One week closer to that day in July when Blizzard will unveil…an announcement about Hearthstone (Free), and the company can’t stop teasing us about it. With only 9 days to go, speculations are rising. New Mode, new Classes, new cards? Well, we have an answer to one of those, as you’ll read about today. In addition to all the announcement news, we have two really strong Leagues going on at the moment, “Hearthstone Pro League" and “Team Archon League Championship," both of which offer great matches and fun narratives. Let’s see what this week had in store for us.
Blizzard Won’t Add New Heroes Soon
When Blizzard announced its announcement for the 22nd, many, including some in our comments, suspected, or hoped, that Blizzard planned to introduce new Hearthstone classes. I have to admit, that would be a lot of fun to see. However, I suspected that Blizzard wasn’t considering such a move currently because adding one or two extra classes wouldn’t really change play so much (especially if players don’t gravitate towards those new classes). Ben Brode apparently decided it’s time to ruin the dream of more classes by announcing on Twitter that Blizzard won’t add any new classes at this time. However, he does leave a window open for future class additions.
@3Otterz We aren't planning on any new classes at this time.
— Ben Brode (@bbrode) July 6, 2015
Gosugamers’ Four Wishes for the New Expansion
Sumadin over at Gosugamers talks about the four features/tweaks he feels Hearthstone needs in the new expansion. He doesn’t talk about the obvious – new card themes and new cards – but, rather, additional features and tweaks the game needs at the moment.
Balance Changes: Sometimes a game needs a nerf to become fun again, and the writer considers nerfing a much better move than simply providing more cards that can be teched against the current dominant decks. The reason is that those “teching" cards often aren’t good enough against other decks (besides the ones they were designed to stop), so players don’t really use them much. He considers Battle Rage (of course) a card that should be nerfed because its design constantly surpasses its manacost in drawpower. Grim Patron, unfortunately, gave this card even more power and made it even more OP. The other is Piloted Shredder as it’s pretty much the best 4-drop around for almost any deck, and such a card shouldn’t exist really. The last one is Steady Shot because he believes Hunter decks should be given ways to pursue different strategies than just the aggressive ones.
Anti-Aggression: The meta keeps getting faster and faster, and aggressive decks continue to dominate the meta, which leaves many larger-cost cards ineffective unless they have Taunt. The current anti-aggression cards have too high a variance, which makes them ineffective, Taunt can easily be silenced, and healing doesn’t work against very aggressive decks because it only offers a short respite. Aggressive decks are fun, but not when they are the only kind you face day in and day out. The next expansion should bring in some cards and mechanics that slow down the game and punish decks that focus too heavily on hitting face rather than engaging with the opponent’s deck.
Overload love: This unique Shaman mechanic needs some love from the designers because there is a very interesting design space left unexplored, and it’s a pity. Overload cards are too random and lack focus to be a solid foundation for a competitive Shaman deck.
Legacy Support: It would be good to see the new cards support older cards and make it possible for those legacy cards to be used in new ways and in new decks. Such a move allows any expansion to feel much larger than it is because it transforms older cards and makes them feel fresh and interesting again.
New Tavern Brawl
Blizzard continues to provide fun challenges for its weekly Tavern Brawl as last week’s “The Great Summoner Competition" entertained quite a bit. This Brawl centered around making a deck and then playing spells, which in turn summoned a random minion of the same cost as the spell. As you can imagine, RNG galore occurred, and it was quite entertaining. The problem was that most players kept facing the same kind of decks, especially during the first two days, and those decks were primarily Mage ones (because of the many spells of that class). I’ve been noticing that in these Brawls, you can see the Meta process in fast-forward since by day 3, the best decks for the current Brawl appear. Overall, another fun Brawl, but I have to wonder how many ideas can Blizzard have to keep original Brawls coming in week in and week out.
Blizzard Teases About the Upcoming Announcement
Blizzard continues to tease its upcoming announcement with two very interesting hints. The first, and longer one, is the Innkeeper’s Tale – A Rattlin’ Rally. The description definitely has strong echoes of the Tournament theme that many have already talked about. The folks are “dueling away," most of them are “wearing the shiniest armor you ever saw," even murlocs are geared up in plate and looking like mechs. Soon, all the visitors of the inn finish their Hearthstone matches and go on their merry (or not so merry) way. So, a lot of tournament talk, definitely, but I’m intrigued by a small detail in the description; the tournament happens not in the Hearthstone matches but among those playing the Hearthstone matches. Now, this might be the literature person in me reading too much into what might have been a sloppy description, but I’m starting to have this hunch that the whole tournament idea isn’t just confined to the cards that are coming our way.
