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Tavern Brawl is a Welcome Addition to Blizzard's CCG

Michael Bitton Posted:
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Whether it’s deck slots or new game modes, Blizzard is always wary of bloat when it comes to adding new features to Hearthstone. While players are clamoring for all sorts of cool ideas to add to the game, something as simple as adding additional deck slots can be met with tough resistance due to Team 5’s desire to keep Hearthstone accessible. With that in mind, Blizzard recently made a significant move in adding an entirely new PvP mode to Hearthstone with Tavern Brawl, a game mode whose rules change from week to week, often with chaotic results.

Is Tavern Brawl a worthy addition to Hearthstone given the team’s aim to only add the most compelling features to the game? It should come as no surprise to you that I’m a fan given the article headline, but let’s dig a bit deeper into the new game mode.

If you’re completely unfamiliar with Tavern Brawl, let’s go over the basics. Each week players can select Tavern Brawl from the main menu to do battle with friends or random players using entirely new rules. The first week of Tavern Brawl was a battle between Nefarian and Ragnaros. During that week, each player was randomly assigned to either Ragnaros or Nefarian and entered the battle with a premade deck and hero power themed around their respective character. Currently, the Tavern Brawl rules allow you to create your own custom deck, but the twist is that each time you play a spell card, a random minion corresponding to that spell’s mana cost is summoned on your side of the board. I’ve had some insane matches over the past week playing Mage in this latest Brawl. The comebacks are crazy.

There seems to be a tick-tock cadence with Tavern Brawl where one week it involves a pre-made deck and the next week allows you to create your own. Initially, I favored the premade deck weeks, but now I’m starting to come around to the custom decks as well.  With premade decks, you can count on a fun and chaotic experience, but the custom decks can be hit or miss. The chaos is always there, to be sure, but it’s not always good fun. Deck diversity is key. For example, during Banana Brawl, the best decks were aggro decks because cheap minions synergized well with the cheap banana spell cards. It took only a couple of hours before everyone was running the same deck, mostly defeating the purpose of having custom deck weeks.

Custom deck weeks are great when they really get you thinking about the new possibilities that are opened up by the latest rules. Again, the Great Summoner Competition, which is going on now, is an excellent example of a custom deck week that works well. Sure, Mages and Priests are pretty popular, but there’s also a good deal more diversity in the decks you end up fighting against overall.

If you’re an avid Hearthstone player, you’ve probably run into situations where your more casual Hearthstone playing friends want to play you, only for you to end up crushing them due to your experience and card collection. My solution, and I’ve seen other players do this as well, is to play with friends using decks created entirely by the game’s auto-fill function. You go into the deck builder, select a class, and save the deck without adding in any cards, allowing the game to fill it out for you entirely. Sure, your card collection still gives you an advantage at times, but the games feel a lot more fun and chaotic overall, which is a great way to play with your more casual friends and keeps things on a more even footing.

Tavern Brawl’s premade deck weeks accomplish the same goal in an official and arguably more fun way. Showdown at Blackrock Mountain, the aforementioned Ragnaros vs. Nefarian week, had zero barriers to entry. I could ask a friend who hasn’t played the game in a year to try it out with me  and we could still have a blast. Friends who really don’t play the game much at all tried out one week of Tavern Brawl with me and now inquire every week to find out if the next Brawl has gone live. I feel this is really where Tavern Brawl shines. The premade weeks are much more casual and do a great job of appealing to a broad spectrum of Hearthstone players while the custom deck weeks excel in turning the gears in the heads of the more hardcore players. Overall, I’d say Tavern Brawl is a welcome addition that should keep the Hearthstone experience fresh from week to week and challenge both the developers and players to come up with new ideas.

What’s your take on Tavern Brawl? Which week was your favorite? Least favorite? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB