Tag: Hearthstone (page 1 of 3)

The Magic’s Back

I really wasn’t expecting to get back into Magic: The Gathering.

I’ve been a Hearthstone player for a while, now. And it did a decent job of scratching that CCG itch that started back in ’93 or so when I first picked up my first starter deck of Magic. The Warcraft theme and some of the design elements of Hearthstone still hold some appeal, but I can’t deny I often felt something was missing. I play EDH (Commander to you young ‘uns) with my father and brother-in-law on the holidays, but that wasn’t often enough to clear up my feelings.

Then I got into the Arena beta, and everything started to click.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think Hearthstone has its place. Mucking around in a Tavern Brawl or even playing a couple of games on the ladder is good while I’m waiting for coffee water to boil or if I’m sitting on the toilet. But knowing what I know now, I don’t think I’ll be playing it as often, nor will I be streaming it. It all comes down to a single word — interactivity.

I’m the sort of person who gets the most enjoyment out of a game when I’m working to anticipate the moves my opponent are likely to make. I want to set myself up for success. A non-interactive deck undercuts that enjoyment, and very few decks in Hearthstone feel interactive. I mean, it’s one thing for me or my opponent to have to work in order for a particular combo to go off; it’s another when I feel like I’m getting ground up in my opponent’s well-tuned piece of cardboard clockwork. Not to mention a few people I’ve played against in person who put together those sorts of decks have been incredibly smug about it.

To put it another way, there have been times when I’ve felt like I can just walk away from Hearthstone for a bit while my opponent takes their turn because there’s fuck-all I can do about whatever it is they’re doing or planning to do. Magic gives me the opposite feeling. In anticipating my opponent’s plays, and either having an immediate response in my hand or knowing I could be just one draw away from swinging the advantage back in my direction, I’m engaged from start to finish. I can plan ahead. My brain’s always working. And losses feel as earned as wins. “I have to watch for that next time, because this time X happened.” Sure, getting screwed or flooded by decks happens, but that’s different. At least, it feels different to me.

Among the other things that make me feel excited about the “fresh start” feeling I’ve been cultivating for a couple of weeks, the prospect of getting more into Magic, both in person and in Arena, has my brain aflutter with possibilities. Between setting up new decks to take with me this holiday and participating in more events locally, there’s something about Magic being a part of my life again that feels… right, for lack of a better term. Sure, it will take some time, and I’ll want to be more stable financially before I start making the more serious investments. But anything worth doing is worth taking the time to do right.

In the meantime, I’ll keep playing Arena and honing my skills. Even if that means I’m going to have keep playing burn for a while.

500 Words on Journey to Un’Goro

Courtesy Blizzard Entertainment

Part of having more bandwidth for games now that I have gainful dayjob employment has included a return to playing Hearthstone on a regular basis. The latest expansion, Journey to Un’Goro, drops this week, and I’m quite excited to see what it will bring. It’s already had a bunch of coverage, some absolutely fantastic promotional materials produced, and a bevy of cute art accompanies the cards. As someone who both loves to build decks, and has an eye on competition, I already have some first impressions of what this set brings, and what it will mean to the game as a whole.

Adaptation

The Discover mechanic introduced in the League of Explorers adventure is one of the best things to happen to Hearthstone. Adaptation is an extension this mechanic. Allowing you to adapt to an opponent’s strategy lends a great deal of flexibility to your deck, much as Discovery has until this point. Hearthstone’s designers like to key into the notion of ‘delightful surprise’, and Adaptation is a great example of this.

Elementals

A new grouping of minions — known as a “tribe” in the parlance of this sort of game — is the Elementals. Like Dragons and Murlocs, Elementals synergize with one another in interesting ways. Shamans already had a couple of Elementals, but now there are so many that we may actually see Elemental decks that ramp up for huge finishes with big minions.

Questing

Questing is essential to MMOs like World of Warcraft, but outside of the player’s quests that reward gold or packs, this mechanic hasn’t been seen in Hearthstone until now. Each class now has a Legendary spell that lays out some criteria. Complete the task, and you’ll be rewarded with a powerful minion, a portal to another realm, or a spell that gives you an extra turn. As impressive and bold as these spells are, it remains to be seen what impact they will have on…

The Changing Meta

For a long few months, a scant few deck types have defined the meta of Standard play. It’s been difficult to try new decks or find new ways around very powerful, solid decks. With the new expansion and the change of available cards in Standard, it’s my hope, and that of other players, that the meta is finally getting shook up. But Standard is not the only mode…

More Wild!

I used to regard Wild as more of a ‘sandbox’ mode, focusing mostly on the Standard meta. However, with so many things being relegating to Wild, from staples of the last rotation like Reno Jackson to long-standing all-stars like Sylvanas Windrunner, I will need to play more Wild for sure in the Year of the Mammoth.

I will be cracking open my many packs of Journey to Un’Goro this Saturday, and I invite you to come with me on the quest for exciting new decks! You can find my Twitch channel here, and follow my Twitter for updates, thoughts, and shenanigans. I’m definitely looking forward to this!

