Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Hearthstone Paladin Overview (Rise of Shadows Expansion)

The Paladin is one of the nine hero choices for the Hearthstone card game.  A player who picks this hero can use the Paladin cards as well as neutral minions.

The internet provides many examples of Paladin decks.  But it can be difficult to find a broad overview of how the class works.  This essay aims to fill that role.

Section One: Behaviors

The Paladin cards include several that interact with your draw pile (Blessing of Wisdom, Crystology, Call to Adventure, Prismatic Lens, Duel, and Bellringer Sentry) to make your deck predictable and efficient.

Only two Paladin cards interact with your discard pile (Immortal Prelate and Kangor's Endless Army).  These each define their own deck archetype as described below.

The Paladin cards include only three that interact with your hand (Glowstone Technician, Bronze Herald, and Dragon Speaker).  These currently are fun but not a key feature of any meta deck.

No Paladin cards interact with battlecries.  This is an intentional weakness for the hero.

The only Paladin card that interacts with deathrattle is the secret Redemption, which allows a minion's deathrattle to occur an extra time.  Small but significant!

Currently Paladin cards have a creature type synergy with mechs and dragons.  In the past murlocs and recruits were too, but no longer.

Filling your side of the battlefield with small minions is called a "wide board". Some other heroes have cards (Soul of the Forest, Soul of the Murloc) that make a wide board "sticky", meaning an effect that destroys all your minions will not actually leave your side of the battlefield empty because replacement minions stick around.  Paladin cards have no way to make wide board sticky.  This is an intentional weakness for the hero.

The Paladin cards include four to clear an opponent's wide board (Equality, Shrink Ray, Consecration, and Avenging Wrath).  Some decks combine these with the neutral minion Wild Pyromancer to increase their potency.

Some other heroes have minions (Timber Wolf, Tundra Rhino) or spells (Savage Roar, Bloodlust) that beneficially affect all the minions on your side of the battlefield.  Paladin cards have no way to empower all your minions.  However, this has been a feature of Paladin cards in the past and might return in a future expansion.

The only way Hearthstone cards allow you to act on your opponents turn is with secrets.  The Paladin cards include some really great secrets.

Three Paladin cards provide a surprise burst on your turn without needing a card combination (Blessing of Might, Blessing of Kings, Truesilver Sword).  Most decks include one of these to allow the player to punish the opponent for acting too greedy.

Section Two: Tempo from Secrets

Most Paladin decks include secrets.  These serve two purposes.

First, they ensure that player survives the early game.  This is especially true if combined with Commander Rhyssa.

Second, the secrets provide the type of efficiency called "tempo".  Mysterious Blade and the neutral minion Sunreaver Spy both provide a lot of value for only two mana.  Early in the game, while many secrets are still in the deck, Prismatic Lens will often makes a big minion very cheap to play.  Later in the game Bellringer Sentry helps bring remaining secrets out of the deck so important minions are drawn sooner.

A common selection of secrets that promotes early game survivability and middle game tempo is: Autodefense Matrix, Hidden Wisdom, two copies of Never Surrender, Noble Sacrifice, and two copies of Redemption.

Section Three: Deck Archetypes

Secret Paladin

This deck archetype includes more secrets, Secretkeeper, Masked Contender, and Leeroy Jenkins.  If you own Subject 9 that card adds extra oomph.  The goal is to use the tempo created by secrets to wear down the opponent, and then use Leeroy Jenkins to finish the game.

The Magic Carpet variant includes the neutral minion Magic Carpet along with the 1-cost minions Argent Squire, Crystallizer, Mecharoo, and Glow-Tron.  It tends to be weaker than the meta version of Secret Paladin, but more fun to play.

Mech Paladin

This deck archetype builds up three big mechs, and then brings them back with
Kangor's Endless Army.  That goal is simple enough to be achievable, and powerful enough to win the game.

The Small Mech variant focuses on small, magnetic minions like Glow-Tron, Skaterbot, and Bronze Gatekeeper, enhanced by Call to Adventure and Glowstone Technician.  This variant is one of the few Paladin deck archetypes that include few or no secrets, instead relying on its small minions to survive the early game.

The Jepetto variant focuses on three minions whose effectiveness does not depend on their attack or health values: Mechanical Whelp, Mechano-Egg, and Faceless Manipulator.  The neutral minion Jepetto Joybuzz is used to draw these early.

The Fast Budget variant does not use Kangor's Endless Army.  Instead it works like a less effective Bomb Hunter, with a focus on quick damage by including Explodinator and Replicating Menace and attaching magnetic mechs to a wider board.  It is the weakest mech variant, but fun for players who do not own Kangor's Endless Army.

Big Spell Paladin

This deck archetype uses five big spells (two copies of Avenging Wrath, two copies of A New Challenger, and one copy of Lay on Hands) in combination with Spirit of the Tiger to rule the late game.  The spells are so strong that the bonus creation of big minions will surely overwhelm the opponent.

Things get even better when Archmage Vargoth replicates those spells and bonus minions!

The neutral minion Sunreaver Warmage is included for mid-game tempo.

Big Minion Paladin

This deck archetype uses Prismatic Lens and Duel to play huge minions like Amani War Bear, Batterhead, Tirion Fordring, and Ysera much earlier than otherwise.

Include whichever huge minions you own and enjoy.

To some extent Big Minion Paladin can be blended with other Paladin deck archetypes.  Have fun experimenting!

One Turn Kill Paladin

The goal of this deck archetype is to draw the entire deck (typically using the well-established combination of Wild Pyromancer and Acolyte of Pain), play Shirvallah, play Baleful Banker to put a copy of Shirvallah as your deck, and then play Holy Wrath to deal 25 damage.

The deck's second copies of Baleful Banker and Holy Wrath can repeat the combination for an additional 25 damage against opponents with a lot of armor.

The Nomi variant includes Chef Nomi as an alternate win condition.  This allows Shirvallah to be used in the middle of the game if needed, which can really help when the opponent has a very aggressive deck.

Either version may include the spells Time Out and/or Rebuke to help survive until victory happens.

Immortal Paladin

This deck archetype uses Crystology, Call to Adventure, and Witchwood Piper to draw the card Immortal Prelate.  That minion is buffed, used until it dies, and then returns with its buffs.  It grows throughout the game until the opponent is worn down.  If you own Da Undatakah that card adds extra oomph.

The Recurring Villain variant adds Recurring Villain as a second returning minion to buff.

Both versions can use either secrets or small mechs to survive the early game.

Dragon Paladin

This deck archetype uses dragons and Paladin cards that work with dragons.  Because most dragons have useful battlecries, the neutral minion Barista Lynchen is often included.

UPDATE: June 2019 had game development news about the intended flavor of all nine hero classes. It says:
Paladins are great champions who support their minions with buffs, healing, and divine shields; however, they are not afraid to get their hands dirty when the time comes. They are methodical, controlling the battlefield through debuffs and focused attacks instead of destructive spells. Strength and persistence are the keys to a Paladin’s victory.

Focuses on and excels at: minion swarms, minion buffs and debuffs, healing, divine shield, secrets
Limitated functionality with: cost reduction
Struggles to do: direct damage spells, destroying big minions

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

/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

/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

/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

/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

/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

/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.  (Uncheck the box for "icons".)

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.

UPDATE: The settings for my Arlinac Island map are these.