Hearthstone's New Formats Will Balance Decks For New Players

| 2 Feb 2016 21:50

Hearthstone will introduce new Standard and Wild game formats to provide a more balanced game for new players.

After two years Hearthstone remains an impressively fun card game, as long-time players can attest. However the experience isn't quite the same for newcomers, who are getting crushed by advanced decks before they can even learn all the rules. Thankfully Blizzard is introducing new game formats that should allow for more balanced play. Standard format games will use decks of the most recent card types, while Wild format allows for decks from any expansion you'd like.

So let's say you're a new player still coming to grips with Hearthstone's systems. You'll want to stick with Standard games, which use a combination of Basic, Classic, and the most recent card types. That creates a certain baseline of balanced cards while still giving room for players to experiment with the latest releases. Standard format will be available in Friendly Challenges, Casual Play, and Ranked Play.

Once you have a strong card collection, you can turn to Wild format. Wild games allow players to construct decks from every Hearthstone card type, so all players will know what they're getting into. Wild format will even have its own rankings, so you can try to achieve Legend in both Ranked Play modes if you choose. That being said, you can only earn season rewards in your highest rank, so it might pay to be selective.

When Blizzard launches Hearthstone's formats later this year, Standard games will include Basic, Classic, Blackrock Mountain, Grand Tournament, League of Explorers, and the Spring 2016 expansion cards. Once the new calendar year starts, older card types will be cycled out to allow for new expansions. Cards from older expansions and adventures will no longer be available for purchase in the shop - if you want them afterwards, you'll have to craft them with Arcane Dust. On the plus side, cards that are currently uncraftable will be unlocked as their card type is phased out. Adventures you've already purchased will remain available. Finally, Blizzard will increase the total number of decks from 9 to 18.

While this might make it harder to grab some of those legendary cards you hoped for, Blizzard's move should make Hearthstone more accessible for new players without sacrificing the experience of early adopters. That's a good move in the long run, and should have us constructing new Hearthstone decks for years to come.

Source: Battle.net

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Olas:
How about they just do a better job matching people of equal skill, so that people like me who are new to the game aren't regularly encountering people with vastly better decks and strategies even while both being on level 20. That seems like a better idea than all this card limitation mumbo jumbo. Not that they couldn't do this also, but I'd prefer to just have a better ranking system.

A big factor with their matchmaking is what time of the month you are playing. At the start of each month, it seems like everyone gets ranks reset to ~20, and it takes a few weeks for most to get ranked back up to where they were. Just in time for a new reset.

OT: As others have said, this isn't going to drastically affect the new player experience. I think it has more to do with shaking up the meta and giving the card designers more room by taking out some of the strongest cards at each mana cost.

Not sure how I feel about those cards being dropped. I spent a couple months saving up dust to get Dr. Boom and now that is going away. GvG and Naxx had some clearly OP cards but I did like that having even just the common mechs or the deathrattle naxx cards gave a neutral baseline for making a playable deck for classes that you don't have that many cards for.

SecondPrize:

Soak:
snip

The standard format is meant to ease entry for newcomers, not make it easy. Yes, newcomers won't be able to match the level older players are at in terms of having all of the viable cards in the standard legal sets but that level is being capped. They're lowering the ceiling rather than raising the floor.

Yes and exactly that is part of the problem. It caps the ceiling for standart, but doesn't really do anything else. It doesn't actually address the entry for newcomers at all and makes nothing "easier". The way, or method to get from floor to ceiling doesn't change, the ceiling is still too high for newcomers, when they get halfway there it'll usually be a few months, maybe even a year into the game and they aren't newcomers anymore and if you think about wild, it'll probably actually make it more difficult. And that's the reason why the argument of addressing new players is bogus.

And that's why this

Olas:
How about they just do a better job matching people of equal skill, so that people like me who are new to the game aren't regularly encountering people with vastly better decks and strategies even while both being on *rank* (edit) 20. That seems like a better idea than all this card limitation mumbo jumbo. Not that they couldn't do this also, but I'd prefer to just have a better ranking system.

still accounts to pretty much all new players.

