TCG’s, or ‘trading card games’, have been a popular genre ever since the inception of Magic the Gathering in 1993. Television shows such as Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh capitalized on the enjoyment with fan favorite releases that are still traded to this day, and because of this, a large amount of people were either already die hard fans the TCG’s, or were casually being introduced to them through TV merchandising.
Enter Hearthstone, Blizzards online TCG that saw its official release in March of 2014 (happy anniversary, by the way). The game was an instant classic and with fresh game mechanics, a solid programming, and the WoW community at its back (the game’s lore is based off of World of Warcraft) it flourished almost immediately. Sure, there were more complicated and historic games, namely Magic, but why try spending 50-100 dollars on one of those booster packs when someone can play Hearthstone for free? Hell, if said person played enough, they could even get all of the cards you needed to be competitive on the ladder for free, too. Still can, in fact.
Well, the fact that this logic prevailed is most people’s minds meant that all of the WoW players, all of the casual TCG players who enjoyed the TV merch for what it was, and pretty much anyone who knew anything about what games were being developed at the time were going to give Hearthstone a try. I would be remiss in fast forwarding to today’s predicament I have with the game before mentioning a couple things; Firstly, Hearthstone has enjoyed one of the healthiest life-spans a game could hope for. Secondly, the game itself is still extremely well designed and has a lot of things going for it, not one of which being the playerbase still hovering around an active base of about 20 million or more. There, I’ve done my due diligence, now lets get to the crux of
Hearthstone is boring.
Hearthstone, compared to the experience it offered me in 2016, is just about all dried up as a game worth playing. This is in spite of the new game modes and content they’ve pushed out to help spice things up. I mean, ladder is pretty much the only mode in the game I enjoy, aside from a little arena here n’ there, and the fact that it feels identity-less is a big issue for me. I mean, Rogue, my class of choice, has become something completely different than what it used to be only a couple years ago. You’ll play against Demon Hunters that ignore the board state and throw everything face, Paladins who play their librams repeatedly on any body they can find, regardless of board state, Mages that burn you down, regardless of board state, the good old Token Druids, who actually do care about board state (bless them) and Rogues who throw as many combo cards into the game as possible, praying to god their opening hand and draws are what they need to snowball the game early on. But none of these decks actually have to value its resources and account for what their opponents might play, aside from a Counter-Spell here or an Arbor Up there. Rogues are all about card generation, now, so they simply play around themselves while trying to keep a board presence. Paladins are just value overload, and Demon Hunter is just Face Hunter but more bullshit, if you can believe that.
So I take it back, the ladder does have an identity, and that identity is play cards fast go face. Remember the days of Oil Rogue? Remember the days when you would pass a turn at the cost of your health simply because you felt you could get more value out of a removal spell? Remember when you actually considered playing secret-destruction? Because I remember that shit, and it makes me sad as hell. Oh woe is me!
It might sound like I’m voicing an old complaint about power creep and the necessity for skill (or lack thereof), and I am, but that doesn’t change the fact that Hearthstone is suffering big time for me. There’s no engagement with the game anymore, and that makes me want to play less. Me playing less (and I mean, maybe a couple games a week.) means I have less in-game resources to play with decent decks without shelling out 50 dollars for some packs, and that idea just sounds horrid to be completely honest. Its a vicious circle that Blizzard needs to break, as I fear I’m not alone in this conundrum, and if more players start feeling like I do, it could spell a distant end to the game’s life.
And now we come to this aforementioned crossroads that Hearthstone is approaching. In about a month’s time, the game will undergo a series of changes that will either pull players back in for years to come, or flop, and allow them to continue falling through the gaps. Firstly, we have a core rotation change. The static basic and classic cards are going to be replaced with a rotating set of cards intermittently, providing Blizzard with the ability to change the game drastically relatively quickly in ways they couldn’t before. Second, we have the Classic game mode. It’s Hearthstone, but just classic and basic cards. Sounds fun, but won’t have any effect on the game outside of a vacuum. Third, we have a new expansion, and a new rotation.
These changes, namely the rotation and core changes, don’t even need to hit a home run. They just got to get to first base and buy time for Blizzard to get more changes in and make the game far more engaging for the player who wants to make decisions on his or her gameplay every once in a while. As someone who’s hit top 100 legend in the past, it pains me to say that almost all of the skill in this game is now reserved to the mulligan stage. After that, you’re banking on draws more than ever. I’m hoping Blizzard fixes this, and I’m rooting for them all the way.
GLHF, and remember, Legends of Runeterra is looming.