make early game minions in general a more potent counter to the piratical threat, as well as reducing the variance of the card by making it less polarizing between its best and worst-case scenarios.

Downsides include benefiting 3 durability weapons like Spirit claws and N’zoth’s first mate’s Rusty Hook, and the increased complexity of the card text. Like other changes, it has the potential to be not enough to dethrone the card’s dominance.

 

 

No, I’m not still upset over Warsong Commander, why do you ask?

 

The Soul of the Buccaneer
Team 5 has a history of not doing balancing by half-measures. Cards like Warsong Commander, Leper Gnome, Ancient of Lore and Molten Giant have gone from core staples to unplayable overnight. Completely reworking the mechanic to something that massively reduces the power level of the card to the point of effectively removing it from the game would not be exactly without precedent. Perhaps some would be happy to see such a change; and it would definitely have the desired effect of making the card less ubiquitous and powerful.

Though this is clearly an option, there are undoubtedly more elegant solutions out there that do not result in the effective removal of a card from the game.

 

 

 

 

 

No matter what Team 5 chooses, as long as some change does occur, the outcome is likely to be positive. Though it might not happen before the next standard rotation or perhaps even later, a bit more early-game diversity and balance is sure to be good for Hearthstone.

 

 

Thanks to hearthcards.net for the easy to use and powerful card editing tool; go check them out if you fancy making your own Small Time Buccaneers

Other images courtesy of hearthstone.gamepedia.com and Blizzard Entertainment

6 Neutral Reasons Rogues Shouldn’t Panic

With Mean Streets of Gadgetzan now released, some Rogue players are underwhelmed by their class cards. Not only did Rogues get a variety of seemingly weak, understated minions with limited synergies, they only got 2 cards that fall into the new Jade Lotus tri-class Golem mechanic compared to Druid and Shaman’s 3. And with most of the focus on the “control killing” potential of cards like Jade Idol, Rogue appears to be the weakest Jade option. To make matters worse, Rogues got a card traditionally reserved as a “joke”; the Rager variant. The Shadow Rager has already spawned memes mocking the quality of cards received this expansion.

But are things as bad for Rogue as they seem? While existing archetypes such as Malygos, Miracle, N’zoth, Burgle and Tempo Rogue might struggle to gain utility out of their new class cards (outside of perhaps Counterfeit Coin in Miracle), there are a number of Neutral cards coming with Mean Streets of Gadgetzan that could potentially give Rogues the tools it needs to survive and even thrive

 

Small-time BuccaneerPatches the Pirate

 

Small-time Buccaneer and Patches the Pirate

Did someone say Flame Imp? This little fella may seem underwhelming at first, but given Rogues propensity for Hero Powering turn 2, this guy is a pretty much guaranteed 3/2 for 1. Tempo rogue and miracle rogue alike will love this cheap, potent early board presence. He can even activate Combo later on! As well as being a potent Trogg or Mana Wyrm killer, he also has perfect synergy with the new Pirate Legendary, Patches. Patches may not seem much as a simple 1/1, but any pirate you play will draw and play him for free; thinning your deck while providing amazing early game board presence. He’ll go great with Small Time Buccaneer and existing Rogue staple Swashburglar.

 

Burgly BullyBurgly Bully

Not quite a Tomb Pillager, this guy nonetheless has huge potential. A 4/6 for 5 is decent stats, and even if his effect only activates once, he’s insane. Unlike previous spell-dependent minions like Lorewalker Cho and Troggzor, Burgly Bully is well statted, meaning that minions trading into him makes him comparable to Druid of the Claw as a 4/6 taunt for 5. Meanwhile, he can generate ridiculous value if you have the board and your foe is forced to either ignore him or give you multiple coins. Vs Druid, Control Warrior and Priest he is a nightmare to remove, and will likely fuel your turn 6 Gadzetzan into a super-powered cycling machine.

The Bully is arguably a little slow, but a potent effect that is good against so many decks is definitely worth trying out in all forms of Rogue that run Gadzetzan Auctioneer.

 

 

 

Genzo the SharkGenzo the Shark

A deceptively powerful tool for decks like Tempo Rogue that look to go all-in, Gonzo is only slightly understatted as a 5/4 for 4; but if he ever sticks, you are likely to win on the spot. Drawing up to three cards means that if you have the board and are low on cards (which tempo Rogue is extremely likely to do by turn 4), Gonzo will force your opponent to respond. This can mean delaying an AOE, or not killing a potent Cold-Blood buffed minion, allowing you to swiftly finish them off in the next few turns. If he lives, you have just given yourself a huge amount of gas to re-flood the board or get reach for lethal.

 

 

Mistress of Mixtures

Mistress of Mixtures

 

Late-game oriented Rogue decks have always struggled for healing; this Neutral option gives N’zoth Rogue a potent tool to stay alive in both the early and the late game. A 2/2 for 1 is a solid one drop, and the healing Deathrattle means that you can liberally dagger threatening targets in the first few turns, knowing that you’ll be healed to full again by her Deathrattle. In the late-game, she adds to your N’zoth, meaning you’ll not only build an even more massive board, but also likely give yourself all-important lifegain the following turn for free. While the opponent will also benefit, a deck that seeks to stretch out its gameplan to the mid-late game like N’zoth Rogue will benefit far more than your opponent will (especially versus aggro).

 

Red Mana Wyrm

Red Mana Wyrm

Jokingly called two Mana Wyrms stapled together, this expensive but potent minion could be the finisher Miracle Rogue needs in the post-Gadgetzan meta. Each spell grants it +2 attack, and it’s easy to see how games could be won off concealing this, followed by a flurry of damage spells and attack buffs. A turn 6 mana Wyrm into conceal is a nightmare to remove (dodging almost all AOE effects like Dragonfire Potion), and combinations of Preparations, Coins, Cold Bloods and Eviscerates could quickly spiral into huge damage; all whilst leaving up a massive minion for your opponent to deal with. While slower than Questing Adventurer or Edwin Van Cleef, its incredible burst potential means it’s definitely worth experimenting with.

 

(All images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment)

Midrange Shaman is Breaking Hearthstone’s Meta (and how to fix it)

Tier Zero

You only have to log onto Hearthstone Ladder to feel the impact of Midrange Shaman. If you’re playing between ranks 10 and 1, the chance that you queue into the powerful brew of Spellpower and Totem synergies is roughly one in five*. This isn’t just a ladder phenomenon, where cheaper, faster, easier to play decks tend to be overrepresented. Midrange Shaman is the bane of Tournaments also. In the upcoming Blizzcon world championship, every single contestant is bringing almost the exact same list.

Courtesy of Gamespedia.

Courtesy of Gamespedia.

The deck is not simply powerful. It is unique in its surprising consistency, with few, if any, direct counters among commonly played decks. It is powerful and flexible, able to transform the tiniest of advantages into huge swings, and managing to create hugely threatening boards out of just a few cards. Whilst several decks have an even matchup, it is only Freeze Mage, an expensive and skill intensive deck with multiple hard counters and poor performance against the rest of the meta, that can get a decisive edge. This lack of counter-queuing has led to a nightmare scenario, where the best counter to the dominant deck, while remaining consistent over the rest of the ladder, is to queue up with the exact same deck!

Data aggregators estimate that Midrange Shaman is currently averaging an unprecedented 56% win-rate over the whole of the ladder (recently the estimate has been dropping, but only because more mirror matches pushes the result closer to 50%). With the amount of Shamans reaching critical mass it’s clear that something has to change.

No One Culprit

Unlike in other cases, there is no one card that makes Midrange Shaman so powerful. As the nerfs to Tuskarr Totemic and Rockbiter Weapon have proven, the problem cannot be isolated to specific cards without unforeseen side effects. Even if, as is often proposed, Blizzard took emergency action and made changes to any single specific card in the current lists, the Shaman package is so synergistic and powerful that any card that was rebalanced could simply be replaced. This is a deck that frequently only runs one Fire Elemental, one of the most potent Midrange cards ever printed! The only way to significantly impact the deck’s power level would be a comprehensive change to a number of core cards.

screenshot0000However, this is both unlikely and probably unhealthy. Such an action would not only conflict with Team 5’s usual rhythm of balance changes, but would also likely have heavy repercussions for the class’s viability in the medium to long term. Before Standard and the Whispers of the Old Gods expansion, Controlling or Midrange archetypes of Shaman were simply non-existent in competitive environments. Tunnel Trogg, Thunderbluff Valiant, and Totem Golem are all on their way out in the next Standard rotation. Whilst the deck or some variation of it might just survive a comprehensive program of rebalancing, it’s likely that it would fall apart later on. This would force Blizzard to either give the class the Priest treatment of letting it languish in obscurity for multiple expansions, or take the risk of giving them many more competitive cards. This would risk returning Shaman to its oppressive state.

Rather than focusing on any one card, we must understand how to solve the Shaman problem by looking at the meta and where it fits. We have to analyze the deck as a whole, the archetype it falls into, and why traditional counters to that archetype haven’t been up to the challenge.

What is Midrange Shaman?

At its core, Midrange Shaman is a highly reactive deck compared to other midrange archetypes, such as Dragon Warrior, Midrange Hunter or the old Secret Paladin. The deck runs multiple board clears, hard and spot removal, defensive taunts, defensive weapons, and weapon removal. It forgoes virtually any burst potential from hand for a totally board-centered approach. The only reactive tool it lacks is a source of life gain, hence the decks vulnerability to Freeze mage. Should that ever be a serious counter to the deck’s dominance, a single copy of Healing Wave would easily swing the matchup back in the Shaman’s favor.

So what does this mean? Essentially, it results in a deck that is supremely effective against aggressive, pro-active decks, by repeatedly and efficiently clearing boards and putting up defenses. You need only look at the decline of decks such as Zoolock, Tempo Rogue, and Aggro Shaman to see the massive influence that Midrange Shaman has had on constraining aggressive decks that too often have too few counters. It’s important to recognize that whilst oppressively powerful, there’s not too much to complain about with the impact and play style of Midrange Shaman. In many ways, it reflects an archetype that Blizzard seems keen to encourage and promote.

Traditionally, anti-aggro Midrange decks have been vulnerable to Control decks that can deal with the few threats they run, and either fatigue them out or overwhelm them with threats of their own. However, Midrange Shaman is different. It has favorable matchups versus virtually all control or late game-oriented decks, with impressive statistics against Control Priest, Anyfin Paladin, Control Paladin, and Renolock. Shaman is only slightly unfavorable against Control Warrior. Nonetheless this inspires a question: Why does Shaman have so many good control matchups? Why doesn’t the highly reactive nature of Shaman prevent it from ever out-valuing a Controlling list?

