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Oh, look, it’s a news post from Daxxarri about Hearthstone.  Might as well see what Dax has to say.

Exciting changes are coming to the Tavern! We’re proud to announce that we’re introducing game formats to Hearthstone! Whether you’re just getting into Hearthstone or you’re a seasoned veteran, the new Standard format will help keep Hearthstone fresh, exciting, and accessible for years to come, while the Wild format will preserve everything you already know and love about Hearthstone!

Uh, oh.  I have a sinking feeling this is going to make the kiddie pool shallow “Baby’s First Electronic CCG” worse, but I refuse to let the cynicism get to me.  No.  This is the time when Blizzard shows gamers the world over it is still the game company that made The Burning Crusade.  This is the time Blizzard makes a show of support for all players of Hearthstone by adding casual CCG variants to get everyone who doesn’t want to netdeck Hearthstone as a full time job out of Ranked play entirely.  This is the time when Hearthstone grows up and becomes complete, so I can play with my friends …

Standard is a new format in Play mode that allows players to go head-to-head using only the most recently released Hearthstone cards. You’ll play Standard using a deck built solely from a pool of cards that were released in the current and previous calendar year, along with a core foundation of the Basic and Classic card sets (which will always be valid for Standard). You’ll be matched against other players who are also using Standard decks.

Aw, crap.  It’s just Wizard$ of the Coa$t circa 1996.  I remember it well.  There were 2 degenerate deck archetypes everyone played in my local area: Necropotence and Blue-White permission decks with Kjeldoran Outpost.  Every game was the exact same, since there were only 3 permutations of matchups that could be played: Necro v Necro, Necro v Permission, and Permission v Permission.  Moreover, since Necropotence was the more expensive single, most everyone played the permission deck.

Standard promises a fresher Hearthstone experience!

No it doesn’t.  There are not enough mechanics; the degenerate deck archetypes will still be tucked behind paywalls; the Card Balance Philosophy document you wrote 2 years ago will still be ignored; and there are less cards in the card pool from which to try and develop the next degenerate deck archetype. That is Hearthstone’s legacy from the day it went beta until today. 

  • Standard will help make for a more dynamic and balanced metagame.
  • A select set of cards makes each new card have more impact!
  • The developers will have more freedom to design exciting new cards.
  • It lets newer players jump in faster without having to collect as many cards.

Standard is only available as a format in Friendly Challenges, Ranked, and Casual play, so it won’t affect Arena, Solo play, or Adventures.

I can’t wait for all the new cards, like the 2/3 Stealth minion for 2 mana that’s in the new expansion set to plug the hole that was left by Giblin Stalker rotating out of Standard, the 3/2 Murloc for 2 mana to replace Puddlestomper, or the new Warlock direct damage spell that costs 4 mana and deals between 2-4 damage to replace Imp-losion. Those are going to be freaking amazing!

Because, Hearthstone design team, that’s what you’re going to end up doing, ultimately.  Once you’ve designed some cool thing no one plays because Warlock removal has holes in it thanks to Standard format and because the only game in town is Ranked.

Wait, this is just a pseudo-clever and semi-transparent way to get rid of Dr. Boom, Mal’Ganis, and Death’s Bite et. al. without having to swing the nerf bat, isn’t it? 

Wild is our new name for the Hearthstone you already know, because it’ll be the format where anything can happen. While Standard puts a bright spotlight on recently released cards and brings a more balanced experience, when you queue up for Wild, you’ll be cozying up with the crazy fun of Hearthstone you’re already familiar with. Of course, as more and more cards are added over time, the wilder and more unpredictable Wild will be!

In terms of gameplay, nothing is changing for Wild: you’ll be able to finish quests, earn gold, rank up on the ladder, get card backs, earn Legend rank, and use all the cards you’ve already collected to build a Wild deck, just like you always have. When you queue up for Ranked or Casual play with a Wild deck, you’ll always be matched with other players who are also using Wild decks.

When Standard is introduced you’ll be able to choose between Standard and Wild for Ranked play, and you’ll have a separate rank for each format, so you can earn ranks and hit Legend in both Wild and Standard if you wish! You’ll only collect ranked rewards at the end of the season based on the highest rank you attained in one format or the other, but not both, so feel free to play whichever you like best!

