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hearthstone Ben Brode Posts: Classic Set, Standard and More

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Ben Brode was active on the official forums and on social media these past few days and he had a lot of interesting things to say about various hot topics. Most notably, he noted that it's possible that additional Basic and Classic set cards may be nerfed or rotated out of Standard in the future.

You probably remember that with the release of the Standard format, something less than a year ago, 12 Basic and Classic cards were nerfed. Now, Game Director Ben Brode revealed that more Basic & Classic card nerfs can happen or at least they may be rotated out of Standard. The reasoning behind this is that the team wants to keep a fresh feeling in Standard and they don't want to see the same core cards appear too frequently. That's why they are also not considering buffing underused vanilla cards, since Basic and Classic cards are already being used a lot and they want new sets to be more impactful.

Blizzard LogoBen Brode

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The goal with Standard is to keep the meta fresh for each yearly rotation. There are some benefits to keeping Basic and Classic cards in Standard: Returning players have an entry-point to the new format, and new players experience classics like "Hogger" and "Arcane Missiles" that are iconic and great introductions to the game. People take breaks from Hearthstone, and being able to jump right back in with a few cards you already own and understand makes that experience a lot better.

That upside has a real downside in working directly against the big goal for Standard. It needs to feel different each year, and if Basic and Classic cards are still appearing in large densities year after year, we will not be achieving our goals for Standard.

We knew we weren't going to get there when the Year of the Kraken began, so we nerfed 12 basic/classic cards, to put more of the weight of the meta into the rotating sets. We always knew we'd have to watch the meta to see if any future changes would be needed when we got ready for the next year of Standard. If things are looking like they are going to be too same-y for that next year, we could see more nerfs, or we might rotate some additional classic cards to Wild, like we did with Old Murk Eye. No matter what, we're committed to making Standard fresh and exciting each new year. (source)

 


 

Are you guys considering, besides nerfs, implementing buffs for underused vanilla cards?

Given the goal of Standard is to keep the game fresh each year, it's important to keep a lot of the power of the cards in the expansions, and not in the basic and classic sets. It's not clear what that balance of power should look like (is it ~10 cards from the basic and classic sets on average?), but we're currently skewed so high towards basic and classic cards in decks, that we are at high risk for 'samey-ness' as the years change in Standard. Buffing Basic/Classic cards *increases* that risk. If the goal is to get more cool cards into the meta, just releasing awesome new cards in expansions should make an impact there, and still keep Standard fresh. (source)

Obviously, this comment caused a lot of reactions and Ben took to Reddit (specifically this thread) and Twitter, where he answered various questions. A brief summary of his responses is that the Basic set is currently the most powerful in the game (source), while the team intends to keep the vanilla set unchanged (the term used was 'evergreen' - source). Ben repeated that the team's intention behind any future Basic and Classic card nerfs or changes is to keep Standard format fresh and "less same-y". A difficult question was posed to the community: would they prefer the affected vanilla cards to be nerfed, rotated out of Standard format or remain as they are, even if it results in a staler meta?

On the same Reddit thread, Brode also talked about why the Charge nerf was necessary due to the Grimy Goons synergy and how new/F2P players are currently still able to reach Legend rank - something that he expects to keep happening in the future as well.

Blizzard LogoBen Brode

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[...] We nerfed Charge (the spell) because we knew the upcoming Grimy Goons mechanic in combination with Enraged Worgen and Charge was not really fair or fun. There have always been F2P players at Legend, and there have continued to be since that change. (source)

Blizzard LogoBen Brode

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We did this in 2016 when we nerfed 12 classic cards and it made a huge difference in how much the meta was able to change with the release of Old Gods (instead of just continuing to be Druid Combo). New players were able to reach legend without spending money after that change, and I expect that will be continue to be true if we change a few more cards in 2017. (source)

On a somewhat relevant topic, with the end of the Year of the Kraken the end of Reno Jackson is also approaching. Ben excluded the possibility of this game-changing card making it into the Classic set - once again the reason being "keeping the meta fresh".

Placeholder for tweet 817625802116214784

For consistency's sake, I've also included two Brode blue posts from last week. In the first one, he talks about the new player experience and how it still needs more work. For example. the climb from the introductory quests to actually playing the game feels steep, while getting into Ranked is also difficult. However, for their first games new players actually play in a seperate matchmaking pool designed to match new players with each other. There has also been a 15% increase in new player winrates on Casual.

Blizzard LogoBen Brode

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Hey there!

