Tag: Hearthstone (page 2 of 3)

From the Vault: Theorycrafting

I am giving some serious thought to jumping back into the mix of tactical planning, visceral satisfaction, and utter frustration that is League of Legends. To that end, and since I’m not quite back on the review train yet, here’s a relevant post from back in the day that reflects what I’m doing now: planning builds and investigating new Champions. I am, once again, theorycrafting.

Courtesy Riot Games, Art by Akonstad

In this blogging space I’ve talked about writing and gaming in tandem. I’ve tried to give each a fair amount of time, but I’ve never really examined the connection between the two. Other than the overactive imagination, I think a big part of my inclination towards these activities is my tendency towards theorycrafting.

I haven’t been playing Magic: the Gathering that often in the last couple of weeks, mostly due to the hours I’m spending at the office lately. But I do love deck construction. I like seeing the cards available to a particular set or format and trying to find ways of putting an effective threat together, especially if it’s in a way that’s been unexplored. They don’t always work, of course, but that’s part of the appeal of experimentation: taking a chance to see what happens. I try to plan as many contingencies as I can before the game even starts.

The same could be said for the way I approach League of Legends. I spend some time looking over the abilities, statistics and build orders of various champions, toying with different sequences and combinations. When Nautilus was released a few weeks ago, I found his art, story and kit so appealing I picked him up and started toying with builds immediately. In fact, I’m still doing so, in order to find that balance between taking punishment and dishing it out. I may go more in-depth at another time as to why doing so in this game feels more satisfying to me than, say, StarCraft 2, but like my Magic decks, crafting and tweaking a champion’s progression long before I fire up the game is rewarding, especially when I manage to help the team win.

Part of this may be due to my experiences as a Dungeon Master. I delve into rulebooks and supplementary material, draw up maps, lay out stats and even stories for the NPCs and so on. I used to lay out elaborate and somewhat linear stories to lead my players down, but I realized quickly players want elbow room and freedom to choose for themselves. While this undermined my desire to tell a specific story somewhat, it also allowed me to plan more of those contingencies I like to ponder. DMs and players share these stories in equal measure, after all, there’s no reason for one side of the screen to hog all the fun.

This thread does carry through to my writing. It’s been said that writers are either ‘plotters’ who plan things out before pen hits papers (or fingers hit keyboard), ‘pantsers’ who fly by the seat of their pants, or a combination of the two. You can read more about the distinction here. For my part, I’m definitely more of a plotter than a pantser, with a great deal of time devoted to outlines, character sketches, expansion on background elements, and research relevant to the story. The problem with all of this theorycrafting, though, is that getting wrapped up in it can take time away from the actual writing that needs to happen. Then again, I know that if I don’t take the time to figure out where I’m going in the first place, I will hit a wall and sit looking at it for just as long.

Do you indulge in theorycrafting? Or do you jump right into things?

Goblinhearth vs. Gnomestone, Part 1

Courtesy Blizzard Entertainment

The first true expansion for Hearthstone, ‘Goblins vs. Gnomes’, has officially been released. I’ve picked up a few packs for it, thanks to some solid questing and saving up my gold, and I am already seeing changes within the meta. Quite a few of the decks remain the same: I can still spot a Zoolock or Handlock a mile away, and Priests are likely to stay annoying. However, since one of my favorite things to do in an CCG is build new decks, especially if I can test them in a competitive environment, I have some ideas, partially based on what I’ve seen and partially building on prior successes. I basically plan on having a deck for each class, which as of this writing, means 9.

Druid – A Natural Mill

This was a deck that until recently occupied my Rogue slot (jokingly called ‘Bouncy Bouncy’). I always felt that ‘mill’ decks (so named for [c]Millstone[/c]) are not what opponents tend to expect, and are the sort of deck you play when you just want to mess with some heads. The problem with the Rogue incarnation was that it relied almost entirely on [Coldlight Seer]. Sure, landing a [Sap] on a big threat when the opponent’s hand is full always feels great, but it felt like a very rare occurance. And by the time it did, I would be on death’s doorstep.

