Volcanosaur and mid-expansion boredom

For a game of near-infinite possibility, Hearthstone can get stale fast. A focus on infrequent high-content, high-quality expansions keeps Hearthstone excellent, but leave long stretches of little change. How can Hearthstone beat the mid-expansion blues that sets in between releases?

Content Doldrums

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Aside from more decks with this guy, the meta doesn’t seem to have changed drastically

While Adventures used to spread card releases over four weeks, the new all-expansion model has no such spacing. After the initial period of post-expansion experimentation and novelty, the meta settles quickly. The instant communication of vast amounts of info online leads to the most powerful decks spreading uncontrollably. Within days the dominant archetypes are close to refinement. While exceptions occur, especially with more complex combo or control decks, the fact remains that the Ladder experience becomes monotone fast.

Balance changes can help with this, but often don’t go far enough. After the 9.1 balance patch, there was little innovation. While Keleseth Rogue and Midrange Hunter grew in popularity, the main effect was a shuffling round of archetype distribution. Players looking for the total displacement of consistently dominant archetypes like Jade Druid, Pirate Warrior and Murloc Paladin were disappointed.

Too many months

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Adventures spaced out content more effectively than Expansions

But even if the balance patch had completely upended the meta, the Hearthstone gameplay experience would still settle down into staleness once more. The simple facts are that there are only three content releases a year, with three major balance patches in between if we’re lucky. That leaves, on average, about two months between any change to Hearthstone’s card base, and four months between major changes. These stretches of no mechanical additions to Hearthstone may not sound like much at first.

But the ratio of established vs experimental metas is extremely lopsided. Let’s be charitable and assume that each major expansion release has a period of experimentation and flexible deckbuilding of 1-2 weeks. Even if you add one week of experimentation for each balance patch, that only leaves 6-9 weeks of experimental meta in the 52 weeks of the year. And that’s not the end of the world; but it’s certainly not ideal for promoting diverse play.

Volcanosaur to the rescue?

The answer could lie in the days prior to the release of the Journey to Un’goro expansion. Volcanosaur was given out to all as a free pre-expansion bonus. Interestingly, it was playable despite no other Un’goro cards being available. It was a small change, but the experimentation it opened up introduced a freshness that made the build-up to the release that bit more exciting.

This could be the secret to spicing up ladder. Spacing out small parts of content releases to allow pockets of card releases could allow experimentation and disruption. Blizzard could pre-designate a subset of, say 10 neutral cards. Then, without needing to patch, they could set in advance a time when these cards would become craftable and obtainable from packs. Two at a time, once a week would allow a month of weekly excitement as previously unseen cards would be dropped, allowing for experimentation and disruption.

Events could be more than Emotes

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What if events came with new cards as well as rewards?

Outside of specific card releases, there could also be more variety possible via the holiday-themed events in Hearthstone. Arena is practically begging for temporary rule or drafting changes. Rule changes that are not drastic enough to be worth a Tavern Brawl, but nonetheless open up new and interesting possibilities.

For instance, a “Dragon week”, where Dragons have a huge offering bonus, could create a temporary unique experience (perhaps only after Drakonid Operative rotated out). Or heroes could start with five armor; or perhaps one more card was offered in the mulligan.

Whatever these potential rule changes or card additions were, they would not necessarily need to be perfect or even good ideas. When mid-expansion boredom sets in, any change is better than the same old meta for four months straight.


 

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The Freeze Shaman dilemma

Sometimes the set designers’ plans don’t come to fruition. Balancing Hearthstone is hard, and often cards that are foreseen as viable mainstays end up disappointing. Worse, sometimes whole planned archetypes fail.

This is the case with Knights of the Frozen Throne’s Freeze Shaman. Shaman lacked the necessary tools to consistently freeze minions in an advantageous way, and the synergy cards had mediocre payoff. This leaves a difficult choice for Blizzard. Continue to support an archetype with little competitive core? Or abandon it completely?

Commitment and payoff

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Evolve took several expansions of support and a set rotation to shine

Sometimes, commitment to an archetype can pay dividends. Evolve Shaman got core cards like Evolve in Whispers of the Old Gods, but only reached competitive viability in later expansions as cards like Fire Fly, Primalfin Totem, Devolve and Doppelgangster were added. Despite taking a long time to flourish, the archetype grew into a deck that was both viable, fun and occupied a vital spot in the meta-game.

Blizzard has continued to add to Evolve, with cards like Deathseer Thrall in Knights of the Frozen Throne becoming mainstays and continuing on the core mechanic. By refusing to abandon an archetype that didn’t immediately pan out, Team 5 ended up giving Shaman perhaps its only recent viable deck, and one with huge popular appeal.

Over-investment

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Discard held Warlock back

However, sometimes over-commitment to an archetype doesn’t work out so well. Warlock’s discard mechanic has technically been in the game since Vanilla. Later expansions attempted to experiment, with tentative but ultimately unsuccessful cards like Tiny Knight of Evil and Fist of Jarraxxus. Discard only really began to be “pushed” in One Night in Karazhan, with cards like Silverware Golem and Malchezaar’s Imp driving a discard deck that was explosive, if inconsistent. Though Discard Zoo saw considerable play, it was suppressed heavily by Midrange Shaman.

Intermittent support for discard didn’t help the deck in later expansions. While Mean Streets saw few Discard effects as the Kabal’s highlander effects were prioritised, in Un’goro, Discard was ramped up. The eventually culminated in the nigh-unplayable Warlock Quest, with discard and Warlock as a whole seeing terrible performance and representation on Ladder.

