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.