Since our first preview of Blizzard’s new game Hearthstone at the beginning of September, the developers have gone through with the closed beta card wipe, some balance changes, and updates to the graphics and interface. The overall effect is a net improvement, though the balance changes brought some definite hiccups to the gameplay experience.
As mentioned above, the closed beta wipe brought with it a not-insignificant number of balance changes. The hardest hit by these was the rogue, particularly the “Miracle Rogue” and “Spellblade” decks, which relied on buffing two cards to 1- or 2-shot levels and using stealth to protect them and using spell power bonuses and easily comboed skills. Rogue decks that focus on minions are still doing pretty well, but the class over might have been hit a little too hard.
Priests got hit with buffs almost across the board, which has made them the absolute masters of the control metagame. Now, they have more abilities to remove enemy minions or take control of them than any other class and great draw power. Complaining about the priest buffs has become so ubiquitous that it has become rather passé. The class will almost certainly receive nerfs in the next balance update, and the update will likely target the Mind Control card specifically.
It’s not all disappointing balance news, though. Blizzard upgraded the appearance of the golden versions of cards, fixing ones that lacked proper graphics and adding animations to all of them. The designers also added golden versions of the neutral basic cards that can be earned through leveling each of the nine classes. This new artwork makes collecting golden cards much more enticing, and should at least give many people pause when considering disenchanting them for the higher dust yields.
Speaking of rewards, Blizzard did listen to the complaints about the slow gold acquisition, and they have upped the rate to 10 gold every 3 wins instead of 5 gold every 5 wins. Farming enough gold to buy a pack or arena pass through wins in play mode still takes quite a long time, but it actually feels like one is progressing and accomplishing something now. While further adjustments might theoretically be possible, they seem unlikely at this point, as Blizzard does not want to make the gold acquisition rate high enough to significantly disincentivize people buying packs and arena passes with real money.
The main worry about the game currently lies with the balancing. With the first major balance changes resulting in one class being overtuned and another being undertuned, players can reasonably hold some worries about the game going forward. However, the game remains in beta, and the developers are putting in the effort to get the balance right. Since this the game has only had one major balance change since the beta started, they might learn from the mistakes and take a lighter touch when manipulating balance in the future. Nevertheless, the other updates from the beta are working out nicely.