Last week I went easy on Team 5. I talked about the choices Blizzard had made in the past, the different cards that used RNG well, and defended some of the designs that other people dislike. This week, we go to war. While RNG has been done very well at times, more often than not it has held back the level of this game and led to some extremely large design blunders. Though there is no doubt Team 5 has created a wonderful game, they sure as hell could have also made it better. This week I want to go back through time and unearth some of their biggest mistakes related to RNG and show why you cannot walk the line between competitive and casual. Though most of these cards never got nerfed, they all led to player frustration (mostly mine) at one point or another and decreased the legitimacy of Hearthstone as a whole. These are things I am angry about, and I just won’t take it anymore.
While it is so commonplace it is easy to forget that is has RNG, Animal Companion begins our list. This card is no longer the problem that it once was, but it still is a perfect example of bad design because it always causes an imbalance for one player. That is to say, no matter what the outcome here is, somebody isn’t going to be having fun. While all three modes of companion are strong, they are so wildly different that getting the wrong (or right) one at any given time can swing the game. Getting Misha when you need damage or Leokk when you need a taunt just feels awful, as does losing to a topdecked Huffer. Those type of swings shouldn’t all be contained into one card.
Mind Control Tech
Another card that screams “bad design” is Mind Control Tech. Though this card is ok in theory because it can be played around (unlike so many things below), the swing is simply too large and too immediate. While Sylvanas Windrunner encourages play and interation, MCT happens right away and either nets you a small minion or a game-breaking swing. That just shouldn’t be up to a die roll. The only reason this card doesn’t break into the top 10 is because it has seen very limited play over time (and thus only affected a small group of players).
The Top 10
Juuust squeaking into the Top 10 is the star of the show himself. Barnes is a very annoying card that makes it onto the list because it is inherently bad design. Being able to swing a game out of nowhere is never going to be ok, but it is particularly bad when it can happen on turn three or four (more on that later). There are many games where your opponent rolls their Cairne Bloodhoof, Ragnaros Firelord, Ysera or Sylvanas Windrunner and just takes over the game. That is never fun and will often cause the player on the losing to end to freak out. However, there are also many games where Barnes gets you a random 1/1, and that’s a problem too.
The biggest problem I have with Barnes (and we will see this a lot on this list) is that his high is to high and his low is too low. RNG cards at typically at their best when they can pull from a near set result each time. However, Barnes can too often lead to an instant win or just do absolutely nothing. That type of swing is just too much and steals a lot of games without any steal or forethought. The only reason the actor is not higher on this list is because he actually hasn’t proved to be too big of a problem. Most of the time he nets you an ok and he can be controlled to only fetch big threats (which gets rid of the randomness). That is kind of interesting. I just hope the dev team keeps this ability truly unique to one card.
9. Ragnaros the Firelord
No. Just absolutely not. At number nine we have a card that I have hated since the days of early beta: Ragnaros the Firelord. Though there are many out there that enjoy Ragnaros, his swings are just too much for me to enjoy. Unlike something like Sylvanas Windrunner (which only has one use and can be controlled) Rag is always going to be random and leaves up a giant body to deal with that is going to continue to be random turn after turn if it is not dealt with. I have won (and lost) plenty of games because the fiery coin flip and that is never a good feeling from either side of the table. Especially because there is literally nothing you can do about it.
The reason rag sits only at number nine is because his RNG only affects a specific subset of the Hearthstone population. By that, I mean control decks or some slower midrange matches. The firelord can be nullified by swarm and aggro decks by giving him too many targets or by just pushing damage to make him too slow. However, in games that go long he can singlehandely give you a win or loss depending on whether or not he removes a minion or goes face. I have never been a fan of that mechanic. I do think his ability makes him feel special and is very cool, but I think it should have been targeted to only hit minions or hit a certain minion (such as on the right or the left). For now, the ol’ 50/50 doesn’t do it for me.
8. Unstable Portal
Though it never had the impact that Reynad originally thought it would, Unstable Portal was problematic because it was just too much power for an RNG card. Randomness is not in itself bad. It keeps the games fresh, adds an interesting element to some plays and can really pull in new players. However, while limited or controllable RNG is great, crazy game-swinging RNG is usually kept in check by the fact that it just isn’t good or reliable enough to see serious play. When that barrier gets broken you have problems, and portal definitely broke that barrier.
This card hits the list at number eight for both its RNG and for the ridiculous discount it gave. Just about any minion in the game is going to be strong with a three mana discount, and even playing something like a Boulderfist Ogre on turn three would quickly end the game. Sure, there were times that it gave you something completely worthless but, going back to my discussion on Barnes, this card gave some horrible lows mixed in with disgusting highs. It was also a problem that it pulled from every minion in the game. Random cards that have smaller subsets are usually better because you and your opponent at least have an idea of what they could generate. Here, it devolved into a crapshoot that there was absolutely no way to play around or plan for.
