This was a very interesting week in the world of Hearthstone (Free) since we had some huge news that should change Hearthstone‘s competitive play dramatically. The big news of the week was Blizzard announcing the 2016 Hearthstone World Tour format, and the changes were many and important. Most of them were greeted with satisfaction by many of the pros, so it looks like Blizzard has its ear to the ground when it comes to the direction it wants to take Hearthstone. Add to that the quadrupling of the prize, and you can see how Blizzard is signaling to everyone that it’s taking Hearthstone‘s esport future seriously. The other big news was the DreamHack Winter 2015 tournament, the first big tournament for the 2016 Hearthstone World Tour. As we’ll see later, DHW tried a different format than most other Hearthstone tournaments, and from the looks of it that move was a resounding success. As for the state of the meta, well, it’s really in flux at the moment, that’s for sure.
Hearthstone Designer Talks Inspire Mechanic
Many of us have already written off the Inspire mechanic (with Discover getting much more attention) because most of the minions weren’t that powerful and were also too slow at the time. A commenter wrote on Reddit that the Inspire minions were left underwhelming intentionally because a good inspire minion is a minion that costs two more mana than its printed cost, is a card that has strength at least equal to a battlecry minion, and has the ability to snowball very heavily, making it very tricky to balance. So, he’s glad they didn’t print good neutral inspire minions. Discover on the other hand, he continued, is a mechanic that was both designed and balanced for competitive play.
iksar, a Hearthstone game designer, responded to this comment by saying that part of what the original poster said is true. Inspire made sense for the set flavor-wise, but it does indeed translate pretty directly to snowball-games when it works. Kodorider, for example, is a fun card, but you wouldn’t want a world where that card is A+ tier and the control meta depends on who can play their Kodorider first. He prefers cards like Nexus-Champion Saraad that don’t always translate into snowballing, but they are still exciting.
For him, Inspire is probably the most powerful mechanic in Hearthstone if you just translate what it does into value because gaining resources permanently for free is quite powerful. Don’t count Inspire out yet, he concluded, because there’s a long future ahead. So, from the looks of it, we’ll be getting more Inspire cards in the future. I think now that the meta seems to be slowing down (thanks Reno!), Inspire cards might make a comeback because they can be quite powerful if you have time to actually play them.
The 2016 Championship Tour Will Look Quite Different
Blizzard dropped some big news mid-week, announcing how this year’s Championship Tour will play out. Firstly, we’ll have four tournaments – three Season Championships and one Last Call Invitational per region – to determine who will make it to BlizzCon. This new plan will result in more local champions and probably more stories that should get fans more invested in the Tour. Another big change is that invited players will not have instant byes in Hearthstone majors but will start in the same round as all players. That way, Blizzard hopes there will be a more even playing field. Blizzard will also organize more Fireside Gatherings that will serve as the setting for the Season Preliminaries leading into the Season Championships with the hope that more fans will get to see the pros play live.
Also, and this might be the biggest change, point distribution has been rebalanced with top placing players in a given event receiving fewer points than the lower placing players and with every player who achieves Legend Rank getting points.The tournaments should also have a bigger format variety since Blizzard plans to iterate and improve on the match format and encourages event organizers to be more creative with their formats. And, finally, the prize pool for the Hearthstone World Championship jumped up to one million dollars (from a quarter of a million), with a $100,000 prize pool for each of the nine Season Championships in the America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific regions. As you can tell, these changes are pretty huge, and from what I could see on Twitter, most pros were very excited to hear about them, which bodes well for the sport.
Coming First on the Ladder Now as Valuable in Points as Winning a Major Tournament
This PC Gamer story talks about how huge the Ladder is now and how much more it counts in terms of HWC points. Coming first on the ladder will grant you 15 points, the same amount of points as winning the largest non-championship tournaments. This change opens up opportunities for those Hearthstone players who can’t travel to tournaments but are consistently excellent on Ranked. Of course, there’s no money prize for coming first on Ladder, and it isn’t an easy thing either because of the competition; but at least now it’s a possibility. As the writer says, it makes the dream of going from playing in your room to playing in a tournament more of a real possibility. Hopefully this change will bring many new players to the tournament scene and spice up the competition.
