Tavern Brawl

Taking a cue from Syncaine, I want to talk about Hearthstone for a second.

For a long while there, I had largely stopped playing Hearthstone. For one, I had gotten back into WoW (for two months) and thus did not have room in the game rotation for it. Then when I stopped playing WoW, I wanted to dedicate more time to clearing out my Steam backlog. Even when I did feel the inclination to play, I stopped myself, as I lacked the necessary drive to see what the metagame was up to, updating my decks, and so on. It all just felt like a vicious circle that ensured I wouldn’t boot the game up again.

Enter the Tavern Brawl.

This game was over in a hurry.

Blizzard fixed Warsong Commander just in time.

Released a little over a month ago, the Tavern Brawl is an additional game mode for Hearthstone that largely evens the playing field between veterans and newbies, whales and F2Pers, all in one brilliant swoop. Each week there has been a new Tavern Brawl with new rules, and each one lasts from Wednesday to Monday before leaving forever. Here are the ones so far:

  • Ragnaros vs Nefarion
  • All creatures grant a Banana (random de/buff card) on death
  • Decks are 7 class spells + 23 Webspinners
  • Spells summon a random creature of the same mana cost

For the first and third Brawls, the cards in your collection did not matter in the slightest. The second and fourth Brawls did sorta rely on your specific selection of cards, but the structure was such that you generally wanted to play the game way differently than normal anyway. For example, while you could bring a standard Ladder deck to the Banana Brawl, you could also achieve success by flooding the board with small creatures and relying on the Bananas to buff later creatures enough to close out the game. Similarly, the most recent Great Summonner Brawl rewarded decks just stacking 30 spells and no creatures.

The above isn’t the brilliance of Tavern Brawl though. The brilliance is in the reward structure.

Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly), I lost this one.

Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly), I lost this one.

To generate interest, Blizzard is giving away a free booster pack for the first Brawl win for the week. That’s fine, whatever. The real genius is that Brawl matches count for your Daily Quest completion. Including, incidentally, the 10g for every 3 wins passive quest.

Up to this point, if you had a Daily Quest to win five games as a Warrior or Paladin, you had to complete them in Arena, Ranked mode, or the even tougher Casual mode (tougher because matchmaking is determined by MMR instead of Rank). That can be stressful, as Hearthstone suffers from the same thing that affects all CCGs: net-decks. Which means your goofy theme deck or whatever is going to be routinely trounced by someone piloting the same well-oiled killing machine they saw a Pro use to hit Legend two days ago. Not even Rank 20 is safe from net-decks, especially since some veterans will tank their Rank down to 20 for some easy wins to complete their own Daily Quests or grind wins (which gives golden character portraits at 500 wins).

Tavern Brawl removes any performance anxiety you might have in terms of completing Dailies. Sure, you still have to win games for most quests. Yeah, most of the Brawls come down to rolling dice. But here’s the thing: rolling dice is fun. Losing to Face Hunter or Freeze Mage is considerably less so. If you don’t care about your Ranking on the Ladder, why should you be matched up with people who do?

Tavern Brawl plugs that gameplay hole so well, you’d swear it had a spot in the Amigara Fault.

Overall, Tavern Brawl is a huge win on every front. It auto-generates news on HearthPwn every week; it offers a wildly different game experience to break up the static Ladder grind; it makes Dailies fun; and it’s rewarding for new players and old. If this is supposed to be the New Blizzard we’re disappointed with, well… they still seem capable of being pretty damn clever with their game design.

Posted on July 15, 2015, in Hearthstone and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I thought the Ragnaros vs Nefarian was awesome, even if most players didn’t know how to play Ragnaros (yeah, the odds were tilted in Nefarian’s favor but not to the degree most people thought).

    I had a guildmate be completely obsessed over the latest “spells also summon a minion” brawl, he was absolutely in love with it and played it constantly.

    But yeah — I had stopped even bothering with daily quests or expanding my collection (I’m missing so many “key” cards for most competitive decks)…but I’ll probably try out the new brawl each week for a few games at a minimum.


    • Yep, I actually had more fun as Ragnaros. There were definitely starts from Nefarian in which it would be impossible to recover from, but when you started to hit your stride as Rag and stabilize? Felt oh so good.


  2. So far I love this mode. It’s put a lot of fun back into the game for me. I especially like the weeks with pre-made decks. I’m terrible at deck building (the same reason I love the class challenges in the advernture packs) so this lets me just worry about playing and not constructing.


  3. I haven’t touched Hearthstone in a while but I may give it a shot if TBrawl is as friendly as you say. I am curious how Blizzard will address the vet/noob card divide going forward, especially since thus far the new sets have typically facilitated powerful combos, requiring more and more grinding to catch up with each new set.


    • Some people have suggested going the MtG route and having “Standard sets” that cycle out. Something like Vanilla HS+Naxx+BRM+GvG being one set, and then limiting the card pool on Ladder to LargeExpansion2+FutureAdventures. I don’t think Blizzard could actually go that route though, at least not without rioting in the (virtual) streets.

      If something isn’t done though, new F2P players are going to be hugely disadvantaged within a few expansions, if they aren’t already too far behind.


  4. Too bad you can’t argue the most recent pvp fix is their design innovation. But they do make good choices to steal, so this will probably turn out well. ^_-

    (That was a beautiful post by Cynwise, btw. So much in the way of clear and clean analysis.I owe him a ton for ‘Locks getting fixed after Cata too.)


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