Mar 092014

This is somewhat embarrassing. I’ve been gushing about Hearthstone, planning to write guides and things for it…and now, I can’t be bothered to log in. Just jumping on to knock out quests feels like a chore now, when a few months ago, I vividly remember staying up until the daily quest reset a few months ago to get one more in.

So what happened? Well, I thought about it for a bit, and there’s three main factors:

  1. Lack of extrinsic progression. Otherwise described as “nothing-to-do” syndrome. WoW players are intimately familiar with this; once you’ve ran all the content in the current tier and gotten most of the drops you need, there’s no real reason to keep coming back. (Excepting raiders, who have a whole set of group dynamics that non-raiders do not.) Same thing for Hearthstone; once you’ve unlocked the majority of the cards, there’s no more meaningful progression. That would be fine, except…
  2. Lack of skill progression. My progression in Hearthstone reminds me a lot of my progression playing online poker. If you study, you go from being completely clueless to being reasonably good pretty quickly. However, further improvement past that point gets more and more challenging, and becomes extremely hard to quantify. For Hearthstone, once you’ve figured out the basic flow of the game, researched deckbuilding (or Arena drafting for value) online, and made all the the common newbie mistakes, there’s not really anywhere else to go.  I’ve realized that any further progression on my part revolves around anticipating draws (both mine and my opponents) and adjusting current play to account for that, but that’s pretty fiddly. I’d still play anyway, though, if it wasn’t for…
  3. Speed. The current turn limit is pretty slow. There are a few turns where you need 90 seconds (either due to a complex situation, or just waiting for all the animations to play out if you have lots of moves to make) but for the most part, 30 seconds is plenty. I’m not sure how to change this, though, as I did need that time as a new player to read card descriptions and things. Currently, I’m doing something else in a second browser window or on the phone while I’m waiting for the opponent to take his turn. When I’m enjoying that other activity more than playing Hearthstone, that’s a problem. My way of fixing this in online poker was playing multiple tables at once; that’d be really cool for Hearthstone, but will never happen.

Note that I’m not really complaining – I’ve definitely enjoyed my time in Hearthstone, and it’s completely unrealistic to consider a game that has still not been officially released unworthy because it can’t be my go-to game forever. I do hope that the upcoming patch with the live release addresses at least the speed issue, though, and gives me something else to work towards. (Grinding out Legend rank seems off-putting to me with the current rapid rank resets.) I’ve got about 2000 gold and 3000 dust saved up hoping for something new to come along.

In the meantime, I’m dabbling in a bunch of games. I’ve gotten hooked on Marvel: Puzzle Quest on my phone; if you liked the previous PQ’s at all, give it a shot; it’s F2P, and the limitations of playing for free aren’t that restrictive. I may write up a one-off guide post for it, as there’s some interesting depth to the mechanics of the asynchronous multiplayer. I’m also working through my Steam backlog, though I have no hopes of ever finishing that. :)

 Posted by at 10:57 am
Feb 282014

WoW Insider announced today (though we’ve known for a bit) that a large budget cut is coming, which means all the freelancer class columnists (like me) have been cut loose from writing. Truthfully, I haven’t written anything for WoWI in a long time, but I had always been planning a comeback somewhere in the back of my mind. Now that that door has been closed, I’m somewhat at a loss. I’ll get back to that point, though; right now, I’m going to reminisce a bit.

My first post

One of my favorite screenshots.

It was January of 2011, Cataclysm was in full swing,  and as you might have expected, it was a feral DPS guide. I do so like writing guides, for some reason. Skim it if you want a blast from the past– Keep up the Mangle debuff! Spec 0/32/9! We can bearcat! :) I was much more into WoW then; I hadn’t hit burnout, my family was still doing okay, and I wanted to know all the things so I could be the very best that ever was.

Believe it or not, I actually deployed to Iraq during this time period. Somehow, I managed to keep churning out a column for WoWI every week or two; I was in a part of Iraq that had reasonably good internet (in context) and I was actually able to keep playing the game. I got kicked from one PUG because they didn’t believe me that my AFK was due to ducking and covering from artillery fire. :) As things ended up, Iraq was pretty dull for my unit once we got settled, and being on my own meant plenty of writing time. I actually hacked out my first attempt at creative writing for the Blizzcon writing contest in 2011; it’s here, if you want to indulge yourself in some bad fanfiction.  I also put in hours upon hours before finally successfully soloing Kael’Thas in Tempest Keep; he’s a pushover now, of course, but he was no joke at level 85 in Firelands gear.  I also knocked off Naxxramas and Ulduar later in the expansion, though my attention was quickly distracted by the new shiny; monks.

Sleep, write, work; pick two

I played monks extensively during the MoP beta, and enjoyed them a good bit. (All the druids were busy arguing about whether Heart of the Wild and Symbiosis were the end of the game as we knew it, or something.) I got this crazy idea; I’ll start up a monk blog! It’ll be awesome! I’ll be the go-to guy for monks and feral druids! Yeah.

Trying to keep up two class columns on WoWI and two personal blogs took its toll; the quality of my work started falling off significantly. Even so, I had a bunch of things prepared for when MoP was to go live…then this happened. That was pretty much the end of my freelance writing career. I kept it going for a while, but after that incident, I was burned out and just going through the motions, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. I don’t want to rehash that again, so I’ll stop there – instead I’ll say that some of the internal email WoWI threads were incredibly epic/funny discussions, usually spurred by epic/trolling comments or “suggestions.” (The suggestion box? Whatever you sent in to WoWI was visible to every writer on the site. If you said something extremely foolish in there, we were likely all talking about you. :) Some highlights (of course, none of these are verifiable and could’ve been someone trolling, but still):

  • The MANY people who confused WoWI with Blizz and sent in personal info/CC #’s to try to get their accounts restored/fixed/etc
  • The people who wrote in saying “writer X should be fired because (insert poorly-written rant here)
  • The girl who wanted to be a booth…”model” for Blizzcon
  • The guy who complained because he was being shown diet pill ads on the sidebar
  •  The guy who repeatedly asked us to feature his website/stream which was nothing but him ganking newbies (and when we refused, created several false identities to also suggest his site)
What now?