Pros React to Championship Tour Changes
After such big changes, everyone turned to Twitter to see the pros’ reactions since they are the ones affected the most from the changes. Overall they are very happy, some calling the new point system the best thing’s that’s happened to the game. JAB is very excited about the point system for 2016, and Rdu called the new point format the best thing that happened to competitive Hearthstone. Xixo feels that this year the good players instead of the big names will get rewarded, a sentiment echoed by KitKatz, who said that the Blizzcon slots will have to be earned rather than being gift wrapped based on popularity, GnimshTV thought the new approach is brilliant, and Gaara is super hyped for next year’s Blizzcon. So, as you can see, everyone’s excited. We’ll see, of course, how they’ll feel in a few months.
Blizzard Liked Conquest, but Wanted to Rebalance the Points System
In an interview over at GosuGamers, Mike Donais and Derek Sakamoto talked about the competitive side of Hearthstone. The designers claim that Conquest was a good format because it did what it was supposed to do, allow us to see a large variety of decks. The writer of the article disagrees with this assertion since many pros have blamed Conquest for the extinction of creative deckbuilding instead of promoting deck diversity. Donais also talked about the point system and acknowledged that not many could follow the points by the end of the year. He also didn’t like the ratio of points gathered from tournaments and ladder, which is why they adjusted it. If you want to hear more about how the point restructuring should help the Tour, listen to the podcast below.
Behind The Reno Jackson Hype
A Tempostorm article tries to look behind the Reno Jackson hype. Reno, the League of Explorers Legendary that brings you back to full health if your deck contains no more than 1 of any card, has taken the meta by storm as few cards have in the past. The card costs only 6 mana, which is partly why it has found a place in any deck that aims to stop Aggro decks, and has very decent stats that make it a good minion to put on the board. The article compares Reno to Mysterious Challenger because they are both very powerful but require a specific kind of deck to really be effective. Decks like Renolock, a Warlock deck with no duplicates, ensures you’ll get the Reno effect but also makes your deck inconsistent and makes you depend on your draws a lot.
Some players say that Reno is not really that powerful, others have said it’s too powerful, and others say it’s fine. The article sees it as very powerful but not too powerful because many decks can play around Reno. Yes, it can create unwinnable situations, but for the deck to do so, it has to sacrifice consistency. Creating a strong board with big attack minions can really hinder a Reno deck because the once-off heal won’t do more than keep the opponent in the game for another two turns or so. Reno decks are easy to identify because of the large variety of cards they play in the early turns, and so they can be countered by going more aggressive or building a strong board early on.
Going forward, the writer of the article expects only the most consistent Reno decks to make an impact on the tournament scene. Existing decks like Freeze Mage will probably utilize the card with success. Overall he likes the card because it’s an incredibly powerful card that only a few decks can take advantage of, which is the mark of a great but not broken card. He does hope, though, but Blizzard won’t come out in the future with cards that make highlander decks more viable because then Reno might really break the meta.
A Reno Jackson Adventure
You can see the effect Reno has had on the game simply by how many people talk about him on the internet at the moment. ESL Gaming has an interesting review of the card, talking about how the digital nature of the game allows for a card like Reno to exist (having to check physical decks for the number of copies of each card during a match would be a nightmare). The card is so unique that it flew under everyone’s radar before release, but not anymore. The card has helped players come up with some great decks that are full of surprises for your opponent and full of crazy combos. He eliminated the fear of direct damage because as long as you are outside OTK range, you are safe. This card is so good because it changes the way players can play the game and allows players to be more reckless than usual.
You could try the card yourself if you’ve made it through the League of Explorers first Wing. Just toss 29 cards together with Reno and see what happens; if played correctly (and if Reno is drawn at a relatively-reasonable moment), you should be able to beat most Aggro decks at least. The writer expects Reno to be an important fixture of Hearthstone’s Ladder because of the new elements it brings to the game.
Trump Talks LoE, HWC 2015 and More
In an interview over at Hearthead, Trump shared his pearls of wisdom with us. He said he enjoyed all the moments in the HWC 2015 where he would have done one thing but saw players do another because those were learning moments for him. He feels that the Warsong Commander nerf has made the game better because it shifted the types of decks that were viable to a more minion-focused game. But he feels there was a better way to go about the nerf. As for Mysterious Challenger, he sees it as a brainless deck (because the best plays and cards are too obvious) but believes it can be easily beat.
He’s in favor of more frequent, smaller changes to cards rather than bringing the hammer down so hard and so rarely. As for LoE, he thought Reno Jackson would be his favorite card (before it became so popular) because it inspired the Control player in him, and feels that the new Warrior commons are going to help Warrior in the Arena a lot.