The way it is now, new players enter the game, do a couple of games in solo, then probably go over to normal play, where they soon get smashed by players with mutiple epics and legendaries or full fledged concept decks, which it is simply impossible to deal with if you have the limited pool of a newcomer, then switch over to ranked to hit a wall around rank 20, where the same problem of card access makes and breaks most plays, which they'll have to endure until they have access to more cards themselves to eventually get to the point that strategy and skill starts to overweight card access, which is way into the game. Nothing of this will actually change with the standart format and a year into the game, when standart rotates, players aren't newcomers anymore.

As said, Brawl depends, in my opinion the lvl 20 entry for that is kind of dumb as well, because if players get a deck of some sorts, it doesn't matter, while for some brawls card access is all that matters.

Arena is actually the only way to play to avoid all of this, as everyone has the "same" access and players have to learn the value of each card individually and in small combos to play well - and i am really wondering what the changes will do to that!

I'm still not against the new format, on the contrary, as i said, because it makes total sense from a design perspective.
But if they wanted to do something to ease in newcomers better, they'd have to do something else in addition, like a better matching system or an even slimmer format, what something like pauper would be, it also doesn't raise the floor, but lowers the ceiling so much it actually matters for newcomers. Sure, there'd still be a gap between newcommers and more advanced players playing the format with more card access, but it'd be way smaller, would be less intimidating for more casual players and still push dedicated newcomers forward, they'd be able to jump this gap sooner and naturally progress and when they hit that ceiling, they can better progress to standart.

How about they just do a better job matching people of equal skill, so that people like me who are new to the game aren't regularly encountering people with vastly better decks and strategies even while both being on level 20. That seems like a better idea than all this card limitation mumbo jumbo. Not that they couldn't do this also, but I'd prefer to just have a better ranking system.

Soak:
snip

The standard format is meant to ease entry for newcomers, not make it easy. Yes, newcomers won't be able to match the level older players are at in terms of having all of the viable cards in the standard legal sets but that level is being capped. They're lowering the ceiling rather than raising the floor.

I want to say i like the upcoming standart/wild format, but honestly, some of the stated reasons are just bogus!

The standart format will probably barely make a difference for newcomers, because access to cards will barely shift. The "problem" is, that the acquisition of new cards is just so much easier for veterans! They already have pretty much all the other cards and when a new set comes out, it's very easy for them to get what they want. If it's a campaign, just walk through the wings the second they come out and you have full access to the new set. If it's a booster set, buy a couple and then craft the ones you need to max your deck. For some of them, standart will actually make more sense, as it will force people to try new decks - though veterans usually already have multiple they switch for fun - and they can still fully enjoy wild with their cardpool and putting together new power-combos when they come out.

A newcomer simply can't do any of that, unless they throw a bunch of money at Blizz and this simply won't change if you restrict the format - they will still struggle/ hit a wall against a lot of players which just have faster and easier access to all of the content while i think, on the contrary, the entry to the wild format will be almost impossible for them, if Blizz goes through with discontinuing older sets. I think it can be even more important for Tavern Brawls: Sometimes it wouldn't matter, but sometimes they put up Brawls which build so heavily about specific mechanics, that they almost require certain cards to do anything, or have any fun in them. It might even negativly affect the learning curve, not being able to see how the sets developed - though this might not be important for most. And i'm kind of wondering what this will do to Arena.

To state newcomers as a reason just doesn't add up, really and discontinuing older sets just doesn't make sense to me - it's one thing for collectible card games (CCGs) with physical cards, but for digital... just, why?

However, introducing format restrictions like standart still makes a lot of sense, but for whole different reasons, as some already said, mainly from a design perspective. The thing is, that this way they can focus on new sets without having to look for the whole extend of all the cards for possible exploits or power-combos and that the power curve becomes a bit more flexible in general - of course it's wise to still look out for that, but if something comes up, they can simply say, "well, that's wild, duh", or tweak the wild format without hurting standart.
It's obvious, really, if you look at long time CCGs like Magic of course, where they have:
Blocks, which usually revolve around a specific theme (like "League of Explorers" for example).
Standart, consisting of a core set and multiple blocks (just like the standart Hearthstone wants to establish)
Vintage, which allows all cards printed (with some restrictions), which is pretty much what wild would be in Hearthstone.
And due to the vast list of cards, some additional ones, some sanctioned and even more casual formats.