I’ve pretty much come full circle; I loved WoW, hated WoW, and am now coming back around to thinking about resubscribing. :) Now that things have stabilized in the family life some, I’ve got a chance to come back and do some things; I just have to accept that I can’t do everything, which is really tough for me to do. I’d like to reconnect with my guild, re-make some friends, and just generally rejoin the community without being focused 100% on “raiding or GTFO.” I’m not sure I’m at the point where I can do that, as I have a huge overachiever streak in games. We’ll see – garrisons are looking mighty interesting…

 Posted by at 12:03 am
Jan 262014

The Cult Master.

Great card…in moderation. I just won a very satisfying arena game (Mage vs Paladin) where both sides were playing extremely well. The game stayed roughly even up until turn 12ish (me at 25ish life, him at 30) when I play a Sen’jin Shieldmasta to counter his 3/3, 2/3, and 2/1. 2 for 1 for me, right? Yes, but he drops double Cult Master and suddenly I’m looking at 2 Cult Masters, an Aldor Peacekeeper, and a 1/1 recruit with him at 6 cards to my 2 and an empty board. Game, right? Nope! I manage to delay his Cults via a Cone of Cold and pick off enough recruits to put him into fatigue. He drops several cheap minions to powerup a big Frostwolf Warlord; I kill him via Fireballs to all the little minions, with him dealing the coup de grace to himself with the draw fatigue damage to start his turn. :)

Out for a bit – heading to the field for two weeks. Good luck with your cards! This is a great time to jump into Arena – with open beta going on right now, the player pool is large and there’s lots of inexperienced players out there. I’ve been running about a 70% winrate, and am on a 6-0 run currently with this Mage deck.

 Posted by at 3:41 am
Jan 172014

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve been working on a “metarankings” project, that attempts to come up with a better set of arena rankings by averaging multiple ranks. Well, still working on it; I’ve had to go back and update all the base data. Since Trump just published a big update to his Arena rankings on liquidhearth, I figured I’d go through and see which cards have changed rankings the most. (For reference, here’s his rankings from 3 months ago on ihearthu.)


Scarlet Crusader (Old: 35th New: 8th) I’m pretty sure that if you ask Trump to look back, he’d have no idea why he ranked the Crusader so low. My speculation is the drop in value of silence (and silencing minions, which you’ll see shortly). The common wisdom used to be that an Arena deck was incomplete without at least 1 silence. Now, though, people are viewing silence like spellpower; nice-to-have, but not worth sacrificing any stats for.

Earthen Ring Farseer (Old: 34th New: 11th) With the new meta highly valuing buffing creatures in order for them to trade and live, the Farseer has much more value when he can heal a card. Previously, his heal was frequently “wasted” on the hero.

Elven Archer (Old: 71st New: 47th) Directly tied to the rise in Scarlet Crusader (and Sunwalker, to a smaller degree). It’s still not a great card since the overall value of 1 drops is so low, but being able to ping off Divine Shields is becoming more important.

Bloodfen Raptor (Old: 40th New: 22nd) It’s a boring 3/2…but it’s still a 3/2. Since 2-health minions are so rare these days, the upside of 2/3’s is mostly gone; 3/2’s are where it’s at now.

Wolfrider (Old 51st: New 33rd) / Bluegill Warrior (Old: 48th New: 32nd) These charge minions are basically minion-based removal spells, and help you regain board control at the cost of card advantage. Less taunts means these “missile minions” have a better chance of getting to their target.


Ironbeak Owl (Old: 18th New: 58th) How the never-mighty have…fluttered? As I said above, less things to silence means it’s less valuable, with the Owl being the prime example. Spellbreaker dropped as well, but not as much since it at least has some decent stats to it.

Amani Berserker (Old: 6th New: 42nd) Fewer Northshire Clerics, Novice Engineers, and other 1-drops means less chances for Amani to enrage and still be useful. He’s basically a River Crocolisk at this point.

Novice Engineer (Old: 24th New: 49th) That nerf. Dropping to 1 health means it basically dies instantly, so much less chance of it getting ignored and scoring a buff to trade up with something.

Dragonling Mechanic (Old 28th New: 48th) The old ranking pretty much just looked at her raw stats; the new ranking reflects that the 2/1 is getting killed immediately 90% of the time, leaving you with a poor 2/4 body.

Flesheating Ghoul (Old: 16th New: 35th) The growth mechanic is fun, but this card dies to 2-mana 3/2’s far too often to be ranked that highly.

That’s the top 10 (plus a bonus), but feel free to check out the lists for yourself and see how they match up with your perceptions! I was surprised to see Dark Iron Dwarf still in the Top 3; if he stays that popular, I could see him dropping to a 3/4 (or even a 4/3, if they really wanted to nerf him) in the future.




 Posted by at 2:32 am
Jan 142014

nerfbat1So, Zeriyah dropped a minor bomb today when they announced balance changes going live later this week…and as my wont, I’ll take a look at what’s changing and give you my thoughts. (Original source here.) Overall, I think they nerfed too much and buffed too little; there’s still lots of cards that are pretty bad.

Unleash the Hounds’ mana cost is now 2 (down from 4).

