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Ben Brode on the Fiery War Axe Nerf

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Members of the community were upset at how the Fiery War Axe nerf was phrased and explained in the official blog post. Ben Brode wanted to clarify that "they don't think players are stupid" and tried to justify why a 2-mana 2/2 Fiery War Axe isn't a good change.

After the announcement of the upcoming balance changes, the community has been vividly discussing about them. Ben Brode already gave some explanations on Reddit this week and earlier today he returned to provide some answers on the hot topic of the Fiery War Axe nerf.

People felt their intelligence was insulted from the phrasing of the developers' notes on the Fiery War Axe change. The phrase that seems to have caused the outrage is the following:

Blizzard LogoBlizzard Entertainment

The other option we considered for Fiery War Axe was to lower its attack to 2, but that change didn’t feel intuitive enough. Generally, changing the mana cost of a card is less disruptive, because you can always see the mana cost of cards in your hand. (source)

Ben Brode gave a comment to VentureBeat clarifying that all of the affected cards were nerfed for power level reasons. The team doesn't think Hearthstone players are stupid; in fact, they are perfectly capable of memorising the entire set of cards. A change to mana cost is less disruptive simply because of the fact that it's not castable or highlighted green anymore. Here is his full statement:

Blizzard LogoBen Brode

+ Show

I always love to read discussion about Hearthstone, and there’s been a lot of healthy back and forth about the pros and cons of this particular change and the timing of it.
 
However, some of what I read in the community response seems to be a core misunderstanding that we are nerfing cards because we think players are confused by them (and therefore we think players are stupid). I want to be super-clear — these cards are being nerfed for power level reasons, or because we are curating the set of evergreen cards to help Standard feel fresh and more fun with our yearly standard rotation. The language about certain changes being more disruptive than others was related to why we decided to make one change over another, once we’d already decided to make a change.

We absolutely don’t think players are stupid.

I, like a lot of players, have memorized every Hearthstone card. If I show you a picture of Arcanite Reaper, I bet you don’t have to read the card to know that it’s a 5/2 weapon. Art becomes a shortcut to game mechanics.  When we change the underlying game mechanics without changing the art, players who don’t read their cards every time they play a game won’t notice that one of the words on the cards has changed.

I want to make this clear — we don’t think players are too stupid to read their cards. We think players have the capacity to memorize thousands of cards’ text and recognize them by art alone. Nobody double-checks Arcanite Reaper to make sure it’s still a 5/2 weapon each time they cast it. That’s nuts. That’s why it’s less disruptive to change mana cost than Attack, Health, or card text. The card is literally not castable or highlighted green any more, and that makes it obvious that a change has been made to players who have every card memorized.

The discussion continued onto Reddit, where the Game Director repeated more or less the same arguments. A mana cost nerf to a card is just easier, simpler and less disruptive. Even if you have memorised the previous version of the card, the green highlight (or its absence) is the indicating factor of when you can play that card.

Blizzard Logobbrode

I think he's effectively saying "all other things equal, it's preferential to change mana costs rather than anything else". If there are two changes proposed to a card that have near-identical consequences on gameplay, change the mana cost.

That is the case. Sometimes we don't have choices that are very equal, but if you have a couple options that would all be reasonable changes, we tend to prefer to change the mana cost, for players that have memorized the card already. (Source)

 


 

I'm going to be pulling my hair out when I (having memorized all of the cards) try to play my 2 mana 3/2 Fiery War Axe on turn 2. Certainly my 2 mana 3/2 Fiery War Axe will be playable on turn 2 after the next patch, that's how the card is. If they change anything about it, how will I know? I will only ever remember a 2 mana 3/2 Fiery War Axe when I look at the art.

The green highlight makes this less of an issue.

Keep in mind, this is just a minor upside when comparing two potential changes to Fiery War Axe. (Source)

Someone mentioned the Warsong Commander card text change/nerf as an example of inconsistency from Blizzard. Ben admitted that the team learns over time and they adapt accordingly.

Blizzard Logobbrode

Why was Warsong Commander's nerf defended by saying her mana cost was intimately tied to the 'soul of the card'? Blizzard; consistently inconsistent.

Or we learn over time. Is it better to be consistent if you're wrong? (Source)

This led to the topic of whether cards (and card changes) should be intuitive or not and how useful is for a player to learn from his or her mistakes. Blizzard wants to keep things intuitive, but their main concern is balance and they will make unintuitive changes if they have to.

Blizzard Logobbrode

I don't mind if players make mistakes and learn from them.

Making things intuitive is part of good design, though. We could make things very unintuitive so that every thing you do fails on it's first try - there's actual games built around that, but it's generally better to make things intuitive when possible. The game is fun when you're learning about the strategy options and learning from them, not necessarily being surprised by things working differently than you previously memorized. (Source)

 


 

[...]even though I think it's nice if things are intuitive when we change a card, the major concern is ongoing balance. We obviously have made unintuitive changes to cards and will continue to do so if it's the right change for the game. The 'intuitve' remark was a minor point when deciding between a couple reasonable options, not the reason for the change. I posted a bit more about it here. (Source)

Lastly, as to why the team didn't choose to change the weapon to a 2-mana 2/2, they thought that this kind of nerf would have the same impact as the increased mana cost. Therefore - going back to Ben's previous statements on keeping things intuitive - the mana cost change was preferred. The aim was to reduce the power level of the card without making a complicated change, even if a lot of people found the change unimaginative. Ben thinks the card wasn't killed completely since 3-mana 3/2 weapons have been seeing play.

