And it’s out, finally! As of last Monday, we’ve all started playing with Hearthstone‘s (Free) new toys, the 132-card The Grand Tournament expansion which has been welcomed by most players as it has given us new ways to play the game, new deck ideas to think about, and in general, made the game more fun. Now, I don’t know whether TGT will radically change the meta or whether we’ll just see a few cards fitting into existing decks; it’s really too early to tell that because we’ll need to wait until the dust settles and new decks are designed, put to the test, and seen how they fare. I’m hopeful that we won’t go back to the Face Hunter domination of old, but I’m slightly worried that Patron Warrior decks will still dominate, especially if that Mr. Frothing Berserker doesn’t get a nerf soon.
Still, this has been a fun week that has seen some crazy decks and plenty of fun moments. While there’s was plenty of news to talk about, the week was a bit dry on Tournament news with many tournaments winding down and not many new ones starting off. So, let’s see what news this week had in store for us.
Ben Brode and Mike Donais TGT Post-Launch Talk
After TGT launched, two of Hearthstone‘s senior game designers, Ben Brode and Mike Donais, talked about the expansion’s launch, their favorite cards, and how they hope to solve the inevitable problem of Hearthstone having too many cards in the future. The designers talked about how excited they are after infusing so many new cards into the game and seeing people try new strategies, new crazy decks, and min-maxing any deck that looks like it might have potential.
While they’ve seen some players simply insert one or two new cards into existing decks, they’ve seen many people going with new decks and new strategies (like a Lock and Load deck, which Donais loves). Brode then went on to talk about new players, saying that after so many new cards, the new player experience is very different from when Hearthstone first started and said they’ve been talking a lot about how to reconcile new content and a constantly-changing meta with new players coming in and finding a game that’s more daunting than it used to.
Brode also said that if he could craft only one Legendary, it would be The Mistcaller because he has dreams of bouncing him back into his hands using a Brewmaster and ending up with huge buffs on his cards. Both then went on to talk about how when one card’s added, there’s a ton of complexity that’s introduced along with it because of all the connections between that new card and all the pre-existing cards. They said that in their design process, the way they avoid creating a Dr. Boom kind of card, which can be powerful pretty much in every deck, is by what they call “sideways design," a design philosophy that relies on creating cards that are only good in specific situations or that create new directions in deckbuilding.
The two designers said that because they felt players had plenty of options for aggressive decks already, they wanted to give additional options to people who prefer to play differently. They did so by adding more Taunt and healing options and, of course, the Joust mechanic. Brode enjoys the whole Inspire mechanic, especially trying to make Hero Powers important for the way some cards work with it and trying to make Hero Powers feel core to the set.
As for the amount of cards, Brode said he doesn’t feel Hearthstone has too many cards at the moment, but he did admit it’s a problem that’s starting to form.They then went on to talk in general about Hearthstone‘s success, stating how their original goal was to make the game accessible so many could enjoy it.
Nydra Talks About The Importance of Format Diversity
An increasing number of players are wondering what the future holds for Hearthstone, and Radoslav “Nydra" Kolev was wondering just that in a Gosugamers article. Nydra talks about how competitive Hearthstone is currently not very exciting to watch because of how slow-paced it can be and how a fantastic move by a player is usually only apparent to those who know the game very well. Instead, what causes excitement to those watching is flashy moves, like a 4-damage Implostion, or a crazy top-deck that reverses a game. The excitement part of the game isn’t helped by how its huge popularity among streamers and tournaments means that the new-ness of an expansion quickly fades. Add to that how the way Blizzard planned the 2015 Road to Blizzcon season failed to produce any exciting stories since the face of competitive Hearthstone has pretty much remained unchanged this year.
Having pretty much the same players dominate the scene combined with so many tournaments leads to a loss of novelty and thrill since you can see the same players playing each other week after week, which ruins any anticipation for the big stars to collide again. Nydra recognizes some attempts at remedying the game’s stale esports face, like Viagame’s House Cup and Archon Team League Championship, whose organizers weren’t afraid to depart from ordinary constructed play rules. Nydra concludes that this is exactly what Hearthstone needs, tournament organizers who aren’t afraid to push the limits of Hearthstone by creating tournaments based on rules that push Hearthstone‘s players out of their comfort zones and produce more interesting moments for tournament viewers.