Hunters needed a good bit of love, and this was a good start. The original Unleash the Hounds was too good; the current version was terrible; this is right on point. It’s basically a different version of Arcane Explosion, with different strengths and weaknesses, and helps prop up the Beast synergy a little bit. That said, Arcane Explosion still isn’t a very good card, so improving from terrible to meh isn’t doing much.

Pyroblast’s mana cost is now 10 (up from 8)

This is probably too much of a nerf, but Pyro fell into the same reasoning that Mind Control did; it was too powerful, too early. I really didn’t have a problem with Pyro, honestly, I would’ve much rather seen Ice Block be changed. This change hurts aggro mage quite a bit, though mage still likely remains the best class in Arena.

Blood Imp is now a 0/1 and now reads: Stealth. At the end of your turn, give another random friendly minion +1 Health. 

Wowza, what a nerf! It’s basically a more crappy Young Priestess now, which means…it’s not that good. (No, I don’t think the Stealth makes up for the loss of the 2 attack; at least with Priestess, you could trade her off with a 3/2 frequently when you weren’t going to be able to save her.)  This should help chill out all the warlock rush decks some, but it won’t affect warlock control decks much. This will hurt arena warlocks considerably as well.

Warsong Commander has been reworked and now reads: Whenever you play a minion with 3 or less Attack, give it charge. 

Warsong maybe needed a change, but this isn’t it. This just makes the card terrible. You want chargers with high attack so you can do a surprise kill or board trade; the only charger with low attack/high toughness I can think of is Stormwind Knight, and that’s not a very good card. Since the stated reason was “nerf OTK,” a better change would’ve been “give the first minion played this turn charge,” like the Pint-Sized Summoner.

Charge (the spell, not the keyword) has been reworked and now costs 3 mana. The card’s new power reads: “Give a friendly minion +2 Attack and charge”.

What a crap card. It would be balanced at 1, maybe 2 mana (compare Blessing of Might). Together, these changes murder most Warrior OTK decks and nerf a class that was average at best.

Abusive Sergeant now reads: Battlecry: Give a minion +2 Attack until end of turn.

Meh. You get a bit of extra synergy with Big Game Hunter, which is nice, and Shadow Word: Death (priests).

Dark Iron Dwarf’s buff now only lasts until the end of the turn.

Decent nerf to DiD. Still an okay card and good in Arena, but not top-tier like it was.

Defender of Argus is now a 2/3 (down from 3/3)

Same thing here as with the Dwarf; this buff brings it down to an appropriate power level.

Novice Engineer is now a 1/1 (down from 1/2).

I’m undecided about this change. It’s essentially a freekill for mage/rogue/druid now (you pay 2 mana, get a card; they pay 2 mana, remove your card) so you’d only run this as filler. I think it stays in aggro decks, but gets traded off for Bloodmage Thalnos and/or Nat Pagle in control decks.

That’s it! Very surprised to see no nerfs to Molten Giant, but we’ll see what happens. With mages and rush decks getting nerfed, the meta pendulum should swing back towards control; druids and paladins should be stronger again, along with control warlocks. Hopefully, they consider a change to giants at some point before release.


 Posted by at 1:00 am
Jan 122014

I was super excited after my 12-2 Paladin run (and a subsequent 9-3 Mage run) last weekend. I told myself “This is it! I’ve turned the corner! I’m really good at this game now!”

Then came this week…and splat. I didn’t do badly, in an objective sense: 19-12 over 4 runs is still a 60% win rate, and 3 of those were with classes I’m not as familiar with. Yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that things were just getting more generally difficult. Eager to find someone else then myself to blame for failures, I decided to go digging for some stats, and voila: Arena Mastery. (Excellent, excellent site. Please submit stats to them or Hearthstats if you don’t already!)

My theory is simple: due to the holidays, the rate of new beta keys going out dwindled rapidly, which has thinned the new player pool considerably. With fewer of those newer players setting forth with their free entries/initial achievement gold (and getting crushed), all the better arena players are playing each other more often, which kills win rates for everybody. Now, Arena Mastery only started logging stats on 10 December, but it does give me some options for splits. Let’s see what the average # of wins is for more recent splits: If it’s falling, my theory may be correct. Remember, these are stats for Arena Mastery users, who presumably are more invested in the game (and improving) then the average player.

  • Since 10 December: 4.96 average wins (27272 games logged)
  • Since 18 December: 4.93 average wins (22708 games logged)
  • Since 04 January: 4.77 average wins (6811 games logged)
  • Since 09 January: 4.70 average wins (2874 games logged)
  • Since 10 January: 4.63 average wins (1060 games logged)

Even though I’d be wary of the last few splits due to sample size, the trend is pretty clear. Some quick math shows that from 10 December to 04 January, the average win # was 5.02; it’s dropped a quarter-win since then.  Whether it’s keys or another reason, people are getting better at Arena, and going “infinite” (meaning averaging 7 wins per run, or 70% winrate) is harder than ever. Thankfully, this should smooth out soon once things hit open beta and an influx of new players shows up, but if you’re getting frustrated with your performance right now, this might be a good time to take a break. Now that Test Season 2 has started, I’m considering playing some ladder games and just saving gold for a bit. We’ll see – I’ve still got that Steam backlog to work through as well.

 Posted by at 12:35 am
Jan 092014

In my last post, I went through the decklist of my 12-win paladin; today, I’m doing a  game-by-game review, to see if there was anywhere my play could’ve improved. We’ll be doing this using Hearthlog, the excellent tool created by Chip Bradford (check it out if you haven’t already). Unfortunately, I forgot to log the first game, so we’ll start at 1-0 with Game 2.

