Stay off the Mean Streets

(Editor’s Note:  Hey, kid, come down this dark alley.  I got some free card packs for ya.)

Instead of, once again, starting an article about Hearthstone with our undying hatred for the game, I will attempt a little positivity.  I am positive that I hate every aspect of this game.  There we go.  I feel much better now that the positivity is flowing through this article and that I’ve balanced my chakras and stuff.

The latest expansion, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, has only cemented my distaste.  In fact, I feel like encasing this game in cement to sleep with the fishes.  I haven’t even played it that much over the past few months.  I checked out, mostly for good, during the height of aggro shaman and haven’t seen anything that makes me want to come back.  I still “grind” to rank 20 for the card back and do the occasional quest with Tavern Brawl for the pack, but that’s the extent of my Hearthstone playing career recently.

To be honest (and I don’t know why I wouldn’t be honest about this), Duelyst has been my PC guilty card game pleasure.  I have no strategy yet, so I don’t play competitively.  However, they have a daily puzzle that rewards 5 gold and their quests are much more noob friendly, so I have been able to pick up some cards.  Soon, I might try to build my own decks.

Well, this looks promising.

But, and I say this now with some trepidation, this article is about Hearthstone.  So, what are the problems with Hearthstone?  And, if the game is so bad, why is it so popular?  Well, I will answer the second question first.  Mainly, I start there because Liam and I just had the conversation last night and I’m proud of my conclusion.  Mind you, it isn’t necessarily original, but I’m still proud of myself for tracing over connect the dots already completed by others.  Hey, it’s the new American  way, right?

For most people, Hearthstone is a nightmare to play.  There is to much randomness built into the game.  In addition, one of the primary spokespeople for the game promises that it will always be a focus because, he believes, that it adds to the skill cap.  I still can’t square that circle.  Then again, I’m not a programmer of a multi-million dollar gaming company.  But, I digress.  the result of this random nature of the game is that many players see it as inhibiting their progress in the game.

Some will (and have) argue this point, but they’re not wrong.  If you are a weekend warrior in the game, the randomness is exaggerated and you will lose games because of it.  This can be frustrating, so players stop playing.  That’s what finally happened to me.  Those who keep playing are the ones who have the time and money to invest in the game and play for hours at a time.  Over the long haul, the randomness evens out and eventually you can even outgain it if you “git gud” at the game.

Okay, after that display of skill, here’s where it all comes together.  Many of those players and Hearthstone have benefited from the rise of Twitch as an entertainment platform.  the game is visually pleasing, has sometimes entertaining sound bites, and usually compelling gameplay.  To make a long story short (too late!), for most people, it is much more fun to watch than to play.  It joins games like Starcraft and LoL (though those games have a much higher skill cap) as spectator driven games.  Viola!  A game that many people don’t like is still very popular.

Now, other than randomness, what is so bad about the game?  Well, I said that I bailed when aggro (and more specifically face) shaman was popular.  The strategy, if you can call it that, consisted of spamming minions to the board and hitting the opponent in the face.  After some nerfs, this deck eventually morphed into a more midrange one.  That meta was initially more interesting as it was more about outvaluing the opponent instead of strictly punching face.  However, as tends to happen, the net deckers took over and that was literally the only deck being played.

Enter the expansion!  Enter new cards!  Enter a new meta with new decks and a new class!  While the last comment is intended to be a joke, in reality, the whole thing is a joke.  Sure, priest is now viable when it wasn’t before.  Yes, there are new cards and technically new decks.  You know there’s a however coming here, right?

Psyche! Instead of a however, I’m coming at you with a big but!

But, the most powerful “new” deck is just a variation of an old deck (Renolock), many of the other new decks are simply carbon copies of one another (pirate *fill in the blank*), and miracle rogue is still a thing.  So, Chris had a point when he said that the game won’t ever be much more than a card version of Rock ’em, Sock ’em Robots.

Bear in mind that I have not played the game for any significant amount o f time over the last few months and I am sick of it.  I can only imagine how badly it triggers people who actually play the game every time they hear, “Who goes there?!” *Cannon* “I’m in charge, now!” as they face yet another stupid pirate deck.  Personally, it might drive me to murder.

Just more evidence that Blizzard doesn’t give a crap as long as people continue throwing money at this stupid game.

You’re natural reaction at this point might be to ask if there is any reason at all to play the game.  In all honesty, my answer is no.  If you haven’t been playing and enjoying the game, there is nothing in this expansion that will entice you to want to start or return.  i’m going to stick with my plan of taking free stuff and getting better at Duelyst.  I’m also on break, so who knows?  Maybe Chris and I can get together for some Magic and I can focus my energy on a real card game.

Pros:  Um, yeah, about that.  We always try to find the positive in games, but this one has exhausted even my good will.  I mean Tavern Brawl is sometimes fun and the occasional Arena can give good rewards.

Cons:  If you like repetitive gameplay, facing the same deck (no matter the class choice) over and over, and a lack of creativity in general, then Hearthstone is for you.  I don’t, and the game is getting so monotonous that I’m even having trouble watching it.

The verdict:  There are so many other card games to occupy your time.  My advice is to play one of them instead.

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