A Lack of Control

The problem is twofold. Firstly is that the Shaman’s hero power and minions are a nightmare to deal with efficiently. The class inherently gravitates towards wide boards, with multiple 2-3 health minions. The risk of a Bloodlust or Thunder Bluff Valiant, as well as the additional value and awkwardness gained from Taunt-protected Mana Tide Totems, Flametongue Totems and Spellpower Totems or minions is dangerous. This means that it is imperative to clear these boards rather than attempting to contest, or else you will be swept away by the insane Shaman card synergies.

By simply hero powering and playing a small threat every turn, Shamans can rapidly exhaust the resources of control decks that simply don’t have enough board clears; especially since any gained tempo the control deck can grab by a well-timed clear can often be swiftly reversed by a heavily discounted Thing From Below, followed by other minions on the following turn. This means that even against the most late-game oriented decks, Shamans can compete in fatigue, resulting in that strategy being difficult at best.

Control decks would traditionally beat reactive anti-aggro Midrange through playing powerful, high value minions. Cards like Cairne, Sylvanas, Ragnaros, Ysera, and massive combos like Anyfin Can Happen can swing a game. Now the new synergistic late-game Old Gods like N’zoth and C’thun are all available to provide a huge late-game punch to cripple purely anti-aggro lists. However, whilst these strategies sound good on paper, there is one three mana shaman spell in the way: Hex.

Hex shuts down virtually all of these strategies. Board or no board, regardless of Deathrattle, and in a way that prevents resurrection strategies like with C’thun, Anyfin and N’zoth, Hex provides an incredibly potent tempo swing against high value minions. Furthermore, the Shaman’s ability to efficiently trade boards into large threats with cards like Flametongue Totem means that Hex can be saved for the highest priority targets. (Note that I am not advocating an increase in the cost of Hex or similar rebalancing, Shaman suffers from a weak Classic/Basic Set as is).

hearthstone-thrall_cinematic

Looking Forward

What’s to be done? If we wish for Midrange Shaman to continue to act as a counterbalance to aggressive strategies, then something must be done to make the deck beatable by more controlling archetypes. The best way to do this would be to introduce more tools for Control/Late game decks to counter the low-value board flood. Ideally, something that can deal three damage AOE to efficiently deal with Flametongue, Spirit Wolves and Tunnel Trogg. We’ve already seen this to an extent with Karazhan, with cards such as Fool’s Bane proving effective against Shaman’s board. However, other classes (particularly Paladin) need more help. If more classes had access to more board clears, then running Shaman out of cards could be a viable strategy.

In addition, we need high-impact late-game cards that aren’t hard countered by transform effects. Perhaps unconditional shuffling of cards into the deck, or more Baron Geddon or Deathwing style minion-based board clears. With a new expansion on the way, maybe some of these answers will come. If not, it’s likely we’ll be dealing with the dominance of Thrall for a long time coming.

*the latest Vicious Syndicate Data reaper report estimates 23.5% (http://www.vicioussyndicate.com/vs-data-reaper-report-23/) whereas the slightly more conservative metastats.net reports 15.1% http://metastats.net/snapshot/week/

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and eSports articles from other great TGH writers along with Alex!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

A Happy Game Haus Thankgiving

We decided a couple of weeks ago that we wanted to do a Thanksgiving piece and give our readers a chance to get to know us a little better! Below are some of the staff members of TGH telling you all what they are thankful for this holiday season. From Our Haus to Yours, have a very happy Game Haus Thanksgiving!

Jared MacAdam- Head of Esports: Well, I’ll go first, being the only Canadian and my Thanksgiving has passed quite some time ago. I’m thankful for the way this site has grown since its inception, how many great writers we’ve had and all the awesome content we’ve produced. I’m also immensely thankful for the way esports has matured in the past year; we’re seeing leaps and strides in key areas like players well being and stability. It’s an exciting thing to experience and to have a little part in. I’m also thankful for all the weirdos in the Front Office who lovingly mock my Canadianisms.

Josh Burris – Editor: I am thankful for sports. I am a proud Cleveland fan and with the exception of the Browns, good things are happening with our teams. I’m thankful I got to see a Cleveland team win a title. I am also thankful for my family and friendships I have at home, school, and from this site.

Ryan Moran – CFO: I am thankful for family, friends, and football. I am also thankful to be working for TGH and to belong to such an exciting community of sports and esports. I am also thankful of the unifying power of sports and their ability to bring anybody together win or lose.

Tim Miller – Vice President: Of course, when talking about being thankful, I have to be thankful for the opportunity to help lead The Game Haus. I’m also thankful to root for the mighty Ohio State Buckeye football team, and that Marvin Lewis should get fired after this year. I’m also thankful for a loving family and loving girlfriend. Finally, I’m thankful to live in a great country with freedoms like no other (no matter how you feel currently), and to go to a solid, christian university in Cedarville University.

Robert Hanes- President: While these last 365 days have been some of the most challenging times in my life, I can say that I have so many things to be grateful for. To start, everyone here at The Game Haus. These people are incredible, as you can read in their paragraphs of what they are thankful for. They have all gone through many things and have worked their butts off while working here. So thank you to all of the Front Office Members, Writers, Podcasters, and League Team Members! I am also very thankful for my friends. They have helped me through some tough times throughout the last year and I do not know where I would be without them. The same can be said for my Father, Mother and Sister. They have been my rocks as I have struggled many times this year. Lastly I am thankful to God and his son, while it sounds cheesy I know they have been with me every step of the way. From Our Haus to Yours, thank you and have a wonderful holiday season!

Terrance Singleton- Social Media Director: I am thankful for the life God has given me. Every time the holiday season comes around I think about how easily I couldn’t be here. My grandfather died on November 19, 2010 right before Thanksgiving. And I was in a pretty bad car accident on December 27, 2012 that broke my neck and cut my scalp open. So every time the holiday season rolls around I always think about how precious life, family, friends, and faith are important in my life and everyone’s life. So on this Thanksgiving when you are watching NFL football games and eating food until you can’t move, tell your loved ones how much you love them because tomorrow is not promised.

Dylan Streibig- NFL Writer: Whether we realize it or not, we all have a lot to be thankful for.  I am no exception this Thanksgiving or any other year. I am thankful to have a roof over my head and a family that loves me. I am grateful for the fantastic sporting events that go on all around the world. They provide me a momentary escape from my life with a physical disability. I am also thankful for my dog and the fact that I am now a published sports writer thanks to The Game Haus. Most of all, I am thankful for the loyalty of my close friends who do not give up on me, even when I give up on myself.

Matthew Hagan- Columnist: I’m thankful for the opportunity The Game Haus has presented me with. Writing about my favorite sport, football, and offering me a column has been one of the best things in my life. I am thankful to have parents, family and friends support while trying to get a degree in college. My mom has been the biggest reason I have made it this far and I am so thankful that I get to fly back to Vegas to spend Thanksgiving with her. I am also thankful I got to see the Cubs win a World Series and attend the victory parade in Chicago. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life. I am thankful for all the opportunities I have had in this amazing country. I am proud to be an American and this Thanksgiving is going to be one of the best ever. Thank you to everyone who reads my articles, weather you agree or disagree with them. I want to wish anyone who reads this, and anyone who may not, a safe, fun and amazing Thanksgiving.

Alex Keller- Recruitment and Retention: What am I thankful for? Where can I even begin… I guess it would have to be with my family and friends. I wouldn’t be in the position I am today if not for their love and support. But it’s so much more than that… the opportunity to even attend an institution like Georgia Tech, let alone graduate from it is an experience I’m incredibly thankful for. And of course, I have to thank everyone who’s been a part of making my experience with TGH so awesome. So, from our haus to yours, have a Happy Game Haus Thanksgiving everybody.

Uninspiring: Hearthstone’s failed mechanics

The second your Shaman opponent lets out a deceptively jovial “My Greetings”, you know you’re doomed. It’s been a hard-fought game against your Midrange opponent, and you’ve just started to stabilise, but now you’re low on cards and out of answers. Barely pausing, Thrall drops his topdecked Thunder Bluff Valiant and activates his hero power, turning a board of harmless totems you simply couldn’t spare the resources to remove into potent threats. He clears the remnants of your board and deals substantial face damage with the next. Your next draw whiffs, and you simply have no way of recovering. With lethal guaranteed next turn, you concede.

It seems a very long time ago that Team 5 touted the Grand Tournament expansion’s new mechanics of Joust and Inspire as being the cure for a meta deemed overly aggressive. By promoting late-game oriented deckbuilding and smart off-curve decisions, the designers hoped that those two mechanics were to restore more strategic play to the game. However, things didn’t quite go to plan. The Grand Tournament’s promising Inspire and Joust mechanics saw scant play. What’s worse, Hearthstone released no new cards with these mechanics since the set’s release. With all cards due to rotate out soon, what happened? Why were these the first failed Hearthstone mechanics?

 

The Grand Tournament’s Grand Plan

 

In an interview with Gamespot prior to the set’s release, designer Mike Donais expressed his desire to introduce more control tools by means of these new mechanics;

“Sometimes players feel bad if they’re losing to cheap minions, in decks such as Hunter rush, or Warlock rush, and they are looking for solutions. They are looking for solutions from us.”

Those solutions would come in the form of not just new cards, but new mechanics.

Initially, it’s easy to see how the Hearthstone designers at Blizzard would feel like the introduced cards would help solve some of the criticisms aimed at Hearthstone’s competitive and ladder gameplay. The two most common complaints, which have still rung true for the entirety of Hearthstone’s recent history, can be described roughly as follows;

  • “Too much aggro!”; or an overly fast meta; Most decks at a competitive level include few, if any expensive minions or spells, leading to centralization around classes with the most powerful early-game tools. Players felt that games ended too fast, and interesting situations seemed rare
  • “Curvestone”; the relative power of pro-active cards and over reactive ones. The community complained that too many decks stuck to a highly pro-active gameplan with few comeback tools. Board clears and lifegain were rare, and minions were almost always the key to victory. Players felt like by only rewarding on curve plays and obvious trades, the ability to do significant strategic decision-making was taken away from the game

The attempts that the Grand Tournament made to rectify this were twofold; each addressing one of these salient points. Rather than focus its efforts on creating neutral minions using existing mechanics, like in Naxxramus and GvG with cards such as Deathlord, Zombie Chow, Antique Healbot and Sludge Belcher, Blizzard sought to add entirely new mechanics that would result in less curve oriented and aggressive gameplay.