We agree that the new player experience needs more work. We've been tweaking it for years and have seen significant increases in retention among new players since launch. Most new players start playing against the AI and then take on other players in Casual. The Casual matchmaker has gone through a lot of iteration and new player winrates have increased by ~15%.

Ranked is a different story. Ranked is becoming more difficult for new players over time. I spoke about some of the challenges we are currently facing with our ladder system before I left for paternity leave here: https://www.reddit.com/r/hearthstone/comments/58pxgt/ben_brode_confirms_the_2_game_win_streak_is_not/

Something you may not realize is that new players actually play in a seperate matchmaking pool for their first several sessions. In Casual, we match them entirely against other brand new players with similarly-sized collections.

That all said, we think the introductory missions up through Illidan feel pretty good, and after that it still feels like a bit of a cliff. It's definitely something we're aware of. Thanks for your feedback, and for the feedback of everyone else who's been chiming in on this over the last few months.

(source)

Lastly, Ben made an interesting post about another community hot topic: the ladder system.

Blizzard LogoBen Brode

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[...]

We have been discussing the ladder system a lot recently - we're not 100% happy with it.

Here are some things we are currently discussing:

  • Rank 18 players are higher ranked than 50% of HS players. That number doesn't make you feel like you are in the top 50%, and that's a missed opportunity. We try and counter this by telling you all over the place what the mapping is to the rest of the population, but it'd be better if expectations and reality matched here.

  • We've received feedback that the last-minute jostling for high Legend ranks at the end of a season doesn't feel all that great.

  • We've received feedback that the ladder can feel like a grind.

  • We are reanalyzing the number of ranks, the number of stars per rank, the number of bonus stars given out at the start of the season, and other parts of the system.

  • We are developing simulation systems that let us predict what changes to the ladder would do to the population curve. If we inflate too many stars, the whole population ends up in the Legend bucket and while that might feel great for a single month, the entire system falls apart eventually. People who played waaaay back may remember when "3-star master" was the pinnacle of achievement, and it meant nothing because so many people ended up in that bucket. With better simulation tools, we are planning on trying a lot of crazy things. Iteration is important in design, and getting the tools to iterate quickly is very important.

Something I want to emphasize is that while I think we can improve the ladder, the metric for that improvement isn't necessarily any one player's individual rank increasing. Players want the better rewards (and prestige) associated with high ranks, or the Legend card back, so any change we make that increases the chances of those are likely to be perceived as "good", at least for the short term. But part of what makes the ranked ladder compelling is that exists to rank players. If you want to see how you stack up, ranked is the place to do it. So while some inflation might improve the experience, we need to be careful and make sure we end up with a system that makes people feel rewarded for increases in personal skill or for finding a new deck that breaks the meta.

(source)

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I hope they work on the standard/wild system a lot better. I'm personally not a fan of the idea of simply moving expansions to a different game mode for "keeping the game fresh." Their reasoning to a lot of things now is to keep the meta fresh and not being all samey. For standard.

I apologise if I may be wrong, but there's not going to be any changes (like the whole rotating cards idea) to wild. They want to rotate cards into wild. This is only going to affect ONE game mode in the game. One side of the game will be as samey as it has been for a long time, the other will be getting occasional changes it seems. (This is excluding expansions/adventures being introduced.)

An idea to keep the game fresh in my opinion would be to rotate cards/expansions from wild to standard, and of course the standard to wild as it is now. It doesn't just dump cards in one game mode, and instead changes how the metas and decks will be a fair bit.

Plus, a small bit off topic, why can't we have a classic/vanilla only mode? :[

Edited by SyncTrizon
Forgot to say: the changes to wild I spoke about does not include nerfs, just card rotating.

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Standard has to work for Hearthstone to survive. Wild is CRAZY out of balance and I would probably quit if they lose control of it. (get it... lose control?)
I'm always nervous with them nerfing/removing classic cards. It's the only way a free to play person (like me) has been able to keep up with a new expansion is by having a half-viable deck from powerful classic cards like sylvanas, rag, etc. so the first two weeks of an expansion don't put you so far behind the 8-ball you can't play.

I'm nervous about losing Reno. Some aggro can out pace it, as it should, but it is the only way to beat any mid-range or aggro if they get a bad draw.

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3 minutes ago, Laragon said:

Wild is CRAZY out of balance and I would probably quit if they lose control of it.

I actually think the opposite is true. Even though the power level is much higher, the meta is more diverse. In standard you either have Reno JacksonPatches the Pirate, or a bad win rate. In wild you see combo decks, midrange, control and aggro decks all at one place with no single deck to rule them all (even though this was the case for some time when Mysterious Challenger was the boss of the format). 

