Boomsday Project is all about mad science and experimentation. As a result, many of the cards so far are extremely out-there, pushing at Hearthstone’s boundaries. It’s a dream for deckbuilders, memers and those who love to express their creativity. But for every wacky card, there’s risk. Gamebreaking combos, and unfun interactions can create extremely polarising decks and strategies. Are upcoming cards like Academic Espionage too much? Will they prove to be the divisive Yogg-Saron of the new expansion?
Lessons from a dead God
Yogg was the Old God of madness and terror, and boy did he deliver. By casting random spells for every previous spell cast by the owner, he could swing boards and games in spectacular fashions. But it was his strength combined with his variance that lead to his downfall.
The issue with Yogg was that his variance was so wide, and his impact so extreme, he could make entire games up to that point irrelevant. With many tournament games partially or totally decided by Yogg RNG, Blizzard was forced to step in. A nerf left him equally deranged, but far less meta-defining. Will Academic Espionage befall the same fate?
Layers of randomness
Academic Espionage may replicate the frustrations of Yogg. This Rogue card shuffles in 10 random cards from the opposing class, reducing their cost to 1. Like Yogg, there are many layers of game-deciding randomness at play here.
The first, and most immediate, is the odds of drawing these cards. Paying 4 mana to shuffle cards is incredibly anti-tempo. If you don’t draw many of your reduced cost class cards, you’ll likely lose if you weren’t already guaranteed to win. Likewise, drawing most or all of your new class cards is likely to put you at a massive advantage very quickly.
Variance without interaction
Normally when you generate cards, there’s a limit to the variance. Regardless of what you generate, you’ll always have to pay the mana cost of what you get. Sure, that Goldshire Footman may be pretty terrible, but at least he can fill out your mana curve easily. Tirion, on the other hand, is a fantastic minion; but not when you’re staring down lethal on turn 7.
But this inherent balance is shattered by Academic Espionage. Since the cards cost 1, regardless of impact, you simply want the biggest and best cards possible. The power of your shuffle will be almost entirely decided by how many high-cost cards you can draw. A 1 mana Archmage Antionidas, Tirion or Grommash will be exceptionally strong; a Mana Wrym, Righteous Protector or Armorsmith less so.
This one-dimension variance in quality is both uninteractive and frustrating. The opponent has no way to play around your cards, only pray you whiff. Meanwhile, you are equally at the mercy of RNG by simply hoping you get big cards as frequently and soon as possible.
Strength and constraints
As we stand, we have yet too see if Academic Espionage is strong enough to see consistent play. With most cards of the set yet to be revealed, and Rogue synergies relatively untested, it may yet turn out to be a weak option. But if the card turns out to be meta-defining, Blizzard must take action.
The level of game-deciding randomness expressed by cards like Yogg and Academic Espionage can be lethal if they are more than simply fun casual options. Making players feel powerless in the face of high-rolls and low-rolls is a dangerous aspect of a single, game-deciding card. Should Academic espionage be Boomsday’s Yogg, it will need a similar urgent balance change.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.