Blizzard Logobbrode

If we thought 2/2 weapon was a better change we would have done it. We thought (3) 3/2 and (2) 2/2 were about the same at reaching our goal of nerfing the weapon, and in that world, it's slightly better to not annoy players who memorized the card. (Source)

 


 

That message [the one showing card changes at the start screen] goes away after one patch, but also, sometimes players don't play the cards after we nerf them. They never get a chance to re-memorize something that became automatic from them after hundreds or thousands of times seeing the art and automatically knowing the functionality. I personally got Arcane Golem in a Tavern Brawl and just played the card and tried to attack with it right away. I hadn't played the card in a year, since we nerfed it. I hadn't even thought about the card anymore. Playing the card and attack was muscle-memory to me.

This isn't a phenomenon everyone experiences, but it definitely happens to players who play enough to develop muscle memory.

It also doesn't matter very much either way.

Just going to reiterate - this is still a minor thing. If we felt like (2) 2/2 was going to be more successful at reaching our goals, we would have done it. But in a world where we have several reasonable options, you have to make a decision, and this is a minor point in favor of a change that doesn't mess as much with players who have memorized their cards to that degree.

In some ways, I regret mentioning it the way we did, because it was such a minor decision point when considering those two options. It had nothing to do with why we changed the card in the first place. (Source)

 


 

I don't think everyone believes all of those things, and that was what I was trying to clear up here.

I do think that specific feedback is reasonable. I don't think we completely killed the card, though. People have played (3) 3/2 weapons in decks where the upside goes totally unused, and I suspect that might be true of Fiery War Axe as well.

If you had changed the text on FWA (can only attack minions, for example) and made the card MORE complicated and MORE disruptive, THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER.

There is a difference between complexity and strategic depth. Complexity is the homework you must do before you understand something. Depth is fun. Depth is choices and strategy and out-thinking your opponent. You can get more depth by adding complexity, sometimes. But what matters is the ratio of complexity to depth.

It is more important that you keep cards playable than to keep cards simple.

Those are not mutually exclusive, but in this case the goal was to reduce the power level of the card. Too many basic and classic cards are showing up in decks right now to allow Standard to change enough each year. (Source)

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A lot of blah blah damn how can someone talk so much and say nothing or just the same again and again ? :D

I still think a good solution would have been to give the Axe a small bonus in return for the increased mana cost like a Battlecry with a small but for warrior useful effect. I have no idea why they did not consider that.

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One of the developers stomping a meme that mocks them out of spite is absolutely glorious. More devs need to stomp out the bull like that.

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In arguing that the change was only because Blizz assumes players to be stupid, a remarkable number of players proved themselves to be just so. 

It's a shame that War Axe is the worst of the 3-mana 3/2 weapons, but too many people are being hung up on the mana-cost versus weapon-attack decision, simply because of one sentence that Brode obviously only communicated in an effort to make reasons for the nerf more clear. I'm sure there are a number of other reasons for making War Axe a 3 mana 3/2 instead of a 2 mana 2/2, but the more drama-guzzling among the community (i.e., basically fucking everyone) tend to jump on things and assume the worst. 

Whatever. 

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I did not assume the worst. I just wished they had a better way to change it (as I said add something for the increased mana cost) ... Yea yea he said they don't want to change the functionality of a card because players get used to the pictures but if he truly believes player will not see the big in-game popup that shows card changes or not being able to notice during a game "oh this card changed" then he thinks the worst of the players (us). What about the players looking at the picture playing an Innervate and then say "oh damn I didn't know it gives only 1 mana". this and murloc warleader have their functionality changed and it seems ok.

I still agree that they had to nerf the Axe, there is no deck without it and it's always (or most of the time) helping the warrior extremely well. But a dull increase in mana, making it worse than similar weapons is just a way to remove another basic card from standard decks and hide it behind a ton of words.

Edited by Caldyrvan

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I still think that "can't attack enemy hero" would have been a better nerf. I'm a wild player, so for me FWA have ceased to exists because there is a warrior weapon better then vanilla (3) 3/2; and I don't like this type of nerf. Warrior is a warrior, should have a cheap weapon, cheaper then similar weapon in other classes.

The only think I hope is that they don't make an epic 2 mana weapon in next set... If they do it in other rarities it would be nice.

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20 minutes ago, Synesthesy said:

The only think I hope is that they don't make an epic 2 mana weapon in next set... If they do it in other rarities it would be nice.

 

I am curious if they'll do such a thing.

Remove a standard card and replace it with an expensive one. I wouldn't put it beyond Blizzard to do exactly that (I get a feeling in the last month that Blizzard actually tries to make decks more expensive. That "making it more expensive" is part of the design and the thoughtprocess. Just a feeling, I don't claim it to be true, it is just a little nagging in the back of my head.) But I still don't think they will do that. That would be too much, too greedy.

