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The Direction of Randomness and RNG

Dec 23, 2016


This article was inspired by a video Firebat made this week. In the video, which I’ve included below, he talks about the different ways that Mean Streets of Gadgetzan introduced a lot of RNG. See, the big thing about the expansion is that it was supposedly trying to remove most of the randomness from the game. But Blizzard went about it all wrong. In fact, Firebat argues that this is the most RNG reliant expansion in Hearthstone history. I’m not sure I agree, but there certainly are issues to address.

Randomness in the past

Now if you read any of my articles, you’ll know I hate RNG with a passion. But the randomness we face today is a lot different from what we used to deal with. In the past, the biggest offenders have been cards that blatantly declare their randomness. Cards like Yogg-Saron, who just said ‘mess everything up randomly’. That’s the most extreme example, but there were and are a million others. Knife Juggler, Flame Juggler, Tuskarr Totemic, Flamewaker, Implosion, and Dr. Boom. To name a few. Realistically they are almost endless.

A certain level of randomness is important within games like Hearthstone, but this went way too far. Cards like Yogg-Saron simply never should have been printed. His variance went way over what was manageable or acceptable. Same went for Tuskarr Totemic with his ability to create non-basic totems. Barnes currently is in the same boat, having way too much potential power.

However, these are the extremes, and there were also many cards that had controllable RNG. Cards like Ragnaros or Sylvanas, who were random, but both players had a say in how random they are. Manipulatable outcomes are far less problematic.

Moving forward

With cards like Yogg and Tuskarr controlling tournaments, Blizzard realized they needed to cut back. They pushed more randomness through the mechanic discover instead. The discover mechanic is perfect RNG. It is random which cards you are offered, but there is a much higher level of skill in what you choose. It allows for a lot of variance without strictly good or bad outcomes.

They also nerfed Yogg and Tuskarr, making everyone much happier. The randomness was decently low at this point. And then we got to Mean Streets of Gadgetzan.

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Where we are!

For the newest expansion, Blizzard kept their policies on lowering randomness. This expansion is the one with the least mentions of the word ‘random’, of any expansion. Sounds good, right? Wrong. Here’s where Firebat’s rant comes in:

Basically, what he’s saying is that the card synergies that they have made are even more randomness. And less fun or controllable as well. Take Patches, for instance. If you pull it out of your deck, it’s crazy. If it’s in your opening hand, it’s garbage. Small-Time Buccaneer is the same way. Have a weapon? It’s amazing. Don’t have one? It’s garbage. The Dragon decks also have this issue, if you don’t draw a dragon for your synergies, you are just screwed. The randomness has gone from card RNG to draw RNG. It’s just as unreliable, and far less controllable.

The other problem is that the games are so incredibly fast at the moment. Draw randomness isn’t the worst thing if you have maybe ten or fifteen turns to draw. But with games ending on turn five and six, you only see half your deck. If you go second and throw your entire mulligan, then the game ends on turn five and you see 13 cards. Less than half your deck for all the synergies and answers you need.

I’m still not sure if I agree that the current Hearthstone meta is the one with the highest randomness. However, it’s indisputable that there is quite a bit, and it’s not enjoyable. Randomness is a part of card games, but these fast games and all or nothing synergy cards suck.

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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.
What do you think?

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