The over-commitment to an unsuccessful and arguably boring archetype not only was a poor use of design resources, it also drove Warlock towards the lowest win-rates and play-rates it had ever seen.

Is Freeze worth following up on?

Freeze Shaman is then faced with two prospects. Either continued support in future expansions to hopefully ignite an interesting, potent and niche-filling archetype; or leave it behind for fresher ideas. There are strong arguments either way.

On the one hand, it’s argued that the utter failure of Freeze to make it into any competitive Shaman means that adding additional tools would be throwing good cards after bad. Freeze is a niche mechanic, best suited to stalling combo decks. While some Combo Shamans have existed in the past, without mana manipulation it’s unlikely that Malygos Shaman or something similar would return.

This would suggest that Freeze Synergy cards are not the answer. While Freeze effects may still be valuable, they currently seem far too scarce, at least in Shaman, to be built around. But adding another set filled with both Freeze and Freeze Synergies would threaten Shaman’s viability if the archetype continued to underwhelm.

Soft support

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Cards like Voodoo Hexer enable Freeze synergies, without being dependent on them

On the other hand, there are strong and interesting cards that could easily be viable with just a little more support. Voodoo Hexer has Alley Armorsmith levels of anti-aggro power, limited only by a lack of Controlling Shamans to put it in. Avalanche is situational but powerful. Ice Breaker could be premium removal if more freeze tools were added.

The answer might lie in soft support. Rather than going down the discard route of going all-in on the failing mechanic, Team 5 could instead add cards that synergise more subtly. Like how Un’goro gave Shaman token options to work with Evolve, without huge minions that were utterly dependent on Evolve.

Freeze Shaman could get support in more incidental Freeze effects on otherwise generally strong cards. This would not “force” Freeze, but leave it as an interesting choice and option for deck-builders. Freeze could be added wholly or partly, depending on how strong the cards turned out. What’s more, this could help push a more controlling, board-clear based Shaman as opposed to the more aggressive token lists currently available.


 

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tech

Tech to beat the new expansion meta

Knights of the Frozen Throne is mere hours from NA release at the time of writing. Theorycrafting is in full swing, and players are eager to unleash their shiny new cards and decks upon the ladder. Others are greedily seizing upon the opportunity to climb with last meta’s most efficient decks. It’s a perfect time for deck tech to shine.

This can be a tricky meta to navigate. A combination of crazily greedy decks featuring flashy new legendaries like the Lich King can be a struggle for reactive decks to deal with. Meanwhile, those sticking to old-fashioned aggro provide a challenge to those seeking to innovate. So how do you navigate this oddly polarised ladder experience?

Frostmourne belongs in a Museum

Eat their Death Knight dreams with a gloopy spit

One recurring theme of the expansion has been a number of incredibly powerful weapons. Warrior’s new Deaths-bite-alike Blood Razor threatens uber-efficient removal. Rogue’s Shadowblade and supporting Doomerang offer weapon damage without hurting Valeera herself. Both the Warrior and Paladin Death Knight Hero come with hugely powerful weapons attached that represent huge tempo and value swings. Not to mention the Lich King himself (and Arfas) can fetch the terrifying Frostmourne, a weapon that threatens to resurrect all minions it kills.

The answer to all this massive weapon value? Well, luckily Hearthstone has a built-in pressure valve for strong weapons. Weapon hate like Harrison Jones, Acidic Swamp Ooze and Gluttonous Ooze can quickly put an end to the value fiesta. What’s more, this kind of weapon hate is perfect to survive and turn the clock against the hyper-aggressive Pirate Warrior. Punishing this hyper-aggressive deck is a great strategy to stop those seeking to sneak out a quick legend amidst bumbling homebrews.

The tempo treatment

The solution to wacky combos and crazy legendaries is good old-fashioned mana efficiency

Tech doesn’t always mean playing specific cards. Often it’s as much a matter of playstyle and deck choice. In a highly varied, experimental meta, it’s often hard to play reactive decks. Playing as Control is dependent on knowing what you’re up against. You can’t be prepared for the kind of mad, greedy combos that will be thrown at you.

Instead, decks that push a specific gameplan with powerful tempo plays are likely to be even further rewarded than usual. Aggressive Midrange or Combo like Miracle Rogue or Midrange Hunter decks are likely to see a lot of success. Their brand of snowballing mid-game board presence is especially difficult to deal with by unrefined Control. While Aggro can be shut down by new lifesteal and taunt minions, aggressive Midrange can provide the beefy late game to bring games to a close despite Taunts, Heal and whatever else Control throws at you. Doing more for your mana than they can is a sure-fire way to victory.

The downside is a limited ability to react to the opponent’s gameplan before you can execute yours. This is where tech cards can come in most handy; as they allow you to push your gameplan of mid-game minions while severely hampering your opponent’s strategies.

Let none pass

 

The Lich King’s popularity could be his undoing

The Lich King is one of the flashiest and most impressive legendaries of Knights of the Frozen Throne. The souped-up Ironbark Protector is likely to see considerable play. His less flashy cousin, Bonemare, also has generated significant praise. Both promise big late-game taunts that could be a nightmare for many classes to deal with. Both Aggro and Control struggle to deal with these kinds of big, valuable bodies that prevent you going face or killing threatening minions.

 

If your deck lacks removal for these kinds of threats, then consider adding some way to destroy or avoid it. The Black Knight is a Classic taunt counter and can provide huge tempo swings. Particularly against the Lich King, he’s a devastating late-game board swing. For decks like Midrange Hunter that otherwise lacks removal, he could be an invaluable combination of beefy body and powerful effect.