This Week’s Tavern Brawl Was Battle of Tol Barad
I’m very glad that this week’s Tavern Brawl was all about 0 cost spells because I had a spell-casting quest to complete. This week you had to build your own deck, and every time you played a minion, you got a spell of the same value as the minion but it cost 0 mana to play. So, as you can imagine, decks that have cards that synergize well with spell-casting reigned supreme. What many people also realized is the power of the Summoning Stone since it really won you the game when you started firing free spell after free spell. Overall, this was a fun Brawl and made for some fun moments. For instance, I got to play Astral Communion twice in a game, how often does that happen? Of course I lost that game, but I was going for the glory, not the rewards.
Tourney Purple is the DreamHack Winter 2015 Champion
In the first big tournament of the new season, Purple, a familiar face, triumphed, receiving $12,500 and the first WC points of the new season. The tournament went with a nine-round swiss, then the top 16 advanced to the playoffs, which were played as Best of 5 Last Hero Standing matches. The swiss mode was a big success, with many players praising how fresh it felt compared to other tournaments. After the Swiss round, Hoej was first with Purple right behind him. The rest of the top 16 included some big names, like Kranich, Orange, RDU, and AKAWonder, but also some less recognizable players.
Purple’s run through the elimination bracket wasn’t too difficult, dropping only 2 games on route to a 12-2 and the title. During the Swiss rounds, Purple played his Brann Malylock, but during the playoffs he pulled his Patron Warrior out. With this win, Purple is now 4th in the GosuGamers ratings only 4 points behind StanCifka. The tournament was a lot of fun and there was a good energy coming out of the whole thing, hopefully a sign of good things to come in the near future.
Hearthstone Team League With Open Qualifiers Coming in December
Well, this is an interesting league. According to this GosuGamers story, GamersOrigin will host the first Hearthstone team tournament with truly open qualifiers, which sounds like fun. Archon’s Team League was a great success (and gave us some fun stories), and now the French Organization GamersOrigin is stepping in to fill the gap between now and ATLC’s second season with the Super Brawl, launching in December. This League won’t go the invitational nature of ATLC but, instead, will feature an amateur division alongside the professional one. A maximum of 128 four-player teams will take part in the swiss round of the amateur one, but only four will emerge on the other side. Those four will go head to head with another four coming from the professional round-robin division. This is already setting up to have some great stories, I hope. Or maybe we’ll just learn how far ahead professional teams are.
Decklists of Champions
Now that the Hearthstone World Champion has been crowned, we can take a look at all the decks from all the competitors in the Final 16 stage. While the decks feel slightly outdated now because of the League of Explorers adventure effect, it’s always interesting to see how the top pros go about putting their decks together and which classes they considered the strongest (or most appropriate) at that moment in the meta. Seeing which territories went with which classes is also very interesting. Go here if you want to see all of the decks.
The latest Tempostorm Snapshot is all about the new Aggro Shaman deck that’s jumped from Tier 4 to top of Tier 2, a huge jump for the much-maligned class. There are two main version of Aggro Shaman – one a modified Mech Shaman created by Reynad – and while the deck doesn’t have many favorable matchups with Tier 1 decks, it’s still a developing deck. If it continues seeing so much success on Ladder, Aggro Shaman could rise to Tier 1 next week. Who would have thought that a few weeks ago? Aggro Mage and Flood Zoolock are two new Aggro decks that have joined the meta. Flood Zoolock is similar to older Zoo decks but throws many minions on the board. While Demon Zoolock is still more powerful, Flood is a good alternative.
Next week we are getting Sir Finley Mrrgglton, who could have a significant impact on Shaman and might finally raising that class’ effectiveness for good. Overall, though, the League of Explorers has been really meta-changing, at least in the short-term, which is great to see after many months of stale meta and many months of seeing the same decks on Ladder time after time. The variety and experimentation seen on the Ladder now can only mean good things for the current health of the game. If you want to look at the most popular decks of the week, go here and check them out.
Mysterious Challenger Drops the Beat
Top 5 Funny Fails and Lucky Moments #42
Epic Arena Highlights #2
Best Moments #10
Best of King Krush
Brann Bronzebeard Moments
Funny Reynad Highlights
Battlecry Shaman Experiment
Eloise Funny Plays
How to Counter Reno
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.