Thursday, April 18, 2019

What I Got from a Hearthstone Pre-Purchase


I tried but failed to love Hearthstone years ago, when the game had too many problems.

I recently tried again.  I am really enjoying the game.  Most of the early problems are fixed.
  • Daily quests do not all require winning games
  • The deck-builder automatically completes decks intelligently
  • Monthly ladder resets do not clump experts and newbies together
  • A "budget" meta deck without a specific legendary card is not crippled

For the first time, before last week's Rise of Shadows expansion I spent $80 on the big 80 pack pre-release bundle.  I am glad I did.

I expected two benefits.

First, when gaining new Rise of Shadows packs I would more quickly get dust from daily quests to craft cards I wanted.  This would be pleasant compared to the past expansion.  During the past three months I had just started getting noticeable dust income by the time a newer expansion appeared.

Second, I previously had one meta deck type named Odd Hunter that I could use in ranked play to see how much ladder progress my skill allowed.  I wanted a new meta deck to play on the ladder.

I did not realize how much more I would get.

Before I can explain further, I should describe what a "meta deck type" is for readers who do not play the game.  Here is a list of the currently best ones, two weeks into Rise of Shadows.


Right now the game is enjoying amazing balance.  Great job, designers!  Nine meta deck types have a win rate between 51.98% and 53.66%.  This is a very close spread: no one deck type is too dominant.  Moreover, eight of the nine heroes are represented.

Each of these deck types focuses on 10 to 15 cards.  A player who owns those can create a version of that deck type.

The improved game design means that missing a legendary card does not cripple its deck type.  The "budget" version of that any meta deck type might have one less trick up its sleeve, but still behaves similarly and can be nearly as successful on the ladder.

At the start of Rise of Shadows I was awarded a bunch of dust for owning certain now-obsolete cards, and for opening my pre-purchase packs.  An unexpected benefit was how I could create a bunch of key epic cards that my collection lacked, such as Sea Giant, CrystallizerMasked Contender, Magic CarpetMaster's Call, and Preparation.  Those opened up a whole lot of new options.

I expected to be able to build a new meta deck.  Now I can build five!  I can use the deck types named Midrange Hunter, Zoo Warlock, Imp Warlock, Secret Paladin, and Silence Priest.

For seven more deck types I can have fun with "budget" versions on the ladder: Token Druid, Recurring Villain Paladin, Tempo Rogue, Lackey Rogue, Resurrect Priest, Tempo Mage, and Spell Hunter.  For each of these I am missing only one legendary card (or a few epic cards of lesser total dust cost).  It is nice to have a shopping list of which cards I should craft next.

So I did get the jump-start I expected about getting more dust from daily quests to craft the cards I wanted.

And I did get not only one meta deck type to play, but five complete ones and seven more "budget" ones.

I also got a new way to relax.  Being able to use so many deck types means I now understand how those deck types work, and watching Hearthstone players on Twitch, YouTube, and in tournaments has become much more fun.

I also gained playing with my most fun cards.  I always found fiddling with decks to be time-consuming and not fun.  So when I owned cards that were fun but not powerful I seldom bothered to make decks to use them.  The improved deck-builder now lets me select a few cards and then will automatically finish the deck with the optimal other cards in my collection.  So I spent some of my dust on silly cards like Academic Espionage that will not help in ladder play but are providing a lot of fun in non-ranked games.

Finally, the improved deck-builder makes owning non-meta rare and epic cards more fun.  For example, the pre-purchase packs happened to give me Jumbo Imp.  That card is not currently part of any top-performing deck.  But it has potential.  I can auto-complete a deck seeded with just that card to see the most successful deck other players have designed for it so far.  And if other players ever do design a meta deck type that uses it, my deck-builder will use it appropriately.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Feral Druid Macros

One of my World of Warcraft guild-mates had not heard of macro conditionals.  So I share my current macros for my Feral Druid, Ewyn, who sometimes uses the Guardian Druid specialization in dungeons.


Button 1 - Bleeds

#showtooltip
/cleartarget [dead]
/targetenemy [noharm]
/castsequence [mod:shift][form:1] Thrash; [spec:3] Bear Form; [noform:2] Cat Form; reset=target Rake, Primal Wrath


The button shows the proper picture and tool-tip for its current use.  It selects a new foe if needed.  When in Guardian specialization it uses Thrash if in bear form, or switches to bear form if not.  When in Feral specialization it switches to cat form if needed, then alternates between the two damage-over-time abilities Rake (makes a combo point) and Primal Wrath (spends combo points).

Button 2 - Build

#showtooltip
/cleartarget [dead]
/targetenemy [noharm]
/castsequence [mod:shift] Swipe; [form:1] reset=target Moonfire, Mangle, Swipe, Swipe, Mangle; [noform:2][nocombat] Prowl; Shred


The button shows the proper picture and tool-tip for its current use.  It selects a new foe if needed.  When in Guardian specialization it uses various attacks.  When in Feral specialization it switches to stealthy prowl mode if needed, or in combat uses Shred to build combo points.

Button 3 - Damage

#showtooltip
/cleartarget [dead]
/targetenemy [noharm]
/cast [mod:shift,spec:2] Primal Wrath; [nocombat,outdoors] Travel Form; [form:1] Maul; [noform:2] Cat Form; [combat] Ferocious Bite; Stampeding Roar
/cast [combat,form:2] Tiger's Fury


The button shows the proper picture and tool-tip for its current use.  It selects a new foe if needed.  It switches to travel form when appropriate.  When in bear form it uses Maul.  Otherwise it switches to cat form if needed, and then uses Ferocious Bite.  Outside of combat and indoors it uses Stampeding Roar.  Because the cat form ability Tiger's Fury is not on the global cooldown, a second "cast" can also use that ability whenever it is available.

