Iksar's tweet has created a lot of discussion about what players want from Hearthstone, and one of the most popular suggestions has been some kind of new core game mode to go with Wild, Standard, Tavern Brawl, and Arena. I've seen a few suggestions for what such a mode could be, as well as some ideas floating around in my own head. I wanted to take the time to list some possible new formats, then analyze what I believe to be the pros and cons of each (from both the players' perspective and Blizzard's assumed perspective), to showcase just how varied and diverse Hearthstone could be with a little extra time and effort put in. Without further ado, here's a (definitely incomplete) list of the potential formats Hearthstone could implement.
Historic Formats: A series of modes based on previous Standard metas of Hearthstone, one mode for each expansion released. Each month (or a different time interval), the game would randomly select a past expansion, and the only legal cards would be those that were Standard legal at the time of its release.
Pros: Would deliver on a key "fantasy" that Wild mode has historically failed to; the idea of being able to play those "old favorite" decks that are no longer legal. If the mode shifted monthly, it could break up the staleness in-between expansions. Could also be a great way to get players to actually buy Wild packs/Adventures, which is good for Blizzard's bottom line.
Cons: Players who have already experienced these metas would not have anything truly new to enjoy. Shifting the mode each month would require new coding and UI features from Blizzard. Players would not be able to enjoy their "old favorites" on their own terms, due to the shifting. Implementing nerfed cards could be an issue: do we keep them nerfed and risk changing the old meta/decks for the worse, or do we implement a feature that lets nerfed cards revert to their previous states?
Pauper: A mode where only Commons and Rares are legal. Could be done in either Wild or Standard format, possibly both.
Pros: Incredibly friendly to new players, casuals, and free2plays. Would give players a low power format to complement Wild's status as the high power format. Likely extremely easy to implement from a coding/design perspective.
Cons: Potentially catastrophic for Blizzard's bottom line, and therefore not likely to be approved by higher ups without it being limited in some way, like being Casual mode only. Could siphon players with weak collections/decks out of Standard, making the ladder more sparse, less original, and harder to climb. Blizzard may shy away from making strong Commons and Rares to keep Pauper balanced, which would inadvertently make Standard more expensive.
Commander: Players make a larger-than-normal singleton/Reno deck with a Legendary card designated as its "Commander". It would start in the player's hand and could be played multiple times per game, at an increasing cost. Specifics could vary and other rules, like the banning of existing "no duplicates" cards, would apply. Lifted directly from MtG.
Pros: Very different from anything else available. Would bring back an old favorite, Reno decks, without having to print any specific cards that might upset the balance in Standard/Wild. The larger deck size, singleton format, and mandatory legendary would likely make decks more expensive, which is good for Blizzard's bottom line.
Cons: Balance could be a nightmare, as some Legendaries were definitely not intended to be in the player's hand from the very start of every game. Confusing for new players. The potentially more expensive decks would obviously not be enjoyed by the players' wallets, and make the mode harder to get into for newbies. Designing the specifics of this mode could take a lot of time on Blizzard's end.
Brawl Block: A shifting mode where each month (or a different time interval) the game selects four expansions' worth of cards, and players must build decks using only cards from those four sets (i.e. no Basic/Classic unless it's one of the four selected). Lifted directly from the recent Tavern Brawl of the same name.
Pros: Player base is already familiar with the rules. Large number of potential combinations would keep things fresh for a long time. Much like with Historic, shifting the mode monthly would relieve mid-expansion staleness. Also like Historic, it could promote the sale of Wild packs.
Cons: Many combinations would not be balanced, as some sets were definitely not intended to be together, and not all sets are of equal size and power. Certain classes would be unplayably bad depending on what sets were chosen (imagine playing Shaman when 1/4th of your class cards are the Freeze Shaman trash from KFT), hurting players who "main" that class. Players with small collections may have trouble keeping up due to the lack of Classic/Basic in most combos. If you liked a particular block, the massive number of combinations means it may be years before you see it again. Curating the combinations and implementing the shifting feature would take a lot of dev assets.
Recent: A mode where only the three most recently released sets can be used, plus Classic/Basic.
Pros: Each expansion would shake up the meta far more than Standard, as it would mean both the introduction of a new set and the removal of an old one. Lower power level on average thanks to the lower number of cards, filling a similar niche to a Pauper format. No nightmare scenarios where specific cards and decks dominate the meta for more than a year. Potentially very easy to implement, and would drive sales of newly released expansions even further.
Cons: Runs a significant risk of just being "Standard 2.0" most of the time and not truly being a unique experience. Having so many of the available cards be Classic/Basic could lead to staleness in the long term. Could potentially hurt sales of slightly older sets just as much as it helps push the new ones.
As we can see, there are several ways Hearthstone can be made into a more varied and interesting game, but no one mode is truly the perfect solution. Regardless of that fact, I think that any of these five modes, plus who knows how many others, would be excellent additions to Hearthstone, and greatly improve the long-term health of the game.
Which of these five modes sounds best to you? What other formats would you all like to see? Make sure to let the community and the dev team know, as that's the only way you'll get to see one implemented.
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