Why Hearthstone is my game of the year for 2016


My favourite game this year is one that was released two years ago, and before everybody brings out their Witcher 3 branded pitchforks let me explain.

Hearthstone is a free to play collectible card game developed and published by Blizzard. The game is entrenched in Warcraft lore and was released in March 2014.

The game is dead simple. You have a deck of 30-cards to draw from and 30 hit points. The objective is to bring your opponents life total down to zero before they can.

There are nine classes to choose from each with their own selection of spell cards, minion cards and – in the case of some classes – weapons. Each card has a mana cost and players start with one mana and get an additional mana crystal every turn up to a maximum of 10-mana.

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While that is the basic premise of the game what happens in between that is, well there is no way to describe it other than addictive. From the moment I faced my first opponent in a match I knew that I was going to invest hours in this game to learn as much as I could. And for a few months I loved the game.

Then came the memes

This year Blizzard introduced two new expansions and one new adventure which introduced a number of new cards. I’m going to start on the first expansion – Whispers of the Old Gods – and the adventure – One Night in Karazhan.

These two expansions were incredible divisive. For instance, the Shaman class card Flamewreathed Faceless was bonkers. A 4-mana cost common card with 7/7 stats represented incredible value but it meant that other classes needed to get creative to remove that card.

Trouble was, unless you were a Priest holding your Shadow Word: Pain from turn one, removal was hard to come by.

Hold on to your removal.

And so began the Shaman reign of terror. Every time I played against a Shaman I was dead by turn 5/6 and that was the norm for more than a handful of people I spoke to. Something needed to be done and One Night in Karazhan  looked to be the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

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Sadly it wasn’t. That’s not say their weren’t any good cards, the Mage’s Firelands Portal is great, as is Ivory Knight for Paladin’s but Shaman got Spirit Claws, a weapon that has a condition the Shaman can easily comply with. The priest card Purify was lambasted by players and myself but it actually did have some use, though the Silence Priest archetype was easily countered.

The game was a mess and even more so in the Arena mode and

The greatness of Gadgetzan

This month Blizzard launched the latest expansion for Hearthstone, The Mean Streets of Gadgetzan and I am as in love with the game as I was back when I started.

I can’t speak for what Blizzard has done because I am not a developer but the game feels more balanced than ever before. Priest is not only viable now, it’s able to dominate games. Rogue – a class I had never played – is fun with combos actually being powerful thanks to the addition of Jade Golems.

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Shaman is still strong, I do still encounter games that end at turn five but they’re far less frequent and best of all, I’m not encountering the same decks over and over again. Just this week I played against a Zoo-Priest, an archetype I never knew existed until then.

Players are getting creative and that makes this game so much more fun because while you can deduce what a player is going to do it’s never a certainty.

The Hearthstone community has spent this year complaining and I admit, I was among them but with the latest expansion everything Blizzard has done this year finally makes sense.

So for 2016 my game of the year is Hearthstone. It has made me laugh, made me cry and had my attention since the year kicked off. Thank you Blizzard, and happy feast of Winterveil.

 

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