Certain Epics are coming to define classes. Cards like Call to Arms, Ultimate Infestation and Primordial Glyph are all incredibly powerful tools. They have shaped class identity, revitalised otherwise struggling archetypes, and helped create a balanced and diverse meta (bar Warrior). But some would say they are too powerful, and their auto-include status threatens the game’s balance. And beyond that; are they too expensive?
The rise of the auto-include Epic
So what do we mean by a class auto-include? A perfect example of this is Primordial Glyph. Added in Un’goro, this 2 mana Mage Epic spell is supremely flexible and powerful. With its discount and the high typical value of mage spells, it can be burn, removal or AOE exactly when you need it. When combined with Sorceror’s Apprentice, the discounts can get even more ludicrous. With an Apprentice down, you can Glyph into Firelands for only 5 mana. Not only is this card strong and versatile enough to be in every single mage deck, it also reinforces Mage’s class identity of powerful spells, spell synergies and spell generation.
Another instance is Call to Arms. This obscenely undercosted 4 mana spell has made Paladins the supreme masters of mid-game board control. Even Control decks run it, using it to cheat out Loot Hoarders, Dirty Rats and Wild Pyromancers. It’s even propelled the previously meme-worthy Dude Paladin to Standard dominance.
Both of these cards demonstrate how auto-include class Epics reinforce identity with their supreme strength. But are they over-tuned?
Are OP cards ever acceptable?
Let’s get one thing straight. Call to Arms, Primordial Glyph and Ultimate Infestation are mathematically overpowered. Outside of Ultimate Infestation’s famous “19 mana worth of value”, let’s just look at Call to Arms. If we use the example of cards like Enchanted Raven and Mistress of Mixtures, we can say that a typical one-drop is about 2/2 worth of stats. This means that Call to Arms in the bad-case scenario of pulling three 1 drops is still a full mana cheaper than Druid’s Force of Nature for roughly the same effect. What’s more, it can pull far better minions in the form of 2 drops and thins the deck. If Call to Arms pulls two Loot Hoarders, it effectively cycles for 5 cards!
But is being overpowered a problem? There is an argument to say no. As long as it does not make a class overwhelmingly oppressive, overpowered cards can help forge an identity and give classes a raison d’etre. Call to arms has reinvigorated Paladin around its core ideals, while keeping it a powerful but not oppressive force in the meta. Druid was briefly a problem with Ultimate Infestation, but has settled into respectability after Spreading Plague and Innervate were nerfed. However, balance is one thing; cost is another.
Barrier to entry
Call to Arms is currently a big fat 800 dust wall in the way of anyone who wants to do even moderately well with Paladin. The entire class must now be balanced around this single defining mechanic. But unlike other defining Paladin cards like Consecrate, Equality, Truesilver, or Blessing of Kings, Call to Arms isn’t free. As such, new players are basically locked out from the class until they stump up the gold, dust or cash. This is a big problem.
Hearthstone’s classes are meant to be freely and easily unlockable. New players shouldn’t be forced into playing Basic Mage forever; they should be able to explore the basics of every class without paying or grinding for weeks on end. By over-centralising Paladin around a single Epic, Blizzard is losing players that might otherwise get hooked on Paladin’s Build’n’buff playstyle. Similarly, playing non-aggro Druid without Ultimate Infestation is missing out on what has become a fundamental part of the Druid experience.
The next auto-includes
Next expansion, it’s likely that Blizzard tries to rescue Warrior with a powerful Epic like they did Warlock with Voidlord or attempted to do with Shaman and Unstable Evolution. But this might not be the best idea in the long run. If classes have to be reinvigorated with a select few extremely undercosted or overstatted cards, then those cards should be freely available.
A Hearthstone where it’s incredibly prohibitive to even try out most classes in their most basic form is not a Hearthstone that is easy to have fun in.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.
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