Hearthstone – Competing Hegemonies

This will be a quick one even though there are plenty of reasons why Standard (and ladder in general) is shitty. I could talk about long-term problems like how Hearthstone is the ONLY game I can think of where the professional format isn’t a default format in the game (Conquest), or how Wild is going to be REALLY shitty for a while before it develops into what hopefully feels like Vintage Magic(broken, but still fun), or even how the pro scene is completely unsustainable because the money just isn’t there, and there’s no way a third party a la SCG could step in to create a semi-pro league because there’s nothing to sell, and sponsors only go so far.

No, I’m going to expand on a small rant I had on stream this week. Normally this rant would have appeared on Brewmasters, the Hearthstone podcast I’m on, but we said fuck it it’s the end of the month lets just stream instead.

In said rant I talked about why Standard is unfun, and I want to repeat it here with more clarity because I’m sure some listeners will misinterpret my unhappiness with the meta as unhappiness with the game in general. I LOVE Hearthstone. It’s replaced Magic, a game I played for two decades, as my primary source of competitive fun, and I want the game to continue to grow and improve, not just make $400 million a year for a few years then close up shop.

The primary reason we are all sick of Standard(and if you’re NOT sick of Standard, you’re not included. Christ, just let me generalize a little for rhetoric’s sake) despite having so many viable decks is because two polar opposite hegemonies are in a bitter, endless war with each other.

On one side, you have weapon-based aggro decks, mostly featuring Patches, the Shithead. Most of these decks don’t have many options against an opponent with any semblance of late-game, and this are forced to play as aggressively as possible.

The reason the Patches decks are so aggressive is because of their mortal enemy and competing ideology, the Reno decks. Many aggro vs. Reno games are decided on whether Reno Jackson or Kazakus are drawn in a timely manner, and other that those variables what actually happens during the game is somewhat moot.

And the dynamics that exist between these matchups are the problem at hand. As stated, aggro vs. control isn’t fun because a large chunk of games are literally decided by whether a single card is drawn in a singelton deck. Control vs. Control isn’t terribly fun because while you’re having interesting games, they have a tendency to revolve around Kazakus potions. The games also take forever, and so unless you sport an amazing win rate, you feel like you’re losing ground against aggro decks because they climb the shitty ladder system so much faster.

That leaves us with the aggro matchups. Sure, some of them are shit, like the Pirate Warrior mirror, but most of the Shaman mirrors are interesting, to a point, and especially so the Jade versions. There is a huge skill factor that weighs heavily on the outcome, and sadly is probably the high point of strategy in Hearthstone that doesn’t take 30 minutes to play out.

So if the meta sucks and the only interesting matchup is the Shaman mirror, isn’t the answer just for EVERYONE to play Shaman?

Well, yes, and that’s why Standard sucks. The end, see you in March or whatever.

P.S. I am aware I’m leaving out Miracle Rogue, Dragon Priest, and Jade Druid. None of these decks have better than even matchups against either Pirate Warrior or Aggro Shaman according to the Vs Reaper Report on 1/26. Maybe you think you’re a high-end player who can get more out of Miracle, but the data shows that once you hit legend, your matchups against PWarrior and AShaman get worse, not better!

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