Standard Format Interview with GreenSheep, Schismatron and Giordy

My name is Katy and I work on a range of Hearthstone-related activities as a female, transgendered and physically disabled individual. Twitch is a harsh environment to work in under those circumstances, so if you enjoyed this interview, please come follow my Twitch channel. Every viewer counts! We’re going to talk today with Hearthstone expert and […]

My name is Katy and I work on a range of Hearthstone-related activities as a female, transgendered and physically disabled individual. Twitch is a harsh environment to work in under those circumstances, so if you enjoyed this interview, please come follow my Twitch channel. Every viewer counts!

First Reactions

We’re going to talk today with Hearthstone expert and author Giordy, Swedish player and GigaCon 2014 3rd place finisher Schismatron, and the rising star of Hearthstone from the UK and DreamHack Valencia 2015 winner, GreenSheep.

Katy: Today we’re discussing Standard format. First thoughts and reactions?

GreenSheep: Pretty good, I like it! … It’s a big change, it follows existing TCGs, I’m glad Blizzard are implementing it.

Schismatron: I’ve wanted this for over a year so my first reaction was, “Yeah! MTG style!”. This will help new players collect the cards more easily.

Giordy: I have a friend who recently joined Hearthstone and it costs alot of money to get a good card collection; I think Standard format will solve that problem so I think it’s pretty good.

Katy: How do you think this will affect the meta on a general level?

Giordy: We’re losing a lot of OP cards like Dr. Boom and Sludge Belcher so it will change radically, but a good change rather than a bad change. Right now there are certain cards you almost must use if you’re gonna win, eg. on turn 7 you have to play Boom. This will give more variety to the game, it’s a nice change.

GreenSheep: The meta will change entirely. A lot of anti-aggro cards are being rotated out like Antique Healbot and Sludge Belcher. I agree a lot of the cards like Dr. Boom should be taken out of the game but they also must add new cards to balance the meta otherwise aggro decks will run rampant on ladder.

Katy: Ben Brode {Hearthstone Game Designer} has said that they are aware of the tools we will lose – such as Loatheb – and are taking that into consideration with the new expansion.

Schismatron: Well I won’t be able to play mill decks anymore! Assuming the new set is no good, face shaman will be the dominant deck, they’re only losing Crackle.

Focus on Standard

Katy: Blizzard will be showing only Standard rank in friends list, using it as the official tournament format, being the only legend rank which gives HCT points. Are you happy about all that?

GreenSheep: As things stand, if the cards being rotated out aren’t replaced by equivalent cards, I’m going to be really happy because I just play face hunter on ladder all the time! I’m sure they will add a load of anti-aggro cards though. I’m glad only Standard counts towards HCT points otherwise I’d have to get legend 6 times per month [instead of 3 – once for each server]! I’m glad they are focussing on one ladder instead of two.

Giordy: I was expecting double ladder but I’m not too sad about it. With the OP cards gone I would expect both new and experienced players to gravitate towards the Standard ladder, I won’t miss the Wild format.

Schismatron: I think it’s really good that the official format will be focussed towards Standard, but I believe that Wild will be used more and more in official tournaments, invitationals and show matches.

Katy: Who here plays MTG?

Schismatron raises hand

Katy: In MTG the Pro Tours etc. they use a mixture of every format to fully test the mettle of the players. Do you think Hearthstone might go like that or will it always be Standard?

Schismatron: I think it will always be Standard, but there will be high level invitationals that use Wild.

Katy: What’s your response to people who say this will make the game less skill-based?

Schismatron: We have no clue what the next expansion will bring, we’re “only” actually missing Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes, but we’re gaining a new expansion; we’ll have about the same amount of cards so saying it will be less skill-based is very far-fetched.

GreenSheep: It’s probably more skill-based. Instead of adding on to existing decks like you do at the moment when an expansion comes out, you have to re-think your entire deck ideas and line-up, and replace some cards with less viable cards.

Giordy: I don’t think it will be less skill-based, I’m really happy with the latest adventure {League of Explorers}, I think Blizzard is going in the right direction by reducing the RNG factor somewhat. I think when the next expansion comes out it will be even better. We’ll be able to build better decks on a less RNG-based ladder.

Katy: The Watch and Learn quest, Tavern Brawl and Arena will now only award packs valid in Standard, presumably as a catch-up mechanism. How do you think the introduction of Standard will affect the new player experience?

Giordy: I think it will be better for them. Right now they have to dump a lot of money in cards, but now they will be able to just focus on new cards in Standard. It’s not really a free-to-play game, but at least now they won’t have to sell crack to afford all the cards!

Schismatron: My main worry is that if the interface gets too cluttered, new players will see Wild as an option and be immediately interested in it. I think Blizzard should point them towards Standard to avoid confusion. I think they should not allow people to play in Wild unless they have crafted a card from a previous set or something similar.

