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Card Collection Cost: Hearthstone

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Many Blizzard fans have had access to Hearthstone for a long time, back to the collection wipe during the closed beta in October 2013. For those players, who have had over a year to build their collections up, things may seem pretty okay - but just how high is the barrier to entry for a new player?

 

Hearthstone currently has 535 collectible cards, broken down as follows:

 

Rarity Quantity
Free 59
Common 226
Rare 122
Epic 66
Legendary 62

 

The math has been done quite extensively elsewhere, but briefly:

 

- An average of 512 packs are required to complete the Classic Hearthstone collection.

- An average of 212 packs are required to complete the Goblins vs. Gnomes collection.

- All of the Naxxramas cards are rewarded for completion of the adventure content.

 

At the optimal discounted volume prices for all three of these sets, assuming you need exactly the average number of packs in all cases, the combined cost of a complete collection is currently $881 USD.

 

Obviously the vast majority of Hearthstone players do not have complete collections, nor is a complete collection required to enjoy the game or play it at a casual level. However, to outside appearances, that kind of cost could be seen as either a barrier to entry if you intend to complete the collection over time (regardless of how much your in-game gold might defray this by - you're looking at almost five years of daily quests total), or as a deterrent to players whose interest might be in playing the game to be competitive (which is somewhat inherent to its design!).

 

(Unrelated - this cost is often cited as the reason for many players running inexpensive, low-cost aggro decks, like Zoo or Hunter.)

 

As the game gets progressively larger in scope, this is a problem that will only continue to become more prevalent. If another 1-2 major collection updates are in the works for Hearthstone this year - for sake of argument, similar in size and value to Curse of Naxxramas and Goblins vs. Gnomes - the total cost of the game could be as much as $1,200 by the end of 2015.

 

Blizzard has yet to comment on long term plans for making older segments of the game baseline for new players, or on retiring cards or collections over time. The snowball effect of not only the cost for complete collections for high level players, but just having sufficient basic cards as a newer player to be able to enjoy the game would only continue to be exacerbated.

 

What would you like to see Blizzard do? Add existing cards from the Classic collection to the Basic set? Implement some kind of season or feature that disallows older cards? Retire older sets over time?

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Ben Brode recently pointed out you only need 30 cards to make a deck. That probably means they're not going to do anything to lower the barrier to entry unless it's hurting their bottom line. There's also the point that they will pursue the strategy that will make them the most money, which is not necessarily the strategy that attracts the largest number of players. They'd get a lot more players if they greatly increased the rate you acquire gold, but then, how would Blizzard make money?

 

I do think it'd be interesting to have formats similar to what MTG has. In MTG, you can play Vintage, which allows all the cards in the game (aside from a tiny handful that are not in the spirit of modern MTG), Standard, which only allows cards from the most recent sets, and Pauper, which is Vintage except only cards of common rarity are allowed. MTG has other formats, too, but these three seem the most applicable to Hearthstone.

 

I think it's a few years before Hearthstone will be big enough to require a separate format that bans older sets, though, unless the rate they release new cards increases dramatically, which, sadly, it probably won't. A pauper format could be done much sooner -- there are already plenty of people at rank 20 who are tired of running into legendaries all the time -- but I think the classes are not well balanced for it yet and Mage would be too dominant.

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As a newer player: I think it's fine. Sure it's a bit difficult to get started, but like furrykef said: you only need 30 cards to make a deck. Competitive players can set goals for a deck, make it, set goals for their next deck ect. Sure those first few will take a long time to get, but who goes into a card game without expecting to invest time/money? Also, as you go on, dust will be more and more common, making deck building easier and easier.

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Making some of the useless Vanilla common cards... basic cards. 

The problem that comes to a new player is that he does not know what he needs, GvG packs or Vanilla packs. Then he realise that Naxx is a must, and he needs some of that cards for the actual decks, then he really needs to spend money for Naxx, because 700g for each wing it is really too much.

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It would be nice if Blizzard made older rare, epic, and legendary cards easier to acquire as they introduce new cards. Perhaps by making these cards appear more frequently in card packs or by providing some other way to acquire individual cards not yet in your collection.

 

It also seems like the game would be friendlier to newer players if the ladder rankings were less goal-oriented and more of a system merely for matching players of similar skill level and collection quality. More like a golf handicap or the chess community's ELO rating. No class E chess player would expect to advance quickly to the rank of expert or above. If, instead of a simple "win you go up, lose you go down" dynamic the player's ranking was based in part on the rank of the player's opposition and the completeness of the player's collection, the goal of moving aggressively up the ladder would be removed and newer players could focus more on honing their skills against similar talents and gradually building their collections. It might also be nice if the rankings weren't reset seasonally so new players didn't have to periodically face players with vastly superior collections fielding multiple epic and legendary minions.