Game 2: Paladin vs. Mage. I go 2nd, my initial draw is the perfect curve you love to see when 2nd, the 2-2-3-4. On top of that, I have an Argent Protector and a Truesilver Champion. Argent Protector is one of those cards that’s great early or late; if it’s your only 2-drop, it’s okay to drop alone, or if you have another 2-drop, you can usually get a free 2-for-1. Using AP and the Silver, I quickly get board control, and when his only drop on Turn 6 is an Ironbeak Owl, it’s game over. For some reason, I didn’t play my Ogre on Turn 6; perhaps I was afraid of a Polymorph? Not sure, but that let the game drag on a little longer then it had to. 2-0.

Game 3: Paladin vs. Mage. Made a terrible play this game. He coins out an Amani Berserker Turn 1, and I decide to drop an Argent Squire for some reason. He obviously takes the free enrage, and smacks me for 10 before he bounces it back to his hand. Luckily, the bounce costs him board control, and he never gets it back. I win on Turn 8. 3-0.

Game 4: Paladin vs. Shaman. Not a great draw this time around; I go first, and after mulligan, I end up with a Worgen/Dingo/Silver. No luck on the draw, so my Turn 2 is a heropower 1/1, which he promptly counters with a Stormforged Axe.. I get a Sword of Justice, though, and pump out a scary 4/4 Raging Worgen and 3/2 Infiltrator Turn 4 to face his 3/3 Worgen. He burns his Hex on the Worgen, and then has no Turn 5 play, which pretty much ends the game. 4-0.

Game 5: Paladin vs. Paladin. First mirror match. 2/3/4 draw, always good. He chooses to trade his Wolfrider for my 3/2 to protect his Pint-Sized Summoner; not sure I’d have made that trade, especially after his Turn 3 is a 3-drop. We both Silver up and do some minion killing. Turn 6, he drops a Boulderfist Ogre, which puts me in a bad spot. I can Blessing of Kings my 1/1, but that’s not enough to kill the Ogre. Oh well, I take the bad trade (4 damage + Kings + 1/1) for his Ogre and keep going.  Turn 7, same situation, except this time it’s a Core Hound and I don’t have a Kings. I do the same thing (Silver + Recruit) to take out the Ogre, but that puts me down to 13 life. Luckily, he dumps his hand on Turn 9 to try to finish me; all low cards, and I have a Consecrate + Kodo. I wipe his board, but am down to 8 life. I have board control, but on Turn 11,  he pulls his 2nd Truesilver Champion. Incredibly, he doesn’t go for me, instead killing a minion; if he had swung at me on 11 and 12, he wins as he’s still at 30 life. He doesn’t, and I finish him off on Turn 14. 5-0.

Game 6: Paladin vs. Paladin. Not an exceptionally interesting game; he didn’t have a Turn 2 play, I had lots of small cards, and was able to ooze half his Truesilver. He conceded Turn 7. 6-0.

Game 7:  Paladin vs. Mage. Mirror Images – good if you have something behind it to do damage, not so good by itself. Also, this and this  (and especially this) is a textbook example of how not to get good value from your AoE spells. Sure, Flamestrike my Novice Engineer and Recruit! :) He got a little more value out of Flamestrike #3, but not much. 7-0.

Game 8: Paladin vs. Mage. Probably should not have dropped the Engineer on Turn 2 with a 3/2 out there (debatable). Example 4 of not getting value from Flamestrike, but may have had no choice since I was about to get an enraged Raging Worgen. His second Flamestrike was better, though, and he got enough out of a Warlord + Tiger + Argus to finish me with a Fireball + Pyroblast. 7-1.

Game 9: Paladin vs. Paladin. No good options on this turn. That said, I wiped out 4 with a Consecration next turn, and he just couldn’t keep up with Sword of Justice-buffed minions. This was also the game where I had 4 Truesilvers in hand. :) He did get his Molten Giant out near the end; had enough low minions to finish him off, however. 8-1.

Game 10: Paladin vs. Mage. Standard play through Turn 5. I misplay a bit here and think that my hero ability will trigger a Mirror Entity secret; it doesn’t, so I drop a Wolfrider which does. Oops. Not the end of the world (I could’ve dropped my Smith instead). Turn 6 is an interesting choice, as he has a 2/1, 3/1, and 1/1 on board. Fearing Polymorph and not having a Consecrate, I drop a Sen’jin + Recruit. He trades his whole board for it (after he drops his 7/7), so likely a good play. Rest of the game is fairly uninteresting; standard board play, which I win when I bait out a Fireball on a Kings’d 1/1 and drop my 6/7 Ogre next turn. She  gets me to 9 life but never draws a finisher, and I win when she runs out of cards. 9-1.

Game 11: Paladin vs. Shaman. Shaman have great board-clears; luckily, I get my Sword of Justice and coin it out Turn 2. Like most games where a Sword doesn’t get oozed, it’s pretty 1-sided. He has pretty good minions so it takes a little longer, but he dies turn 10. 10-1.

Game 12: Paladin vs Shaman. Good draw, won early board control, cleared his mid-board with a Geomancer + Consecrate, and won easy on Turn 8. 11-1.

Game 13:  Paladin vs. Rogue. It’s the championship match! Of course, I freeze up and misplay. I get an Ooze/Argent Protector, decide to save the Ooze so trade the Protector and drop nothing on Turn 3. He curves out well and I never regain enough board control. 11-2.

Game 14: Paladin vs. Paladin. I’m ready for a tough final match…so this one turns out to be completely anticlimactic.  I get a Sword of Justice out early, then use the board control + Argent Commander to rush him down and win Turn 8. 12-2!

