Friday, December 19, 2014

Back to Hearthstone

I somehow started watching Day[9]'s videos again and he's been playing a lot of Hearthstone lately. A new set came out and his constructed deck looked pretty fun so I figured I'd boot that game up again and take it for a spin. I can't actually play constructed since I have no cards but I had enough gold on hand to run a draft.

I started off as a paladin for my first draft. I took a lot of expensive things, but I had a decent amount of cheap stuff too. I think I was pretty well set up to win the late game. I just couldn't get there, because I didn't have any creatures with taunt in my deck. Not a single one. And it turns out when you're on the back foot it would be nice to control your opponent's attacks at least some of the time. To protect yourself, or to protect your creatures for a turn so you can make favourable trades for once. I ended up getting 3 wins before I picked up my 3rd loss which seemed like it was a pretty decent result for someone who really doesn't know what any of the cards are and who forgot how important an ability was. I had enough gold from the prizes and what I had on hand to draft again...

This time I was a warrior, and I kept seeing a card that looked really sweet. Execute, which kills off an injured enemy. My last draft had featured tons of injured enemies since paladins can make free 1/1 creatures and people kept getting to choose how fights went so they often ended up with partially injured dudes. I also went all in on taunt, pretty much taking every taunt card I could see. It turns out my deck was really bad at partially injuring enemies and my 4 executes often got stuck in my hand. And it turns out with that much taunt the opponents really get to choose their fights most of the time anyway. They couldn't punch me in the face, but punching me in the face is often the wrong thing to do anyway. Taunt creatures pay something from their power budget to get taunt I'm sure, and I was wasting that power by having so much of it. I couldn't scrounge up a single win here, going 0-3. And now I didn't have enough gold to draft again.

This was part of my problem with both SolForge and Hearthstone back when I was giving them both a try. I wanted to draft but the game was gating how often I could play the way I wanted to play. I could pay them money to get around it but I have a pretty firm stance against microtransactions. I'll often pay some money into a game because I feel like I should pay something for the game, but if I let myself spend money to keep drafting over and over I'd end up losing track of things and spending way too much money. The way I play games makes me a prime microtransaction whale and I need to do what I can to keep away from that.

Hearthstone does have a system of quests to earn gold, and I still had one of those open, so I decided to go play some ranked constructed games to try to pick up some wins. I assumed it would be hard slogging since I have no cards and don't know what my opponent could be doing to me, but that worry was actually unfounded. It turns out anyone who has a lot of cards or a lot of knowledge about the game has leveled up beyond the starting rank! When your opponents don't have a handle on strategic concepts like card advantage it's really easy to win even when you don't know any of the details. I was playing a priest deck with 2 copies of a 1 drop creature that lets you draw a card every time you heal something. The priest ability they can use is a heal. I had some other cards that healed too. But people kept attacking other things instead of killing off my piddly 1 power creature. I guess it didn't seem very threatening to their life total, but it was drawing me tons of cards. So I was able to do my quests and got barely enough gold for one more draft. I was tired, so I put that draft off until today.

This time I was drafting a hunter deck. The hunter special ability is to dome your opponent for 2 damage. You start with 30 life and it does take 2 mana to use it so it felt like a really weak ability. I'm a control player at heart... I want to make favourable trades, eek out card advantage, and then win with whatever is lying around. But the hunter ability really doesn't synergize with that at all, so I decided to try to build an aggressive deck, do some early damage, and hope I could dome my opponent out to finish the game after my cheap dudes got outclassed by my opponents. I ended up drafting 6 1-drops and mostly other cheap cards. I put a priority on drafting weapons with the idea being I'd clear a path for my little dudes by burning my own life total to kill their defenders. And then I took a few bigger things because sometimes the draft offers you a choice between 3 expensive cards.

Now, I don't have a very large sample size here, but I did play 13 games with the deck and it turns out rushing your opponent is a really fantastic idea. One of the games I won on turn 7 which seems really out of line! I did get very lucky in some of the games. I'd lost control of the board, and would die in one turn, but then I'd draw the one card that would win me the game instead. I had one card that gave me a 1/1 haste creature for every creature my opponent controller that filled this role multiple times. I actually found myself trying to neutralize my opponent's creatures without killing them in order to leave him with more dudes in play. 3 of my 1 drops were 1/1 creatures that give me a random beast when they die. RANDOM! A couple times it gave me a creature that gave my other beasts one extra power. Combine that with the release the hounds card and multiple times I'd swing in with 5+ 2 power haste creatures. To the dome!

I started off 7-0 and then made a really bad mistake. I hit the button to play another game and then got distracted talking about Agricola on Facebook. So my opponent in that game had to wait for my timer to expire each turn, but they got a free win so they might have been ok with it. Oops. Then I lost my next game to a shaman deck that had enough cheap stuff (especially a totem that gave 2 of his other totems +2 power) to trade off with my dorks. Now I was really beating myself up for taking a stupid loss. One more and I was toast. But I left the mental beatings for between games and pulled off 5 more wins to get the maximum 12. Woo! I have to imagine going back to back drafts with 0 wins then 12 wins is a pretty rare occurrence! And now I have enough gold to draft a couple more times. Huzzah!

I don't know if the super aggro hunter deck is a thing that can happen frequently or if I just got lucky over and over again in the draft and the games. But I'm probably going to try it again. Here are some cards that seemed especially good to me this time around...

4/3 for 4 that silences something when it comes into play. Being able to silence a creature with taunt is a really big deal when you're just trying to race the opponent. My army of 1/1s and 3/2s was in really trouble against a 3/6 taunt creature if I couldn't silence it.

4/4 for 5 that gets +1/+1 for every creature you control when you play him. This guy was a monster! Playing so many 1 and 2 drops meant I would frequently have multiple creatures in play. I'd say he averaged being a 7/7, which was really good at closing out a game.

Freezing trap. Wow, was freezing trap ever good. It's a 2 cost secret (card you play face down and then reveal it when a certain condition is met) that bounced the first creature to attack and made it cost extra mana to replay. I took it mostly because I had another card that cared about secrets, but it was clutch in several games. The key is it triggers on any attack, not any attack against your hero. So it would save one of my creatures! And adding an extra cost to the creature meant it rarely saw play again with how fast the games were ending. My opponent couldn't play all their cards most of the time anyway, so bouncing a creature was a lot like killing it. I had to be careful to only play it when I thought I wouldn't get attacked by a creature with a strong comes into play ability.

Weapons. Weapons were even better than I thought they would be and I took 3 of them as it was. I took them mostly so I could kill creatures but several times I would just use them to dome my opponent. There was a 2 drop weapon that gave one of my dudes +1 power and gave my hero 2 attack twice. That thing was fantastic. Play a 1 drop, play a 2 drop, play a 1 drop and the weapon and kill the blocker with my hero was such a great feeling.

Having 1 drops that did something useful was nice. The 1/1 that gave me a random beast when it died was great. Then I had a couple copies of a 1/2 that got +1/+1 when I played a creature that did something when they died. Like, say, the 1/1 above. I also had a 2/1 that gave me a spare part when it died. Spare parts seemed pretty bad, but one time I got to give a huge dude 1 extra toughness and pull it just out of range of being killed, and that won me that game I think.

There was a spell that killed a random creature my opponent controlled. I didn't think it was going to be very good because it would just hit a 1/1 or something but it turned out my opponents never had small creatures in play for very long. I always had something for them to trade with. This meant the kill spell would often kill his one big dude and was awesome. I don't know that you want a lot of them though? Or maybe you do and assert you just lose the shaman match?

Anyway... Hearthstone is back in my game rotation. For now.

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