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I was actually thinking about this the other day. One thing I think Blizzard could do would be to "fix" the amount of dust you recieve when disenchanting common and rare cards to the proper 1/4 ratio of Epics and legendaries (this would give 10 dust and 25 dust per DE of each).  10 dust per common seems like a lot though - so maybe just make common cards cost 20 dust to craft instead (and leave them at 5 per de). 

 

I also think once the next set of cards launches, Blizzard should combine the GvG cards and the Classic cards into an "old card" set. This would make it less likely to get repeats when you open packs for a while. (See below)

 

Since the GvG set has so few common cards - I've nearly got them all already, and waste a lot of my pack opens on measly dust. (And need tons of epics still, thanks 4 Quartermasters I've opened!) So I think future card sets they should work out a better ratio of commons/rares/epics/legendaries. Mainly shifting some of the weaker rares to commons, and weaker epics to rares.

 

I think the above would make it a little easier for new players/completionists to get into the game.

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I like the idea of perhaps making a number of the "older" cards into basics to help new players feel they are getting more out of the early game.

 

This would then in turn make the other cards more common in packs.

 

I've been playing since the wipe and so my collection is pretty solid, so crafting the odd card here and there isn't that much of an issue, but I know a few friends that are starting out and they find it pretty tough to get anywhere.

 

I can see them reducing the price of Naxx fairly soon (a little with how they do with the WoW battle chest)

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I read an interesting article on Kotaku a few weeks ago... one of the writers had basically amassed several thousand gold for GvG simply by doing quests, and getting pretty good at arena.Can't find it now but that approach can certainly help old players get the cards to be competitive at higher ranks from new expansions. I know people are somewhat afraid of arena, but you can easily boost your win rate just by looking at a few guides. I went from going 3 and 3 to about 6 and 3, and that's only after a few runs.

 

As far as newer players are concerned, I would think that an increase in the number of cards will actually make a more level playing field. Let's pretend that hearthstone had double the cards now. Wouldn't that make the meta more unstable? Meaning newer players would have a better chance? I could be wrong.

 

P.S. I kind of would be interested to know what would happen if there was NO ability to purchase cards for cash. As in you could only get card packs from the arena or quests. I feel like such a limitation might boost creativity.

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What does one actually need when buying packs? To play competitively do you need to have a fairly large set of legendaries or just a fairly large set of cards? Also, when Blizzard tries to entice people to buy packs of cards with real money, does it need the full allure of all the new cards or just the elusive legendaries?

 

In my opinion, there are only 6 legendaries which cannot be dealt with without extremely basic cards. Rag, Dr Boom, Sylvanas, Tirion, Sneeds and Cairne - and these can usually be dealt with if you've made efficient trades and have a hex/poly lying around. While most other legendaries are potent, all other cards (besides those 6 legendaries) take a knock out of their stats in exchange for their effect. All other cards are essentially equal in my regard.

 

You'll need at least one of those cards to progress beyond rank 10  (probablysmile.png ), to  merely enjoy competitive play though, you just need to expand your set of common cards and shift your play style as your collection grows.

 

At the moment, there are not too many cards for this to be an issue. If 2 more full sized expansions are released though, players should be given a faster method for building up their variety of common cards. I believe these two pack mechanics would fix that future issue:

1) If you open a pack of cards which contains commons which you already have 2 of, you should be allowed to reroll a single one of those commons and be guaranteed to get a common you do not own 2 of - from that set. 

2)If you own all the commons of a card pack set and you open a pack of cards which contains rares which you already own two of, you should be allowed to reroll a single rare from that pack and be guaranteed to get a rare which you do not have 2 of - from that set.

3)This would not extend to epic or legendary cards.

 

This idea would ensure that players increased the size of their collection at a rate of at least 1 card per pack - a large gain, especially when you have looted over half the cards in a set. This would also cut the potential profit that Blizzard would likely make off any given Hearthstone player - which would be a serious deterrent to implementing it.

 

Two other ideas would be to limit the legend count of decks to 3 or (if you into dark humor or mind games) add three cheaply craftable 4/4 4 mana minions, each with one of the following 3 abilities:

1) Battlecry: Immediately activate the deathrattle of a random enemy legendary on your behalf.

2) Battlecry: Copy the battlecry of a random enemy legendary.

3) Battlecry: Destroy a random enemy legendary and deal damage to this minion equal to that legendary's power.

4) --- and watch the meta descend into brooding, darkness and endless paranoia.

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