HearthStone

Class Identity Isn’t Consistently Designed

hearthstone 7 - Class Identity Isn't Consistently Designed
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Hey all, J_Alexander_HS back again today to outline my thoughts on the new cards, class identities, and Hall of Fame members. I'll assume you already read the blog post, as this discusses the points in there piece by piece.

When it comes to discussions of class identity, we want to make sure each class is both good at what it's supposed to be good at, and weak at what it's supposed to be weak at. Let's see how things currently stack up

Druid

Druid’s outlined strengths are supposed to include mana generation, yet all their mana generation cards (Innervate, Wild Growth, and Nourish) have been nerfed to the point they aren’t seeing any current competitive play. This isn’t something Druid is good at doing it anymore; it’s just something it can do, but in a weak way. Without the ability to successfully ramp, the theme of “Giant Minions” as their strength will also fail, as those are too easy to answer and/or outclassed by the way other classes generate them more efficiently.

The previous nerfs to Druid's class identity have left this class "strength" in a state of perpetual need for life support. That's not a class strength, if you ask me.

Before rotation, we also had cards like Spreading Plague that cut heavily against Druid's supposed weakness when it came to having good board clears. Rather than act only as a clear, Plague could often land the Druid ahead of the opponent. But it didn't belong to the Classic set and so remained relatively ignored (the 5 mana to 6 mana nerf did little to affect its power level)

Hunter

Hunter is supposed to struggle with card generation, yet Master’s Call – one of the best card draws on the market – exists in the class and defines a deck. In combination with Marked Shot, Shimmerfly, and Zul'jin, card generation doesn't seem to be particularly weak for Hunter, as we might expect. Ironically, Master's Call also defines a deck that often relies on the Vicious Scalehide/Dire Frenzy combo, giving Hunter access to sometimes absurd amounts of healing which is supposed to be another class weakness.

I’ve been on about that point since Deathstalker Rexxar violated just about every single class weakness outlined for Hunter in a single card. It had AoE, card generation, and healing (immediate and future).

Mage

On the whole, Mage has done well at sticking to class identity. The one current exception is the Conjurer’s Mage deck, which cheats out mana and makes tons of large minions (often with Taunt), which is more like what Druid is supposed to be good at. Or floods a board with Khadgar and Calling/Images. For a class that's not supposed too be good at board flooding, it feels ironic that they play Sea Giants regularly.

This is an excellent case for addressing the Mountain Giant/Calling interaction to somehow remove Grave Horror from the pool of minions, as being able to suddenly summon a board of Taunts from nothing does not at all fit with the Mage identity. Hopefully in a way that doesn't keep mauling the classic set (eg, nerfing Mountain Giant)

Again, until the rotation, Mage's weakness with the lack of healing was completely undone by their Deathknight.

Paladin

It’s strange in this section that “Card Draw” isn’t listed as a class limitation or weakness, given Paladin’s historical lack of access to it and the balance team’s explicit focus on that not being one of the Paladin’s strengths as a justification for Hall-of-Faming Divine Favor (also making Crystology look awfully weird).

That aside, in terms of what they did say, they do mention that “Cost-Reduction” and “Direct Damage” spells are supposed to be part of Paladin’s weaknesses, which is why we certainly don’t have a deck for the class designed around cost-reducing a large minion for a huge direct damage spell finisher. That would be just bizarre

Now maybe Shrivalla Paladin is just a temporary anomaly for the class, as those weaknesses were historically part of the class. I just wanted to note I find it odd.

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Priest

Priest is generally fine in terms of class identity, yet like Mage has a deck that seems to violate that general principle in some regards. Specifically, the Nomi Priest is built around cycling an entire deck, where card draw is supposed to be a limitation of the class. Now a lot of that card draw in the deck is neutral, with that large exception of Northshire Cleric: one of the more potent card draw engines in the game. It seems to stick out like a sore thumb. For a class that's not supposed to excel at card draw, cards like Cleric and Power Word: Shield seem unusual.

Also, if Priest isn't supposed to be good at burst, Velen begins to look a bit out of place. The doubling-damage feature of the card just doesn't seem to have a place in the class. That's not an ideal scenario for a classic legendary

Rogue

It’s funny how Rogues are called a class that “hides in the shadows,” yet there is a suspicious absence of “stealth” as a strength of the class. It used to be there, to be sure, but has basically been removed. I find it strange that Deathrattle is listed as a Rogue class strength, despite the Evergreen sets containing a total of zero Rogue deathrattles . This looks completely tacked on. In fact, the deathrattle support for the class is still bad. I can't imagine where the design team got the idea that this was a Rogue strength.

