A brief history of the Hearthstone meta

Hearthstone is one of the fastest-growing esports this year

Image via Blizzard

Hearthstone is one of the fastest-growing esports this year. But in that short history, a lot has actually happened, especially in the game’s “meta”—the stategy and tactics players bring to the game. As the game gears up for its finals at Blizzard’s annual Blizzcon conference, the developer has released a brief history of that meta, which designer Ben Brode describes as “the mix of different decks that players bring onto the ladder that you can expect to see.

“If you know what decks players are bringing,” Brode says, “your deck can be especially good against the meta.”

The video features popular former decks that were built around powerful strategies. Some, like the Early Beta Rogue, centered around earlier iterations of the Rogue’s class power that enabled a one-turn kill. Others like Freeze Mage, used the Mage’s powerful ice spells to lock down opponents for multiple turns on end, effectively making the game one sided.

Perhaps the most powerful deck was the Beast-centric Hunter, which took multiple patches to finally rein in, thanks to the most problematic card in the deck: Unleash the Hounds. That card initially allowed you to power up all the Beasts you had for devastating one-turn kills. To nerf that card, Blizzard changed its entire function, summoning one weak, 1/1 hound for each of your enemy’s minions. This proved problematic on its own, however, thanks to the Starving Buzzard, which lets you draw a card for every Beast you summon. Unleash the Hounds simply changed into a huge card-draw engine with the upside of giving you a ton of cheap creatures. Blizzard finally had to significantly up the cost of Starving Buzzard last month in an attempt to make the Hunter class more even with the others.

The video ends on a note that competitive players will appreciate. Blizzard fully acknowledges that while they can control the cards, it’s the community that dictates the meta. Eric Dodds, the game’s director, explains: “We’re not really owning the meta. What I’m expecting the meta to contain is a bunch of surprises that the players bring to us.”