Review of Hearthstone – Beta

A little while back, Blizzard announced it was developing a new card game for play on computer and other portable devices (iPad, etc.) that would mimic some of the styles of WoW: Trading Card Game and Magic: The Gathering.  I recently got invited to the beta for this game and thought I would give it some play.  I was anxious about giving it a try as I have played both the games previously mentioned, but both games require other people who are equally as enthusiastic about the games and both games had some clunky play to the with rules, order of operations, and resources.  With Hearthstone, Blizzard attempted to create a game that kept the fun elements of deck building and card playing, while simplifying resources and the computer figures out all the rules for you and applies them.  So here’s what I think.

First off, this game is awesome.  I love the quick and simply play style, it’s easy to pick up and the rules are easy to follow-and if not, it tells you what you can and cannot do.  The game currently has 9 class decks to play from.  There are 11 classes in WoW, but in Hearthstone, monk and death knight are currently not represented.

Each of the nine classes is represented by a hero from lore.

Each of the nine classes is represented by a hero from lore.

The tutorial teaches you how to play using the Mage class, represented by Jaina Proudmore.  You go through some simple games and learn the basics, then you’re on your own.  The first thing recommended is to unlock the other heroes/classes by playing the NPC.  Once you beat a hero class you get to unlock it and then can use that deck to play.  Unfortunately at this time, you are limited to that hero icon/voice for each deck.  I’m hoping with future updates you will be able to choose other heroes of that same class as your hero icon, or even just generic icons…because I really don’t want to hear Jaina anymore, as much as I love her.  Your heroes also have XP which you earn from playing games, but after level 10, you have to play against humans to keep earning XP.  But at level 10 you also have unlocked all the basic cards for each class.  So if you really wanted to, you’d never have to play against anything but the NPC, but I suspect that would be boring.  I’m not sure if who you play against is based on level or not, since you also gain XP when you lose.

The quest icon will show a summary of your levels and show any active quests.

The quest icon will show a summary of your levels and show any active quests.

In addition to playing whom you like, quests will also appear and are rewarded with gold.  Gold is useful to buy new packs of cards for those of us that don’t want to spend real money.  So completing the quests gives me another way to continue to expand my available cards.  100 gold buys you a pack with 5 cards in it.  I have to give props to Blizzard on this for allowing the players another way to earn gold to purchase packs.  So many games are full of micro-transactions these days that it limits play and is a big turn-off.  You don’t have to have ALL the cards to have fun with this game.  And some of the early quests will give you some free packs anyways and a chance to earn more packs in the one time free arena play.  I won’t cover arena play here, but for a small cash fee or 150 gold you can enter the arena for a chance for good prizes.  You can earn gold, card crafting dust, or more packs based on how many games you win, but once you lose three games, you’re out with a small consolation prize.  The thing with arena is that you pick one of three randomly selected heroes for you and then build your deck one at a time by choosing again one of three cards selected for you at a time.  So one card at a time you build your deck from random cards which you then battle with…so I only really recommend this to people who have had some deck building experience otherwise it’s a waste of gold and money – potentially.

I mentioned card dust.  You can only have two of each card type in a deck, so you can disenchant extra cards into this dust which then you can spend to buy specific cards you know about.  I haven’t done this yet, but again, it’s another way for the player to gain access to some cards without having to spend money.  Of course spending money by-passes all that, but some of us aren’t prepared to drop buckets of money on non-tangible items…but then, some of us are (*cough* moonkin hatchling).

Hearthstone Minions

The deck builder is fairly friendly and allows you to create custom decks for classes.  You can play with the basic decks provided, but once you learn more of the game, and hopefully unlock some new cards, I highly recommend playing with your own custom deck.  The builder allows you to sort through your cards simply clicking to add them to your deck and presto, good to go.  When discussing with one friend I played against, our criticism here is that for those new to card type games, it would be useful to have the basic decks available as the start of your custom deck, that way you could pick and choose from there, giving new players an idea of how to build a deck.

Screenshot of a game, the paladin (top) has just played a spell giving himself +6 health.  Minions are in the middle, defenders shaped like a shield.

Screenshot of a game, the paladin (top) has just played a spell giving himself +6 health. Minions are in the middle, defenders shaped like a shield.

