A new way to play

“This is the end of HS!” “RIP HS.” “The sky is falling!” Hi Brawlers, I come today with a different kind of article. I’m sure you would have read/heard about the last announcement. If not, you’re on the right place. As a MTG card player I’m very used to the above sentences. Every new set, every change […]

“This is the end of HS!” “RIP HS.” “The sky is falling!”

Hi Brawlers,

I come today with a different kind of article. I’m sure you would have read/heard about the last announcement. If not, you’re on the right place. As a MTG card player I’m very used to the above sentences. Every new set, every change of rules, every ban/unban of a card there were thousands of players who said them… and keep playing.

But, what am I talking about? Blizzard has announced an impactful change for Hearthstone with the inclusion of formats into the game. I’m not talking about a new kind of Tavern Brawl, a just for fun game mode. I’m talking about Standard and Wild.

Wait, wait! What’s that? You will find complete information about the announcement here. But if you prefer a commented version, keep reading. What I will say here are my thoughts based on the experience I carried here from other games and the one I’ve acquired playing HS. If you agree/disagree feel free of leaving comments after reading the article.

A new way to play

With the arrival of the next collection in Spring (Blizzard has not said a specific date) there will be a major change in the game. At that moment the game will split into two different formats:

  • Wild: The game “as we know now”. Every single card in the game will be legal for the Wild format, the ones we play now and the ones that will come next months/years.
  • Standard: It will comprise Basic (the free cards we receive in the beginning), Classic and the last two years of adventures/collections (from now, sets). So in a couple of months we will “lose” Naxxramas (NAX) and Goblin vs Gnomes (GVG). The following cards will be legal for the Standard format during 2016: Basic, Classic, Blackrock Mountain (BRM), The Great Tournament (TGT), League of Explorers (LOE), “Spring” collection and the sets they release during 2016. With the arrival of the first 2017 big collection, all 2015 sets (BRM, TGT and LOE) will be no longer legal in the Standard format.

We will have two different ladders, the Wild one and the Standard one. The reward we receive at the end of the season will be calculated considering the best rank we’ve achieved in any of the ladders. (Note: Blizzard, why don’t you release a Tavern Brawl ladder as well?)

Formats will affect the professional mode as official Blizzard events will be Standard format.

One big change is that only expansions legal in Standard will be purchasable in the shop. The day that Blizzard launches the Spring collection, we won’t be able to purchase GVG packs and NAX wings anymore (an exception to the last is that if we have bought at least one NAX wing we will be able to buy the rest with gold). All these cards will be “craftable” and “dustable” when the patch comes. Yes, even adventure ones. But you will only be able to use them in the Wild format. Besides that, Arena rewards will only give cards/packs of Standard legal collections.

The impact on the Standard format

It’s obvious that the Standard arrival will shake the metagame as we’ve never seen. There will be lots of cards that will cycle and some of the current decks will be unplayable after it (Mage bot for obvious reasons would be a quick example). Blizzard has also annouced that will revise Classic cards to adapt some of them for the future so we will see nerfs in a couple of months (I’m looking at you force-of-nature…)

Let’s revise the most relevant cards.

Curse of Naxxramas

We will lose 30 cards here. A total of 2765 dust if we decide to destroy all NAX cards. Most of them have been used. If I would have to choose five of them I would point the following ones:

mad-scientist: We’ve all seen this card in Hunter and Mage decks. Hunters will lose a great turn-2 play, aggro versions in combination with explosive-trap and slower ones in combination with freezing-trap. It will hurt to mages as well. They not only looked for a secret (duplicate, ice-barrier, ice-block, mirror-entity) but also saved 1 crystal cost when playing it directly from deck. Lots of players think that playing the secret was abusive, like cheating. Now he goes, untouched.

loatheb: This legendary has appeared in all kinds of decks. It wasn’t a metagame card, it was a card every single deck could play and benefit from it. Aggro and minion decks in general preventing the incoming mass removal and beating the opponent the next turn, as a way to stop at least one turn the possibility of Rogue or Druid combo. We will miss this unique effect we had.

avenge: Probably the best secret Secret Paladin runs. Now the effect of mysterious-challenger will be diminished. The deck will also miss other cards, but let’s see what new secrets and cards come before saying that the deck is not playable anymore.

sludge-belcher: Present in midrange and control decks, the most resilient Taunt minion will leave the boat. Lots of decks will miss it.

zombie-chow: The best one drop for control style decks, it’s been used in Druid, Paladin and above all, Priest. Sorry, you won’t be able of doing damage with the zombie in combination with auchenai-soulpriest anymore.

We will also miss deathlord, haunted-creeper, nerubian-egg,  webspinner, duplicate, dark-cultist, voidcaller, deaths-bite. Even feugen and stalagg were fun to play in Deathrattle Rogue decks.

Goblin vs Gnomes

Here the hit is bigger. A total of 123 cards will say goodbye. Goodbye to the Mech tribe (mostly), goodbye to the best 2-drop, the best 4-drop and the best 7-drop. Yes, goodbye to you as well, target-dummy…

dr-boom: What else?

piloted-shredder: It was an auto include for lots of decks. Probably the best 4-drop in the game thanks to its removal resilience if it wasn’t silenced. It was also “fun” to see how a doomsayer popped out when the opponent killed it and we had a big board presence. Not anymore…

shielded-minibot: What was the best starting of the game? Yes, the-coin + Shielded Minibot. It was present in all kind of Paladin decks. Shockadin, Midrange, Secret… We will have to find a good 2-drop, it will hurt.

malganis: Demonlock and Renolock loses one of his big demons. Let’s hope a relevant substitute comes in Spring.

antique-healbot: The nightmare of aggro decks before reno-jackson arrived now takes the same path as lots of bots, the recycling plant…

Honorable mentions goes to: glaivezooka, unstable-portal, muster-for-battle, quartermaster, velens-chosen, lightbomb, tinkers-sharpsword-oil, crackle, darkbomb, imp-losion, shieldmaiden.

