Hearthstone has been a guilty pleasure of mine since its release. Being a long time fan of Blizzard I was eager to try the game out and was immediately hooked by it’s simple rules, fast paced action, great animations and artwork and most importantly, a surprisingly fair free to play model. Usually when you see “free to play” the immediate assumption is “this is one of those game that will be free to download, but for me to have any fun I’ll have to buy $40 in little DLC items.” For Hearthstone that was never the case. Yes, you could purchase booster packs with real money, but Blizzard did a great job of rewarding consistent play with easily achievable goals to earn booster packs and strengthen your deck. With each expansion before Journey to Un’Goro” Blizzard did an incredible job at keeping the game as balanced as possible, making most matches feel fair in their outcomes and made unlocking meaningful cards possible with a fair amount of game play without having to spend a single dollar as I have.
Journey to Un’Goro introduces new features to the game clearly designed to speed the matches up (something that I don’t feel was necessary at all). The artwork on the cards continues to be fantastic but for me, a strictly free to play player, that’s where the good news stops. The expansion introduces “Quest Cards”. These cards are incredibly rare and when implemented properly are incredibly overpowered and game breaking.
On a slow day, I can get in about 20 games of Hearthstone on my iPhone. About 3 days after Journey to Un’Goro released I was lucky enough to find a Paladin quest card in one of the boosters that I earned. Unfortunately the paladin quest card has turned out to be one of the weaker quest cards for me. Now more than ever I am matched with players who I have to assume are paying for booster packs. I find it hard to believe that so many people in such a short amount of time have these rare quest cards. More concerning still, these quest cards have exposed something about the way the game shuffle’s decks that I find alarming. Ever since I found the paladin quest card, every single time I draw my initial hand, the quest card is revealed, meaning that the deck is not actually being shuffled, the game is clearly prioritizing which cards the player should get in their initial draw. This means if one player has a quest card and the other doesn’t the match will likely be over in a very quick landslide victory for the player with the quest card. One particular quest card that I have encountered that I consider to be game breaking is the rogue quest, “The Caverns Below”.
This card requires the player to play four minions with the same name to be rewarded with the card “Crystal Core”, which is a 5 cost card the makes every minion in the player’s deck 5/5. I have been absolutely decimated by players with this quest due to the vast amount of combinations possible at quickly unlocking the Crystal Core and spamming the board with 1/1 minions that are now 5/5. I have not been able to beat a single player with this quest card yet. Other quests are less significant and while still powerful, there are plenty of solid defensive strategies on the free to play level to combat them. My love for the game is still there but I definitely don’t feel as excited to play the game as I used to. Before the expansion I used to feel like every game I played was meaningful and would unlock better cards to strengthen my deck. Now, I get the feeling that unless I have a quest card there’s little to no point in playing. Hopefully Blizzard updates the game to bring more balance. The main thing I would like to see is the quest card actually being shuffled into the deck, and maybe even make the quests a bit more difficult to unlock the reward. In the meantime I will continue to play and keep my fingers crossed for a quest card to pop up in one of my boosters, which are taking longer to earn due to my win rate decreasing substantially.