Time will tell - sooner or later, time will tell. (Quiz: Which game is this quote from?)

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I don't really get why it'd be so bad for a few players not to notice the change and attack once thinking it's a 3/2 rather than 2/2. It might even not lose them that game, and it'd only be one game because after all, players are not stupid.

I think the 2/2 change would've been better. From a wild perspective, at least then there'd be a reason to play it over Defender. From a pirate warrior perspective, the deck doesn't want another three drop and wants an early weapon so 2/2 for 2 is vastly superior to 3/2 for 3. Not sure which control warrior would prefer, probably meta dependent.

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The weapon was fine for 4 years. It wasn't OP, just a very good card.

Now, instead of nerfing pirates, they decided to nerf another classic card into the ground.

Has anyone ever used King's Defender? Well, Fiery War Axe is now much worse.

I also find it pretty funny that rogue now has a more versatile 3 mana 3/2 weapon (hero ability + Deadly Poison). On the same note, rogue now also has a more versatile innervate (Counterfeit Coin) since the class, unlike druid, has combo synergy.

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Has anyone ever used King's Defender? Well, Fiery War Axe is now much worse.

They're not the same because FWA is a basic card.  King's Defender is a non-standard rare.  So, they're available in different realms to different players.  Brode made the point that (cards like) Eaglehorn Bow see play even in decks without Secrets.  So, a vanilla 3/2 weapon for 3 mana is not necessarily useless.

 

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rogue ..., unlike druid, has combo synergy.

Uhm ... Druid has combo synergy, though.  Malygos Druid has been around for a while.

 

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all what I got, it's that we players are stupid

Forgive me but logically you really are stupid if that's all you got from what he said.  He said that he recognized that players can memorize 1189 different cards.  How does that equate to saying that you're stupid?

 

Quote

a good solution would have been to give the Axe a small bonus in return for the increased mana cost like a Battlecry with a small but for warrior useful effect. I have no idea why they did not consider that.

Why they didn't consider something you haven't properly defined?  Sorry, but a "small but for warrior useful effect" isn't something worth considering, because it's not an idea.  It's just asking for magical thinking.  I think they should replace the game with a game that's the same but better because it's got better things in it.  Why don't they consider that?  Why, Ben, why?

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13 minutes ago, mimech said:

They're not the same because FWA is a basic card.  King's Defender is a non-standard rare.  So, they're available in different realms to different players.  Brode made the point that (cards like) Eaglehorn Bow see play even in decks without Secrets.  So, a vanilla 3/2 weapon for 3 mana is not necessarily useless.

 

Uhm ... Druid has combo synergy, though.  Malygos Druid has been around for a while.

 

Forgive me but logically you really are stupid if that's all you got from what he said.  He said that he recognized that players can memorize 1189 different cards.  How does that equate to saying that you're stupid?

 

Why they didn't consider something you haven't properly defined?  Sorry, but a "small but for warrior useful effect" isn't something worth considering, because it's not an idea.  It's just asking for magical thinking.  I think they should replace the game with a game that's the same but better because it's got better things in it.  Why don't they consider that?  Why, Ben, why?

This entire post is quite a toxic response... Eaglehorn sees play because rushing 6 damage is all you care about in several hunter decks. That doesn't mean it is working as intended just because it gets used without secrets, it also is used in completely different archetypes because it is a different class.

Druid's combo synergy was reliant on creating new mana crystals or reducing cost, something that innervate nerf will impact greatly. It means you can't do this method outside of wild without new cards.

Also, it's not our job to consider the additional power factors, but it is ours as players to evaluate the changes they make, and this change ruins a card. 

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28 minutes ago, mimech said:

Why they didn't consider something you haven't properly defined?  Sorry, but a "small but for warrior useful effect" isn't something worth considering, because it's not an idea.  It's just asking for magical thinking.  I think they should replace the game with a game that's the same but better because it's got better things in it.  Why don't they consider that?  Why, Ben, why?

That's a lot of sarcasm, why?

I don't need to define something properly, I am not a dev and not even someone talking to them. I just wanted to say there are better options (in my opinion). There is no need to kill my brain to come up with an idea blizz will near hear or care about.

Edited by Caldyrvan

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19 minutes ago, mimech said:

They're not the same because FWA is a basic card.  King's Defender is a non-standard rare.  So, they're available in different realms to different players.  Brode made the point that (cards like) Eaglehorn Bow see play even in decks without Secrets.  So, a vanilla 3/2 weapon for 3 mana is not necessarily useless.

Look at the state of hunter in the last few expansions though. Hunter would definitely play better cards, if he had any.

20 minutes ago, mimech said:

Uhm ... Druid has combo synergy, though.  Malygos Druid has been around for a while.

I believe they were referring to the Combo effect, as can be seen on cards like SI:7 Agent or Perdition's Blade.

23 minutes ago, mimech said:

Forgive me but logically you really are stupid if that's all you got from what he said.  He said that he recognized that players can memorize 1189 different cards.  How does that equate to saying that you're stupid?

