Thursday, February 4, 2016

[Hearthstone] Mind = Blown

Wow, I don't know if you've seen the announcement but major, huge changes are coming to Hearthstone. Soon certain cards will be rotated out of the card pool for "Standard' play and the current game will be "Wild".

While the developers say know that both formats will be balanced, I'm less than optimistic. They are calling it "Wild" for a reason and I have feeling balancing for both modes will be akin to balancing for PVE and PVP in WoW. These are the same developers who thought Inspire was a swell idea or that Lock and Load would be played more or apparently couldn't see the juggernauts being created when the original Patron Warrior or Secret Paladin hit the scene.

The biggest problem I see is everyone is trying to project today's game with only the "Standard" cards, but they are forgetting or ignoring that we are getting an entire Expansion at the same time "Standard" goes live which will add something on the order of 120 cards to the "Standard" card pool.

With the Spring 2016 Expansion, Blizzard is launching Hearthstone 2.0. They won't call it that, but that's, in essence, what it is. 

Any projection about what Hearthstone will look like when Standard hits is wild speculation at this point. This time, instead of every card being compared to the very best card at its mana cost, it will only be compared to the other Standard cards. Before, any 4 mana card had to give you a good reason to use it over Piloted Shredder. Now, that comparison is moot as Piloted Shredder is no longer available in Standard (it is still available in Wild).

Some players fear, due to the loss of many of the anti-aggro tools that Naxx and GvG brought that Standard will be an aggro playground. Aggro has always been a strong archtype in Hearthstone and I have little doubt that Aggro will be a strong archtype in Standard.

That said, logically, you have to assume that their internal playtesters have probably been playing Standard for several months. They know what is getting rotated out and I'm sure the upcoming Spring16 Expansion will fill in some of the gaps.

As I look at it, the devs try to support every archtype. Look at the last expansion/adventure released (TGT/Loe). The devs have supported Aggro (Trogg), Control (Reno, Justicar), combo (Anyfin), Mill (Brann) and Midrange (Keeper, Ram Wrangler).

In addition to the new cards, the developers said that about half dozen Classic cards are getting a 'balance' pass. Hearthstone has never once in its history buffed a card so I can only infer that about a half dozen Classic cards are getting nerfed and I'd bet my card back that Savage Roar is on the list.

I've now got a fairly complete Tempo Mage, Control Priest and Patron Warrior. I've got a fairly decent Control Warrior, though Baron Geddon would be a big help. I'm still missing key cards for Combo Druid (KoG, AoL, FoN), Secret Paladin (MC, Tirion, Hammer) or an Anyfin Paladin (Warleaders. Doomsayer, misc Murlocs for Murkeye).

Because of the huge amounts of unknowns, I've put a hard stop on all crafting. I'm hoarding resources (dust and gold) until things settle out a bit.

I had pretty much decided with TGT and LoE that I was simply going to buy each expansion and adventure with cash as soon as it came out. Hearthstone is Free to Play, but I decided that it made sense to spend cash rather than grind, especially for the Adventures where you are guaranteed several Legendary cards. The fact that I have been able to cover my WoW time with gold is a big help. I plan on buying each new Expansion and Adventure when its released unless I have a stockpile of gold and don't need packs.

Blizzard gets all my monies I guess. Well, them and Disney. Between Marvel, Disney Princess (my daughter), Disney Junior (my son), and now Star Wars, they basically own me.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Infrequent Honors Hammer Update

Hearthstone


Season 22 (January) wrapped up and I made it up to Rank 10 on the ladders, which represents a new person best. It's possible I could have made it farther, but I stopped playing after I hit Rank 10 for fear of losing stars and falling back down the ranks.


The entire climb was done with my Tempo Mage. I run a fairly standard list with one Piloted Shredder and one Water Elemental. Both are great cards and it seemed like whichever one I had, I wanted the other one, so I'm running one copy of each. Like most Tempo Mages, I'm not running Flamestrike. Like one of the old ground and pound football offenses, Tempo Mage needs to play from in front and a card that is only good when you are behind has no place in the deck.

