We can’t often call an announcement a total game-changer, but this week’s news about Hearthstone (Free) easily rank as the most important news about the game since its launch. I have a very strong hunch that you’ve heard of all the huge changes coming to the game in the next few months and how those changes will change Hearthstone as we know it. We’ll have format changes in almost all the modes, cards will go and cards will change, and the whole game will feel different. The format changes should greatly affect the meta, and the yearly rotation of cards should make Hearthstone feel fresher and avoid the ruts it’s often stuck in during those post-expansion/adventure periods.
Many players – casuals and pros – have had a nagging feeling that playing the game was becoming increasingly predictable, and now everyone’s hoping that these changes will make the game more consistently fun for older players and more welcoming for newer players. Because of this week’s news, my column today will be all about Blizzard’s announcement, the effect it will have on the cards we play and the way we play, and the community’s reactions. So, let’s dive in.
Blizzard Announces “A New Way to Play"
For most people, Blizzard’s announcement came out of the blue. In the video below, Ben Brode explains how Hearthstone will be split into two, the Standard format and the Wild. The Standard will only have decks built solely from a pool of cards released in the current and previous calendar years, along with a core foundation of the Basic and Classic card sets (which will remain in Standard Mode). According to the devs, Standard will help bring a more dynamic and balanced metagame, a select set of cards will make each card have more impact, developers will have more freedom to design exciting new cards, and new players can jump in without having to collect as many cards. Standard will be available only in Friendly Challenges, Ranked, and Casual Play.
Wild, on the other hand, will have all the cards released in the game, which will make for some crazy broken decks and some crazy games. So, this side of the Hearthstone world will offer a very different experience from Standard. When you queue up for Ranked or Casual play with a Wild deck, you’ll get matched with other Wild decks. Arena will always be Wild, which makes sense given that that mode is already imbalanced. You’ll be able to choose between Standard and Wild for Ranked play, and you’ll have different ranks for each. However, you’ll only collect ranked rewards for your highest rank, not for both.
The other major change will be a round of probably pretty big nerfs on Basic and Classic card sets to remove some of the problematic cards of the game. We’ll have more info on the nerfs as we draw nearer the arrival of Standard. Finally, we’ll get those deck slots we’ve always wanted; Blizzard will give players another 9 decks slots to fit all those Standard and Wild decks. The Year of the Kraken, which is how the inaugural Standard year will be known as, will arrive at some point in Spring. And when it does, say bye bye to Curse of Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes cards, something I’m very happy about. If you want to check out the whole announcement, including the FAQ, go here.
Ben Brode Addresses Wild and Standard Format Concerns
Lead designer, Ben Brode, decided to take to Twitter to tackle many of the community’s questions regarding the upcoming changes. He talked about the format changes, rotating sets, reprinting cards, balance changes, keeping unopened packs, adventures being available for purchase, and more. There are quite a few tweets to read that should clarify many of your questions, so check it out here.
Touch Arcade and Other Media/Streamers Met With Blizzard To Talk Card Rotation
As we wrote the day of the announcement, Blizzard invited Touch Arcade and various other media/streamers in a super secret meeting at its Volcano lair to present to them the developers’ vision of the future of Hearthstone. Blizzard wanted to see how they all felt about the changes and how they thought their communities would take the news. In this story, Eli also goes into all the changes from the perspective of a long-time Magic player, so this story will give you a different perspective on the changes from most other opinions on the internet. Go here to check out the whole story.
The Rise of Digital Scarcity
This Ars Technica story raises an interesting point regarding Blizzard’s move. Back in the day, cards had to go out of circulation because of technical reasons, but with no technical reason for Hearthstone cards to go out of print, Blizzard is introducing a time-limited scarcity even if we are at a time of functionally-limitless store shelves of online games (and cards). While the article sees these changes as good from a gameplay perspective, the writer also sees these changes as making it harder for newcomers to be competitive in Standard because it will be hard for those not spending crazy money on the game to build a strong-enough collection in one year. The story raises some interesting points about the new formats (and about digital gaming in general), and if you want to read the whole thing, go here.
