Aug 11 2016 - 8:58 pm

Randomness in games like Hearthstone called out in new U.K. Gambling Commission report

The U
Sam Nordmark
Writer at @dotesports

The U.K. Gambling Commission is questioning whether Hearthstone tournaments can be classified as esports events, or if the popular card game constitutes as gambling, according to a new paper the organization has published.

The paper focuses examines, broadly, on examining the blurring line between "social gaming products" and gambling and the issues surrounding the growth in the esports gambling market. But the commission's statements on Blizzard's digital card game, Hearthstone, stand out the most.

In the paper, the commission outlines what constitutes “gaming." In U.K. law, the term is used for games of chance which are predicated on luck and chance rather than any tangible skill. Any site or platform offering such services must have an official gambling license provided by the commission.

“Many eSports appear to fall within the definitions of gaming," the paper notes. "For example, we are aware of card based games, where players can win prizes, which appear to have similar game mechanics to poker (such as an RNG to determine which cards are dealt to a player) and do not require a stake. In our view such games fall within the definition of gaming that would be illegal without a licence."

While not mentioned outright, Hearthstone is the only major digital card game being played that simultaneously qualifies as an esport. The discussion is currently ongoing and will conclude on Sept. 30. The commission has also put forth a series of questions to any party looking to educate them in the topic. The questions and the research paper can be read in full here.

Esports betting has been a talking point surrounding the soon-to-be billion dollar industry, as multiple popular streamers, YouTubers and teams never disclosed their affiliation with the gambling sites they played on to their audience. This was primarily the case in Valve’s FPS title Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, where in-game cosmetics could be converted into real money.

After receiving a class action lawsuit, Valve subsequently sent a cease and desist letter to 23 of the largest skin betting communities in the world.

Jan 9 2017 - 11:57 pm

CLG opens Hearthstone division

The organization has recruited the majority of Na`Vi's former roster.
Sam Nordmark
Writer at @dotesports
Image via Blizzard Entertainment | Remix by Saira Mueller

One of the biggest North American esports organizations is looking to make an impact in Hearthstone in 2017.

Consisting of the majority of the former Natus Vincere stable, Counter Logic Gaming announced today that it has signed Frederik "Hoej" Nielsen, Sebastian "Xixo" Bentert, and Kim "Surrender" Jung-soo.

The three players are widely considered to be some of the best in the world, with Xixo in particular having a powerful showing in 2016—winning both SL i-L StarSeries Season 2 and also defeating Jon "Orange" Westberg in the recent European WESG qualifiers.

This is Counter Logic Gaming's first-ever foray into competitive Hearthstone, two years after the game was first released. While a majority of firmly established esports franchises still retain Hearthstone rosters, 2016 saw several big teams release their divisions in the title. This included Na`Vi, which released its entire roster in September last year, including 2015 Hearthstone World Champion Sebastian "Ostkaka" Engwall.

With a new organization firmly behind them, it will be interesting to see whether or not the former Na`Vi trio can achieve as much success as they did in previous years.

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.