What a Hearthstone (Free) weekend was that, wasn’t it? We expected to have a fun BlizzCon 2015, and although we expected some kind of an announcement for an adventure/expansion coming our way, we certainly didn’t expect it to drop this Thursday! I’m sure everyone was surprised, and I’m also sure it was a pleasant surprise. The League of Explorers (LOE), the new adventure, seems to push the game towards a more “fun" and casual feel that will appeal to both casual and new players. However, the new mechanics and many of the new cards will certainly require a lot of skill to be played well, which means that competitive players should also find a lot to like.
I’m glad that Hearthstone developers are still making a game that’s first of all fun; after all, I’m sure that’s part of their plan to take over the world. As we have done with other Adventures, we’ll be putting together Guides to help you all make it through the Adventure as easily as possible and get your hands on all those fun cards, so keep an eye out for that.
We also had a great World Championship with some fantastic games and, probably, the best time I’ve ever had watching competitive Hearthstone played at the highest level. Almost all of the series were highly contested, the organization of the event was top notch, and overall it was very fun to watch. Blizzard, cleverly, managed in one weekend to show both sides of its card game, the casual and the highly-competitive, without letting one overshadow the other. In this week’s TouchStone Tavern you can read all about BlizzCon including developers and pro players talking about the new expansion as well as various other news. So, let’s start, shall we?
The New Adventure is The League of Explorers!
As we expected (hoped), Blizzard announced a new Hearthstone Adventure, The League of Explorers, that will bring 45 new cards to the game and should change things up nicely since many of those cards look strong enough to see play. This adventure has an Indiana Jones-esque theme and, for the first time, departs to a great degree from the WOW universe to offer players a different feel. The Adventure contains 4 Wings, Temple of Orsis, Uldaman, Stranglethorn Jungle, and The Hall of Explorers, many of which have new mechanics in them like collapsing walls, a minecart escape, and so on. LOE has 1 less Wing than Blackrock Mountain Adventure but more cards, which means we’ll be getting more cards for less play.
As with every Adventure, we’ll get new boards too, and these ones look quite different from the usual Fantasy fare, so I’m excited. The four members of the expedition (which are the four Legendaries of the set), are dwarven historian Brann Bronzebeard and the other members of The League of Explorers, Elise Starseeker, Reno Jackson, and Sir Finley Mrrgglton. The League will also introduce a new keyword, Discover!. This keyword will let you ‘dig’ for cards and find the one you need the most. The Adventure can be purchased in full for $19.99, one location at a time for 700 gold or $6.99 each, or in discounted bundles based on the number of individual locations already purchased. If you want to see all the new cards, go here.
During the Hearthstone panel on Friday, Ben Brode showed off all 45 cards of the upcoming adventure and explained how the new adventure will work. The theme works nicely with the mechanics and I’m definitely excited to get my hands on the new cards starting next Thursday. My Shaman deck is quite happy, and I’m really tempted to build Murloc decks now. Towards the end of the panel, Brode announced that we are getting The League of Explorers card back for reaching Rank 20 this month, and it looks really good.
Hearthstone Designers Talk League of Explorers and Secret Paladin
Ben Thompson, Hearthstone lead artist, and designer Dean Ayala talked to Shacknews about the new Adventure and Hearthstone in general. Ben Thompson talked about LOE and how it’s a big departure for the team because it changes how they tell stories. This is the first time they shift away from WOW as a source of stories. Now, they want to treat Hearthstone world and WOW world as two parallel worlds that dabble into each other periodically. The same goes for gameplay since LOE gave them the opportunity to try new ideas. He talked about how the new Adventure has a puzzle feel to it, and this was their intention since they had a similar idea from early during Hearthstone‘s development. Ayala said that the design goal of Discover was to help build new decks, and in this case they went for the right amount of randomness that helps games play a bit differently since you don’t have to go through your whole deck to find the cards you need.
Ayala talked about Elise Starseeker, explaining how she allows you to build a deck with no in-game threats but rather a control deck based around triggering her abilities and filling your deck and hand with late-game threats. Thompson then said that Adventures work best when they promote a vibe or a feel for the player. LOE tries to blend mechanic (Discover) with the theme of the Adventure and the sense of exploration and discovery. That’s where cards like Curse, and Torch come in; they help make the player feel like they are exploring tombs and searching for lost treasures.
The discussion then moved to the co-op Tavern Brawl with the designers saying how this was their favorite Brawl and it showed once more Tavern Brawl’s ability to act as a testing ground for new ideas, new mechanics, and new UI. The discussion ended with the topic of Secret Paladin, everyone’s new favorite deck to complain about. They said, as was to be expected, that they feel LOE will shake up the meta or at least various decks, so there’s no point in making any hasty decisions about cards currently in the game. They wrapped up the interview by mentioning that they are curious to see what Murlocs will do after LOE since they are getting some good cards.