But at the same time, he is implying that players are too stupid to relearn a single card change.

26 minutes ago, mimech said:

Why they didn't consider something you haven't properly defined?  Sorry, but a "small but for warrior useful effect" isn't something worth considering, because it's not an idea.  It's just asking for magical thinking.  I think they should replace the game with a game that's the same but better because it's got better things in it.  Why don't they consider that?  Why, Ben, why?

I don't see anything wrong with that. Just because they did not provide an example doesn't make it a bad idea by default. No need to be so hostile. What about "Battlecry: Gain 1 Armor." Happy now? 

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2 minutes ago, positiv2 said:

What about "Battlecry: Gain 1 Armor." Happy now? 

In another post I made exactly this example just with 2 Armor, or deal 1 damage. :D 

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What about "Battlecry: Gain 1 Armor." Happy now? 

Yes - much happier!  I didn't think his idea was bad - because he didn't actually present an idea.  You did: so at least we can discuss it's merits.  I can't discuss the merits of "something better" or "something", because it's meaningless.  I don't consider my pointing out a meaningless suggestion to be hostile.  It's just logical.

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But at the same time, he is implying that players are too stupid to relearn a single card change.

No, he said that re-learning cards is more difficult than noticing a mana change.  He presented the mana change as the lesser of two evils.  That's very different than implying stupidity.

Edited by mimech

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1 minute ago, mimech said:

No, he said that re-learning cards is more difficult than noticing a mana change.  He presented the mana change as the lesser of two evils.  That's very different than implying stupidity.

He keeps talking about complexity being a bad thing, even though we are talking about Pot-of-Greed level of complexity. Also, just because it is more difficult, it doesn't necessarily mean it's hard. Both relearning the card from the text/stats point of view, and relearning it from curve point of view (curvestone, after all) should be fairly easy for everyone. But hey, if the card is dead, no one has to relearn anything. 

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37 minutes ago, mimech said:

No, he said that re-learning cards is more difficult than noticing a mana change.  He presented the mana change as the lesser of two evils.  That's very different than implying stupidity.

I am sorry, but if the thinks that it is very difficult for me to remember that my weapon has now 2/2 instead of 3/2 then he can't think I am very bright, can he?

And strangly the same line of thought doesn't seem to be true for Murloc Warleader or the nerf on several cards later on. Knife Juggler e.g. has been nerfed from 3/2 to 2/2.

The claim: "That would be too difficult for players" is a complete joke and in fact it is quite insulting.

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The claim: "That would be too difficult for players" is a complete joke and in fact it is quite insulting.

I searched for the phrase "That would be too difficult for players" on this page and it isn't here.  If you got it from somewhere else, please provide a link.  If it's just your words, then it's only you that's saying it.

Nobody else said it would be "very difficult ... to remember [the] weapon has now 2/2 instead of 3/2".  That was just you again.  The game designer said that given a choice between a mana cost change and a card text change, the mana cost change was easier because it's apparent without doing any reading at all.  That's not the same as saying you can't remember new information.

The same logic wasn't used on Murloc Warleader because they judge each case on its merits, rather than having a one rule fits all situations approach.  

Really, if you'd read what the game designer said, you'd know all that.

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Hi @mimech . It's good to see you again.

It doesn't take someone to have studied language (like I have done, for example) to understand that they could have communicated the change better. I will repeat the quote from their explanation in their official announcement:

Quote

The other option we considered for Fiery War Axe was to lower its attack to 2, but that change didn’t feel intuitive enough. Generally, changing the mana cost of a card is less disruptive, because you can always see the mana cost of cards in your hand.

Now, they aren't saying that they think players are stupid. However, it's preposterous that they have included these two lines as their main reasoning in their official announcement. That's why Ben had to go through all this trouble on Reddit to fix the PR disaster that these phrases caused.

Sure, the community blew these words away out of proportion, but the fact remains that they still chose these slightly unfortunate lines in their official statement. It's like me owning a lingerie store and putting the grandma undergarments in the front row of my shop window.

They could have said numerous things that would have made a better impression. They could have written what Brode said about keeping things simple and intuitive. They could have even said "look, we were bored and couldn't be bothered thinking of something better" and people would have appreciated the honesty. 

The issue in this discussion isn't so much whether the Fiery War Axe makes sense.* It's how Blizzard tried to make sense of it and explain it to the plaeyrs.

PS/Asterisk: I do, however, find Ben Brode's lack of real answer to the Redditor, who challenged him by saying "a more complicated more disruptive change to FWA would have been better", troubling.

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Small picture: These kinds of changes to classic cards are painful to me.

Big Picture: I suppose there is good and bad from moving away from Classic.

Classic cards provide identity for classes, continuity for players who return after a break.  They should be "safe cards" for a new player to collect (they won't get phased out.. at least that is what we all thought),  but if "too many" classic cards are in the meta, that probably means the new expansion wasn't very exciting or fun.

So the big question I guess is: IDEALLY what percentage of our decks should be classic?

And the follow up questions might be: Where are we right now? And is Bliz going the right direction?