Some nice rewards, and the pack was money too. :)



 Posted by at 6:15 pm
Jan 062014

Lock_War_Pala ArenaGood evening, everyone! If you’ve followed my Twitter feed, you saw that I pulled off a 12-win arena with Paladin over the weekend. In the first installment of what will hopefully be a weekly feature, I’m going to take you through my thinking during the draft, and in my next post, give you some play-by-play from the games themselves. We’re working from an embarrasment of riches here; this deck is the most powerful I’ve seen in recent memory. Note that the star rankings I use here are from a custom ranking system I’ve built, which I will be publishing Soon(TM).

The Draft

Hero: Paladin beats Warrior and Warlock. Paladin is a solid choice, second only to Mage. Warlock and Warrior aren’t the worst, but I consider them both below-average.

  1. Stampeding Kodo / Gadgetzan Auctioneer / Arcane Golem. Two 5-star choices right off the bat. I prefer the Kodo, though; you very frequently get a free kill with him, and Auctioneer’s card draw isn’t so hot for Paladin. Golem is situationally useful, but not recommended at all against these picks.
  2. Novice Engineer /  Stormwind Knight / Bloodfen Raptor. Engineer and Knight are close; in a more aggro deck, I prefer the Knight here, but this early in the draft you pick for value. I rate Engineer a 4-star and Knight a 3.5-star, so Engineer is the pick. Raptor is a serviceable 2-drop but inferior to the other choices.
  3. Reckless Rocketeer / Redemption / Blessing of Might. Ugh…none of these cards are great. Blessing of Might is just straight-up bad; if you don’t have cards on board, it doesn’t help you much. Redemption is similar, though it plays pretty well when used offensively, especially with Charge/Divine Shield minions. I’ll take the straight-up damage of the Rocketeer.
  4. Hammer of Wrath / River Crocolisk / Ironfur Grizzly. Easy choice. Hammer kills something AND cycles a new card in, making it a 4.5-star card. The others are much worse.
  5. Truesilver Champion / Hand of Protection / Priestess of Elune. Truesilver Champion, like Consecration, is one of Paladin’s top cards and an autopick. Not only do you typically get to kill 2 creatures with it, the healing it does means the main disadvantage of weapon attacks is mostly negated.
  6. Stormwind Champion / Argent Squire / Priestess of Elune. Stormwind Champion is a solid 4.5 star choice by itself and gets even better with Paladin/Shaman due to the hero power.
  7. Acidic Swamp Ooze / Blessing of Wisdom / Frostwolf Warlord. Ooze is my #2 ranked overall neutral minion; it’s a solid 2-drop that can absolutely swing a game if you catch a premium weapon from Rogue/Warrior/Shaman (occasionally Paladin/Hunter). Frostwolf Warlord is a good 4-star choice that plays above it’s ranking in Paladin, but it can’t touch the Ooze for utility. Wisdom is decent, not great.
  8. Silvermoon Guardian / Silverback Patriarch / Light’s Justice. The stats for mana cost on the Guardian aren’t great, but the Divine Shield usually means it can 2-for-1. I rate it 3.5 stars. Light’s Justice is -okay-, but not great, and I’ve already got a Truesilver. Patriarch’s 1 attack is pretty bad.
  9. Truesilver Champion / Youthful Brewmaster / Mogu’shan Warden. Again, truesilver autopick.
  10. Argent Commander / Azure Drake / Gadgetzan Auctioneer. Tough choice here! Both the Argent Commander and the Drake are 5-star rares. I ended up going with Commander since I already had a couple 5’s, but it’s a tough call.

    Mana curve after 10 cards. Slightly concerned about the lack of 3-drops, but nothing to panic about yet.

    Cards 0 2 0 4 2 2
    Mana 1 2 3 4 5 6+

  11. Truesilver Champion / Bloodsail Raider / Repentance. A third Truesilver! Awesome!
  12. Spiteful Smith / Lord of the Arena / Light’s Justice. Spiteful Smith is a solid 3.5-star card and will combo well with the 3 Truesilvers I have. Lord of the Arena is okay but needs more health.
  13. Sen’jin Shieldmasta / Bloodfen Raptor / War Golem. Sen’jin is a 5-star pick, the others are just average.
  14. Worgen Infiltrator / Repentance / Frostwolf Grunt. Infiltrator is the only decent 1-drop, since it can hide until it can trade up (or get buffed). Grunt’s taunt is far too flimsy.
  15. Consecration / Novice Engineer / Blessing of Wisdom. Another paladin autopick card.
  16. Argent Squire / Holy Light / Leper Gnome. All of these cards are terrible in arena. I picked the Squire here, but the Leper is just as good (bad). Holy Light looks nice, but usually just prolongs the inevitable.
  17. Wolfrider / Silver Hand Knight / Lord of the Arena. This was a mana-curve choice; at the time, I felt like I had too many big cards. In retrospect, Wolfrider is bad enough is comparison to SHK that this is probably a bad choice.
  18. Truesilver Champion / Chillwind Yeti / Humility. Okay, this draft has now entered ridiculous territory. What the hell, Truesilver #4.
  19. Consecration / Eye for an Eye / Silverback Patriarch. I would have been open to not picking Consecration here for curve reasons, but the other choices are awful.
  20. Wild Pyromancer / Ancient Watcher / Divine Favor. Ancient Watcher is just bad unless you have a ton of silences/Defender of Argus/Sunfury Protector. Divine Favor can be good if you ended up with a hand full of low-cost minions for some reason, but that’s pretty rare in Paladin and especially not in this draft. I’ll take the Pyromancer, which is a average card that can be awesome if I manage to pull an Equality.

    Mana curve after 20 cards. I have a TON of 4-drops; need to shore up the 2’s and 3’s. Can take at most one more big card.