As with every expansion/adventure, one of the question many ask is how will the new cards influence the meta and what impact will they have in Hearthstone in general. Tempostorm tracked down some pros in BlizzCon and beyond and asked them for their first impressions of The League of Explorers. Gaara said he’s very excited with the Adventure because every card seems playable. Orange said that since Naxxramas and Blackrock Mountain were both very influential to the game, he has high hopes that LOE will also do so, and even though those are big shoes to fill, he thinks LOE might be able to pull it off. Hotform sees LOE as a good idea because it’s blatantly geared towards “fun," but as a competitive player he thinks that some of the cards won’t hit the mark, but some cards did look interesting and they should bring a more competitive environment.
ChanmanV sees the expansion as quite different from others because of the theme, the more ‘radical’ cards, and a bit more RNG. As for Discover, Gaara likes it a lot because it’s RNG but not broken or frustrating RNG. He thinks it will work well in Control Warrior and Midrange Hunter. Orange thinks it’s a strong mechanic that should work well for grindy games. He thinks it should work well with defensive cards and help players not lose the early game. Hotform thinks that this mechanic rewards competitive players when they make good strategic choices, so he likes it quite a bit. Some of the Discover cards looks very complicated, but it will be interesting to see what works where. ChanmanV thinks it’s a cool mechanic and thinks that classes such as Hunter and Shaman could really use this kind of mechanic.
Most of the players didn’t think Discover introduces much RNG to the game, and the kind of RNG it does introduce is the kind they like, fun but not broken. They all thought that the rate of content release in Hearthstone is pretty much just right, although as pro players they were hoping they had some more time to work with cards before they have to learn new ones.
This article partly focuses on Sir Finley Mrrgglton, the cutest Legendary to come out of the new Adventure. The writer focuses on how this adventure feels a lot like Indiana Jones movies because of the whole “escape the temple" theme. After discussing the various single-player Adventure aspects of LOE (which I have already discussed earlier), the writer goes on to briefly talk about some cards but mostly focus on wondering why he doesn’t feel more excited about this new Adventure despite the fact that he likes pretty much everything about it.
The answer to that is that he feels Hearthstone needs much more than another adventure mode, even if that adventure is very well designed. He believes that the game has gotten pretty stale with specific cards being pretty much the best among all other cards of similar cost (Piloted Shredder for instance). He believes the game needs more radical mechanics than Discover, a general rebalancing, and maybe even changes to the structure of the game as a whole.
Two Famous Poker Players Played Hearthstone During BlizzCon
Daniel Negreanu and Bertrand “ElkY" Grospelier agreed to play in a Hearthstone exhibition match during BlizzCon, and they agreed to because they love playing the game. Negreanu even said that he’s been playing the game since May and is addicted to it. He said that he got into it after hearing some professional poker players talk about Hearthstone and say how its complexity is similar to that of poker. Gospellier, who used to be a pro Starcraft player, didn’t have a problem getting into the game and becoming really good at it, making Legend the last four months. Both players talked about how similar Hearthstone is to poker since both require a great deal of strategy to win and both have enough randomness that sometimes even a beginner can beat a veteran.
They both said that they don’t really have the time to play Hearthstone primarily because of how the ladder system works and how it takes a lot of grinding every single month if you are to be at Legend. If time wasn’t such an issue, they would want to try and play in the World Championship (although they wouldn’t do it for the money since poker players make, well, a tad more money than Hearthstone pros). The article concludes by saying that with all the Blizzard Championships concluding this week, Blizzard has a clean slate to change stuff for the future.
Hearthstone Producer Yong Woo Talks a Bit About Deckslots and More
Woo gave an interesting interview over at HearthPwn and talked a bit about deckslots. Woo’s role now is to help the team prioritize future features and content. He says the team’s aware that players are tired of hearing about how new decks slots are still in progress, but they felt that having a long list of deck slots wasn’t the right way to handle it, especially for younger players. If all they cared about was getting players deck slots, they would have found a way to do it already; they know players aren’t dumb and can handle more deck slots. They are hoping that once they add more deck slots, people will realize why it took the extra time to get out. Personally, he doesn’t think it would be right for them to add new deck slots as an IAP, but that’s his opinion.
He says they are trying to add more Class Portraits to help get more diversity into the game and let people connect with different heroes that they really like. Players should expect more hero portraits to be added to the game. He then talked about how they’ll need to make sure players don’t get overwhelmed by the constantly-growing pool of cards. They should be looking for ways to help newer players accelerate their collections, and Tavern Brawls are one of the ways for that (which is why the mode offers Classic packs). They are going to continue adding more quests to help players get more packs in more ways.
