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Winning Isn’t Enough?

There’s a topic in the Hearthstone subreddit that really irks me – Should the players that win the maximum number of times in the Arena get some sort of additional reward because they did so?

The suggested reward is tame enough to merit discussion as the absence of gold cards in the Arena seems like an oversight or planned purchasable option later but the origin of the suggestion is entirely offensive. Since when is winning not enough? 12 wins already awards the most gold, has the highest chance for an additional card pack or golden card, and gives the least dust. Is winning the highest possible number of matches already so pedestrian that another reward is needed?

Again, the idea of getting gold cards from an Arena run isn’t a bad idea. I’d still prefer that golden cards in the Arena simply stem from your collection – if you have a golden version of the card you drafted, you can use it. Maybe a checkbox or an icon that toggles available golden cards for the Arena deck or on an individual basis would work. If selecting a card from the Arena deck is way the wind wants to blow, however, let everyone who drafts make such a selection after the deck has been made, or maybe as it’s being drafted. Other than the experience and knowledge, previous Arena runs don’t matter in the system. There’s no rank structure, no identifier of merit or proficiency aside from forum fame and stream success. Keep it that way.

Speaking of the Arena, there’s another Arena tier list for drafting out. Made by reddit user AntiGrav1ty, the list ranks class cards as well as commons, and is organized around the classes themselves. It’s fairly comprehensive and definitely worth a gander. However, it is just a list and doesn’t have the commentary something like Trump’s card ranking does. Regardless, the tiers are useful. Maybe with some bugging and general encouragement the author(s) can provide some insight onto why some cards are ranked the way they are.

Patches, Delays, and Legends

Another Hearthstone patch hit a few days ago, guided by development lasers focused entirely on Jaina and her delay tactics. The changes are simple, a delay on the delay – Cone of Cold, Frost Nova, and Blizzard all had their costs increased by 1. A bit more room to maneuver against the inevitable Pyroblast.

And Open Beta is delayed until January 2014. Everyone who opted in the closed before December 16th should be playing and complaining about decks with six legendaries stuffed inside. The closed beta opt ins close January 7th, open beta should follow soon after. The major delays have come from the nitty gritty stuff – server infrastructure and hardware. Settling up the servers, databases and hardware takes time and planning. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen. Be patient and Hearthstone will be out sooner than you expect.

More top ranked players, too. There’s been some fluctuation and rank swapping with the new round. A few of them have streams, too, so watching and learning from the best is a possible path to success. They lack the sheer numbers of Trump, Kripp, Hafu, and the other big name players so they’re more able to answer questions and interact with the audiences. No disrespect intended to the celebrities but the reward of fame is also its price. Consider spreading the Twitch.tv love around. I’m considering starting a channel for myself and give you fellow card slingers another way to waste time.

I also got my first 9 win arena streak the day before the 12 win cap was released. As much as I dislike Garrosh, the warrior and I seem to speak the same language. Rushes, injuries, weapons, sacrifices. Thrall and I don’t, despite my desperate attempts to make it work. Maybe I’m more Warsong than Frostwolf. Regardless, I know I hate Anduin.

See you in game!

Upcoming Patch

Another patch coming for Hearthstone, another round of card changes and adjustments.

As we move further into the closed beta, we’re continuing to closely monitor card balance as more and more Hearthstone games are played. We also want to ensure that cards acquired in Hearthstone are done fairly through our various game modes.

The amount of gold gained by winning games in Play mode per day will be capped at 100 in the upcoming patch. This cap does not affect gold gained through Quests, Arena, or Achievements. There will be an indication within the game when this gold cap is reached. This cap is intended to combat certain methods of gold acquisition that violate our Terms of Service. The spirit of fair play is extremely important to us, and we will continue to monitor gold acquisition activity closely to ensure a fun and enjoyable game environment for everyone.

In regards to card balance, there are a few cards we’ve noticed that have sprung up that warrant some tuning, and we’ll be making these changes in the next patch. Our goal is to change as few cards as possible over the course of time, but we felt the need to address these six cards in particular. The cards are:Shattered Sun Cleric, Flame Imp and Argent Commander. These cards will be adjusted along with the other cards we mentioned at BlizzCon: Mind Control, Starving Buzzard and Unleash the Hounds.

Shattered Sun Cleric is now a 3/2 (was a 3/3)

Argent Commander is now a 4/2 (was a 4/3)

  • These cards are quite good for their cost, and they currently feel to be slightly above the curve in power compared to cards of a similar cost and type. Players end up choosing these cards for their deck much more often than other cards at the same mana cost. We want to increase the variety of cards being played at 3 and 6 mana.

Flame Imp’s Battlecry now deals 3 damage (up from 2)

  • Warlocks have a very strong early game, and this small change to Flame Imp should help a small amount. There are other cards that help the Warlock maintain early board advantage, and we’re keeping a close eye on those as time goes on.

