Un'Goro Expansion Makes Hearthstone More Random, Probably More Expensive

With the release of Journey to Un'Goro and the announcement of its future Hearthstone expansion roadmap, it seems like Blizzard is making some substantial changes to the way it releases new cards. It's got players pretty peeved, but it might be the best thing for the game's long-term health.

Last week, Blizzard Entertainment dropped Journey to Un'Goro, the latest addition to its popular digital card game Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Since then, players have discovered new and powerful deck types to compete with, pros have spent entire days streaming their Un'Goro experiences, and both have grown salty about the fact that they spent mountains of cash on a card game and don't have all that much to show for it.

The Un'Goro expansion is, like last year's Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion, "collectible" in the most classic sense of the word. Now, as then, Blizzard added about 130 new cards to the game which are sold in randomised five-packs. These packs have a small chance of containing the extremely rare "Legendary" cards, which only come every once in a blue moon but are pretty much necessary for players who want to play the game at a high level.

After spending $US50 ($67) on Un'Goro so far, I've received a total of one (1) legendary card, which was enough for me to build a grand total of one competitive Warlock deck. As someone who's been playing Hearthstone since the beta days, I've been able to use some of the in-game currency I've amassed over the years to build a couple more awesome and viable decks. But if I were a new player, I'd have had to spend a lot more than $US50 ($67) just to hang with the top Hearthstone players.

Over on the forums and on the Hearthstone subreddit, players have spent a good amount of time post-Un'Goro complaining about how expensive the game has gotten. Just after the launch, the dissatisfaction manifested as suspicion about whether Blizzard's rarity algorithm was bugged, and mistakenly dropping a disproportionate amount of duplicate cards.

This didn't come out of nowhere, as a similar mistake has actually happened before. But in this case, Blizzard directly quashed the rumour: "Journey to Un'Goro card distribution is working properly, both at a per card and per rarity basis, and is consistent with previous Hearthstone releases," it said in a statement.

A Change In Strategy

Complaining about the price of Hearthstone is not a new phenomenon, but something about this expansion makes deck-building feel, more than ever, like a Sisyphean task. But looking at Blizzard's 2017 release structure, it seems like this is all part of the plan.

While Blizzard has released 130-card expansions of this sort in the past, these have traditionally sat alongside expansions called "Hearthstone Adventures" that give players 30 to 45 guaranteed cards for a flat rate of $US20 ($27). Even the Legendary cards came standard, putting players on a more even playing field. But when it announced its 2017 plans, it revealed that it is only releasing the randomised expansions, with their five-packs of cards and rare Legendaries.

By cutting pre-packaged adventures and releasing three big expansions with randomly-generated card drops, Blizzard is effectively ditching its most surefire route toward new player accessibility. Who benefits? Well, Blizzard, first of all, since it gives whales more opportunities to spend, spend, spend on random drops. But the Hearthstone competitive scene could also be seen as benefiting from the change, by mixing up the variety of matches.

It's easy to forget now that we're all in the middle of being pissed off about our bad card drops, but last year, when competitive Hearthstone came under intense scrutiny for becoming stale at a suspiciously fast rate, streamers like Brian Kibler explicitly suggested that Blizzard should release more cards. As the logic goes, a wider diversity of cards would allow for more switch-ups in strategies, meaning the "metagame" would evolve at a more acceptable rate, and competitive play would ultimately end up feeling more merit-based.

The downside to this approach is that it adds a new barrier to high-level play where there was none before. Hence the backlash. Where it used to be possible for anyone to feel competitive with a $US100 ($133)-200 Hearthstone investment over the course of the year, it will now take much more than that to swim in the deep end.

As the metagame evolves over the next few months, only the players holding all the cards will be able to adjust on the fly — something that used to be possible for almost anyone who played on a regular basis. Now, players who don't devote massive amounts of time and/or money into Hearthstone will have to change the way they see the game. Instead of owning seven or eight viable decks, they may be forced to save up and specialise in just two or three.

