Still waiting, Blizzard…We have officially entered the third week of August and still haven’t been invited to The Grand Tournament, Hearthstone‘s (Free) upcoming expansion. There’s plenty of chatter that the expansion will be released on the 24th of this month, so that might actually be the date I get to open all my TGT packs. Nevertheless, only a couple more weeks to go until the meta goes into a limbo state again with everyone trying to figure out how, and if, the new cards will fit into pre-existing decks or whether we are going to start seeing new, powerful archetypes that will compete with the previously-dominant decks.
These are moments that excite everyone who plays CCGs and probably the moments that make this genre stick out among most other genres because how many games do you know that can change so much just from one expansion? Now, let me see if I can actually keep your TGT-dreaming mind interested long enough to read through the news of the week.
Is This Why We Haven’t Seen Tournament Mode Yet?
We’ve been discussing recently about how Blizzard might have missed an opportunity to add a Tournament Mode in Hearthstone in the latest expansion, especially with various developers talking about how close they came to adding it. A recent patent request by Blizzard might explain why we didn’t see a tournament mode in TGT. The patent is for an online non-downloadable internet-based system application, called Compete, that will enable users to “organize and promote e-sports tournaments, to create and customize tournament brackets and ladders, track tournament progress, maintain related statistics, and post results." From the sound of it, it looks like Blizzard is trying to create its own system to host tournaments partly, I believe, to alleviate all the issues that many third-party organized tournaments have occasionally faced. If this patent does become a reality, it might make an in-game tournament mode unnecessary. Of course, many patents are created but much fewer become a reality, so we’ll see if Compete will become a reality.
Mobile is Helping Hearthstone’s Popularity, But Not Necessarily Blizzard’s Bottom Line
Much has been done with the number 20 this past week, the number of millions Blizzard makes a month from Hearthstone, and much has been done about how mobile revenue exceeds PC revenue. However, as an article on Gamasutra points out, Blizzard loses money every time a player buys a pack on any other platform other than Blizzard’s Battle.net. When a PC player buys a pack on Battle.net, Blizzard gets almost the whole amount (minus around 3% to cover payment processing), but when a player buys a pack on the iOS or Android app, Blizzard loses 30% of the purchase. Therefore, as the article points out, the big drop on PC revenue is very troubling for Blizzard since it probably shows that a large chunk of revenue which would otherwise be almost 100% Blizzard’s is being diverted to Apple and Google.
If this shift is close to the numbers that have been published (with about 7 or 8 million dollars of Hearthstone‘s revenue going to the mobile apps), then Hearthstone‘s mobile release is costing Blizzard over two million dollars a month. The article then gets into whether Blizzard made a mistake releasing the mobile app since, unlike other companies who have to go through Steam or GOG, Blizzard wasn’t losing any money on PC purchases. The article concludes that even Blizzard wasn’t expecting such a great shift from PC to mobile, and Activision’s shareholders may be scratching their heads over this decision.
The Art and Artists of Hearthstone
We often hear a lot from Hearthstone‘s developers, but we don’t often hear from the people behind the game’s lovely art. So, I was glad to find this interview by Art Director, Ben Thompson, with IGN. Thompson first talked about the original nine heroes, explaining how they knew they wanted to go with the original nine heroes from WOW partly because of those heroes’ approachability. At the same time, they were happy to bend the canon a bit to bring some characters back in a slightly different shape or form. Half of Hearthstone‘s Heroes art was pre-existing and half was new.
As for the new heroes, Thompson said that for the first three (which implies more are coming), they wanted to go with characters that have a strong presence in WOW universe, with Medivh even being in the upcoming movie. They wanted to give players more options with the various heroes. Thompson then goes on to talk about the process from initial concept to finished art, which he says takes a couple of months with lots of back and forth to get everything the way they envisioned. Overall, a very interesting interview that provides some intriguing insights to one of the features that makes Hearthstone so great, its art. Go here if you want to read the whole interview.
