Hearthstone – The Deck’s League

I used to play Magic the Gathering Online (MTGO) back in the day. The reason I don’t play anymore is because they took away my beloved leagues, and now are hiding behind developer incompetency to make it look like the absence of leagues is not a business decision (yeah, I might be cynical after a few years of waiting). I don’t have time to sit around to play a sealed format in MTGO, and playing high-level constructed format is just not worth my money. I get better multiplayer jollies in real life so I don’t play MTGO.

Oh yeah, leagues. So leagues in the Magic the Gathering world is a game format where players get a pool of cards (e.g., 6 boosters) and then they create a 40-card deck. Unlike a more standard sealed deck tournament, the sealed league deck survives week to week. On top of that each week players are allowed to add one booster of cards to add new card blood to the pool. Leagues are fair (closed/sealed format) and give time to think and fiddle with the deck. Players are rated based on matches in the league, and usually there are rules for extra games to be played. Once the league is over the deck is retired.

At Richard and Astalnar’s suggestions, I tried Arena in Hearthstone. I will admit it was much better in terms of what I might be looking for in an online CCG, and more importantly it scratched that league’s itch.

Hearthstone Arena is a pseudo-draft pseudo-ghost-league. It’s a pseudo-draft because the computer generates the draft picks instead of passing around a dwindling pool. Perhaps it’s better when computer aided this way. At the beginning of the draft there are three hero options to choose from, and then players are given 30 sets of three cards to add to the deck of 30 cards. Unlike conventional drafts where players create a pool of cards to build the deck, Hearthstone has players building the deck straight out from the 30 cards. I’m not sure about this decision, but more on that in a bit. Finally it’s a ghost league because the cards stay in the league. Players can’t “draft” a rare for later use.

Once the deck is built arena players join a “league”. Of course this league comprises every other arena player, and there’s no “winning” the “league”. Instead, the deck itself becomes the tournament result. For the one arena deck each player is allowed there are two counters. One counter is for wins. The more wins a deck gets the better the prizes: card packs, dust, and gold. Seven wins ensures that the gold fee for joining arena is earned back. The other counter is losses. After three losses the deck is forcibly retired with the wins being turned in for prizes. From a Heartstone wiki it seems like after 9 wins the deck is turned in as well.

I like this idea that the “league” becomes more deck centric. It puts more life in to that specific deck. The one thing I do not like is there is no deck fiddling. I get that Blizzard really wanted to create a bite-size sealed format, and in my opinion this is a great one. However, as is the case in all sealed formats sometimes the cards just don’t seem to work. In MTGO leagues I had the option of completely swapping out colors and trying completely new things with the deck. In Hearthstone Arena, I am stuck.

My idea is after a loss a player should be allowed to deck fiddle. Perhaps they can choose to delete three cards from their deck to get three new picks of cards. It just sucks when a player is faced with running through some horrible games or wasting money and gold on the retire button.

I am glad I really tried Hearthstone Arena. It is not something amazing I will be looking forward to playing each night, but it will be a nice bite of daily CCG gameplay. For creating a new (to me at least) sealed CCG format, I really applaud Blizzard. I hope they add a bit of deck fiddling for more veteran players, but otherwise it is a great format.


6 thoughts on “Hearthstone – The Deck’s League”

  1. As mentioned, it is missing that pretty vital aspect of keeping the cards, which played a huge role in MtG. Sometimes your first pick would be a terrible deck card but something you needed for your ‘main’ deck, other times the perfect cards would come together and you actually elected to skip a valuable card or two. Multiply that out across all opponents, and things got interesting.

    Plus even if you did poorly, be it due to cards or poor play, you walked away with something. Here if the game sets you up to fail, you get nothing but a lost cost and some wasted time.

    1. It’s also missing the $20+ retail price typically required of traditional draft formats when they require you to pay MSRP for however many packs you will be opening. I was never willing to touch an MMO due to the recurring fee until I tried my first TCG and discovered that I could burn way more than a monthly subscription on a single night’s entertainment. Yes, I could walk away with a bunch of commons, but that’s not going to get you a collection large enough to do anything useful in constructed anytime soon.

  2. I just got my invite last night and Arena is the part I was looking forward to. It’s sort of disappointing to hear they sort of closed the Arena leagues in that way. I was kind of hoping to have a pool to mold rather than trying to put my (poor) deck building skills to a crash-test.

  3. I am glad you liked it. Although, I believe that the lack of deck fiddling is intentional. The arena, even though all cards are drawn out at random, is about skill, and your own ability to make a decent deck. It is not meant to experiment what works and what does not.

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