Shush

“Lot of stats, but weak to silence” covers a lot of new minions

If you can’t  quite stomach the 6 mana for a 4/5, consider running a Silence. Spellbreaker can provide a fantastic tempo swing, especially against the buffed bodies of Bonemare. With a myriad of new, interesting and powerful effects for players to test, silence is unlikely to go without targets. Deathrattles and buffs are a recurring theme of knights of the Frozen Throne, and Silence counters both.

While Silencing the Lich King isn’t quite as powerful as destroying him, it often is all you need to push for lethal. In return, you get a cheaper, more flexible minion that works on a number of targets. It also notably counters Lifesteal minions that otherwise could continually generate huge healing for the opponent.

Feeling crabby

Pirate Warrior is likely to try and prey on weak, unrefined decks: be ready

Crabs like Golakka Crawler are also a solid choice. If you get to a glut of Pirate Warriors, Golakka can provide the win rate edge you need without running the slew of reactive tools that can compromise your effectiveness against the hordes of experimental midrange and control.

Depending on how players choose to experiment, Hungry Crab might also be a sensible inclusion. A Divine Aggro Murloc Paladin featuring the new Righteous Protector could rise to early prominence. In which case, Hungry Crab will severely cut those explosive Murloc starts down to size.

If Divine Paladin truly takes off, then Blood Knight could be a fantastic, if specific, tech to tear through those Divine shields and generate absurd amounts of stats.

Don’t fear the tweaker

It’s survival of the fittest out there: adapt to survive! Though you still probably shouldn’t play Adaptation

Above all, the key to succeeding in the early expansion meta is adaptability. With so many cards and archetypes to test, the meta will change by the day, if not by the hour. Feel free to swap in techs, decks and new cards. Think about what works and what doesn’t and refine your deck further with each win or loss. Finding the optimal choice for both fun and wins is one of the best parts of a new expansion.

So get out there and give those other theory-crafted decks the testing of a lifetime!


Artwork courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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Frozen Throne and the danger of sticky minions

It’s been a while since the days of overly sticky minions in Hearthstone’s Standard. Once-ubiquitous Deathrattles like Piloted Shredder, Haunted Creeper and Nerubian Egg have long since rotated out.

However, the upcoming Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion promises to bring with it an undead host of new Deathrattle minions. Have the Hearthstone Developers at Team 5 learned their lesson? Or will sticky Deathrattles return to dominate the meta?

What is stickiness?

sticky

To understand stickiness, think the opposite of Magma Rager

“Stickiness” is a term in Hearthstone that expresses how difficult a card is to remove proportional to its mana cost. For a classic example, compare Magma Rager to Harvest Golem. Both cost three mana. However, Magma Rager can be completely removed with only one instance of one damage, whereas Harvest Golem requires three damage and then one damage to clear completely. The idea that more health equals more stickiness may seem obvious, but stickiness means more than just health.

Look at Piloted Shredder and compare it to Chillwind Yeti. Piloted Shredder is considered stickier because despite having less health than the yeti, it overall tends to have equal or more health (its two health Deathrattle drop is usually a 3/2, 2/2 or 2/3). But most importantly, killing a Shredder requires two sources of damage rather than just one. A single Fireball or Savannah Highmane attack kills a Yeti, but leaves a Shredder Deathrattle on the field.

Undercosted survivability

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Early sticky minions were extremely competitively costed

Hearthstone’s history is full of certain card attributes being over or under-valued. Just take a look at healing in Classic. Holy Light, Guardian of Kings, Priestess of Elune and Healing Touch remain significantly overcosted.

Meanwhile, aggressive abilities and attributes like attack and windfury were also repeatedly overcosted, while survivability (especially in the form of Deathrattles) has been continually undercosted. Look at the scores of unused underpowered Windfury minions, or high attack Taunts, that have gone almost entirely unused outside of arena.

Then compare it to the scores of powerful Deathrattle minions from early in Hearthstone’s development. Harvest Golem, Cairne and Savannah Highmane are the only Classic minions that summon friendly minions on death, and all have seen massive competitive play. Alongside Naxxramas and GvG’s cohort of ubiquitous Neutral Deathrattles, the necessity of an adjustment quickly became clear.

Killing everything twice

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Hunter’s strength is in its sticky minions; but you wouldn’t want, say, Druid, to have access to the same power

The problem with such sticky minions is that it begins to undermine the value of removal. There’s little point in Flamestrike if every minion has low health but summons something on death. When AOE doesn’t clear, then slower decks suffer. Stickiness also leads to distortions in the meta; with so much more on the board at any given moment, buffs and adjacency bonuses get an additional kick in value. Cards like Bloodlust and Savage Roar become even scarier. The potential punishes for going face decreases, as minions end up being too hard to kill efficiently.

The overall effect is that it leads to a more aggressive, more snowbally game, with fewer interesting comebacks and less tactical decision-making. Which is fine for some decks (it’s part of the identity of hunter), but when applied to the entire meta it quickly becomes overly punishing.

Learning from the past

Luckily, Hearthstone’s developers appear to be learning from past misjudgments. The most recent slew of Deathrattle minions that summon minions have a far more conservative cost. The only minions to summon minions unconditionally in Un’goro are Eggnapper (relatively weak but saw some play in Druid), Devilsaur Egg (a more expensive Nerubian that has seen very moderate experimental play) and Sated Threshadon (an unequivocally Arena-only card that sees play only in the greediest of N’zoth decks).

