Hearthstone is Released, Weirdly Balanced

So the blues weren’t kidding about Hearthstone being released Soon™… because it came out today. Surprise!

Speaking of surprises, the patch notes were somewhat full of them. Or rather, not full of them, which itself is surprising. The most obvious changes were to two Legendary cards I talked about last month: Nat Pagle and Tinkmaster Overspark. Pagle’s nerf was brilliantly subtle, taking the form of moving the card-draw coin-flip from the end of your turn to the beginning. It almost doesn’t feel like a nerf at all, but the reality is that Pagle isn’t likely to be haunting the upper echelons of tournaments any longer; that one extra turn of being able to deal with Pagle before the draw engine full gets started is actually pretty huge.

In contrast, the Tinkmaster nerf has all the subtlety of Jay “And double it!” Wilson game design. Which may as well have been the case, since the card was “fixed” (in the veterinarian sense) by doubling the RNG.

From hero to zero.

From hero to zero.

Where things get interesting is the peek into the Hearthstone card balance logic when the blues explained the Tink nerf:

Tinkmaster is a neutral card that silences and often shrinks big creatures. This reduces the amount of big, fun creatures in the environment. We think this change will increase the amount fun creatures in the environment, and bring him more in-line with his cost and overall power. Tinkmaster should still show up in certain types of decks, but will no longer be appearing in every high level deck.

While they did talk about cost and overall power at the end, the main concern was how Tink was “reducing the amount of big, fun creatures in the environment,” e.g. other Legendaries, presumably. Cards like Ragnaros and Ysera are win conditions in of themselves, and have pretty much gone unchanged since they were introduced; people who were holding out hope that perhaps these Legendaries would get the Pagle treatment seem out of luck. Hearthstone is not Magic: the Gathering, of course, but it appears this fact will need to be repeated a few more times before it fully sinks in.

And speak of the devil:

Secrets can now only activate on your opponent’s turn.

  • Activating your own secrets feels a little strange, but mostly, the ability to do this was preventing us from creating new and powerful secrets that trigger off of events you can easily control (like a minion dying).  They end up functioning just like spells, instead of trying to bait your opponent into a bad play.  This change keeps secrets working like traps you lay for your opponent, instead of spells that you cast and use on your own turn.

I would characterize this Secret change as a huge Paladin nerf, but Paladins are pretty much nonexistent at high levels of play, and their Secrets are gimmicky at best. However, this change turns those gimmicks into Disenchant material. For example, Redemption is a Paladin Secret that says the next minion of yours that dies, gets brought back to life at 1 HP. Pair that with a value creature with Charge like Argent Commander, and you can suicide into a minion and come back to deal some extra damage. Or, of course, you could use Redemption with a Legendary for some serious card advantage.

Well, not anymore.

In any case, Hearthstone is out, it’s fun, and it’s F2P for US audiences… and merely Free-to-Download, In-App Purchases Optional (F2DIAPO) for those in the EU. Blizzard is offering a WoW mount for those willing to get rolled by beta veterans until three wins are grinded out, so there’s that too.

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Posted on March 12, 2014, in Hearthstone and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I like that the golden Heroes can be achieved by people who can’t get into the upper echelons of Ranked play *cough* me. I can’t get past Rank 20 but at least with some perseverance I can get some golden heroes. I think the star bonus to high ranking players is a good addition too, saves them some time grinding back to the top and saves us crappy players from getting hammered at Angry Chicken rank.

  2. dachengsgravatar

    Azeroth was full of insta-90s on Hearthsteed mounts yesterday!

    Tell me. I never used Tinkmaster Spark, so I want to check I’ve understood the mechanics. Prior to the nerf, you could choose the minion that Tinkmaster Spark would transform, and after the nerf, he chooses a random minion (not necessarily an enemy minion)?

    • That’s exactly right. Prior to the patch, Tink was basically neutral removal, as most players would wait until a particularly troublesome Legendary hit the field, which was usually more scary than a vanilla 5/5 (if you lost the flip). Now? He could transform your own Legendary, turn a useful creature into a 1/1, it turn an opponent’s token creature into a huge threat. First thing I did yesterday was disenchanted Tink and crafted Cairne.

  3. Presumably now that beta is over, rebalancing is also over? In a game where you potentially pay for cards with real money, you surely cannot have the card you paid large amounts of money to get (by buying deck after deck until your card turned up) nerfed into the ground? In games of physical card collection, once a card is published, it cannot be nerfed; sure, better cards can be published later, but the abilities of the card you acquired can’t be changed. I’m guessing that Blizzard would not want to nerf cards (that somebody might have spent real money acquiring) now we’re out of beta?

    • The Blues have stated that they only want to change cards in extreme circumstances, yes.

      Two things though. First, Wizards of the Coast have changed real Magic cards (via errata, aka rules changes) and even banned them from tournaments before, so it is not exactly unprecedented. Second, Blizzard’s method following a nerf is actually pretty good: the card can be disenchanted for its full Dust value. This means that if you spent a lot of money acquiring a specific Legendary, you can disenchant the nerfed Legendary into 1600 Dust, which is enough to craft another Legendary of your choice (or spend of Epics or whatever). Now, while it’s possible someone already had all the other Legendaries or otherwise didn’t care about anything other than that one Legendary, it would be difficult to claim that money was necessary lost; that same Dust could be used to buy other missing pieces of a deck, or saved until an expansion, or whatever else.