The play field is clean and colorful.  Cards have voices or spell effect sounds associated with them.  Turn based play is easy to follow and mana is used as a resource.  Each player starts their first turn with one mana and this increases by one each subsequent turn to a maximum of 10 (I believe).  There are ways that some classes can modify their mana pool for one turn, but this resource system is clean and you don’t have to stack a deck with resource cards (yay!!) saving more time for just picking the fun minions and spells.  The play field is also interactive, you can click on the cute little buildings and such around the board and little animations will happen.  I’ve jiggled the gem eye out of that Zandalari a million times while waiting for my players turn.  Speaking of which, each turn has a time limit, so it keeps the play moving.  Like I mentioned before, the computer does all the rules for you, so you don’t have to count health or mana or minions health, this speeds up the game tremendously.  And having played Magic: The Gathering on my iPad, this game just moves faster.

Cards are easy to read, a lack of complicated resources, the mana cost is displayed in the upper left corner of the card.  Text explains the card and if you mouse over a card it will further explain what it means for things like “Charge” or “Taunt”.  This mouse over feature keeps a rule book out of the game.  Attack power is in the lower left of a minion and the lower right has the health of a minion.  Spells don’t have health, but will cause effects like healing, damage, summoning minions, or modifying minions, for example.  Each class has specific cards limited to that class.

Naturally, since Elgar, my priest is my go-to in WoW, I decided to give the priest deck a try, and after some playing around with it, I have settled on a pretty good deck until I unlock a card worth replacing.  I don’t want to give away my whole priest strategy, but the priest deck has many modifier spells for minions.  They also have powerful spells that can outright destroy enemy minions, and the all-powerful 8 mana mind control spell, allowing you to steal a minion from someone else.  Play order becomes critical in this game, being mindful of what counters other classes have, like mage polymorph reducing even the strongest minions to mere 1/1 sheep and warriors execute, which allows you to destroy any minion that has taken damage.  Being mindful of these enemy cards helps you play better.

Again, I won’t spell my whole deck out for you, but I like to play a fast deck, which means powerful cards that cost little mana.  Here are some examples:

Cleric PW Shield Divine Spirit Inner Fire

Those cards listed there with just a total of 5 mana would allow me to turn that little 1/3 priest, into a 10/10 MEGA PRIEST!!  Plus, the priest heroes special ability is to heal, so if the takes a little damage, heal her up, and her active power allows you to draw an extra card when you do.  Whee!!  Now of course, the deck is shuffled, so the chance you’ll get all your magic cards in your hand at once to make it work out is, well, based on Blizzards favorite thing, the Random Number Generator.  But two of each card and a maximum of 30 cards means you’ll still have pretty good chances.  Sometimes you’ll get lucky, and you can turn a cheap creature into something awesome, allowing you to nearly one shot the enemy hero…as I did below…  Did I mention this game is awesome?

Hearthstone Mogu Win

So in summary, if you’re a fan of card games or ever have been, give this a try.  I’ll give it two thumbs up overall with the recommendations mentioned above – allow the user to choose their hero icons, and more importantly, allow the basic decks to be used for starting a custom deck for those that have nearly no deck building experience.  Thanks Blizzard for a fun little game to play!

MoP: Priests First Impressions

Things seem a little crazy right now so I haven’t had as much time to play WoW as I would like, but I’m busy doing other awesome things, so it’s all good…and no, those other awesome things do not include Blood Elves in space (AKA SW:ToR).  I did however, get a chance to look at some of the notes on the PTR for Mists of Pandas.  

I focused mostly on the priest, because let’s face it, Elgar really is the toon I love to play the most.  