Just "going with my gut" I don't think we need fewer classic cards in play.  And I think Bliz is maybe pushing a bit too hard on the variety thing.  A lack of variety is bad, but variety can only go so far.  Increasing the number of choices you have, and the number of things you might be facing is interesting at first, but at some point you mentally just go "well I can be facing anything, so nothing really matters".   Just because a card is played in every deck for a class, isn't automatically bad either, but that is another (long) topic.

Edited by HugeHoss
typo

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7 hours ago, HugeHoss said:

So the big question I guess is: IDEALLY what percentage of our decks should be classic?

Another question with this is, can decks maintain variety and not feel the same with more than a certain percentage of classic cards in them? Does have 40% classics in every deck just make them feel the same?

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      A turn in Hearthstone times out after 75 seconds, and with 20 seconds left the rope will appear across the middle of the screen. There is no penalty for taking each turn to rope and there are no bonus points for playing quickly. However, there is a massive penalty for playing too fast and making mistakes as a result. The most your opponent can do to complain about how long you are taking is emote “Hello”, so what do you have to lose by taking more time?
      I can’t teach you how to be smarter or have better focus, but I certainly share with you a framework for making the most out your time each of turn. More time means more thinking, more thinking means smarter decisions, and helping you make smarter decisions is the entire goal of the “Legend in the Making” series. Here are some steps you can take to ensure that you’re using time to your advantage:
      Decide what the plan is. If there is still time left in the turn before you must act (the rope hasn’t appeared yet), see if you come up with a different plan. If there is no other plan, use the rest of your time to plan out future turns and consider the outs for you and your opponent. If there is another plan, compare and contrast the advantages of both plans to decide which one is better. If there is still time left in the turn after you’ve compared the two plans, try to see if you can come up with another plan and repeat this process. There will probably be many turns where this process feels laborious and unnecessary. Your first instinct will often be the correct one and might feel as though you just wasted time and effort for no benefit. The beauty of this process is that it doesn’t truly matter if your decisions don’t change as a result of this extra time and focus, because to reflect and ask yourself questions is the fastest way to internalize the finer details of the game! This is how you make smaller circles.
      Think of the effort you’re spending now as effort you won’t need to spend again in the future if you encounter a similar situation. Taking the extra time to reflect on your decisions in the present not only decreases the likelihood that you make mistakes (which allows you to win more games), it encodes your patterns of thought into instincts which will free up additional thinking time in the future for you to do even more. This enables the cycle of learning and improvement to repeat itself. Self reflection is not only key to ensuring we don’t make mistakes, it the essence of progress and rapid improvement.
      Section 2 - Line Up Theory
      Hearthstone is a game of threats and answers, both of which can come in many forms. A threat might be a wide board of buffed-up Murlocs thanks to Murloc Warleader, and answer to this threat might be a single Dragonfire Potion. A 12/12 Edwin VanCleef is a threat which can be answered by 12 power worth of minions.
      A threat is anything a player can use to win the game if their opponent doesn't have an answer for it, and an answer is any way to remove a threat. The battle of aggro vs control is fundamentally a battle of threats against answers. It’s the aggro player’s job to present the threats their opponent is least likely to have an answer to, and it's the control player’s job to answer the threats presented by the aggro player in such a way that they will still have the ability to handle the next one.
      It is often the case that a specific answer lines up against a specific threat in such a way that one player comes out of the exchange at huge advantage. A classic example is the threat of Tirion Fordring and the answer of Polymorph. Casting Polymorph on Tirion cleanly answers his big body, his Divine Shield, and his Deathrattle trigger. Without a Polymorph, answering a Tirion might require a combination of your hero power, some spells, and minion attacks just to take down his 6/6 Taunt body, and when everything's said and done your opponent still gets a 5/3 weapon. Sounds like a disaster! Cards like Polymorph and Hex line up very well against Tirion while most other answers line up against him poorly. This is “line up theory”, a method for assigning specific answers to specific threats in an effort to create advantages and avoid disasters.
      Lining Up Decks
      We can use line up theory to help us understand the correct approach to most matchups. Through line up theory we can determine which matchups are “ask and answer”, or classic aggro vs control games where the lining up of threats and answers is determined most by the present, and we can also discover which matchups are dictated more by a deck vs deck approach to lining up threats and answers. Let’s see an example of a matchup where threats and answers are far more important than roles, and where the “plan” is to have the correct answers to line up against the correct threats.
      Giant Miracle Rogue is a deck with some very powerful threats and the ability to quickly cycle through its deck to consistently find them. It also runs a very limited number threats due to the density of its cheap spells. They typically look to set up a single turn where they clear their opponent’s board and play out a massive Edwin VanCleef and/or multiple Arcane Giants and overwhelm their opponent on tempo with the size of their creatures.
      Evolve Shaman is a deck which looks to control the board early with cost-effective creatures and board clear spells. By keeping their opponent’s board empty in the early game they seek to take over the mid to late game with a powerful Doppelgangster + Evolve play or to kill their opponent outright with Bloodlust and a wide board of minions and totems.
      It would be accurate to say that both of these decks are midrangey and have combo elements to the way they play. Depending on the way the cards line up on a game by game basis either deck could be the aggro deck or the control deck if you approach the matchup purely from the perspective of roles. However, due to the way that the threats from Miracle Rogue line up against the threats from Evolve Shaman, this matchup has the potential to be incredibly lopsided if the Evolve Shaman player understands line up theory.
      Let’s look at the threats that the Miracle Rogue is packing:
      Edwin VanCleef Sherazin, Corpse Flower Two Arcane Giants The rest of their minions in the deck aren’t there to end the game on their own but to facilitate the strategy of the deck. Though the deck could also manage to drudge up a threat with a Hallucination or Swashburglar, the likelihood that they find anything which threatens to end the game on its own from these cards is quite low.