The meta is so weird. Monday, I got the quest to win 5 games as a Warrior or Paladin. My Warrior is more complete so I pulled out my Control Warrior. It's the beginning of the season so I'm bracing for a slew of Mysterious Paladins, Zoolocks, Aggro Shamans, Face Hunters, and tech my deck accordingly. What do I get? Two Handlocks, three Control Warriors and one Face Hunter. I managed to go 5-1. The Control Warrior mirrors were tough because they were running Elise Starseeker and I wasn't, but I still managed to win two out of the three. The first one to pull Justicar has a big advantage.

SWTOR


After getting my Light Side Guardian to 65, I started working on my Dark Side Commando. I got him through the KotFE story making some different choices with him. He's not completely Dark Side, he just doesn't have any mercy for a fallen enemy which is always a Dark Side choice, and places the mission over people, often a Dark Side choice. It was interesting watching him go from hating Lana to actually realizing they were more alike than different. The story still played out largely the same way.

At this point, I'm working on the Star Fortresses arc with both of them, but its mind numbingly repetitive. I'm basically waiting for the next chapter to come out this month and get the next bit of story.

WoW


I hadn't really been doing much with WoW. After a friend gifted me an ATOC/Warden guild run to kill Heroic Archimonde, I'm been at a little bit of a loss as to what to do when I log in. I've had to go Ret for any of the raids I've run since I don't have the consistency the guild really needs from a tank.

I got contacted by an old friend of mine, Aoesrus, who had recently come back to the game after going through some really tough IRL situations. He wanted me to come join his guild, but there was just one small issue, he now played Alliance.

Aoes and I go way back. I've known the guy for years and he was briefly my roommate right before my daughter (who is now 16) was born. He's also the guy that got me into WoW in the first place by giving me an account.

I made the decision to go back to Team Blue and join Aoes' guild on Blade's Edge. I will truly miss the Dirty Casuals and they are a great group of guys to game with.

Friday, December 11, 2015

[Hearthstone] Taking the Patron Control Warrior Out For a Spin

I've started taking notes on my games in an effort to figure out what I'm doing right and I'm doing wrong.

Rank 18 (3 Stars)
I faced a Rank 18 Warlock. He was either Malylock or Zoo, but I'm thinking Zoo because he tried to protect his creepers with a taunt so I couldn't kill them with my Death's Bite and have the deathrattle kill the little 1/1 spiders that spawn. I decided to shield slam the creeper and hit the Voidwalker with my Death's Bite. That cleared his board. I was starting to get a little behind but he tapped to bring himself down to 15 health. I played Grom plus Inner Rage (12) and Fiery War Axe (3) to burst him down, I never drew my Patrons this game.

Rank 17 (1 star)
I faced a Rank 17 Golden Dragon Priest. He got a fantastic start. Turn 1 Whelp, Turn 2 Agent, Turn 3 Velen's. I was behind from the word go. I think I waited too long to drop my Patron's but each turn I could use them, he would have been able to clear all of them and maintain the board. He dropped Justicar which made clearing anything difficult. I did eventually drop the Patron's but by that point, he cleared them and took me down.

Rank 17 (0 star)
Warlock Handlock. He hellfired my Patrons. I held on for a bit but eventually he killed me with spells. I had him low enough that if I had pulled Grom, I could have pulled it out.

Rank 18 (2 stars)
Rogue - He Harrisoned my Death's bite which screwed up my Patron generation. I built up over 20 armor and liked my chances. This was a strange deck the likes of which I had not seen before. He played Burgle and Nefarian it played like a Steal Priest. I thought I had him but he dropped Reno. From there he used Blade Flurry to clear my board and ground out a win.

Rank 18 (1 star)
Paladin - I was able to get board control early with Fiery War Axe and Armorsmith, and I built up armor. I may have released the Patrons one turn too early. Its always a tough call to release them when I only have one activator but sometimes you just need them on the board. They did help me pull out a win.

Rank 18 (2 star)
Warlock Handlock - He used Hellfire on my Patrons. I hate that spell when I play my Patron Warrior. I dad to use an Execute on Thaurussin and I had no answer for his Mal'ganis.