 

Jousting Aggro

Blizzard Entertainment

 

The first of these was Joust. Whilst never an explicit keyword, its new mechanic was clear and innovative. When players summoned a Joust card, a minion from each deck, chosen at random, was revealed. If the minion from the Jouster’s deck cost more, then they would “win” the Joust, resulting in some benefit for the minion. So, for instance, the “Master Jouster”, otherwise an understatted 6 drop at 5/6, would gain Divine Shield and Taunt upon winning.

The idea behind it was simple, despite the complex (by Hearthstone standards) implementation; to incentivise decks with more expensive minions and punish more aggressively curving lists, the meta could self-correct to prevent overly aggressive lists from being dominant. Facing too many Zoolocks? Sub in a Gadgetzan Jouster or two to win back the board in the early game. Seeing lots of Face Hunter as a Paladin? Tuskarr Jouster can win you back a lot of health on the cheap.

 

Joust not good enough

 

However, things didn’t quite turn out as planned. In order to compete with aggressive lists, even late game oriented decks still ran plenty of cheap minions; and even if not, there were still a sizeable number of reasonably expensive minions in aggressive lists to make Jousting by no means an assured victory; especially since a “draw” in a Joust is as good as a loss. A Joust became a poor determination of the relative late-game orientation of decks. Instead, players saw it more as a weighted coin toss. As well as frustrating players with the relatively uncontrollable randomness, it also contributed to the effects being far less reliable than they needed to be.

More damning to Joust than the randomness was the inconsistency. Many Joust cards had a high variance between their optimal and sub-optimal outcomes often being flat-out terrible cards if the effect whiffed. For instance, Tuskarr Jouster would not heal at all if it lost the Joust. Gadgetzan Jouster could be an exceptional or horrendous one drop. The result was that the only Joust cards saw significant competitive play were the ones that saw play.

The core problem was that even versus the decks they were designed to get an edge against, Joust cards were simply far too unreliable. Aggro decks are so punishing to sub-par plays that consistency is exceptionally more valuable than inconsistent high value. Deckbuilders treated Joust effects like a card’s semi-random upside rather than a deckbuilding challenge; only the aggressive Midrange Hunter adopting a Joust card in King’s Elekk. Any future Joust cards will, at best, be likely inconsistent and frustrating. Perhaps as a result of this, Blizzard hasn’t included any Joust cards since The Grand Tournament. With no indication that it is a mechanic they wish to revisit, it is likely that Standard will soon have none of this mechanic.

So how could Joust be better implemented? If it was less random and inconsistent, Blizzard could tune it to give a more reliable outcome versus aggressive lists. One alternative implementation would be to reveal the highest or lowest cost minion in both decks; that way players could predict to a reasonable degree whether the joust would be successful.

However, it’s unlikely we will ever see Blizzard return to Joust. The new strategy seems to be to promote late-game oriented play with better reactive early-game spells and spell synergies, as well as early-game minions that work towards a late-game win condition in the form of N’zoth and C’thun.

 

Inspiring Hero Powers

Blizzard Entertainment

 

The overall theme of The Grand Tournament was Hero Powers. By printing cards that synergised with and promoted hero power usage, Blizzard hoped to promote off-curve play that relied more on strategy and decision-making. Simply dropping the biggest bundle of stats you could each turn would no longer be optimal. Inspire was a key component of this. Rewarding hero power use with an Inspire minion on board would make spending mana efficiently more of an interesting puzzle.

For example, Paladin’s Murloc Knight can be played as a 4 cost 3/4 minion. But if you activate it with a hero power, it could be played as a 6 mana 3/4 and a random Murloc (and a 1/1). Similarly, Kvaldir Raider could be a 5 mana 4/4 or a 7 mana 6/6. Blizzard and the community hoped that this would mean that decks could rely less on curving out; instead adjusting their playstyle to adapt to their opponent.

 

Uninspiring

 

Unfortunately, this line of reasoning held a crucial flaw. Because the Inspire effect activated every time the player used their hero power, Inspire cards that impacted the board had the potential to snowball massively. If your opponent couldn’t immediately remove the Inspire minion, it would begin to generate massive value. Essentially, Inspire meant that the losing player would begin losing even harder. According to developers, the value of Inspire minions had to be toned down during development; otherwise, they could have been oppressively strong.

The overall effect was that Inspire became less about playing off curve and more about capitalizing on earlier games. Ironically, in decks where Inspire minions were used, such as Paladin and Shaman, this lead to a heavier focus on playing on curve. By having cards that require going uncontested to get value, you cannot sacrifice early game tempo. Like with Joust, Hearthstone has had no Inspire cards since The Grand Tournament.

Inspire’s key failing was that it lead to Hearthstone becoming more focused on initial on curve plays. Perhaps the mechanic would have impacted Hearthstone more positively if Inspire cards were competitively statted in effect and body; this counterbalanced by the effect working only on the turn the minion was summoned. Inspire minions would be both a decent quality play on curve or combined with hero power. This would allow for the off-curve hero-power promoting play Team 5 wanted to promote, without leading to the oppressive snowballing of minions the opponent couldn’t remove.

 

Defending Team 5 and the Future

 

Introducing new mechanics to a game is always a risky venture. I think we can appreciate it though, even when it doesn’t go to plan. While we can bemoan the low impact and negative gameplay effects of these two mechanics, it’s important to remember that without the failed experimentation of Joust and Inspire, it is unlikely that we would have more successful and praised ones, such as Discover. I think we can all hope that Team 5 learn from the mistakes of Joust and Inspire. That understanding can help promote the design goals they aspired to in future expansion; even if the mechanics themselves never return (outside of Wild).

Though that said, I’ll still be happy when I never have to see Thunder Bluff Valiant again.

 

(Image credit to Hearthstone.gamepedia. All images courtesy of Blizzard entertainment)

An Interview with compLexity’s Crane

For the few who don’t know him, Simon “Crane333” Raunholst is a player for Team compLexity and has been hailed for a long time as one of the best in the Hearthstone competitive scene. If you ever go to his channel you will see a lot of pro players discussing the hot topics of the moment, he is a favourite amongst that crowd. Amongst his winning there is the very recent second place finish at DreamHack Valencia, but there are also numerous other high place finishes. As of now he is rated the15th best player in the world by http://www.gosugamers.net/ . Overall it was an honour for me to get the chance to ask him a few questions, he is amongst the players I respect the most in the scene. I will say that when I saw I got this chance to ask him some questions, my reaction was akin to the one a 14 year old would have after being told they can meet their idol.

Before the interview, I want to thank Kyle from Stride PR for giving the Game Haus the chance to cover this piece, as well as Crane333 for taking the time off to answer my questions. Without further ado, I present to you the interview!

 

When did you start playing Hearthstone?

December 2013.

 

What attracted you to the game?

First, it was the casual aspect of the game, I just wanted to play for fun. After a while I started playing Combo decks and I got intrigued by the mental aspect of the game, being able to think ahead and solve the puzzles felt really fun. This was in the golden age of Miracle Rogue, a deck which, of course, I played a ton of.

 

Your favourite deck in the game, my bets are on old Patron Warrior?

Old Miracle Rogue and the Warsong + Death Bite Patron are for sure my two favourite decks of all time. The main reason for this is the amount of thinking needed to play those decks optimally, as well as the fact that they were top tier in their prime.

In general I see myself enjoying any combo deck, I will say I tend to mainly play tier 1 decks as winning is a big part of the enjoyment I get from the game.

 

Favourite card and best card designed in the game, again my bets are on Patron?

Pre-nerf Gadgetzan Auctioneer (5 mana).  I feel like this card was very rewarding if you were a good player and insanely punishing if you were not. Sequencing your spells correctly and knowing when to stop using spells to play minions instead, was essential and very difficult in the short time frame you were given for the turn. It is also incredibly fun to play with because of all the puzzles you need to solve when going off with it. You have to think of all the possible outcomes, and sometimes you can make really miraculous comebacks using it; hence Miracle rogue being called Miracle Rogue.

Pre-nerf Patron was an awesome deck but I don’t think the card alone is very interesting. The current iterations of the deck, in my opinion, lost a lot of the flavour. RIP Warsong.

 

I tried searching online about your ascension to the competitive scene, couldn’t find much. Could you give me a brief summary about your story?

Before being noticed I just played a lot of open tournaments and grinded ladder. Suddenly, I qualified for the Viagame House Cup. There I started talking with Adrian “LifeCoach” Koy and Dima “Rdu” Radu, both of whom I later started practising with. Eventually my network grew and I was introduced to other pro players, suddenly I was recognized as a top tier player.

My breakthrough performance was probably due to getting really good results in the BlizzCon Qualifier for 2015. I scored a ton of points despite not being invited to any tournaments. Basically, I am a grinder who has worked his way up to becoming a pro player. The final step was being picked up by compLexity, I am really grateful for the chance given to me.

Having a team that sends you to events is all you really need to build your career, not having to sponsor your own trips is a big deal. In the past I had to pay for my own trips, this puts you under more pressure as you have to perform to pay back your expenses. On top of that, it can be really demoralizing if you lose early on in the tournament. Being on a serious team means you can put your entire focus on the gameplay, this helps more than one could ever imagine.

 

Mandatory question since there has been so much talk about it, what is your opinion on the state of the game?

I think Blizzard messed up big time but I don’t think the solutions are hard to implement. I recently played in a team league (the Deck Gauntlet for anyone interested), I realized the game is still amazing as long as you can remove Shaman and Warrior from the play field. I want to emphasize I am not claiming this makes the game perfect, but boy does it help! Yogg’Saron is obviously really bad for the competitive scene, and I would like to see it removed. On the flipside the card does allows Druid have a competitive archetype. I find that Druid, except from when you have to play Yogg, is quite skill-intensive.

So, yeah, playing ladder is the absolute worst because in this format you are forced to play against Warrior and Shaman. To top this off, Blizzard pushed DiscardLock. This is something I feel passionately about and I had already talked about in a set review back when we saw the first Discard cards being printed. I think the mechanic is just bad for the game, it pushes the idea of irrationally vomiting your hand and only play with top decks. Even worse, with a card like Silverware Golem, you can either discard it and gain an immense advantage or miss the discard and probably lose the game. Healthy RNG should be more recoverable than the swing of free 3/3 on board. In my opinion it is sloppy card design.

 

What can be done to improve it?