On Fridays I write 500 words.

Hearthstone For Beginners

Courtesy Blizzard Entertainment

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has been my go-to CCG for some time, now. I’ve coached by pros, and I have blatantly netdecked to gain ranks in the ladder. While I continue to chase the dream of achieving Legendary rank and possibly participating in tournaments, I’m happy to say that I’ve learned a great deal about playing competitive games in general and Hearthstone in particular. Hopefully, these tips will be helpful if you want to get into the game, play at a higher level, or just have more fun. By the way, most of these tips apply to Constructed play; I’m not a very good Arena player. I need a lot more practice, there.

Casual Mode Is Your Friend

If you’re aiming towards the higher rungs of the ladder, you may think that you should be playing Ranked mode as much as possible, all day, every day. However, I have found that this is not the case, nor should it be. A great deal can be learned from Casual, as well. Since it’s more of a melting pot, you’ll be up against all sorts of opponents, all sorts of decks, and it’s harder to predict what your opponent is going to do next. You learn to anticipate the unexpected, trust your own decks, and take failure a bit less seriously. And it’s a great place to try new decks. Speaking of which…

Don’t Be Afraid To Try New Decks

I’m guilty of having favorites. Paladin is probably my favorite class in Hearthstone, even though my corresponding character in World of Warcraft isn’t max level. My highest character in Azeroth is a Hunter, but Hunter tends to frustrate me in Hearthstone since so few Hunters play anything but decks that aim to beat face as quickly as possible. Anyway, my point is that even if you have a favorite class and a deck whose concepts you love (for example, my Rofladin deck that uses [Hobgoblin] and a bunch of adorable little minions), you shouldn’t be afraid to try out a deck in another class, even if it’s a class you don’t necessarily like for whatever reason. With the mutable nature of the meta-game, in terms of what decks are more efficient at producing wins, not to mention new cards you might earn from packs or solo adventures, it’s almost always a good idea to try something new. Take it into Casual and see what happens!

There’s No Shame In Netdecking

Especially when it comes to clamboring up that ladder, I would refer to the post I linked above when it comes to looking up decklists online. Inspiration and experimentation make for some very interesting and fun decks, to be certain, but if you’re looking to get yourself ahead, it’s good to remember that folks have been there before. My experience with using online resources for new, meta-friendly decks in Hearthstone has universally been a good one. HearthPwn user Sigma put together a fantastic Warlock deck that I love to play, but control decks can be hard to manage at lower ranks when everybody’s playing Face Hunters. Thankfully, Sigma also made The Angry Chicken is pretty much the go-to podcast about the game. The hosts are agreeable and knowledgeable, the information is up-to-date, the debates are intriguing, and the transitional audio cues are fantastic. I love tuning into that podcast. I think you will, too, if you’re into Hearthstone at all.

Sean “Day[9]” Plott has long taught people to be better gamers, with his exemplary attitude and informative commentary. He tells great stories, has a bunch of experience commentating and streaming games, and did I mention he’s a great Hearthstone player? You should absolutely tune into his stream, or catch up on his YouTube channel.

Hafu is another great Hearthstone streamer. She plays more Arena than Constructed, but her attitude is great and I love seeing more represtnation among gamers. I plan on tuning into her stream more often, and subscribing once I can afford to do so!

That’s about all I can think of in terms of getting the most out of your Hearthstone experience. If you want to see me playing the game, talking about how I play and (hopefully) applying all of the above, you can do so over on Twitch. I hope to see you there!

500 Words on Free-To-Play Games

Courtesy Supercell

I know there are a lot of people who consider “free to play” a dirty word. Or a dirty series of words. A dirty turn of phrase? Anyway, they don’t like it as a concept. And I can understand why: it sounds like a bait-and-switch. A game like League of Legends or Hearthstone or Jetpack Joyride or Clash of Clans is free to download, sure, and yes, there are ways to play that require zero financial investment. But to really compete, or even enjoy the game? Only the first hit’s free, friend.

There are a few instances where this is true. However, not every free-to-play game is pay-to-win. A bunch of folks on message boards will certainly contend that idea. “So-and-so is just pay-to-win bullshit,” regarding some of the games I’ve mentioned. But are they really? I can only speak to gaming experienced I’ve had personally, or am having, but I’d like to think that even with my own experiences, I can contend the points being made by others in a professional, semi-objective manner, without degenerating into name-calling and insults regarding someone’s mother.

League of Legends, and to a similar extent Heroes of the Storm, alleviate their barrier for entry (i.e. paying for the in-game characters players want to use) with a rotation of free characters that changes from week to week. On one level, this means that folks unwilling or unable to invest in the game always have something to try out. On another, it allows those with discretionary spending habits to try before they buy. One of the things I like about the store in Heroes of the Storm is that quick, helpful descriptions of each hero appear when you select them, including what role they fulfill, how they do their combat, and a general level of difficulty in playing them. It makes me more inclined to play the game, actually, since I have a notion of what I’m in for when I try someone out.

