Mulligan Phase: The F2P problem
Greetings, dear readers, and welcome to another installment of ''Mulligan phase'', the article series where I cover just aout everything regarding Hearthstone that has nothing to do with the gameplay itself. For those who are new here, I've already covered a lot of card design topics, balance issues and ban/nerf discussions. If you're interested in reading those articles then click here and you'll be sent to mage portfolio page where you can find all those articles and much, much more.
Today I'm going to tackle something that is a bit more controversial than the topics that I normally cover. I'm going to talk about the state of F2P, free to play, quality of life and how can it be improved. This is a tricky situation because the f2p community is often quite divided between those who argue that the game makes it impossible for them to keep up and there are those who argue that the previous ones are lying and that it is completely possible to be f2p. Which side is correct? Let's find out.
With all that out of the way, sit back, relax and let's just jump into this :)
In the first part of the article, I'm going to cover the common complaints that f2p players have. First and foremost, I feel obligated to say, that I'm not a completely f2p player because I just bought 50 packs of Knights of the Frozen Throne. What I usually do is just save 5000 gold and buy 50 packs instead of preordering them but this time I've really wanted to get the cardback so I've preordered and opened a bit more than 100 packs. Everything else up to that point was f2p. I've needed to point this out so that you can understand my perspective o this situation.
There Are Too Many Legendaries
This statement is absolutely correct. Blizzard has increased the number of class legendary cards by quite a lot, doubled them, and only a fool would argue that this is not the case. However, you don't need to have every legendary minion in the game. Despite what a lot of beginners and, sadly, a few seasoned players might thing, legendary minions are usually just crap, glorified piles of 400 dust. Don't believe me? Ok, what legendary cards from Mean Streets of Gadgetzan saw play? Kazakus, Aya Blackpawand Patches the Pirate. How about Whispers of the Old Gods? Also a handful. This is an easily fixed problem. People just need to learn and understand that legendary doesn't mean good or overpowered. Honestly, it more often than not means ''complete trash''.
There Are Too Many Cards To Craft
Again, true and false. Each expansion adds 130+ new cards which is a semi high number, I agree, but there is one thing that you need to consider. You don't need to have every card in the game, especially when most of them are trash. Whenever an expansion of 130+ cards comes out, maybe, just maybe, a little bit more than 20 cards from the entire expansion see play. Out of 20 maybe, just maybe, 5 are legendary cards and others are 1-2 epics, a bunch of rares and a handful of commons. With that in mind, please, tell me, why would you waste your dust, a resource that you're complaining is so hard to gather, to craft useless cards? Sure, some of them are fun, but you need to get your priorities straight. Do you want to play fun cards or do you want to play competitive cards? If you take the first option then don't complain that your fun cards are losing to the competitive ones. If you take the second option then don't complain that you have no fun cards to play with. I'm sorry but as a f2p player you need to set your priorities straight. I will talk more about this in the subsection ''Collection management''.
For a large majority of the playerbase, Hearthstone was their first card game ever. This is, in my opinion, completely normal because playing physical card games is a hobby which requires a solid amount of money (depending on the game and the format) and not everyone is keen on spending money on cards. The amount of f2p players backs up this claim. They refuse to spend money on a digital card game, let alone a physical one. As a former professional card game player and someone who has played almost every card game ever on a competitive level, I feel more than qualified to tell you that this is completely normal. People want to compete and to win so they are using the most optimized decks in the game. It is not ''you are a noob who can only win with a netdeck'' but it is more of a ''I play to win, I play to compete on a higher level, why in the world would I cripple myself with a non optimized deck?''. It is common sense, I'm sure that you can see it. Luckily, there are budget competitive decks, there always are, so now even f2p players can build a deck with which they can compete. :)
Improving the f2p Quality of Life
Ok, now that I've covered some of the most common complaints about the f2p experience it is time to offer a few solutions. If it hasn't been clear enough by now, I'm really not a fan of f2p players who wear the term f2p like a badge of honor and then complain how their experience in the game sucks. It is like that one person who wants to be super competitive but uses his own trashy ''special snowflake'' deck and then complains about being beaten back to rank 20 by decks that are optimized and actually function. Regardless, I can see that there is always room for improvement and despite my lack of care for a vast majority of the vocal f2p complainers I want to see the game thrive and I want to see people having fun so I've came up with some solutions that would, in my mind, drastically improve the f2p quality of life.
Log in Rewards
Despite my vast experience in physical card games I'm not too experienced in digital card games. Playing card with other people over the internet is just not my cup of tea most of the time. Regardless, I did try out some other digital card games, primarily Gwent and Pokemon TCGO and, although Gwent doesn't have this (or didn't had it the last time that I've checked), Pokemon TCGO has a daily log in reward system which encourages people to log in each day. Sure, their system won't really help you that much but it is a very huge step in the right direction, a step that, in my opinion, Hearthstone must take in order not only to help the f2p community but to also encourage all players to log in more often.
How would the system function? I'm not completely sure about the numbers so I won't propose them but, like with Pokemon TCGO, it should be based around the days that you log in and not the days of the week. What do I mean by this? Their system functions like this (if I remember correctly). You have 5 reward tiers for 5 days but they are not spread over the days in the week (tier 1 reward is on Monday, tier 2 is on Tuesday and so on...) but every other day that you log in you get the reward of the according tier. If you log in on Monday, Tuesday and Friday you will get tier 1, 2 and 3 rewards, not 1, 2 and 5 rewards. This is a great way of preventing players from abusing the system and logging in only on the day when the reward is the highest. The highest reward, for logging in 5 days, is a free booster pack, as it should be in Hearthstone. So, what should out daily log in system look like?
