Old Gods, New Tricks?

(Editor’s Note:  The 2 Guys Gaming have a hate/slightly less intense hate relationship with Hearthstone.  I will try to keep that bias out of this article, but like the rage that I often feel after only a few games, it may infect the article in slow and steady waves until any semblance of joy is crushed under that weight of despair and hopelessness.  How’s that for hype?)

I finally got so fed up with Hearthstone that I deleted it from my phone a couple of weeks ago.  This is not a new reaction.  I’ve deleted it from the my computer a couple of times and my tablet at least once.  I say “at least once” because the game is not currently installed, but I have this strange habit of reinstalling the game a week or two after deletion.  I can’t remember if I did that on the tablet or not.  Ultimately, I suppose that it doesn’t matter other than several of you reading most likely have similar stories to tell.

It’s not like this phenomenon is unique to Hearthstone for me.  I’ve written in the past that I have a similar history with another Blizzard game, World of Warcraft.  I take extended breaks from that one, for as long as two years once, and periodically check in to see how the latest expansion has changed the game.  WoW is different, though.  I have a history and emotional attachment to the game that I don’t have with Hearthstone.  Nevertheless, a new expansion was released for Hearthstone a little over a month ago and it brought me running back with promises of a new game play experience.

The game also promises tentacles. Lots of tentacles. I've seen enough of those kinds of movies to know where this is going.
The game also promises tentacles. Lots of tentacles. I’ve seen enough of those kinds of movies to know where this is going.

That’s not to say that I don’t have a history with Hearthstone.  I was part of the last wave of closed beta invites after they made the announcement that they were not going to wipe accounts.  Granted, I’m a completely free to play account, but if you started playing today, I have a considerable head start in terms of collection.  Skill and determination?  Maybe not so much.  I suppose that none of this is entirely relevant to the point of this article than to draw comparisons and provide a little background.  So, then, what is this elusive point of this article?  Well, as I mentioned, Hearthstone released an expansion and I’ve come to report what’s changed.

I’m sure by now that you’ve read dozens of articles about the new expansion.  As usual, I’m going to try to give a different perspective.  If you’re like me and not great at the game, sometimes prone to fits of rage due to the random nature of it, and slightly embarrassed by that second fact, is there any reason to return to the game for Whispers of the Old Gods?  Well, the short answer is no.

In general, I like to start with the bad news.  But, since I’m making the argument against spending your time and potentially hard earned money on Hearthstone, I will start with the good this time.  Yes, in spite of my overall negative attitude about the game, I can still find some positives.  There have to be reasons that I keep coming back other than force of habit and addiction.  Right?

Yo, y'all got more of that Hearthstone? I'm just asking for a friend.
Y’all got more of that Hearthstone?  Just asking for a friend.

Free Packs! (Plus a somewhat worthless Legendary card)

Blizzard isn’t helping the case against addiction.  They give you 3 free packs for logging back into the game.  You also get a copy of C’Thun, a legendary card.  While that might seem impressive, C’Thun is unplayable by himself and requires other cards to buff it into a formidable adversary.  But, hey, this is the plus part of the article (and there’s not many plusses, so we’ll keep it positive as long as possible).

You also get two dorks that buff C’Thun, so it’s a start.  As two final rewards, if you can get a total of 9 Standard wins (not an easy feat, especially if it is during the try hard portions of the season), you can get 10 additional packs.  Hey, it’s something if you can stitch together the wins.  Plus, free is free, so it’s worth a shot.

A “Wild” New Mode to Play

The real reason for this update on a game that neither one of us plays or likes all that much is that it, at least nominally, fundamentally changes the way the game is played.  Noticing that both the stagnation of the meta and power creep were becoming very real, Blizzard introduced Standard mode and limited the card pool.

I’m not entirely sure how the sets rotate with each new season.  Thankfully the program keeps track of all of that for noobs like me and I don’t have to spend brain power.  After all, I am a little slow.  I have to periodically check http://whatsinstandard.com/ to keep up with MtG Standard.

All of that aside, I’m much more of a Legacy player when it comes to card games.  I just don’t like limiting myself to the latest few sets.  Give us the most powerful cards in the game and let’s go at it.  Blizzard calls this mode “Wild”.  Aside from the silly (but accurate because I’ve seen some crazy decks) name, it give me an opportunity to continue to use all of the OP cards that I’ve grown accustomed to playing during my time in Hearthstone.

Seriously, does this guy even need a caption? Played in every deck for ever and always drawn on curve.
Seriously, does this guy even need a caption? Played in every deck for ever and always drawn on curve as long as you aren’t me.

Okay, that’s the good news…

Blizzard Balance

People often ridicule Blizzard’s ability to properly balance their games and with good reason.  Every round of buffs and/or nerfs in their games either creates a class of super powered beings or renders another group so inept as to make you wonder how they don’t kill themselves with their own weapons.  Often, they accomplish both in the same update.

I wasn’t around for the initial rounds of balancing cards, so I’ve never seen a card buffed, if it has indeed ever happened.  I have seen some nerfs that have taken cards from staples to unplayable, though.  The latest round of cards to be changed reads like a newspaper article about a massacre of a bus load of orphans after they all survived the bus crashing into a fireworks store.  All of them were necessary, even if some of them were strange.  My goodness, Blizzard wound up and swung for the fences with that nerf bat.

Won't someone please think of the orphans?
Won’t someone please think of the orphans?

In addition, this set introduced new cards, of course.  However, the power level of some of those cards is in question.  Hearthstone doesn’t experience the same buff/nerf cycles of WoW, but it certainly sees its share of the nerf bat followed by unexplained release of more OP cards.  I suppose that the thinking now is that they will only be live for one season, so it isn’t as bad.  Honestly, who the hell knows what Blizzard is thinking half the time?

Your new doctor. Or, should I say doctors. 3 mana to call one of them by random, so of course it is 8 mana to get all 3. *shrug*
Your new doctor. Or, should I say doctors. 3 mana to call one of them by random, so of course it is 8 mana to get all 3. *shrug*

About that Meta Shift

Blizzard talked a lot about how the meta had become stale and that Standard would fix that by limiting the pool of cards, which is a logical leap that I can’t make.  Sure, at the beginning of the season, things will adjust a bit as people test new cards.  Then, once they’ve found the ones that work, they will fit them into the old deck archetypes that have already been established.

That’s exactly what happened this time.  Some “new” decks have surfaced, but they’re really just old decks with tweaked strategies thanks to new cards.  However, the top played deck is still zoo Warlock because being able to draw 2 cards and flood the board every turn is good.  Who knew, right?

The Verdict:  The update hasn’t changed much.  The Standard meta is still full of brainless face decks.  Wild is only slightly more varied, but I have seen some interesting stuff in there at least.  I haven’t played Arena yet, but that place is always random, so if you’re looking for a challenge and some weird stuff happening, I guess you can always see how that’s changed.  Though, a recent unscientific poll revealed that Mage, Paladin, and Rogue are still top selections, so I guess it’s a “more things change” scenario all around.