Firstly, I think they need to print a weak Totem to make Tuskarr Totemic less of a thing (or make Totem Golem not be a Totem! Or simply not allow Tuskarr to spawn in). Also, they should stop printing improved Mana Wyrms as a means of fixing weak classes. In my opinion, Tunnel Trogg is a bad card for the game, as is Mana Wyrm. Cards which snowball immensely and can be played on turn one are not good for the competitive scene, recall Undertaker! I also think it is possible to simply nerf Doomhammer, off the top of my head I could see making it so that only 1 charge per turn can go face. As for Warrior, I don’t think I mind too much except perhaps a nerf to Dragon Warrior to push some other archetypes. Obviously there is always the Yogg issue, removing or nerfing the card from the game has to be done sooner rather than later.

Off the top of my head that’s what I would test if I was a developer.

 

How much preparation goes into Hearthstone every day?

It really changes a lot based on time of month and number of tournaments scheduled. I find that whenever I have tournaments I try to charge up mentally and avoid ladder. I mainly prepare by thinking about line-ups and by having focused sessions with top Hearthstone players. At the end of each month, unless I have a tournament to attend in the last few days, I pretty much play ladder the entire day. Obviously this only applies if I am not camping a top rank on both EU and NA.

Other than that, I also spend a lot of time watching other players and trying to backseat the game. I find that this helps a lot as it enables me to see other players’ perspective on the game. Also, I think that analysing the game without playing yourself is very useful, very often I find myself noticing things which I would otherwise miss. Overall I basically think about Hearthstone every waking hour, no question that for me this is a full-time job.

 

How much does it take to prepare for a tournament?

Depends on the metagame. When I prepared for DreamHack Valencia it didn’t take too long, I pretty much just took the BrokeBack line-up (Dragon Warrior, Aggro Shaman, Yogg Token Druid and Zoolock) because I wanted to see how it would perform. Before that I had been running a lot of combo line-ups with mixed success.

Other times I have prepared multiple hours each day for about a week in advance. One week before the tournament is a good time to start really focusing on your game play since the metagame can change really quickly and this can hinder you if you start preparing too early. Obviously this is different depending on when expansions are coming out, as a general rule though I start play testing about two to three weeks ahead of the tournament.  You have to consider preparation also includes analysing the format and trying to map out the best possible line-ups, only once this is set in stone you can start practicing the actual decks.

 

Do you review your games? How much does it take and how many mistakes do you usually notice?

Most of the time I review my tournament games, I will say that after a disappointing loss sometimes it takes a while before I can watch my own games. I almost always notice something that I missed while playing, this doesn’t always mean I did the wrong play, but that I might have done the right play for the wrong reasons.

Unfortunately, the longer tournaments go the more mentally drained I become and thus I know in the past I have made incredibly bad plays. To improve in this aspect all you can do is train you stamina by enduring longer Hearthstone sessions. Eventually you can arrive to a point that even after long hours of Hearthstone your gameplay level doesn’t drop too much.

 

I believe the environment in which you play is essential to compete at the best of your capabilities, do you find you perform worst when playing in tournament venues?

I would not say so. Rather, I would say that I play my best when there is something at stake. I am a competitor at heart and I have a surprisingly bad win-rate when playing casually. Obviously, it is easier to play from home since I am in my comfort zone. I will say though I am getting a lot better at competing in LAN events as I have gained quite a bit of experience!

 

Don’t want to stir up drama and you can choose not to answer, but I was curious about a tweet you tweeted a while back. You said: “you know who I’m going to be rooting for in America’s championship? all the players who aren’t Pascoa”. What did Pascoa do which irritated you, was it his insistence on the Greetings in the first match against Rosty?

It was the BM emotes. I can’t remember exactly when, but I think he spammed at the end of his last game. You have to consider that whilst the winner is qualified for the BlizzCon qualifier the loser just potentially missed on his big chance, it is a really big deal for players trying to break in the scene. I think that showing just a little bit of respect for your opponent goes a long way and should be the least anyone could do in a high stakes setting. I know how heartbroken I would be if I just missed my chance for Top 8 in the BlizzCon qualifier.

Other than that, if stakes are a lot lower I don’t I care as much about BM. Although I will say I never do it myself (in tournaments) out of principle.

 

Your tips for up and coming players?

If you want to make it in Hearthstone, you better buckle up.

Unless you plan on getting lucky, you are going to have a lot of work cut out for you. In general: build relationships with top players and improve yourself by finding inspiration from players who have a different approach to the game than you, obviously select ones which are good at the game. Most important of all try to become the best player YOU can be. Instead of buying into how others play the game, always question their logic and try to evaluate it yourself if there is reasons to agree to what they are saying. Don’t take what big figures in the scene say at face value!

 

Do you think competitive Hearthstone is a niche that will always be overshadowed by the big streamer names like Amaz and Kripp?

Sure, there are a couple of big streamers but I don´t see what that has to do with competitive Hearthstone. Most of those guys could be playing any game and they would have viewers, they are entertainers, we are competitors. When there is a big tournament it gets more viewers than Kripp and Amaz joined together, so I don´t feel like the competitive scene is being overshadowed at all. I also think they cater to different people, even though being based around the same game obviously means there will be some overlap in viewership.

 

Looked at your tweets, how did it feel when you realized you had Weblord instead of Knife Juggler in your deck at the WCA qualifier? (For those who don’t know the tweet being mentioned is here: https://twitter.com/coL_Crane333/status/767315483922161664 )

Well, I felt pretty startled to be honest. When I was looking through my lists I didn’t spot it, this was probably due to being tired after having competed all day. I was also feeling pretty nervous about the next stage of the qualifier and this must have played some role in my mistake.

The card was in the deck because prior to submitting the deck lists I randomly decided to troll on ladder with Weblords instead of Jugglers, later on I forgot all about it. I often play troll decks when I want to unwind after tournament matches, it really helps after a stressful day. All you can do is forgive yourself and look forward, it’s useless to cry over your mistake. I always knew that I was good enough at the game, so if I kept doing my thing I would get more chances and eventually succeed.

 

Best Hearthstone related story?

I guess the story is the one which I just recounted, this is the one I would tell my friends to entertain them. When I told a few of my close acquaintances they replied by saying: “that is so typically you.” I am the sort of guy who sometimes forgets about the world around him and for a while, takes off and lives in his own head. Weird things like this tend to happen to me more than I am proud to admit!

 

Do you think Blizzard should push more content? (Content can come in different forms, like a card a month given to everybody)

Even if obviously it is always enjoyable to have new cards to play with, I think that the release frequency that Blizzard currently promised is reasonable.

 

Nobody knows what the future reserves for them, do you have any general idea?

My general idea is to continue to pursue new goals in Hearthstone, I dream to do so for many years to come.

 

Thank you for your answers and your patience!

 

This concludes the interview, but before you close the page please consider following me (the writer) on Twitter: https://twitter.com/matteo_ghisoni this does go a long way when trying to gain some recognition.

Additionally, if you want to know when Crane streams you can follow him on twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/crane333/profile as well as Twitter: https://twitter.com/coL_Crane333 .

I hope you enjoyed the interview and that I can bring you further content for you to read in the future!

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ them on Twitter. We also have our own subreddit. Be sure to check out TGH’s newly revamped forums if you want to discuss with Matteo or any of the other writers!

The Current State of the Hearthstone Competitive Scene

Disclaimer: A lot of the ideas I use in this article come from different members of the Hearthstone community. Special mention goes to Dan “Frodan” Chou, his words on Value Town were the inspiration for writing this article.

This week was an intense week for Hearthstone, Na ‘Vi unexpectedly disbanded their Hearthstone team and Archon is no more. In the threads about these events a lot of people were shouting at the fact Hearthstone is dying and that the current state of the game cannot support a competitive format. Additionally, discontented tweets from pro players about the state of the game continue piling on, it seems the competitive community is starting an uprising against the creators.

I will admit that my first reaction was similar to the one the community had, I thought the rats are jumping the sinking ship. On Wednesday night after I finished watching Value Town, a show hosted by Chris “ChanManV” Chan, I changed my mind. I was convinced by what Dan “Frodan” Chou said, Hearthstone is maturing this is just a transitioning period. Later that night one of the people I respect the most in the scene, Andrey “Reynad” Yanyuk, claimed that Hearthstone is in a better position than most esports and we haven’t even peaked yet. This made me think. As an outsider to the scene I have to bow my head to these pillars that have been here since the start, their opinion is obviously much more educated than mine. So as a philosophy graduate I took their words and tried to make sense out of them, this is what I came up with.

These are the Rough Times

Hearthstone is a really young esport. Compare it to League of Legends: the game was released the 27th October 2009, it wasn’t until 6th of August 2012 the first LCS season was announced. Before that there was outside organizers participating in the scene as they saw potential. Hearthstone was released the 11th March 2014, in 2014 we already had massive prize pools and Blizzcon was a huge success. The year after the trend continued going, tournaments were pulling in absurd amount of viewers. This was until the post League of Explorers metagame when the scene slowly went into decline. This is not because the esport side is dying, to the opposite of this, like Frodan said the initial excitement has died out a bit and now it has to developed into a more mature scene.

This is a bit akin to a relationship, if you have ever been in a long term one you will know what I mean. The first few months are the honey moon period, everything is exciting and you cannot see any of the flaws in the significant other. After a few months the excitement dies down, this is the moment the relationship is set to the test. It either dies out because the people in the relationship couldn’t transition to the maturation of the relationship, or it will blossom in something even better, with more trust and engagement from both people involved. In some sense the transition stage can be called the puberty of the relationship,so we could say we are living in the puberty of Hearthstone.

So what do I think we need? We need the major exponents from the competitive scene to cohere together and invest in the future of the esport. I heard Aleksandr “Kolento” Malsh say it was not worth it attending tournaments for him, he makes more money streaming. This is absolutely absurd because going to tournaments should be seen as an investment into the scene that will profit you in the long run. If major names attend tournaments more viewers will be attracted to following the competition, it is only natural to want to see your favourite player compete. This results in more sponsors, thus money, into the scene and helps the scene flourish as a whole. More money = more events and enjoyment.

Additionally we also need the dev team for Hearthstone to step up their game, it would be absurd to claim they are without fault. If they manage to make a game which can host a healthy competitive scene whilst also pleasing the casual player they will have done gods work, it is hard but I trust they can do it. All we need is a couple of good expansions and balance changes to make the game a good grounds for competition.

Above all we are in the hands of people like Reynad, owner of Tempostorm, and Steve “Buyaka” Maida, owner of Luminosity gaming, to direct the scene in the right direction. They are the people that most of all have the potential to make the scene really flourish, they need to attract sponsors and show how much this game can give. Obviously it is a hard job, they need the support from the players and the development team but if they have it I think they can potentially reshape the Hearthstone landscape.

Overall it is not something one single person can do, the scene should work together and everybody should try to give their input to improve it. Be it pro players attending more tournaments or the dev team communicating and making more balance changes, Hearthstone needs to be seen as a huge group project.

