And we are back! After a short break where, as Eli said, I was at an undisclosed holiday destination drinking undisclosed holiday drinks, I’m back to continue giving you all the Hearthstone (Free) info of the week. And what a couple of week’s we’ve had! After Blizzard finally announced The Grand Tournament (TGT) expansion and its Inspire mechanic, most thought that that was all that there was to the new expansion in terms of mechanics. Yet, Blizzard apparently has decided to try even harder to slow down the meta by introducing another mechanic, Joust. No matter what the effect of the new expansion is on the game, I think it’s safe to say that Blizzard isn’t afraid to rock the boat when it comes to Hearthstone, which is good news if you, like me, enjoy playing with new toys often. Some of the news is more than a week old, but I wanted to include stories I would have included if I wasn’t away last week. So, let us begin.
Why There’s No Tournament Mode in The Grand Tournament Expansion
In an interview over at Polygon, Hearthstone Game Director, Eric Dodds, explained the thinking behind not including a Tournament mode in the new expansion. While he called a tournament mode an “interesting idea," he said that as with a lot of similar things, they need to decide if something like this mode is the right thing to do and also when the right time might be to do so. Both of those factors worked against adding a tournament mode at this time since Blizzard felt the game needed a sillier rather than a highly competitive mode, which is why they added Tavern Brawl. Adding Tavern Brawl put any thoughts of adding another mode on the backburner for now because the developers want to give new additions to the game time to breathe before adding anything new.
The discussion regarding a tournament mode led to a discussion about the Tavern Brawl mode. Dodds said that half of the Brawl players find it amazing and half feel it isn’t their thing, which is fine because that was Blizzard’s goal from the beginning: to engage different parts of the community constantly. They like to change the mode quite a bit from week to week to give different types of players entertainment. That’s is why they went with the least possible reward they could, one pack for the first win. That way, Dodds says, if you hate the Brawl one week, you won’t feel obliged to play it for a long time simply to get the promised rewards.
This Week’s Tavern Brawl Was All RNG Fun
This week, Hearthstone invited you to The Masked Ball, a fun Tavern Brawl where whenever a minion died, another one came back in its place; however, the one that popped on the board cost 2 less than the one that died. As you can tell, shenanigans occurred. You got to build your deck, and the most fun to be had was with a Ramp Druid since you got to play high-cost minions early and got the most out of the Masquerade rule. Overall, a fun Brawl, especially for those who enjoy RNG.
Pro Player StanCifka Explains How Difficult Becoming a Pro Can Be
If you thought that the five games you play a day have set you well on your way to becoming a pro, think again. StanCifka, one of the best Hearthstone players in the world, and also a great Magic the Gathering and poker player, explained in an interview over at GosuGamers how much effort it took to become a pro player. StanCifka said that Magic taught him to build decks (his 15 years of practice deckbuilding have helped him in Hearthstone) while poker taught him how to handle the stress. To learn how to play Hearthstone (or a game like Magic), you need to play for a year just to figure out things like tempo or the role of your life total. Then, in order to move from simply understanding a game to playing in tournaments, StanCifka locked himself up in his room for half a year and practiced for most of the day, sometimes as many as 15 hours. On average, he would play Hearthstone around 9 hours a day. So, that’s just a taste of the many, many hours you need to put in if you want to really improve in Hearthstone to the point where you can compete in tournaments.
StanCifka also talked briefly about TGT expansion. While he didn’t want to form an opinion without first looking at all the cards, he did say that he likes the Jousting mechanic because it adds another layer of strategy when deckbuilding.
Hearthstone Can Get Stale, And It’s Usually Due To The Players
In an interesting, if slightly convoluted, article, Todd “AnakinHS" Rolls talks about how Hearthstone often becomes stale and lacks innovation. To a degree, Rolls blames players for this lack of innovation rather than Blizzard’s development process because he feels that most players don’t try to innovate in their deckbuilding but, rather, go for the easy route of copying other successful decks or making tiny adaptations to the already-existing decks. Despite the great number of cards in the game, we see no innovation other than in the brief time after an expansion, but as we saw in the recent Blackrock Mountain Adventure, the Dragon deck barely made it out of the first week because it was quickly deemed insufficient. Also, while he’s heard the notion that innovation happens when a strong meta-dominating deck becomes a target, he didn’t see anything of the like when Patron Warrior dominated.
