Unleash the Rage

How was my Hearthstone weekend? I’m glad you asked. See, I was playing a 3-star Masters game when this happened:

Balance!

Balance!

…nah, just playing. This was in my last Arena game. I wish I would have taken more screenshots of the setup, but how the fuck was I supposed to know there would be 16 damage on the field on Turn 4? Well, now I will. And in the off-chance you think you might have a better series of plays, let’s recreate it at home:

  • Turn 1 (me): Nothing.
  • Turn 1 (him): Shieldbearer (0/4 with Taunt).
  • Turn 2 (me): Hero power, hit Shieldbearer for 1.
  • Turn 2 (him): Secret (i.e. Snake Trap)
  • Turn 3 (me): Draw and play Novice Engineer.
  • Turn 3 (him): Stonetusk Boar + Ironbeak Owl.
  • Turn 4 (me): Attack with Engineer, trigger Snake Trap. Cast Mark of Nature (+0/+4 and Taunt).
  • Turn 4 (him): Animal Companion (Misha 4/4 and Taunt) + Unleash the Hounds.

The only real decision I had at any point there was on Turn 3, when I drew the Novice Engineer. Ideally, I wanted to play Raging Worgen, but I was concerned that the Secret the Hunter played a turn prior was a Snipe (deal 4 damage to next minion opponent plays). Given that, I figured Engineer was the safer bet, considering the Harvest Golem would have died immediately to a Snipe and wouldn’t have enough attack to kill the Shieldbearer either. Ultimately, none of that mattered.

It just… boggles the mind, you know? Whoever is designing class cards for the Hunter over in Blizzard HQ just really shit the bed when they imagined things like this:

Balanced!!

Balanced!!

…is anything approaching good design. The +1 Attack is even permanent! The worst part though, is that Unleash the Hounds is literally the only shtick that Hunters even have. Shaman have it pretty ugly too with an over-reliance on Bloodlust (which is itself a “I suddenly win!” card), but theoretically you could go some kind of +Spellpower route and then stack your deck with all the (Rare!) AoE and Lava Bursts and such. Hunters are just Bears, Bears Bears beasts, beasts, beasts, plus removal and (Common!) Unleash the Hounds. Snake Trap is an Epic (!) “trap” which is exceedingly useless at anything at all other than being Unleash the Hounds bait. And… that’s it. GG.

Blizzard has already committed to “fixing” Unleash the Hounds, but no matter what they do, it will essentially be a completely different card. Unless the devs punt and make it cost 2 mana or something, of course. If they increase the cost any further than that, the Attack boost will need to be higher, which transforms it into Bloodlust-lite. Anyway, the funny part is the explanation for why Blizzard will be changing Unleash the Hounds:

All of our changes are done with the utmost care. We don’t change a card simply because the community says it should be so. In the case of Unleash the Hounds, it was promoting a rather un-fun play environment in this particular type of deck. I believe we touched on this at BlizzCon, but games of Hearthstone should be like a puzzle, where decisions you make are important and have an impact on the game. Even if you made an incorrect choice when deducing the “puzzle”, you still end up learning something in the end and growing as a player by experience. With Unleash the Hounds, it went against that philosophy and left the opponent feeling more or less helpless when suddenly it’s BEASTS, BEASTS EVERYWHERE. While it’s an effective strategy of sorts, that feeling isn’t fun, and we want Hearthstone to be fun for both players.

I agree that the “puzzle” aspect of Hearthstone is by far my favorite part. And while there aren’t always many moving parts, when you hit one of those make-or-break turns, your internal clockwork will be spinning pretty fast indeed. For example:

Holy decisions, Batman!

Holy decisions, Batman!

What’s the right call, here? Arcane Missile and hope 2 or 3 of them hit the Injured Blademaster? If all three missiles hit the Priest, you could hypothetically Coin into the Counterspell and then trade your one lone creature for the Blademaster and then watch as the Lightwell erases all your damage. Or do you Coin into a Fireball targeting… well, it’d have to be the Blademaster unless you wanted to trade right away (the risk of the Priest healing the Blademaster and then just killing your dude is too high) and clear the board. Personally, I went with the Arcane Missiles, two of which did hit the Blademaster, allowing me to ping him dead with my Hero Power.

Of course, next turn, the Priest cast Divine Spirit + Inner Fire, turning his Lightwell into a 10/10 healing monster. But, hey, puzzles!

Incidentally, one of the exciting bits of news out of BlizzCon was that Hearthstone is going to feature Adventures, which are a single-player PvE-style experience against “boss” mobs. This Polygon article gives more details from the panel:

During the Hearthstone Fireside Chat panel, Dodds said an Adventure will be a “focused, single-player, PvE experience” where players will face off against a boss or series of bosses and earn cards associated with the Adventure. He expects there to be 20-30 cards associated with each.

“They are going to be cards that absolutely change the meta game, because we’re paying attention to that a lot and will make sure that these cards are going to shift the meta game,” Dodds said, “but they’re not going to be cards that specifically have crazy new mechanics in them just yet. Those we’re saving for the expansion side.”

Though he said Blizzard is “still figuring our way,” he said players could expect to see a series of alternating Adventures and expansions.

Good news for those who finally tire of the #AllSkill wins that frequently occur. Plus, the fact that you can actually keep/use the cards you earn in PvE-mode against other players (and perhaps the existence of PvE mode at all) is likely a dig at the upcoming Hex… whose Alpha test is something I’m going to be talking about soon. Pretty clever of Blizzard though, to give themselves the ability to release cards outside of an expansion in order to stabilize/upset a degenerative metagame. We’ll have to see if they have the gumption and card design chops to pull it off.