First, there were three new abilities that were highlighted under “skills” I’m not sure what that means, I assume it’s like new abilities that we’d learn, but no idea.  There’s Divine Star, Halo, and Cascade.  Divine Star is basically a holy throwing start that damages enemies and heals friends as it travels to its location then boomerangs back to the priest.  It’s kinda cool, but meh.  Halo sounds awesome though, basically it’s supercharged Holy Nova!  One minute cooldown and a 2 second cast, it creates a large ring of holy power expanding up to 30 yards healing allies.  Doesn’t seem to be limited to how many allies it can heal.  Lastly is Cascade, the coolest sounding spell, it launches a holy bolt which travels up to 40 yards gaining power as it travels, once it hits the target it either healing or damaging them, it splits into 2 bolts which travel to other allies/enemies.  Each time it bounces it splits into 2 bolts and bounces up to 4 times.  This sounds pretty kick-ass.  It is an instant cast and has a 25 second cooldown.  I love Cascade and Halo!  We’ll of course have to wait and see how they work in action.

There were some disc ability changes, like Atonement now works with Penance, this is cool and might make Atonement style healing a little easier with less target switching.

They also seemed to work some of the glyphs of some abilities right into the abilities, which is nice and as with all classes many of the current talents are just going to be baseline passives or spells.  Dispel will now work on Magic and Disease which is nice, I think in Cata we were perchance the only healing class that still had two separate spells for dispelling debuffs.  

Do far it’s some nice buffs.  I saw they were reducing the mana costs of everything and sometimes VERY significantly.  It made me wonder what that means for mana and mana management in MoP.  Will mana not really be a concern again or are they just lowering all mana costs to match potentially smaller mana pools?  This I do not know.

I’m pretty excited about most the priests abilities, though it’s very early and I know I’m still subject to much disappointment.

M.I.A. Concepts

Today I was sitting here thinking about new guild members or transfers to our server to join our guild.  For those that start fresh, they don’t have much gold, no large bags, etc.  And usually a guild will help out people by making runecloth or netherweave bags because that stuff seems to drop like candy anyways. 

Anyways, thinking about how we can help people out, and the blues we have in the guild bank, I though, it would be great if we could buy helms and cloaks with guild money to put into the guild bank.  WAIT.  Didn’t Blizz have this idea??

So then I got to thinking, yes, Blizz at one time announced BtG items (Bound to Guild), they were supposed to be crafted by the guild or otherwise and if a person who had the item left the guild the item would be returned to the guild bank.  So what ever happened with that?  I thought that system was awesome.  From a GL standpoint, it helps the guild be more attractive, and also more collaborative!  It offers something useful to all the rerolls.  Blizz, please bring this idea back!

Then I started thinking about other things that I was anticipating that never happened…and came across the most important idea that seemed to be lost:  Dance Studio.

Seriously, I didn’t see transmogrify coming.  They didn’t give us any hint of it until it was already pretty much completed, but the LK trailer advertised flat-out there would be a dance studio.  I am still waiting!!

I’m sure there have been many other concepts that have been scrapped as well, like the Path of the Titans thing (which I never really looked into or read about).  But man…seriously, dance studio.

Sept 19 Nerf Bat

I read last night that Blizzard announced they will be nerfing the Firelands Raids on Sept 19th or at least, that week, my guess is before Brewfest.  Yes kids, Brewfest is next week.  Anyways, I was pretty unphased by this announcement because I don’t raid.  But for shits and giggles, I read some of the responses to this post.  All I can say is…wow.

So basically there were a few types of people:

1)  There was the person that thought this was good, gives people a chance to see more content that they might not have been able to.
2)  Then there were the people that thought this was horrible, because they earned their heroic gear and they deserve to stand out from the others.
3)  Then there seemed to be this crowd that thought they were LEET, but really weren’t…the ones that were really upset because they wanted to down it without the nerf.
4)  Lastly, there was the indifferent crowd, but not many of these guys said anything, because well…they don’t care.

It was interesting for me to read some of the things people said, some people are really full of themselves.  It was amazing that people actually believed that others SHOULDN’T be able to raid and get gear at the same level.  What??  So I basically had these reactions:

1)  Yeah, anything that makes more of the game available to the game population is a good thing.  If Blizzard isn’t seeing the number of bosses downed as they would like to, then they change the encounters, it makes sense.
2)  If you think I spend my time looking at your gear or even caring where it came from, you have another thing coming.  I just care that if I happened to be in your group, you aren’t a total menace, jerkface, or annoyance and that you can do the role you queued for.
3)  Sorry, if you and your raid group were as elite as you think you are, you would have all the bosses down by now.  It’s a game, relax.
4)  I don’t really care either!

