Opinion: What standard means for Hearthstone, as an old Magic player


Blizzard has announced a few changes coming to Hearthstone, mostly new formats to play the game in. The format is called Standard, which lets you play with basic and classic cards and the last two year’s worth of cards.

This means that there is a smaller subset of the total cards being played in Standard, meaning the metagame is set to shift around a bit more often in this format. The Standard format will play with the last two years’ worth of cards, as well as the basic and classic cards.

Here is Ben Brode discussing the changes and the problems it will address in the game:

Standard promises a fresher Hearthstone experience!

* Standard will help make for a more dynamic and balanced metagame.
* A select set of cards makes each new card have more impact!
* The developers will have more freedom to design exciting new cards.
* It lets newer players jump in faster without having to collect as many cards.

When Hearthstone was still in limited Alpha, I had a phone interview with Blizzard about the game. I asked if we would see formats like Standard and vintage, like popular card game Magic: The Gathering uses. They said it wasn’t necessary and at the time, it probably wasn’t. Now a few years and many, many cards later, it was time to look at the card pool and work out a way to keep the format moving forward, without every deck relying on a single card every time (Dr Boom, I am looking at you).

So what does this mean for you? If you like the game as it is right now, don’t worry about anything. Go play Wild, which allows all cards, meaning your legendary heavy Priest deck will still have a fun place to stomp faces. However, if you want to play somewhere with a metagame that shifts to accommodate the loss of staple cards, Standard should offer a good challenge, or at least a break from the old hat that you are bored of playing against.

What ends up happening

Of course, this also ends up having a cost for the more casual players. If you are still at the point where your decks rely more on the blind luck of what cards you have acquired from opening packs, this format could be hard to keep up with. Suddenly the three cards you built your entire deck around are no longer supported and you need to think of something else, or delve into Wild, which will be a battleground of no-holds barred solid power decks, where players come to enjoy the cards they are not allowed to use in other formats. It becomes daunting for the casual player who doesn’t play that often, because suddenly every new card he gets has a nice big timer above it, counting down until the card passes out of Standard. Sure cards last for two years, but what if you start somewhere around a year in? It could hurt new players, unless they are adequately warned about their cards not lasting for very long.

What this could mean for players

For players this is good and bad. Those who are avid supporters can play Wild as if nothing happened and continue happily. Or they can build up a sizable dust collection from cards that are leaving Standard, ready for the next expansion. Getting the new set will serve two purposes: getting cards that work well in Standard, and those few cards that could really change up the metagame in Wild, either due to odd mechanic synergies or just being a better 4 drop than what is the current staple.

New players will need to pay attention to what cards they buy or create, and also will have to learn the difficult lesson of letting go of cards. Some cards will serve better than dust than as a part of a collection. Looking for new deck archetypes to try out will also have to be labelled better, so that players know if the deck they are looking at is still even legal in Standard.

While the smaller card pool should make it a bit easier for new players (compared to looking through every card in the whole game) I think the ease of entering a game like Hearthstone is being overstated a bit here. Standard is a good addition, as long as they don’t mess with the cadence of cards falling off every two years. If you play so infrequently that cards not lasting two years isn’t long enough, Hearthstone is either going to lose you as a player, or force you to play slightly more often. Personally, I hope this means more mechanics get introduced, knowing they will fall away in two years. This could lead to decks built around tribal or mechanics being one style of play, with power card strict value for value as another method taking each other on in Standard.

If it has the letters RPG in it, I am there. Still battling with balancing trying to play every single game that grabs my interest, getting 100% in a JRPG, and devoting time to my second home in Azeroth.

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