If Blizzard sticks with this strategy, the outrage over these changes will likely fade, as pissed off players leave the scene and everyone else grows more accustomed to the idea of "maining" specific decks. Eventually, the average Hearthstone player will likely come to view the game's cards as something more akin to League of Legends' champions, where a full enjoyment of the game only comes with extended investment, and the process of collecting the ingredients you need to play can take hundreds of dollars over the course of a few years.

It's more expensive and it's not exactly player-friendly in the short term — but it's possible it might be the best move to keep Hearthstone around in the years to come.


Comments

    Maybe I'm just blind, but what I'm getting is that the "good" is less people playing, less new people starting and people maining specific decks. How is any of that good for the long term?

      Its not, Blizzard have lost the plot for like the last three years. Most people are just yet to remove the rose tinted glasses and realise it.

    Whilst Un'Goro has definitely been great for shaking up the meta to the point that there are currently a plethora of valid decks in a sort of paper-scissors-rock format, you are definitely correct that it has not been good for players that aren't able to or can't invest money into the game. The quests cards are so integral to the idea of this expansion that to have them locked behind the "~30-packs per legendary" shtick is rather sad. I like the fact that all the other legendaries (bar the warlock one) are not required for valid decks, but the same definitely cannot be said for the quest cards.
    And whilst I can understand that this is just an unfortunate side effect of releasing a large expansion to counter losing 3 previous ones, the fact that with the other 2 coming out this year are also large ones with no adventures in the foreseeable future, this problem is only going to get worse and to me just seems to be Blizzard greed. Heck, after the recent price increase for certain countries just before the expansion the greed reason really seems the biggest motivator.

      Frankly the fewer rogues with their quest card unlocked the better. That thing is stupidly broken.

        Play Taunt-Quest Warrior. They always seem to beat me when I play Quest Rogue.

          I have a theory that any high-speed face deck will beat quest rogue, but this is also the meta where high speed face decks are the least versatile. My non-quest elemental shaman deck has a 5/1 record against quest warriors so I don't have a very positive opinion of them thus far, but I may give it a try.

            Try a fast hunter, a buddy and i went from rank 20 to rank 5 and 8 respectively in the first two days. Not running a single legendary, the only epic are rat packs, maybe a call of the wild but even that is a bit slow. I think i streaked from 16 - 10 with this, it has about a 50-50 win against quest rogue though so higher ranks are getting slower.

            Discardlock seems to work well, it's essentially Zoo focusing on early board control and once you have it go face. I crafted the deck a few days ago and haven't had many issues against Quest Rogue.

    The game has become horrible after the expansion, to the point that it almost seems unplayable without a quest card.

      This.

      I've tried playing non-Quest decks in ranked, and it's an almost Herculean task to get a win with one since it's rare you come up against someone who isn't running a Quest deck.

      Thankfully with all the dust I got from the latest batch of cards to go Wild I was able to craft a few of the Quest cards so now I have Hunter, Warlock, Shaman and Rogue Quest decks so I can at least be somewhat competitive in ranked.

      I don't know that I'd say it's horrible per se, in a lot of ways it's better than the previous month. At least fucking Renolock is gone, which was literally every warlock deck before Kraken. And I'm not at all sad to see secret paladin gone too now that Mysterious Challenger is out.

      The meta last month was "there are four classes worth playing and one deck per class", this month it's "there are eight classes worth playing and one deck per class". So they fixed the first part at least but made the "one archetype per class" problem worse with the quest cards.

      In my opinion they should have added 3-5 quests per class instead of one, limited them to one of any quest per deck, made them a third to half the power they are now and made them rare or epic quality instead of legendary. Quests are a perfect opportunity to add versatility an variety but having them overpowered, legendary and only one per class basically locks people into the archetypical deck for their class.

    The problem is I'm essentially addicted at this point! Opened 86 packs so got a decent amount of cards, plus I dusted all the old sets as I don't play Wild and have a few good decks going with a decent amount of Dust left over.

    I've set myself the challenge of only spending Gold on the next expansion, so I've started saving already.

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