Mind Control’s mana cost is now 10 (up from 8)

  • Mind Control has some pretty accurate flavor text … perhaps a little too accurate. Raising the mana cost will allow players to have a couple more turns to play with their big minions.

Starving Buzzard is now a 2/1 (was a 2/2)

  • At some ranks, Hunter was a bit strong versus Druids, Mages and Rogues. This change to Starving Buzzard will help even the playing field against those classes in particular.

Unleash the Hounds has been reworked and now reads: “(4) For each enemy minion, summon a 1/1 Hound with Charge”.

  • The old version of Unleash the Hounds was allowing for Hunters to win in a single turn, starting with no minions on the board. The new version adds some fun, new card combos to Hunters and helps with their ability to AoE.

We hope these changes will increase your versatility and creativity in making card choices for your decks, and helps to make Hearthstone a more fun game for all to enjoy.

 

The main changes I’m concerned with are the hits to SSC and AC. SSC is powerful for a 3 cost minion, even for a 4 cost minion. As sad as I am about it, dropping her health by 1 is probably the best move. Likewise for the Commander. He’s still almost a guaranteed 2 for 1 trade, the opponent just has more options to trade with him. I don’t Gul’dan much, or against him often, so the change to Flame Imp is one I’m more curious about than wary of. I feel sorry for Starving Buzzard – another target for Jaina to plink away. Unleash the Hounds might be more balanced, it might also be useless. I’d rather it summon a set number of hounds every time than a number that may or may not be useful depending on my opponent’s board size. A bunch of 1/1s with charge probably won’t save me if I get to summon them.

I celebrate the MC change. MC should be a dramatic game changer but it’s often so deflating, morale wise, that continuing past that point feels more fruitless than it might be. Flamestrike can wipe your entire board but it doesn’t hurt as much as MC.

As far as the gold cap, I don’t play 30+ games a day. Those that do are probably machines or machine like. You can still earn full gold from quests, achievements, and whatever so no worries there.

And no wipe! Grommash Hellscream stays in my library!

A Mildly Triumphant Return

I took a break from Hearthstone after BlizzCon. The announcements were announced, a bit of the next patch was discussed, but I mostly came away with an anticipatory feeling. My curiosity about the game’s future was stoked, my enthusiasm for its current form was still waning. So, a break. It ended up being much longer than I intended – the flu will do that – but after sometime languishing in bed and stuffing myself full of dense Thanksgiving goodies, I returned to the kinetic world of Hearthstone anew.

With no patch during my leave, little has changed mechanically about the game. There have been a few fun streams to watch, some good discussions to be had, but Hearthstone is Hearthstone. That makes sense – the game is still in beta, it’s still a growing community, and it has only one card set.

That’s the main thing to follow: one card set. The mechanics of Hearthstone aren’t as complex as, say, Dota 2. Valve kept that game in beta for years because each hero is so intricate and tweaking each hero’s abilities gives new metagame potential, team fight strategies, and lane tactics. Adding new heroes is akin to reshuffling the entire game.

Hearthstone is reaching a stable point. A basic metagame has formed for both Arena and Play and there are specific cards everyone uses, almost regardless of deck style. This isn’t a bad thing. Quite the contrary, it’s a good thing. The more stable the game becomes, the closer it will be to an official release. The Hearthstone team has some idea of what they want Hearthstone to look like when it launches and, given all the data they collect, they must have a good idea how to get there.

So my return to Hearthstone wasn’t a resigned one. Not much has changed, sure, but it’s a solid game I still enjoy. It’s a bit steadier, a bit more predictable (aside from those infuriating top decks), and rewarding skilled play with more regularity. Decks are easier to design and anticipate. My first arena run back in the saddle went 7-3 and I was feverish and exhausted with the flu. Maybe I’m getting better, or maybe the game is reaching a point I understand more. Is there a difference?

As it stabilizes, expect the designers to throw curve balls to keep the game fresh. The first is a patch followed by the open beta. A retooling of a few cards and a swarm of new players will boost activity in the game. After that, I imagine the first card expansion will be along shortly. I hope the card expansions come a little quicker than the other Blizzard IP expansions – 2 years is a long time to wait.

