There are not enough worthwhile games in Hearthstone ladder

Lately, I have been losing my drive to play Hearthstone despite the new expansion and the interesting changes to the metagame that it has brought with it. I have reflected on this quite a bit and can clearly identify why I find it so hard to find the motivation to play, and the reason is the ladder system.

In this post, I will first elaborate on my personal experience on the ladder system and then move on to a more general level to see how the issues affect many kinds of players.

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Heroic Tavern Brawl – more gambling than competition

heroic-tavern-brawl

Yesterday, on 17th October 2016, Blizzard announced a different type of Tavern Brawl. While Tavern Brawl has usually been a casual experience with a special set of rules that rewards the players who win a game in it with one pack of cards each week, the Heroic Tavern Brawl running for the next week is a different type of experience.

In the announcement, Blizzard describes that the “Heroic Brawl is not for the faint of heart, and is a unique experience meant for the extremely competitive and experienced Hearthstone player” and that they “hope that our Heroic Brawl scratches the competitive itch of the players looking for a high risk, high reward experience.”

Let’s take a look at Heroic Tavern Brawl and see how competitive it really is.

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The 10 best digital card designs in Hearthstone

Hearthstone has been through a lot in the past couple of years. It finally gave rise to true digitalization of collectible card games, a market that has already surpassed physical collectible card games. At times Hearthstone has went overboard in using randomness enabled by the digital nature of the game, but there are also many examples of great digital card design in the game.

In this post, I’ll take a look at the best designs made possible, or at least significantly more convenient, by the digital nature of the game.

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Does Blizzard have what it takes to make Hearthstone a good competitive card game?

Game balance and card design are obviously key parts of making a good competitive card game, but in this post I will not discuss them. Instead, I want to take a look at processes and scheduling: the hardcore operations side of the equation.

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Review of Hearthstone balance changes for autumn 2016

2016_autumn_balance_yogg-saronIt is an exciting time to be a Hearthstone player. Yesterday, Blizzard announced a number of balance changes that will go live before the Last Call tournament, so we are looking forward to a new metagame in around one week!

The state of the game had become worrying. Yogg-Saron was a dominating force, especially in Druid, and the decks that could truly challenge it, Shaman (actually the most popular class) and Hunter, relied on ending the game before Yogg-Saron’s crippling effect. Warrior was the only truly competitive control deck, as it possessed an abundance of removal tools and the ability to gain a significant amount of armor on top of health, thus effectively having no health cap unlike other classes.

With the upcoming changes, however, hope has by and large been restored, and life looks better again. Let’s take a deeper look into the changes.

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Tinkmaster Overspark – a weapon against inevitability

Tinkmaster OversparkOnce upon a time, in the early days of Hearthstone, Tinkmaster Overspark was a superstar. The Classic set legendary minion that nowadays is a three-cost 3/3 with a battlecry to transform another random minion into a 5/5 Devilsaur or a 1/1 Squirrel (at random) used to have a 2/2 statline but the battlecry effect was targetable. As such, it was generally a superior form of silence.

Then, on 11 March 2014, Tinkmaster Overspark was nerfed to oblivion, or so we all thought. I was actually one of the many players who disenchanted their Tinkmaster Overspark, as it was no longer worth running over a simple silence effect.

However, times change, and with the nuances of the Standard format becoming more clear, Tinkmaster Overspark has already seen a slight return back to the metagame and there is every reason to believe that this gnome will see more play in the near future.

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The Hearthstone ladder is fundamentally broken – and how to fix it

HCT_2016_logoIt is not a rare sight to see competitive players complain about the ladder system in Hearthstone: it happens at the end of every season as the competition for those coveted top 100 spots is fierce, and perceived to be in in a large part a matter of luck in addition to skill.

In this post, I will examine the current ladder system, showcase why it is fundamentally broken for this particular environment, and propose an alternative model that could be used to fix it.

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On broadcasting large Hearthstone Swiss tournaments

Teams in HearthstoneDreamhack Summer 2016 Hearthstone Grand Prix, a huge 200-player open Swiss tournament, was played a week ago and broadcasted on Twitch. While the overall arrangements of the tournament were fairly good, the broadcast of the tournament was not exactly the epitome of hype and excitement. Typical breaks between matches lasted for 20-30 minutes with no content whatsoever.

Why does this happen and is there something that can be done about it to improve the broadcasts? The general consensus at the Dreamhack venue seemed to be that if the organizers had just thrown in a bunch of player interviews, everything would have been fine. I believe the situation is a bit more complicated than that though.

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What if Blizzard supported Hearthstone teams with sales of custom card backs?

Hearthstone cardbacksRecent days have seen quite some debate on the income available to players and teams from professional Hearthstone: Hearthlytics disbanded despite a competitive roster as they were not able to make ends meet and Orange left Archon as he wanted to take a different direction than the team – something generally interpreted as meaning that Orange wants to focus on competitive play and Archon has become more and more of a streaming organization as of late.

This is not new: Reynad has led Tempo Storm to the direction of streaming and content creation for a good while already, and after Ostkaka won Blizzcon in 2015 there were several discussions where people wondered why he was not making the most out of his win by streaming a lot to generate a steady source of income. Streaming, not competition, has been recognized as the most steady source of income available in professional Hearthstone.

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Chillmaw: Still unappreciated, still a core card in dragon decks

Chillmaw

Chillmaw received a mixed reception during its introduction in Hearthstone’s The Grand Tournament (TGT) expansion in autumn 2015. A card designed to challenge Patron Warrior as a seven mana 6/6 dragon with a deathrattle to deal three damage to all minions if you are holding a dragon, it saw modest play in Dragon Priest and even many Dragon Priest lists chose to not run it.

Let’s face it, Chillmaw is not a fancy legendary when compared to the dragon powerhouses such as Chromaggus, Nefarian, or Ysera. However, it seems to always find a spot in all dragon decks I build, whether Priest, Druid, or Warrior. It is also the card that I get the most inquiries about replacing – people are generally unwilling to craft Chillmaw as it does not do anything fancy at first sight.

Perhaps people should be more enthusiastic about crafting Chillmaw though, especially now with the Standard format making it more powerful than ever. Let’s take a deeper look.

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