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Hearthstone’s year of the Gryphon is already moving pretty fast, and its first expansion is set to release at the end of this month. There were many changes in the last year for Hearthstone, with the introduction of a new class and a few new game modes as well, with an additional format in “Classic” scheduled to arrive, along with the newest set “Forged in the Barrens.”
There also just happened to be an entire core set rework that I never really touched on, but since my schedule is busier than ever and my focus is at an all time low I never really got to talk about it, so I’ll give my quick thoughts now. In summary, I think the core set rework and standard change is a really good idea. There were definitely a lot of older cards that just were not good and probably are not getting played ever again. Additionally, the idea of a rotating core set makes prospects of playing standard over an extended period of time much more interesting. This is because, along with new expansions, the base level cards that everyone has access to will change, making the game feel much more fresh over time.
With that being said, here are my thoughts on “Forged in the Barrens.”
This is also more of a game wide change as opposed to a set specific one, but it does affect the upcoming sets as well, so it is still worth talking about. Tribes in most cards games, be it “Hearthstone,” “Yugioh,” “Magic,” etc are used both to increase the power of specific archetypes and also to control which archetypes have access to specific effects. The ladder two in particular are fairly comfortable with the idea of spell tags and using them to control the power of a card.
“Hearthstone” is a game that has gone through a lot of changes even its relatively short lifespan, changes which have created a lot of decks that players would consider gimmicky or unfun to play against, such as “Malygos” combo decks. Having certain effects like spell damage only interact with certain kinds of spells significantly lowers the ability for singular cards to create entire archetypes in the future. In this way, the inclusion of spell tribes not only feels unnoteworthy, but in a lot of ways necessary for the health of the game.
There have been a lot of new keywords added to “Hearthstone,” particularly in the last few years of the game, but not all keywords are created equal. Some, like “Discover” have added a lot more randomness and overall focus on value generation to the game than in its earlier days. Others, like “Overkill” and “Corrupt” have had a lot less of an impact on the meta, outside of just adding some ok cards to the standard pool.
While it is still really early to make a definitive judgement on anything thus far, “Frenzy” feels like it will end up somewhere in the middle. For those unaware, Frenzy effects activate the first time a minion would survive damage, which makes it almost like an enrage effect of old. A fair amount of the minions with the keyword have relatively high health totals to help trigger these effects, but that might not be enough.
Even with the core set rotation, and with the addition of a lot the new cards in “Forged in the Barrens,” most classes still have access to a fair bit of high damage and hard removal. However, there will still be plenty of times when no such removal exists or it just is not drawn, meaning “Frenzy” might just have a better chance. Also, the inclusion of the “Rush” keyword on many of the newer cards means it might be a be a bit more viable than other proactive keywords such as “Overkill.” Still, only time and statistics will be able to speak to the new mechanic’s effectiveness.
Alternate arts and cosmetic changes have always been a topic of discussion in the “Hearthstone” community, and in the last year or so Blizzard has delivered a lot more in this realm. The updated rewards system in the form of the battle pass brought with it a whole host of rewards, including new hero portraits and a new version of the coin. The year of the Gryphon is expanding on this idea, and introducing a limited number of diamond cards that will be accessible through the paid version of the battle pass.
The battle pass was another controversy that I did not cover, partly because of time but mostly because other people did it a lot better than I could. It definitely sucked at first, put the continued adjustments to experience requirements and improvements on received experience from play has made it feel significantly more rewarding than its advent iteration. Where was I? Oh yeah, diamond cards.
Since it is purely a cosmetic addition and only limited to a certain number of cards, I do not particularly mind its inclusion. Die hard fans of the game who are looking to have a 100 percent complete collection are probably going to be a bit mad that they have to spend even more money, but, at the end, of the day it is a really cool looking addition that does not take anything away from gameplay for money.
No More Infinite Value!
The mechanical theme of “Barrens” contrasts significantly with the previous year. Much of the card design in the Year of the Dragon focuses on getting value off of value in continuous chains. This created a lot of polarized opinions, with a certain part of the player base being ok with it and many saying it creates an unhealthy degree of randomness in a game that is already largely defined by it.
However, the game’s newest set seems to be returning to designs of old, which focus complimenting specific game plans rather than being on card engines. Personally, I think this will leave the game in a much healthier state than it was before. If the priest mirror match can teach us anything, its that a meta defined by balancing infinite value with consistent tempo is one that is destined to become boring after a while.
Are you looking forward to “Forged in the Barrens?” What do you think of the recent changes? Let me know in the comments below.
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