Rolls feels that one of the main reason for this lack of innovation is the perception that if a card isn’t used by the pros, then it must be bad. He implicitly encourages players to look at all their cards when making a deck and see if an under-used card could be a better addition to a deck than the one everyone uses. Even though he feels it’s primarily the players fault, he does hint at feeling that the current form of Ranked play doesn’t encourage innovation because if you aren’t using a strong, fast deck, Ranked can become quite the grind.
Eric Dodds On TGT And On Why Hearthstone Cards Need to Scare the Developers
Eric Dodds (again) gave us some more insight on the developers’ thinking behind TGT specifically but also their design philosophy more generally. In an interview with PCGamer, Dodds said that they wanted to add a mechanic and a theme they would get excited about, so they picked The Grand Tournament partly for its entertaining theme. Mechanically, they knew they wanted to have a new keyword, Inspire, to make the Hero matter more and make him or her able to interact more in the game. Inspire is also a very easy mechanic to comprehend, so Dodds wasn’t afraid that it would make the game harder for new players. He’s perfectly aware that crazy, or broken, combos may appear because of the way Inspire interacts with so many other cards and keywords, but he’s confident that all the testing they have done has allowed them to catch any really bad issues before release.
Dodds said that many cards from the TGT will use the Inspire mechanic, but he also said that these cards could both have their own deck focused around the Hero Power or just sprinkled in other decks to help actions like interacting with totems, which is unlike the mechs from Goblins Vs Gnomes that required a large number of them in a deck to really get the most out of them. Apparently, the way they balance the combination of Inspire and Hero Powers is by trying to figure out where would each Hero Power be stronger and make sure they handle that environment. He specifically addressed the Hunter class and Lock and Load, a card that many think will make Hunter even stronger by making sure the deck doesn’t run out of gas. Dodds response was that the card does give Hunter decks more gas but only if they’ve “saved up" cards by not playing everything in their hand. So, he believes that this card might actually make slower Hunter decks more common.
Now, when it comes to everyone’s favorite question, nerfs, Dodds said that they are paying very close attention to Warsong Commander at the moment because of the ways that card affects gameplay. While he said they haven’t decided whether they should do anything about it yet, he does feel that this is a situation where they have to say that not everything is fine. The discussion on Commander led to a quick point about Aggro Vs Control with Dodds saying as the meta stands now, they are pretty comfortable with the balance between the two. Dodd’s finished the interview with a talk pertaining to the future of Hearthstone. According to him, the overall structure of the game is in a pretty good place, but there are tactical things (like more deck slots) that the developers are thinking about all the time. The mobile version of that game hasn’t restricted the game’s development so far (other than some extra UI work), which is partly because of the game’s simplicity. When it comes to card design, Dodds said he likes to make cards that “scare" him (like Emperor Thaurissan) which while balanced, can be on the crazy side.
TGT Will Add Another Mechanic, Joust!
In addition to Inspire, TGT will add Joust, a mechanic where minions emerge from their decks, create a brief contest within a contest, and the minion with the higher mana cost wins. If a player wins the Joust, he or she gets the rewards stated on the card that initiated the Joust. This is, obviously, an attempt by Blizzard to counter very fast, low minion decks by giving an incentive to players to add higher mana-cost minions in their decks. Whether it will actually have the desired effect remains to be seen.
Hearthstone Developer Talks About The Joust Mechanic
Mike Donais, Hearthstone Senior Designer, talked to Icy Veins about TGT and gave some interesting information about the expansion. He talked about how Inspire and Joust were added to the game to give people answers to things they were uncomfortable with. For instance, Joust helps counter cheap Hunter or Warlock decks. They thought of making Joust a keyword like Inspire, but it didn’t make sense because it ended up reading more like a battlecry. Instead, they tried to put Joust in a lot of the names of the minions that have Joust to make it clearer to the players.
Donais revealed that they almost added a Tournament Mode before Tavern Brawl, but they decided Tavern Brawl would be more fun for players. He also, like Dodds, expressed a concern regarding slowing the game down too much, and said they want to make sure they have a good balance between fast and slow decks. Afterwards, he brought up the new player experience, expressing a slight concern about whether new players will start having problems understanding the game as Hearthstone is getting bigger in terms of card number.
Blizzard Is Changing Ranked Rewards (Finally)
Blizzard has finally acknowledged its players’ complaints regarding the lack of motivation to play Ranked after Rank 20 (which gives you the card back). The developers acknowledged that the way Ranked was set up, it made players hesitant to push for higher ranks because they didn’t want to lose the rank they had gained. So, Blizzard has decided that now the Quest Log will display the highest rank reached during the month to recognize the players’ accomplishment. Additionally, it has added some (small) rewards for people who progress over Rank 20, for instance one or more gold cards and some dust. This is a very welcome change because even a small incentive like this one can help players who felt that Rank 20 to Legend was too much of a grind.