Hearthstone is happy to provide you with a brace of basic cards as soon as you get into the game for the first time. And while you might not think it possible, you can put together decks with these cards that actually win games, at least well enough on the ladder to earn you the monthly card back. Decks that have been constructed with Legendary minions and following guides do, in fact, lose to decks built with basic cards from time to time. Such is the nature of a card game with randomization elements like, say, shuffling.

As for the mobile games I’ve mentioned, money tends to get you acceleration rather than outright wins. You can achieve your goals for free, but it takes a long time. It’s more a test of patience than anything else. While I have yet to spend a dime on Clash of Clans, I’m also to a point that I want things like upgraded Barbarians and Wizards NOW, dammit. Blast you, Clash!

I totally blame Liam Neeson.



Goblinhearth vs. Gnomestone, Part 2

Courtesy Blizzard Entertainment

Picking up where things left off last week, we’re talking about the changes and updates to the classes that came from ‘Goblins vs. Gnomes’, and how I see the decks for those classes shaping up.

Rogue – A Pirate’s Life For Me!

Pirates, like mechs, have long been a subset of minions in Hearthstone without much in the way of support. You would occasionally see a gimmick deck built around the scurvy scalawags, but almost never on the ladder. ‘Goblins vs. Gnomes’ brings not only more pirate minions, but cards that benefit from you playing pirates. The [Ship’s Cannon] goes off every time a fresh pirate hits the table, and [One-eyed Cheat] disappears from view under the same circumstances. I still don’t know if there’s enough there for a competitive deck. However, with the addition of the [Salty Dog] and [One-eyed Cheat], there are more mid-game threats that a pirate crew can present.

I like pairing pirates with the Rogue because the Rogue is never without a weapon, and many pirates still operate best when a weapon is involved. While other classes do have weapons, the Rogue gets one from her hero power, meaning that pirates can almost always be at their best. Even in Casual games, when things are going well, you’ll be singing shanties in no time.

Shaman – Murlocs? Really?

Much like pirates, murlocs – the barely civilized species of amphibian beings found throughout Azeroth – had several minions with low casting costs, and even a Legendary leader in [Old Murk-Eye], but it was difficult to make things viable for a lasting game against competitive decks on the ladder. And, much like pirates, murlocs got some reinforcements in ‘Goblins vs. Gnomes’ with beefier minions. However, the biggest changes were exclusive to Shamans, with the [Siltfin Spiritwalker] who benefits from your murlocs being killed or sacrificed… and the elemental lord of water, [Neptulon].

Despite a hero power that always cranks out little minions in the form of totems, Shaman decks have tended towards control schemes, the Overload mechanic keeping their speed under control, for the most part. With the new murlocs, a Shaman deck can be a great deal more aggressive. My experiments with the deck I’ve built have proven it can be fun, but it doesn’t quite have the consistency to be truly competitive. Still, it never hurts to have a fully aggressive weapon in the arsenal.

Warlock – Demonology is totally a viable build, guys.

The above is a statement made within Hearthstone‘s inspiration, World of Warcraft. Warlocks have a sub-type of minions all to themselves, for the most part – demons. In Hearthstone, you can fill your deck with infernal minions, and Naxxramas added the [Voidcaller], which brings demons into play even more quickly. However, most Warlocks do not take this route.

A deck focused on demons would likely sit squarely in the middle between the aggressive (“Zoolock”) and late-game control (“Handlock”) variants that most people would be familiar with,if they are familiar with Hearthstone‘s competitive scene at all. As a “Demonology” deck is a more rare sight, it will be more difficult for opponents to predict your next move. There’s something to be said for that, what with season after season seeing variations on the same decks returning over and over again to the Legendary ranks. If you’re going to try and compete with this deck, however, I would recommend acquiring [Mal’Ganis] – he’s a potent threat that opponents need to address.

Warrior – Garrosh Is Still A Massive Dick

Of all of the classes in Hearthstone, I would venture to say that Warriors have changed the least since the advent of ‘Goblins vs. Gnomes’. While Warriors can field mechs or pirates like any other class, but there’s very little incentive to do so. The most effective Warrior decks are still control-flavored, favoring minions that buff you or your other minions when they are harmed.

The only two minions to really earn places in a competitive Warrior’s deck are the [Shieldmaiden] and the [Siege Engine], which bolster your armor and continue to put pressure on your opponent. Warriors already have an incredibly solid core for ladder-climbing, and if there’s any group of folks who subscribe to the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, it’s CCG players. I mean, look at the people who play Legacy in Magic: the Gathering!

(…please don’t hurt me, folks)


So what’s the future for Hearthstone? If ‘Goblins vs. Gnomes’ is any indication, the guys at Blizzard know what they’re doing when it comes to designing a cracking good card game. There’s an active community that is providing constant feedback, and tweaks are routinely being made to maintain balance between the classes and competitors as much as possible – looking at you, [Undertaker]. I’m still playing when I can, possibly live on Twitch… if people would be interested in watching, that is.

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