So anyone that has read my articles for any length of time knows that I hate random effects. I’ve also made it clear that I was overjoyed when Blizzard removed GvG from Standard. That random-ridden expansion can rot in a randomly generated hell! So, you can imagine my disappointment when One Night in Karazhan’s cards were revealed. Right back to their old issues, Blizzard’s design goes back to RNG once again. They have put out an entire set of portals, five for different classes, which rely entirely on RNG. Let’s take a look so I can vent fully.
Each of the portals has an ability and then summons a random card of a specific mana cost. So, for example, Firelands Portal deals five damage and then summons a random five mana minion. This is shoddy design.
First off, rather than create new cards, they simply created cards that pull from their existing pool. These cards add nothing to overall gameplay, especially considering they are fairly weak overall. Secondly, relying on randomness detracts from the skill of the game in a major way. When they released Yogg-Saron, Blizzard said that they wanted to keep randomness, but make it far less competitive. That’s fine, and these cards aren’t strong, but they are very plentiful. There are so many that it makes randomness a core concept, not just a fun side experiment.
The biggest problem is that these random effects easily have the ability to sway the game. For example, Silvermoon Portal summons a two mana minion. The most extreme cases are Novice Engineer and Millhouse Manastorm. Looking at the difference between those two, it is clear how big a role RNG can play. The difference between a 1/1 and a 4/4 is not just a large difference, it changes the entire game massively. Everyone was overjoyed when Piloted Shredder left for this exact reason. Why have we brought him back?
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Viability of the Portals
As much as I hate the design behind these portals, they aren’t strong enough to see competitive play. The only one that is potentially not overcosted is Ironforge Portal. The reason it has potential is because the four mana slot is very strong. There are a lot of minions that simply have good stats, like Chillwind Yeti. The opposite reason is why none of the other portals are viable. They are all far too expensive for what they are. They also pull from mana pools with lots of Battlecry and conditional abilities.
The Firelands Portal especially has a poor pool of cards to pull from. The five mana slot is dominated by cards that affect the battlefield as they enter. Cards like Azure Drake, Bomb Lobber, and Cult Apothecary are the normal five mana minions. However, they also have access to Doomguard, which will single-handedly win any game if it appears.
These portals are not viable if you take into account the average result. However, there are always players who will play them and pull off spectacularly lucky wins. This is not something that should be encouraged, and is extremely poor design philosophy. There is an old saying in design that says “if one player is always unhappy, the card is badly designed”. Blizzard needs to seriously listen to this, and stop designing cards that rely entirely on randomness. Not that I’m biased.