For several weeks on HorsePLAY! LIVE and in the GANG community, we’ve been predicting the release schedule for various killer features that will keep Hearthstone on our playlist and get more of our friends on-board. In our previous article on how to get the Hearthstone iPad app now (and get started right), we shared how to get rocking on your Apple device NOW but it seems the need for the work-around is quickly fading away. The B-Team Podcast has confirmed that the window is currently within a week or so. I am guessing before my birthday this Saturday, April 19th – that’s great news, everyone!
- Blizzard qualifies this as CCG, not a TCG, which means we should not hold our breath for trading or auctioning of any sort.
- Hearthstone is the CCG for everyone.
- They’re prioritizing creating a great game over the obligatory “merchandising bonanza” and cross-promotion.
- The iPad experience is the same as on PC and Mac.
- There are no pay gates or pay walls.
- One of their core philosophies is balancing the game so you can be competitive without spending tons of time or money.
All this is great news and should encourage newer players or anyone who is on the fence. I was surprised that there was no indication about spectator mode from any PAX East coverage. Blizzard has said it is a “top priority” but I reckon other components and features are the focus. I really feel that Blizzard is focusing on the more casual competitive community before catering to the hardcore eSports type players I’d say too much of a focus on eSports features which would make Hearthstone more exclusive and scary for the average gamer.
Our own Stan Faryna cited concerns with matchmaking and the new player experience, by extension. Blizzard confirmed that it is something they will keep fine-tuning. Hearthstone is the game many Blizzard developers have wanted to play themselves so they want it to be fun for everyone. During the B-Team interview, they briefly summarized how each of the primary gameplay modes handle matchmaking differently:
- Casual – As Stan says, casual play can be frustrating. I find that early in any season, the competition is most fierce due to a smaller player pool and sample data to work with perhaps. I do win most of my matches here unless I start experimenting too much.
- Ranked – This ladder mode looks more at stars and current rank so it’s easier to find a close match, in theory. This mode seems to be the most fair mid-way through any season, with the exception of smurfs and fast-tracked/pay-to-win players.
- Arena – This uses a completely different system. Blizzard is unclear (“shocker”) on what this means. I still find arena truly levels the playing field and rewards the most skilled players. Luck of the draw when building decks is an issue here, however.
Blizzard assures us that the client-server model, as opposed to peer-to-peer, so cheating should be minimized. The only issue Blizzard has encountered often is with trolls milking the timer. Never fear – they are working on improving that! Unlike their parent company, EA, I have faith Blizzard will commit to their promises and support this game for many years to come, much like they have with Warcraft III and Diablo II, two of my all-time favorite games.
Blizzard also confirmed during the PAX East interview what many of us have already noticed: [two of] the top Twitch streamers have gone up the ladder to Legendary rank within a week or two without spending money. I believe TrumpSC is one of them. Of course, if you want to see how NOT to play Hearthstone, watch me on Twitch or check out the NEW! TwitchPlaysHearthstone, which is similar to the newbtastic, cringe-worthy experience on TwitchPlaysPokemon.
Joystiq has a quick-and-dirty Hearthstone PAX East cheat sheet that does a really good job of highlighting the big things we can expect this year. The biggest details revolve around the upcoming Hearthstone expansion, affectionately called CoN.
Curse of Naxxramas is slated for Summer 2014 but I would not be surprised if the first boss encounter or episode is released within a few weeks as I write this. I reckon Blizzard wants to control the release of new cards so that newer players can avoid feeling overwhelmed. I think that is fair.
The first CoN corridor or wing (Arachnid) will be FREE but, as we see in arena, a buy-in will be required for new runs. While this expansion brings tons of singleplayer content, the addition of 30 new cards will certainly spice up PvP quite a bit. More seasoned duelists like myself, Sworen, and ObioneX2 are eagerly awaiting new cards but, honestly, I think the current card set is fine.
What’s really important here is that Adventure Mode will give newer or lesser-skilled players the opportunity to test out new strategies in a more controlled environment since bosses will use pre-constructed themed decks. With less room to blame external circumstances or luck, players can actual train and improve! I know Stan will love what this expansion means for the game. For me, the fact that I have gamer ADD means that I need more variety and Blizzard is delivering so THANK YOU!
Quite a few cards have been revealed but let’s discuss the ones most of us find interesting. First and foremost, you’ll see that they are committing to the deathrattle mechanic quite a bit; however, there are still no signs of new classes and archetypes. That means no elf, unicorn, dragon, or orc synergies… Perhaps that would make the game less accessible.. Sorry but it’s true. If you want over-complicated game mechanics, consider Scrolls, SolForge, Magic The Gathering, or Yu-Gi-Oh!, where the possibilities are endless.. almost to the point of utter frustration just keeping up with the current meta and most viable strategies.
Okay, okay, here are the cards: Undertaker gains a +1/+1 when minions with deathrattle are summoned. Baron Rivendare will cause the deathrattle ability to trigger twice, which will certainly shift the meta and make for some interesting video highlights. I can’t wait! We wonder if this will replace Murlock aggro/rush decks as the new over-played core mechanic. Deathrattle is already sexy but now we will see it as a theme around which decks will be built.
