Hearthstone Arena #1

I wanted to try recording videos for a different game since I wasn’t really feeling another Theros draft this week. I recently received an invitation to the Hearthstone beta (finally), so I decided to give the ‘Arena’ mode a try after completing a few hours of what amounted to a tutorial.

In the videos I presume some level of experience with the game and it’s mechanics, but because the game is still in beta, here’s a short breakdown of how Arena works so you can digest the videos without confusion.

Everyone who plays in the Arena goes through the same process, albeit independently. Players choose a class, each having unique cards and hero powers. A short ‘draft’ occurs, where sets of three cards are displayed, and one card from each randomized set is chosen to eventually build a deck. Much like the ‘Phantom’ format on MTGO, cards drafted are not added to a players collection after the event ends. Players are then paired against other players who have drafted Arena decks of their own to play games. The Arena continues until a player reaches three losses or nine wins. They are then given prizes in In-Game Gold(IGG) and other cards to add to their collection based on their win total.

In place of a series of embedded videos this time, I’m simply linking the playlist since it’s 25 videos long. Now before you cringe and skip watching, just know that the videos aren’t very long. My freeware recorder, SMRecorder, isn’t too keen on recording videos whose raw file size are beyond  a certain length. I think I’ve figured out how to combine the videos using Avidemux, so it won’t be an issue in the future.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL15LCpGdD8l4qcWtq1zyLBZqTzpRa7NbC&feature=c4-feed-u

Ok, hopefully you toughed through all of those without getting too annoyed. Again, it won’t be like that in the future. I’m also working on a solution to the color issues. The unencoded files play just fine in Windows Media Player, but they are immense files unsuitable for upload to YouTube.

Anyway, I chose the Mage because it was the deck I played through the tutorial with, and was the most comfortable identifying the best cards. Polymorph is unconditional removal, which is very rare, Flamestrike is a little pricey, but a sweeper is really helpful, and Fireball can provide reach AND kills most things dead. I focused on drafting those cards when I could and supplemented them with as many ‘Taunt’ creatures as I could find and just a few low drops to have game against aggressive strategies.

I didn’t have the highest expectations for my deck. The draft had gone according to plan, but the deck just didn’t feel powerful. I’ll leave most of the commentary to the videos, but there are some interesting points to mention.

I only played against a single Warlock deck, and it didn’t seem very good. In my estimation, the Warlock is the ideal counter to the deck I drafted. My goal was typical of many control decks in card games – have a hand full of gas remaining after trading off for all the opponent’s relevant threats. The Warlock can easily keep their hand stocked by using their hero power every turn to draw extra cards, so I was very lucky to beat the one I encountered.

After several games I realized that I should have drafted the Deathwing over the dude that randomly makes a creature 5/5 or 1/1. Sure, Deathwing’s battlecry of discarding my hand goes against my deck’s usual goal, but it would allow me to win games that were otherwise completely out of reach. The guy I took instead was pretty awesome for me because I almost always got the result I wanted, but it could have easily gone the other way.

I kept many openers that were risky, usually keeping a bunch of mid cost nothing cards and a Polymorph. In Hearthstone, life appears to be a resource that is taxed more heavily than in some other games like Magic. Since the rules allow for creatures to battle directly, a single large creature will unopposed trade for many smaller ones over the course of a few turns, and control decks can rely less on sweepers and spot removal, though it remains valuable to all classes. Often in my games, I would take damage from smaller creatures in order to gain card advantage in later turns via Flamestrike or a large dude. I imagine that the Priest class is exceptional at this tactic, using their hero power to heal two damage to keep a large guy alive indefinitely while it pounds down an opponent.

I’m really looking forward to playing some more Arena, so much so that I’m actually not terribly interested in doing anything else in Hearthstone for now. It’s actually very convenient how Arena is set up – you can stop queuing whenever you like and return later to finish, making it an attractive option over MTGO drafting if I only have, say, an hour to spare at a time. So it’s likely that I’ll have another Arena series going up next week, probably with a different class to keep things interesting.

Until then, let’s hope for another nine wins,

Nigel

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