Rank 18 (1 star)
Mid range Hunter. He took a more aggressive start which made me think he was Face. I sacrificed my Patron activators to stay alive, and didn't have any activators once I had the Patrons in hand. He dropped Boom and finished me.

Rank 18 (0 star)
Golden Mage - He got a Maexxma out of Unstable Portal and I had no execute or Brawl. He played Rhonin deck, but I used Big Game Hunter. He managed to build a huge board including a Nerubian Egg and had me down to single digit hit points. I played Ysera but he sheeped her. She gave me one card: Ysera Awakens. I dropped Sylvanas plus Ysera Awakns. That cleared the board and stole the Nerubian that hatched out of the egg. I built up some armor and released the Patrons for the win. If I didn't get Ysera Awakens or if he had drawn one more burn spell, I would have lost.

Rank 18 (1 star)
Priest - I took me too long to figure out he was playing a Fatigue Priest. He Lightbombed my Patrons and ran me out of options. All I had left was Grom but I did managed to activate him. Unfortunately, he had Mind Control and once he Mind Controlled Grom I was toast.

Rank 18 (0 star)
Midrange Hunter - We were going back and forth but he quit as soon as I dropped a Shieldmaiden. I'll gladly take the win but that was a bit odd.

Rank 18 (1 star)
Paladin - He played one of the new Murloc Paladins. With Death's bite, Whirlwind and Fiery War Axe, I was able to keep the board under control. He didn't draw Anyfin in time and I took him out with Grom.

Rank 18 (2 star)
Warlock - He played the Demon Zoom variety. I was holding my own but then he cleared with board with Hellfire and the turn I faced Juraxxus. Game over.

Rank 18 (1 star)
Mage - Tempo Mage. I got off to great start and had Fiery War Axe for the Mana Wrym and Death's Bite for the first Flamewaker. He either didn't run Flamestrike or didn't draw it because he never took out my Patrons. Between Arcane Missles and Flamewaker bombs, it was a party. Hey, everyone! Get in here!

Rank 18 (2 star)
Rogue - I figured out pretty quick he was Mill. The best part was he provided me with all I needed for my Patrons. Vanish hurt because I had about 3 Patrons in hand. The good news was when I dropped them, they were at full health. He didn't manage to burn anything too important and I took him down.

Rank 18 (3 star)
Warlock - This was an old fashion Handlock. I tried to wait as long as I could go face but that decks runs almost not minions with less than 3 attack.

Rank 18 (2 star)
Rogue - I honestly have no clue what kind of Rogue this was as it didn't fit any of the standard archtypes you see on the ladder. I was able to build up a pretty good Patron board and take him out.

Overall, I went 8-8 over my first 16 games with this deck. I beat every Paladin and Mage I played and lost to all but one Warlock I played. With the new wing of League of Explorer's out, decks are getting more aggressive so I thinking of switching back to a more Midrange or pure Patron. When Control Warriors are taking out Boom to put in a 2 drop like Jeweled Scarab, you know the meta is speeding up.





Monday, December 7, 2015

[SWTOR] A Return

There's a movie coming out in a couple of weeks that you may have heard something about. Everything right now seems to be Star Wars and it put me in a real Star Wars mood. A good friend recommended I try out the new expansion for SWTOR "Knights of the Fallen Empire".

It's been a long time since I fired up Star Wars, but I thought I'd give it a go. My Jedi Knight was still on Makeb so I finished that up. What was really cool is that my friend was able to come join me and even though he was Level 65 (current cap) and I was level 50 (old cap), the game downleveled him to the planet we were on and we were able to quest together without him just destroying everything we came across in one hit.

I wanted to keep going but I needed to buy Shadows of Revan and Knights of the Fallen Empire. Since WoW is tokened up until well into 2016, I decided to subscribe for 3 months as that was about as much as the Expansions but you got them for free if you subbed. While SWTOR is a F2P, its a much more enjoyable one as a sub.

