I’m joined this week by Steve Lubitz, host of the Off Curve podcast, a show about Hearthstone that Steve records while driving home from his job. He talked about the creation of Off Curve and how he has been a fan of Blizzard games since the original Diablo. He shares his thoughts on the differences between Hearthstone and other card games such as Magic: The Gathering.
We talk about the shifting Hearthstone meta, and how resources like Vicious Syndicate and Hearthstone Replay have changed the game for both the players and developers. Steve highlights some of the current challenges in Hearthstone including the lack of tournament mode and engaging end-game content for veteran players. We explore some ideas for how to keep the meta fresh, and answer a listener question about the possible mechanics that could be added to improve the game.
Enjoy the 33rd episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
It’s the 31st of August, and I have only a few hours remaining to reach the Rank of Legend in Hearthstone. Once Thursday turns into Friday the season will reset, and it’s back to the beginning of the Ranked climb. For the past week or more, I’ve been bouncing between Ranks 3 and 5. Last night, I was able to breach Rank 2, and Legend finally feels like it’s a possibility. I’m filled with a mixture of excitement and anxiety as I try to minimize the dreadful thoughts of failure swirling in my mind. Our 7-month-old son is (thankfully) soundly asleep, and my wife has agreed to let me spend tonight chasing this goal. However, she remains bemused:
“What is this you’re trying to do?”
“The card game I play on my phone. I’ve been playing it for over two years. I’ve never been this close to Legend before. It’s something I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to do.”
“Why does it matter if you’re Legend?”
“It’s an achievement. It’s something that I can check off the list, and not have to worry about it in the future. And you get a prize of sorts, so other players know that you’ve reached Legend.”
“You realize that sounds — “
“Ridiculously silly. Yes, I’m aware!”
“Well, good luck.”
My motivation to achieve Legend has numerous facets, and the most salient at this point is, “Once I do this, I’ll never HAVE to do it again.” The path to Legend is paved with experience, skill, money – and time. Time is a significant factor. There is no quick way to Legend, and even the fastest run to Legend from Rank 20 with no losses would require playing 56 games. The majority of Hearthstone games last between 5-10 minutes, so even the near-impossible 100% win-rate from Rank 20 to Legend run would take approximately seven hours to achieve.
A practical win-rate for a professional player is perhaps in the 70% range, which would be an average of 145 games and 18 hours of gameplay. Those of us mortals playing Hearthstone in the real world can hope to reach a win-rate of 60%, which means an average of 267 games from Rank 20 taking over 33 hours of gameplay. Even 60% is a strong performance, so what if you’re only able to achieve a 55% win-rate? That means you need to play an average of 451 games over 56 hours to reach Legend.
I find Hearthstone to be an enjoyable game though losing is very-much baked into the product. Even the most successful (or “broken”) decks during the past two years only achieved a 55% win-rate, meaning that they are losing 45% of the time. Above it was highlighted that a 55% win-rate requires an average of 451 games to achieve Legend from Rank 20 in Hearthstone, or approximately 56 hours of gameplay. That win-rate means that over 25 hours is spent losing games.
A useful skill in Hearthstone is learning to cope with the losses that will surely happen. Losses will be predictable at times, and others will sprout up in the most soul-crushingly, creative ways. Losing can lead to frustration and anger, which in turn interferes with our brain’s ability to solve problems. Hearthstone is a game of questions and answers between two opponents. Anything that interferes with the brain’s ability to solve problems is going to make winning a game of Hearthstone more difficult.
Since the climb to Legend requires exposure to many hours of losing games, it would be helpful to reduce the suffering that often comes with those losses. An excellent method for reducing the suffering from losing is to rely on anger management techniques. The following article details stress and anger management strategies that have been shown to be effective in clinical practice. I also review useful resources that any Hearthstone player can access to improve his or her understanding of the game. Below, I present three useful strategies for climbing to Legend in Hearthstone:
Be proactive to deal with anger.
These strategies helped me achieve Legend for the first time on August 31st, and I even had hours to spare to bask in the glow of a shiny new Card Back.
I’m joined by Ohad Zach (ZachO), General Manager of Vicious Syndicate and writer of the weekly Data Reaper Report, which provides comprehensive statistical analysis for Hearthstone. He spoke about his fandom of Blizzard games and joining forces with Vicious Syndicate to create a new type of meta report for Hearthstone. He discusses the initial concept for the Data Reaper Report, and how the report has improved since it launched in May 2016. He speaks to how the accurate data analysis in the reports have altered the Hearthstone landscape – from how tournament matches are called by casters to how the meta adapts and settles after a new expansion release. At various times throughout the interview, Ohad responds to my anecdotal perceptions of current Hearthstone gameplay with analysis based on tens of thousands of game results.
For example, he details how the current Hearthstone meta is perhaps the healthiest it has ever been, why the Warlock class is in such a bad state at the moment, why Pirate Warrior in Wild is not as strong as people may think, and how Crystal Rogue shapes the Standard experience. He talks about the latest addition to Vicious Syndicate, the Wild Data Reaper Report, which provides a similar type of statistical analysis to the Wild format. And we explore the casual and competitive allure of Hearthstone in addition to how Vicious Syndicate overlaps at times with Blizzard staff, streamers, professional players, and a thriving online community.
Enjoy the 17th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
This week’s MEGA Hearthstone episode celebrates the annoucement of the next expansion, Journey to Un’Goro. First, Peter Whalen, Senior Game Designer for Hearthstone, joins me to discuss his experiences working for Blizzard since 2015 and his role as Lead Designer for the Journey to Un’Goro expansion. He provides additional details about the Adapt and Quest mechanics, including strategy for how to effectively use the choices given to the player each time Adapt is offered. Dr. Whalen also discusses the realities of designing content for a passionate fanbase that has access to data analytics to attack Ranked play. He describes how the meta game in Hearthstone has sped up as a result of community resources, and what it means for players and the design team moving forward. Finally, he shares his thoughts on design concepts that have yet to clear the cutting room floor and specific cards that might shine during the upcoming Year of the Mammoth rotation.
Then around the 30-minute mark, Dr. Tzachi Zach joins me to talk about the his role as Co-Owner and Data Analyst for Vicious Syndicate. He explains how the weekly Data Reaper Reports are created, and comments on how players and the Hearthstone designers can benefit from the analytics provided by Vicious Syndicate. He speaks about searching for the “truth” in data analysis, and how he is confident the Vicious Syndicate team is honing in on a reliable and valid estimate of how specific decks are performing in Ranked play. He offers a glimpse of the future for Vicious Syndicate, including how they might venture into data reports on the Wild format.
Enjoy the 10th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
My guest for Episode 4 of Ego Check with The Id DM is Felix Mak, software engineer for Vicious Syndicate, which provides detailed data reports on competitive play in Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Mr. Mak is also a Legend-ranked Hearthstone player and we spent approximately an hour together discussing many aspects of Hearthstone. He describes his role with Vicious Syndicate and how the Data Reaper Report has developed since it’s first installment in May 2016. He speaks about myths that have been debunked about Hearthstone through the Vicious Syndicate data reports, and describes his routine as a player seeking to become a professional. Mr. Mak provides some foundational tips for Hearthstone players, we talk about the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion and how it may shift the meta going forward.
Enjoy the fourth episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
Take a look at my previous Hearthstone content, and please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. My plan is to release new episodes the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month. The next episode will post on December 20th, 2016.