Thursday, February 4, 2016

Follow the leader

Hearthstone is officially following in Magic's footsteps.  In Hearthstone there will be a new format called Standard consisting of just the most recent sets and the basic and Classic sets, and all old adventure and expansion cards will rotate out.  There will still be a format where anything goes called Wild, but competitive play will be focused around the new Standard format which will end up being reasonably doable for new players.

I said awhile ago that they would have to do this but of course I wasn't alone.  Everyone could see that the game would become impossible for a new player to get involved in unless they did something just like this.  It is a good change, I think, and will definitely set things up so that newer players have a chance to play without dropping a grand on their first day.  Honestly there isn't a lot of controversy over what I have said so far and people pretty much agree that the new format is at least necessary, if not particularly something they want.

The thing that has them all wrapped up in a bunch though is that the old adventures and expansions will no longer be purchasable from the store when they rotate out.  You will now be able to craft those cards though, and disenchant them, so you can still get the cards if you really desperately want to.  However, new players will never be able to play through the Naxxramas adventure because it will be gone forever, nor buy GvG packs hoping to get a Dr. Boom.  This has a lot of people pissed off.

Here is how the math on this works out:  If you are a new player and you wanted to get GvG cards it will cost you a lot more money to buy all kinds of new cards and disenchant them to get dust than it would if you could buy the GvG packs outright.  When GvG rotates out, the cost of completing the set will skyrocket.  What this will mean is that a new player who really wants to play with all the cards is going to have a hell of a time trying to establish a complete collection.  So is this just a money grab by Blizzard?

I don't think so.  The number of new players who walk in looking for a ton of old cards is going to be small.  Those people are going to play Standard, barring a few exceptions.  Blizzard isn't going to make more money by denying people the chance to pay for stuff, not directly, but what they will do is improve the new player experience for the average person.

This is pretty much exactly the sort of decision Blizzard made with Diablo 3.  They barred people from playing offline because they didn't want to deal with the issues of mixing offline characters that are constantly hacked and online characters that are legit.  In D2 it was a constant problem that people would play offline, then go online to play with their friends, and discover that they either had to play with all the hacked characters or start again from scratch.  D3 forced people to play online so that everyone had a single experience and anyone that played with a friend could just use their regular character to do so.  It made the overall experience better even though it reduced people's options.  Some people who can't get online were pissed, no doubt, but I think they were greatly outnumbered by the people who didn't have to deal with the hassle of not being able to mix offline and online characters.

Same deal here.  Not being able to buy old packs and adventures is going to irritate a few people who walk in and want to compete in an old format with boatloads of cards they don't own... but those will be very few.  The newbies who wander in and buy random packs and adventures and are *forced* into playing the Standard format this way will be a lot better off because they won't end up making the mistake of trying to collect the entire game.  By pushing new players into Standard where they will be much better able to compete and by making sure their cards are Standard compatible Blizzard will push new players into the spot that is best for them.

People hate being pushed like this.  They yell loudly and fiercely that they want freedom to make their own mistakes and let the noobs suffer for their ineptitude.  However, the veterans that yell about this won't actually be significantly affected by it for the most part and I think it will be a better experience for new players overall.  In this move Blizzard is catering to the masses of casual players and people that join up without doing a bunch of research at the expense of the hardcore old timers.  While that is bad for me personally I think it is good for the health of the game going forward.  Bringing in new people and giving them the best possible experience in the early going is key, and this new structure seems likely to accomplish that.


  1. The vow to never make them available is likely worded to allow them to be special prizes in some way, much like Magic Online has special events where older packs are used. It would be foolish to never again offer the packs when there's a lot of interest from even a small set of people.

  2. The problem is going to be if Wild becomes a relevant tournament format anywhere. Even if it's Archon running the tournaments instead of Blizzard, if there are relevant tournaments using all the old cards people are going to want to be able to buy packs of them.

  3. Well, people are going to be able to craft cards from the sets, so if they need particular cards it will just cost more. You can just buy packs, dust the results, and make cards. If you are doing a big tournament for big money I would be surprised if the $50 price tag for the packs to dust is a real impediment. (That assumes you just need a few extra cards to fill out a deck. If you own zero cards from old sets it might be a few hundred bucks, which is a fair bit, but still hardly a crushing burden for a tournament.)