While Aya Blackpaw was an egregious outlier, she’s the exception that proves the rule. Almost all Deathrattle minions that summon minions printed since Whispers of the old Gods are either Hunter-only, synergy-specific or relatively under-statted for their cost. Because of this, we’re now in a meta where AOE is more prevalent and removal is more useful. It has become easier to explore interesting synergies and control decks. But if the devs shy away from powerful, sticky Deathrattles, what will Frozen Throne bring to Hearthstone?

Deathrattles without stickiness

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The most interesting Deathrattles often don’t summon minions

The answer, of course, is that Deathrattles need not summon friendly minions. Some of the most interesting and powerful Deathrattles have been on cards with new and unique effects. Take Deathlord, an anti-aggro staple that fit into a wide variety of unique decks. Or for a newer example, Un’goro’s Direhorn Hatchling, a boon to N’zoth and Taunt Warrior alike without a powerful board impact. Or even the now Hall of Fame dwelling Sylvanas, that actively countered sticky minions by stealing them or their output wholesale.

The only Frozen Throne Deathrattle released so far is the Shallow Gravedigger. This grants a Deathrattle minion, providing card advantage instead of board presence. Here’s hoping that other Frozen Throne minions follow a similar philosophy. We don’t want to end up with a Piloted Zombie Shredder instead.


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Bad cards are fine – Boring cards aren’t

A new expansion is likely to be announced over the next few months. In that time, we’ll likely be shown an announcement event where a select few exciting new cards will be unveiled. New mechanics, keywords and synergies will be introduced, and fascinating new concepts will be hyped up. However, that’s not going to be the topic of this article. Instead I want to focus on the cards that will be revealed with little fanfare, likely on Facebook. They’ll be dismissed by the pros, and instantly relegated to arena (if that). I’m talking of course, about filler. Boring, bland or just plain bad cards added to simply fill out content in the set.

Padding Out Packs

The purpose of filler is simple; easy, cheap, hassle free content. Cards like Worgen Greaser or Eldritch Horror are never going to set the world on fire. There’s cheaper, more efficient and more effective options available for the very limited niche they try to fill. However, their very badness is appealing to Team 5: it ensures they won’t cause problems. If cards get cut or concepts abandoned, there needs to be standbys to ensure the card quota is hit.

However, it’s one thing to make cards that are deliberately bad. It could be argued that making cards that are bad in a boring, restrictive, un-inventive way is a massive wasted opportunity and reflects poorly on Blizzard’s attitude towards their customers. Bad cards that provide opportunities to tease and experiment with interesting mechanics or even just shake up the board state in an unexpected way are far superior, and should be used whenever possible.

Enough Yetis

We don’t need another Worgen Greaser every expansion

So what does a boring, bad card look like? Typically, it’s vanilla statted, with either a straightforward or no effect at all. Cards like Ultrasaur can be an exception, simply because they go to extremes (Ultrasaur has the highest health of any collectible card, for instance). Slapping Taunt or Windfury doesn’t count, unless it’s in a unique or interesting combination. Bog Creeper was the first big, neutral, competitively statted taunt, which made it interesting. But cards like Giant Mastodon don’t serve to explore any new territory that players haven’t seen dozens of times before.

These vanilla or otherwise straightforward minions take up precious space, making packs feel less impactful, and reducing opportunities for testing and experimentation of new ideas. Not only will these cards not impact the competitive meta, they’ll also not see play outside of Arena runs that would be far more interesting with other options.

Majorly Bad, Majorly Fun

Becoming Ragnaros is a bad move, but enticingly rewarding in some cases

Majordomo Executus is the perfect example of bad cards done right. The card is immediately, obviously, spectacularly terrible. It loses games in orders of magnitude more than it wins them. It is however, fascinating, potent and holds the allure of massive power. Furthermore, it has engaging synergies with Sylvanas, N’zoth, Deathlord, Alexstrasza, Forbidden Shaping and the Priest Quest Reward Amara. It’s made countless YouTube highlights and inspired countless inventive deckbuilds to try and make it work.

The key factor of Majordomo is that despite it being bad, it’s impactful, and does something no other card really does. It also paved the way for other cards like the Warrior quest, which rely on similar mechanics. By being inventive and exploring possibilities, Majordomo Executus is a bad card made interesting.

Testbeds for the Future

Instead of an over-costed Windfury minion every expansion, why not try out that crazy idea the new guy had?

New, exciting ideas in card designs can have far ranging and unpredictable impacts. Especially when it comes to the bleeding edge of competitively viable cards, or in discovering which mechanics players enjoy. In order to get a more accurate assessment, internal testing often isn’t enough. One of the best ways to explore these ideas is to introduce them to the wider ladder in a safe format; in bad cards where they won’t take over the meta.

Especially with the phasing-out of Hearthstone’s Adventures as a potential, this’ll be increasingly important to make sure we’re not left with overpowered or non fun implementations of new ideas. With Hearthstone’s profits exceeding millions of dollars and a constantly growing team, there’s no excuse for bland vanilla minions filling up our new packs.

Title art courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com. Art by Mike Sass

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Un’goro is a Tough Act to Follow – What Should the Next Expansion Bring?