The impact on the Wild format

Blizzard has said that if we want to play the game we are used to, we just have to choose the Wild format. Is that enough?

I’m afraid it’s not… Every time a new set comes it will impact on Wild as well. Cards will be balanced on a Standard view so we will have a severely unbalanced format in the near future. Instead of nerfing cards, they’ve chosen this route. Blizzard has said that Wild won’t be an official format so it won’t really matter but, are we sure they won’t change their mind and Wild ends being a tournament format?  What happens to those tournament organizers that maybe choose to do a Wild one? The future is uncertain…

The impact on Arena

Here Blizzard decided to not do anything with formats, and I think that’s bad. Arena will be wilder than Wild! Yes, it’s true that we will only receive rewards based on Standard format legal sets. Finally we won’t receive more GVG packs. But the problem is that Arena environement will continue growing and it will be nearly impossible to play around cards as the sets come. Instead of rotating sets as they will do with the Standard format, they’ve chosen to keep all cards here. Have you noticed that flamestrike is now rarer? How rare would it be in a couple of years? Yeah, pretty non-existent, but its effect would be devastating when it’s played because no one would play around it. In my opinion that’s not good and I would bring a limited format more limited. Unfortunately, it’s not my game…

The impact on Tavern Brawls

As this is a Tavern Brawl series I have to talk about the impact on this game mode as well. They’ve said that we will have Wild and Standard Brawls in the future. And here we have two problems:

  • Standard: It’s true that every single player will have access to these cards through packs and in-game rewards. New players will thank this. Even knowing that they will always need the Classic cards, they will eventually get them all as well. But in the end, those players that decide to spend money will have a huge advantage. They will have lots of cards to play before F2P players can catch them. Right now, veteran players had lots of cards to experiment with, but we will progressively lose them.
  • Wild: Will a new player craft old cards just for less than a week? I don’t think so… Will old players disenchant obsolete cards to have more Standard playable cards? Probably yes. So it seems that the difference between big collections and small ones will become even bigger.. Lots of players probably won’t play Wild Brawls as they’ve decided to disenchant old cards, even adventures ones, to be able to keep up with the game without spending tons of money. As a F2P player I will have to face this situation soon. I’ll probably choose the casual view of having the most possible cards to keep playing good Tavern Brawls and show you here the results, but I’m aware of diminishing my chances of having a proper Standard collection. And that’s sad…

The impact on players

There are lots of kinds of players so it’s hard to not generalize here. I would just split them into three groups, professional, competitive and casual players.

  • Professional: The minority of the game. I suppose they will thank the change. Deck builders will have a lot of extra work but the hive mind will solve metagame problems as they do right now, simply with a different set of cards every year. They pay to have the content asap (obviously with tons of spare dust and gold that help them to save money) but they receive more income from their videos and tournaments so I think they won’t note the difference. It’ll be a kind of tax from Blizzard to keep their position.
  • Competitive: There are lots of competitive players but they’re still a minority in the game. They will suffer more, as they don’t receive the same money from the game as professionals do. They will have to face the question I did myself above, “Should I disenchant all cycled cards to craft new ones?”. If they decide to not do that they will have to spend even more money.
  • Casual: The vast majority of players here. It’s said that the change is good for them, that they will benefit from rotating formats. But I don’t agree with that. If you like the game and you’ve been playing for months/years you will have a big collection. When a new set comes you will have, of course, to adapt to the new metagame, but you will also be able to rest on your laurels for a short time while you get new cards. Now that won’t be possible as you lose dozens of cards every year, cards that would help you to keep playing good decks while the meta establishes again. New players will become veteran if they play for months so the problem would be the same, maybe not in the first year, but it will in a couple.

Conclusion

Was this change necessary? I think so. Every card game has decided the same at some point of its life. Online games also need a constant arrival of new players to keep them alive and as the content increases it’s harder to compel old players to buy the new product (they already have what they need) without falling into the power creep problem (releasing powerful content that displaces old content). It’s also positive in order to shake the metagame. We are always complaining about seeing every day the same decks. In a couple of months it won’t be possible anymore. Bye bye dr-boom. It’s been a pleasure but now you’re condemned to Wild ostracism.

Anyway, it seems they’re rushing ahead instead of “nerfing” cards as they’ve done in the past. The reason is obvious, now everyone that wants to play standard, competitively or not, will have to buy last collection packs (I don’t care if it’s with gold or with real money) or their decks will be totally old-fashioned.

In the end it doesn’t affect the majority of players. Casuals will always be casual and if they decide to step further they will have to spend money (is this the real goal? I presume it is… Legit goal, of course). Unfortunately for F2P professional ones (if they ever exist) it’ll be really hard. Now it’s time for deck builders. They’ll have extra work when the new set comes. It’ll be really exciting for them, I’m sure.

And now it’s your turn, what do you think of the new path we are going to walk in a couple of months? Meantime, I’ll keep thinking what I would do with my Dr. Bye and his Bye-Bots.