Enter [Grove Tender] for Druids. Between this new card, the original but rarely played [Naturalize], and Naxxramas’ [Dancing Swords], there are plenty of ways for the Druid to fill the enemy hand. Druid also has more ways to stay alive until the late game. There are neat ways to capitalize on an opponent with a full hand, like [Goblin Sapper] and [Clockwork Giant]. With a few of the Druid’s old tricks, and new ones like [Tree of Life], this might actually be viable for the ladder.

Hunter – Beasts, Marks, or Survival? WHO CARES BEAT FACE

I feel very torn between a variety of Hunter decks. There are three specializations for Hunters in World of Warcraft: Beast Mastery, Marksmanship, and Survival. To me, Beast Mastery speaks to aggression, Survival to control, and Marksmanship is more midrange. I’m more inclined towards control-style decks, as they make for longer, more interesting games, but aggressive decks make for faster trips up the ladder. So which would be best when it comes to Hunter?

Honestly, when it comes to Hunter, I’ve had the most success when I eschew the greater themes and just build something shamelessly aggressive. There are a couple cards in the new expansion, as well as Naxxramas, that will make this sort of deck both viable and fun to play. I mean, I crafted those golden [Webspinner]s for a reason, right? I still am leery about using [Unleash the Hounds] as a core of any Hunter deck, even one revolving around Beasts. I will revisit a “themed” Hunter deck after climbing a few rungs, but for now, I’m going to do something less esoteric.

Mage – Mechanomancy’s All The Rage

‘Goblins vs. Gnomes’ (or GvG as it’s often abbreviated) has a very strong sub-theme of mechanized minions, or ‘mechs’ for short. The synergy between minions like the [Mechwarper] and [Spider Tank] is pretty nasty, in and of itself, but Mages in particular got a potent addition to their stable of possible helpers: the [Snowchugger]. In addition to decent stats – 2/3 for 2 is already above par – these little monsters also freeze whatever they damage, or anything that damages them. Combine this with, say, Spare Parts like [Whirling Blades] or the old favorite [Defender of Argus], and you have an incredibly strong deterrent for the early game.

There aren’t a lot of threats that can deal with it, either. Mages are stocked to the brim with removal as it is, from their traditional standbys of [Frostbolt] and [Fireblast] to newcomer [Flamecannon]. It can be very difficult for aggressive decks to get a handle on a Mechanomancer, and control decks suffer from early damage if they cannot themselves remove the threat of multiple mechs rolling across the field. Put it all together, and you have an extremely potent weapon for climbing the ladder.

Paladin – The Silver Hand Wants YOU

This has been my pet class in Hearthstone for a while, now. At 500 wins on the ladder, the hero for your class and his hero power turn gold. I want [Reinforce] to give me golden [Silver Hand Recruit]s, dangit. I’ve been after this since the previous iteration of my Paladin deck. With GvG, the goal has become even clearer, for two very distinct reasons: [Muster for Battle], and [Quartermaster].

In the early game, Muster lets you respond to aggression, or deal out some quick damage. Later on, when combined with the Q man and, for example, [Knife Juggler], you’re presenting your opponent with a serious game-ending threat. Now, there are ways around this, from board clears like [Flamestrike] to underhanded moves such as [Mind Control Tech], but even so, it takes some doing to get around that sheer amount of firepower. For a while, I was running this deck with [Captain Greenskin], since a 2/5 weapon is nothing to sneeze at; plus, on occasion, I’d get a [Truesilver Champion] that could take out Yetis in one swing. However, I recently switched up for a build closer to Strifecro’s, and this is my go-to deck for struggling towards the twin goals of 500 paladin wins, and Legendary rank.

Priest – If You Can’t Beat ‘Em…

Oh, Priest. My love-hate relationship with you is well-known, among the five or so people who actually pay attention to my Hearthstone rants. To me, playing Priest on the ladder is like playing in Magic: the Gathering events with a deck that is almost entirely blue, mostly with counterspells and cards that steal things from your opponent or otherwise completely lock them out of what they want to play. I can respect that style of play, as I have done it myself on occasion, but in Hearthstone having such tactics used on me makes me inconsolably angry.