TGT Predictions Gone Wrong
Luke Winkie wrote an interesting article over at The Daily Dot on the various predictions about TGT cards that have been, so far, proven wrong. The first one was Murlock Knight, the card that many thought would be too fragile and, instead, has turned out to be quite powerful. Yes, it might be hard to trigger because it can be slow, but when it does, the card can really help strengthen Paladin Control decks. The second card was the warrior Legendary, Varian Wrynn, a card many thought would be all powerful, even if it’s 10 mana. However, Winkie says that after playing with the card a bit, he doesn’t think it’s as good as he originally thought because of that 10 mana cost that makes the card falter in a fast meta.
Justicar Trueheart is another card that many didn’t care much for when it came out (after the initial excitement), and yet, this card can really help slower decks and can combo nicely with anything Inspire related. Finally, Winkie talked about Mysterious Challenger, the card that brings all the secrets to the Paladin yard and has been the center of many conversations on the insane Paladin Secrets deck. The card is changing the power of secrets and making this card a must-have and a game-changer.
TGT Card Pack Opening Stats
Now, let’s get into some crazy numbers regarding TGT packs and what people got, or didn’t get. HearthSim gathered date from nearly 300 submissions and a total of 15,432 packs. The largest card pack purchase was 1,290, which required 3 hours and 4 minutes to open. The total disenchant value of all the card packs came out to 1,488,435 dust, and every card was opened at least once except a golden Mistcaller.
The drop rates per rarity were 72% for Common, 23% for Rare, 4% for Epic, and 1% for Legendary. Of those who opened at least 50 packs, 37 saw 1 Legendary, 63 saw 2 Legendaries, 31 saw 3 Legendaries, 26 saw 4 Legendaries, and 5 saw 6 Legendaries. There are many, many more numbers to go over, so go here if you like reading stats.
A Guide For F2P Players To Avoid Drowing in TGT
Paul Tassi wrote a helpful guide on Forbes to help new players start playing Hearthstone without drowning in Hearthstone’s great number of cards. After talking about the difficulties of getting the full card collection without paying a lot of money, Tassi goes on to talk about how Blizzard has implemented new reward systems that allow players to get new packs in all kinds of ways. There’s the “spectate a win" challenge that earns you a pack, there’s the Tavern Brawl pack that pretty much guarantees you one pack a week, and there’s the new Ladder rewards that offer more cards than before. Also, since Heartstone decks consist of only 30 cards, a new player can dust other cards in order to build at least one strong deck that can then give him or her enough wins to help improve the collection.
Hearthstone is Becoming Too Expensive
An interesting article over at BGR talks about how Blizzard seems to refuse to give its growing player base a chance to catch up in terms of card collections. One of the issues is that Blizzard seems to ignore Hearthstone‘s nature as a digital card game by refusing to adjust card statistics to make older cards viable, or less terrible, in a competitive environment (Kripp has talked about this issue, too). The company also hasn’t addressed the high cost of entry for new players. If you start playing now and plan to be competitive in the next six months, you can’t do so unless you pay a lot of money to catch up. He compares Hearthstone with Solforge (another CCG that I’ve personally played quite a bit), stating that Solforge gives players a pack as a sign-in reward while Hearthstone never does anything of the sort.
He also takes issue with the $10 character skins not because they exist but because those design resources should be aimed at features players have been asking for. He believes that in the next six months to a year, Blizzard needs to offer more deck slots, fix broken cards (cards that are so weak they are obsolete), slash the price of old packs, talk more to the community, and have more fun with the players by adding one-off rewards like having Arena give out two packs instead of one on one weekend.