      If we look at how the answers from Evolve Shaman up against these threats, we find that the Evolve Shaman is perfectly suited to answer these threats at a tremendous advantage. The Jade Lightnings line up well against the Gadgetzan Auctioneers, while the Lightning Storms, Maelstrom Portals, and Volcanos can easily clear up the other roleplayers. The two Hexes can handle Sherazin, Edwin, or an Arcane Giant at a mana advantage, the Devolve can handle the Edwin or Sherazin at a mana advantage, and a combination of minions and spells can add up to the 8 damage needed to finish off the final Arcane Giant.
      When you line up the two decks against each other the default strategy for the Evolve Shaman player should be clear. The Evolve Shaman just needs to be able to deploy each of their lined up answers against the Miracle Rogue’s lined up threats and they will eventually be able to run them out of gas. From the perspective of line up theory, any Shaman deck running two Hex and one Devolve should be favored against a Giant Miracle Rogue which is light on threats. Their answers are naturally advantaged against their opponent’s threats, and they will be heavily favored in any game where they can deploy these answers on time. Whenever you can identify a matchup where your threats line up favorably against your opponent’s answers or vice versa, your best bet is to approach the matchup from the perspective of line up theory and aim to win the game by abusing the natural advantages of your specific threats and answers against theirs.
      There will be the occasional game where one of the Shaman’s much needed answers is on the bottom of their deck or where the Miracle Rogue draws well and is able to play their threats too quickly, but the chances of losing a game to these circumstances are much lower than the chances of losing in a more traditional midrange vs midrange matchup. Generally speaking, decks which have more answers than their opponents have threats are favored in games which go long when playing with line up theory in mind. This implies that decks with fewer answers than their opponents have threats should try to find a way to end the game quickly before they get overwhelmed by their opponent’s threats.
      The Narrow Answer
      When lining up decks against one another you’ll often find that there are only one or two key cards in either deck which demand specific answers from their opponent. Polymorphs for a Tirion Fordring, or Volcanic Potions for a Living Mana, for example. It may not always make sense to mold your entire strategy from the perspective of line up theory, but the knowledge of how these threats and answers line up against each other still has an impact on the way you play out the game.
      When playing against an opponent who has a threat in their deck which demands a specific answer from your own, the goal is to hold onto your narrow answer for as long humanly possible. Patience is key, especially if your opponent also understands how line up theory works. Whoever bites first and plays their threat into a narrow answer or uses their narrow answer on the wrong threat will often lose as a result. Unless you’re under direct threat of dying, hold onto that narrow answer at all costs and find a different way to answer your opponent’s other threats.
      You might also find yourself in a situation where you have access to a threat which can completely take over the game if your opponent lacks the narrow answer. In an ideal world you would construct a situation where your opponent is forced to deploy their narrow answer on the wrong card, but you won’t always have this luxury. If time is not your side, it’s often correct to throw your threat out there and pray that they don’t have the answer in hand. If time is your ally, then it’s probably best to hold onto your threat until you’re sure the coast is clear.
      Section 3 - Mulligans
      Mulligans are among the most complex and important decisions in the entire game, yet they are often overlooked or taken for granted as deterministic.
      The majority of deck guides I’ve seen around the internet list cards which are considered “keeps”, but this completely fails to recognize the importance of matchups when it comes to mulligan decisions. More thorough deck guides will list the cards which are keeps in every matchup, and though this is certainly a step closer to the truth it still doesn’t tell the entire story.
      To be to fair to all the excellent deck guide writers out there, there are certain decks which will almost always want to keep certain cards. For example, I very rarely mulligan away Wild Growth while playing as Ramp Druid. It’s a card you can play early and is simultaneously critical for the deck’s gameplan, but is it always correct to keep two Wild Growths? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. There are certain matchups where double Wild Growth is the stone cold nut, but there are other matchups where it might be more important to dig for something that impacts the board.
      In this section I’ll attempt to teach you all of the different factors I’ve discovered for informing mulligan decisions. Factors can vary wildly in importance from matchup to matchup, hand to hand, and deck to deck, so the real talent to mulligans is knowing when each of these factors takes precedence over the others.
      Mana Cost
      The level zero, most basic mulligan tip that everyone learns first is to mulligan away your expensive cards so that you can find cheap ones that you can play early. It makes sense why you’d want to do this as it’s very advantageous to curve out (use all of your mana on cards which cost as much mana as you have available that turn), and you can’t exactly curve out in the first few turns if you are sitting on a hand full of expensive cards.
      You can think of all the other factors I discuss in this section as reasons not to mulligan away more expensive cards for cheaper ones. If you were to enter into a completely unknown matchup then the mana cost of your cards would almost certainly be the most important factor, but at these ranks we are never entering into an unknown matchup.
      Line Up Theory
      The time you have to mulligan is the all the time you have to determine if your current matchup is "ask and answer" or is dictated by line up theory. Before sending away a single card you should have a decent idea of whether or not line up theory is the axis by which you’ll be attacking this game, as this will completely dictate your mulligan decisions.
      It should be fairly straightforward to understand how line up theory impacts your mulligans. If you’re in the position of the player who has more answers than your opponent has threats then you can’t afford to ship a single answer from your opening hand. You have inevitability on your side if you can assemble all of your answers before they can assemble all of their threats, so you shouldn’t be too concerned if your hand appears to be slow.
      If you’re in the position of the player who has fewer threats than your opponent has answers you likely can’t afford to ship a single threat. The way you win is by playing one more threat than they have an answer for, so you’re also in the market for any cards which might force your opponent to spend one of their precious answers on the wrong target.
