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Hearthstone Arena #2

Last week, I had a fair amount of success in the Hearthstone Arena playing the Mage, and it seemed interesting and fun, so I thought I’d give Hearthstone another go-round. Still, I wanted to play a different class to get a better feel for the game overall, and to step a little farther away from my comfort zone.

How was Hearthstone’s Mage in my comfort zone? Well, the play style of the Mage reminds me of an old Magic archetype that doesn’t really exist anymore because of the way modern Magic sets are designed. That is, Blue had excellent card drawing and countermagic, and almost all the creatures really, really sucked. Decks like Draw-Go and Counter-Burn were awesome at removing all the crappy dudes people played while keeping their hand stocked. Eventually, they would win with whatever they happened to have once the opponent was out of gas. Playing the Mage felt alot like piloting those decks – I just killed everything they played, and won with whatever spare resources I had lying about.

I tried playing a few Arenas off camera, but found I wasn’t really ready to showcase what the Rogue or Druid could do yet. I didn’t have a clear handle on what their cards were really trying to do. Mostly my problems stemmed from having to use my character to directly attack stuff, something I didn’t do at all as a Mage because I didn’t have any weapons. The trade off of life and mana spent on weapons for board control is a very interesting dynamic, and we’ll explore it in detail once I have more experience with it.

After those two debacles, I was given the option of Warlock, which was something close to the Mage but not the same either. The Warlock has far fewer options when it comes to unconditional removal. Their ‘kill anything’ spell costs six mana while Polymorph only costs four for the Mage. The strength of the Warlock comes from it’s Hero Power. Drawing a card in exchange for two mana and two life seems steep when you look at the ability through the Magic: The Gathering lens, but remember, there are no bricks in your deck, so every card drawn will do something.

Here’s how things went down:

I kept avoiding Soulfire and Succubus because discarding cards at random seems horrible. Additionally, not looking at the 4/3 Succubus through the MTG lens lets us realize that damage stays on creatures in this game, and a 4/3 for two will quickly either die to removal, leaving us down a card, or trade for two small guys that we would have just killed anyway. Sure, the Hero Power can make up for that, but it’s a huge risk, and a terrible draw late in the game when you are sitting on a single important card.

MATCH ONE

MATCH TWO

MATCH THREE

MATCH FOUR

MATCH FIVE

That game that made me realize that Windfury is powerful. The Worgen dude is pretty awesome, and especially so in a deck that can deal a point or two to it at low cost. Druid, Mage, and Warlock can all easily and cheaply deal damage, so they are likely best in those decks.

MATCH SIX

MATCH SEVEN

MATCH EIGHT

MATCH NINE

If I could replay the ending, I would have to think about whether to copy the Infernal or just play the Blood Knight. I wanted to have two creatures on the board to threaten lethal in case he killed one somehow. Still, he had just drawn an extra card from his Loot Hoarder, so maybe just playing all three was correct anyway in case he played a taunter and a removal spell. Even after all that, I was still 75% to win, although why he didn’t play his dude before playing Brawl is completely beyond me (it would reduce my win rate to 60%). Maybe I missed a point earlier in the game, so feel free to comment on it.

MATCH TEN

Got topdecked, but I’m not sure if I should have chosen that line of play anyway. It’s tough to say since I’m not great at analyzing these board states yet. Not knowing the exact range of cards my opponents could have hurts my ability to find the right line as well. Still, we did pretty well, and broke at least even since I got to seven wins. Next week, I’m probably posting a Shaman video since I’ve already got an Arena in progress.

Till then,

Nigel

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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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Theros Draft #1

Welp.

I don’t want to start this new series off with such a stinker, but when I take the time to record a video and do commentary, I’m going to post it. Besides, there is often more to learn from a draft I tanked rather than one I won.

In retrospect, I should have just slammed Spear of Heliod. It’s at least an A-, maybe even an A since every single White deck would want to play it, and is good virtually every time you draw it regardless of whether you are behind, ahead, or board stalled. My first pack would have gone poorly, but I certainly would have succeeded in playing a deck featuring at least one of the two colors I designated during the draft to be essential. I didn’t even end up playing the Sea God’s Revenge in the end.

Some early commenters on YouTube mentioned a particular pick I’d like to focus on. It was early in pack two, and I had up to that point the Sea God’s Revenge, a good Black base, and a bunch of marginal Green cards. My choice was between Blood-Toll Harpy and Voyaging Satyr. In the video, I failed to even take notice of the Satyr, so I’ll explain here why I chose the Harpy.

I wasn’t sure what two or even three color combination I was going to be, but I knew I was playing Black. Every card I actually wanted to play outside SGR was black. Sure, I knew I was probably going to end up in Green in the end, but I was holding out hope that I would still be base Black with a splash of Blue, which is a far better color combination. Besides, the Harpy is a fine creature. As stated during the draft, Wind Drakes win games in this format. Admittedly, I’m talking more about Wind Drakes that scale into Exalted Angels via Wingsteed Rider + Hopeful Eidolon, but the point stands.

I really only made one decision in the first game, to keep a bad five card hand. Mulliganing to four is suicide, and even though my five was bad, I’ve won with worse. Also, I could have not played the Swamp and just conceded to hide my second color since there were two Dark Betrayals in the draft, and my opponent could have had them, but again there was the chance he was totally out of gas.

The second game’s only interesting decision was playing the Pharika’s Mender for no value. You can’t always just wait around to get something in your yard to return, and had my opponent not played the Sip of Hemlock he may or may not have drawn the turn I died, the Mender would have served as a decent clock.

That’s it for this week. I’ll be back next week with another draft, more interesting board states, and hopefully a win.

@NigelTheLondon on Twitter

OlentangyThe on YouTube

Occasional Guest on Running the Gauntlet

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