Dear Blizzard, you *NEED* to add more deck slots. Hell, you can even monetize and bundle it with big-ticket purchases to justify expediting feature. Really, additional deck slots would be a value-add just because it would allow players to compare different builds with their favorite heroes/classes. Deck and class-based stats could then be introduced, too! We’d play a whole lot Hearthstone with these features in place. Currently, getting attached to a deck is not possible so naming them is almost arbitrary and pointless. Just sayin.
Shade Of Naxxramas is a 3-cost minion who starts at 2/2 with stealth and gains +1/+1 at the start of each turn. Shade sounds like a stronger Jungle Panther, since this minion has the ability to stick and scale. That means she will have the opportunity to get more damage out, which is HUGE. Dancing Swords is 4/4 3-mana card. It’s deathrattle effect gives your opponent cards, which makes this card questionable at first but…
We have seen a rise in Priest with heavy card draw mechanics built right in. The guys at The Angry Chicken say that milling (making your opponent run out of cards) is not a viable core mechanic or strategy but I beg to differ. I’ve had opponents bleed out when they got too greedy. What’s more is that Priests have the ability to mass dispel (silence), so they can theoretically play Dancing Swords without the penalty, which will likely make them more aggressive and popular.
Enough about the cards… What about RNG?
RNG, known to game developers and designers as Random Number Generator, refers to the random seed process and algorithms that work behind the scenes. Any element of random can be attributed to RNG. In a deckbuilding game, you can express this as a fraction. For example, you have a x/y chance to draw a card from a deck. X is how many copies of the card you have and Y is the deck size. Don’t forget to simplify and, if you prefer percentages, divide the numerator (the top number) by the denominator (the bottom number).
Kids, be sure to tell your parents you learned something useful today. Math is OP. For realz.
The big question about Hearthstone and other deckbuilding games is whether random elements trump skill. I still say “NO” with regards to Hearthstone. There are popular streamers that consistently get to the top tier of rankings so, logically, it can’t be all about random luck. Give SolForge a try if you doubt this. I love SolForge but it is much more of a grind for players trying to avoid dumping money in. SolForge refreshes your hand every turn so you may never get the right card you want, even if you run multiple copies and incorporate lots of card-draw combos.
As we will often find, the key in any TCG/CCG is mitigating the random elements rather than waiting to top-deck the card you really need or hoping your opponent makes a mistake. You need to be deliberate and aware. Here are some core concepts to note:
- Card Draw – Many decks run out of steam late-game, which is why Priests, Beasts, and Warlocks are very popular – they have tons of ways to draw more cards. The more cards you have in your hand late-game, the more options you have.
- Play Order – One of the things we often take for granted is the order in which cards are played. The wrong order can cause unnecessary damage to your own minions or accidental enraging/buffing of enemy minions, just for starters.
- Wait & Combo -Just because you can make a play on a turn does not mean it is the best play. Consider the combos and potential value of a big play later. Leaving a single minion to the slaughter is rarely a good idea, especially if they
- Two For One – The simplest rule of thumb is the most basic math of efficiency: any action that can counter an opponent’s (or cause them to take) two or three actions is a solid play. This would indicate that minions with abilities are particularly useful but sometimes it’s about preventing repeat use from opponent plays (like that one minion that keeps snake biting you).
- Trade Or Face? – This is the question you’ll often be faced with. Do you do damage to the face or trade up with minions? It all depends on the threats on the board and what you suspect your opponent has waiting for you. The main thing to consider is how likely it will be that minions you spared this turn will be buffed somehow, which means continued value for your opponent… And potential damage to YOUR face.
- Premature Ejaculation – It’s easy to blow your metaphorical load on Hearthstone. You maysee the opportunity to remove a minion and forget about the other threats your opponent may have. Board clear is very good but be wary of opponents with full hands.. They are likely trying to bait you to waste your counters.
These concepts apply to just about every card game but Hearthstone is arguably the easiest to get into. Now, we can talk about the strategy all day but it really comes down to the basics: patience and experience. If you get frustrated and forget to have fun, nothing else really matters. Find a deck build that you enjoy and focus on that a bit. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Streaming on Twitch certainly welcomes advice, warranted or not.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft truly is deceptively simple (yeah, it’s not just catchy marketing copy, guys). It’s easy to get into but, like with any other deckbuilding game, there are many layers of depth and strategy. Experience goes a long way so, if you want to build up an early advantage, it may be best to jump into the game right now and learn the ropes before new cards and game mechanics are introduced. The meta will inevitably shift with every tweak but the game is stable and balanced now.
So what are you waiting for?
Tell us what’s keeping you from playing Hearthstone TODAY.. Or maybe what you love most about it. It’s all good in da hood, y0. If you’re still unsure about Hearthstone, I’ll sell you on it yet! If you have questions or concerns, share them with us – don’t be shy!
See you in the comments section!