7. Flamewaker/Goblin Blastmage
Next on the chopping block is the combination of Flamewaker and Goblin Blastmage. I lumped these two cards together because they largely do the same thing, just in slightly different ways. The biggest problem with both of these cards, like so many on this list, is that their swing potential is just too high. Being able to randomly ping things has never been great design, especially when those pings can go to both the board and face. Adding the addition burn damage is what really makes this poor design because it creates an extra target. That means every time your board gets cleared by a waker you know that the missiles could have easily gone face, creating a frustrating state. On the flip side, when all of the Flamewaker hits miss minions and do damage, it is crippling.
These are the types of cards that are extremely problematic because it is RNG literally deciding games. When these cards hit you never notice because they do what they are supposed to, which is clear the board. That is fine and I have no problem with that. However, when you or your opponent’s Flamewaker doesn’t clear some two or one health minion, it devolves a well thought-out game to a couple of lucky coin flips. Just yesterday I won back-to-back games because my opponent’s waker couldn’t finish off a one health minion. That just simply shouldn’t happen in a competitive card game. If these type of cards could only hit minions they would be much more tolerable. Yes, that would still be random, but they also be much easier to control. That is something I would love to see in the future, but I’m definitely not getting my hopes up.
6. Tuskarr Totemic
No. I don’t want fish. Ever. Buckle up boys and girls, because we have officially hit the “what were they thinking?” territory. Tuskarr f&#[email protected]% Totemic is a card I have spoken out against many times because is it a very cool idea marred by absolutely horrible design. The ability to summon minions alongside a body is an interesting idea that we have seen from time to time in the game. However, none of those cards have the early game impact nor the swing that Tuskarr Totemic has. What makes the three drop so much worse than something like Ram Wrangler (which sees almost no play) is because its pool is just too small. You have seven choices to get from the walrus. Three of them can instantly lead to a win, while the other four have a medium impact at best. When you’re making and testing cards those type of swings cannot happen. Just getting crushed on turn three by a Tuskarr Totemic/Totem Golem combo is one of the least fun things that has ever been in the game, especially because it happens so often.
A big part of RNG is consistency. Though that may sound like an oxymoron, making a RNG card have an effect that roughly does the same thing all of the time (steal a minion upon death) mitigates that randomness and makes it more fun. Tuskarr swings in the exact opposite direction by giving you one of two extremes. A taunt totem or a 1/1 is often going to not matter at all, while a 3/4 or Mana Tide can lead to a very quick victory. This card is much worse than what Barnes does because it comes down a turn earlier, is played a lot more, and you have absolutely no control over it. The one thing I will give Blizzard here is that they may have learned their lesson by making Wicked Witchdoctor only summon basic totems. There is no reason this card doesn’t have the same text. Though its only number six (that’s scary) I think this is one of the biggest design blunders Blizzard has ever made.
5. Nat Pagle (Pre-Nerf)
Continuing with the fish theme, we have pre-nerf Nat Pagle. This is one of the worst designed cards of all time that was so poor in its function and purpose that Blizzard corrected its mistake and nerfed it into oblivion. While Nat Pagle was too strong on its own for what he did (drew you a ton of cards starting on turn two) the RNG took it from a neat idea to an absolute disaster. This card is one of the worst RNG blunders of all time because it had a 50% percent chance to do what it was supposed to do. That meant you had a literal coin flip here. And that coin flip wasn’t just to do something like ping a minion. No. It was to draw a freakin’ card!
Card advantage is one of the most important parts of any card game. So much so that card draw effects are very limited. Getting two or three cards off of Pagle decided a ton of games during the early days of beta. You want to talk about swings? How about either draw some extra cards and get way ahead of your opponent or spend two mana on a 0/4 that does absolutely nothing and has no board impact. Are you kidding me? The cards on this list have been bad, but this was an absolute dumpster fire joke of a card that gave you immense advantages or caused you to waste a turn. I cannot think of one reason this card ever existed and I may lose my mind if I see the words “50 percent” on a card ever again.
4. Knife Juggler/Flame Juggler/Fiery Bat
The bane of Reynad’s existence, Knife Juggler (and all Knife Juggler-like effects) comes in at number four because RNG should never have such a huge swing so early in the game. This point has been talked about at end many times, and I don’t want to harp on it too much. However, these cards are a big problem for competitive play. There have been countless games that have been decided by a lucky ping, and there have been even more lost because someone didn’t get that ping. Your Huge Toad not killing your opponent’s Totem Golem or a Fiery Bat missing a Mana Wyrm can and does decide games. Not only that, but it is completely out of your control. This is just more examples of coin flips deciding games, but these ones happen on turns one, two or three. I have had more than a few games where I have a lost a turn two turn ping and conceded. I have also seen multiple games where my opponent has conceded due to me hitting the right ping. That is not a card game, that is dice and I do not understand why the dev continues to push this ability. It doesn’t seem very fun and there are so many more interesting and cool things they could be doing. I just assume Team 5 is constantly held at gunpoint during their design process. Otherwise, they just must be completely oblivious to the competitive scene in their own game. And that’s just so sad.