Hearthstone’s Evolution From Vanilla to TGT
Ben Thomspon (again) talked in an interview with AusGamers about the evolution of Hearthstone from vanilla to TGT. He first talked about Tavern Brawl, explaining that they didn’t know what the future content would be when they left the fourth menu button blank. Eventually, they decided (as we’ve talked before) to go with a mode that would expand the ways people can play the game. They felt that it fit perfectly with the light-heartedness and friendly nature of Hearthstone. The team also feels that it’s crucial to get content out regularly so the game doesn’t become stale, which explains the company’s pretty aggressive schedule. Generally, they like to think of fun, new ideas for the future, like a new keyword, and that discussion led into a discussion on Inspire, the new TGT keyword.
Blizzard felt that it’s important to make the Hero more like an active participant rather than a “punching bag with a score attached to it." Thoughts of bringing the hero back in the game, and thoughts of wanting to see champions involved in general, along with adding a new keyword led organically to the Argent Tournament, but since that was a very WOW idea, they decided to go with a more light-hearted version of it that would fit more with Hearthstone‘s nature. All these discussions went on for months and led to TGT and its main ideas.
The discussion continued with an explanation of how the company goes about progressing from an idea to a reality. Thompson said they have hired a designer months ago whose specific role is to work out what the New Player Experience is to ensure that new players aren’t getting overwhelmed from the many new cards, mechanics and so on. Overall, this was a very interesting discussion that while it doesn’t talk about too many issues, it goes into a lot of depth. If you want to read the whole interview, go here.
Here’s a Lovely Example of Patron Warrior’s Crazy “Efficiency"
While this short clip happened during a tournament, I felt that it belonged in News because it fits into the larger discussion on whether Patron Warrior is OP. During last week’s Archon Team League Championship, Trump’s Control Warrior went against Sjow’s Patron Warrior, and Trump got to sit back and watch as Sjow’s Patrons did an immense amount of damage in a single turn. This moment brought back discussions about possible nerfs to the decks, which we’ve discussed many times so I won’t get into them here. Watch and enjoy.
Kolento Talks About Hearthstone RNG
In an interesting interview during WCA Pro Qualifiers (he went on to win the Qualifier later that day), Kolento talked about Hearthstone in general and RNG more spefically. He first talked about Patron Warrior, saying how difficult the deck is to play properly as it requires a lot of thinking on every turn. It’s very easy to do sub-optimal plays when messing with Patron Warrior. Also, he talked about how often you have to make many quick decisions in a very short period of time. As for the upcoming expansion, he said that he has a most hated card, Tuskarr Totemic because you either get a 3/4 Totem Golem or just a normal totem, which he says is stupid because it’s so RNG related.
He then came back to the discussion of RNG, saying that he feels Lifecoach will probably do well in the World Championship, but “Hearthstone is a lot about the RNG," it depends a lot on who draws the best cards or the worst cards, so even a great player like Lifecoach can lose due to RNG. Again and again, Kolento brought up RNG in almost every response he gave, stating that Hearthstone “is all about the RNG in my opinion. I just try to maximize my chances." It’s not often we hear a pro player talked about RNG so much, even though everyone knows the game has a lot of RNG. Do you find that RNG an issue for you?
This Week’s Tavern Brawl Was a Repeat Performance
This week we got The Great Summoner Competition, a Brawl from about a month ago. This Brawl was all about casting spells that would summon minions of the same cost as the spells. Mages, as always, did most of the damage, but you also saw other classes too. The Brawl was fun and an easy way to complete your dailies and to get the free pack.
All TGT Cards Revealed
Finally, Blizzard has unveiled all the TGT cards, letting us start guessing what the meta will look like once the expansion releases. Most didn’t expect Blizzard to simply reveal all the cards like this, they thought instead that Blizzard might put the cards in an Arena before the release like they have done in the past. Nevertheless, the cards are all available on the company’s Facebook page, so go take a look. Remember, if these cards make you want to pre-order the expansion, you can only do so until the expansion releases.