But honestly, if they really wanted to look out for newcomers, the casual formats are what they should be looking at in my opinion - like pauper, which allows only commons, is a perfect format for newcommers & beginners in my opinion, as they can freely learn all the basics and small-scale combos with easy to acquire cards and still have some fun into the mid-range, until they get enough cards of higher rarity that they'll naturally want to build around those. It would be super-easy to establish a variant which restricts to mostly commons and some higher rarity cards to achieve that.

I actually think, that their approach is probably a compromise, for the designers to open their range, which kind of was necessary and probably for the company as a possibility to implement new ways for them to get what actually matters to them: money. If you put in restrictions like the ones they plan, it's actually a lot easier to build in mechanics to increase the incentive for people to spend money on acquiring new and old content alike.

So, to wrap it up: Change may be needed for Hearthstone and formats like standart make sense, but for different reasons and i think they could easily do something different to actually address newcomers to intermediate players and still let older sets persist in the shop without hurting their model.

One thing I ALWAYS liked about digital card games, there was never any time ever where you would have to ask "Was I supposed to do that?" (That was a serious problem when I played Magic).

However one thing I look down upon any and ALL modern card games is that none of them, NONE OF THEM even bother to try and recapture the dizzying heights of the 1997 Magic the Gathering PC game. Now that, THAT was a digital card game no DLC, no bullshit microtransactions, no F2P, you could access all the cards in the game AND it had an overworld, a story, rpg mechanics. Hell it even had randomized worlds. Can you imagine what a game like that would be like today? Even just a 3d remake would probably make hearthstone look like month old milk.
I know somebody is going to try and snip out what I said about hearthstone and f2p and honestly I don't care, if you aren't paying in cash you're directly paying in time and that's the nature of f2p.

Schtimpy:

The funny thing is, I would say get 1000 gold, arena, get Naxx. Then, when you have enough dust, craft Dr. Boom.

GvG and Naxx were both broken, so this is a positive thing. The game has room to grow and change now, it was getting boring seeing the same cards over and over again. That being said, I just bought 20 GvG packs with my new expansion gold. Got a Sneed's!

Edit: add "and first wing Blackrock." to the top sentence. Although that won't be a thing a year from now.

I think Blizzard just kind of needs to jump on things and reveal some new content. Most of the complaints seem to be from people who are only focusing on what's being 'lost'. That's a fair concern to have. Blizzard has revealed what they are going to take away, so now it'd be cool to get a peek of what they're going to add.

I have high hopes for the new Standard format (and the batshit insanity that Wild will become), but this really does put a lot more weight on Blizzard's shoulders. It's not going to be like when TGT came out to a resounding "Meh" and people just picked a dozen cards and forgot about the rest. A "Meh" expansion is going to have a lot more impact on the game now.

Given how good League of Explorers was though, I'm not too worried just yet. I'm super curious to see what they do with the "between 2 and 20" cards in core/basic that they're going to tweak. That's going to impact a lot of things too, and they'll have the freedom to pretty much do whatever they want. Although, general consensus is that druid is going to get a great big nerf-bat, since it's basically just been using core/basic cards since the game began. If they didn't nerf it, druid would basically be the exact same deck, while every other class goes through a significant acclimation period.

I just hope they aren't too rough D: Druid is like, my 2nd favorite class.

Also! Blizzard! Give us character skins for the rest of the classes. Geez. I'm sick of staring at Malfurian's goofy ass, and Gul'Dan's sub-par artwork.

Michael Dunkerton:
New players are actually able to join the game (not true currently, where would you even start to get cards?).

The funny thing is, I would say get 1000 gold, arena, get Naxx. Then, when you have enough dust, craft Dr. Boom.

GvG and Naxx were both broken, so this is a positive thing. The game has room to grow and change now, it was getting boring seeing the same cards over and over again. That being said, I just bought 20 GvG packs with my new expansion gold. Got a Sneed's!

Edit: add "and first wing Blackrock." to the top sentence. Although that won't be a thing a year from now.

Michael Dunkerton:
When WoW (or any MMO) comes out with an expansion, 75% of the content from the previous expansion disappears or is made irrelevant. Compared to that, partially removing one or two expansions and keeping three or four is pretty fair. New players are actually able to join the game (not true currently, where would you even start to get cards?) and old players should be the most happy about the change because it means the meta can change without insane power creep. In the last three expansions, every card that came out was compared to GvG cards (This would be a great four drop! But you'd never replace Piloted Shredder with it, so it's garbage). New cards with new effects can be usable without being crazy powerful because the auto-take cards aren't in the game anymore.