By many accounts, Un’goro has been arguably the most successful expansion as far as meta healthiness goes. Every class but Warlock has multiple competitive archetypes. In a recent Meta Snapshot Vicious Syndicate declared for the first time ever that at Legend ranks there are no Tier 1 decks (More than 52% winrate). There are a wide variety of Combo, Midrange, Aggro and Control decks, with many different flavours and variations on each. Card diversity is up too, with virtually no multi-class omnipresent auto-include. Long gone are the days where almost every deck had Patches, Aya or Kazakus. In short, aside from a lamentable blemish in the decline in Warlock.

But no success will last forever, and soon even this ultra-diverse meta will begin to grate and feel stale. More importantly for Team 5, Blizzard’s accountants are surely eagerly awaiting a new expansion for the next deluge of pack-purchasing frenzies. But how should Team 5 introduce new cards and concepts to improve upon the high quality of Un’goro? Here are my highly subjective suggestions.

Make Warlock Competitive With New Synergies

I’ve written before on the sad state of Warlock. Simply put, the class has bad cards; to the extent that its hero power isn’t enough to save it. On the board-centric aggressive end, the class needs fewer janky Discard mechanics and more solid minions that speak to the initially unimpressive, mathematical joy and tactical precision of Zoo. More Dire-Wolf Alpha and Defender of Argus style cards that rely heavily on board maintenance, prediction and positioning would be perfect.

Meanwhile, Controlling or Handlock-esque versions of Warlock suffer simply from lack of survivability. The class should, thematically, not get too many healing tools; Reno proved that giving it such options could make it dangerously powerful. Instead, other survivability-based synergies should be introduced to improve that class’s ability to withstand Aggro and Burn.

Give Shaman Reactive Early-Game Tools

Shaman is probably the second-weakest class currently. Though it retains relevancy (barely) with Bloodlust-centric flood builds, Elemental decks, and some Control experimentation off the back of Volcano. However, the class has become over-reliant on its AOE spells, and its non-Aggro decks are falling to low Tier 3. Without additional help, the class could fall to irrelevancy if other classes continue to have stronger early game.

Though the lesson of giving Shaman stellar early minions has surely been learned, a few more reactive early game tools wouldn’t go amiss. A weapon would probably be a strong option, though the incredible potential power of early game weapons makes this a tricky one to balance properly. A few more Lightning Bolt style spot removal options, maybe with some adjacency damage tacked on, might allow the efficiency needed to put together a decent non-AOE early game reactive package.

Paladin has a number of ways to make recruits – but few buff mechanics to make them worthwhile compared to Murlocs

Let Paladins Buff Their Dudes

Paladin appears to be in a good spot, with multiple archetypes, high competitive viability and a focus on a “fair”, value-based Midrange package that perfectly fits the class. The one thing missing is flavour; the current lists seem to be a mismatch of holy warriors, rampaging murlocs, ancient dragons, turtles and even a mechanical zookeeper. The iconic Silver Hand Recruits of Paladin are being sidelined.

Paladin should get more options to create, synergise and buff their “Dudes” (silver hand recruits) and build decks based less around murlocs and more around inspiring their ordinary men to acts of great valor through the power of the Light. Lightfused Stegadon and Sunkeeper Tarim were steps in the right direction, but more interesting single-target and mass buffs are needed to make the Dudes truly shine.

Push Warrior Towards Combo

Warrior has been in an amazing position in the meta for some time now, with numerous Control and Aggro archetypes. The all-conquering Pirate Warrior needs no introduction, and Taunt Warrior is proving a solid choice also. Such strong decks needing little support, especially as any decent Neutral two drop or strong taunt will likely be incorporated into either deck.

Instead of over-supporting these archetypes, Team 5 should focus on gently opening avenues for Warriors to experiment with interesting combo decks, exemplified by old Patron Warrior, Worgen Warrior and Arcane Giants Blood Warrior. Maybe a class-specific improved version of Wild Pyromancer, or more Patron-style end-game combo activators. With such potential in the classic set, it’s likely that there could be an interesting, balanced and potent combo deck to hunt aggro and provide a compelling gameplay experience. And hey, it might just reduce the number of Pirate Warriors on the ladder.

Find a Late-Game Druid Mechanic That Beats Jade

I wrote recently about the danger Jade poses to the Druid class. While Druid is in a good space now with two solid archetypes, it’s hard to envision a different future.

The easiest way forward would probably be to rotate out the Jade package early, but that seems unlikely. More realistically, a different late-game package with different strengths and more cerebral interactions than repeatedly summoning over-statted minions is introduced that is more competitive than attempts such as the unsuccessful Druid Quest.

Be Conservative with Mage

Mage got a number of objectively powerful cards in Un’goro. Arcanologist and Primordial Glyph (along with, to a lesser extent, Meteor), have propelled the class to new heights. Secret Mage may even be Tier 1. The class feels as if it is teetering on the edge of being oppressive. One powerful Secret could swing the Secret package and Mage as a whole into dangerously overpowered territory.

As such, it’s probably best to keep new Mage cards on the underwhelming side, especially if they’re Secrets.

Keep Hunter Cheap

The biggest Un’goro additions for Hunter were a strong, beast synergistic two drop in Crackling Razormaw, and additional one drops. This propelled Hunter into a decent position, though it lacks class diversity.

The current strategy of giving Hunter efficient beasts and synergies seems to be working. While giving them an incentive to curve higher might be a valid idea, the current trajectory of Hunter seems to be balanced, flavourful and lore-appropriate. The most important aspect would be to limit the number of powerful auto-include Epics and Rares, and ideally give Hunter no new necessary Legendaries so that it remains one of the few low-dust potent beginner decks.

