Finally! We now officially know when Hearthstone‘s (Free) The Grand Tournament (TGT) expansion is coming out, and depending how late on Monday the 24th you are reading this, TGT might already be out! Yes, hard to hide the excitement of getting all those new cards to play with and having to read/hear all the debates about which card is OP, which card will change the meta, how many of the TGT cards suck, which Legendaries are useless and which are game-changing, and so on. This week’s Tavern Brawl was a fun, early taste of the new cards, and I like the new mechanics so far. Will the meta be vastly different after Monday? Probably not, but every change brings new strategies, new ways of thinking about the game, and more fun. So, it will be fun to see how everything turns out. Still, this past week hasn’t been a slow one when it comes to news, so there’s still plenty to talk about. Let us start, then.
Developer Interview About Aggro, Consoles, and Long-Term Plan
This was an interesting interview with executive producer, Hamilton Chu, and senior game designer, Mike Donais, that touched on Hearthstone‘s future, on the issue of irritating decks, and more. The article starts with an overview of irritating Aggro decks that pop up all the time in Hearthstone, starting with Mech Mage that then gave its place to Face Hunters and Zoolocks and so on. This persistent Aggro presence in the game makes Hearthstone less fun because these bouts aren’t usually very exciting. The developers are hopeful that TGT‘s Joust mechanic will slow down the meta by punishing decks with low manna (although I think that that is more wishful than pragmatic thinking. In the interview part of the article, Donais and Chu talked about how they are still learning what people want from expansions and which of those wants actually make the game healthy. They talked about how they need to constantly adjust to the changing players’ pool, which means that TGT is coming in in a very different context than GvG did.
The developers also talked about how they are trying to get around the problem of the game having an increasing number of cards that is making the game increasingly harder to get into. One way to tackle that issue is when they add new cards, they don’t add too much new complexity in the mechanics, the wording, and so on. They also said that they add vanilla cards in new expansions precisely to help new players, who know how such cards work. The talk of simplicity brought a conversation about how they want Hearthstone to be around for ten to twenty years, which means many more cards will be coming to the game, so they want to make sure the game doesn’t get so hard that new players can’t play it. There’s no easy answer as to how they should tackle this issue, but they are thinking about it.
The conversation then shifted to Joust and the thinking behind adding it. One reason for adding it was the flavor, as it fit nicely with The Grand Tournament theme, and the second was mechanical as a way to deter decks with too many low-cost minions. At the same time, Joust isn’t good against everything, so the meta should still be fuild. Donais said it’s hard to make cards that can handle an aggressive early game without them being good in an aggressive deck themselves. Chu said he doesn’t like playing against aggro decks either. Donais then said that there are four archetypes he’d like to see in the game: agrro, control, mid-range, and combo, and all of them should have reasonable options. They said that they hope Joust will unlock older, higher-cost cards that haven’t been used because of the Aggro dominance.
As for Inspire, they agreed that it’s on the slow side, but they hope that cards like Fencing Coach will help speed it up a bit. Finally, they said that they’d love to bring Hearthstone to consoles, and it’s something they think about. Although it’s a lot of work, if they could nail the experience, they could bring it to consoles. I think it’s obvious, Hearthstone developers want to take over the world! What next, Hearthstone on ATM machines?
Sumadin Talks about Winners and Losers of TGT
Stefjan Sumadin Duadicani wrote an interesting article about which classes got the better end of the deal and which didn’t with the TGT expansion. Sumadin says Druid is the big winner of TGT because now Druids can innovate. Nine Druid cards could all be used in competitive decks. Aviana is crazy, and the new Druid Beast synergy looks very hot too. He believes that these cards will create new Druid decks. Shaman is also getting a solid boost, although not as much as most expected. The class got good card draw, but some of the class’ cards have questionable viability. The Warlock seems to be a loser, full of gimmicky cards that aren’t solid enough to really help the class. Paladin has also gone the way of the Warlock, although not as bad as Warlock. The cards aren’t bad, but they are just “more of the same" according to Sumadin. Warrior got the strongest new card with Varian Wrynn, but nothing exciting beyond that, and Rogue got the worst card, Poisoned Blade. Hunter got hit the most with TGT, but it got some interesting new Legendaries. Of course, this is all before actually seeing the cards in play, so it remains to be seen where the chips will fall once TGT drops.
Blizzard says Hearthstone API Coming Soon
Blizzard has revealed this week that Hearthstone is getting an API (application program interface) soon, which will allow outside parties to access information about the game. When it comes to Hearthstone, people will be able to find out what cards are played more often, when specific cards are played, what kinds of decks win and how often, and so on. As you can imagine, this will open a treasure trove of information that will help us understand much more about how the game is played. What are you most interested in finding out once the API comes out?
Hearthstone‘s Hate Cards
This article over at LiquidHearth talked about an interesting class cards, hate, or counter, cards, useful tools that developers employ in order to keep certain styles of play or certain types of decks in check without having to nerf too many cards. As Kibler has said in another article (quoted in the LiquidHearth one), these cards are a good philosophy because they reward “format knowledge and intelligent deck building." Daisyx and Hayl talk about how understanding how hate cards are designed and the best way to use them is a very important skill for Hearthstone players.