Using Buttons 1, 2, and 3 without the shift key - Single Target Damage

When Ewyn is in cat form, her attacks on a single target are pretty simple.

She starts with button 1 to do the Rake damage-over-time.  Then a few presses of button 2 uses Shred to build more combo points.  Then returning to button 1 applies the Primal Wrath damage-over time.

Now that those two long-term effects are in place, she uses button 2 to build more combo points with Shred, and then button 3 to spend them with Ferocious Bite.

So fighting one foe is usually a sequence like: 1, 2, 2, 1; 2, 2, 2, 3; 2, 2, 2, 3; then start over because the damage-over-times have worn off.  (The exact number of 2's varies depending upon how fast the combo points fill up.)

Using Buttons 1, 2, and 3 with the shift key - Area-of-Effect Damage

When Ewyn is in cat form, her area-of-effect attacks are very simple.

When I hold down the shift key, and am in cat form, the above three buttons use Thrash, Swipe, and Primal Wrath.

Pressing shift and button 1 once uses Thrash, which is a similar damage-over-time to Rake but only causes one-quarter the damage.

Pressing shift and button2 uses Swipe, which is similar to Shred but only causes one-half the damage.  Repeat this until combo points are full.

Pressing shift and button3 uses Primal Wrath, which is the best way to spend those combo points for area-of-effect damage.

So fighting a group of four or more foes is a sequence of: 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, repeat.  (The exact number of 2's varies depending upon how fast the combo points fill up.  Sometimes they fill up so quickly the next 1 can be skipped.)

This is simpler than before because there is no area-of-effect equivalent to Ferocious Bite.

Button 4 - Interrupt One

#showtooltip
/cleartarget [dead]
/targetenemy [noharm]
/castsequence [nocombat,mod:shift] Flight Master's Whistle; [spec:2] Skull Bash; reset=6 Skull Bash, Incapacitating Roar


The button shows the proper picture and tool-tip for its current use.  It selects a new foe if needed.  When out of combat, the shift key has it use Flight Master's Whistle.  When in Feral specialization it uses the main interrupt called Skull Bash.  When in Guardian specialization it uses both Skull Bash and another interrupt named Incapacitating Roar.

Button 5 - Interrupt Two

#showtooltip
/cleartarget [dead]
/targetenemy [noharm]
/cast [nocombat,mod:shift] Grand Expedition Yak; Mighty Bash


The button shows the proper picture and tool-tip for its current use.  It selects a new foe if needed.  When out of combat, the shift key has it use the Grand Expedition Yak.  Otherwise it uses an interrupt called Mighty Bash.

Button 6 - Interrupt Three

#showtooltip
/cleartarget [dead]
/targetenemy [noharm]
/cast [mod:shift,nocombat,group] Obsidian Nightwing; [mod:shift,nocombat] Anglers Fishing Raft; [spec:3] Ironfur; [spec:2,combat] Maim; Fishing


The button shows the proper picture and tool-tip for its current use.  It selects a new foe if needed.  When out of combat, the shift key has it use either the Obsidian Nightwing if in a group, or the Anglers Fishing Raft if adventuring alone.  When in Guardian specialization it uses Ironfur for defense.  When in Feral specialization and in combat it uses a third interrupt named Maim.  Otherwise it goes fishing.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Island Map

I made a map for a new Nine Powers campaign with my family.


Creating the image involved only a few steps.

Red Blob Games has an island maker.  My settings were these.

GIMP is the free version of PhotoShop.  I made three adjustments.

1. Filters -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur -> Radius 2
2. Filters -> Artistic -> Clothify -> Blur 9, Azimuth 100, Elevation 45
3. Colors -> Levels -> Upper Input Level from 1 to 1.6


Inkscape is the free version of Illustrator.  I used it to add the rectangles and text.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Elementary School Spooky Posters

Want to decorate your elementary school for a haunted house fundraiser, or Halloween?

Here is a simple creative writing activity.

Make one list with all the types of places in your school.  For example, there is the main office, principal's office, gym, cafeteria, a hallway, etc.

Make a second list with all the kinds of traditional spooky monsters.  For example, a zombie, mummy, werewolf, ghost, etc.

Then match up items from the two lists to make silly and spooky posters.  Ideally the sentences you make are very short (to fit on the poster) and not too gory (to not scare the kindergartners).

Here are my examples, which should not be provided to a classroom of kids actually doing the activity.


Zombified? See school nurse for a cure.

Please report haunted toilets to the school secretary.

Please do not dig up skeletons in the playground.

Ghosts also must keep right in breezeways.

This quad is peanut and garlic free.

Be safe. Be kind. Be responsible. Be plump and juicy.

Is it the real Principal Moore?

Do not take candy from the witch.

The teachers lounge fridge needs a new jar of eyeballs.

Today at 3pm is werewolf howling choir practice.

Tired? Energize with new Van der Graaf gym routine.

Fifth grade embalming class postponed to Monday.

Can't find your phylactery? Check the new Lost and Found.

Respect our rodents! Only bullies command rat hordes.