How about the following?
Day 1: 10 gold
Day 2: 10 dust
Day 3: 20 gold
Day 4: 20 dust
Day 5: 30 gold
Day 6: 30 dust
Day 7: 1 standard pack from the latest expansion
I think that this is ok. You earn 60 gold and 60 dust per week and you get a free pack. It should be more than enough. Also, for those who might think that the reward is ''too little'', well, you're not getting anything now and this way you're at least getting a very decent amount of stuff each week. I don't see a reason to complain. Yes, the reward system can be messed around with but this is what I came up with from the top of my head :P
We've had two events so far, the Fire festival and the Frost festival. Both of them were praised by the community, with the first one being praised more for the very obvious reason of double quest gold. Now, I'm not saying that we should have double quest gold more often (we shouldn't) but what we could go with is more events like these. For a lot of f2p players who have smaller collections the game might not seem that rewarding, especially when they need to compete against opponents who have a much larger card collection and have been playing the game for much longer. In order to improve their gameplay quality Blizzard should host events like these more often. Maybe once every two months? Or once during the first/last week in a month? Gold and arena tickets don't have to be mandatory rewards. Card backs are always great to have (for those who are collecting them) and this would be a perfect way to get a new hero portrait for free (I know that a lot of people still don't have their Tyrande or Kadghar portraits). Events like these at least tell you that the company cares for the little guys which means a lot in the long run, for both the company and the game itself :)
Larger Sets, Less Often
This is a huge point and an idea that I've had on my mind for quite a while now.
Magic: The Gathering is my primary card game, my go to card game, and one of the biggest differences between it and Hearthstone is the size of sets. So far the expansions that we were getting have had around 130 cards and they were figured out pretty quickly. Two weeks in an expansion and you already know which deck is the best and what is the metagame going to look like once people stop experimenting. Magic: The Gathering sets usually have between 250 to 300 cards, depending on the size of the set, but every second set has around 300 cards and it can sometimes takes months for the metagame to fully stabilize (by what I mean is for new decks to stop showing up in the metagame). What is the cause of this?
Believe it or not, the cause of this is a much larger card pool. With a much larger card pool you have a lot more room for experimenting and a lot more time needs to pass for the metagame to fully stabilize. Decks that haven't been on the radar in two months can suddenly appear out of nowhere and preform quite nicely. The same can be applied for Hearthstone. Don't believe me? The longest unstable metagame, by which I mean a often shifting metagame in which different decks pop out every so often, was the vanilla Hearthstone metagame. Decks such as midrange hunter or miracle rogue had become popular in a very late stage of the metagame and there were plenty of other powerful decks popping out during its lifetime. How come? Yes, the playerbase was drastically smaller but we've also had 400 or something cards to work with. Ever since then we've been getting these smaller expansions and it has been taking the community less and less time to figure out the next metagame.
What I suggest is that instead of having 3 expansion per year with 130 cards in each we have 2 expansions per year, one at the start and one at the end, with 400 cards in each. This will not only provide us with a lot more tools to work with but will also buy f2p players enough time to collect the majority of the set before the next set comes in. Also, to keep things fresh, we could have a yearly card rotation in the summer where some cards that have rotated out of the standard format could be brought back in for this year to keep some decks in check (and some powerful classic and basic cards could be moved to the Hall of Fame). What is your opinion on this idea? :)
Monthly Ladder Reset
This is the last point that I want to talk about and I'll be really short with this one.
I strongly believe that a rank reset is a good thing. It creates healthy competition in all rank floors...ok, not all and that is why I'm talking about this. Now, this is not shaming anyone but we all know, and Ben Brode has even confirmed it, that the upper rank 20 ranks, 20-18 are populated with the worst players in the world. Actually, according to Ben's words, 40% of the entire population is in those ranks but that could also be because a lot of them aren't playing ranked at all. Regardless, since there are ladder floors, we can say that those who are stuck on the 20-15 floor aren't exactly among the better Hearthstone players. This is completely fine! Not everyone is good at every game and no one should shame you for being bad at a game that you really love. The most important thing is that you're having fun. You know what is not fine? It is not fine when players from better ranks, probably with better decks, are pushed into these ranks once the monthly ladder reset hits and now worse players are forced to play with them until they go away. This can be very, very frustrating for a lot of f2p players who don't have a large card collection. You can't really have fun when your opponents are people with top tier decks and you're running a budget decks because you can't afford anything else.
What do I propose?
How about, for the monthly rest, players only fall one ladder floor below the one that they are currently on? Those players who are on the 15-10 floor can fall to rank 16 so that they can get back to where they belong quicker and those who are on the 20-15 floor can start from the beginning. Why not just have players starting at the start of their ladder floor? Because then ranks 20-15 will eventually get completely empty. I don't know, I think this is a good idea to fix the ladder system but you tell me what do you think about it? :P
We've reached the end of another ''Mulligan Phase'' article :) How would you improve the f2p experience? Do you agree with these suggestions? If you're a f2p player please share your personal Hearthstone experience. Leave your feedback and opinions in the comment section below. I'm looking forward to seeing what you came up with :) As always if you’ve liked this article do consider following me on twitter https://twitter.com/Eternal_HS. There you can ask me all sorts of Hearthstone questions (unrelated to this article) and I’ll gladly answer them as best as I can!