Hearthstone's recent "Peek to the Past" Tavern Brawl is a new take on the Pauper game format often found in other CCGs. Blizzard forced players to build decks using only more common cards from the original two sets that were released with the game.
Featured image via Blizzard.

Pauper Mode: The Way Hearthstone Should Be Played

May 27, 2017
Featured image via Blizzard.

This week’s Hearthstone Tavern Brawl is A Peek to the Past. The rules of the Brawl are fairly straightforward: you make a deck using only common and rare cards from the basic and classic sets. It’s a format that’s often referred to as ‘Pauper’ in other card games — Magic: the Gathering in particular. In fact, before the Brawl got released, there’s a Hearthstone subreddit with very similar rules called PauperHS. After grinding out a few games in A Peek to the Past, it’s clear to me: Pauper is how Hearthstone is meant to be played.

Popular Hearthstone Pauper Cards

Remember, during the Brawl you’ll only be playing with commons and rares from the original two that were released when the game launched. The basic set is earned from playing, and cards from the classic set were earned from original packs. The highly relevant part about this is that these were the two sets that were out during beta. For those who didn’t play back then, it’s a bit of a golden age as far as Hearthstone’s history is concerned. The open beta wasn’t just promising, it showed that Blizzard actually understood how to balance cards, mechanics, and the flow of gameplay. The dev team was making regular tweaks, using minor nerfs and buffs to address cards that were threatening to spin out of control. They didn’t catch everything back then, but the effort was as sincere as it was thorough.

Chillwind Yeti
Would you believe this guy was once one of the best cards in the game?

The more I play Hearthstone’s Peek to the Past Tavern Brawl, the more I miss the original format. Sure, we couldn’t do as many cool things. Lots of cards didn’t have text. But there wasn’t much randomness. It was far more of a chess match than the coin flip simulator that Hearthstone occasionally feels like these days.

Would I want an official permanent format that just uses the original sets? Probably not. Even though I’m riding the nostalgia train with this week’s Brawl, the limited pool of cads means it would get old pretty fast. However, what I do want is an arena format built around balanced cards. Arena currently feels like you’re better off rolling a six sided die. Because you’re probably not going to get above six, and if you do it didn’t take much skill anyway. The decks mostly build themselves, and at this point most players know how to play on curve. I’ve got a serious yearning for the arena games of days past.

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Going Forward

Now that Blizzard has shown us this new format, the possibilities for future Hearthstone game modes or even entirely new rule sets are endless. Blizzard could introduce a full pauper mode that lets you have access every set in the game, but you’re only allowed to use commons or rares. Decks could have a dust limit imposed on them, or force you to choose cards that cost below a certain amount of mana. This Tavern Brawl proved that the interest is there, all they have to do is cash in on it.

The other massive bonus to a Pauper style mode in Hearthstone is exactly what the name implies. Hearthstone’s free-to-play gamers would finally have a place to compete. You think you’re getting good at the game, so you jump into ranked. And suddenly you’re against a constructed deck with ten legendaries. Not too fun. So you try out the pauper mode, where you can improve against decks of equal cost. It would make Hearthstone truly a game of skill, not just money and time commitment.

Do I think that Blizzard will do any of these things? No. I’d be incredibly shocked if they did. Unfortunately this is yet another case of “you think you want it but you don’t”. Where every player asks for something, but the developers prove that we live in a dictatorship. I hope I’m wrong, I truly do. I hope they explore Pauper as a format. It would certainly rekindle my love for the game I sunk endless hours into four years ago. Blizzard, we’re paupers. Throw us a bone!

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Stephen Draper
Stephen has a degree in English from Brock University. He grew up playing video games and card games, always having an affection for strategy. He picked up League of Legends in early Season One and has since achieved Diamond rank multiple times. He also picked up Hearthstone in Beta and has since achieved Legend consistently. When he isn’t reading, writing, or gaming, he’s probably watching other people game.
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