Hearthstone's Most Ridiculous Card Reignites Debate Over Randomisation

Is Yogg-Saron broken? Hearthstone's most ridiculous new card is reigniting debates over one of the game's core principles and a tenet that Blizzard has stood by for years now: RNG. RNG, a colloquial video game acronym that stands for "random number generation" and is used to refer to any outcome that's determined by randomised decisions rather than the player's actions, has been a core principle of Hearthstone since it launched in 2014. Blizzard's addictive card game takes advantage of the fact that it only exists in digital space, offering several cards that rely upon the computer's random number generator. One card might do damage to a random minion at the end of each turn; another might execute a random spell from your library — or from the game's entire database.

This RNG has become controversial for several reasons, and some have argued that it hurts Hearthstone as a competitive game; after all, even the most skilled player can't account for randomness. No card has exemplified this idea more than Yogg-Saron, who was introduced in the game's latest expansion, Whispers of the Old Gods.

Yogg-Saron's Battlecry — the ability that executes when he's summoned — is to "cast a random spell for each spell you've cast this game", with randomly chosen targets, and if that sounds preposterous to you, you're not alone. By summoning Yogg-Saron, a player can completely change the course of the game, depending how the RNG gods feel. Some Hexes or Mind Controls could take out an opponent's army, and a few Fireballs aimed at an enemy player could end any match immediately. Some bad RNG could even lead to a player accidentally killing himself.

Needless to say, Yogg-Saron has triggered some debate. In an article published on The Daily Dot yesterday, pegged to a pivotal Yogg-Saron play during a Hearthstone tournament last week, writer Callum Leslie argues that this card is ruining the competitive balance of Hearthstone:

Imagine the scene: $250,000 [$AU335,222] is on the line in the Hearthstone World Championship final, and it's two games a piece. One player is in the ascendancy, having brilliantly piloted his deck to a seemingly insurmountable position with a full board of minions, very little life lost and his opponent facing down lethal next turn. And out comes Yogg. Suddenly the game is turned on its head, and the second player wins.

What does this do for the reputation of the game? It reinforces the belief that Hearthstone is a skill-light, luck-heavy game where the players who win don't really do anything better than anyone else. For the player that wins, it is an immediate hit to their credibility as "world champion." They will always be the person who only won because they got lucky. And that is poison for a competitive esports career.

Other pundits have praised the power of Yogg, who has become surprisingly popular in the Hearthstone tournament scene. Red Bull's website recently published a video compilation of Yogg's effect on various competitive games. And some, like former Kotaku officemate Max Read, have argued that RNG is in fact what keeps Hearthstone interesting.

It's an interesting debate, and one that will continue for as long as Hearthstone remains popular. Do RNG-heavy cards ruin Hearthstone, or are they the very point of Hearthstone? Is "competitive Hearthstone" even really all that necessary? Should Yogg-Saron be nerfed or is his ridiculous random generator working as intended?

One option: Just accept Yogg-Saron as your lord and saviour.


    Seems to me like a high risk high reward situation. Play at your own risk.

      Very high risk. I've killed myself just as many times as I've killed my opponent with Yogg. But damn if the card isn't fun to play, especially if you can get a Brann Bronzebeard out on the board the turn before.

        Totally agree! And I only tend to play it as a last ditch attempt to get back into the game.

      It's actually not particularly high risk, as Yogg is really only played as a recovery mechanic (i.e. when you are already behind in the game and would of lost anyway). Given the high number of spells cast, on average Yogg actually has a level of consistency in that he can usually be depended upon to clears boards, draws cards, and plays secrets.

    you still have to sacrifice an otherwise reliable card to put him in a deck. if you are at the final match of a tournament then chances are you know your opponent has a yogg at this point. If you are in a position where you need to play yogg to win then so much needs to go right for it to pay off and not kill you in the process. If you are salty about yogg being played by other people and beating you, you too can play it.

    This argument could be made at just about any point in HS history. It's seriously a moot point. The reason Blizz embrace RNG is because it's a concept that can't be replicated in phsyical card games; how exactly could MTG or any other dominant TCG compete with that mechanic?

    They can't; so Blizz lean heavily on it to make sure the gameplay can't be replicated elsewhere. In addition to that as ridiculous and BS as it can be it's fun. It's no different than when you play an opponent where they get the perfect hand and perfect curve while you end up with all your end game minions. Which can happen in any card game. RNG is a given in any card game; Blizz have just found a way to take it to the next level.

    And btw the example given is BS; because almost all HS tournaments run a best of 5 or best of 3 match towards the final tiers meaning if you've just lost the championship because your opponent had a really good Yogg then you guys were tied for score points. And luck pushed him past the win.

    In addition to that no decent competitive player would run a full Yogg deck for this very reason; it's a complete turkey shoot and there are much much stronger decks in the meta to easily counter that situation before it happens.

    tl;dr - stop being salty.

    Hearthstone isnt by design meant to be a critical competitive game, like most Blizzard games they are fun competitive games meant for a wide audience.

    Balancing a game for esports cuts out the fun or original design of many games... look at the issues of pvp vs pve balance in WoW... its been a fundamental nightmare cause one average ability or item in pve is OP in pvp.

    Blizzard didnt make Hearthstone an esport... the people playing the closed beta made it one without Bluzzards permission or input and they dont have to cater to you. Its meant to be a casual card game with mechanics like RNG and triggers that you dont get in Magic the Gathering.

      The biggest Hearthstone tournament is held at Blizzcon, if that's not promoting a competitive scene then I don't know what is.

    Yoggs the best card in the game. If the players are whinging just ban it from tournaments.

    The fact of the matter is, the most skilled players easily make it to legend rank every month and a player like me hits the wall at around rank 15-12. Even though the game oozes RNG, skill and strategy are the defining factors in how well you do.

      True... but the legendary players, the 1% are whinging cause the best player results in brackets are inconsistent that favourites can be knocked out so early.

      But the biggest whingers are not the players, it the esport gamblers cause how do you put betting odds on a card game that is so unpredictable.

    i don't see how having a win condition that only works 50% of the time is game breaking

    I like it when Yogg comes out and he's like "HEY BUDDY YOU NEED A HAND HERE YA GO" turns himself into a sheep, hands in all my cards, blasts me with fireballs and doubles Hellscream's hp.

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