Hearthstone – Balance
One of the major draws of a good card game is the balance of the card game. This article will come off as sour grapes, but damn it there is an obvious balance issue going on here! Within balance, there are several really important aspects to pay attention to. You have to be fair to new players by giving them a deck that doesn’t necessarily reward them for having just common and uncommon cards, but at least gives them a relatively fair footing.
With this in mind, I recently started to play Hearthstone again, a brilliant card game by Blizzard Entertainment. My problem is however, it had been several months since I had last truly picked the game up and I felt as if I had been left eating dust that has been collected up behind all of these monstrous new cards around the place. I even had a 9 match losing streak.
A friend of mine introduced me to the newest cards, these Mech cards which were incredibly powerful. They had an ability called Spare Parts on some of them, which gave different effects dependent on the card. But the thing that infuriated me is that it felt, perhaps wrongly, that some of the core mechanics had been changed (even if it was just slightly.)
I play Hearthstone as a Shaman and in the past, I used to be alright at it. I used to get as far as Rank 10-12 with relative ease. This time however, I picked up and turn 2 comes around – the Hunter in front of me uses The Coin, a well known card which is given for free to the second player… and on turn 2, he summons a Random animal which happens to be a 4/4 with taunt.
On turn 1, he summoned one of these dreaded Spare Parts. For 1 mana, he had a 2/1 (not so unfair) but then he also gained one of these Spare Parts cards when that minion died. The Spare Part he received was a card that, again for 1 mana, allowed him to return a minion to his hand. But how is that fair? How something like that happen so easily… and normally?
This isn’t to say there aren’t immensely overpowered cards in Magic: the Gathering, either. I know there are ridiculously overpowered cards but the official tournaments set up by Wizards of the Coast at least bans those cards from competitive play. One of the problems Hearthstone has for me is that, so long as you have the card, you can play it.
So for 3 mana, you get a 4/4 with taunt, but it obviously isn’t a guaranteed taunt 4/4. Yes, it required use of The Coin, but by Turn 2 the Hunter had a 4/4 with taunt on the table! This means that I had to kill that thing off to get over to the Hunter (with my monsters at least), or I had to incapacitate it in some way. As a shaman, this wouldn’t be such an issue, if I weren’t limited to just 2 Hexes. Hex in hearthstone turns a target into a 0/2 Frog with taunt. Needless to say, I didn’t have anything like this and the creature I used to hurt it got killed, before it just got re-healed or he used the Spare Parts he received to just return it to his hand and replay it (which he did later). He played the game perfectly fairly… But the game felt broken to me.
By turn 5, he had almost killed me due to effects like this. He used these Spare Parts to his advantage (which is perfectly fine), but there was nothing I could do in the process. I’ve never been lucky enough to get any legendaries, let alone any epics for my Shaman. It’s made me think… Perhaps it is time to hang up the boots of the Shaman and just play as a Warrior or a Rogue. Heck, when I switched over to my Rogue, who I haven’t even gotten any special cards for, I had 3 wins with her.
Perhaps this is World of Warcraft vanilla syndrome: Where all of the other classes gets powerful and the Shamans get left behind. I hope this is not the case, but if you pick up Hearthstone and you’ve not played for a while, I implore you to fight casual fights for a while until you can get enough gold and enough booster packs. It seems like you might need to play this game regularly to maintain any sort of skill.
Oh but nevermind… Blizzard said there were connection problems for European players last week, which was when I played… So they’ve given us European players two free boosters. Perhaps my luck will change!? Thanks to Blizzard for addressing situations professionally by looking after their players. It also helps keep us players in, hook, line and sinker!
Do you agree with what I’ve noticed about the balance of the game? Do you think I was just incredibly unlucky and that I should just keep going? I’m going to keep going with it regardless, but I was staggered with how suddenly weak and vulnerable my deck suddenly felt. I had to change some things in it immediately and even then it wasn’t perfect.
As always though, comments below, over on Facebook or Twitter and let me know what you think about Hearthstone. Do you like the new Mech cards? Do you think they could be more balanced or is the balance just right?