Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sticking to the plan

Hearthstone has a new adventure coming out shortly called One Night in Karazhan.  It is a bit of a silly adventure thematically, since rather than spooky old magic castle we have ridiculous disco party night in the magic castle.  Bizarre, but whatever, I care about the numbers.  The thing that interests me most about this adventure is three cards in particular that interact with Secrets.
The Avian Watcher isn't very good.  If it hits on a Secret it is slightly over budget, but if it misses it is garbage.  If you compare it to other good cards it gains 1 stat if it hits but is under by 3 stats if not.  I don't think it is worth it and I doubt it will see any play.
Now we are talking!  This card is only slightly under budget if you miss on the Secret condition, and it is way, way over budget if you hit.  You stand to lose 1 stat if you miss, and gain 5 stats if you hit.  Good enough to be a card that causes people to want to play Secrets.
This one is a lot harder to evaluate.  Its best case is ludicrous, but in order to use it properly you really need a lot of Secrets in your deck.  I don't think that this is the sort of thing that gets tossed in every Hunter deck, but I am confident that in a Hunter deck with lots of spells (especially Yogg Saron and Lock and Load) it would find a home and be really good.  I don't know yet if that deck is a real contender though.

The overall picture is more interesting to me than the specifics though.  These cards show that after the Mysterious Challenger and Mad Scientist debacles Blizzard is still interested in pushing Secrets, and they aren't going to make Secrets good on their own.  They intend to leave them as is, which is to say they are marginal and occasional in Mage and Hunter (Freeze Mage is the outlier) but basically unused in Paladin.  They only see significant play when there are Secret enablers that are powerful that let them do other interesting things.  Both of the good cards above fit that description - they aren't as powerful as Mad Scientist, but they both really encourage using Secrets, and my feeling is that people will use them in competitive decks in exactly that way.

Back when Blizzard was setting up Standard and modifying cards I was concerned that they might simply decide to abandon Secrets and leave them as generally underpowered and uninteresting cards.  Constantly putting out Secret synergy cards seemed like a thing they might not be interested in.  I thought there was also an outside shot that they would buff Secrets a lot and stop printing Secret synergy cards, basically accepting that the Wild format would be ridiculous in terms of Secrets.

Looking at these cards I feel like their strategy is a good one.  Secrets are going to be used sometimes, but not by everyone, and as the format rotates their usage will wax and wane.  This is probably a good spot to be in.  Wild will likely be absurd because Mad Scientist in particular is preposterous with Medivh's Valet, but that is pretty much what Blizzard promised.  Wild will be unbalanced and silly, which I am pretty okay with.

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