    Cards 2 3 1 9 3 2
    Mana 1 2 3 4 5 6+

  21. Abusive Sergeant / Young Dragonhawk / Stormwind Champion. Mana curve pick, and it hurt to make it. Already got 1 Champion, though. Dragonhawk isn’t worth a card.
  22. Raging Worgen / Silvermoon Guardian / Stonetusk Boar. Yay! We needed 3-drops, and we got one of the best. You don’t get to enrage him much, but when you can, it can swing a game, especially if you can tag him with a buff. Something like…
  23. Blessing of Kings / Lord of the Arena / Nightblade. Well, there you go. Kings is the best spell you can get for Paladin, even if it pushes me to 10 4-drops; the alternatives are bad enough that I’ll take the mana curve hit.
  24. Kobold Geomancer / Blessing of Kings / Holy Light. Can’t justify 11 4-drops and need 2-drops, so sadly taking the Geomancer. Decent card for this deck, since I can power up a Consecrate or Hammer.
  25. Razorfen Hunter / Blessing of Wisdom / Humility. Also need 3-drops, would pick Wisdom in a vacuum.
  26. Earthen Ring Farseer / Truesilver Champion / Blessing of Wisdom. 5 Truesilvers!? I agonized over this pick, but I can’t.  Farseer’s a solid 4-star minion and I need 3-drops.
  27. Argent Protector / Bluegill Warrior / Eye for an Eye. Woot, a 5-star 2-drop card that fits a hole in the mana curve. Argent Protector almost always 2-for-1’s if you can get it out with another minion onboard.
  28. Hammer of Wrath / Leper Gnome / Stormwind Champion. I don’t want to take this Hammer, but the Leper is terrible. I’d have taken a decent 2/3-drop over the Hammer, but not a 7.
  29. Boulderfist Ogre / Mogu’shan Warden / Grimscale Oracle Don’t want the 7-drop, but neither of the other cards even reaches decent status.
  30. Sword of Justice / Sea Giant / Lay on Hands And with this, the deck reaches Epic status. Sword of Justice is a huge game winner for Paladin, but with already having 4 weapons, I mulled one of the other choices for a long time before deciding to grab Sword anyway.

Final mana curve and comments:

Great curve. A few less 4’s and more 2’s/3’s would be good, but not a dealbreaker since all the 2/3 drops are minions (excepting the SoJ).

Cards 3 5 5 11 3 3
Mana 1 2 3 4 5 6+

12-Win Paladin Decklist

This should be an amazing deck. My curve is good (I’d prefer 1-2 more 2’s and 3’s and less 4’s, but this is okay), my creatures are premium, and the extra Truesilvers mean I can just use them to hit the opponent directly if I need to. I don’t have any big late-game creatures, though, so I’m hoping to snowball out wins around Turns 9-10 before any big legendaries come out to play. I’ve already spoiled the outcome, but check back in a few days to see some of the brutal replays. :)

EDIT: Part 2 is here.


 Posted by at 10:47 pm
Jan 022014

Hearthstone_Screenshot_1.2.2014.21.01.44It’s time.

You heard about this cool Warcraft-themed collectible card game called Hearthstone, and you figured you’d give it a shot. The first steps were easy; you got the beta key, installed the game client, and completed the sweet tutorial. Great! …Now what? Some more practice? Jump right into Play mode? Start an Arena draft?  Don’t worry – I’m here with some tips that’ll help speed your progress from beginner to pro, or at least not-quite-so-terrible beginner.

Step 1 – Practice
“We’re talking about…practice?”

Yes, we’re talking about practice. Even if you’re a card-game expert, Hearthstone’s classes have an unlock and XP system. In order to use a class, you have to beat it once to unlock it. Once a class is unlocked, you can play as it to earn XP for that class;  every 2 levels up to level 10, you’ll earn a basic card for your deck.

Those basic cards aren’t enough for anything but entry-level play, though; to compete at the higher ranks, you’ll want lots more cards, which come only from card packs. Card packs can be purchased directly via in-game gold or real money, or earned indirectly through Arena play, which costs gold/money to enter. (If you’ve got the cash to spend on cards/Arena, more power to you, but I’m going to focus on gold-only options for this guide.)

So, you need XP and gold. Luckily, the game’s practice-mode AI is terrible, so that’s where you’re going to start. The default decks each class starts with are pretty bad, but the AI plays worse, so you should have no problem beating it once you’re used to the mechanics of the game. You start with Mage unlocked, so I’d recommend playing practice games with it until you reach level 10. (If you have your heart set on another class, feel free to play it once to unlock it and switch to that one.) Before leaving Practice mode, your goal is to beat every basic and expert AI hero once. In the current beta, there’s no visual indication that you’ve beaten an AI, so I’d recommend going in order. Doing so will net you three achievements (Ready To Go, Level Up, and Crushed Them All!) which gives you 200g and a free card pack. If you want some additional practice before facing live competition, you can level every class to 10, which will net you an additional achievement (Got the Basics!) and another 100g.