However, there are more than one type of hate card, the ones that target a specific style of deck and those that target a specific style of card. Hate cards designed to hinder a style of deck usually try to exploit the cohesion that makes the deck powerful, try to take advantage of that one thing that makes the deck tick. Hate cards designed to target a specific card style usually have a very specific effect to counter their target cards. For designers, the challenge in Hate Cards is finding the balance between making the card too powerful versus making it inefficient in its role, and the challenge for players is finding which card is the most effective at its role and the most playable. The choice to play a hate card is based on how well it works against its target deck or card, and figuring out which hate card will have enough possible targets to make it worth including in your deck. You usually want to run a card if it find “targets" more than 50% of the time you play it.
Modernleper’s Predictions for the Post-TGT Meta
Will Bindloss, strategy writer for Team Archon, wrote an interesting article about his predictions of TGT Meta. First of all, he sees Inspire to be “uninspiring" because of the tempo loss those cards cause when played in the deck, and the cards that Blizzard provided to support the Inspire mechanic are underpowered. He also thinks Midrange Shaman will return because of the new early game tools that Blizzard is adding to Shaman in this expansion and also the new Legendary, The Mistcaller. Modernleper believes that Patron Warrior will continue to be very strong, and it might even thrive in the new, slower environment of post-TGT Hearthstone. TGT will also reward synergy more than previous sets (I think we’ve seen this in this week’s Tavern Brawl), with some of the combinations possibly being broken in the right deck. Finally, Druid looks like it’s going to be the strongest class in TGT, especially with a card like Mulch.
Tavern Brawl Was An Interesting TGT Taste
This week’s Tavern Brawl gave us the first taste of TGT. In this brawl you were given either a Hunter deck, built around the Joust mechanic, or a Mage deck, built around the Inspire mechanic. This was a fun opportunity to see the new mechanics in action, but I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions about how strong or weak the various mechanics are since the decks were quite imbalanced. Still, Inspire does offer some fun synergies. When it comes to the Joust mechanic, everyone is talking about how long the animation takes for each Joust; I’m afraid we’ll be seeing people rope way too often once the new expansion comes out.
Brian Kibler Won the Archon “Master of Duels" Award
Kibler has won the “Master of Duels" award before ATLC is even completed since with a 13-4 record, he had the best individual record of all the contestants. The award comes with a $5000 prize, not bad at all. Kibler was seen as an early favorite for the award since he got off to an 8-0 start in the first four weeks of the competition. I’m sure many will be surprised because one, most people discounted Kibler’s team, Value Town, and two, there are some traditionally-bigger Hearthstone names in the Championship, like Lifecoach, for example. Still, Kibler has proven that once he focused on Hearthstone, the skills that he has acquired as a Magic Hall of Famer transferred to Hearthstone just fine. And now, try to unsee this Kibler mat.
A Surprise Ending in the Archon Team League Championship
In a big surprise to everyone interested in ATLC, Value Town, one of the biggest underdogs of the Championship, came a very, very close second to Cloud 9, which topped the Group Stage. No one expected Value Town to do so well when the Championship started. While Cloud 9 started off quite slow, the team went on fire after Week 4 and with a 5-2 record, topped the Group Stage. Team Celestial and Team Liquid have been eliminated. Nihilum’s sixth place was surprising as the team consists of players like Rdu and Lifecoach.
The elimination series between Nihilum and Team Liquid was a fantastic 11-match series that saw Lifecoach at his, well, worst (when compared to his normally-flawless plays). With the Group Stage set, Archon, Tempo Storm, Nihilum, and Forsenboys will have to joust in a double elimination satellite bracket, with the best two teams advancing to the live finale to join Cloud 9 and Value Town. If you want to take a look at the decklists, go here, and if you want to enjoy the fantastic Nihilum-Team Liquid series, go here.
This is officially the last meta report before TGT comes out today, so, well, might be a useless one. But still, this is where the meta stood as of last week according to Tempostorm’s Meta Snapshot. Similarly to last week, Aggro decks are still the decks to beat, with Mech Mage, Face Hunter, and Aggro Paladin remaining popular, though Hybrid Hunter was actually more effective against the commonly-used Aggro decks (even though this version of the Hunter wasn’t used as much). Mech Mage is particularly strong at the moment, rising all the way to Rank 2 this week.
Grim Patron might not be used as much anymore, but the deck is still very powerful with Era taking his version of the Patron Warrior to Rank 1 Legend this week. Even though players are teching in Harrison Jones and Acidic Swamp Ooze to help counter Patron’s weapons, the deck is still dominating most match-ups. Now, with TGT dropping today, you should all go and get your craziest decks out there to have some fun. At the same time, this might be a good time to take advantage of others’ experimentation on the Ladder by taking a tried and trusted deck on the Ladder for some easy wins.
Trump Is Inspired To Joust
Hearthstone Lucky Moments #10
Kripp Talks About Your Future TGT Collection
ATLC’s Missed Lethals
New Coldarra Drake Combo
Hearthstone Power Creep
3200 Armor in 1 Turn!
Reynad’s Stream Highlights
Best of Dr. Boom
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.