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2 hours ago, positiv2 said:

I actually think the opposite is true. Even though the power level is much higher, the meta is more diverse. In standard you either have Reno JacksonPatches the Pirate, or a bad win rate. In wild you see combo decks, midrange, control and aggro decks all at one place with no single deck to rule them all (even though this was the case for some time when Mysterious Challenger was the boss of the format). 

Diversity doesn't really mean balance. It can mean it's so far out of balance that it can literally be who gets a slightly decent draw wins the game. Think of it as being able to make anything fly if you strap a big enough rocket... Wild is also extremely discouraging for any new player that wasn't around with a decent deck during GvG, and with the sheer size that it will grow into after a year or two it will only see even stronger power creep and far less new players.

It's fair that standard is also out of balance. I think Reno is probably the best example of a way to give the game balance. Supply those core 4-5 building blocks where you can make a reasonable deck from doing one adventure and live comfortably in the 8-15 range of ranked. They sort of did this with Old Gods by giving C'thun and having him be possible to play all the way to legendary, assuming you got enough other cards from the packs to fill out your deck.

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I do think that Reno is something that basically can't stay in standard. If you go back prior to when LoE first launched, the idea of Highlander decks was still fresh, it was an actual hindrance to the deck that was building Reno, given that he was an incredibly powerful card.

Since the new expansion, this is basically just allowing players to build into that format and still be rewarded for it (looking at Reno Hero Power Priest, for example).

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I know he denies it but this just smells like "this will force more pack purchases."  There's a difference between changes due to an unfair exploitation of a few cards and changes simply because the cards have been deemed "too popular" by the developers.  Ever since the original announcement that classic and basic would never rotate I've been using what little dust I have to bolster my classic set.  Now I'm not sure what to do because everything is so uncertain about the future of each set or even future metas.  This is just a betrayal of confidence to the player base and will create a more "pay to win" game.

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Congrats on your 1000th post, Zadina. :)

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4 hours ago, CaptLando said:

Congrats on your 1000th post, Zadina. :)

Thanks! :D

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19 hours ago, Bradward said:

Ever since the original announcement that classic and basic would never rotate I've been using what little dust I have to bolster my classic set.  

This is pretty much the advice I have given to every person that asks the age-old question of "how do I spend my gold best?". Would suck to see it change.

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On 1/12/2017 at 11:13 AM, Bradward said:

I know he denies it but this just smells like "this will force more pack purchases."  There's a difference between changes due to an unfair exploitation of a few cards and changes simply because the cards have been deemed "too popular" by the developers.  Ever since the original announcement that classic and basic would never rotate I've been using what little dust I have to bolster my classic set.  Now I'm not sure what to do because everything is so uncertain about the future of each set or even future metas.  This is just a betrayal of confidence to the player base and will create a more "pay to win" game.

The problem with this (keeping classic eternal) is certain classic cards create some pretty degenerate play patterns or are just out of line power wise.  For degenerate, I mean cards like Auctioneer, Alex or Antonidas (Play a shit ton of cheap spells, then conceal a 12/12 van cleef and a 12/4 auctioneer), and for power wise, cards like Rag and sylvanas.  It is really hard to design six mana cost + cards since classic is full of really really strong ones, and the space in your deck for cards that expensive is inherently limited by game design, meaning if blizzard wants to create a competitive six drop it has to be better then sylvanas, same goes for rag and a competitive 7+ drop, that is hard considering how strong those cards are already, you would have to pretty much print something doctor boom levels of broken to compete, and Boom was so strong he was the defining force in the meta game for a very long time.

 

The problem with simply nerfing classic cards is you ruin entire archtypes that would otherwise be playable in wild.  Doing stuff like nerfing Alex or gadgetzan would completely destroy certain very fun and engaging (for the person piloting it at any rate) decks.  I love miracle rogue and freeze mage.  Is standard really the place for them though, 5 years from now do you STILL want to be beaten by miracle rogue cheese, or burned out by freeze mage the turn after they alex?  Of course not, but its also unfair to people who have put hours and hours into learning these very intricate decks to simply nerf them, make them useless and continue on, sort of like they did with handlock.  I enjoyed handlock, but it is completely unplayable because molten giants are useless.  Same with oil rogue, it had a very dynamic and tempo driven play style that is pretty much unmatched by any deck since then, but because of the harsh nerf to flurry, you can't play it.

Edited by VaraTreledees

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The problem with the stance of "just send it to wild" is that new and budget type players don't have the overpowered cards from the old expansions either. Its hard to play competitively in wild without Dr. Boom. 

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