Step 2 – We Can Build It; We Have the Technology

Remember how I said the basic decks suck? Now that you’ve leveled a class to 10, you can do better. I’ll be posting a Basic-only deck list for all classes, but to start, here’s one for Mage with some tips:


Arcane Missiles x2 -This randomly chooses any enemy minon or the opposing minion to hit for 1 damage three times. Only use to kill minions, do not use on enemy hero unless it’s the last bit of damage to get a kill.
Frostbolt x2. See above. Don’t be afraid to freeze something nasty.
Acidic Swamp Ooze x2 – Basic 2-mana minion. Battlecry is a nice bonus but difficult to land.
Bloodfen Raptor x2 – Basic 2-mana minion.
Shattered Sun Cleric x2 – Try to use the buff to allow a minion to survive a trade with an enemy minion. Don’t be afraid to waste the buff, though, if you only have 3 mana and he’s the only 3-mana cost creature you have.
Razorfen Hunter x2 – Basic 3-mana minion.
Chillwind Yeti x2 – Basic 4-mana minion (deceptively strong for the cost).
Fireball x2 – One of the best spells in the game. This with your hero ability can kill just about any minion, or just finish the enemy off.
Gnomish Inventor x2 – Weak stats for the cost, but great around turn 4 since it draws you an additional card. Trades well with opposing 2-mana 3/2’s.
Polymorph x2 – Save for nasty creatures; anything 6+ mana, or something with a buff.
Sen’jin Shieldmasta x2 – Best defensive creature in the game for the cost.
Water Elemental x2 – Freeze is great for slowing enemies down so you can finish them off with direct-damage spells.
Gurubashi Berserker x2 – Deceptively strong – use your own hero ability on it to make it a nasty 5/6 with the chance to grow more.
Boulderfist Ogre x2 – Basic 6-mana minion.
Flamestrike x2 – Your game-winning spell. Many mage games are won by surviving until Turn 6/7, then dropping a Flamestrike to wipe the enemy’s board of creatures. Don’t ever use to kill a single enemy unless desperate.

This deck isn’t going to get you to Rank 1, but it’s solid enough to win 60-70% of your games against other new players, and has a good shot against players with more expensive decks. As you earn some cards, you can start swapping out; first candidates to drop are the Raptors and Hunters for something like a Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Harvest Golem, or Raging Worgen.

Step 3 – Play (and win, hopefully)

It’s time to play some live competition in Play mode! You have two options here. First is “ranked,” aka “ladder.” In this mode, you start at Rank 25, and attempt to reach higher ranks (and eventually, Legend) by winning matches against opponents trying to do the same. This mode can be somewhat difficult to start off with, so I’d recommend starting in “casual” mode. These games are unranked, so you’re much more likely to see a less competitive array of players here. Once you get a few games under your belt, you’ll unlock another two achievements very quickly (First Blood and The Duelist) and score another free 100g and card pack.

This mode is also where you’ll first start earning gold for your play (not counting achievements). While you earn a small amount of gold by simply playing and winning, you can earn much more via that day’s daily quest.  Daily quests are given to you once per day (even if you don’t login that day), and you can have up to 3. These quests typically reward between 40-60 gold and take 3-5 wins to complete, with a couple having different requirements. (Hearthhead has a complete list here.)  Note that you can “reroll” a daily quest once per day by clicking the X in the quest box, which randomly chooses another quest; I’ll typically reroll a 40g quest to attempt to get a 60g one.

Ready to spend some of this gold? Before you go crazy and start buying packs, see the next section.

Step 4 – Enter the Arena

Lots of bloody backs coming.

Lots of bloody backs coming.

The Arena is Hearthstone’s version of Magic’s “sealed” or “draft” format. Unlike Play mode, where you can select cards for your deck from the entire card pool, the Arena has you draft your deck via a series of 30 “best-of-3” choices. (For example: Water Elemental, Fireball, or Chillwind Yeti? The one you select goes into your deck; the others are discarded.) Once your deck is created, you challenge other decks created via the same means to see how many wins you can achieve. Once you hit 3 losses (or 12 wins), your run is complete and you receive a reward, which is always 1 free card pack and some additional gold, crafting dust, or cards.

I will have many many more things to say about Arena in the coming weeks, as this currently is my favorite mode of play. Your first run is free, but after that they cost 150g; you’ll want to do well to earn as much gold as possible for future runs.  It can be pretty overwhelming to get started, though.  Until I get a guide written, check out Trump, vivafringe, and freethnkr’s guides for some tips on drafting cards, and focus on solid play over tricks and traps.

Step 5 – Spend!

The part that everyone likes. Currently, the math works out pretty simply. You can either buy a pack for 100g, or buy a Arena run for 150g that comes with a free pack when you finish. Overall, if you can maintain a 4-win average on your runs, you’ll earn more than 50g per run, making Arena more cost effective than just buying packs; if you can keep a 7-win average (much more difficult), you can earn more than 150g per Arena, essentially making your packs “free.” Personally, I think Arena is a better place to spend gold, but that’s because I prefer the format. (I’m nowhere close to an average 7-win player, though I’m over 4.) If you try Arena and don’t like it, feel free to just play the regular mode, and buy a pack with daily quest winnings every few days.

That’s wraps this guide up – you’ve earned several achievements, racked up a few hundred gold and some free packs of cards. You’re well on your way to a successful Hearthstone career. Whether you choose to scale the ladder to being a Legend ranked player, or just try for that dream 12-win arena run – it’s up to you. Have fun!

(If you’re new to this blog, please subscribe via RSS or follow me on Twitter at @alarondruid; I’ll be posting new articles 2-3 times a week!)

 Posted by at 11:39 pm
Jan 022014

Hearthstone logo
EDIT: I’m republishing this post from September, as it still serves as a good intro. I’ve gone through and made a few edits. I’ll have an original post going up on Friday with some analysis on how to get started with Hearthstone.

So, I’ve been absolutely slammed with work at my new job – this last weekend was the first time that I could sit down and say “hey, I have an hour or two to just PLAY something.” Lo and behold, what do I get but a Hearthstone beta invite! Having checked it out when it was announced (and then promptly having forgot about it again), I really didn’t have any expectations except that it looked kinda fun. (For the record, I’m familiar with the rules of Magic: The Gathering, and spent a good bit of time playing a flash CCG called Elements, but wouldn’t consider myself “advanced” at all.) Here’s what I think.

