(Editor’s Note: We know that you have become accustomed to our intense and burning hatred for all things Blizzard and Hearthstone. If so, this article might come as a shock to you. Please consult your doctor if you have a heart condition or are prone to fits of hysteria.)
Yes, it’s that time again when a not so young gamer’s heart turns to anger and frustration. Spring means a new Hearthstone expansion–as they’ve done away with adventures–and our “card review”. More often than not, “card review” means that I discuss new mechanics, get excited that control might finally become a viable option in the game, and then conclude that Hearthstone is just fundamentally flawed in design and face decks will always rule until they change how the game plays.
It’s become a bit of a running gag around here that we hate Hearthstone. That’s only partly true. I do find the focus on aggro and the reliance on RNG to be annoying. Also, I’m bitter that they ultimately killed a good game in the WoW:TCG to focus on this. I still feel like they could both exist. But, I do genuinely like some of the ideas that the game has introduced to the genre.
And, so, I kept playing in spite of how angry it sometimes made me. Chris kept telling me that I was addicted. Hell, I might have been. I am a sucker for the treadmill type of games that Blizzard makes. So, I guess we score one for addiction. Because I kept playing it, I’ve found my comfort zone in the game. It may not always be fun, but I’m not constantly texting Chris how much I hate the game anymore.
I have a feeling that some of this is temporary. After months of trying and promising control decks, Blizzard finally accidentally created an environment where they are viable. Sure, the meta is overwhelmingly face decks, so you still get aggro’d out of the game quite a bit of the time, but control decks actually do exist and get played quite a bit. As someone who prefers that playstyle, I couldn’t be happier. But, Standard rotation beckons and Reno is being relegated to the Wild frontier.
That’s the big selling point this time. Every time there’s an expansion, players get excited for new cards, the meta gets solved in a few days to a week, and then everyone complains about how boring the game is for another 3 months. Rinse and repeat. This time is different, Blizzard promises. Not only are new cards being introduced, but cards are rotating out for only the second time int he history of the game. That’s gotta add at least a day or two of theory crafting to figure out that spamming minions and going face is the optimal strategy. Okay, okay, that was a cheap shot. Only one at this in the article, though, is way under par.
So, what cool stuff can we expect from Un’Goro? First, and I’m actually genuinely excited about htis one, they’re bringing back the concept of quests. If you ever played the WoW: TCG, you remember that quests were the resource similar to mana. Since Hearthstone uses mana crystals, it doesn’t make sense to use quests in a similar fashion. Instead, they are legendary cards that are auto included in your opening hand. They require you to do something–ie, play x cards of some sort or another–and reward you with a super powerful card. I don’t know if any of the quests will be seen in competitive play, but I can’t wait to play around with them in the casual modes.
The other new mechanic that has potential is “Adapt”. This feature “discovers” three upgrades to your minion in the form of divine shield, windfury, stealth, taunt, etc. The discover mechanic is one of the best ideas that the Hearthstone team has introduced into the genre. It fits in with the theme of the game that RNG is skill. There is variance, but because the game gives you three options, the chances of getting something useful are that much higher. Anything that adds more discover to the game is okay by me.
Hey, you might say, you’ve already mentioned 2 concepts that you like about the new expansion. Maybe you’ve turned the corner and will actually like the game now. Woah! Hold up there. Hating Hearthstone is part of my identity. If I actually like it, who have I become? this is an existential crisis in the making. But, not right now! Yes, there are some cool mechanics in the set, but there are always things that I can find to like about a card set before it’s been released.
Usually, in Magic, that means that these things are not remotely viable as a competitive strategy. In Hearhtstone, they are usually unique strategies that change the way the game is played. So, I guess both are in keeping with my tendency to go against the grain. As far as the rest of the cards are concerned, there is an emphasis on “tribal”. Tribal is always one of the MtG buzzwords that is never viable, but always hooks me.
In addition to an overall deck strategy, I will often try to adhere to a tribal theme in Magic. Honestly, I don’t thin that it is any more viable in Hearthstone, but it is easier to make a tribal theme work because the synergies are more prevalent. For instance, you won’t ever get high ranks playing murlocs, but I did get a healthy win streak while playing a dumb shaman murloc deck the other day.
Who knows? Maybe I have turned the corner. I have gone from actively hating the game to accepting it as part of my daily routine. I suppose the next logical step is actual enjoyment.