HearthStone

Wild is broken, and it always will be

hearthstone 10 - Wild is broken, and it always will be
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Hey all, J_Alexander_HS here today to discuss a few musings on my recent climb in Wild last month. Hopefully these thoughts will serve a good primer for anyone thinking about the format.

Hearthstone is at its best when resources matter; factors like remaining life, cards in hand, deck, board position, and so on. This is what leads to interesting decisions and careful tradeoffs: how do I spend my mana? How much life can I lose? How do I match my cards up against my opponent’s options? Can I go face or do I have to trade? When something in the game is “broken,” that usually means one or more of those resources has ceased to matter. One player is getting far more of a resource than they rightfully should.

I’m not going to make any excuses for it: Wild is broken. It’s massively broken. If you have any dreams of playing fundamental Hearthstone, you will not find it in Wild. It’s never going to be fair again. Instead, my climb to legend last month taught me that Wild is about one thing and one thing only: which player can make resources matter the least, the quickest?

This means that many games in Wild are going to be over – or effectively over – within the first two or three turns. Sometimes you may spend more time queuing for games than playing them.

There are, at the time of writing, four basic strategies you can employ in Wild to do so most effectively:

  • Play Mechs: This is one of the most common strategies you will see because – between cards like Galvinizer, Mech Warper, and sometimes Summoning Portal – you tend to make your resource of mana not really matter regularly. It’s a common sight to see people empty their hands and/or kill you around turns 4 or 5 because they effectively stopped paying mana for their cards. Making the strategy even stronger, the Magnetic keyword often means that mechs will quickly snowball mana cheating into board control and face damage. The best strategy here tends to be Warlock (which can have as much mana and damage and board as animation times allow for), but Hunter and Paladin have dipped into the world of mana cheating mechs too.

  • Play Secret Mage: Blizzard was faced with a design problem: secrets tended to be bad cards, yet some classes were built around them on a foundational level. How do you get people to play these “bad” cards? The answer, it seems, was make the secrets not cost resources to draw or play. This is seen most often in Mage, where cards like Mad Scientist, Ancient Mysteries, and Arcanologist ensure that drawing secrets is “free”, while other cards like Kabal Lackey, Kirion Tor Mage, and also Mad Scientist and Ancient Mysteries ensure they don’t cost mana to play. Not sold yet? What if you got tempo boosts and damage from playing them with Arcane Flakmage, Medivh’s Valet, and Cloud Prince? You get to draw cards, play them, and get benefits from them for no cost. Does that sound fair? Of course it doesn’t, and that’s why people play it.

  • Play Reno decks: Do you like playing games decided by the question, “Did I draw my good card?” Does your answer change if there are 4 or so of those good cards in your deck? If so, then Reno decks might be for you. Reno decks make resources not matter in the obvious way of Reno instantly refilling your life total, which you’ve probably lost a ton of to the previous two kinds of decks by the time you can play him and your opponent is gassing out. On top of Reno, however, there’s also Kazakus, Zephyrs and, if you’re playing certain classes, other copies and flavor of Highlander cards, that provide you with powerful tempo swings, board clears, and flexibility. They are power spikes so large that allow you to make up for the fact you’re using mana to play things and playing a bad deck. It's basically "draw RNG, the archetype" a lot of the time.

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  • Honorable Mention, Baku Decks: If you want to always have something to do, making the resource of access to resources themselves less relevant, you can still play Baku decks. While not that common, Baku decks effectively provide players with a hero power so good it’s like always having an extra card in your hand. They’re incredibly consistent because of this, always having something to do if they want it

It’s important to remember that this will always happen in card games when it comes to formats like Wild where all the cards from the game’s history are available. Decks in Hearthstone are made of 30 cards, and introducing new cards into the game will almost never make the average power level of those 30 cards go down. If the new cards are weaker, they simply won’t be played, and if they’re stronger the power level goes up.

Naturally, it follows that as the size of the card pool grows, the amount of potentially “broken” decks you can build only goes up. With so many cards in Hearthstone right now and more to come, Wild will never cease to be imbalanced. Even if the balance team stepped in and adjusted 20 cards today – every deck I mentioned above – there are 20 more ready to step in and take their place, from mana-cheating Voidcallers and Skulls of the Man’ari, over-stated Dragon synergy minions, Jade decks, Quest decks, and plenty more. Maybe that would be viewed as an improvement, maybe it wouldn't. It's just worth remembering that Wild didn't suddenly get fixed when Naga Giants were changed, or Barnes, or Aviana, or any of it. There is no fixing it. Best case you throw a band-aid on for one specific issue.

While the wild meta may begin to feel different than the Standard one, it will never feel “fair”. If you want to play Wild and enjoy it, I feel that's the mindset you need to go into it with. Don't expect your nostalgic decks to work; don't expect your homebrews will function; don't expect that resources are going to matter. No matter how dire a board state may look for an opponent, there will usually be ways they can bring it back into their favor and win. Nothing is guaranteed here. Life can be instantly regained. Boards can fly out of nowhere. You might just get OTK'd

This isn't a salt post, by the way. I legitimately did not expect Wild to be fair. I was only there to grind out a few wins for the new portraits. If you want to dip into that format, just bear the above in mind. If you already play there, you should have a good handle on what I'm saying.

Worth mentioning, however, is what all this means for the Hall of Fame. When people in Standard are talking about a card currently bugging them they want added to the Hall of Fame, "…so people can still play it in Wild," remember: no, you cannot play it in Wild. That card is probably not viable in Wild. That card will probably never be viable in Wild. You can go visit you cards in Wild, but play them? Probably not.

If anything, there's a great argument for unnerfing a lot cards for Wild so that if people want to play them casually against friends to relive the old days, they can. Just remember, any notion that a card will see play in Wild is probably misguided.

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