There’s a case for saying that, with Hearthstone now available on just about every major platform this side of an abacus, the game is now in a mature period and next year will be the time to make some more significant changes to its core structure, UI, and balance. 2015 was a period of explosive growth but relative stability for the game, with Blizzard following the same adventure-expansion-adventure road map it had followed in 2014.
If The Grand Tournament was a relative disappointment thanks to having the dampest of squibs in the Inspire Keyword, the year is ending on a triumphal note with the far more fun League Of Explorers adventure, and the brilliance of Discover. 2016 may be time for an even bigger shake up. Here’s what our regular writers would like to see happen. Let us know what you’re hoping for in the comments.
Will “Modern Leper” Bindloss
League of Explorers demonstrated that even the comparatively smaller number of new cards introduced by an adventure, rather than a full set, can have a huge impact on the competitive metagame. Reno Jackson alone flipped several deckbuilding paradigms on their head, rewarding innovation and giving rise to new styles for players to master. LoE is full of such cards.
Compare its effect to that of the last full set—The Grand Tournament. TGT had far more cards than LoE, but the average quality was so much lower. Even in the pre-release set reviews, many pros were confidently dismissing the vast majority of the set as unplayable. While there were a few interesting cards, and one major show-stopper in Mysterious Challenger, TGT’s impact was disappointingly minor. For the most part, people played the same decks as they did prior to the set being released.
In 2016 I’m hoping to see more LoEs than TGTs. To keep players interested you need to release strong cards with mechanics that can be built around. Unsolved metagames are way more exciting than stagnant ones, and Blizzard need to make the most of their limited opportunities to shake things up.
A lot of good players sour on Hearthstone because ladder feels like a chore, and high ranks seem meaningless. There is essentially no skill difference between rank 3 and the average Legend player. Even top Legend players routinely fluctuate by thousands of ranks within a few hours. I would like to see ladder changed in three ways:
1. More stable Legend ranks.
2. A Grandmaster division for players that are consistently top 200. (There really is a distinct group that outperforms the rest of Legend players.)
3. Active players should stay Legend after season reset. At lowest, Legend should reset to rank 5 — does anybody really doubt that we can climb back up?
Ladder should feel like working your way into an exclusive club, not a repetitive grind that just gets erased. Starting ladder mid-month shouldn’t mean being matched at the wrong skill level. Good players shouldn’t feel penalized for experimenting. There may not be many of us, but Legend players are the most visible and passionate members of the community. It’s important that we have fun.
Simon “Sottle” Welch
Since the release of League of Explorers shook up the meta, I think the game is in a pretty great place in terms of balance and variety. If I were Blizzard I would focus heavily in 2016 on improving the user experience. Obvious things like more deck slots are a given at this point, but improvements to the spectator mode are also needed with an even bigger focus on the competitive scene next year.
On top of this I'd like to see a more robust collection manager, a quick animations option to speed complex turns up, and a "perma-squelch" option. This is a minimum, but on top of those features they could look at visible ladder rankings (with potential opt-in spectate options for high-ranked players), and a resume from replay feature to better handle disconnects. The game itself is in fantastic shape, they just need to make sure we have all the tools for players to enjoy it to its fullest."
PC Gamer's Tim hates writing about himself in the 3rd person. In terms of Hearthstone he's a midrange sort of man. This season he's trying to reach legend with a mix of midrange Paladin and double combo Druid. Ask him how he's getting on here.
I’d like to Blizzard to be more generous to the average ladder grinder. The rewards system introduced this year that hands out a few golden cards depending on where you ranked each season was a start, but should just be the first step. Why not get a new card with each rank you climb, and a golden every five? It’d feel far more immediate and exciting. I also think win streaks should continue until Rank 3. There’s absolutely no reason the climb needs to be such a trudge. Having to get from 3 to Legend would still demand serious consistency and effort.
I’d also dump all the ‘win X games with Y class’ quests. People feel compelled to complete these to get the gold they need, and end up playing classes they’re not comfortable with and having a rough time because they can’t crank the wins out. Far better to just have ‘play X games with Y’, and then make it so the matches only register if you don’t concede, so you have to see them out. Finally, I think Blizzard needs to think hard about selling pre-built decks, so new players can pick up, say, a decent but not quite top tier Tempo Mage for $15. As the game’s card pool continues to expand, the perceived barriers to entry in terms of the collection you need to be competitive is becoming hugely daunting.
Radoslav "Nydra" Kolev
Since the grand remodeling of the 2016 World Tour covered most of what I wanted improved about competitive Hearthstone, here’s me raising a glass to a new year full of vital changes in the game itself. No, I don’t anxiously crave for more deck slots, or alternative portraits, or more cards, or even–strange as it may sound–better balanced classes. For me, the bright future of Hearthstone is rooted in well designed, innovation-friendly expansions. I want another thought-provoking, solid mechanic like Discover, that dramatically raises the skill cap in terms of both deckbuilding and decision making.
I want to see bravely designed cards which can be potential game changers, (and yes, that means more cards like Emperor Thaurissan, Reno Jackson, Brann Bronzebeard, Muster for Battle and so on), and not just a safe and slow power creep. Ideally, LoE will be the first of many expansions that penetrate and alter Hearthstone on multiple levels. The game needs to feel different after every new card release, otherwise what’s the point? Oh, and I wouldn’t say no some quality of life features: player profiles which display statistical data are top of my list.
PC Gamer Pro is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!