      The Matchup
      Some cards have the ability to completely take over a game on their own in certain matchups. If you know exactly which deck you’re up against then keeping these cards in your opening hand is always the correct decision, regardless of whether they cost 10 mana or 1. If nine of the last ten Druids you faced were playing Jade, then you stand to gain much more by holding on to Skulking Geist in your opening hand than you do by mulliganing it away. Let’s explore why.
      In this example nine of the last ten Druids we faced were Jades, which extrapolates to a 90% chance that the current Druid you are currently facing is also a Jade. If you assume that keeping the Skulking Geist drops your win percentage from 50% to 0% against all other Druids (which it doesn’t), you’re still only giving up 5% win percentage over the course of 10 games (50% or .5 divided by 10). This means that keeping the Skulking Geist would still be the smarter decision if getting to play the card increased your overall match win percentage against Jade Druid by more than 5.6% (50% or .5 divided by 9), which I’m almost certain that it does. Though it might seem greedy to keep an expensive or narrow card in your opening hand without being certain what you’re up against, the numbers show that it’s often correct to do so.
      Try to resist the urge to mulligan away an expensive card in your hand before considering the odds that it could tilt the matchup in your favor. Consider the prevalence of each deck in your opponent’s class, as well as the impact an individual card has on the overall win percentage in each matchup. It’s far too complex to calculate exact numbers, but with time and practice you can start to get a sense for when and why you should keep certain narrow or expensive cards in your opening hand.
      Conversely, there are cards which are typically strong in opening hands but must be mulliganed away based on your opponent’s class or the expected matchup. These cards might line up poorly against the enemy’s Hero Power or common class cards. For example, minions with one Health are typically miserable against Mage, and early Deathrattle cards like Kindly Grandmother with 2 power or less can get blown out by Potion of Madness. The ability to recognize when it is correct to mulligan away cards that are typically strong is just as important as the ability to recognize when it is correct keep cards that are typically weak.
      50% Theory
      It is often correct to hold onto a card which might not be ideal but is just above the cut. In what I call “50% Theory”, I always try to stop and ask myself if there is a greater than 50% chance that the card I’m thinking about mulliganing away will turn into a worse one. I often find that my first instinct is to mulligan away a less than perfect card to try and find something better, but that when I apply 50% theory I realize that my odds of improving my hand actually decrease by shipping the card away.
      Curving Out
      Another reason to keep potentially expensive cards is because your hand can naturally curve into them. For example, let’s say you’re playing a deck which typically always mulligans away 4 drops in the dark. If the other two cards in your hand are a 2 drop and a 3 drop, then it could potentially be worth keeping the 4 drop so long as it is a natural follow-up to the other two cards.
      Checking the curve of our hand can also help us catch when we might have too much of a good thing. Many cards which are typically excellent in opening hands might not pair well with the other cards in our hand, or even with a second copy of itself. N'Zoth's First Mate is typically the best card for Pirate Warrior on turn one, but the second copy should almost always be shipped away. The same can often (though not always) be said for Innervate, depending on what the final card or cards in your opener are. If you’re on Aggro Druid and your opening hand is double Innervate + Bittertide Hydra, then you have a potentially game winning play on turn one. If your hand is double Innervate + Living Mana, then you’ll want to ship both the Living Mana and one of the Innervates to try and find yourself a better curve.
      The Checklist
      To recap, here are a list of questions you should ask yourself about each hand while mulliganing:
      Based on my opponent’s class and the local metagame, which decks could my opponent be playing? Is this a line up theory matchup? Are there any narrow answers or threats in my hand? Do I have any cards which are very powerful against one of these decks? Am I increasing my overall win percentage by keeping these cards? Do I have any cards which are very weak against one of these decks? Am I decreasing my overall win percentage by keeping these cards? Does this hand curve out? Does it have a game plan? Do I have any expensive cards which I should mulligan away for something less expensive? If so, is there a greater than 50% chance that getting rid of one of these cards will yield a worse result? It’s important to note that the de facto “most important factor” of mulligans, the mana cost of the cards, is the second to last question when working down this checklist. This isn’t to say that the mana cost of the cards in your opening hand isn’t important, it's just that there are many other things you should be thinking about as well.
      Another thing of note is that I never stop to ask if I have cards in my hand which should be automatically kept. I believe that you can get yourself into trouble by thinking about cards as “automatic keeps”, and should instead start off by viewing each card through the lens of the specific matchups you’re anticipating. Granted, to this day I have still never mulliganed away the first copy of Flametongue Totem, but I’d like to think that’s because I have yet to encounter a matchup where it isn’t good in my opening hand and not because the card is an "automatic keep".
      Conclusion
      Line up theory can help us think about our boards, hands, and decks as distinct sets of limited tools. By lining up our tools against our opponent’s problems we can attempt to organize our game plan into the most effective and thorough plan possible. Some matchups are dictated entirely by line up theory, while in other matchups we can use the lessons we've learned from line up theory to gain small edges in efficiency.
      Mulligans are an often overlooked or misunderstood facet of the game, but they are sometimes the most important decision we make in the entire game. By taking the time to carefully consider all the reasons why we should or shouldn’t keep each card in our opener, we are adding one more edge to our game which will help propel us to the next stage of the ladder.
      For the fourth and final installment of Legend in the Making, I will discuss all of the subtle ways that game behavior can inform the exact content of player’s hands. By analyzing the ordering decisions and tiny mistakes our opponents make we can glean much more information about our their game plan than you might think. Please join me in part four as we make the final push towards our ultimate goal of reaching Legend.
      - Aleco
      Part 1 - Ranks 25 to 15 - Knowing your Role and Embracing Mistakes
      Part 2 - Ranks 15 to 10 - Having a Plan and Playing to Outs
      Part 4 - Ranks 5 to Legend - Tools for the Climb and the Art of the Read
    • By Aleco

