HearthStone

A Look Back At The “Created By” Meta

hearthstone 1 - A Look Back At The "Created By" Meta
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Hey all, J_Alexander_HS back again today to take a look at the past and present of the “Created By” meta. Those two words, in many respects, define large portions of the current state of the game, and I feel it’s time to examine them in a little more detail, given their prominence.

One of the simplest premises I’ve worked off of for understanding fun in Hearthstone is this: the more resources matter, the better the game is. It feels fundamental for the experience of a satisfying game that limited resources need to be managed to find a win. Every time resources are given away too freely, be they cards drawn, mana accessible, cards generated, etc., something about the game risks being lost, not unlike a game of Monopoly where one player keeps reaching into the bank and adding money to their pile.

Now there is something to be said for getting some amount of additional resources to avoid the game feeling too boring. Decks need to “break the rules” from time to time to be interesting, and that’s all well and good. The ability to break the rules, however, only matters as much as the original rules have been established and maintained. When the rules are broken too often or in ways that are too egregious, it ceases to be interesting or exciting.

Today I wanted to look at Hearthstone card generation over time: specifically, the number of cards that add additional cards to your hand or board which did not start in your deck. What brought this examination on is that I’ve been playing a lot of Quest Rogue lately. While I do enjoy playing the deck a lot, I notice there are many games where I find myself with more cards in my hand that didn’t begin in my deck than did (sometimes playing against an opponent in the same situation). I find myself uncertain as to whether my opponent is having as much fun in those games as I am, holding wins or loses constant. How do they feel when they have to deal with these threats they couldn't reasonably anticipate? How would I feel in the same position?

What I did is go through each set and count up the number of cards that can reasonably be said to generate resources from outside of the deck/game, and then scaled that number by the size of the set into a percentage. This doesn’t include tokens that get put onto the board when a card is played (like Animal Companion), but rather when a new resource is created that’s not really in your deck. Some cards (like Mindgames, Cho, and Bane of Doom) are hard to place in this classification, but I’ll err on the side of including them when I can. This also need not refer to random resources either: simply cards that create resources a deck otherwise wouldn't have access to (even, in some cases, second copies of cards there should only be one of). In essence, we are looking at resources that are ”Created By” something else. These numbers might differ based on what you choose to include or not, but they will serve a rough sketch of trends.

  • Basic: 1 (0.7%)

  • Classic: 10 (4 being recent additions to replace HoF’d cards, 4%)

  • Naxx: 1 (3%)

  • GVG: 7 (6%)

  • BRM: 4 (13%)

  • TGT: 14 (11%)

  • LOE: 12 (27%)

  • Old Gods: 13 (10%)

  • Karazhan: 13 (29%)

  • Mean Streets: 13 (10%)

  • Un’Goro: 33 (Counting some Quests that fit the spirit; 24%)

  • Frozen Throne: 25 (Counting some Deathknights that fit the spirit; 19%)

  • KnC: 21 (Counting some legendary weapons; 16%)

  • Witchwood: 30 (Counting some Echo cards: 23%)

  • Boomsday: 26 (19%)

  • RR: 26 (19%)

  • RoS: 43 (Counting Twinspells; 32%)

  • Uldum: 32 (24%)

Read:  Hearthstone: Analysis of the Post-Nerf Meta by Cursed (Part II)

While these are estimates and you might quibble with a number a little here and there, the general trend is incredibly clear: over time, the amount of cards generated during games that are not themselves cards you put into your deck has been rising by a lot, at least as far as their representation within a set. Yes, not all of these cards see play (like most Hearthstone cards), but their representation now compared to the Classic era of the game in terms of cards in your collection is literally night and day.

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This began in force during the League of Explorers, where the keyword "Discover" was added. It was likely on the back of how well that was received that development began to push more cards with that kind of mechanic. It's one of the few keywords to move forward across expansions, demonstrating its success. Sometimes, however, too much of a good thing turns it into a bad one and we need to be wary of that.

As someone who has been playing since the release it can be difficult to think back on the meta past simply in my memory, but I do recall these cards used to be far and in between (which the analysis would seem to confirm). When you queued up a game of Hearthstone, you could be reasonable sure about what your opponent was playing, what he had played, what he still had available to him, and plan accordingly. Today, the experience is more along the lines of the 30 cards your opponent put in their deck, and then sometimes 10 to 20 (or more) of them which did not. Sometimes these resources are small; sometimes they are large. But they're almost always present.

Returning to my initial premise about resources mattering, this raises some difficult questions about what it means to have fun in Hearthstone and whether these trends are good for the game or not. They introduce the option for players to encounter novel scenarios and interactions they haven’t seen before, and navigating that can be interesting and yield good stories. Just the other night, for example, I was playing Quest Rogue against Control Warrior. My win condition was to Tog Scheme a Tess into my deck and use that to build too many boards for the Warrior to clear with their limited removal pool. The problems here were that (a) my Scheme was the last card in my deck, and (b) my Tess was going to draw three cards each time I played it. I felt like it was unwinnable, due to fatigue, until I generated an Elise the Enlightened randomly the turn before. This allowed me to copy my scheme when I drew it, scheme my opponent’s Elysiana, build myself a new deck, and allow my second scheme the time it needed to tick up enough to seal the deal.

Read:  Hearthstone connects and Hearthstone will be with us for ever.

An exciting game, for me to be sure, but was it exciting for my opponent? While he had his own choices to make, he had no way of “playing around” what I was about to do. He had no clue it could happen. Hell, I had no clue it could happen. I can’t help but wonder whether someone walked away from that game feeling robbed, even if I enjoyed the deck and outcome myself. I worry about experiences like that become too common, even if they're not as extreme. Even if the generation of resources wasn't random, but seemingly endless – like what Dr. Boom provides – we can end up in a place that's uncomfortable.

I cannot offer any more than that in attempting to understand whether this trend makes the game better or worse from either a playing or viewing perspective. I simply don't know where the line between "a lot" and "too much" resides. I know Yogg used to be big and exciting to watch in tournaments but, at least for me, shortly after the novelty wore off the experience became tedious and unfulfilling, watching a player drop Yogg and see if it randomly won them the game or not. It felt like someone was getting scammed. I assume many people agreed with me, as Yogg was later nerfed. I would think this would be an important lesson in design, yet here we are with the new set nearly reprinting the pre-nerf Yogg effect. There’s a good chance we’ll see it in some upcoming tournaments and already do on ladder.

I’m not sure what kind of experience that makes for.

tl;dr The amount of resources “Created By” other sources has been drastically increasing over time. The impact on player experience and satisfaction within the game remains unknown.

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