I played through the Shadows of Revan storyline and I really enjoyed it. They really put some thought into someone going through the story after it was no longer current content. At one point, I hit a series of quests that required me to run Flashpoints (Dungeons). SWTOR is far more inflexible than WoW in changing spec and my Knight has always been Defense (tank spec). With a DPS companion, I kill stuff fairly fast and I get to be all tanky. I wasn't keen on the idea of tanking for a pickup group of strangers when I was still remembering what half my buttons did.

Lucky for me, I had the option of running the flashpoints in solo mode. I went with my companion and the game provided a droid to assist. You can now set your companions to a role whereas before their role was set for you. The game saw that I was in a tank spec, and I had set Kira (my companion) to DPS spec, and it set the robot to heal. Later, when my friend was on, we were able to duo the flashpoints with just us and our companions. A couple of fights were tough, but we made it through. Again, it downleveled him to my level for us to group. So cool and so appreciated by me.

As I neared the end of the Revan story, I hit the brick wall in progression. I needed to run an Operation (Raid) called the Temple of Sacrifice. SWTOR has no LFR so I figured I was stuck until I realized that SWTOR had provided an alternate path to the end of the story. If I didn't want to run the Operations, I could complete a series of quests that culminated with a battle against the titular villain of the expansion accompanied by my companions and key NPCs.

Friday, December 4, 2015

[Hearthstone] Control Warrior Finished... sort of

I opted to go with Warrior and craft Grommosh Hellscream. Part of the reason behind this was the Magni Bronzebeard skin you can buy in the in game store to replace Garrosh as the Warrior hero. I've been a big fan of the Bronzebeard brothers since my first travels with Muradin all those years ago in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne and my love for all things dwarf is well documented.

I gave serious thought to Mid-Range Paladin which is, to not put too fine a point on it, currently the #1 best deck in Hearthstone. The problem being that even if I had crafted Tirion instead of Grommash, I still would have needed to craft Coghammer, and 2 Quartermasters along with a second Aldor Peacekeeper and Divine Favor. I didn't have anywhere near that amount of dust.

I built a deck based up the Zaguios Control Patron Warrior variant (https://www.reddit.com/r/CompetitiveHS/comments/3rhxl2/guide_top_10_legend_with_new_control_patron/). I always liked the dwarf theme of Patron Warrior and I was excited to see a variant that married the best of Patron Warrior and Control Warrior. I also like that it was a good deck against decks like Secret Paladin, Aggro Druid, Midrange Paladin, and Tempo Mage which I tend to see quite a bit (though seeing more aggressive Paladins early on this season). It's also not a deck many people play and that has an appeal to me as well. I start out looking like a Control Warrior only to drop unexpected Patrons, or I start looking like a Patron Warrior but then surprise them with big threats like Ysera.

I switched out Justicar Trueheart for a second Shieldmaiden because I didn't have the dust to make Justicar and Grom and well Grom is more important to the deck. Shieldmaiden equals 2.5 activations with Justicar but does it immediately and gives me a bigger body, albeit for a higher mana cost. I also cut one Acolyte in favor of a Owl. I've been running into a ton of Paladins lately and I like having a second answer for Tirion rather than praying I can steal him with Sylvanas. There always seems to be at least a couple of other minions on the board when he summons Tirion and he's sure to drop some down as soon as I bring out Syl.

I'm going to start saving dust again for Justicar as my next craft target. I'm also considering adding a couple of Unstable Ghouls to my deck, but I'm not sure what I'd cut. After a brief appearance of slower decks with Reno Jackson, I seem to be hitting more aggressive decks. The Ghoul's taunt plus area affect can really help. It can single handily deal with Huffer, and if I have Patrons on the board , its more "Everyone, get in here!"

Monday, November 16, 2015

[Hearthstone] Beating Heroic Zinaar

I blew through normal mode of the first wing of the new Hearthstone adventure "League of Explorers" with little difficulty. I thought I would give Heroic a try. Heroic Blackrock Mountain was really tough, in fact, I never got past the Grim Guzzler, but I'm happy to report I managed to defeat the first boss in League of Explorers, Zinaar.

Zinaar ramps by gaining a mana crystal and a card each turn. He also gives you a zero mana spell which uses the new 'Discover' mechanic to give you a minion or a spell card. This adds a significant RNG element to the fight.

