Following last week's announcement of the changes coming to Hearthstone's Standard mode soon, today Blizzard turned its scrying eye to Arena, the game's draft format. The big change is that Arena will switch from Wild to Standard mode, meaning the cards available to draft will only be offered from expansion sets from the last two years, in addition to the basic and classic sets.
"As more cards are added to the Arena pool, having each game feel meaningfully different actually becomes harder to accomplish," Blizzard said. "Many of the cool synergies between cards, such as Jade Golems or Mechs, live within each individual set release. Attempting to create decks that utilize these meaningful synergies in a wide and diluted card pool will become more and more difficult as the Wild card pool grows larger. Arena runs then becomes less about card synergies and smart deck choices and more about being fortunate enough to be presented with the best card from each set. This change should put the focus back on the player for good, synergistic Arena choices and make Arena decks feel more cohesive."
Additionally, Blizzard is tweaking the distribution frequency of various card rarities in the hope that more exciting decks will emerge. Common and Basic cards will show up less while drafting, and Spells will appear more frequently to create the potential for more swing turns. Common cards previously made up around 78 percent of all Arena cards—a number Blizzard felt was too high, "considering that many of the cards that focus around individual class identity and power level rely on the common cards of any given class."
A lack of Spells, on the other hand, meant that games were often decided by the player who got out their minions faster and more efficiently, as there weren't enough cards to punish overextending.
Flamestrike and Abyssal Enforcer will appear approximately 50 percent less in Arena.
"Bringing the distributions of spells and minions closer together allows for more room to have an Arena game that is more strategic and facilitates more plays and counter-plays to occur," Blizzard said.
In addition to Basic and Common cards showing up less, neutral Classic cards will also appear less frequently.
"A lot of neutral Classic cards tend to be minions without any text that lack interesting effects. While they are great for introducing newer players to Hearthstone and providing baselines for power level comparisons, they don’t make for compelling Arena run choices. This helps make more room for spells, class cards, and expansion cards to show up at a higher rate."
Finally, Blizzard called out two cards in particular that will become much more rare: Mage's Flamestrike and Warlock's Abyssal Enforcer—powerful board-clears that have propelled Mage and Warlock to be two of the strongest Arena classes. After the update, both cards will show up approximately 50 percent less in Arena.
Blizzard said these Arena changes will go live in an upcoming update near the end of February.