Video Game News

The Slow Game: Hearthstone and Card Game Design

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has been out for a couple of years now, and the game has taken on a speed and pace all it's own. While there are decks and builds in which you can adopt a slow, meticulous game, if you're wanting to climb the ladder in ranked play, you're going to need a deck that hits the ground running on turn one and Never. Lets. Up.

Blizzard has been aware of this, and they've tried to incorporate cards which would change the pace of the game. Cards like Loatheb, Emperor Thaurissan, Reno Jackson, and others are best served in slower decks, and the mechanic informally referred to as Joust also seemed to be a way to make games become more of a strategic puzzle and less of a practice of emptying your hand.

Enter the Old Gods, and sure enough, the game takes on a brand new identity.

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I've only played a handful of games using the new cards and formats introduced with Whispers of the Old Gods, but I already feel a new breath of life breathed into the once stagnant and dull ladder (if only we could get that for Arena, too).

What was once a game where the best decks to advance were ones that could act as soon as they hit the table, or cards that cheated mana costs or steps to play (such as Piloted Shredder, 4 cost 4/3 who summons a random 2 cost minion when it dies) has now become a game of looking at a hand of tools and wondering which is best for the current situation. Rush and aggro decks are still a thing. The paladin class has a new focus on murlocs, making it a low-cost, board-filling archetype that makes for quick games. But with the new cards, many of them have moderate costs for their stats, and then game text which buffs or helps control the board in the late game. The cultist cards buff your C'Thun card whether it's in play, in hand, in deck, or destroyed, allowing you to play them on-curve and still get full value from them. N'Zoth focuses on Deathrattle minions, encouraging trading like never before. Y'Shaarj encourages expensive minions in your deck, as he slaps them into play regardless of mana costs. And Yogg-Saron promotes a spell-focused deck, which is naturally a more control-style deck, as he randomly recasts your spells when he hits the table.

Between these four immense, late-game cards, and the slew of other important cards that also hit the table in late-game, the average time of a game of Hearthstone has been stretched, and the strategy and puzzle-solving mindset required to play effectively has increased, and all in a good way. I cannot wait to get back into this game and explore what other secrets and tactics are surfacing in the wake of the Old Gods!