Today was somethin’ else! The air was filled with the happy hubbub of folks dueling away and enjoying one another’s company, no matter where they hailed from; nothing too out of the ordinary. The funny thing was, most of ‘em were wearing the shiniest armor you ever saw—including the magic-using types! I even saw murlocs all geared up in plate, clankin’ about like wee fishy-smellin’ mechs. I’ll never forget the young Dwarven lass leadin’ a majestic unicorn around the common room! That seemed to make the other patrons nervous, since getting impaled is usually inconvenient, but they had nothin’ to worry about.
Soon enough, everyone finished their brews (even the unicorn!), wrapped up their Hearthstone games, and got back to whatever journey they were on. It was an inspiring sight, and I admit that I was sorry to see ‘em go.
I have to wonder where they were all headed. Of course, the Inn has a knack for putting itself right where the excitement is, so I reckon I’ll be findin’ out soon enough!
The second teaser is the tweet you see below, the image of a champion (?) and the note that they answer the call of those who require their aid. Now, besides the weird decision to go with a barely-there armor (that many have commented on Twitter and reddit), this image doesn’t really tell us much. What do you think these two spoilers are all about? Perhaps a new mechanic, a new mode, or simply new cards around the theme of the Argent Tournament?
— Hearthstone (@PlayHearthstone) July 9, 2015
Hearthstone and PVP Live Stats
PVP Live provided an interesting analysis of the role of statistics in pro Hearthstone. For the first time we get to hear about such numbers as Damage Done to Enemy Hero, Minions Killed Per Game, and Blowback. According to DannieRay23’s analysis, these statistics have been a point of contention among viewers who aren’t sure of the validity, or really the point, of all these stats. In order to get to the bottom of this, DannieRay23 talked to Jesse “Kierisi" Mostipak, Director of Data Science at PVP Live.
The gist of the conversation was that the Data Science at PVP Live is becoming really formidable with four people in-house and a network of over 30 people working remotely to help with the data collection. PVP Live has taken some of the constructive criticism under consideration and has tried to improve some of the aspects of its work, like for example trying to make the connection between stat and its relevance to actual Hearthstone matches clearer. One of the first steps has been to incorporate stats-based narratives in HPL to make it easier for the audience to follow and get engaged with. PVP LIve is trying to demystify the data and help everyone become a better educated fan and player. Collecting stats is the short term goal for PVP Live. The longer term goals are developing more interesting metrics, like class-specific statistics and archetype-based statistics, that will be more useful when it comes to deciphering current and shifting metas.
Hearthstone Pro League Weekly Recap
As HPL is picking up steam and ironing out its issues, it’s becoming a great tournament to watch because of its “everything goes" rule that allows for different strategies than other tournaments. During the 4th week, Sjow has ascended to 1st place with the longest active winning streak of 4 wins, and he has also finished 3rd on the EU Ladder for June and is 4-0 in the Archon Team League Championship. The MVP of this week, though, was Muzzy, with a 3-0 HPL record and a key victory over SuperJJ, which allowed him to contest JJ’s playoff spot. Powder has cemented his spot in the top 8 for now, and if he continues, he should make it to the live finale.
Next week, if you want to watch some fine Hearthstone matches, on Monday Sjow faces Jab, or the Player with the most HPL victories faces off against the player with the highest HPL win rate. Tuesday sees RDU facing Dog, which should be a good contest of a player who’s led HPL for some time against a player who’s on the rise. Wednesday will have Sjow vs Powder and, finally, Thursday will see Sjow fighting with Zalae. Fun week and a fun League overall.
Team Archon League Championship
Patrick Garren gave us a great summary of TALC Week 2. Team Value Town and Forsenboys fought first on Day 1 followed by Team Archon and Tempo Storm finishing the day. The highlights of this matchup was Kibler winning both of his matches, but Trump amazingly losing most of his matches and ending up costing his team the win, with Forsenboys winning 6-5.
