Aug 6 2016 - 4:24 pm

Is Hearthstone's Worgen Warrior deck too good?

The history of Hearthstone balance changes paints a very specific picture—any deck that aims to destroy an opponent in one turn is not healthy for the game
Luke Winkie
Dot Esports

The history of Hearthstone balance changes paints a very specific picture—any deck that aims to destroy an opponent in one turn is not healthy for the game.

Leeroy Jenkins got nerfed because a pair of Shadowsteps could burst down a hapless opponent from 18 health. Warsong Commander got nerfed because administering a free charge effect on an army of endlessly spawning Grim Patrons meant that no board state was ever safe. Force of Nature was nerfed because the quick, easy Savage Roar tandem dominated Druid decks since the dawn of Hearthstone. Whether intentional or not, developer Blizzard has laid down a precedent. If the deck wins too much, it will be challenged. With that in mind, it’s time to talk about Worgen Warrior.

Worgen Warrior, like those other archetypes I mentioned, is a combo deck. You rely on Inner Rage, Faceless Manipulator, underutilized Warrior spells like Rampage and Charge, and a clutch Emperor Thaurissan discount to build a big, beefy, Windfury-activated Raging Worgen. It’s base effect (Inner Rage + Charge + Raging Worgen) will give you 16 damage. Add in a Rampage and you’re looking at 22 damage. Throw in Thaurissan’s blessing on a Faceless Manipulator and two of the combo pieces? Now you’re talking an obscene 44 damage in one turn.

Worgen Warrior works because Warrior’s survivability is so good right now. You’d think a big, unwieldy combo deck like this takes too long to set up and can be countered by faster metas, but the list is currently performing exceptionally well against Zoolock and Midrange Shaman. That success has launched the deck all the way at number 11 on Tempo Storm’s hallowed meta snapshot. It’s reliable, and it’s powerful! Just like all those other charge combo decks that no longer exist in the game.

There’s nothing wrong with a good combo in Hearthstone. Plenty of decks rely on robust synergies. Something like Freeze Mage has existed since the game’s release, and that’s a strategy based around getting a hand full of high-damage spells and pointing them at your opponent’s face. However, Freeze Mage hasn’t been hit with a major nerf since beta because the combo is difficult to pull off, and there’s natural counters like Control Warrior. The decks that have been cut down were all fixtures at the top of tier lists. When you compare Freeze Mage to, say, Patron Warrior—which in its heyday lacked a single unfavorable matchup—it seems pretty fair. Worgen Warrior is in a similar place. It has bad matchups against other armor-stacking Warrior archetypes, as well as Doomhammer-wielding Face Shamans. But that being said, I still think there are some reasons for concern.

The thing I like to keep in mind when I consider something like Worgen Warrior is how well the deck melds with overarching ethos of Hearthstone. This is a win condition that requires working around 11 or 13 mana combinations, which already feels kinda obtuse and on the fringes of what should be possible. Is it cool to fuse those pieces together and claim a victory? Absolutely, but it’s also not fun to play against. That’s the thing that makes Blizzard’s job difficult. Let’s say Worgen Warrior takes off and constitutes maybe eight percent of what you’re facing on ladder, does that mean something needs to be changed? Even if it’s counterable? If eight percent of players are using Worgen Warrior that means that eight percent of Hearthstone games won’t be particularly interactive. When Standard rotated earlier this year, Blizzard removed the charge from the mostly innocent Arcane Golem, but isn’t the Raging Worgen combo more toxic?

At this point it’s clear that the charge cards in Hearthstone’s base set weren’t balanced all that well. So far we’ve seen Arcane Golem, Leeroy Jenkins, Warsong Commander, and Force of Nature either be scaled back or gutted completely. Every time Blizzard has taken away a tool, the community has found a replacement to build a new combo deck. It’ll be interesting to see if Blizzard lets Worgen Warrior survive.

Jan 20 2017 - 9:38 pm

Blizzard designer says Hearthstone Shamans "don’t win too often"

The deck is still stifling the meta game, however.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Shaman continues to dominate the Hearthstone ladder, and at this point players are resigned to it. They are just hoping that in a few months' time the new set rotation will shake things up and dislodge it from its position at the top of the tree.

Blizzard game designer Max McCall addressed the power of the class on the official forums recently—but according to him, the class doesn't have an overwhelming success rate.

"All of those [Shaman] decks are strong," McCall said. "but they are all weak against Dragon decks (like Priest and Warrior) and Reno decks. If you’re tired of losing to Shamans, play Reno Warlock. In some ways, that is fine: Shamans are popular, but there are strategies that are good against them."

"Playing Shaman isn’t a dominant strategy – again, they lose to plenty of decks – but it is still boring to play against the same class over and over again," he continues.

These comments puzzled and angered some players, who pointed to their own experience and other sources of data like the Vicious Syndicate meta report that suggested these matchups were much closer than McCall suggested. And the other matchups were much more one-sided for the Shaman. Indeed, in a second forum post McCall that Reno Warlock was only favored by half a percentage point.

Others took issue with McCall's characterization of the state of Shaman deckbuilding. According to McCall, there are aggressive decks which run pirates, and midrange decks that run pirates and jade cards. But by virtue of running pirates, the inclusion of jade cards doesn't stop a deck from being aggressive in style (something we have highlighted before).

Jade Claws and Jade Lightning, which are often the only jade cards run in the faster lists, lend themselves very well to an aggressive style. Jade Claws takes the spot of Spirit Claws, as early game weapons continue to drive aggressive Shaman decks with value and early pressure.

However, McCall did rightly admit that Shaman is a problem on ladder because of how frequently it appears. According to his data, Shaman currently makes up about 25 percent of games on ladder. This can make games feel repetitive and a grind, especially if you aren't playing one of the limited counters.

At the end of the day, Blizzard is watching Shaman closely. And if it doesn't decrease in popularity, it is prepared to make changes. But that won't help those players who feel demoralized by the ladder right now.

Jan 20 2017 - 5:37 pm

CompLexity and Luminosity win 11-game thrillers in Trinity Series debuts

The teams took each other to the limit on day two.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Photo via DreamHack

CompLexity Gaming and Luminosity Gaming came out on top during the second matchday of the ESL Trinity Series Hearthstone league—but both teams were taken to the limit.

Luminosity Gaming, with Keaton "Chakki" Gill and Frank "Fr0zen" Zhang playing from China, claimed a 6-5 win over Team Liquid.

After Liquid left the Shaman of Luminosity unbanned, the only team to do so in the four matches of week one, Luminosity fancied their chances. But that Shaman was ineffectual, knocked out by the Druid of Team Liquid as David "Dog" Caero and his teammates piloted the Druid to three straight game wins.

That left Liquid at 5-3 and match point, but Luminosity were able to win a crucial Druid mirror and go on their own streak to take the comeback win.

In the second match of the day the experienced Cloud9 lineup of James "Firebat" Kostesich, Cong "StrifeCro" Shu, and Andrew "TidesofTime" Biessener nearly pulled off a similar comeback.

Cloud9 and CompLexity Gaming traded games back and forth until CompLexity's Reno Mage, driven by Jan "SuperJJ" Janssen, took three straight wins to put them in the same position at 5-3. TidesofTime attempted to reverse the tide with Reno Warlock and fought back to 5-5, but Cloud9 were forced to use their combo pieces early and CompLexity won the match with a Reno Warlock of their own.

After beating Alliance 6-0 in the first match of the tournament, G2 Esports sit atop the table after the first week of games.

Week two will see Alliance take on CompLexity, Luminosity against Tempo Storm, G2 versus Virtus Pro, and Cloud9 will play Team Liquid.