Of all the mana slots in Hearthstone, two mana cards used to be the most vital. As any Arena player will tell you, two-drops are the cornerstone of pro-active gameplans. But Hearthstone’s two-drops, once the most common cards, are becoming rarer and rarer. Between Keleseth, Odd decks and OTK, there are fewer and fewer reasons to play that Dire Wolf Alpha or Knife Juggler. But why is this such a big deal? Do we really need two-drops?
Closing the coin gap
One oft-overlooked metric of the health of the metagame has been quietly getting worse. This is the coin differential; the difference in winrate between going first and second. When this is too high, it can lead to frustration and uninteractive gameplay, as much of the advantage early is decided by a literal coin toss.
Two-drops help with this. If you’re going second, coining out a two-drop in response to your opponent’s first turn is usually a powerful play that helps you make up the tempo disadvantage early. When two-drops aren’t in the meta, the best play is usually just to drop a one-drop, meaning the opponent is more likely to snowball an early lead. This increases the coin differential and means that without two-drops, games will be more swingy and less interesting.
Two-drops are important not only for reducing the advantage from going first, but also for improving the flexibility of all types of decks. One of Hearthstone’s key advantages and appeals is the clarity of purpose and resources. Unlike Gwent or Artifact, the goal is clear: bash your opponent’s hero until it blows up. Typically, you do this by controlling minions, big obvious numbered things that move and yell and glow to tell you they’re moveable.
Unfortunately, Hearthstone’s expanding card pool has led us away from this simplicity. Now if your opponent runs out of cards and has nothing on the board while you’re at full health, you’re dead to Mecha’thun. Your Paladin opponent can laugh at your full board with Time Out. And Priest can hit you for hundreds in a single turn.
Now all this extravagance isn’t necessarily a bad thing; but it helps if decks are all playing in roughly the same universe. Two-drop minions fit in every deck, from Aggro to Midrange and Combo. Their useful effects advance gameplans while incentivising interesting trade-offs and decisions early. There’s a lot more thought in whether to drop an Armorsmith compared to if an Odd Warrior should Tank Up! Potent two-drop minions refocus the game around the board for all archetypes, and make those interesting minion interactions more central.
I’ve argued before that Odd decks have core problems. And while a few here and there are fine, I don’t think anyone would want to see an odd-dominated meta. If two-drops continue their decline (especially with the upcoming rotation purge of so many, including Keleseth), it will be extremely difficult to compete with Odd decks early on.
This is a particular problem for classes that don’t have control or board-oriented hero powers. While it’s good news for Paladin, Mage, Rogue and Warrior, there may be a problem for Shaman, Priest and Warlock. Though if you’re sick of Genn, then maybe the lack of two-drops is something to celebrate.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via hearthstone.gamepedia.com.
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