Initial Impressions

Increasingly, games have to pass the “first 5 minutes” test with me. As I reach a stage of my life where time has replaced money as my primary limiting resource, I don’t want to deal with any non-fun crap right off the bat. Hearthstone easily passes this test As soon as you start the game for the first time, you get thrown into a series of tutorial battles against prominent WoW villains, which gradually teach you the elements of the game. Even if you’ve never played Magic or another CCG in your life, by the time you finish this tutorial series, you’ll be ready to battle other players (or continue to battle the AI, if you choose).

The big thing that sucks you in, though, is how well they evoke WoW in the card game itself. All of the creature and spell cards are patterned after their in-game equivalents, in both art and (most crucially) sound. Put down a murloc, and get the classic gurgle. Cast a fireball, and you get the whoosh-crack and glowy effect. Even the non-WoW sounds are done well; a small hit rewards a small “thunk” sound, while a large hit rewards a large “crack,” complete with applause, rubble, and screen shake. If you get bored during your opponent’s turn, all the game boards are fully interactable and have the classic Warcraft trope of doing something funny when clicked repeatedly.


Win or lose, your selected class will get XP. Yes, there are classes in a card game; if you’re familiar with MTG, then think of the nine classes as analogous to MTG’s colors, as they represent a pool of cards to choose your deck from. Unlike MTG, however, you only get one class choice; your deck is built from a combination of class-specific cards and a pool of neutral cards that are available to all classes.

Mechanics-wise, things are simple: many complex mechanics present in other CCG’s have been removed. There are only two major types of cards: spells and creatures (minions). There’s a few subtypes – some creatures are “weapons,” which cannot typically be attacked, and some spells are “secrets,” which are hidden when cast and execute automatically when their condition is met. There’s no lands, no artifacts, no differentiation in spell speeds, etc. While this lack of complexity may prove a detriment to the long-term health of the game, it greatly helps the casual player. The one new mechanic is called “hero power,” where each class (hero) can pay 2 mana once per turn to activate a special ability unique to that class. These abilities are fairly weak, but they’re always available, and knowing when to use them is critical to Hearthstone success.

Deckbuilding is also relatively painless. It’s pretty hard to make a truly “bad” deck unless you’re trying to, and if you’re completely lost, an ingenious “Suggest a Card” feature will recommend one of the current cards you own, based on your current deck’s current composition.

Game modes are pretty sparse at the moment – the only options are “Practice” (vs. AI, you pick the class and basic/advanced deck), “Play” (single game against random human opponent, ranked and casual modes) and “Arena,” which is the most compelling mode. In the Arena, everyone starts from scratch – you get to pick one of three randomly-determined classes, then pick one of three randomly-determined cards 30 times. You then take that fresh deck and match it against other fresh decks. Once you lose 3 times or win 12, you “finish” your Arena streak and get rewarded according to your number of wins…which leads us to the less savory bits of Hearthstone.

Hearthstone druid deck

Free-2-Play…or Lose

Hearthstone is free-to-play, but the amount of cards you get to start is very low. Off the bat, you get the “Basic Set,” which is 43 neutral cards, plus 45 class-specific cards, 5 for each class. Leveling a class to level 10 (relatively painless, since you gain a level when you win, and half that when you lose) will reward an additional 5 cards. That’s…it. The other ~400 neutral + class-specific cards are rewarded in packs – 5 cards in a pack. (Note: the Basic Set gives you card 2-packs, but cards earned from packs/crafting are singletons.)

Now, you get a couple one-time packs and some starter gold, but after that, the only realistic way to make gold is by a once-per-day quest, which rewards 40-100 gold. Winning a  match against another player  rewards a measly ~3 gold. (10 per 3 wins.)  You can also make gold from success in the Arena, the other Hearthstone play mode which features randomized card drafting.  It costs 150 gold to enter the Arena, but you receive a free pack when you finish, so the actual cost is about 50 gold…and if you can consistently go at least 4-3, you’ll make back that 50.

If you can’t, though, you’ll quickly find yourself gold-poor. At this point, you have two options. You can either pay real money ($3 for 2 card packs with quantity discounts for buying more, or $2 for 1 Arena entry + 1 card pack). Failing that, you can also do the single daily quest for 40-60 gold, grind out some play-mode wins, and slowly pick up new packs. It’s a pretty fair model, I find, and much less expensive then other online CCG’s.

Choose your hero

Thoughts on Classes

Druid – Focused on high-cost cards; minor themes include mana acceleration and “choose one” cards, where you can pick between one of two choices. Arguably best late-game class.

Hunter – Focused on beasts and traps (aka secrets). Very much a rush-type deck; currently underpowered due to some overzealous nerfs.

Mage – Focused on direct-damage cards and spells. Strongest all-round class in the game.

Paladin – Focused on buffs and pumping up creatures minions, with a little bit of healing and direct damage. Very solid class.

Priest – Focused on healing, obviously. Was once very strong, but has fallen back significantly after the nerf to Mind Control.

Rogue – Focused on using LOTS of low-damage minions and abilities, with card abilities called “combos” that trigger if another card is played before it.

Shaman – Focused on “overload” cycles; cards that are overpowered for their cost, but hit the mana pool over 2 successive turns.

Warlock – Focused on an odd niche – cards and abilities with both benefits and drawbacks. Very strong rush deck at the moment due to Warlock’s hero ability, which draws a card for 2 mana/2 health.

Warrior – Focused on weapons and minions that charge (activate immediately without requiring a turn), not terribly subtle class.

Overall, I’d say Rogue/Mage/Hunter seem to be the strongest at the moment, though it’s beta so who the hell knows what’ll happen tomorrow. Fun game, and I’ll likely be getting in a few matches a day.



 Posted by at 1:40 am