Wild isn’t wild at all; rather, it’s just a second ladder grind for all the Twitch streamers who finish the current Legend grind in 10 days, get bored, and play other stuff until the monthly reset.  The cynic in me says creating formats is some kind of perverse revenge plot against Forsen for saying what everyone who has played a CCG before Hearthstone has been thinking:  Hearthstone just isn’t fun most of the time.  It’s not a revenge plot, of course. The addition of formats is a means to get double the free advertising from the free advertising wing of Blizzard Entertainment.

What you could have done, Blizzard, is make it easier to put old sets in the hands of your players.  Let’s say sales of sets drop off significantly after 1 calendar year, which seems pretty likely since the time frame of rotating sets in an electronic CCG is 100% arbitrary, yet Blizzard picked 1 year.  What could be done is the rotated out sets could go on massive discount.  Wouldn’t you buy a few packs to try and get the last card or two to construct the uberdeck?  I thought so, and I would, too.

Standard format will arrive this spring! When the momentous moment arrives, you’ll be able to build Standard decks using the following sets:

  • Basic
  • Classic
  • Blackrock Mountain
  • The Grand Tournament
  • The League of Explorers
  • The Spring 2016 Expansion

Curse of Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes will not be part of Standard. When we release the first new Expansion each year, every set that wasn’t released in the same year or the year prior will cycle out and no longer be part of the Standard format.

That’s also when the new Standard year begins. Each new Hearthstone year is symbolized by one of the zodiac constellations twinkling in Azeroth’s night sky. The moment when a new constellation comes into alignment heralds the start of the year and a time of jubilation and raucous revelry wherever Hearthstone is played!

This inaugural Standard year will be known as the Year of the Kraken, so get ready to make some waves!

The message here is pretty simple: Hearthstone players, you are not buying enough cards in predictable enough fashion.  Therefore, the business team has decided to limit the time frame sales for a given expansion can happen, so you’ll buy more in a smaller period of time. 

Perhaps I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, as Blizzard is giving us two or three days of honest to Sargeras creativity in deck building before netdecking scrubs collapse the entirety of Ranked down to three decks. Two or three days of creativity is more days of creativity than we as players get now, so maybe I shouldn’t be so critical. 

Oh, wait, Hearthstone still isn’t feature complete yet, and the worst game type is being made even worse, so perhaps it’s proper that I am critical.

We’ve worked hard to pave the way for Standard, and we’re really excited about all the great things this new format will bring to Hearthstone: fresher gameplay, more impactful expansions, and—since Standard will become the official format of the Hearthstone Championship Tour—an even more exciting competitive scene. All in all, we believe that Standard will end up being the most fun way to enjoy Hearthstone.

We hope you’re excited too, and we can’t wait to hear what you think.

I’m glad you’re excited about driving everyone to buy more cards in a shorter period of time.  I’m sure the business people and the marketing people are salivating over the gaudy Powerpoint charts that will get to be created for shareholder quarterly meetings after this spring.  I’m sure you’re excited to make a new card with the exact same stats and abilities as something just rotated out only to have the infants online defend both this design choice and the choice for making a “new” card that already existed.

I’m excited for none of these things.  What I am excited for is to never play a kiddie pool shallow variant of a CCG again, ever. I’m excited to jump on Ventrilo, TS, or Mumble with three or four of my friends for an evening of Hearthstone grand melees or attack left-defend right and trash talk where nary a netdeck is seen.  Unfortunately, after two years, players still can’t do that, so I’m utterly unexcited by these changes.

So you asked for feedback, and I’ve given it.  Ignore all of this feedback, since I’m bitter, and gamers, in general, aren’t smart enough to know they deserve better.  It’s still good enough, I’m sorry to say, to be infinitesimally better than the closest competitor.


Todd Wohling

A long time ago on an Intellivision far, far away my gaming journey started with Lock n' Chase, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons The Cloudy Mountain, and Night Stalker. I earned both a BS-Physics and a BS-Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Today I spend most of my time on PC. I left a career of 14 years in aerospace in Colorado, so I could immigrate to Norway.