The Potential

Something which I really wanted to talk about is Frodan’s claim that the sponsorship potential for Hearthstone is higher than in any other esport. Whilst you can still advertise video games, mice and keyboards, the people who watch Hearthstone streams are usually avid gamers, you can also expand sponsorship in areas such as food and beverages. Playing Hearthstone at the highest levels doesn’t require mechanical skills, eating or drinking whilst playing legend games is possible. What this means is that businesses could be attracted by the idea of making players place their products in exchange for monetary support.

This gives Hearthstone the possibility of expanding more than any other esport, I don’t think I have to emphasize how much money counts when developing any sort of infrastructure. In a few years’ time, if the leading figures of the Hearthstone scene manage to attract the big sponsors like Coca-Cola, we could have a scene which has an absurd amount of competitive content happening weekly. These behemoths of the capitalistic world can do anything with the amount of funds that are available to them.

But esport scene cannot exist without a following, here we have to give it to the dev team that they have done a great job making Hearthstone really appealing to look at. No online game appeals to the casual eyes as much as Hearthstone. The interface is clean, cards get played and effects are flashy and explosive. It is so good, that even if he has never played the game, my brother enjoys watching tournaments with me. You don’t need to be a Pro Player to understand the basics behind the game.

The last point to fight back is the idea that there is too much RNG in Hearthstone, it can never support a competitive format. I wrote a whole article about this but I think James “Firebat” Kostesich summarized the issue perfectly on stream about a week ago (you can find the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqVfKHLzTSQ ). Bumping the win percentages of the pro players up by just a bit would make for the competitive scene to flourish again, whilst we have too much RNG this is not impossible to solve. You only need a pro player around 65% win rate in order to grant him consistency in the long run, 100% win rates are not to be expected in a card game.

Overall we play a game which has huge potential, but we are not the only game around competitors are coming up from every corner. The question is: will Hearthstone come out on top?

The Positive Aspects

Now, I am not saying that the guys in the dev team are doing a perfect job, but they have started getting more involved with the community. Posts on Twitter and Reddit by Ben Brode and the others are pretty common, they always answer intelligent queries sent to them. Additionally, they also confirmed they read the Hearthstone related subreddits multiple times during the day and that they keep in mind community feedback. This is especially obvious after they removed Purify from arena in order to not butcher even more an already butchered class. Also on the 5th of September Brode confirmed that they were going to make balance changes to make arena less of a Magefest (as of now the changes are official you can find them: http://www.hearthhead.com/news=255768/blue-tweets-brode-talks-rng-improving-communication-and-yogg-saron ).

Additionally the team has said multiple times that they are interested in keeping the esport scene going, what we need to see now is more willingness to make concrete changes and look back at past designs. People have to acknowledge that it is hard to change a card, a small change can impact the metagame and a class completely. It is a decision that takes time and a lot of testing. Consider that the Hearthstone team is probably swamped with work, they are currently trying to optimize the game of every platform. When everything will be set in stone and all the platforms will be sorted out, the focus will be able to finally shift entirely on the game.

Overall the communication can improve from their side, but I will take a step back and be less arrogant and stop claiming that they are not doing a great job. It must be really rough to do what they do. Hopefully the team will show us why all the critiques that have recently targeted them are founded in ignorance and they are right in how they are managing the game.

Also sponsors are looking to invest money in the scene, tournaments still happen on a monthly basis. Especially now that we are getting closer to Blizzcon it is important to make the game in the best shape it can be, we need to showcase off the competitive scene. Additionally players, like Firebat, have shown that they are willing to invest their own time and money in order to make the scene flourish. They love the game that much.

What we need is time, maybe in a couple of years’ time we will look back at this period laughing at our own misgivings.

Wrapping Up

Some will claim that I am being a Blizzard/Frodan fanboy blind to the real state of the game. All I can reply is that after a long reflection I think I realized I might have been unfairly pessimistic about the Hearthstone competitive scene. Whilst there is work to do, I think Reynad and Frodan are totally on point, this is a transitioning stage and by 2020 Hearthstone will be one of the biggest esports out there. The questions time will answer is the following: will everybody involved cohere together and manage to work as a team to lend support for this wonderful game?

Before concluding I will say that I would advise anyone who is mildly interested in the Hearthstone background scene to watch the following VOD of the Value Town show, it provides wonderful insight and can help clear the uneducated opinions many of us have as outsiders to the scene. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3sGfM4365Q&t=15m39s

If you enjoyed the article consider following me on twitter at: https://twitter.com/matteo_ghisoni , it does help my self-esteem when I get more followers!

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7 Cards I would like to see in Mage

Control Mage is my favourite archetype in the game, with the “One Night in Karazhan” expansion I feel we have gotten one step closer to making the deck competitively viable. In this article I give some general ideas of what I feel could be useful tools to make the deck break into the competitive scene. A small disclaimer, I tried to design cards for a general game plan rather than a specific deck, thus not all the cards are to be necessarily played alongside each other.

 

Gossipy Mage

gossipy Mage

My opinion on the Mage Secret pool:

Good: Ice Block, Counterspell.

Ok: Mirror Image, Effigy.

Situational: Vaporize, Spellbender, Ice Barrier.

 

All the Inspire cards that are currently in the game come from “The Grand Tournament”, when the set will rotate out we will lose this interesting mechanic. The problem with the mechanic is that you need to make the minion low statted as it has the potential to snowball after a few turns, this is especially true with cards which affect the board like Thunderbluff Valiant. I thought that a way around this was to make an inspire card which gave card advantage with a specific card pool to choose from, snowballing from Secrets is much harder. This is why I made this card a 3/3. Consider that you want to play this card turn 5 to gain full value from it, if not it will just be a vanilla 3/3, this is not very good in constructed. The random secret is a Mage spell, if you pay attention to where the card is slotted in your opponents hand you can see when it is played, this can help you identify if you have to play around a Secret naturally included in the deck or a random Mage secret. The effect is decent but it is by no means overpowered, it is actually very slow. The reason you don’t naturally include Secrets in the deck is that paying 3 mana is usually a very high cost for the situational effect they provide, additionally the effect is usually not worth a slot in the deck. Overall this is why I think the card is balanced.

The reason I think this card would help a control oriented build is because with the inclusion of Medivh Valet in Karazhan, a control deck with a Secret package is nearly viable. What this card would push is a way of using the strength of Mage, card advantage, whilst supporting synergy with certain cards. The biggest fear I have for this card is that it is way too slow in most match-ups, if you play this card turn 5 against any aggressive deck you will just get steamrolled. Additionally for 5 mana if you are creating card advantage you would probably just be playing Cabalist Tome, at least that card can potentially give you the answers you were looking for.

Overall, even if the card in itself might not be playable it is an interesting design that could help a more Secret oriented Mage and, given enough support, it might help make a new archetype viable. Additionally, it pushes Mage in a direction that had been abandoned in the last few expansions and only revived recently with Medivh Valet. One of the simpler designs in this article but I like it. (I wonder if the Mage text should be bold on the card text)

 

Naga Sorceress

Naga sorcerer

Ethreal Conjurer is a 6/3 thus I thought making the card a 3/5 would make it balanced, the effect of Naga Sorceress is slightly stronger as you can control it more. I think it could be justified making the card a 3/4 or a 2/5 but I feel that if the stats were lowered by 1 point the card would be too weak to ever see play. If you played 0 spells during the game the card won’t discover you anything, additionally in my mind I think the Coin should count as a spell you can discover. If you played only 1 or 2 spells during the game I am not sure what would happen, I don’t know how the Discover mechanic is coded in the game. Ideally I think that the Discover effect would just not go off as I guess the Discover mechanic is linked to three choices which have to differ from one another. On the other hand maybe players should be rewarded if they want to guarantee finding a specific spell. Overall not sure, Ben Brode’s Twitter would probably have to answer this query (and I doubt he has time to answer a query about a hypothetical card that doesn’t exist).

This card Is cool because it mixes a good RNG mechanic, Discover, which gives a degree of control to the player, whilst adding another layer of complexity in the fact you can plan ahead to maximize your chances of discovering what you need. Additionally the card has good counter play as you should be able to make a good guess about what the opponent chose from the Discover, especially if the card was used early in the game. I like this card because it fits in the Mage idea of card advantage whilst providing good synergy with the deck. My fear is that instead of Control Mage this card could be a tool that would be used in Tempo Mage, more spells are always welcome in that deck archetype. This is why I was considering lowering the stats even more. Overall this card would be interesting and maybe in a future standard Rotation, maybe when Flamewaker goes out, it could be an good addition to the card pool.

 

Secretwhisperer

Secretwhisper

The reason Reno Mage is the only Control Mage archetype which is semi-viable is because, now that Healbot has been rotated out Standard, Mage doesn’t have access to enough heal to support that game plan. Healbot is exactly the inspiration I took for this card, Secretwhisperer can either be a weak heal or a Healbot on steroids, especially if coupled with Brann. This card should enable Control Mage decks to have a reliable way to stabilize the health total and the board against more aggressively oriented decks. I think two mana is justifiable because Secrets take time to develop and can be popped by your opponent, it is much harder than Healbot to set up the heal. Consider that, apart from Iceblock, most Mage secrets should be intractable for your opponent, meaning that it should be possible to play around a big heal. Additionally in the fast metagame in which we live now if the heal costed more than three (and I think it is justifiable to make the card cost 3) it would just be too slow to fight back against aggressive decks.

There is not much more to say with this card, one thing to notice is that it adds another card that benefits from Secrets being on board thus playing into that idea of a playstyle. Additionally, even if heal can help gain turns in Hearthstone if you don’t have board control you will just succumb a couple of turns later. Lastly the Hearthstone dev team said they do not want to introduce neutral heals but would rather have class ones, this is exactly what this is.

 

Kael’thas Sunstrider

kael

This card is really strong but I think it can be justified given it is a Legendary, thus you can include only one in your deck, and it is a value card with no immediate impact on the board. The idea is similar to Naga Sorceress, only that it has a Cabalist Tome type effect attached to it instead of being Discover. The stats are the same as Archmage Antonidas as I think the power level of the two cards is similar, they both create spells even if Antonidas requires more set up. I could see the card losing one or two stat points to make it a bit easier to deal with. Another idea could be making it a eight mana card instead of a seven mana one, this is in order to make sure that you have to spend your turn playing Kael meaning that you will probably fall behind on board. Overall I am not sure with this one, but I think given you can include only one in your deck it is ok to make it quite powerful.

