Love/Hate the Meta

Metas are interesting things.

In Hearthstone, the latest expansion (Knights of the Frozen Throne) just recently came out. New expansions and nerfs and such destabilize the meta in CCGs pretty well, and this expansion more than most. Whereas the previous Hearthstone meta was all about Pirate Warrior and aggro, the new one is more Control-oriented. Well, that and Jades. And Murlocs. So, basically, Druids and Paladins are 60% of the entire field until people get done experimenting and deck lists get more refined.

I so, so hate this transition period in Hearthstone. Because honestly? Hearthstone isn’t a CCG I especially like to experiment with. I like when the meta is stable, and I have a pretty good idea of which cards my opponent could be playing on any given turn. About to be Turn 7 against a Mage? Better watch out, because he’ll deal 4 damage to my creatures by playing Flamestrike (as a somewhat dated example). In other words, having some knowledge about common net decks allows you the ability to constructively play around cards. When people are throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks, you either have to play around cards they don’t have (and get wrecked), or not play around cards they do have (and get wrecked).

And, to be fair, some of my acrimony is based on the fact that I have so few of the new cards. Crafting Legendaries without a stable meta is extremely risky, as the value of any particular one is dependent on what rises to the top of the heap over time. Craft the “wrong” Legendary and it will take ages to get enough Dust to craft the actually useful one.

Thus, I like a well-seasoned Hearthstone meta over this period of chaos.

Meanwhile, the Clash Royale meta has been stale for almost half a year now, and it’s driving me nuts. Supercell had a balance patch in the last few weeks, and it has definitely caused some cards to go from Hot to Not pretty damn quick (e.g. Night Witch). Some of these changes have had noticeable ripple effects – nerfing Night Witch means that Executioner is less necessary as a hard counter, which then lets cards that were countered by Executioner to flourish, and so on.

…but ultimately the meta is still stale as shit. Win conditions are still Hog Rider, Royal Giant, Golem/Giant beatdown, LavaLoon, Splashyard, and Siege. About the most interesting development in the past few months has been the Bridge Spam strategy, 3 Musketeers + Heal, and maybe Miner + Poison. Now, perhaps nine different win conditions sounds like a lot, but the problem is that these strategies are so oppressive if one doesn’t actively “hate” against them, that you end up needing to use cookie-cutter counters for half (or more) of your deck.

For example, you’re going to need something to deal with Beatdown, which consists of stacking a bunch of glass cannons behind a slow-moving tank. Most people go with Inferno Tower, which can melt tanks after a charge-up period. Beatdown decks have counters to this, of course, which often reset the charging, if not blowing the tower up entirely (e.g. Lightning spell). So, you’ll probably need two strategies to counter… but that second strategy can’t be something like the Mini P.E.K.K.A, because Lightning blows him up too. Often, the strategy then becomes to ignore the tank and rush the opposite lane, hoping that the other player drops his glass cannons there instead of behind the tank.

So, in practice, there are really only three kind of decks, not 9+: Beatdown, Cycle, and Chip Damage. Personally, I have always enjoyed Chip Damage decks, as my favorite card in the game is Furnace, which spawns suiciding Fire Spirits every couple of seconds. It’s definitely out of meta, but that hasn’t bothered me too much, up until Beatdown/Cycle decks became refined enough to counter Chip Damage decks by accident.

“Just adapt.” Of course… except in the 4000+ bracket, if your cards aren’t at par (or over-leveled) with everyone else’s, you are at an incredible disadvantage. A level 9 Fireball (4-mana) will one-shot a level 8 Wizard (5-mana), and likely deal some tower damage at the same time; a level 9 Wizard will survive with a sliver of health. These sort of unit interactions are critically important in guiding your strategy, and will make or break games. Thus, I couldn’t change strategies if I tried – unless I wanted to drop down the ladder for months until I scrounged up enough gold to level other cards.


Originally, I thought there was a contradiction between how I felt about the Hearthstone and Clash Royale metas. In Hearthstone, I hated the fluidity of the early expansion meta, whereas in Clash Royale I hated the opposite. But thinking about it, the common denominator is how onerous it is to adapt to either meta. I can’t experiment in either game because I’m not willing to spend more cash. Without cash, my mobility is extremely limited. With low mobility, I cannot adapt to changing metas, which means I effectively get shunted off the playing board when my cards get hard-countered.

It sucks, man. The more you like these “F2P” games, the more punished you get.


Posted on August 18, 2017, in Commentary, Hearthstone and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Play arena. Thematic decks are harder to assemble so everything is much less meta driven. You just need to play around the big class cards (such as turn-7 flamestrike) and be aware of the latest OP cards that you are mostly likely to see.


    • I used to be all about Arena, but I have soured on the format pretty hard. Watching Kripp play is fun… but actually going through the motions myself with gimped decks that lack AoE or important class cards is painful. Doubly so when I’m using my limited gold reserves trying to “go infinite.” Then there is the time factor…. etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What I like in CR is that player skill can still trump cards, and even card levels. I don’t have a building in my main deck, so a good hog player is usually a problem if they can also counter golem/yard well. But a decent/bad player using hog isn’t a problem even though that’s the ‘hard’ counter to my deck. Also just because I’m facing a hog-based deck, still doesn’t narrow the deck down, as there is a lot of variety in the other 7 cards. I’d say its pretty rare to face very similar (same 6-7 cards) decks on ladder in CR.

    The one big thing, as you mentioned, is some of the card level interactions. Fireball one level higher outright killing musket is huge, since not only does it make and 3m deck trivial to beat, but it also means normal musket is an even trade + tower damage most of the time. As more people approach max-level cards, it’s less of an issue (and a non-factor in tourneys of course), but at mid-upper ladder, it can be very annoying.


    • Skill factor is there for sure. I still find it annoying sometimes though, considering that at an ideal 50/50 win rate, you lose to people with over-leveled cards X amount of the time.

      But otherwise, my biggest annoyance remains how I cannot afford to change my deck around. My Wizard is level 8 and 200 cards away from level 9 – slotting him into my deck to experiment or counter the meta is just asking to be shut down by anyone with a level 9 Fireball. My Musketeer actually has enough cards to level to 9, but do I really want to spend 20,000g on just her? Not so much. And Three Musketeers are out of the question.


      • 20k isn’t all that much. Its once you start paying 50k and 100k that it becomes less of a choice and more of “you are using this for a few months at least, hope it doesn’t get nerfed…”


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