A look at some of the coming balance changes of Arena
In Hearthstone, Standard play gets most of the focus, which is understandable. But in the leadup to the new year, the Blizzard team has been giving special attention to its other formats. Most recently, this has meant Wild-themed Brawls and tourneys, but Arena now has some news too.
Come Update 10.4, Arena is going to be very different. Namely, what will change is how cards will appear in the format’s draft segment.
As everyone who has played Arena knows, players are required to draft their own decks before play. This is, fundamentally, what separates it from Constructed, as any deck is largely based upon luck of the draw. With no means to remove cards or take a stricter hand in building synergy, deck creation is making the best of 30 choices between three cards.
As of now, cards appear in rows something like this:
The occurrence of these cards is determined entirely by their rarity. In any group of three, all three cards will be the same rarity—whether Common, Rare, Epic or Legendary.
The problem with this set-up is that, in a lineup like we see above, one card will sometimes be much better than the others. For a first pick, Fireball should always be one’s choice here. But Blizzard acknowledges that this is a problem, and they have chosen to do something about it.
Here is what a draft pick might look like with Update 10.4:
Before one jumps to conclusions: no, this is not random. Rather, rarity is discounted here in favor of a strict power ranking. All three of these cards are thought to be relatively equal in terms of how good they are, which is why they are now grouped together.
The ranking itself is similar to the systems of third-party applications like Hearth Arena and Arena-Tracker. Each card is ranked based on its performance in Arena decks and how well it synergizes with one’s other picks. Hearthstone is likely to follow a similar standard, but there is no news yet on how cards will be ranked by Blizzard.
It is also important to note that Legendary cards will exist on a tier of their own. In encountering a Legendary, players will still encounter three of them—but the balance changes will always group three of similar power levels.
Companion to the balance changes is the introduction of cards unique to the format. For the first time ever, Arena will have cards seen only in its play. These cards were voted on at BlizzCon, and the winners of each class will appear as special draft picks.
Each of these cards looks to be quite good and will certainly shake things up. In particular, the Shaman and Mage picks stand out.
Stay tuned for Update 10.4, as well as more news of Hearthstone’s next expansion. As Ben Brode warned us, the Year of the Raven will be beginning very soon.