Tavern Brawl Was Another Repeat Performance
Blizzard decided not to bother too much with its Tavern Brawl since, probably, all resources were dedicated to the release of TGT. So, the company gave us Encounter at the Crossroads, again. If you don’t remember this Tavern Brawl, you pick a class and the Brawl gives you a completely random deck to go with it, which makes the Brawl RNG-heavy but also fun. Add to all this RNG the fact that this time around we got TGT cards in our decks, and I’d say this was an entertaining Brawl. My disappointment was the reward; the Brawl offered one classic pack, but I was hoping for a TGT one (since those are the cards many people want to have right now) or at least a random pack like in the Arena. Hopefully Blizzard will change that part of the Brawl rewards in the near future.
Blizzard’s EU Servers Are Having Issues, Again
As many players found out this week, Blizzard’s EU servers weren’t prepared for the onslaught TGT unleashed. As you can see from the tweet below, Blizzard just couldn’t keep the servers going and players were facing all kinds of outages and lag. This experience was quite irritating for many anxiously waiting to play with their new toys. Last time this happened, Blizzard gave players two free packs; we’ll see whether this will be the case again.
We're closely monitoring the #Hearthstone servers after last night's service issues. Please let us know if you experience any problems.
— Blizzard CS EU (@BlizzardCSEU_EN) August 25, 2015
Blizzard Uses an Undying Card to Support A Fan
For the first time ever, Blizzard designed an undying card that won’t go away unless it’s silenced. Dreadsteed has a “Summon a Dreadsteed" deathrattle, which means the creature can never actually die. When the card’s flavor text was revealed, people started wondering about this card. The card’s text says “Crescendo himself summoned this steed, riding it to victory in the Grand Tournament. Whenever he rides, an army of riders ride behind him, supporting the legendary champion." Crescendo apparently is a Hearthstone player and a Reddit user who’s been quite sick and had to stop playing the game to fight his other, more important battle. Fortunately, Crescendo seems to be doing ok at the moment, and he’s very appreciative of Blizzard’s move. Well done Blizzard designers, well done.
Archon Team League Championship Satellite Matches
This week we had the Satellite bracket of ATLC where four teams clashed in a double elimination bracket from which only two would move on to the live finale. This was the last chance for two of the teams to fight for that $250,000 prize at the end of the rainbow. In the first phase Archon and Tempo Storm fought each other with Tempo Storm seeking revenge after its 4-6 loss to Archon in the regular season. Tempo Storm got its revenge by beating Archon 6-5 and then went on to also delivere a 6-1 beating to Nihilum, which had beat Forsenboys in the other semi final match. Forsenboys then beat Archon, eliminating the team from ATLC, but fell to Nihilum, again. If you want to check out the decklists, go here.
Archon Team Just Lost Two Members
In news that got Hearthstone’s competitive world talking, Archon Team’s Purple and Xixo have left the team, the first departing while the second one getting released. Purple left to “pursue other projects" while Xixo was released for “out-of-game issues" that have been around for quite a bit but the team and Xixo weren’t able to resolve.
The first post-TGT meta is upon us, and it’s a mess. No one yet knows what’s going on, what the strong decks are, which ones will stick around, and which of the old ones will continue to prevail. Tempostorm’s Snapshot struggled to make much sense of it all, but at least they tried. What they’ve seen so far is that surprise surprise, Patron Warrior is still a very strong deck that continued to dominate this past week. The fun surprise of the week was the return of Priest to a relatively-competitive status but not in the usual Priest archetypes; rather, we got the Dragon Priest. This deck is not only the most viable Priest deck of the last few months, but it’s actually a pretty strong deck.
Shaman seems to have gotten a boost from the Inspire mechanic, which has helped the deck become more competitive than previous Mid-Range Shaman decks. However, it hasn’t been the powerhouse deck many predicted, at least not yet. Secret Paladin has skyrocketed to the top of competitive Hearthstone, beating pretty much any other deck except Patron Warrior. All of the above are subject to change as players refine their experimental decks or find weaknesses in decks that appear to be strong currently.
TGT Showdown Between Trump and Amaz
Hearthstone Mythbusters 9
Kripp On How Good Is Legend Rank
Six Icehowls in One Turn
Epic Animated Legendaries #23
Great Aviana Moments
Trump Opens 125 TGT Packs
Great Varian Wrynn Moments
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.