Based on Unleash the Hounds and Mind Control though… I dunno.

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Posted on November 25, 2013, in Hearthstone and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. So basically on your first 4 turns, you cast one weak minion and one non-threat card. Meanwhile your opponent curved out perfectly?

    Pretty much any game you do that is going to go badly for you. Draft more low cost threats and answers, and mulligan aggressively to make sure you have those threats.

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    • I did mulligan – there’s no way I would have kept Cenarius in my hand otherwise. Indeed, if you expand the screen shot, you can see exactly what I had in hand (the three cards on the left). Would you have sent back the Wrath or Golem against a Hunter, no matter what else was in the deck?

      It’s interesting that you are implying that it’s both okay for a deck to “curve out” on turn four with that amount of damage, and that there is any remote sense that someone could have extricated themselves from this position by “drafting better.” Short of having a Swipe in-hand, what combination of cards could have been played? Hell, even a Swipe would have resulted in everything on my board being destroyed.

      I might have a screen shot of the deck I drafted, but it’ll have to wait until I get home.

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      • I wouldn’t have drafted the novice engineer or the golem. I think that minions should be “square” at the very least (ie a 3/3 for 3). Also, I really dislike minions with 1 attack.

        Second, you should have used the Wrath to kill the shieldbearer. Or you should not have attacked. Since the secret didn’t trigger when you played the minion, that meant it wasn’t Snipe, so it was probably Snake trap or the other attack secret. Dealing one point of damage wasn’t worth it at that point.

        Now, I do think that Unleash the Beasts is broken, that made it much worse than it should have been. But you drafted at least two poor cards, and made a play mistake that the opponent capitalized on.

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      • The golem is technically a 4/4 for 3. In fact, the Trump Arena ranking values of both those cards are #7 (golem) and #24 (engineer), out of 83 Commons. He’s just a dude like anyone else, but the point remains that a 3/3 would have died like anything else and did nothing to affect the board any differently.

        You’re right about not attacking. Then again, not attacking when the Secret could have been a Explosive Trap would have been giving him free card advantage. I haven’t read how you have been faring in Arena, but I have a hard time believing that you would been comfortable using Wrath on the 0/4 against a Hunter who could drop a buzzard next turn.

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      • There’s a old and excellent Magic article called “Who’s the Beatdown”. It postulates that at any given time one deck is the aggressor/beatdown and one deck is the defender/control. The key is knowing which one you are. If you think you are the beatdown, when you’re really the defender, things go badly.

        In your situation on turn 3, are you the beatdown or the control? If you are the beatdown, you need to commit to it. Wrath the guy with taunt, and use the engineer to kill the boar.

        If you are the control, you don’t attack, playing around the Snake Trap. Instead you play another creature to shore up your defenses.

        Personally, I play very aggressively, so I would have gone with the Wrath, because it nets a card when the boar dies. Of course, the next turn will still go badly for you, but you are in a better position.

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      • I’ve read “Who’s the Beatdown” before, a few years after it’s initial release. In no way was I ever pretending to be anything other than the Control deck here. The issue, which I assume you know, is that Hearthstone isn’t quite like Magic – not attacking with the Engineer is crazy when the literal odds are MUCH higher that the Secret is an Explosive Trap (or even Freezing Trap). This was an Arena, not Constructed. Each creature I play without triggering the potential Explosive Trap just increases his card advantage. And there really isn’t any way to “play around” a Snake Trap because eventually I’ll need to kill a creature (assuming more Taunts didn’t force the issue) if only because I know he will have Unleash the Hounds and I can’t outrace that when he’s playing beasts every turn.

        What I will grant you is that, in retrospect, Wrathing the Shieldbearer + killing the Boar with the Engineer + Hero Power killing the Owl would have been the optimal play even as a control deck. The Snake Trap would still be triggered and I would still be facing 11 Charge damage to the face next turn, but that is ostensively better than 10 damage + him still having four creatures alive (although my Mark of Nature caused him to kill off his three snakes).

        Regardless, the game was over the moment the decks were shuffled up as no combination of plays on my part could have resulted in a victory. I did manage to survive to turn 8, I think, and possibly would have stabilized if not for his Hero power sealing the deal. And him playing a 2nd Unleash the Hounds.

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  2. I got the “win with Hunter or Druid” daily the other day, and decided to give the Unleash The Hounds schtick a go. Crafted two UTHs (doesn’t take much dust since they’re common) and jumped into it.

    My gut feeling from playing six games to win two is that it probably isn’t particularly unbalanced in terms of power. It’s definitely a “Timmy” deck:

    “Timmy cares more about the quality of his win than the quantity of his wins. For example, Timmy sits down and plays ten games. He only wins three games out of ten but the three he wins, he dominates his opponent. Timmy had fun. Timmy walks away happy.”

    When it all comes together, it’s an awesome beatdown (as you suffered). But it’s very easy for it to NOT come together and leave you floundering.

    If Blizzard do make changes to it, then I agree with the logic that it is “promoting a rather un-fun play environment,” rather than strictly being overpowered and needing a nerf. Control vs. aggro is one thing but I’m not sure it’s great for players to do as little as possible whilst hoping to draw the necessary hand that can unleash a single-turn wave of annihilation.

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  3. Rush vs control good point Rohan, but it can switch around, and sometimes even the person who is defending can suddenly rush the enemy down.

    On the mage, you need to remember Lightwell is random and will randomly heal any friendly character. What you can do is spread damage and then hope the Lightwell heals the wrong character.

    I believe Mana Wyrm gets +1 from every spell you cast and The Coin counts as a spell (I know it works as combo that is for sure). So The Coin + Fireball on the Lightwell and then attacking the Injured Blademaster would clear entire board.

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