GreenSheep: I think the entire opposite of Schismatron. There are two kinds of players in Hearthstone: the competitive player and the casual player. All the competitive players will be playing only Standard ladder and using only Standard cards. Standard restricts [the creative opportunities for] new players because of the reduced card pool, plus there will be less competitive players on the Wild ladder. Therefore I think new players will be drawn towards Wild, plus they are less likely to have duplicate cards and can learn on the Wild ladder. I think people will mostly play fun decks on Wild and it will be a less competitive environment. I hope Blizzard will actually promote Wild for the new players, I think it will be easier and more enjoyable for them than Standard.


Katy: The Standard format will rotate annually such that we have the previous year’s cards plus the first expansion for the current year when the rotation occurs. What do you think about the length of time between rotations and the number of sets that will be available at the beginning and end of each rotation?

GreenSheep: This is identical to Pokemon TCG’s rotation. I think having two years to play a card is fine; it’s enough time to learn all the interactions but not enough time to get too bored of it.

Katy: We’ve only had Dr. Boom for 14 months. How would you feel if Boom and Piloted Shredder were in the meta for 2 years?

GreenSheep: It’s only another 8 months, I could live with it but I’d get so annoyed after that! They have also talked about re-printing cards so there are always options to bring back popular or needed cards.

Giordy: I think the regularity of card set releases so far has been astonishing, and each has been released 4 months apart. I think it’s a good schedule – and a good way to get money from players.

Katy: Naxx out 🙂

Schismatron: I think it’s the correct increment – you can’t have it every 1 and a half years because it’s such an odd number and comes half way through the season, and 1 year is too short.

Katy: What’s your response to people who say that this is just an excuse for Blizzard to force people to buy more cards?

Giordy: We’re not going to spend more money than we already have – we’re going to spend money with the same regularity, and new players will be able to spend less money because they won’t have to buy Naxx, GvG or other expansions no longer valid in Standard at the time they join the game.

Schismatron: I completely agree with Giordy, and not only is it better for new players but also for old players who have quit and are coming back to the game because they don’t have to catch up so much. And why is it a problem that Blizzard make money anyway?

GreenSheep: I think everyone is going to save money from this. Casual players can just buy the Wild packs, and when new Standard expansions are released, they can continue just buying Wild packs because they will receive both Wild cards they are missing and new Standard cards in those packs. For competitive players who play Standard, they can just dust old cards and use them towards the new ones.

Card Changes

Katy: Talking only of the Basic and Classic sets, are there any cards you would like to see nerfed?

Schismatron: Most of Druid’s core is from the basic set, including Innervate, Wild Growth, Force of Nature and Savage Roar. Those are powerful cards that will almost always make Druid viable no matter what sets are currently used in Standard. I want to see some sort of modification to Force of Nature or Savage Roar. Some people have discussed making it a 10-mana combo; I would rather make Force of Nature cost 5 mana but change the treants so they can only attack minions and remove the OTK completely.

GreenSheep: Some combination of Innervate, Wild Growth, Force of Nature and Savage Roar. As long as Druid has those cards, it almost doesn’t even matter if you use War Golem, the deck will still be viable.

Giordy: Besides Force of Nature and Savage Roar, I think Doomhammer is a pretty powerful tool that can deal up to 16 damage in one turn, I think that needs to be nerfed because the ladder is swarmed with aggro shamans right now. Divine Favor is slightly OP but not too much; the rest of the Basic and Classic cards are fine.

Schismatron: I’d like to see some cards re-buffed, like changing Novice Engineer back to a 1/2 again.

Katy: Blizzard have stated they are not planning to buff any cards right now, sorry!

Schismatron: Dang it!

Katy: When Standard comes in, Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes are the sets going out. We are going to lose Loatheb, Sludge Belcher, Dr. Boom and Antique Healbot among others. Are there any particular cards you are really happy to get rid of or any you are sad to lose?

Giordy: I’m really happy to get rid of Mad Scientist because it’s way too powerful, same with Sludge Belcher, it removed Sen’jin Shieldmasta from the meta completely. If they don’t come up with a new 4-mana taunt, Shieldmasta is probably coming back. Antique Healbot is fine I guess, I won’t mind if they come up with a new neutral form of healing, I don’t think Healbot was too OP.

GreenSheep: I’m not sad to lose anything, I’m just happy to lose all the anti-aggro cards! Death’s Bite, Sludge Belcher, Zombie Chow, Antique Healbot… everything…. Loatheb, I hate Loatheb!

Schismatron: I like that the inconsistency of Dr. Boom is removed, but I like the design of Loatheb and Antique Healbot and I’m sad that those are removed. I hope they bring something equally good in design even if they are not serving the same in purpose. Without Loatheb, many decks will be able to do their combos one turn earlier. They need to bring something to effectively – if not directly – heal with your hero, eg. something like Deathlord. We need more ways to heal ourselves so we can go to fatigue!

GreenSheep: I’m so happy about Deathlord being removed, goodbye priest!

Katy: Warrior is going to be losing Death’s Bite, Shaman is losing Crackle, and Paladin is losing not only Avenge but also Muster For Battle, Quartermaster and Shielded Minibot.