I particularly like this design as it enables the opponent to know the range of spells you will get, so he will be able to play around it, as well as giving you option during the game to take certain line of plays in order to get specific spells from Kael. Additionally in my Control Mage decks I feel very often I have to include Antonidas in order to add removal to my deck, the problem is that I don’t really want to run the Tempo Mage package in my more Control oriented deck. Kael would provide a good alternative, it would make sure you could go for a more late game oriented build without including the Archmage. Additionally it makes it a question if you actually want to use the Coin or not, getting 3 coins from Kael wouldn’t be very good. Overall I think this card would help to give a good late game minion for Mage decks to play around with.

 

The Spilled Bean

spilled beans

I will admit I had no clue what picture to use for this one, I went with a male Human to balance out the gender in the cards so far. Additionally, I want to add that if you have no Secret in play you cannot play this card. The reason we haven’t seen any more board clear spells for mage is that it could make the class oppressive as it already has access to cards like Blizzard and Flamestrike. My solution to this is give Mage a clear which is not something Freeze Mage would like to run, destroying your Ice Block is bad, but that could still be a decent removal tool in the right circumstances. The power level of the card is high, you get a Twisting Nether for 7 if you play it on turn 7, but you can also set it up to be played earlier. I think though 4 mana is justifiable (potentially even 3) given that you are sacrificing a 3 mana card for it to work and you need to have a Secret in play.

This is a type of effect we haven’t seen before, destroying one of your secrets for a beneficial effect could be a new mechanic to make Secret decks more viable. Potentially you could even make a Neutral card which takes advantage of this mechanic. I like the card as it makes you plan ahead, it might be you do not want to play Iceblock in order to not destroy the Secret on a future turn when you will need to clear the board. Additionally it might make you introduce the Secret package in your deck just because you want to include this clear. Overall I was really proud of myself when I thought of this one, definitely my favourite out of these seven cards.

 

Frost and Fire

frost-and-fire

This card is really slow, it costs three mana with no immediate impact on the game, additionally it also dilutes the decks with cards you might not want to draw. I think the mana cost is high but fair considering it is really strong in Control mirrors, meaning it is ok if it is bad against more aggressively oriented decks. Not all cards can do everything. The reason I like the design of this card is that very often in Control Match-ups against I feel Control Mage has basically no life gain, the only viable option is to put cards in the deck to lower the fatigue count. The danger of this card is that it might make a deck like Freeze Mage stronger, adding burn to your deck is very useful. On the other hand Blizzard could control the release of this card by making sure it is released when a certain card rotates out from standard, for example Forgotten torch, in order to lower the amount of burn Mage can add to the deck in competitive play.

Also consider that adding cards to your deck in a control match-up reliant on Elise is a double edged sword, it will slow you down in trying to find your control finisher but will help you survive longer once you get it. The reason Prince Melchezaar is not the best card in the One Night in Karazhan card pool is that you would rather have more chances of drawing the right cards rather than drawing useless Legendaries. On the other hand this card is under your control, meaning that you can decide when to dilute your deck. Overall another card which adds decision making during the game and could help support different Mage archetypes.

 

Frostfire Bolt

frost fiore bolt

Fire Spells: Forbidden Flame, Forgotten Torch, Fireball, Dragon Breath, Firelands Portal, Flamestrike Pyroblast.

Frost Spells: Ice Lance, Frostbolt, Shatter, Ice Barrier, Ice Block, Blizzard.

Both: Frostfire Bolt, Frost and Fire. (I know they don’t exist).

 

The reason I made the card six mana instead of five is that the power level of “Frost” spells and “Fire” spells is pretty damn high, meaning that you have to pay something in order to get this amazing value. For any particular Frost spell you have 1/8 (12.5%) to find any one spell. For the Fire spells you currently have 1/9 (11%), the odds aren’t bad at all. Additionally, apart from Shatter, the cards you can get are all really high value cards, putting more in your hand could be very useful in a wide range of situations. Again this card could be abused in Freeze Mage thus it might be a good idea to plan it with a specific set rotation in mind.

Whilst I think this might not be exactly what Control Mage needs, there are already enough high value cards in the deck, it showcases once again the idea of getting a random card from a smaller pool of cards. Additionally in general I liked the idea of making Frostfire spells and I thought this would be an interesting way to convey the concept. Overall I will say this is my least favourite card of the ones I designed, but I guess there always has to be a best and a worst if you have to select what you prefer from a list.

 

Concluding Remarks

I don’t think RNG is bad in a game like Hearthstone, what I think is that the last two expansions Blizzard has been doing it wrong (but this is another topic). The reason I tried making RNG effects which are easier to play around as well as being under the control of the player is that I think this would higher the skill of the game. It would make sure the decisions you make during a match can be more informed. I think these cards are really cool and quite strong, I also think their power level is justifiable given Control is really weak in Hearthstone, as of now it doesn’t have enough overpowered tools.

I would like to hear what you guys think about these cards, you can comment on Reddit or on the Game Haus forums, I will follow closely both discussions. Lastly, if you want, you can send me your card designs for Mage at k1332823@kcl.ac.uk, if I receive enough I will post them on the site with my general thoughts on the designs.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ them on Twitter. We also have our own subreddit. Be sure to check out TGH’s newly revamped forums if you want to discuss with Matteo or any of the other writers!

Reno Madness – Midrange Reno N’Zoth Paladin

Hello everybody, I am Matteo Ghisoni and I love Reno Jackson decks. Sorry Hunters! This article is the fourth installation of a series focusing on different Reno builds. What I will do is: build a deck, play 50+ games with it and write about the experience. The article should not be seen as a guide but as a discussion about deck-building.

The Idea

Early Divine Shields are strong!

Early Divine Shields are strong!

The initial idea was just to try to transform the standard greedy Control N’Zoth Paladin list into a Reno version. The problem I had with this plan is that the metagame is too fast to support this type of build, you need early game if you are going to build a highlander Paladin. Having only one Equality available to stabilize really hurts your chances of clearing the board. My abysmal record in the first few games made me decide to try a different approach and go more board centric for the first 4 turns of the game. In order to do this I removed a lot of the late game Legendaries and introduced minions which can trade evenly early game. I decided Divine Shield minions were the best for the early game as these tend to go at least 1 for 1. From a purely control deck it became a more midrange deck with a top heavy curve.

Additionally I felt that all I needed from my N’Zoth was for it to bring back one very strong Deathrattle, these days Control match-ups on ladder are very rare. Usually a 2nd Tirion should be enough to close out any game against midrange and aggressive decks. You will notice Cairne is not in the list, the reason for this is that I feel the card is just too slow, but I will discuss this in more detail later on. Overall what I wanted from this list was a deck with early game tools which could transition in a very powerful late game. Reno was just a marginal part of the plan, it was just an additional stabilization tool which could come in handy.

The Core of the Deck-list

final 30 cards

The Final 30 Cards.

In the 50 games I played I maintained the same deck-list throughout to have a decent sample size when analysing the cards.  I consider the following cards the core of the deck: Equality, Wild Pyromancer, Aldor Peacekeeper, Consecration, Truesilver Champion, Solemn Vigil, Reno Jackson, Sylvanas Windrunner, Tirion Fordring, and N’Zoth. First off, obviously if you are building a highlander deck Reno is the reason you do this, no surprise he is un-substitutable. Secondly, if you want good late game in Paladin the best way to do this is N’Zoth, the Old God provides insane value when coupled with the Deathrattles Paladin has access to. Consequentially: N’Zoth, Tirion and Sylvanas are all core to the deck.

Consecration, Wild Pyromancer and Equality are cards which combo together and give invaluable tools to clear the board, in a Control/Midrange Paladin build they are un-substitutable. Equality is so strong that probably running two of the card isn’t even wrong. Truesilver Champion and Aldor Peacekeeper also fall in this category, both cards can help you neutralize threats and can provide good value for their mana cost. Lastly, Solemn Vigil is the only card draw mechanism I want to consider core in this deck-list, this is because the deck has decent tools to clear wide boards making the card consistently draw you cards for 1 or 2 mana.

Overall these 10 cards are the ones which I think cannot change if you were to build a Reno N’Zoth Paladin list, they are just too strong to not be played.

The Rest of the Deck

Forbidden Healing: The burst Heal this card provides is nice, but after testing it I think it doesn’t quite fit the midrange plan. For this sort of deck, being proactive on board is more valuable than heal. Overall I will say that against Hunters and Aggressive Shamans it is nice to have the extra burst heal, this helps the consistency of finding one, but if you are trying to find space in the deck for a midrange threat I would strongly suggest cutting Forbidden Healing.

Argent Squire: The card is decent as it can provide some trade potential for the early game. Additionally having Blessing of Kings and Rallying Blade gives it acceptable trade potential. On the other hand 1 attack and 1 health is not very impactful, usually you want to run at least Abusive Sergeant with Argent Squire for better early trades. This though is not an option as Abusive Sergeant is useless beside the Squire synergy.  I will say the mana cost of the card makes it flexible, it can always be played alongside other cards to fill your mana curve. Overall substitutable but it actually did decent on average.

Humility: The card is usually played in Heavy Control decks but I found that it is also a decent tempo tool. Additionally the card has synergy with Acolyte of Pain and Stampeding Kodo, granting you the possibility to neutralize big threats and draw multiple cards. The fact that the deck has decent drawing power means that we can afford a slot that doesn’t trade one for one. Obviously having a second Aldor Peacekeeper would be better, but after all this is a Reno deck.

Acidic Swap Ooze: I think in this metagame if you are playing a Reno Jackson deck you have to play weapon removal as Shamans, Hunters and Warriors are rampant on ladder. The choice was between Harrison Jones and Acidic Swamp Ooze, I chose the latter because Ooze is more flexible as it can be played alongside other cards. On the other hand the card draw can be invaluable for a midrange deck meaning that Harrison is probably worth testing. My general rule of thumb is the following: if you are facing more Shamans than Warriors go Acidic Swamp Ooze otherwise go for Harrison Jones. This is because against Shamans you want to develop other stuff whilst removing their weapon, you need to stabilize the board. On the other hand against Warriors and Hunters you usually can afford spending a turn just destroying their weapon and drawing some cards.

Doomsayer is so good!

Doomsayer is so good!

Doomsayer: This card is really good, it enables you to survive the early game against aggressive decks whilst also providing late game utility by potentially having the ability to deny key turns if the timing is guessed right (for example a Gadgetzan Auctioneer Conceal turns). Also take in consideration that against control decks you can potentially make them waste resources if you play Doomsayer when the opponent has 10 cards in hand, this will force a discard. In general it is very important to learn to play this card correctly, it one of the most powerful tools in the game if timed correctly. I think I would never consider taking this card out of the deck since it performed amazingly well in all aspects of the game.