In the second matchup of the day, Archon beat Tempo Storm 6-4 with plenty of long, slow games punctuating this clash. Tempo Storm’s Eloise won both of her matches while Archon’s Firebat also did pretty well overall.
Cloud 9 Vs Team Liquid saw the Patron Warrior do some damage at the hands of Ekop and SjoW and also saw Kolento avoid last week’s disastrous form. StrifeCro played a few Warlock decks, with mixed results, and Savjs had a disastrous 0-5 day. Cloud 9 ended up winning the series 6-4.
Finally, Nihilum went up against Team Celestial, with Lifecoach winning with his Handlock deck and having an amazing Patron Warrior mirror match with Tiddler (who missed a lethal because of roping out), with Lifecoach winning with 2 Life left to go. Tiddler, though, got a win with his Patron Warrior afterwards. Nihilum would go on to win 6-4 in a very entertaining series.
Overall, TALC’s Week 2 delivered, again, with some very entertaining, close series. Druid and Rogue didn’t manage to do much, while Midrange Paladin wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great either. If you want to check out the decklists from week 2, go here. If you want to watch some good Hearthstone matches and some entertaining storylines, I suggest you watch this League.
Best teams and players
Gosugamers Rankings provided some interesting information regarding the current top players in Hearthstone. First, unsurprisingly, was TiddlerCelestial, who we talked about last week too. This is the first time since the Rankings exist that a “non-Westerner" is on top of the rankings, verifying in a way the recent rise of Hearthstone players who do their gaming on the Asian Servers. TiddlerCelestial was close to being number one in 2014, but Firebat ended up taking that place. According to the rankings, TiddlerCelestial’s rise to number 1 coincides with increased rate of traveling abroad, which shows that Hearthstone‘s competitive scene is becoming a worldwide affair.
Kolento came in at number two not because of his recent performances, which haven’t been the best, but his overall performances this year. Although he hasn’t won anything in June, he’s earned more than $40,000 since January. Finally, Firebat is currently number 3, marking it the fifth month in a row where the reigning World Champion finishes in the top three. However, he hasn’t been doing as well as he has had in the past, with an overall record of 6-7 in the last few months. He might even lose his top place in the North American rankings to Dog.
As Tempostorm’s Meta Snapshot reveals, I think it’s now official that the meta has pretty much stabilized outside a few, minor changes every week. Other than these minor shifts, we still have Patron Warrior dominating along with Midrange Hunter, Control Warrior, Zoolock (going up a rank), and Oil Rogue. Malylock, which has been a fun experiment recently, has gone back to Tier 2. Echo Mage and Freeze Mage have risen a few ranks, especially as Echo Mage can sometimes work really well against Patron Warrior decks. Control Warrior has become more important as it can counter Patron Warrior occasionally. As Mid-Range Hunter counters Control Warrior, we have a three-way interaction here that has helped all three decks head to the higher tiers. Oil Rogue has also become a strong tool against Patron Warrior, provided the player piloting the deck can pressure the Patron Warrior enough before the Frothing Berserkers go, well, berserk. Demonlock has dropped a bit more, but when piloted well, this deck can still do very well.
This week I decided to give Patron Warrior a shot (I know, late to the party), and I did so without netdecking; I simply put together a deck with a few triggers for the Grim Patron, and, although it takes thinking to play well, I can see why this deck dominates the current meta. At some point I had 5 health against a full health opponent, and then the Patrons kicked in and I won handily. I wonder whether the upcoming expansion (if that’s what it is) will address this deck in any way.
Kripp Talks About The Value of The Coin
This Week In Hearthstone Episode 1
The 5 Most Innovative Decks
Epic Hearthstone Plays #72
Funny and Lucky Hearthstone Plays #153
What is your biggest annoyance when playing Hearthstone? Is it the opponent’s RNG, is it people who don’t play fast enough, is it too short or too long games, or is it something else?
As always, we have some good resources on the site for you in case you are new to the game or simply want to sharpen up your game. There’s never such a thing as too much help in Hearthstone.
That’s all for this week. I hope you found this informative and entertaining. We are getting really close to the 22nd, so I hope you are as anxious as I am about what Blizzard is going to reveal. See you all next week!