The core of my deck is minions that synergize with the free spells he gives you. Mana Wyrm gets buffed, Flamewaker launches misses and Violet Teacher summons tokens. This is important because my deck is a little spell heavy.

Flame on!


Zinaar has several windfury minions that either have to answered immediately or blocked by taunts or freezes. Mirror Entity can be a life saver here, espeically if you 'discover' a 3rd copy in addtion to the two I included. In the event you don't have an answer for a big Windfury minion, I have two Ice Lance and Frostbolts.

If you get offered Mogushun Warden as a 'discover' choice, go with it. Early on in this fight, its just about surviving until you catch up to him in mana crystals.

Phenomenal cosmic powers..... itty bitty living space!


My Deck:

Arcane Missiles x 2
Ice Lance x2
Mirror Image x2
Mana Wyrm x2
Flamecannon x2
Frostbolt x2
Kobold Geomancer x2
Mad Scientist x2
Duplicate x2
Forgotten Torch
Mirror Entity x2
Polymorph Boar
Flamewaker
Polymorph
Violet Teacher x2
Azure Drake
Flamestrike x2


Friday, November 13, 2015

[Hearthstone] Class Selection

A new Hearthstone season is upon us. Last season I made it as far as Rank 14 with a combination of a Tempo Mage, Patron Warrior and Control Priest.  Part of my problem with getting higher ranks is the lack of games that I play. Three to five games a day is pretty much all I can manage and some days it’s less than that. Most days, it’s just enough to get the daily done.

There isn’t a class selection screen like WoW, but you do end up deciding on a main and a couple of alts in the way you spend your dust. You have to craft the epics and Legendaries in most cases as their rarity makes it unlikely you will pull what you need from random card packs. The more dust you put into a deck for a particular class, the more that class becomes your ‘main’. I lack key cards (even the key rares) to really play Druid or Rogue well. If I get a daily for one of those classes, I typically will do it in Casual rather than tank my Rank.

My other problem is I can’t build a proper anything deck. I’m missing cards from every deck I want to make, and this is after crafting the two best neutral Legendaries in the game in Dr. Boom and Sylvanas Windrunner.

I looked at the top 10 best decks at the moment as rated by the site called Tempo Storm. The Tier 1 decks are Hybrid Secret Paladin, Mid-Range Paladin and Aggro Druid.

Hybrid Secret Paladin: missing Coghammer, Divine Favor , Mysterious Challenger (need 2), and Tiron Fordring. That’s almost 2500 dust I would need to craft it.

Mid-Range Paladin: missing Coghammer , Big Game Hunter , Quartermaster (need 2), Justicar Trueheart and Tiron Fordring . That’s a whopping 4800 dust.

Aggro Druid: missing Keeper of the Grove (need 2), Fel Reaver (need 2), and Force of Nature (need 2). That’s only 1700 dust, but that’s still as much as a single Legendary from other deck I might want to play.

It’s like this down the entire list. If I want to try to play any of these proven decks, I’m having to substitute in lesser cards to make them work. When I go up against the 'proper' version on the ladder, I'm at a disadvantage. That's if I'm even close enough to approximate the cards I'm missing. In some cases (Force of Nature, Mysterious Challenger), I’m missing the one or two cards that are the engine of the whole deck.

Keep in mind that you average about 40 dust per pack that you open, but earlier on you will still be finding new cards you don’t have yet and won’t get nearly that much dust. Each pack is 100 gold and it takes me about 3 days to save up enough gold from quests and wins to get a pack. The only reason I had the dust to craft Boom and Sylvanas was from all the packs I got when I bought the pre-order to TGT. The only deck I have all the cards for is Face Hunter and well; I’d rather not play Hearthstone than play Face Hunter all the time.

The next card I'm going to craft is Big Game Hunter. He's an epic, but he's a very popular card. Then I'll be getting to the point where I'll probably want to craft a class Legendary (that can only be used in one class). That will really be picking my 'main' to put that much dust into one class. The contenders right now are Grommash Hellscream (Warrior), Vol'jin (Priest) or Tirion Fordring (Paladin).