Hearthstone has kept my attention longer than any other game has in years. For the first time since 1999’s Quake III Arena, the game in which I have invested the most time throughout the year is not an id Software title. Rather, I have been trapped in the nostalgic layers of this deceptively intricate card game – and I am loving it. However, there is no need to elaborate on the game’s excellent presentation, proper application of a free-to-play mechanic (I haven’t spent a cent on it in over six months), or the fact that it has been a standout game in what Chris has already described as a rather dull year for gaming. This we already knew. What we don’t know is how the game’s recent card expansion Goblins vs Gnomes will change things. Hit the jump for my take on what the expansion has introduced.
Firstly, let me preface my opinion by saying that we will only truly know the effect of the new cards on the meta-game after a few months of play. Curse of Naxxramas was an overwhelming success and some of the cards in that expansion sounded ridiculous prior to release. Take Deathlord for example: everyone expected a card costing three mana but having ten stats would be massively overpowered and yet after some play we quickly realised it was a below average card at best. Thus, I am sure Blizzard have done ample play-testing for Goblins vs Gnomes and in all likelihood the new cards will be an excellent addition to the game, just as the Naxxramas cards were before them.
In total, Goblins vs Gnomes adds over 120 new cards to craft, win, or purchase, all featuring the manic mayhem of Azeroth’s most mischievous machinists meeting mind to mind, mech to mech, and tech to tech. The new card packs will work just like the classic card packs you already know, but they’ll have an explosive new wrapper and will replace the classic packs as Arena rewards. All that aside, after a few solid days of grinding away at Arena runs and some constructed play, these are the most prominent things I have noticed:
Pray to RNGesus
For those unfamiliar with the term RNG, it means “random number generator” and refers to the luck or chance involved in a game. In order to stick with the theme of the clumsy goblin or gnomish mechanics and their dubious efforts to build things, a large number of the new Goblins vs Gnomes cards rely heavily on RNG, or have very unpredictable effects. This does add a significant amount of randomness and luck to an otherwise largely skill-based game. In my opinion the game has a nice balance of random, RNG-based cards and predictable, stable cards; it seems, however, as if the new expansion will tilt things significantly towards the more unpredictable end of the spectrum. This will definitely allow for funnier combos (especially in Arena), but could be difficult to reconcile with constructed play. Examples of these new cards include:
Clearly these cards can be exceptionally good or quite terrible based solely on random luck. An interesting addition is the “Ogre” cards, all of which bear the text “50% chance to attack the wrong enemy”. This means that Ogres will have the ability to bypass enemy taunt minions and are even able to attack stealthed enemies, but again this will be determined by RNG.
Mech is going to be a thing
With the exception of beasts and perhaps demons, very few card subtypes have an influence in Hearthstone. Murlocs and pirates exist largely for fun, inconsistent decks to be built, and we have yet to see anything developed for the “Dragon” cards. However, with the introduction of the new “Mech” subtype, Blizzard is clearly aiming to provide players with a huge number of mech-based decks and mech combinations. Every class now has at least one mech type card, and a huge number of new neutral cards will either be mechs or derive benefits from other mech cards. Expect a mech deck as successful as the Hunter beast decks to pop up after a few weeks of Goblins vs Gnomes play.
Spare parts are useless
Linked with the new mech subtype are seven cards named the “spare parts”. Perhaps Blizzard chose to make them very weak to balance out the other significant strengths of the mechs, because the spare parts really do have very little use and will likely not even be worth the one mana required to play them. They are often generated by a mirrored effect (ie. both players get a random spare part) and seem to be another attempt to add some randomness to the game.
Arena is a blast
I can’t help but think as I look at all of the new cards that most of them have been designed with Arena in mind (as opposed to regular constructed play). For example, a card that is used in over 50% of Arena decks is Mad Bomber. However, this card does not feature at all in constructed play. It is a decent card with good stats, but the battlecry is too inconsistent for standard decks. So, what does Blizzard do? They release Madder Bomber – a bigger badder version of the card. Some of the cards are clearly designed to counter the deathrattle-focussed meta-game in constructed, but in general a lot of the cards seem to be fun, random inclusions that could really do well in arena. Goblins vs Gnomes has clearly aimed to introduce quirky, outrageous cards and these cards will shine in the unpredictable Arena decks players build.
The team behind Hearthstone have produced one of the best games of the year and, more importantly, they’ve excellently maintained it. The success of Curse of Naxxramas has been followed up by the even more exciting Goblins vs Gnomes and given the sheer number of new cards, I’m sure hundreds of new combinations have yet to be discovered. The new cards do seem to rely heavily on RNG, but they will no doubt be a lot of fun to play. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do a few Arena runs.