I also have no idea why everyone is complaining about not being able to buy packs that you won't use in the game's intended format. Is it just collecting for the sake of collecting? It's like complaining that you can't get the Tier 3 shoulders from some midway raid when a new expansion releases with Tier 6.

Pretty much, yeah. The alternative is to expect the devs to balance every single new card against every single other card ever released (which is all kinds of unrealistic) and to expect undertaker/buzzard/warsong nerfs as the norm for balancing. As more cards come out, insane combos would only become more common, and so would Blizzard having to resort to the nuclear option to maintain balance. As much as I love renolock, it just isn't tenable in the longrun. *Any* good, new neutral will *always* benefit renolock, and that deck would only become more refined and more consistent as time goes on. Having no limits actually often constrains development.

I do hope that they re-release old cards instead of just making duplicates though. I'd much rather see darkbomb or zombie chow come back in a later expansion than Blizzard just make a carbon-copy for the heck of it.

I think most of the people complaining about this either just *want* to hate the game no matter what, or they don't have any real exposure to other CCG's. This kind of change absolutely had to happen, or the game was not going to survive in the long-run. Every single CCG does this (except Yu-gi-oh. They just intentionally introduce power-creep and then ban specific cards). This is normal, and it isn't anything to get upset over. Unless Blizzard fumbles this massively on the development side (which is still possible, granted), the game will be healthier in the long-run because of this change.

When WoW (or any MMO) comes out with an expansion, 75% of the content from the previous expansion disappears or is made irrelevant. Compared to that, partially removing one or two expansions and keeping three or four is pretty fair. New players are actually able to join the game (not true currently, where would you even start to get cards?) and old players should be the most happy about the change because it means the meta can change without insane power creep. In the last three expansions, every card that came out was compared to GvG cards (This would be a great four drop! But you'd never replace Piloted Shredder with it, so it's garbage). New cards with new effects can be usable without being crazy powerful because the auto-take cards aren't in the game anymore.

I also have no idea why everyone is complaining about not being able to buy packs that you won't use in the game's intended format. Is it just collecting for the sake of collecting? It's like complaining that you can't get the Tier 3 shoulders from some midway raid when a new expansion releases with Tier 6.

So basically, minus a content-dungeon, minus pack buying. And turning making a legendary into a nightmare.
As a result - 130 cards craft only + 30 from a dungeon...where 90% of the legendaries are.

They do say that if you bought the 1 lvl of the dungeon, you can buy the rest, but they don't specify by gold or by real money.

Welp, time to go grind the dungeons and packs before this retarded update comes up.

Their are good and bad sides to this. As someone who largely plays limited it doesn't affect me all that much. But I am glad from a viewing perspective. I know In MTG if you want to play vintage these days you have to play one of like eight top tier deck lists or you may as well not bother. At least this way the meta gets changed up instead of being a solved thing.

NPC009:

Good point. With this new format, the adventures would, if they were still available, essentially become DLC for expert players. New players would just be wasting their money if they start those adventures too soon. What could solve this is removing the option to pay for adventures with real money, meaning players would have to save up enough gold first by actually playing the game. But... it would totally clash with the F2P mechanic, so yeah, probably never gonna happen...

Yeah. Lowering the gold cost of adventures could be a good middle-ground and/or increasing overall gold-gain (which would just be nice in general, but also likely not happening).

Honestly, it sorta brings hearthstone more in line with WoW in a way. New players don't get to run Molten Core, or whatever the old raids were (I think D: I don't play WoW, actually). The story has moved on and they just get to hear about them from older players, and see the old loot when those players use it.

But! They get their own new adventures to experience as well. New loot, new things to do.

I think the changes could be very good in the long-run, but it does put a *lot* more pressure on Blizzard to iterate and innovate on their game. It really depends how they handle it.

rcs619:

NPC009:
I run a basic + expert only mage deck just for funsies. I got to rank 5 with it back in the old days and my skills have increased since then. Poor, poor newbies :(

Anyway: new format to welcome newcomers? Great! Building a big wall around some of the most useful cards? Not so great. More like bad, really. It will only widen the gap between new players and the ones who've been playing since before Naxx. Besides, aside from offering good value, those adventures are a lot of fun!