Archon Team League Championship Week 6
Patrick Garren gave us another great summary of ATLC Week 6. The standings are getting quite crazy, with a three-way first place tie between Value Town, Nihilum, and Tempo storm, with Team Celestial still winless. Add to this three-way tie the fact that all four teams in the top League spots will be playing each other in the final week, and you’ve got a must-watch tournament. This week saw some relatively predictable results, with Forsenboys winning Team Celestial 6-1 in a pretty heavy-duty smashing. Not even Tiddler’s Warrior could get a win during the series. Cloud 9 beat Team Archon 6-3, with Kolento’s and Zalae’s Patron Warrior taking a win each and Ekop’s Face Hunter falling to Xixo’s Rogue (to everyone’s silent cheers).
Tempostorm also got a much needed victory with 6-3 against Nihilum, with Hyped’s Patron Warrior beating Thijs’ Druid (Patron’s did well this week). However, not all Patron’s won as RDU’s lost to Hyped’s Mech Mage. Tempostorm’s win really set up the board for next week’s fight to the death (metaphorically, at least I hope). Value Town won a very close one against Team Liquid, 6-5. Trump’s Control Warrior went down first but Kibler evened things up. Yet, Trump lost again and again, but Dog’s Tempo Mage drew one back against SjoW’s Midrange Hunter. Kibler’s Mech Shaman lost (!) against SjoW’s Hunter, but Kibler came back to beat Neirea’s Mage with his Mech Shaman. All the decklists from this week can be found here. If you like watching Tournaments, I suggest you tune in on Today at 5pm GMT to watch Week 7 of ATLC, it’s worth your time.
HPL Regular Season Concluded
After many weeks of hard fights, the inaugural season of Hearthstone Pro League has concluded, with seven players ensuring a place in the playoffs. Dog topped the league with 11-4 (as predicted many weeks ago), with Purpledrank, Zalae, Jab, Muzzy, Sjow, and Neirea completing the top 7 that will fight in the live finals in Frisco, Texas. Since four players tied for eight place, a tiebreaker bracket will be broadcast this week to decide who among Kaldi, Rdu, Era, and Kranich will take the final, eighth spot. The playoffs should take place after the Hearthstone World Championships, probably some point in November.
Road to the Americas Championship
Blizzard published more details on the tournaments leading up to the Hearthstone World Championship. The Fireside Gathering Championship will conclude with some epic duels (at least that’s the promise) on August 22nd, Last Call Tournament, with over 100 North American players going through a qualifier to join the 24 pre-qualified players, will take place September 5, and the North America Qualifier Tournament, with 40 of the best NA players and 2 qualifying players from Latin America, will fight it out September 12-20. Finally, the Americas Championship, the final stop before the Hearthstone World Championship at BlizzCon 2015, will take place on October 10-11, where eight players from the Americas will attempt to ensure that they’ll be fighting against 12 other players from Asia and Europe for the title of Hearthstone World Champion.
Tempostorm’s Meta Snapshot is all about Aggro this week. While the early parts of the week saw Druids and Mid-Range Hunters, as the week progressed we saw more Zoo and Hybrid Hunters flood the ladder. Face Hunter, the world’s most beloved deck, once more reached Tier 1 and made its presence known to everyone. Interestingly, and I’ve noticed this personally too, while normally at this time of the month the ladder isn’t as Aggro-heavy since those who want to quickly go to the higher ranks are already somewhere around there, this month we still have plenty of Aggro decks fighting it out. My guess is that with the new cards coming out soon, everyone is trying to get as high up the ladder as possible before the ladder gets all mixed up. Handlock has lost some of its potency against all the Aggro decks, Freeze Priest made an appearance, and Patron, of course, still reigns supreme. Go here if you want to check out the decks in the various Tiers more closely.
Kripp’s Final Review of The Grand Tournament Cards
Trump’s The Grand Tournament Review Part 8
Best Funny, Lucky, Salty Moments
Epic Hearthstone Plays #76
Best of Madder Bomber
Worst Cards in The Grand Tournament
Kripp On Why Most TGT Cards Seem Mediocre
RNG Master Race
Why You Should Use a Deck Tracker
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.