Loot Hoarder: I felt I needed more early game and I was undecided between Mind Control Tech and Loot Hoarder, I decided for the latter because more card draw is always welcome in a Reno deck. The fact you can get the card off N’Zoth is not worth considering too much, a 2/1 after you played N’Zoth usually doesn’t affect the game. Overall I was happy on how the card performed against classes which do not have access to ping effects, the card usually forces very awkward trades. What I will say is that I would like to test Mind Control Tech just to see how it performs in comparison.

Acolyte of Pain: Acolyte of Pain is good in Paladin because you can guarantee multiple draws off the card. In this deck, even if there are less Humility type effects when compared to the average Paladin deck, there is another tool which is really good with Acolyte: Blessing of Kings. Giving an Acolyte +4/+4 does two things, it grants multiple draws and creates a huge threat on curve. Additionally Pyromancer Shenanigans can also help to draw a few more cards, even if this doesn’t happen that often. Overall the card can be awesome and the worst case scenario, drawing one card off it, is not that bad.

The reason Argent Horserider is good.

The reason Argent Horserider is good.

Argent Horserider: When Blizzard created this card they said they wanted a Charge minion which was used to trade early game. Little did they know that Argent Horserider had a very good place in face decks since it is really hard to remove. On the other hand, provided a bit of support, it can work in midrange decks. First off it can usually trade with 2-drops meaning that a 1 for 1 is nearly always guaranteed. Secondly late game it can add a bit of chip damage to help remove big threats. Finally having divine shields for Blessing of Kings, as already mentioned, is really strong as it will nearly always guarantee a 2 for 1. Overall the card adds something you can keep in the mulligan whilst also providing some late game utility.

Rallying Blade: In most match-ups paying three mana Fiery War Axe is not the worst thing in the world, the card is busted when played for two. Additionally running a couple of Divine Shield minions means that sometimes you should be able to hit the small buff which is always nice to enable better early trades. Consider that a buff on a Divine Shield minion is much more valuable than a buff on a normal minion. Lastly having Keeper of Uldaman combo with this card means you will be guaranteed to be able to neutralize a threat turn four if you have both cards in hand. Overall Fiery War Axe is busted which makes Rallying Blade a solid inclusion for the deck.

good trade potential with silent knight

Silent Knight curve is op!

Silent Knight: I was surprised by how strong the card is, having a guaranteed 2 damage to trade is often very valuable. Additionally the fact you have Blessing of Kings in the deck means that at times you can curve out really nicely, a Divine Shield 6/6 really punishes turn four drops. Lastly consider that Rallying Blade on a Silent Knight should guarantee that you can hit the +1/+1, this is nice as a 3/3 trades much better than a 2/2. Overall I was surprised about how well this card performed and I was glad to have decided against playing more late game cards in favour of Silent Knight.

Blessing of Kings: With the inclusion of more early game minions most of the times it is possible to have a target for Blessing of Kings on board by turn four. This is really good as +4/+4 usually enables you to trade really well. Additionally with the Whispers of the Old Gods nerfs and Silence being rarer, the buffed minions usually need to be removed the hard way. Also consider that trading a Buffed Silent Knight can be brutal, bumping a Divine Shield for a big minion can win you games by itself. Overall I was very glad to have included this card in the deck, it is useful both early and late game in order to grant you valuable trades.

Hammer of Wrath: The card is a four mana cantrip with three damage attached to it, not great. This is especially true as you only play one spell power minion, meaning that you can rarely, if ever, get more value out of it. The redeeming factor for Hammer is that, outside Equality combos, Paladin does not have access to many good spells. This means you have to try including all the removal you can and thus Hammer of Wrath makes it into the list.

Infested Tauren: I felt that, when played, I wanted my N’Zoth to be able to lockout any aggressive deck from killing me. This is the reason I included Infested Tauren in the deck. In and of itself the card isn’t great, played on turn 4 usually means you will fall behind as it is easy to trade effectively in it. Overall I would rather have Sludge Belcher, but not the worst defensive option for a N’Zoth deck.

sometimes you have the curve of an aggro paladin

The aggro Paladin curve.

Keeper of Uldaman: This card has decent stats with a really strong and flexible effect. Buffing a minion by making it a 3/3 can gain you a tempo advantage as well as setting up good trades. Additionally being able to lower an enemy minion to a 3/3 makes it so it is easier to remove, this is always appreciated in a deck which lacks removal. Also remember that Rallying Blade makes it so you curve turn three into turn four and guarantee being able to remove any minion played by your opponent. Overall this card is good both midgame and late game, making it an invaluable asset for the deck.

Murloc Knight: The card is a decent midrange card, considering what the deck wants to do it seems a perfect fit. Usually when you play this card it demands and answer, if not it can just snowball a game off Murloc synergy. Additionally, even if considering the mana you payed using your Hero Power once will barely break even, if you Hero Power twice you are already positive on the mana spent. Lastly there is always the god roll of finding a second Murloc Knight off the inspire effect, this can win you games by itself. Overall I like this card in midrange Paladin lists as it fits perfectly with the plan of slowly exhausting the opponents resources.

Azure Drake: Azure Drake is one of the best cards in the game for any deck that can make use out of it. You trade -1/-2 in vanilla stats (1 mana worth) for a cantrip (1.75 mana worth) and 1 Spell Damage (0.75 mana worth). In effect it means that you are playing about 6.5 mana worth of card for 5. You can make good use of spell power with Consecration, 3 damage is a much better break point when compared to 2 damage. Lastly the card is good to let you curve out for the later stages of the gaming, bridging the gap between the early tools and the late game tools. Overall I like the inclusion of it in the deck but the fact only Consecration benefits from Spell Power means you can substitute it for some bigger threat.

Stampeding Kodo: In the metagame there are enough targets to grant that Stampeding Kodo will hit something most of the times. The problem is that the metagame also has power plays, like the four mana 7/7, against which the Kodo is absolutely useless. I think the fact you run Humility type effects in the deck means you have to play Kodo, especially because this is decent single target removal in a deck that would really want to run two Equalities.

Ivory Knight: I really underestimated this card when it first came out, the flexibility it provides is invaluable. In a Reno deck very often you will find yourself struggling for resources as you run only one of each card, Ivory Knight can provide you the answer which you needed. Additionally it adds another solid heal to the already great repertoire available to Paladin, it should make opponents playing aggressive deck sweat bloody tears. Overall a great card that can cycle itself, provide card advantage whilst also being useful to stabilize your life total.

Ragnaros, Lightlord: This card is pretty damn good, it is a huge threat which heals for eight and demands an answer. Without hard removal this card is nearly guaranteed to provide sixteen worth of heal, this is huge against aggressive decks. If I wanted to make the deck more aggressive I could see myself substituting the Lightlord for the Firelord, but I will say all things considered the cards performance was excellent.

Ysera: As time went by I realized that having N’Zoth as a unique win-condition is bad against control decks, they can usually prepare by the time you play him. In order to deal with these decks the best thing is to lower the power of your N’Zoth and add a different win-condition; Elise or Ysera are currently the best alternative finishers to N’Zoth. I decided Ysera was better than Elise since the card can provide invaluable tools even against more aggressive decks. Additionally the stats make it so that very rarely you can trade efficiently with her, it demands some hard removal. Overall I felt as the second finisher for my midrange deck Ysera was ideal, Elise would have been way too slow for what this deck wants to achieve.

Cards to Consider

Brann Bronzebeard + Package: Brann is always good if you build your deck to include more Battlecry type effects. In this deck running good Battlecries wouldn’t harm the build, cards such as Defender of Argus and Earthen Ring Farseer are all usable. Additionally you could include Tomb Spider and potentially Jeweled Scarab, both can provide more value for the deck. The problem I see with including Brann is that the idea behind this deck-list wasn’t to have a value oriented deck but a more Midrange deck built for the late game. It seems to me the Brann game plan doesn’t seem to be in line with the N’Zoth one.

Harvest Golem: I think instead of playing Argent Squire you could play Harvest Golem, it trades with less support from other cards whilst also being good with N’Zoth. Like Squire this card is sticky, which means that usually it should be able to trade at least one for one. Probably worth testing it.

Mindcontrol Tech: Reno Jackson decks very often run this card as it can provide huge swing turns whilst answering large boards. Mindcontrol Tech is basically a removal for wide boards. The main problem with playing it in the current state of the metagame is that since Dr Boom is gone, wide boards with 4 or more minions are rarer. On the other hand Mindcontrol Tech being rarer means players will play around it less often, making the card potentially more valuable. It has to be emphasized though that most of the time around the midgame you will want to be proactive on board making Mindcontrol Tech hard to pull off consistently.

Silvermoon Portal: I played this card in other decks and it wasn’t half bad most of the times, it actually is decent as it grants you trades and board control in one card. Additionally having Divine Shield minions makes it slightly better, two more attack to trade with is nothing to be laughed at. The fact it can sometimes give you Doomsayer is not a reason to not play it, the risk is very small. Overall the question is what to cut for it, Blessing of Kings is better on average and it seems all the other spots feel a more important roles when compared to Portal.

Spellbreaker: Running this card could be ok if there is something in particular in the meta you wish to silence, but with Naxxramas and Goblin Vs Gnomes gone from standard most of the Deathrattles which are worth silencing are also gone. If Control Paladin becomes a prevalent deck in the meta I would consider putting Spellbreaker in the deck as Paladins run many targets worth silencing, including: Sylvanas Windrunner, Tirion Fordring and Carine Bloodhoof. The card overall is not bad but needs a specific metagame in order to be played.

Barnes: With this one I will admit my mistake, I forgot to put it in the deck! This card is amazing in this deck as it has a lot of synergy with Deathrattles and Divine Shield minions. Not much else to say.

Elise Starseeker: I only added her to this section because I thought some people may ask about her, my opinion is that it would be an awful fit in the current iteration of the deck. The reason I don’t want to run this card is that N’Zoth and Ysera are already enough to close out any game, there is no need to add even more late game potential. Even against Control decks most of the times you should be able to win as you will just out card them in the long run thanks to your card draw. Overall what you could do is substitute Ysera for Elise, but I think the former is just a better and faster finisher when compared to the latter.

Enter the Colosseum: There is not much removal for wide boards in the deck, thus Enter the Colosseum could be an option to fill that gap. The main problem I have with this removal is that it leaves the biggest threat from your opponent on board, meaning that it doesn’t really solve the major issue you are facing. Overall in a more control oriented list I would try it out, but as of now I would rather have stuff to play on board rather than unreliable removal.

