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All Things Warcraft: Tavern Brawls and What’s Next for Hearthstone

Columns By Reza Lackey on July 06, 2015

Tavern Brawls and What’s Next for Hearthstone

This week we take a look at Hearthstone’s new Tavern Brawl mode and speculate about what’s next for Blizzard's card game.

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Tavern Brawling

The new Tavern Brawl play mode in Hearthstone is pretty great. As of this writing there have been three weeks of brawls and all of them have been really fun and a great diversion from the ladder grind. If you’re not familiar, the new play mode is a weekly event that runs from Wednesday through Monday every week and offers a unique spin on the rules and mechanics of the game. The first week of Tavern Brawl had players assume the role of either Ragnaros or Nefarian and fight each other with premade decks similar to what those respective bosses have in the Blackrock Mountain adventure. It was really neat to play as these crazy bosses and use their powerful cards in a PvP setting.

The second week was Bananas. Literally. When you entered the brawl players had to construct a new deck using cards from their collection specifically for Tavern Brawl. The rules however made it so that whenever a friendly minion dies, the controlling player would receive one of four different Banana cards. The four different cards each have a unique ability: give a minion +1/+1, +2/+2, swap a minion’s attack and health, or deal 1 damage.

The most recent Tavern Brawl was my favorite so far - Webspinners have infested different class decks. When you start a brawl you chose a class to play and then your deck is randomly generated with 7 spells from the class you chose and 23 Webspinners!

I’ve played several of these brawls and had a lot of fun with all of the crazy combinations and situations that I would see. The first win for each Tavern Brawl event rewards one classic pack of cards and you’re able to level up each class and work towards completing daily quests in Tavern Brawls as well.

As I said earlier, Tavern Brawls are a great alternative to the Ranked Play ladder grind and Arenas. The problem is there is little incentive to play in these brawls beyond your first win unless you’re working on quests or trying to level a class. While your wins are tracked, there’s no sense of how well you’ve been playing since there is no ladder in this game mode. I would love if at some point down the road there will be some sort of unique progression system specifically for brawls. I really do enjoy playing in the brawls, especially with friends, but I ultimately find myself going back to Arena and Ranked Play so that my games count towards something.

Speaking of which, here’s a look at the next Ranked Play card back reward for July:

While on the topic of Ranked Play mode I have recently been thinking very hard about how the ladder works. At present, the ranked mode does a decent job of giving a goal to strive for by seeing how high up the ladder you can climb by accumulating wins against players who are ranked similiar to you on the ladder. Every month the ladder is reset and your starting position on the new ladder is determined by how many stars you’ve earned. The system is very easy to understand and make sense of - a win moves you up the ladder and a loss moves you down. Your opponents average skill has no bearing on your progression, they either beat you or not. I often wonder though, what would the game be like if it adopted a ranking and matchmaking system similar to StarCraft 2. In StarCraft 2, and more recently Heroes of the Storm, players have a matchmaking rating, or MMR, that determines who they will be matched against. Winning and losing a match will either add or subtract a value from your MMR rating. The amount of points you’ll win or lose depends on how compare to you opponent - if your opponent has a higher MMR than you and you win, you’ll earn more points than if their MMR was lower than yours. Your MMR rating also determines what league you place in, Bronze, Silver, Gold, etc. With an MMR ranking system and fewer ladder resets, I wonder what the competitive nature of the game would feel like as you’ll most likely be playing against players of a similar skill.  At the same time there is a lot more randomness in Hearthstone than in StarCraft 2 so the MMR in Hearthstone wouldn’t necessarily paint as good a picture of a player's skill as it would in an RTS where there is very little luck involved. Some of the best games, especially board games, in my opinion, or those that ride the fine line of skill and luck and Hearthstone sits right on that line for me. This makes it difficult to decide how best to rank a player's skill. Games on the extreme ends are easier to figure out. You can’t really use an MMR rating for Monopoly players, a game that is essentially pure luck but you can for chess, a game that is pure skill.

What do you think about the ladder system in Hearthstone? Do you think it’s fine how it is or would you like to see Blizzard experiment with a different kind of system?

Hearthstone News Imminent

The folks over at PC Gamer received an interesting piece of mail from the Hearthstone development team. A scroll that reads:

“Champions are gathering from around the world to witness the next exciting thing Hearthstone has in store. News travels far and wide in search of brave new faces ready to answer the call to arms — Are you one of them?

Muster for battle and mark July 22 on your calendar. The next bit of news won’t come by carrier pigeon — thankfully, we have much better ways of communication now. Victory awaits.”

If I were to guess what this teases it would be the next major expansion or a new play mode, specifically tournaments. The PC Gamer articles notes that some users have identified the sound that plays when the package is opened is the same as what was heard during the Argent Tournament during WoW’s Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Another interesting aspect of this tease is the date: July 22 is the same day that the Curse of Naxxramas adventure was released.


Video courtesy of PC Gamer

The article also mentions that the last time the Hearthstone developers sent any teases to the press was for the Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion when Blizzard sent Warcraft vehicle blueprints to various media outlets. So, it would seem, we’ll be learning about the next major expansion in less than a month and could possibly see it released this summer.

Just to throw this out there: If it is a new expansion with the Argent Tournament theme, could we finally see a Death Knight class? Either way, I’m always excited for new cards! What if they introduce jousting where you need a card for a mount and a card for the rider and when they're both on the board you joust! This is why I love this game - this stuff isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

What do you think will be announced? Let us know in the comments below!