Big, flashy legendaries are all well and good – but make them too integral and beginners will lack a good starter deck to aim for

Give Priest More Consistent Value

Priest is in a great state compared to its historical irrelevance, with multiple Silence, Combo and Control decks burning up the ladder with Holy Fire. However, it remains at risk of puttering out in many matchups.

Free from Amber was a step in the right direction for Priest, but the class still seems to lack a consistent late-game punch. Outside of snowballing with Divine Spirit or Lyra shenanigans, the class is forced to rely on inconsistent Elise packs, and vulnerable Medivh minions. Giving the class at least one potent, value-tastic late-game card seems like the best course of action. Bonus points if it’s not entirely RNG dependent.

Give Rogues More Card Engines

Rogue’s Quest archetype has taken off in a big way, both for tournaments and ladder. Refined versions of Quest Rogue have left Miracle by the wayside, leaving some who prefer the Miracle gameplay somewhat lacking.

Outside of aggro or Quests, Rogues need huge amounts of draw to make their efficient but low-value spells worth playing. An over-reliance on Gadgetzan has pigeonholed Rogue towards a certain type of list and playstyle. Giving Rogue some other draw engine that’s not balanced around other classes (that have, say, Innervate and Wild Growth), might allow them to retain relevancy without the Quest in a world of ever-stronger aggro.


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Could Un’goro bring back Lifecoach?

 

Un’goro promises big fun dinosaurs, backed up by more interactive gameplay

In a recent vlog, pro player and streamer personality Adrian “Lifecoach” Koy announced that he’d be leaving the competitive scene. This was motivated primarily by his feelings about the game. His explanation is worth watching. Among the many points, the most salient was a feeling that skill in Hearthstone went unrewarded; that matchup and draw RNG decided the majority of games; and that it was fundamentally noncompetitive. He likens the Hearthstone experience to guiding a tossed coin mid-air, rather than making meaningful decisions.

That complaint might be somewhat ameliorated in the latest expansion announced for Hearthstone, Lost Secrets of Un’goro. Flavor-wise, Un’goro promises Dinosaurs, Elementals, and carnivorous plants. That’s exciting enough, but it’s the mechanics that could really shake up the way we play Hearthstone.

Double-edged Build-arounds

Hearthstone’s developers, Team 5, have been printing more and more “build-around” cards over the past few expansions. Starting with the much maligned Mysterious Challenger, developing with Reno Jackson, and culminating in the Old Gods, “Build-arounds” share common characteristics. They tend to generate value far exceeding their mana cost, but require a dependency on certain types of cards or deck-building strategies.

Reno decks do poorly without drawing him

The benefits of build-arounds to the game are clear; they incentivise combinations, playstyles and synergies that would otherwise not be viable. Reno and Kazakus encourage variety and a slower-paced playstyle with Highlander decks. Drakonid Operative almost single-handedly makes Dragon Priest competitive; N’zoth makes Deathrattles into a game-ending board.

The downside is that the deck’s inherent inconsistencies due to running sub-optimal synergy cards are only balanced when the overpowered build-around is drawn. Reno Jackson may be the most powerful heal in the game. But forcing aggro matchups to be almost entirely dependent on whether or not he is drawn in time is hardly healthy. Anybody can tell you about the frustration of having a key card on the bottom of your deck.

Adventures in Questing

Un’Goro seeks to build on build-arounds and improve them with the inclusion of “Quests”. Quests are Legendary, class-specific spells that cost one mana. Once played, they act as a secret. Once their condition is activated, you are granted a powerful card. It is promised to be “some of the most powerful cards in Hearthstone” in the announcement video. The example we are given is the Priest quest, which grants a five mana 8/8 that sets your hero’s health to 40. This is only if you can meet the difficult condition of summoning seven deathrattle minions.

Quests are guaranteed to be in your starting hand

So far, so standard. Where these Quests get interesting is that they are guaranteed to be a part of your initial mulligan. Though they can be mulliganed away in matchups where the Quest is undesirable, this grants them an unrivaled consistency in activation, if your deck is built to accommodate them.

This can massively help the feelings of card-draw RNG overly affecting matchups. Instead of auto-losing the matches where your build-arounds are in your last five cards, Quests can be reliably activated. Not only that, but their potentially game-ending effects can be planned for in advance, as you see your opponent’s Quest ticker get gradually higher.

Though further judgement must be withheld until the exact nature of the cards are revealed, this alone is a highly promising sign for reducing feelings of helplessness in the face of bad luck.

Midrange and Curvestone

Midrange has always had a problem in Hearthstone. The archetype is fundamentally reliant on curving out with efficiently-statted minions. Only occasionally do we see usage of reactive spells and off-curve plays. For much of Hearthstone’s history, Midrange has been lamented as simply taking obvious trades and dropping the biggest on-curve minion each turn. While professional players can eke out additional wins by optimizing some decisions, the majority of choices are very straightforward.

There are numerous downsides to rewarding this type of play experience. It sidelines skill, makes draw RNG more paramount, and makes games feel exceedingly similar. Attempts to spice things up, with mechanics like Inspire and Discover, have only partially succeeded. While recent Midrange tyrants like Shaman have managed to avoid this due to a reliance on hero-powering and spells, the problem remains endemic to almost all pro-active, non-aggro decks.

Adapting Micro-decisions

A core element of the Un’goro expansion is the “Adapt” keyword. Applied to minions, it allows cards to gain additional stats or effects when played or meeting a condition. Themed around the elemental influences of the crater, this can give your minion +3 attack, Divine Shield, Windfury, or other effects as chosen via a discover-like interface. By choosing the right adapt effect for the board state, you can tune your minions for the matchup and situation you’re presented with.

Adapt offers small but meaningful buffs

While spawning two extra 1/1s or gaining Taunt may not seem an incredibly exciting proposition, the impact on play may be huge. When every minion played results in a decision being made, play becomes fundamentally more engaging and skill-testing. Dropping big stuff on curve will still be important. But it’s possible that the best players can gain a huge edge by tuning their minions perfectly on the fly.

While we’ve only seen a few examples so far, the opportunity for Adapt to make a big impact should excite you if you’re someone who enjoys playing midrange decks and cares about reaching higher levels of play.

All images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

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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)

Field of 64 for the World Cup?

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has outlined a new proposal for the World Cup to go from 32 to 48 teams. This is an increase on his original proposal of 40 teams as he was running for the presidency. This looks like a huge money grab from one of the greediest organizations in the world.

The problem with his new plan is that 48 teams show up for the World Cup, with 16 having a guaranteed place in the group stage and the 32 playing one game for the last 16 spot. Then the rest of the tournament proceeds as it has in the past. This means 16 teams go home after one game. Yes one game. To travel to another continent to potentially play one game and then have to go back is a tough pill to swallow. It means training for three weeks, after a long domestic season, before leaving for the tournament to play one game and  then have all that effort go to waste.

Expansion is coming because if Infantino can’t deliver, his entire platform he ran on fails, so why not expand straight to 64 teams? Double the size of the field, give 32 more teams a chance to play in the biggest sporting event in the world. It would dilute the talent pool and the hard-core traditionalists will say the World Cup would not mean as much because “anyone can make it”. The expansion is coming, so why not make it come in one big swoop instead of trying to have to figure out how the new system works as it could possibly go from 40 to 48 then to 64?

Gianni Infantino is the current president of FIFA, elected in Feburary 2016. image courtesy news.fantasyfootball.com

The basic structure of the tournament doesn’t change outside of adding an extra round after the group stage. It also adds another 64 matches to the tournament meaning a larger amount of T.V. revenue that can be earned. There can also be a discussion about extending the length between group matches to allow for more rest or just keep it the same as the current schedule.

The amount of money that fringe countries of the 64 will be getting can be used to fund grassroots programs to increase the quality of their teams for the future. That is the easiest way for these countries to grow and get to the level of the top teams in the world.

Some of the big cons to this proposal are that a fourth of the teams in FIFA would now making it into the World Cup and qualifying will not be as interesting. Also the infrastructure requirements are going to be larger than in the past needing more financial requirements being used by governments that can be used for the social programs or construction is going to be used on stadiums that will be underused.

While personally I think it is better to just leave it with the current 32-team setup, expansion is coming and I believe it is better to go all out for it and give lower teams in the rankings a shot to get better faster instead of waiting 20 to 30 years before getting to this point.

One Night in Karazhan – Initial Impressions

Reddit got it right, the new adventure announced by Blizzard is Karazhan. I think though nearly nobody expected what twist the Hearthstone developers would give to this iconic World of Warcraft raid, that the once dark halls would host a party! Apparently the aim of the adventure is to find the host, Medivh, and try to save the party! In this article I wanted to give my first impressions of the announcement as I was super hyped after seeing the first sneak peak of what we will get.

The Announcement

The adventure was announced in Shanghai at a big videogame EXPO called China Joy. The event for us English speakers was hosted by the great partners in crime: Dan “Frodan” Chou and Tj “Azumoh” Sanders. As usual both of them did a great job in entertaining the public during the pre-show and giving us interesting insight in the brief segments where they spoke, I followed it even if it was 6:40 in the morning for me. I really laughed when Tj said that he liked the theory that Ben Brode brought all the famous hearthstone personalities at the China Joy just to show his famous Unicorn Priest deck!

When the funky music started my body was ready for whatever announcement Blizzard had to make, I was really pumped up! Initially I was disappointed, the start of the event wasn’t great as there was no translation for us non-Chinese speakers. Overall I felt the organizers were trying to really milk the moment and tease all the Hearthstone players tuned in to know what the new adventure was going to be. Probably the most iconic moment of this section of the show was a Chinese player which when asked if he wanted to say something to the Hearthstone dev team, he replied he wanted to tell them that the Chinese community gives them a big hug. That is some Love!

Looks better than the Old Gods one for sure.

Looks better than the Old Gods one for sure.

As soon as I heard the loud Ben Brode’s voice I was ready, as usual Ben was great orator and managed to enthrall all the people watching with his unique presentation style. I want to emphasize this was the first time Blizzard announced new content outside the United States, Ben just made history right there! The rest was awesome, we got to see a sneak peek of a few fights, cards and also the board which looked amazing! This part was really short but by no means was it not worth it, I will admit I did watch the presentation another time on VOD and enjoyed it even more than the first time round. Maybe announcements are like wine, they get better as they get older? Really doubt it…

 

The Setting

I for one was very confused when I realized the theme of the expansion, the music and the trailer looked amazing but I do mostly like Darker themed expansions like Naxxramas. I settled with the idea that since the Hearthstone devs have done a wonderful job until now in setting the mood for past expansions the flavour and the setting of the adventure will be awesome even if not exactly in my taste.

Look at the characters!

Look at the characters!

