To Pay, or Not to Pay (for Hearthstone)

I have been flirting with the idea of dropping $49.99 on Hearthstone to purchase 40 boosters. That is, strictly speaking, directly against the advice I have and will continue to espouse. It is absolutely unnecessary in order to advance in Ranked Play – a good player can navigate the Basic Mage deck to Masters level with little apparent trouble. (Watch this video, especially the 2nd game.) In fact, that thought led me to an interesting question: exactly what cards am I missing?

The surprising answer? “Not much.”

Look at all these... bad cards I don't have.

Look at all these… bad cards I don’t have. And some I do.

Heading into Crafting Mode allows you to see ghost images of all the cards missing in your collection. When looked at from this angle, the amount seems daunting. Yes, you can legitimately play for free. Yes, I have been actually gaining gold from playing Arena lately. But 3-11 games games per Arena entry is starting to grate on me a bit when you get stuck with a sub-par selection of cards. Like when you pick warrior and can’t pick up any weapons. Or a Warlock without demons (I actually went 5-3, but I had 3 Hellfires so…). As I have mentioned in the past, my favorite part of Magic: the Gathering was building decks. So each time I go do a daily and end up using the same generic cards I’ve been using for the last two months, I die a little on the inside.

But then I found the weird thing: not all the Epics were good. In fact, a lot of them were outright bad. There are basically 3 Epics per class and 10 Neutral ones, compared to Rares with 5/class + 36 Neutral. And when you really just sit down and look at the card selection, it becomes pretty clear that the Rare cards (and Commons!) are the backbone of most of the classes.

You know, Rares, the card guaranteed to be in every booster pack.

There are a few notable exceptions in Epics being better than Rares, of course. Brawl for Warriors, for example. Hunters pretty much have to use Bestial Wrath in every deck, and Snake Trap combos well with the rest of the kit. But when I look at some of these others, I just start scratching my head. It looks like Blizzard was including some “metagame” cards to perhaps hedge their bets against every possible deck contingency. But, honestly, you can (and will) beat someone’s face in with relentless vanilla cards all day long. Chillwind Yeti is a bitch to deal with no matter what Rares/Epics you are packing, and it costs 4 mana while easily slotting into every deck.

So… now I’m not sure about buying boosters any more. If I’m honest, my primary impetus towards doing so was efficiency: if I spend some of my 600 Dust crafting a given card, I’d hate to then open up duplicates of said card later. Plus, which class would I focus on, at the expense of the others? Besides, I’m already 1/3rd of the way to straight-up crafting a Legendary. In large part due to, by the way, cracking open and immediately Disenchanting the legendary Millhouse Manastorm. Because clearly Blizzard feels it necessary to follow in the M:tG tradition of printing junk cards in the highest rarities. But, hey, 400 Dust from a single card ain’t bad.

And he's not even technically the worst Legendary.

And he’s not even technically the worst Legendary.

By the way, according to this write-up, I may have made a huge error in Disenchanting him. And I realize now that, either way, I certainly lost a ton of comedy potential in putting him in every deck and simply seeing the mayhem.

Anyway, the fact that I am even going through this thought process at all is a clear win for Blizzard. I have said before that Hearthstone can be played legitimately for free as long as it is not your primary, go-to game. The best method, as explained indirectly by Wilhelm in a brilliant post this summer, is to treat it as you would Candy Crush Saga: something you play until you “run out of lives,” and then come back to tomorrow. Becoming more invested in the game leads to, well, investment. Of the monetary kind. Which is… bad. Because it’s free. Or something.

Have I mentioned that I hate F2P due to how it warps my mind? Yes, I believe I have.

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Posted on October 22, 2013, in Hearthstone and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I had missed Wilhelm’s post, whom I agree 100% with. I do the same with Settlers Online (well, did since I more or less stopped that), Anno Online and Forge of Empires. It’s the “5 daily minutes of relaxing fun”, and honestly, why would I want to PAY to get rid of them?
    Because that’s exactly what paying in those games does: boost you to the top (where there’s nothing to do) and make you quit.
    At the same time those games are still afloat, so it means that there’s people out there paying…..

    • It’s a real struggle something, though. The more invested in the game you become, the more likely you are to feel compelled to invest, which not only costs you money but also future enjoyment. Tis why I hate the F2P on an intellectual level, even if I understand and can appreciate the overall net gain for many consumers.

  2. I have been eagerly hoping to get a beta invite for a while but I admit my steam is running out because of the level of pay-to-win and grind I’ve read, but it’s nice to read that rares aren’t “mandatory” (though I REALLY wish that “Rare” meant something in a CCG, like…guaranteed not to suck).

    • What it will really come down to is whether/how they structure the Constructed ladders. I keep hearing people talk about Blizzard is going to be reseting the ladders each week, and giving out a gold stipend depending on how well you do. While that still doesn’t technically cross any P2W threshold per se, you will be at a disadvantage compared to other people if you don’t happen to be playing Basic Mage or Basic Priest.

      Then again, maybe MMR will fix it.

  3. Isn’t it simply ok to admit it’s fun buying boosters and seeing what you get and seeing it as a self-treat rather than as some investment towards winning?

    • This is a fair point. Then again, if you get more boosters/cash in prizes by spending the same cash on Arena entry and you get to play competitive games in the interim, why not?

      Back to the OP for a minute, I remember Wizards of the Coast once claimed that common cards should be easy to play and more advanced mechanics should be restricted to higher rarity so that newbies and sealed players were less likely to get stuck with obscure (if potentially valuable) cards that they can’t use. Maybe that’s what at play here.

      Also, it probably isn’t actually possible to lose a game on turn 2 by using the coin to play Manastorm turn 1 and watching your foe unload their entire hand…. but boy that seems like a heck of a downside.

  4. Don’t knock the angry chicken…sure, i have yet to really use him to his full potential, but i think he could be a dangerous addition to a buff based deck…Hell, once i even got a sheep up to 7/1 and got someone to quit because of him. It was a tad amusing.

    • The problem is that that play is always going to be a 1-to-2 card disadvantage, even in buff decks. And honestly, it would really only be viable in Priest decks IMO. I feel like you could do more damage more quickly just using that 3/3 worgen that gets +1/+0 and Windfury when Enraged, and he’s already a solid 3-drop.

      • Yeah…i am not sure, but i think he would be useful in a paladin deck with the blessing of king’s etc…I have used him to basically no effect so far in my hunter beast deck, but some day i imagine he will prove his worth. I did not know he counted as a ‘beast’ for a long time.