A MOBA by any Other Name

Dota 2 is complicated. It doesn’t have a learning curve so much as a learning wall. The volume of information to memorize and master is immense and intimidating: the multitude of hero builds, items, crafting, ward locations, creep respawn timers, rune types and timers, the hundreds of hero powers and status effects that can change them. Factor in team fight tactics, lane strategies, and meta game organization and the game has moved from complex to daunting, even unwieldy. That’s just the knowledge required to play, not the mechanical skill required from the player like last hitting, hero ability timing, and map awareness. I’ve put more 500 hours into Dota 2, and about as many in the original, and I’m passable with a few heroes.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with Heroes of the Storm so in my first game at BlizzCon I dropped my expectations. Whatever I played was whatever I was going to judge the game on. I’ve read the briefs from Blizzard, watched the videos, but I wanted to go in as open as possible. I did, I think. Over the course of the two day Blizzard celebration I spent about 4 hours with Heroes of the Storm and played 6 games with different heroes each time. My time certainly wasn’t wasted. Heroes is fun, but that’s almost unnecessary to say as a fan of MOBAs. It’s got the standard trappings – lanes, heroes, pushing, and frantic team fighting – but Heroes does a few things differently.

First, there are no items (and no gold!). None. At all. No health potions, no tangos, no town portal scrolls. Your hero has a town portal ability that recharges. I don’t miss the items. They serve a purpose in other MOBAs but items usually come with the baggage of being boring most of the time. They improve stats or damage, rarely adding powers or altering the ones a hero has. It’s easy to be crippled by missing an item or two because you’re not attacking as fast as you should be. The lack of items means the hero powers improve significantly on their own or via talents. It’s a simple system that leaves more cognitive power for fighting and less for GPM and shopping.

heroes-of-the-storm-logo-685x200

No last hitting. This isn’t unique to Heroes, *cough*League of Legends*cough*, but it’s not common either. Last hitting is usually the sign of a precise, skilled player in Dota. It’s how you earn most of your gold. With no gold to gather, last hitting has gone out the window. I don’t mind it in Dota but I didn’t miss it here.

Shared XP. Not reduced XP when another hero is close by, but even, shared XP for all heroes. Everyone levels at the same time. Your carries won’t be 22 while your support are struggling at 10. The even power curve makes everyone solid in a team fight – no Crystal Maiden syndrome.

Mounts! What’s a Blizzard game without animals you can sit on? Mounts do exactly what you’d expect – they help the heroes move faster. Easier grouping, more team fights. Everyone wins, except those that die.

The differences Heroes has from the other MOBAs reflect the game’s thesis: it’s about the hero punching, plain and simple. There are creep waves and towers and forts but Heroes wants you and your friends to square off against 5 opponents and beat each other silly. It succeeds on that goal – no one I spoke with didn’t enjoy their time with Heroes and want more.

So who were the heroes I played?

Falstad and Nova from the Assassins, Sonya from the Warriors, Malfurion and Uther from Support, and Abathur from the Specialists type. The highlights:

  • I enjoyed Malfurion the most but that’s because I’m biased – I love playing support and looking like a weirdo. He heals well, roots, and silences.
  • Uther heals well, gives his buddies invulnerability through Divine Shield, and can stun. Like any paladin, he’s sort of a frustration to counter but rewarding to play.
  • Nova is a sniper. Chances are that if she shot you, you’re not going to live very long. She hits hard, summons an annoying clone, and can call a nuclear strike. It’s as great as it sounds.
  • Abathur is…different. He’s interesting. He’s a mix of Lifestealer and Wisp which makes him absolutely terrible to fight against. He’s rated “Very Hard” to play and it shows.
  • It’s not that Falstad isn’t fun, it’s that the others were much more fun. I really liked flying over the jungle and descending on enemies as a hammer throwing alcoholic.
  • Sonya didn’t feel particularly special. Her abilities are simple and straight forward, as one would expect a barbarian would be. Maybe for the carries out there that like fighting and fighting and fighting (any Alchemist fans?) but she was the lull in my hero selection.

Heroes is a fun game so far. I want to play more. Boy do I want to play more. Hint hint, community reps. It’s got some room to grow and I look forward to watching (and hopefully playing) as it does so.

Because Everyone Needs Weapons!

Five of the nine Heroes have weapons, and several. It makes sense that they’d swing swords or axes or shoot arrows and the casting classes wouldn’t. A melee mage isn’t a viable build in Hearthstone’s progenitor. But mages, priests, warlocks, and druids still use weapons. A warlock without a weapon is half a warlock. I’ve taken the liberty of creating some epic quality weapons for the Heroes currently unarmed. To keep things balanced I’ve also added some epics for the already equipped.

Mage
Staff of the Shadowflame
6, 1/5 – +2 Spell Damage. Each time you cast a spell, lose 1 durability.

Priest
Anathema and Benediction
5, 1/1 – Your hero power now heals friendly targets and damages enemy targets.

Warlock
Healthstone
4, 0/3 – Lose 1 durability, restore 3 health to a friendly target your Hero.

Druid
Fist of Cenarius
6, 2/3 – Draw a card each time you attack.

And for the weapon ready:

Rogue
Evasion
6 – You are immune until your next turn.

Paladin
Silver Hand Champion
7, 4/5 – Battlecry: Give all other friendly minions Divine Shield.

