On August 16th, 2013, Hearthstone began closed beta testing and began its ascent towards the top of the digital card game marketplace. Several months before, however, the game received huge, sweeping changes in its alpha state and changed a host of cards entirely. Not really a nerf or buff wave, they altered the effects entirely of several key cards. One of these was a card that still exists in a much different form today, in Illidan Stormrage. Now, it’s an overcosted token generator that does a bit of a disservice to how important the character is in Warcraft’s lore. But originally, his effect read like this:
“Battlecry: Both players discard 3 cards and draw 3 cards.”
Since the game was in closed alpha, there wasn’t as much public talk of why this change was made, but behind the scenes a pretty common response seemed to take form, and has since become the norm when any opponent discard effects are suggested for the game. (I say seemed to as it’s tough to find anything firm from devs because it was closed at the time)
Not being able to play your cards isn’t fun.
Forced discard, direct counterspells and other hand manipulation has been mostly absent from Hearthstone ever since. Two major exceptions to this rule, Dirty Rat and Demonic Project, have been printed since, although they had no overlap in the game’s standard cycle. Dirty Rat carried a major downside in that it would summon the opponent's creature for them, usually being negative tempo. Demonic Project was a symmetrical effect only had major impacts on combo decks. These cards were generally considered as necessary evils at the time, but still represent how tame these effects are in comparison to a game like Magic: The Gathering which seems to print discard or counter on half of the black or blue cards in the game.
This wasn’t something I ever thought of that much, but going back to all the card games I’ve tried since I fully embraced having no life, I keep coming back to TESL and Hearthstone. I always assumed it’s because those were the best designed, but when I look at it more objectively, games like Eternal and Gwent are fantastically designed as well but never hooked me in the same way. When Valve’s new card game released and I gave it chance after chance to suck me in, I finally realized why those two games have jumped out to me as ones that are worth coming back to.
Like a game running at 60 FPS vs. 30, there is no doubt to me that the style offered by TESL and Hearthstone is just flat superior (obviously an opinion, don’t freak out) than the other card games for the reason of control. I see cards, I can play them if I have enough mana. I can do whatever I want on my turn and the opponent can’t disrupt me. I control my creatures and where they go, what they do. I control my cards in the same way. I have control of everything the game shows me. I never feel like things are out of my reach past the necessary aspect of card draw RNG.
As skillful as it may make the game, Artifact, with it’s gameplay based around initiative to block your opponent through hero kills, takes away that control. There is nothing more frustrating than staring at a hand full of cards you can’t play because your opponent just sniped your hero. The game attaches keywords like stun and silence to cards which does nothing effectively but lock your opponent out of playing cards. In my opinion, the gameplay style falls apart for this reason. Hell, they printed a card that was basically a 4 mana Time Walk, which just basically shoves any player input out the window.
Whether they know it or not, this inherent feeling of control is a huge reason I think TESL is so appealing to so many people.
TESL had very little in its base set that had any sort of impact on your opponents hand or deck, but has since changed. I can’t actually think of a single card that did so besides Studium Headmaster, but I could be missing something. (If you need me to explain why Cultist is different because it’s temporary, I can do so, but this post is long enough already)
Since then, interaction with opponents hand and deck has become…actually somewhat regular. We’ve seen the release of Cast Into Time, Hallowed Deathpriest, Piercing Twilight, Gentleman Jim Stacey, and in a lot of respects, Memory Wraith (since the discard pile can sort of function as an extension of your deck). Deathpriest was obviously the worst out of these, as Cast and Twilight didn’t impact hand at all, and Jim re-inserted player choice into the equation. Now, we have another coming in the form of this fu*ker.
I wanted to post this because the people who designed this card are not the ones who are currently working on TESL. To the new card design team, to the people at Sparkypants, I have this message:
Fu*k. These. Effects.
Their power level is irrelevant (yes, the red deathpriest card is bad and shouldn’t ever see play). The way I see it, this breaks the core feeling of the game in a drastic and wholly unnecessary way. It’s not necessary for balance, as hosts of people have pointed out by accurately saying there are 3,000 other ways to counter conscription. It’s not necessary for fun. It’s not necessary for anything.
It takes away player control and replaces it with nothing of value.
Don’t print any more of these cards. Please.
© Post "Illidan Stormrage, Artifact, and why Deathpriest effects need to stop (rant)" for game The Elder Scrolls.
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