The trailer merits a mention all by itself. I watched that video about 10 times now, there is just something about the music and the images that enthralls me. The start of the video with the announcer announcing the party (as he should do) is fantastic, it creates so much hype! Then we get to see the look of a young Medivh, it is absolutely perfect. When the door’s to the party open there are too many characters to see the first time round. The curator, Prince Melchezaar and many more, so cool! The most iconic scene is probably the moment you see: Reno, Finley and a cow chilling in a pool, it is just hilarious! In this particular scene you can also see a kobold and a gnome flirting in the background and Rafaam stealing books. Whoever made this you are geniuses! I bet that if I looked at the video once more I would probably find even more Easter eggs which I didn’t notice the first time round. One last thing is the music, I am a sucker for Funky music I really wish there was an extended piece of the tune!

The Wings

The expansion is composed of four wings plus a bonus mission, this bonus mission will be available to everybody for free. I won’t comment on the boss fights because they will probably be loads of fun as usual. There is only one thing I wanted to talk about, 4 wings and only 3 boss battles per wing seems a low number. The adventure will have 13 fights in total, when we compare this to the other adventure we see that: Naxxramas had 15, Blackrock had 17 and League of Explorers had 13. I guess this probably mean that 13 boss fights is the new standard for adventures. A part of me wishes to go back to more boss fights rather than less boss fights as I had loads of fun when completing those adventures, but I understand that a full wing more must be resource intensive for an aspect of the game which gets played and then discarded by most players. Not much more here to say, just a bit sad about the number of boss fights staying around 13, I am sure though the content will be awesome to play.

The Cards

I want to start by saying that I will do a more in depth analysis of the cards when the whole set is revealed, for now I will just give an initial impact thought. Additionally I only will focus on the announcement cards, the ones that have been revealed in the days after the announcement I will look at in another article.

card 1 kara

Enchanted Raven: Reddit went crazy when it saw this card, the call for it being OP were heard nearly immediately. I think the card is solid, stat wise is a vanilla 1 drop, the distribution is unique. Obviously when coupled with Mark of Y’Shaarj it can be an insane turn 2 play. The question is if this will be broken enough to support an archetype, Beast Druid, which has no way to come back on board once it loses the early game.

card 2 kara

Kindly Grandmother: This card is insane, the only thing I can think of it not being broken is because it is in Hunter and not in Warlock (Warlock already play Infested Villager which is a 1/1 which spawns a 1/1). Yep I am an idiot, when I first saw the card I thought it was 1 mana not 2 mana. Anyway, coupling this card with Abusive Sergeant in a Hunter deck will probably make Board control for the deck much easier as now you can run have a pretty scary early game. This coupled with the fact Hunter has late game bombs like Savanah Highmane and Call of the Wild, makes it a good inclusion in a curve Hunter deck.

card 3 Kara

Firelands Portal: This card is kind of neat and it is one of the card every player will get, regardless of the fact if the expansion was bought or not. People on reddit were complaining about this card since it seemed to be over the top for arena, I cannot comment as last time I played an arena was more than a month ago. What I can say is that for competitive play you will probably never include this card in your deck, but you won’t be unhappy if you get this card off of an Ethreal Conjurer or Cabalist Tome.

Card 4 Kara

Ivory Knight: I was reading on the competitive sub-reddit that Paladin has eleven 1-mana spells, meaning that a lot of the time at least one choice will be a Secret. On the other hand Paladin has many high value spells such as Consecration, Equality, Lay on Hands, etc. These can always come useful in any match-up and all provide card advantage by themselves. The stat line of the card is obviously bad, but at least it is off-set by a heal, potentially providing with some chance to get a good follow up turn with an Equality play. Overall I fear this card will probably not see too much play, it mainly depends on what other spells and cards are printed (anyway it is not like every card will always be playable).

Card 5 Kara

Ethreal Peddler: It has vanilla stats plus an effect, I guess this means in arena it should be decent. In constructed probably this card will not see that much play because even if you Burgle cards, you do not care about playing them for less. I say this because if you are running Burgle you are probably playing a control Rogue archetype which tries to win through card advantage not tempo. Whilst some may argue that innervate on cards is always good, you would probably run Emperor Thaurissan if you are going for that type of play-style.

Card 6 Kara

The Curator: This card is really interesting as it is one of those cards which is very hard to evaluate. I will say that with the current choice of Murlocs and Beasts the only deck that could really run this is some sort of Control Paladin. On the other hand in order to fully assess this card we need to see what other Beasts, Murlocs and Dragons get printed, as depending on this it could be this card provides an invaluable tool when deck-building.

card 7 Kara

Barnes: I fear this card might be really un-fun to play against, it can win the game on the spot if it gets the right card. A turn 4 Sylvanas or Tirion might be impossible to deal with. On the other hand it might be that I am looking at this card only through the perspective of best case scenario while ignoring the average or less than average ones, meaning that on average it will just be bad and not worth running. Overall I am not sure, I think this one will probably make the cut in control decks as it seems strong enough. One last thing to consider is that maybe it won’t be bad in a more Deathrattle focused Zoolock, as Zoo can always make good use of tokens and Deathrattles.

Concluding Remarks

Overall I am really excited for this new adventure and I cannot wait to get to play it in two weeks’ time. I think that whilst for now the setting might not be my cup of tea, as the Hearthstone team has managed multiple times they will change my mind and make me love this adventure even more than the past ones. You can find the VOD of the announcment at: https://www.twitch.tv/playhearthstone/v/80582512 if you missed it and want to watch it!

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Disclaimer: All the pictures were taken from the Hearthstone Facebook Page owned by Blizzard Entertainment.

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