I will admit that the adventures are fun.

However, I can totally see why they're going to remove the older ones. If you're a new player and half your legends are from Naxx... you're more likely to play wild instead of standard. Maybe you end up doing well and its fine... but maybe you get womped on by a bunch of older wild players, and you get frustrated. And you can't pay standard very well either, since you've spent most of your money/gold/dust on things that aren't even playable there. So you get double-frustrated and leave.

Good point. With this new format, the adventures would, if they were still available, essentially become DLC for expert players. New players would just be wasting their money if they start those adventures too soon. What could solve this is removing the option to pay for adventures with real money, meaning players would have to save up enough gold first by actually playing the game. But... it would totally clash with the F2P mechanic, so yeah, probably never gonna happen...

shrekfan246:

rcs619:
It sucks from a collector's standpoint yeah, but I can see their reasoning.

I guess I am also a bit disappointed because I did want to get all of the cards, and now that's basically going to be impossible. I like my stupid gimmick decks, and I want to continue playing the "current" game mode. There are still loads of cards I need that could actually flesh out said gimmicks to be more useful, though, and whenever this change rolls around it looks like I'll need to give up any hope of ever getting, say, Varian Wrynn for my Warrior or Aviana for my Druid, or The Mistcaller for my Shaman. And lord knows I can kiss goodbye any chance of getting all of them.

You could still get them. The packs may eventually be removed but the cards will still be craft-able. Even that only really affects the commons and rares (the only ones you were likely to get from any pack anyway. It's been my experience that if I ever wanted a particular epic or legend, I would have to craft it, since the odds were so small of getting it from any given pack.

You've basically got no chance of getting Varian or Avianna now, to be fair. I'm sure a math-nerd could give you actual numbers, but they ain't great.

I dunno, I just don't think I'm comfortable with the idea of them essentially segregating the playerbase of Hearthstone. I can't imagine I'm the only person who's been playing for a very long time and still doesn't have most of the really good cards, and from the sounds of things we're going to be forced to either continue on like we have been but with even less chance of ever having good cards to climb the ladder, or be sectioned off into Standard with all of the people who don't have all of the cards, and thus lose access to a great number of cards that we potentially really enjoy.

Keep in mind, Standard mode is going to be, well, the new standard. It's what all the pros will play, and more importantly, it will be the mode that blizzard focuses its balance around. Every new expansion/adventure will be geared with standard in mind and they've even said that they will be going back and making changes to a lot of basic and core cards they'd always meant to.

The difference won't be felt so much at first, but eventually the two modes are going to diverge sharply. Wild will be fun, and silly and nostalgic... but with a couple more years of expansions and adventures, it's also going to be massively, massively unbalanced.

I'll be the first person to admit I know very little about how game balance works, but on the surface I just can't imagine this is actually going to make the game better long-term.

It's the only way the game was going to survive in the longterm. You could already see the cracks forming with Grim Patron (which took nuking a minion into the point of being unplayable, just like undertaker and starving buzzard), and if you think secret-paladin and renolock are strong now, imagine how they'd be with even more cards to draw on.

No dev team can possibly be expected to balance every single new card around every single other card that already exists. After a certain point, it becomes hilariously unrealistic. More importantly, it also limits what they can do with the game. Every time they create a new neutral card they have to go (how would this fit in renolock? They can't even make any new paladin secrets that are actually *good* because mysterious challenger would just be made that much more powerful on turn 6.

Without limiting the card-pool, the only (inevitable) option is to nuke cards into unplayability like they did with warsong, starving buzzard and undertaker. Patron managed to survive as a deck because the basic premise was stronger than the OTK gimmick, but that doesn't always happen (deathrattle hunter and deathrattle priest say hi from the land of broken decks).

If they're going to be separating game modes and having one use only specific expansions anyway, I don't see why they need to straight up remove the ability to easily get cards from the excluded expansions.

Because they want people to play standard as the default mode in Hearthstone. The pros will switch over because that's where they money is at, but my impression is that they're removing the old boosters and adventures so that there's less pressure to just buy GvG packs forever and never try the current game. They want people to only be able to buy currently-standard packs, so that more people will play standard.