Cairne Bloodhoof: I removed this card as I think it is way too greedy to be played in the current metagame. The problem with it is that whilst 8 mana worth of stats is really good in one card, it trades unfavourably against a lot of the other six cost minions. Cards such as Savannah Highmane, Emperor Thaurissan, and Sylvanas all destroy Cairne Bloodhoof for free, annulling the value of the card. Additionally getting Carine back from N’Zoth is slow, you would rather have more taunts to protect your life total. Overall if Control Warrior was the most popular class on ladder Cairne would be decent, but this is not the case so I feel the card does not have a place in the deck.

Grand crusader: I don’t know why this card is not played more, a 5/5 for six mana which gives you a card is not bad at all. Additionally even if it is true that Paladin has a lot of bad cards, mainly Secrets, it also has a lot of valuable cards like Equality. I think that the card has a place in the deck as it is a decent midrange threat which provides value, the question is what do you take out?.

Justicar Trueheart: This card is really good in control match-ups and would be a good fit to make the deck greedier. The problem is that I don’t think there are enough control decks on ladder to warrant the inclusion of Justicar in the deck. Additionally whilst the card is really good if you find the time to play it, usually you never play it before turn eight as if not you fall too far behind. Overall if I would have to guess this is probably the 32nd best card you could play in the deck, since you only have 30 slots you cannot include it.

Emperor Thaurissan: In the really greedy version of the deck I like the inclusion of this card as it provides a way to make your hand less clunky. On the other hand, in this deck you don’t run any specific Combos you want to reduce, and your hand doesn’t require heavy discounts in order to be playable. Overall it is probably better to not play Emperor in the current iteration of the deck.

The midrange plan is strong!

The midrange plan is strong!

The Curator: I would say this card is the first understudy of the deck, as it is probably the 31st best card you would want to include. The fact you run Dragons, one Murloc and a Beast means that The Curator should draw you at least two cards pretty consistently. The problem is that, whilst drawing cards is always good, the cards The Curator draws you don’t have immediate impact. When I am drawing a card usually I am searching for a specific one, very rarely it is Stampeding Kodo or Murloc Knight. On the other hand thinning your deck means that you will have more of a chance to find what you were looking for. Overall not sure but I think it is nearly good enough to make the cut.

Lay on Hands: It is less heal than Forbidden Healing but it does provide card draw, for a midrange deck it is a solid life gain and refill option. On the other hand the late game slots for the deck are packed, you don’t really want another 8 mana play. Additionally, unlike Forbidden Healing, it isn’t as easy to proc Wild Pyromancer when using it. This is a disadvantage in match-ups such as against Zoolock. Probably not worth it unless you want to take out Ragnaros Lightlord in favour of more card draw.

Late game Minions: I decided to put Ragnaros, Nefarian, Onyxia, Rafaam, etc. all in the same category because they fulfill similar roles in Reno Paladin lists; they are all late game bombs that require an answer. The whole greedy late game package is the one I cut to favour more early game, I found there wasn’t too much use of running a really greedy list as there is no need for that many threats. Overall which late game cards you include is up to you, I will say I really feel Ysera and N’Zoth is the perfect combination to steamroll the late game.

Statistics

Matches Played: 50

W/L= 29/21 (58% win-rate)

Representative Data (no data about match-ups which I faced less than 4 times):

Midrange Hunter 2/6

forbidden healing really helps you to stabilize

Just to put it into perspective I lost this game.

Hunter seems to be one of the most popular classes on ladder. The key to beating hunter is either out early gaming them or hoping they draw poorly, if you can’t go neck to neck with them they will finish you with Savannah Highmane and Call of the Wild. Overall when playing this deck trying to out early game the Hunter is possible but very improbable.  Additionally stabilizing can be tricky, whilst it is true that the deck packs a lot of healing it is also true that Hunter can pressure you even after a Reno. Overall from what I saw the match-up is really bad, I honestly don’t think Reno Paladin (in any form) can ever have a positive win-rate against Curve Hunter.

Aggro Shaman 5/2

Weirdly enough against Aggro Shaman you have a decent shot as you have the tools to beat them in different ways. You can out curve them locking them out early, the Divine Shield minions help with this plan. You can also out heal their reach, the heal is plentiful and strong in the deck. Additionally you can go the control route and remove their threats, you have the tools to neutralize the two biggest minions of their deck and you play decent threats of your own. Lastly you run Ooze which is really strong against Shaman, it allows you to destroy one of their win conditions whilst providing a huge tempo boost. A very important thing I noticed in this match-up is that it is more important to play a tempo Ooze turn 2 rather than saving it for Doomhammer, if you let the shaman deal too much damage to your face early you will just die.

Zoolock 4/1

Poor Zoo.

Poor Zoo.

With the inclusion of early game minions the match-up against Zoolock is very good, Divine Shield minions tend to be really tough for the deck to remove. Additionally the fact you run some removals and decent late game threats makes it so that if zoo cannot burst you in the first few turns of the game you should be favoured. The big thing to think about when you are playing this match-up is to keep an eye out for the Sea Giant mana cost count, Giant is a card that without an answer can blow you out. Overall the match-up is decent as Zoo will have a really hard time out board controlling you.

Dragon Warrior 3/3

If you don’t get blown out by their fast starts you have a decent chance, your late game should destroy theirs. A thing to consider is that the fact you run Divine Shield minions means that it will be very hard for the Warrior to capitalize on their early game trading strengths, Fiery War Axe by itself can’t do much against Argent Squires and such. On the other hand the availability of Ravaging Ghoul means sometimes they can just pop all the shields at once. Overall would say the match-up is slightly unfavourable but doable.

General Match-up Thoughts

First off in nearly every match-up you want to keep Equality in the mulligan, the card is just that strong. Setting up an Equality sweep usually grants you huge value as well as enabling you to fill the board and have a tempo advantage. Remember when you can, that you can Equality first and then activate Pyromancer to keep him on the board! Additionally some 4 drops are worth keeping in the opening hand, Truesilver Champion and Consecration are win conditions in certain match-ups. In general the rule for mulligans in any Reno deck is keeping a playable hand, you can’t search for a single card it is too inconsistent of a plan. As you play more games you will understand which cards are good keeps.

Against Control decks, as a midrange Paladin you want to draw a lot. The way you win is through dropping one threat after another and forcing the opponent to use their removal inefficiently. Additionally most of the times you can force out all of your opponent’s hand and finish off the game with an unanswered N’Zoth or Ysera. Remember the key is to not give your opponent too much value with AoE sweeps, take the game slowly and grind their removal out.

Midrange decks are hard but not impossible. Obviously from the statistics you should be able to deduce that midrange decks which are on the more aggressive side should be able to out curve you, and thus destroy you. On the other hand if a midrange deck is more on the control side, you have a decent chance at fighting back. For example, Midrange Shaman is very possible to beat, you can just out resource them in the long run. Overall the deck is ok even if it doesn’t curve out as consistently as other midrange decks.

Combo decks are hard to beat, even if I feel the match-up is better than when I use pure Control Paladin. The reason for this is that this deck can put decent pressure throughout the curve, packing decent minions in nearly all mana slots. Additionally the pressure the deck provides should also prevent the combo decks from just drawing cards without worrying about your board. Overall I still think you have a hard time beating them, as heal doesn’t matter much if you get one shot from 30 health and this is still quite a slow deck.

Aggressive decks are actually a pretty good match-up, you have the control tools to prevent damage to your face as well as a lot of heal. Additionally the fact you pack early game means you can sometimes be able to go even on board in the first few turns of the game. Obviously sometimes you will get steamrolled by the god curve, this is bound to happen, but on average you should have a fighting chance.

Overall I really like this deck and how it matches up against the current metagame. The only really tough match-up is Hunter, against the rest of the field you have a decent chance to win.

Concluding Remarks                                                          

The most irritating part of this run is that playing from an internet bar, meaning that one out of every three games I disconnected. On the other hand playing this deck was really fun, and the games which I did manage to play I was really impressed by how it performed. Overall I would suggest to anybody which is bored with the same old decks to try this out, it performs decently and as of now it is the start of the season so no worries about the rank!

 

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Well Met!

Well Met!

Na’Vi, CompLexity, SK Gaming & More Clash in Hearthstone Tournament

Event Taking Place September 5 – 9, to be Broadcast Live on Stream.Me

AUSTIN, TX – AUGUST 31, 2016 – Esports heavyweights Natus Vincere (Na’Vi), compLexity, SK Gaming, Team Virtus.pro and ANOX will vie for dominance in Deck Gauntlet 3, a Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft competition, battling it out for a share of the $5,000 prize pool.

The online tournament kicks off Monday, Sept. 5 and will conclude Friday, Sept. 9. All the action will be broadcast live via Stream.Me, a streaming platform that allows viewers to watch multiple players and casters simultaneously on one channel in up to 4K HD video at 60 frames-per-second. Users can also opt to hear audio from a single source or multiple channels and use a similar multi-chat feature that can combine several channels’ chatrooms into one.

The champion will take home a $2,000 grand prize. Other awards include $1,000 for the runner-up and $500 for both the third- and fourth-place finishers. Each team will also receive $200 for completing the group stage.

 

Teams and Players

  • Na’Vi – Xixo, Hoej
  • CompLexity – MrYagut, Crane, SuperJJ
  • SK Gaming – Powder, AKAWonder, Spo
  • pro – BunnyHoppor, DrHippi, Carry
  • ANOX – NickChipper, ShtanUdachi, Pawel

 

Tournament Schedule

  • Group Stage Day 1 – Monday, Sept. 5 at 18:00 CEST
  • Group Stage Day 2 – Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 18:00 CEST
  • Group Stage Day 2 – Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 18:00 CEST
  • Playoffs Day 1 – Thursday, Sept, 8 at 18:00 CEST
  • Playoffs Day 2 – Friday, Sept. 9 at 18:00 CEST

“With Hearthstone usually 1 vs. 1, you don’t get the chance to see who is essentially the best team in the world,” said SK’s Powder. “This time around, there is no shortage of amazing teams and players from around the world and we cannot wait to see how this event is going to be with the new and exciting format.”

 

About Stream.Me

Currently in beta, Stream.Me is a broadcasting platform based in Austin, TX that empowers viewers and streamers alike with the most advanced broadcasting technology. With up to 4K HD video running at 60 FPS and highly-customizable built-in features, like multi-stream and multi-chat, Stream.Me is bringing a new look to the traditional streaming experience.

For more information on Stream.Me, please visit: https://www.stream.me/

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Hope you will join The Game Haus Hearthstone team in viewing this tournament, see you then!

 

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