I can definitely get behind little combinations like [Auchenai Soulpriest] and [Circle of Healing] for a sudden and potent board clear, and while I don’t necessarily like getting smacked with a minion that’s been built up to 22 health and then given [Inner Fire], I have to give it the traditional “Clever Girl” response. I don’t know if I’ll ever play Priest on the ladder, personally; I do my best to meet the challenge when I’m there, but in Casual games, I tend to concede immediately when I see my opponent is a Priest. Unless I’m playing Priest myself.

But yeah, Priest players? Much respect, and you can all go to hell.

What are my thoughts on the other classes? What does the future hold for Hearthstone? Tune in next week to find out!

New Year, New ‘Do

Well. This is looking a bit more professional and whatnot, isn’t it?

It’s been over a month since my last entry here at Blue Ink Alchemy. That I can only chalk up to travel, changing seasons, a few unpleasant cycles of mental states, and general shenanigans involving real life things like looking for work, juggling financial woes, and finding tiny moments of catharsis. It’s been a rough ride.

But here we are! It’s 2015. A new year has dawned. New challenges await on the road ahead. And new projects will be hatched and, hopefully, nurtured into fullness with a little time, attention, and care.

The second novella, Bloody Streets, will be assembled and readied for publication as soon as I can afford a professional photographer and designer to tackle its cover. I plan on contacting the same team I used on Cold Iron (ladies, you know who you are), but I need to be a little more financially solvent before I can do that sort of outsourcing. I have some information on freelancing that I plan on capitalizing as you read this. I continue to interview for dayjobs of various kinds in an effort to keep the lights on, the pantry stocked, and this very site going. I might (emphasis on might) begin streaming my efforts to improve in Hearthstone, discussing various topics of the day while yelling in frustration at Priest players I encounter.

And on top of all of that, I’ve started work on a new novel in earnest. I will not say much, other that it is aimed for young adults, has been rather carefully researched so far, and deals with witchcraft, other worlds, tolerance, hard choices, and intestinal fortitude.

This year is going to be a good’un. I can feel it.

White Weenies: A Hearthstone Deck Dossier

Courtesy GiantBomb
“Put your faith in the Light!”

I’ve been making attempts to climb up the ladder of ranks in Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft for the last few months, in my spare time. … And finally, I have a deck that, while certainly inspired mostly by another of the same name, has had enough tweaks that I feel justified in documenting it here.

In Magic, there is a type of deck that is either powered entirely by white mana or features only the tiniest of splashes from other colors, and is populated by small creatures that grow larger thanks to global or targeted ‘buff’ enchantments. These decks grow from a rather innocuous beginning to present the opponent with a formidable army that is a lot tougher than it looked initially. Due to its color and the size of its creatures, it is called a ‘white weenie’ deck.

The Hearthstone deck in question works on a similar theme. It is a Paladin deck, since the Paladin’s Hero Power produces 1/1 tokens (a staple of a White Weenie deck in Magic) and the Paladin-exclusive epic weapon [Sword of Justice] buffs multiple minions as they are summoned. Combined with low-cost minions like [Argent Squire], [Knife Juggler], and [Leper Gnome], the deck presents itself as fairly aggressive.

White Weenies

2x [Noble Sacrifice]
2x [Abusive Sergeant]
2x [Argent Squire]
2x [Goldshire Footman]
2x [Leper Gnome]
2x [Argent Protector]
2x [Ironbeak Owl]
2x [Knife Juggler]
2x [Sword of Justice]
2x [Divine Favor]
1x [Truesilver Champion]
2x [Consecration]
1x [Hammer of Wrath]
1x [Faceless Manipulator]
1x [Leeroy Jenkins]
2x [Argent Commander]
1x [Guardian of Kings]
1x [Tirion Fordring]

A few similar decks like to run more minions with Divine Shield along with the [Redemption] secret, maintaining their board presence and therefore their aggression in that way. I opted for more of a midrange feel, featuring taunts and silence effects towards the lower end of the curve while maintaining powerful finishers like [Leeroy Jenkins] and [Tirion Fordring] towards the top. I also include a Guardian of Kings to recover from early aggression and both [Consecration]s to help stabilize against aggressive Hunters and Zoolocks.