Shaman
Lightning Shield
5 – Deal 3 4 damage to your next 3 attackers.

Warrior
Thunder Clap
5 – Deal 1 damage to all enemy minions and reduce their attack 1 until your next turn.

Hunter
Scattershot
6 – Your opponent cannot cast any spells any cards next turn.

They’re almost certainly not balanced so why not offer some suggestions in comments?

VanCleef trips!

And no longer has stealth.

The patch notes for the upcoming Hearthstone patch have been released and they’re lengthy. Lots of balance changes (the ringleader has less health now) and piles of bug fixes. Secret and fatigue animations have been sped up and there’s some clarity as to why you get a coin when going second.

The full notes are available here.

Hearthstone Closed Beta Patch Notes

wipeout

Today is the day for our Hearthstone Closed Beta patch! This patch also includes the account wipe, so when the servers are available for play once more, you’ll be starting again as if you were a new player. For more information on the wipe itself, please revisit our Account Wipe Incoming blog post, found here. Now, onto the patch notes!

General

  • The maximum level is now 60, and you can earn XP in any game mode up to max level.
  • Chat has been rejiggered.
  • Gold gained in Play mode has changed from 5 gold per 5 wins to 10 gold per 3 wins.
  • You can now acquire Golden Basic minions at higher experience levels.
  • Arena rewards now give less dust and more cards.
  • More gold is guaranteed at 5 & 6 Arena wins.
  • At 9 Arena wins, you are now guaranteed an extra pack or a Golden card.
  • The animations for Secrets and Fatigue have been sped up dramatically.
  • All cards now have flavor text when you view them in your collection.
  • “Spell Power +1” has been renamed “Spell Damage +1”.
  • Heroes can be unlocked in any mode (Play/Arena/Practice)
  • Play, Practice and Friendly Play modes will now default to the custom deck selection UI if you’ve previously created a deck
  • You can now click on chat bubbles to respond
  • Social – When your friends complete an Arena run or get a Legendary card in a pack, you’ll be notified so you can tell them, “Grats!”
  • Quests that required you to win with a class now give you a choice between 2 classes.

Favorite Arena Picks

More than flair, Hearthstone’s Arena is about solid cards that carry themselves. Synergy is something to spot as the deck is drafted but each pick is more about the best card at face value and not its potential when combined with a complex strategy. Constructed decks are where theme and flair can manifest with real power and presence.

But what cards have the best potential in a draft? Exact favorites vary from drafter to drafter, from deck to deck, but four out of five times I pick these cards over anything else presented. I wish I could swap most of these for a rare or even an epic when my choices are things like Angry Chicken, Coldlight Seer, or Hungry Crab.

Venture Co. Mercenary

Venture_Co._Mercenary

Its effect isn’t great, but he’s a nasty threat. It also puts your opponent in an uncomfortable position – they have to deal with him or risk him running over a weaker taunt minion or chopping the health pool down in big swings. But dealing with him removes the minion inflation cost, usually meaning you’ve baited out a polymorph, hex, or a heavy hitter of the enemy’s. Not bad for a five cost.

How many minions again?

Hearthstone provides a useful graph of information when constructing an Arena deck: the mana curve. It’s an invaluable chart that can help smooth out the transition from early to mid to late game, fix problems as you construct a deck (too many high costs cards, or no beefy minions at all). Certain deck strategies can subvert the curve or ignore it entirely, but most decks and their players watch it carefully. I’d like the mana curve added when making custom decks in Play mode because of how useful it is. I consider its absence an oversight and it hopefully appears later.

I’d like to see another graph added to Hearthstone’s deck construction: a minion versus spell chart. While not as vital as the mana curve, displaying a bit of info about the number of minions in your deck as well as the number of spells would be helpful. A mana curve taken at face value can be deceptive because it doesn’t distinguish between card types. Lots of cost spells may keep your curve smooth but a lack of early minions may leave you vulnerable. It’s not too troublesome to count the totals or track them externally but implementing such a feature seems like a natural addition to an already robust and informative UI.

As long as I’m talking about things I’d like added to a free game, how about showing cards by type? Neutrals and class cards, basics and experts, commons, rares, epics, and legendaries. The growing list of charts could be situated across from the deck list, or a button could be added next to the deck list to flip it over and display the information. Swap, swap.

These are minor suggestions from an immensely satisfied customer, however. The game is kinetic and fun, the cards well illustrated and expansive. I’d still really like banter from the heroes to each other. There are potentially more boards in the works, which is great, but I hate waiting for them. Personally I’d love to see an Undercity board with rats scurrying across the play area, maybe dodging cards. And anything from Northrend.

What about you? Any locales you’re waiting for? Any information you’d like Hearthstone to display?

Update: I am a fool. The mana curve is available in constructed: hover over a hero’s image and you can see your current curve.

hearthstone-beta-logo-patch-3749

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