Everybody cheers about Shielded Minibot

Deck Discussion

Katy: What decks – just theoretically assuming current meta – do you think will become unplayable and what will become really strong?

Schismatron: Without Antique Healbot and Deathlord, mill decks can’t work. I’m glad that Secret Paladin will be gone because if we still had Muster For Battle, not having Avenge makes the deck lose so much value. I think Face Shaman is going to be really powerful.

GreenSheep: All the Mech decks will be unplayable of course, Malylock loses a lot, Dragon decks will be ok. Losing Darkbomb is quite a big deal. Handlock will still be playable with mostly Classic cards. Zoo will be fine with Dark Peddler and Doomguard…. oh wait it loses Imp-losion, Zoo might be screwed.

Giordy: I think Zoo is going to be just fine, from season 1 up til now Zoo has always been played. Zoo will find a way.

GreenSheep: It will find a way but it gets alot weaker now.

Schismatron: We’ll have to play Shieldbearer again!

Giordy: I think Priest is in trouble because it’s losing Lightbomb.

GreenSheep: It’s losing Deathlord too, but Entomb is pretty good right now, and if you have Auchenai Soulpriest and Circle of Healing though it should be ok.

Schismatron: We’ll have to go more for board control instead of the reactive type of priest. Auchenai + Circle doesn’t kill Dr. Boom though! J

Giordy: Are we losing Troggzor The Earthinator? 🙂

Schismatron: I thought that card was going to be so powerful, I crafted it day one.

GreenSheep: I think the only person that thought Dr. Boom was going to be good was StrifeCro….

Schismatron: We need some new cards to handle Face Shaman / Face Hunter otherwise GreenSheep is going to be legend rank 1 all the time.

GreenSheep: Face Hunter is only losing Mad Scientist and it was never that good. But Freeze Mage is done for because of losing Mad Scientist. Mage secrets are too expensive to play from your hand, but now you have to keep them in your hand.

Schismatron: Even Kezan Mystic is gone.

Giordy: We might see a comeback of Kirin Tor Mage for the Mage secrets problem.

Katy: With Spider Tank gone and Harvest Golem being the next best 3-drop at the moment, Kirin Tor Mage might become relatively powerful even though it trades poorly with many 2-drops.

Katy: Are there any particular types of cards you would like to see in the Spring 2016 expansion to help balance the game or fill in the gaps of what we’ve lost?

Giordy: We definitely need a new 2 or 3-mana taunt minion, plus neutral healing to replace Antique Healbot.

GreenSheep: Antique Healbot adds literally 10% to your aggro match-up win rates.

Schismatron: I’d like to see a new type of cards, for example a discard effect like “remove a random legendary from your opponent’s deck”.

GreenSheep: I hate to admit it but there has to be a replacement for Sludge Belcher, and neutral heal. Every new set released lately has had a new mechanic so I predict a new anti-aggro mechanic for the next set.

Katy: Every time Blizzard has tried to slow down the meta they have failed. What do you think Blizzard can realistically do that will effectively slow the meta down?

Schismatron: You can’t just add a neutral anti-aggro card because if you add a neutral card that slows down the meta enough, aggro will become unviable and losing an entire archetype from the meta would not be healthy for the game. I would like to see a Fog-style effect similar to that used in Magic The Gathering [the Fog mechanic prevents minions from taking combat damage, so they have to be removed with a spell; the classic anti-aggro example would be a 0/2 taunt]. To speed up the meta you could have the same effect on non-taunt minions with a non-zero attack – this might make aggro too powerful though.

GreenSheep: I don’t want the meta to be slowed down! I’m not really sure, but one possibility would be to use the Misdirection-style mechanic seen in Ogre Brute, Ogre Ninja etc., but make it permanently attack the wrong target rather than a 50% chance. I’m sure Blizzard have a lot of ideas.

Giordy: We need a spell that silences and destroys all minions.

Schismatron and GreenSheep agree

Schismatron: Twisting Nether costs 8 mana and I think for that cost it is justifiable for it to silence as well as destroy everything.

Katy: Don’t you think that would be over-powered given that Flamestrike costs 7?

Schismatron: It’s a different class. Warlock really only has Hellfire at the moment.

Closing Thoughts

Katy: Final thoughts?

Giordy: I’m really happy for the new format and I’m going to be thrilled when they release it and introduce this rotation. I think it’s good for new players, old players, everyone. I’m really happy with what Blizzard has done lately.

GreenSheep: I really like where Blizzard is heading at the moment with competitive Hearthstone, I think they’re on the right track and I can only see things improving from here.

Schismatron: I’ve been playing Hearthstone since the 2nd wipe in the beta, I’ve never really stopped playing it and it’s only been getting better and better; like GreenSheep said, it’s only going to keep getting better.

Katy: To finish off, a Twitch viewer asks, what’s your favourite class?

Giordy: Warlock

GreenSheep: Obviously Hunter!

Schismatron: Grindy Mages that go to fatigue every game

Discussion of tournament support in the Hearthstone client and augmenting or replacing ladder with automated sit-and-go tournaments follows in the video interview.

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