Also, once again, they aren't removing your ability to get the cards, just the (tiny) chance of opening them in a pack. You want piloted shredder, you can still get piloted shredder. It costs 80 dust for 2, which is nothing. You want sludge belcher, now you can craft it instead of paying 30 bucks for like 20 good cards (out of what, 40-something?).

NPC009:
I run a basic + expert only mage deck just for funsies. I got to rank 5 with it back in the old days and my skills have increased since then. Poor, poor newbies :(

Anyway: new format to welcome newcomers? Great! Building a big wall around some of the most useful cards? Not so great. More like bad, really. It will only widen the gap between new players and the ones who've been playing since before Naxx. Besides, aside from offering good value, those adventures are a lot of fun!

I will admit that the adventures are fun.

However, I can totally see why they're going to remove the older ones. If you're a new player and half your legends are from Naxx... you're more likely to play wild instead of standard. Maybe you end up doing well and its fine... but maybe you get womped on by a bunch of older wild players, and you get frustrated. And you can't pay standard very well either, since you've spent most of your money/gold/dust on things that aren't even playable there. So you get double-frustrated and leave.

You can still craft any of the old cards if you really want to. I don't like them removing the old stuff, but I can see why it's probably for the best in the long-run.

I do hope that they bring them back as special events or something though. Or even re-release old cards in new expansions. Like, instead of creating a new "deal 3 damage" spell for warlock, maybe you just re-release darkbomb. New players can get it from the current pack, older players can use theirs again. If an old card would really help balance the current meta in standard, re-releasing it seems like a convenient way to fix an issue. I believe magic re-releases older cards in new expansions every now and then.

Beginners will want to move on to 'wild' eventually, because it allows for a lot more types of decks. However, unless the whole dust thing is rebalanced, some of the best/most fun cards from Adventures will be much more expensive than they used to be. For instance, you need 40 dust just to get a common card, and the avarage pack (100 gold, with the occasional free one from quests and brawls) gives you little more than that. Good luck if you want Loatheb. If adventures and packs are no longer available, getting cards from those sets will turn into a total grind.

NPC009:
I run a basic + expert only mage deck just for funsies. I got to rank 5 with it back in the old days and my skills have increased since then. Poor, poor newbies :(

Anyway: new format to welcome newcomers? Great! Building a big wall around some of the most useful cards? Not so great. More like bad, really. It will only widen the gap between new players and the ones who've been playing since before Naxx. Besides, aside from offering good value, those adventures are a lot of fun!

Not sure how it makes the gap wider when the pool of cards is now smaller.

UsefulPlayer 1:
Doesn't this make the game explicitly pay-to-win? If you cycle out the old cards, then players who buy the 50-packs or the Adventures at launch have a distinct advantage over other Standard players. By the time they catch up in gold the cards would be cycled out.

I guess what Blizzard is saying is you should grind for a year, save a ton of gold, can buy pack/adventures on launch, and then save for another year.

Not true. Classic packs and basic cards are always relevant which means newer players can just stick to buying classic packs until they have everything they need from there and the cards they get will always be relevant.

Well that's just bizarre. Introducing a limited format similar to Magic's is an incredibly obvious idea that many of us have been saying they should do pretty much from the start, but simultaneously making it impossible for most people to ever access most of the cards is just insane. Especially since, as others have already noted, this makes things even more difficult for the new players it's supposedly trying to help. Getting rid of old adventures is even more insane. Not only are they one of the few ways Hearthstone distinguishes itself from other CCGs, but they're by far the best way to get guaranteed useful cards since you can see what you'll get instead of relying on RNG. Removing access to them again punishes new players far more than everyone else. Plus they're fun! What kind of idiot would deliberately remove content from the game?

Doesn't this make the game explicitly pay-to-win? If you cycle out the old cards, then players who buy the 50-packs or the Adventures at launch have a distinct advantage over other Standard players. By the time they catch up in gold the cards would be cycled out.

I guess what Blizzard is saying is you should grind for a year, save a ton of gold, can buy pack/adventures on launch, and then save for another year.

Also, I hate how this means a number of cards will never be good/viable. I will never be able to use Neptulon with Everyfin is awesome.

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