As for the Tournament System, they are having a problem coming up with specialized names for what it could be and how it should play; should it have lobbies were you sit around and wait to play the next game, should it be 8 players, would be it conquest format? Waiting around for others to finish their games isn’t the best and it goes against Hearthstone’s philosophy of having the game be a game you play around your life. They know that players want a more hardcore system to complete against each other in a short time rather than the grind of Ladder. So they aren’t ignoring this mode, they are just trying to figure out the best way to go about it.
Expect to have more content in the future (of course), but don’t expect it to always be announced in the same way in terms of ways to purchase and time between announcement and release. Some members of the team are already working on future content. If you want to seem all of the interview points, go here.
Hearthstone Community Manager Addresses Frequently-Voiced Complaints
Recently, many Hearthstone players have been complaining more than usual about the game to the point where Christina Sims (aka Zeriyah), Hearthstone Community Manager, decided to address several of them in a Reddit post. The concerns she was responding to were that cards aren’t being changed enough, devs aren’t doing anything, and the game’s buggy. Regarding card changes, Zeriyah reiterated the line Blizzard has taken from the beginning of the game; the developers want you to feel that you are holding a physical collection of cards, and frequently changing card stats or abilities ruins that feeling. Other TCG/CCGs ban or change cards, but they won’t come to your house and change the cards you already own, which is how a change of a Hearthstone card feels like.
Also, Blizzard doesn’t want to confuse newer players who think that a card works this way only to find out tomorrow that it now works in a different way even though it looks exactly the same. To the complaint that the developers aren’t doing anything, Zeriyah responded by saying that there’s a lot of work being completed daily that hasn’t been rolled out to the public yet and so she can’t talk about. However, this year was quite busy in terms of content produced, so they are definitely working hard. As for the bugs, she said they address hundreds of issues each patch even if those fixes aren’t included in the patch notes.
Kotaku Claims Hearthstone Has Serious Balance Issues
In a story in Kotaku, Jason Schreier talks about the current state of the game, pointing out the current ladder issues. In the past we had Miracle Rogue, then Patron Warrior, and now, of course, Secret Paladin (or Christmas Tree Paladin as I often call the deck). The story talks about the Secret Paladin deck and how the general consensus is that it’s overpowered. The writer talks about how Blizzard is probably fine with the meta moving in cycles of dominance, but many fans are asking why we can’t have smaller and more frequent balance updates. So, nothing we haven’t heard before but another indication of the frustration among some players regarding the state of the game.
Hearthstone Has 40 Million Players Now
During Activision’s Investor Day, the company announced that Hearthstone now has reached 40 million players, up 10 million from the 30 millions players the game in May. The company didn’t go into details on how much money those 40 million players are spending on the game, but I would have to assume it’s plenty. I think this growth is important becomes it comes in sharp contrast with the assertion by some players that the game is losing players and that the developers aren’t doing anything to change that. If nothing else, the game is becoming more broadly popular, and I don’t see this trend ending any time soon especially after seeing how fun and welcoming The League of Explorers looks.
Could Hearthstone Have Cash Prizes in Its Future?
A Guardian story brought up an interesting point relating to Activision acquiring King this past week. The writer talks about how King’s foothold in “skill-based gaming," where players pay a fee to compete in online tournaments for cash prizes, might have something to do with Activision acquiring King. There’s a chance that Activision might push Hearthstone into the skill-based gaming sector, which might add another incentive to committed players to spend money to ensure revenues remain consistent when more casual players start to drift away. Not everyone sees Activision going that way with Hearthstone, but this was an interesting possible (though perhaps improbable) aspect of the Activision-King deal.
This Week’s Tavern Brawl Was (Finally) The Co-Op Brawl
I don’t think many will disagree with me when I say that this week’s Tavern Brawl, United Against Mechazod, was the best one ever. I had a blast playing it numerous times both with friends and strangers, and it was highly entertaining trying for the first time to help the guy across the board from me. In this Brawl the Boss was a 2 Attack 95 Health Taunt minion that changed sides each turn while blasting both players and their minions. Each player had a pre-made deck, and the two decks had some great synergies, forcing players to work together if they were to take down the boss. This was definitely a very well-made Brawl that forced players to see the game different and “forced" Blizzard to come up with new mechanics that, I’m sure, will find their way into the game at a later date. And, in a first, players got a pack regardless if they won or not as long as they were playing on the random queue.
The New Hearthstone World Champion is … (Spoilers)… Ostkaka!
After a fantastic series of games, we have our new Hearthstone World Champion, and it’s not ThijsNL as many had predicted before the start of BlizzCon; it’s Swedish player Ostkaka! Ostaka beat the Shaman Master, Pinpingho, 3-1 in the quarterfinals, ThijsNL 3-2 in the semis in a fantastic series and a fantastic display of topdecking, and then pretty much demolished Hotform in the final 3-0. While APAC players were the majority of the players in the playoffs, only Kno managed to make it to the Semis where he lost a tight 3-2 series to Hotform. ThijsNL looked like he was going to stay out of the semifinals in his series with Kranich, but his skills shown through on a few occasions and showed us why many thought he would be the one to take the crown this year.