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I don’t raid.  So this change doesn’t affect me very much.  I can appreciate a certain sense of pride for downing bosses when they are “current” and before they are nerfed, but in the end, this is just a pixilated game.  And out where things matter, whether you downed a boss on heroic before the nerf isn’t going to do things like, get you a partner, a promotion, or respect from peers.  So relax, enjoy the game for what it is.  It will be okay.  And if you’re so upset, just quit WoW–at least then the queues will be shorter.  😉

The 4.1

Okay, so today is probably the patch, I am limited to what I can view from work, so I just assume it is going to happen and/or is happening.

I am not going to comment on every little update, but I thought I’d comment on some of the changes that will most directly impact me. 

Elgar – Priest
Elgar is interested in a few things this patch, and number 1 is the additions to Archaeology.  Seven new rare items have been added to the game and there is also less of a chance of getting a dig site for a race you already have all the rares for.  Which means no more endlessly digging up fossils for nothing.  Though they added more fossil rares, so still…fossils.  He he.

None of the changes to the priest class are all that glorious for disc priests, they made it so that you can only remove magic from yourself, but absolution that both disc and holy get make it operate as normal again, so it really only affects shadow priests ability to cleanse others.  Holy Fire now works with Evangelism (yay), nothing big there.  Durations of PW:Shield was reduced to 15 seconds, but Divine Aegis goes up to 15 seconds.  I’m not sure how I feel about this.  There have been times where PW:Shield did last more than 15 seconds, but they are really making it somewhat of an “Oh shit!” button to absorb rather than before where I really felt it was preventative.  We’ll see how this works out…less chaining of shields that is for sure…so I’m not REALLY thrilled about it.

Rossini – Warlock
Dark Intent kinda gets a nerf when placed on other damage dealers but still has the same effect on healers…but really you should have been putting it on your Resto druids anyways.  Seed of Corruption and Rain of Fire have more damage, which is on par with most AOE getting a buff. 

The big change is that Soulstone is a battle rez now, which has pros and cons.  The pro is I don’t have to worry about if it just fell off during a boss fight, but the con is that I have to remember I have a battle rez now if someone drops during combat.  Also we can’t count on it for quick wipe recovery.  I will have to see how this works, I’m not sure I fully understand it.

No real changes to demonology.

Schubert – Mage
Schubert is frost spec primarily, though he has a fire spec too.  So Frostbolt, which is his main spell, getting a 10% damage increase is awesome.  AOE damage from Blizzard is also increased which will be nice too since it basically does like no damage now.  Ha!  Ice lance is getting a nice buff too when used with Fingers of Frost which happens quite a bit if Deep Freeze is on cooldown.

Frost Armor is redesigned and is kinda interesting at least for PvP, it has a slowing effect for attack speed and now works on ranged attacks, I assume this means hunters.  So that must be to counter hunters, who I think already hate frost mages, in PvP.  It will also grant mana regen if glyphed, so for long fights switching armor types during movement phases will help regen mana too.  Good times!

Haydn – Rogue
I only use Haydn occasionally as he’s level 61 and working through Outlands, but he’s spec’d subtlety and so being in stealth is critical.  So the changes to stealth in this patch seem awesome.  First, the cooldown of stealth was reduced from 10 to 4 seconds.  This means when you’re out questing there is no downtime between mobs.  I know it seems like there shouldn’t be, but most combat times take about 4 seconds with a subtlety rogue.  Secondly, the cooldown is reduced by the subtlety tree even further, so there is NO cooldown on stealth. 

Now you see me, now you don’t!

Also, the talent that reduces the cooldown on stealth also increases the stealth movement speed.  I will actually walk/run faster when stealthed, than normal!  CRAZY, but awesome.  I’m excited about that.

And lastly…

Troutwort – Hunter
A few big changes for all hunters:

1)  Tamed pets now match your level – yay!
2)  Happiness system is gone, no more feeding pets – double yay!
3)  Glyph of Mend Pet (that used to give happiness) now makes your pet bigger smaller – okay, not so excited, but I get it.  I will have to get rid of this, I like big pets.

So those things are just kinda novelty things, but makes pet management and taming a little bit nicer for all of those that like to have a variety of pets. 