      In episode two of "What's the Move?" Aleco discusses an open-ended situation which doesn't have a clear answer.
      In episode two of "What's the Move?" Aleco discusses an open-ended situation which doesn't have a clear answer.
      We kicked off this new series by analyzing a tricky situation which had only one optimal line of play. In episode two we'll take a look at a very different kind of situation, one where there might not be a perfect move at all.
      Please let us know in the comments what you would have done in this situation! One of the primary goals of this series is to foster improvement at Hearthstone by generating discussions. We would also love to hear your feedback on the video itself, as the series is still very new and has plenty room to improve on its format.
      - Aleco
    • By Stan

      In the latest Hearthstone update, Blizzard made adjustments to several cards. The patch is now live now on desktop and it should become available on mobile devices in the coming hours.
      Philosophy and reasons behind these changes can be found here.
      Blizzard (Source)
      Card Changes
      Innervate now reads: Gain 1 Mana Crystal this turn only. (Down from 2)
      Fiery War Axe now costs 3 mana.  (Up from 2)
      Hex now costs 4 mana. (Up from 3)
      Murloc Warleader now reads: Your other Murlocs have +2 Attack. (Down from +2 Attack, +1 Health)
      Spreading Plague now costs 6 mana. (Up from 5) 
    • By Zadina

      A new Brawl has landed in the Tavern.
      Just like with the previous expansions, it's time to try out the deck recipes of Knights of the Frozen Throne in this week's Tavern Brawl. The archetypes for each deck recipe are the following:
      Druid: I guess the best name for this deck is Midrange Druid. It has Ultimate Infestation and Spreading Plague, so... PROFIT?! Deathrattle Hunter Elemental Mage Divine Shield Paladin Control Priest (you've probably seen variations of it in ladder) Jade Deathrattle Rogue Freeze Shaman Zoolock Control Warrior with Enrage minions This is a good opportunity to try out cards that you don't own. Good luck and have fun!
    • By Zadina

      The balance patch is arriving in the beginning of the next week.
      The wait is over! The anticipated card balance changes will arrive on September 18th and hopefully freshen up the meta a little bit. As the case always is with balance patches, for the next two weeks if you disenchant Spreading Plague and/or Murloc Warleader, you will get their full value in Arcane Dust.
      Daxxarri
      In the recent Upcoming Balance Changes – Update 9.1 blog, we discussed the details and philosophy behind balance updates that are coming to several Hearthstone cards:
       
      Innervate - Now reads: Gain 1 Mana Crystal this turn only. (Down from 2) Fiery War Axe - Now costs 3 mana. (Up from 2) Hex - Now costs 4 mana. (Up from 3) Murloc Warleader - Now reads: Your other Murlocs have +2 Attack. (Down from +2 Attack, +1 Health) Spreading Plague - Now costs 6 mana. (Up from 5)
      This patch is currently targeted for September 18th PDT. Please note that updates for mobile devices may take a few additional hours to propagate.

      Once these card changes are live, players will be able to disenchant cards that are not Basic (Murloc Warleader and Spreading Plague) for their full Arcane Dust value for two weeks. Basic cards cannot be disenchanted and will not be available for an Arcane Dust refund. (source)