The ThijsNL Vs Ostaka semifinal is the type of match I would show to people who aren’t into Hearthstone so they can see how exciting the game can be when played at such a high level. There were so many good moments in that game including Ostaka pinging his own face with his Mage power to take his health down to 10 and not let ThijsNL pop his Ice Barrier and kill him in the next turn (ThisNL did just that in the turn after that, but it was still glorious). Ostaka was saved by a great last-chance Alexstrasza topdeck that sealed the match, and overall showed incredible skill and very clever plays in a series where his opponent was equally skilled.
The Finals were not as exciting, though. Ostaka brought Mage, Rogue, and Warrior, while Hotform brought Mage, Rogue, and Druid. At almost no point was Ostkaka under serious threat and he won all the matches the series, one of them with a great Grommash Hellscream topdeck. Ostaka was visibly shocked at becoming the World Champion, and most of those watching the World Championship agreed that he was a worthy one. The question is whether he’ll be the first back-to-back Champion ever or whether we’ll see him not make BlizzCon 2016 like Firebat this year. I will have more on the World Championship next week when the dust has settled. For now, here’s a link to all the decks used from the Final 8.
The Special BlizzCon Challengstone Was Fun
In honor of BlizzCon and the Hearthstone World Championship, Kripparian, Tempostorm, and underflowR organized a very fun Challengestone that once more put deckbuilding skills to the test. The players invited for this special Challengestone were Frodan, Savjz, Amaz, and Kibler, and the challenge was that each deck had to include at least 10 WOW raid boss cards, but no Big Game Hunter. Each contestant had to build 3 decks in 25 minutes. As you can guess from the challenge’s parameters, we were in for some fun decks. Amaz first built a Druid deck with high value late game (like Onixyia, Kel’thuzad, Ragnaros). Then he went with Priest but kept away from Dragons other than Nefarian. Again, he went with high value minions for late game. He teched in Nat Pagle and Mindgame because of the slow meta. His last choice was Paladin with cards like Seal of Champions, Muster for Battle, etc, and finished that deck with Dr. Boom, Ragnaros, Kel’Thuzad, and Nefarian.
Kibler built a Priest first and, of course, filled it up with Dragons. His low curve had cards like Eydis, Fjola, and Twilight Whelp. His second deck was a Paladin control deck filled with big minions. His third class was a Mage deck filled with big dragons and spells to help him take advantage of the control meta. Savjs first built a Dragon Priest with strong early game, then a Warrior deck with plenty of removal and cheap spells and weapons, and double Brawl. His last deck was Dragon Mage with plenty of freeze cards and secrets. Frodan also built a Dragon Priest like Savjz but with more Priest-y spells. He also built a Rogue deck with plenty of cheap spells, and then a Midrange Shaman.
When all was said and done deckbuilding-wise, Kibler faced Amaz and couldn’t prevail, losing 2-1 after winning the first match. The other semifinal was a mirror image in a way with Frodan winning game 1 against Savjz but then losing the other two and the series. In the final, Amaz and Savjs managed to go 2-2 before Amaz’s Dragon Mage took the last game, the series, and the crown of Challengestone Champion. Go here if you want to read a play-by-play of all the matches.
Hearthstone Insomnia Truesilver Championship
Multiplay has announced the first major Hearthstone tournament that will take place at the NEC, Birmingham, UK. The tournament will take place between the 11th and 13th of December, and the prize will be a share of $30,000. Eight of the best pro players will be invited to play and they will be joined by six players coming in through a live LAN qualifier on Friday, December 11th. The qualifier will be open to all Insomnia56 BYOC attendees. The two additional spots will be available through an online qualifier taking place at the end of November. In a cool move, those players who don’t make the cut will be invited to play in the regular Insomnia Hearthstone Cup.
Trying to write a Meta report after this past weekend is probably the trickiest task ever. Considering we’ve just had the World Championship and knowing that there’s a new Adventure coming out in a few days, who knows what the meta looks like right now? Everyone’s already looking at the upcoming cards and trying to figure out what will fit where and whether new archetypes will appear once League of Explorers hits. What we do know for sure after the World Championship is that Patron Warrior stood strong and beat pretty much any deck it faced, Secret Paladin got walloped, Aggro decks didn’t have much luck with Control and Midrange faring better, and so on. Overall, this week might be the time when the meta is at its most unstable and fluid, so go take advantage of it.
Random Moments #6
Disguised Toast LOE Preview
Epic Plays #87
Why Explorer’s Hat is Awesome
Best of Millhouse Manastorm
StrifeCro’s Game of the Week #4
Epic Animated Legendaries #33
Sjow Reviews League of Explorers Cards
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.