A Letter to Hearthstone: You aren’t Magic The Gathering, But that’s okay
Hearthstone is a digital card game. It has often been scorned by critics for having too much RNG, too little deck variance, and isn’t like Magic The Gathering enough. I think these are all good things! They should embrace these differences, but they always fall flat. This is my grievance, and love letter to address it.
RNG Can be a Good Thing!
In a paper card game RNG usually comes in the form of making sure you don’t get land flooded, mulliganing, and drawing the right cards. One can lean into this variance, but with Hearthstone, one has a whole host of different random effects. Creating a random 2-drop as an enter the battlefield effect, dealing between 4-6 damage as a spell, or even just random targets for said spells. While most of the community has railed against you for RNG, I praise it! While I agree the RNG implemented isn’t done right, it is almost there. You just need to use more “good RNG”. One example of this is Arcane Missiles, a class spell for Mage that reads deal three damage randomly assigned among all enemies. This means it can hit an opponent or any creatures they may have. This is great RNG because one can quickly calculate the percentage to hit the target they are really after. Then make that calculated decision. This is RNG with skill, do more of it, embrace it! You can only do things like this because you’re a digital card game.
You’re a Digital Card Game, Act Like It!
With being 100% digital, you have the advantage of making some interactions not yet seen in paper card games. Cards like Baku the Mooneater and Genn Greymane are incredibly interesting ways to take advantage of the digital format. For those who don’t know, these cards offer special effects that happen at the start of the game if you make a deck based around odd or even mana cards.. Where you failed Hearthstone, was around the balance of these cards It forced Baku and Genn out of standard one year earlier than normal. I hope this doesn’t discourage you because this is how you make a digital card game, and should be embracing it.
Less Decks Are Okay
In your old format Conquest, one would bring four decks, ban one, and play a best of five. This format was perfect. With the competitively viable deckpool being smaller, due to less standard cards, smaller decks, and heroes. With MTG a competitor brings one deck to a tournament and plays from there. MTG has a 60 card deck with a 15 card sideboard and a huge card pool. This makes brining one deck feel just fine. But in Hearthstone, sometimes you see just a handful of decks being viable. This is okay because in Conquest, it shows that you can master all the tier one decks, a perfect fit. Which brings me to your worst decision, Specialist Format.
Specialist is a Poor Man’s Sideboard
Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of game playing with new formats. But sorry chief, Specialist aint it. You tried to take what is great about MTG, sideboarding, and put your spin on in. In your version, Specialist, one plays as one class and brings three decks. The kicker is that decks two and three need to have 25/30 cards be the same as the main deck. So a pool of ten cards max in this sideboard. The first downside of this is that one cannot make small ad-hoc changes, such as replacing one or two cards in a certain match. The other issue is that the “sideboard” pool is much smaller, 16% of max deck size for Hearthstone compared to 25% standard size for MTG. What this means in Hearthstone is that one is making two back up decks that are pre-sideboard against the worst matchups. This doesn’t work because with a smaller meta deck pool, decks that are out there are usually stronger in their mainboard, and only see a minor change with their “sideboard” versions. So in essence one is bringing one deck, and with a smaller overall deck pool that isn’t good. With small deck pools Specialist flops were Conquest shined.
I used to love you, Hearthstone. It felt good to make a deck and just grind the ladder. But the game just feels bad now. It could be so good, but you don’t know what you want to be. Casual? Competitive? Mobile game? So please Hearthstone, embrace what makes you, you.
With Deepest Sympathy,