For the most part, the strategy of this deck is simple: swing for the face. Early aggression tends to pay off, and if you can force your opponent into trading their minions for yours, especially in a disadvantageous way, all the better for your success. Remember that, in this deck list at least, you have a healing minion that will help you recover any ground you lose against more aggressive decks. Decks that rely on high-cost mid-game responses, such as Handlock or most Mage decks, struggle to keep up with White Weenies, especially if you save your silence effects and direct removal to deal with large taunts and threats.

Running up against Zooluck, Hunters, and Miracle Rogues is a challenge. You want to look for good early plays, such as [Argent Squire] followed by [Noble Sacrifice]. Most of the time, a [Sword of Justice] in your starting hand is a good thing, while high-end cards in the same hand are not. Against these decks, it’s basically a race, and you’ll want to put your opponent on an awkward footing as quickly as possible with some fast damage.

Shaman and Priest, so far, are the worst matchups for this deck. They simply have too many early-game answers that either completely undercut your progress or put themselves in a superior position that White Weenies struggles to unseat. Just be aware of this, and try not to take the losses too hard.

Let me know what you think of the deck in the comments! If you have suggestions to make the deck better, I’m interested in hearing them.

The Appeal of Hearthstone

UtherLightbringer as seen in Hearthstone
I will, in fact, fight with honor.

I’m working on a post that talks about time management. It is, from my perspective, one of my biggest flaws. I find it difficult to parcel out my time in the most efficient way possible. The dayjob, exercise, writing, home maintenance, eating, sleeping… things get pushed around and I get distracted, and I end most days wondering where the time went. I know, consciously, that I need to make more time for things that are important to me.

Why, then, am I setting my sights on playing more Hearthstone?

Specifically, I’m going to be playing more Constructed – I’m not that great at Arenas. I’m brushing up on advice for more effective laddering, choosing a deck that I will stick with – probably DKMR’s Paladin deck – and pulling myself back when I begin to tilt. Ideally, I’ll be putting in time on this every day after I take the time to write, and that in turn would be happening after I get home from the dayjob.

The reason for this is simple: I miss high-level competitive play in these sorts of games. The events of Magic: the Gathering I’ve attended, both when I was younger and more recently, were at their most enjoyable when I was locked in competition with another player. I haven’t been part of that scene in a while, and I won’t be getting involved in a Netrunner community until after I move. The advantage of Hearthstone is that it’s a digital form of the same type of competition. The barrier for entry is lower than StarCraft 2, and personally, I find the experience of playing Hearthstone less clinical than playing StarCraft, even if I do enjoy both games. The in-depth interactions of cards, the delicate nature of move-countermove over the course of a match, and the visceral feeling of both winning and losing – these are things that really appeal to me.

Part of this is certainly Hearthstone‘s glossy coat of that certain Blizzard magic. Their games are always high quality in terms of graphical presentation and sound design. But on top of that, the more I play the game, the more I find things very finely balanced. With a variety of ways to play a class, to say nothing of different classes, success or failure ultimately comes down to the individual player. Without the immediacy and attention demands of a real-time strategy game, careful decision-making and precise timing are rewarded in a very satisfying way. This could just be my take on things, but I can’t deny that this, too, is part of the appeal.

I want to get better at Hearthstone. My goal is, eventually, to compete in a tournament with the confidence to advance at least once through its brackets. To do this, I will aim to climb the Constructed ladder into the Legendary ranks. When the new season begins, I may even begin streaming and recording my games. Who knows? This could open new doors for me, and that’s never a bad thing. It’s another step in my journey forward, and it’s my hope that folks out there will be willing to take that journey with me.

Or at least point out whenever I miss lethal damage.

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