And that is my little summary.  I guess there’s some new dungeons or something, but meh.  Account bound items are now battle.net bound which is fun for alts on different servers and such.  Yay!  Also there is a new guild recruiting system, I’ll have to set that up tonight too.  We have a pretty attractive guild (I mean good-looking) so naturally people want to join us.  😉

Happy Tuesday!

Patch Day: An Emotional Ride

I want to laugh, I want to cry, I want to poke myself in the eye.

Oh patch day.  How I love and loathe you!  You tease me with things like new mounts and mini-pets all while nerfing my classes subtly.  Having many alts I can get really excited about one class and feel really bummed about another…I’m basically an emotional rollercoaster.  So without the patch notes infront of me, let’s review some things that will either make me happy or make me cry.  My emotions are ready for this, I have tissues.

Mount level requirements and costs reduced!  Yay!
Normal flying mount speed increased!  Double Yay!
New druid skins!  Yay!
New raptor mini-pets!  Yay!
New badge system for normal and heroic raids/dungeons!  Yay?  (I’m still not sure about this one.)

Okay, so all the novelty things work out okay.  But what about the class specific things?

Penance cooldown increased to 12 seconds.  Double Boo!
Spell power effectiveness of Prayer of Healing reduced 30%!  Double Boo!
Mass dispell now procs some trinkets!  Was this a concern?  Huh?
Frostbolt now has 4% less crit, but 0.2 sec reduced cast time!  Yay!
Frostbite now has reduced healing effect – I can haz mortal strike?!  Yay!
Totems now can be arranged and set to plop more at once!  Double Yay!
Penance cooldown increased to 12 seconds.  So bad it deserves two Double Boo!

So talent changes…boo.  Seriously, Penance cooldown increased AND the decreased effectiveness of Prayer of Healing?  So as disc, I as already horrid at AOE healing, and now it just got worse thanks to reduced effectiveness, I bet the mana cost didn’t get reduced 30%.  /rage

New transmutes for alchemists to make epic gems!  Double Yay! 
Self only profession buff effects increased!  Yay!
Effectiveness of gathering profession passive or active buffs increased!  Yay!
Glyph of PW:Shield can now proc Divine Aegis.  Yay!
Hmmm…I don’t think there were any other things for the professions that I have.

So professions, generally yay!  Especially since I’m transmute spec.  Hopefully I’ll proc some extra gems.

So over all score?  Meh. 

Okay, like I started out saying, I’m dazzled by the new mount changes, the professions, the changes to frost mages, and even excited at the mini-pets.  But I’ll be honest.  I am not excited to play my disc priest after tonight.  Apparently Elgar was so over-powered with his AOE healing and his penance that it needed the nerf bat.  Apparently no one at blizz plays a disc priest.  ARGH!  I’m still raging about it.  Elgar, sorry, but I think you’re going to be shelved for a bit until I can get over this.  You didn’t deserve this man, you didn’t deserve this…the foam sword has crit you.

More Information on Faction Change

For those who can’t access forums at work, like myself, here’s the next bit of information on faction change.  Sorry Adorand, no interfaction race change.

Q. Will we be able to switch between the races on our own faction?
A.. No. Players will only be able to switch to a race of the opposite faction.

Q. Will I be able to choose the race on the opposite faction that I want to change to?
A.. Yes, but you will only be able to switch to a race that has your class type available to it. So if you play a human paladin, you’d only be able to change to a blood elf paladin.

Q.How much will it cost?
A.. We do not have further information on this at this point in time.

Q.Will I be able to switch back to my original faction but a different race?
A.. No. You will only be able to switch back to your originally chosen race.

Q.. How will the switch between reputation, gear, mounts, etc be handled?
A.. We’ll have more details for you at a later point in time, though we plan to keep these as close to a reflection of the other faction as much as possible.

Q.How often can you change your faction?
A..We do not have any information to share on this at this point in time, however we will have restrictions on the frequency by which players can change their faction.

Q. How will this affect the balance of Horde and Alliance on the realms?
A.. We are taking great care in how we implement this new service in order to maintain balance between the factions on the realms but do not have any further details to share.

Once again, the full thread can be found here.