As we near the halfway point of 2017, Hearthstone is facing a grim reality. The game, despite continued support from dedicated players, has finally reached a point where the majority of fans are dissatisfied. Usually once two months have passed after a new set is released, players start losing interest. We’re due for another couple months of waiting until Blizzard decides to deploy a new set to keep the community occupied. Without a source of distraction, players inevitably start to get more vocal about the things they aren’t happy with. During the last rotation, people got their pitchforks out about Pirates, eventually resulting in Small Time Buccaneer being nerfed. This time, it seems most players seem to be focusing on Arena rewards – which are terrible, by the way.
But currently there’s a bigger underlying issue, for me at least. If I’m not a fan of Hearthstone at the moment, there’s no card to blame. I can’t pin my unhappiness with the game on Yogg Saron. There isn’t a Small Time Buccaneer in this set.
Where does that leave me?
Hearthstone’s Direction is Clear
Unfortunately, if you’re not enjoying the game, you’re out of luck. There’s no hotfix for the current meta, it’s an overall game decision. If you aren’t happy with Hearthstone, there are two likely reasons why. Either you’re bored with the meta, which would be addressed with a new set, or you just don’t like the current gameplay. If you find yourselves leaning towards the latter, we’ve got some bad news.
The current meta is the fastest we’ve ever seen. Last expansion was fast because of Pirates, but in Journey to Un’Goro, every single popular deck is fast. The control decks have become midrange, midrange is now aggro, and aggro won’t settle for anything less than killing you on turn five. Games are often decided by turns two or three due to the the board fighting nature of Hearthstone. And if you don’t like that, you should find another game.
I don’t mean to be rude. It’s just worth noting that there’s no indication that Hearthstone will change at any point in the foreseeable future. During the last expansion, there were two clear culprits. Aggro Shaman and Pirate Warrior were faster and stronger than everyone else. And when you look at this expansion, the number of viable fast decks makes it clear that the developers have decided faster games are more fun for players.
If you’re not happy ending every game before turn eight, Hearthstone probably isn’t your game anymore. I’ve found myself playing less and less. Part of that is due to own personal preferences. Incredibly fast metas with few options for counterplay just don’t interest me.
If the game is going to keep being this fast, we need a way to respond during our opponent’s turn.
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In all fairness, one of the biggest factors causing the discontent is boredom. Four months is a really long time to go without any new content. For years now players have been complaining about how long the sets take. There’s nothing stopping Blizzard from releasing mini-expansions or half-sets to keep fans invested. The down-time in Hearthstone is too long, and players get burnt out. New content gives people a chance to rediscover what they love about a game, and Hearthstone is no exception.
Magic: the Gathering releases a new set four times a year. These card collections aren’t just more frequent, they’re also more substantial in terms of sheer volume. Look at how many new cards have been included in each Magic expansion since the game was released. The number never dips below 249. For comparison, the Journey to Un’Goro expansion included 135 new cards. Of course, there’s a key difference between Magic and Hearthstone. While Magic’s online following is nothing to be laughed at, the majority of diehard fans play the game in an offline setting — you grab a group of friends and run a draft or go to your local card shop for Friday Night Magic. There’s some delayed gratification at work here that might explain part of Magic’s lasting appeal in an increasingly digital world. Hearthstone is pure instant gratification, and with the exception of professional tournaments, casual and high-level play takes place almost exclusively online. You can play all day, every day. What does this mean, exactly? Well, the burnout process is much faster. Game content is consumed at the pace of the consumer, but Blizzard hasn’t adjusted their production timeline accordingly.
As the second half of the year plays out, I’m hoping that we see some massive changes in the works. The game needs to be slowed down–that’s a non-negotiable, at least as far as I’m concerned. I miss turn ten, and I know I’m not alone.
Getting all our cards at once is neat, but the burnout rate is just too fast. If Blizzard held back some cards in a reserve stockpile, it lets multiple metas develop along a timeline, and cards can be released at strategic points to adjust the flow of gameplay.
Hearthstone, to me, seems in a rather dire spot.