Shaman

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Two strengths of Shamans were deemed to be “Minion Swarms” and “Totems,” yet Flametongue got nerfed for support that too well, I guess? No current totem synergy exists, making that strength seem like more of an absence. It's a "strength" in that they…have totems? Is Totemic Might a strength? It looks like the Rogue Deathrattle thing.

Their weaknesses is deemed to be card draw/generation, which doesn’t exactly fit in line with how well Spirit of the Frog or Underbelly Angler or Hagatha, well, draw and generate cards. Like, a lot of them. Really efficiently.

Warlock

Warlock has been basically following class identity lately. Good for you, buddy (since cards like their Spellstone and DK rotated, anyway). As we'll see in a minute, however, the Doomguard Hall of Faming definitely fails the flavor test, compared to its replacement.

Warrior

A limitation of Warrior is supposed be card draw and generation, which looks awfully weird next to cards like Dr. Boom and Town Crier: two of the best cards in the game at doing what they do. Hero cards seem to do that a bunch, don't they?

Warrior also has "Rush" listed as something they employ to control the battle, yet Rush isn't a classic or basic thing. This is because Charge used to be part of the Warrior theme, but since the balance team doesn't want it in the game anymore, that part gets dropped. Not unlike Stealth for Rogue. Or Enrage for also Warrior.

New Cards

  • Vanish becomes Plaguebringer

In terms of class identity, this is basically fine. It will drastically limit the ability of non-traditional Rogue decks to get built and so, from a practical perspective, might not be too fun for theorycrafters like me. This kills a lot more “meme” and “fun” decks than it does much to the competitive side of the game. It takes them from "being able to make the best of a bad job" territory into the "Can't possibly live" zone.

The new Plaguebringer plays into Rogue’s strengths (at destroying individual minions) and with lots of Lackeys floating around might even become an almost relevant card in some situations. It doesn’t do so well in the strength department when token minion generation isn’t one of Rogue’s strengths, which has been true for most of the class’s history. So we're getting a card that is maybe sometimes playable in exchange for one that enabled a lot of non-traditional decks. Not a great trade, but at this point what else can we really expect?

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The card does raise the anti-class-identity theme of using it in combo with Wild Pyro as a board clear with a spell, but that is a three-card combo and didn't work well when it was called Plague Scientist.

  • Mind Blast becomes Radiance

In terms of class identity it kind of fits, but the power level of the new card is just low. It lacks flexibility and sounds like a non-starter for most decks as a viable option because of that. The best thing to say about the card is that it costs a small amount of mana and so might cycle well with Auctioneer (one of Priest's limitations). Otherwise it just doesn’t have applications.

This is in line with Blizzard’s philosophy of just making the Evergreen sets weaker, as that helps move more new packs by forcing players away from solid, playable investments in Classic…I mean makes the game feel fresh.

  • Warlock gets Siegebreaker

Flavor-wise it’s fine. Power-wise, it’s nothing too fancy. Probably goes nowhere. Doomguard was both more flavorful and playable. Now Doomguard should have just been changed to read "Battlecry: Discard two cards. If you do, gain charge," as that would be thematic (sacrifice for power) and solve the problem cheating it out. But then people might get confused and still want to play a Classic card. This is a bad trade for Warlocks

  • Druid gets Gift of the Wild

Who doesn’t want to play Savage Roar for 5 additional mana? Oh right, just about everyone. This is a weak card that plays towards the class’s supposed strengths, which is in line with ramp cards now, I guess.

  • Paladin gets Righteousness

Another card that looks weak when it's supposed to pair with the class’s strengths (board buffing, divine shield) because it’s classic. Oh well.

  • Everyone gets: Brightwing

Hey, this card is kinda serviceable. Not amazing, but it has Dragon synergy and “draws” a card. It looks like a Blink Fox, or Messenger Raven, or something along those lines. A card you can put into decks but won’t ever be an all-star.

  • Everyone gets: High-Inquisitor Whitemane

A one-shot Kel’thuzad for one less mana. That card wasn’t super playable, and this looks even less so. Having a card that requires you trade off your board to be good doesn’t sound reliable

  • Everyone gets: Barrens Stablehand

A bad card with a common effect at Epic rarity. Jackpot

  • Everyone gets: SI:7 Infiltrator

A good anti-secret tech card for when secrets are relevant again

  • Everyone gets: Arcane Devourer

It’s an ever-clunkier (but bigger) Questing Adventurer/Red Mana Wyrm/Regular Mana Wyrm. So who cares?

tl;dr It's neat that Blizzard is trying to publicly define class identity, but they're doing so (past and present) in inconsistent ways. The new cards are largely useless, and that's by design. Blizzard doesn't want to create new, interesting, and powerful cards for Evergreen sets because then you might get confused and play them instead of buying new packs.

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