August 2015 Ranked Play Season Has Commenced
This Ranked season is bound to be an interesting one because of the influx of TGT cards at some point in the month. While the higher Ranks will still probably be contested with already-proven decks, I foresee quite the fun in the lower ranks as TGT decks start appearing. This month’s card back is, appropriately, the Tournament Grounds, a nice looking card back that acts as a consolation card to those who couldn’t preorder the TGT 50 card-back, which came with its own card back.
Archon Team League Championship Week 5 Summary
Patrick Garren continues to provide us with some great ATLC weekly summaries. Team Archon beat Value Town 6-3 this week, with Kibler winning one but, finally, losing his unbeaten record to a, you guessed it, Patron Warrior deck. Firebat got a nice win with his Handlock against Dog’s Freeze Mage, but Dog then used that same deck to beat Xixo’s Rogue. Trump didn’t manage to beat Xixo’s mech Shaman, and Zalae got an easy win with his midrange Hunter. Firebat then lost the longest match of the day, his Freeze Mage losing to Trump’s Control Warrior. Trump then lost to the Freeze Mage, and then, surprisingly, Kibler lost again when his Druid fell to Xixo’s Rogue, making it 0-2 for Kibler.
Forsenboys lost 6-4 to Nihilum, with a very slow Freeze Mage mirror match between Forsen and Thijs being the “highlight" of the series. Ostkaka’s Patron Warrior pulled out a win against RDU’s mech Shaman, while Lifecoach’s Patron Warrior didn’t have the same luck, losing to Forsen’s Malylock but taking his revenge later by beating Forsen’s Freeze Mage. The series looked to be going Forsenboy’s way as they got a commanding 4-1 lead, but Nihilum pulled out a great 5-0 run to beat the series in style.
Cloud 9 beat Team Celestial 6-4 in a close series, with Patron Warrior losing one and winning one, in the end keeping Celestial winless. Finally, Tempo Storm smashed Team Liquid 6-1, the biggest margin in the tournament so far. Nihilum continues to lead the pack with both Team Liquid and Forsenboys tied with 2-3 records and trying to make it out of the Redemption Playoff. The 2nd place will be the biggest battleground in the coming weeks since any of Archon, Value Town, Tempo Storm, and Cloud 9 could pick it up.
If you want to take a look at this week’s decklists, go here.
Kolento Wins WCA Pro Qualifiers Europe
It didn’t seem like it was going to end happily for Kolento, who didn’t do very well in the early rounds of the tournament, losing to Lifecoach and StanCifka. And then, Kolento decided to actually win some matches, beating Thijs (who had beat him the day before), StanCifka, and then going from being 2-0 in the finals with Lifecoach to a fantastic 3-2. This was a fun final to watch as Lifecoach quite easily got his 2-0 with a Midrange Hunter and a Midrange Druid, coming back from being way down in the latter match to beat Kolento, who had 52 health at one point because of his armor. And then Kolento fought back, using his Oil Rogue, Patron Warrior, and Midrange Hunter to win the final 3-2. Keeping in mind that Kolento didn’t win any group stages matches, you can understand why everyone was surprised at Kolento’s feat.
Now, on to probably the most worthless meta report ever since in a week or two TGT cards should (hopefully) change the meta quite a bit. Tempostorm’s great meta report notes that there haven’t been many changes this week, with plenty of aggro decks flooding in Ranked for the early race to Legend, most of them Face Hunter, Zoo, and Midrange Hunter. Tempo and Mech Mage have also seen plenty of play as we see less Patron Warrior decks being played. Handlock is seeing plenty of play too, while the rise of Freeze Mage and the relative decline of Patron Warrior have also made Control Warrior decline.
Patron is still with us, though, but Patron players have been teching in Shield Blocks and Shield Slams. The only unexpected movement in the tiers was Malylock’s resurgence after dropping the last few weeks. The new decks that have joined the fray are Aggro (Face) Rogue and Resurrect Priest, which still needs plenty of work to become efficient and competitive.
Blizzard at GamesCom (Go to minute 35 for Hearthstone)
Most Misplayed Cards in Hearthstone
Eloise Vs Reynad, Again
A Quick Guide to Reach Higher Ranks
Best of Trump Patron
TGT Match Gamescom
Hearthstone Lucky Plays
Trump Talking About Jousting
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.