Tempo Storm Talks Standard/Wild and Guesses When the Changes Will Come
In this story, Tempo Storm’s writers first introduce all the changes in pretty much the same way as most other writers have, but then go on to talk about how these changes will affect the professional side of the game and, specifically, tournaments. Tournaments will only use Standard decks, which might bring some inconsistency to the 2016 championship tour. They also try to guess when the mode might become active based on some of the provided evidence, and their guess is…this Tuesday, with the next expansion coming after the Winter Championship. Read the whole story here.
What Each Class is Losing When Standard Hits
GosuGamers put together an article discussing the rotation of class cards from GvG and Naxx and how those might affect each class. Druid won’t be losing anything because current competitive decks use mostly classic, basic, BRM, and LoE cards. Rogue’s losing Tinker’s Sharsword Oil, which takes away some of the class’ burst damage so Oil Rogue is going bye bye. Shaman loses Crackle, Neptulon, and Powermace, with the first being quite an important loss. Go here if you want to check out all the classes, but in general, Mage will take a beating as will Warlock and, most of all, Paladin.
Year of the Kraken Big Winners
Just as some cards will go away when Standard hits, some cards should see much more play. According to the Shacknews story, Coldlight Oracle, Auchenai Soulpriest, Effigy, Cairne Bloodhoof, and Malygos should shine in the Year of the Kraken. check out the whole list here.
How Standard Format Affects the Top Decks
HearthHead has a story about how the Standard mode will affect the top decks. Secret Paladin will possibly go away and give its place to more of a midrange Paladin, since it’s losing almost half the deck. Midrange Druid won’t lose much unless the upcoming nerfs really hit some of its core cards, Zoo will lose some cards but should be able to replace them, Freeze Mage should survive, and Patron Warrior should get another substantial hit after the Warsong Commander nerf. Go here to check out the story.
8 Cards that Won’t Annoy Us in Standards
Well, if you hate Dr. Boom, this story is for you. The Escapist put together a list of 8 annoying cards that won’t be around anymore. This is a pretty predictable list with the likes of Piloted Shredder, Sludge Belcher, and, of course, Dr. Boom. Check out the whole list and the reasons behind each pick here.
The Biggest Hurdles for the Standard Format
GosuGamers has a story on the problems Standard will face, and it’s quite an interesting read. The first issue is too few cards in Standard as it stands. Magic has a thousand new cards a year while Hearthstone released 208 in 2015. The rumor is that expansions will be much bigger from now on, but we’ll see. The other issue is that many of the synergies won’t work anymore since some cards will be left isolated on the wrong side of the format divide. Also, some of the cards that need to leave Standard will stay, and they might still cause problems. Finally, there’s the sense of lost progress since it will feel like Blizzard has to reinvent the wheel.
The Impending Irrelevance of Casual Mode
Tempo Storm wrote a story tackling what they see as the impending irrelevance of the Casual mode. They see that all the reasons that bring players to Casual mode also work against motivating most people to play it. The issue is that it’s hard to have a fun game mode that’s also competitive, so the players who only want to play for fun have a hard time finding a space to do so. Without any of the changes the writer proposes, Casual mode might be in trouble because who would want to play it? Those who are looking just to play for fun will bump into all the competitive players either grinding quests or testing out decks. Check out the video below for a more detailed analysis of what they see as the issues of Casual mode.
Hearthstone‘s Massive Change is not a Cash Grab
Forbes put out a story that seeks to counter the assumption that these changes are all about Blizzard making more money. According to the writer, these changes were essential at this point of the game’s lifecycle and solve many of the problems either plaguing the game now or would do so in the future. Some of those problems is the meta getting stale for too long, players feeling that they are behind the curve all the time, the impossibility to balance a meta that has too many cards, and so on. Check out the whole list of reasons why this isn’t a cash grab here.
If you want to see how many of the top pros, streamers, and members of the community feel about the changes, check out these videos.
New Format Change Everything
New Format Changes with Warshack
New Rotation Announcement and Card Evaluation
Huge Changes Coming
What to Do Until Standard Format
Talking Format Changes
20 Powerful Cards Retiring in Standard
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, although with all the changes coming up, we might need to update everything.