Coming in at a very deserving number three, Imp-losion is everything wrong with RNG wrapped into one four mana card. While this card was not as OP as other cards on this list, it is easily one of the most unfun cards ever made. No matter what happened with this card, someone was going to be angry. Though there is always going to be one winner and one loser in a card game, most players understand bad draws or when they get outplayed. What is not fun is when you lose the game because your opponent rolled the 33% and hit four off of Imp-losion to kill your Azure Drake or when you lose the game because you missed the 66% and rolled a 2 on your opponent’s Acolyte of Pain. Somebody is always getting screwed with this card, and that shouldn’t be a part of a game.
Imp-losion was a huge problem because it wasn’t just RNG. It was RNG stacked on top of RNG. You not only had the damage aspect of RNG (which would impact the board and effect the next turn in a huge way) but you also had the imp side that changed the game. This card was mainly played in Zoo, a deck that thrived off of board presence. While this may not have mattered if it wasn’t a Warlock card, the difference between having four or two bodies was huge for that list. Just like we saw in number four, this was also an RNG effect that people would often concede after, either because your opponent wrecked your board and filled their own, or because you paid four mana to not kill a minion and play two 1/1’s. This is a classic example of the multiple flaws in Blizzard’s design philosophy. While they believe that making the card random made it more “fair” because it could have a bad outcome, what it actually did was suck all the fun out of it and create games that were enjoyable for no one.
2. The Boom Bots
Though Imp-losion created a lot of unfun moments for both you and your opponent, it had nothing on what Dr. Boom‘s Boom Bots could do. Nothing. There have been very few cards in the history of the game that were as poorly designed as the doctor. In fact, he was such a disgrace to Hearthstone that I truly hope he caused people to lose their jobs. As much as I hate some of the above cards on this list, almost all of them allow for some type of counter play (or at least the illusion of counter play). The Boom Bots did not do this. In fact, they discouraged counter play because you had no clue what the $%%@ they were going to do. You simply cannot allow that to happen while also saying you care about the integrity of this game.
The reason the Boom Bots soar up the list to number two is because they could decide games purely on dice rolls in a way that none of the other cards we have seen could. While your opponent rolling Totem Golem from Tuskarr Totemic stinks, it can be played around on your following turn. However, there was no way to play around the bots because, not only did they do random damage, but their targets were random as well. Oh, and those targets (going back to Flamewaker) could also be your minions or your face. What? This took the mistakes we saw in Imp-losion and ramped it up the another level. You got 1 to 4 damage stretched out across any goddamn target you could possible think of. Sometimes they missed your board and domed your eight, and sometimes they were a perfect clear. You never knew what they were going to do, which meant there was no way to plan your turn. Not to mention, they were in just about every deck in the game. That meant you had to deal with this BS just about every single time you queued into ladder. Real nice.
1. Yogg Saron, Hope’s End
I mean…obviously. Any of you who saw my videos last week know how I feel about Yogg. This card is the biggest design I have ever seen in any game I have ever played, and the fact that it exists shows that Blizzard has no idea what they are doing. In fact, it is so horribly random and so horribly un- competitive that I cannot even begin to fathom why it exists at all. This card leads to so many swings and so much random dice rolls that it is just getting sad at this point. Never has a card sucked skill out of so many games before (and I hope one never will). As bad as Dr. Boom was for this game (and my was he bad) you still could plan for him to come down on turn seven. It is impossible to play for Yogg because this card can do anything at any point in time. It is even worse that most of those things are good for the caster, which is why we are in the terrible situation we are in now.
With the exception of Undertaker (a card I will forever curse) there has never been a card as bad for the game as Yogg Saron. Undertaker almost made me quite the game altogether, but my oh my has Yogg made me question it more than a few times. This card takes long games and makes them into literal coinflips. I finished four star rank one last month. During the last two days I went 11-7, with all seven losses coming to a Yogg Saron. That is just unacceptable. As discussed, RNG is ok when it stays fun and non-competitive, but when it bleeds into the realm of good it creates a huge problem. While you may lose quickly to other faster RNG effects, at least those games end early and you can move on. Taking fifteen or twenty minutes to play a game you think to have a chance in only to get crushed by a slot machine is one of the worst feelings on Earth (and that’s coming from a cancer survivor). I don’t know how the old god made it through Team 5, and it is these type of cards that make me question if they test at all. This is not just an insult to the tournament scene, it’s an insult to the community as a whole.
Sometimes Blizzard messes up. Big time. These ten cards are horrible parts of the game and really send me up the wall. The biggest problem I have is that so many of them could be easily fixed (such as making Rag hit one side of the board). These all just scream lazy design and show what happens when the team. I think that Hearthstone is going in a good direction, but I also think Blizzard need to reign this RNG fiesta in if they want the game to foster over the long turn. It’s never too late to start over, and I hope they know that. Thanks for reading, and I hope