New Classic Cards: Exciting Precedent Or Missed Opportunity?
We have a new patch, and it’s pretty big. This is probably Hearthstone’s most wide-ranging patch yet, with announcements on new Classic cards, yet another Paladin hero, and a SoonTM for Tournament Mode. It’s rare to get all this information in one go, particularly as these are some fundamental additions to the game.
Let’s zoom in on the biggest news. For the first time since 2013, new Classic cards are being added to the game. This change should not be understated. We’re used to new cards from expansions, nerfs, special events and giveaways, but never in Classic. Ever since the Standard format was created in early 2016, the Classic set was supposedly the evergreen, unchanging, and most powerful set.
It’s true that since the Hall of Fame was released, Classic has been in a state of relative flux. Over the years, the Hall has slowly swelled with Classic’s good, bad, and ugly. Classic has been a robust rosebush that Team 5 has constantly been pruning.
Now, the rosebush is growing some very blunt thorns. Icicle, Call of the Void, Pilfer, and Tome of Intellect are all decidedly mediocre (with the possible exception of Icicle). The dev team, sans people’s champion Ben Brode, said “it’s important that they aren’t so powerful that they limit future design or cause problems (since they’ll be in Standard for longer than 2 years.)”
It’s a good point, and I’m glad that we are getting these cards. The new player experience, as Kripparrian explained in a recent YouTube video, needs all the help it can get. It will be fun for newbies to get epics and legendaries from these 40-dust commons. It’s also unfair that some classes have more Classic cards than others (although some, such as Warrior, have so many awful Classics and Basics that they essentially have fewer). The devs did not need to introduce these – they’re a bonus.
It’s just disappointing that these are some of the blandest cards out there. As far as bland cards go – looking at Chillwind Yeti, Goldshire Footman, River Crocolisk, etc. – these are arguably worse. At least the aforementioned bores have an identity. These cards do nothing except give you another card. There is no reason for even moderately experienced players to use these RNG spells: why would you not just run the card you want instead of rolling the dice for it? These dull cards will pollute our random spell generation, Discovers, and Arena forever.
Is the benefit of giving new players a chance to play expensive/rare/new cards worth the missed opportunity of revolutionising the meta by adding to Classic class cards? Classic has the greatest potential, of all Hearthstone’s sets, to change the game – permanently. Changing the Classic set is tantamount to altering Hearthstone’s DNA. When we lost Ragnaros the Firelord, Sylvanas Windrunner and others, it transformed the game more fundamentally than any expansion set since Goblins versus Gnomes.
The current meta is remarkably similar to that of the Witchwood; many players are disappointed that the same decks as before are being run with a couple new additions (which usually consist of Giggling Inventor and not much else). This seems quite different to Blizzard’s findings: “Overall we’re happy with the excellent diversity of decks we’re seeing at all levels of Ranked Play.” They have the data. We only have salty YouTubers, the forums and our own experience on ladder to gauge how diverse the meta is. So, we should trust Blizzard when they say the overall experience is healthy.
But that doesn’t change my opinion that this is a missed chance to meaningfully shake up the metagame. Powerful and fun non-legendary/epic Classics, along the lines of Doomguard or Cold Blood, could have introduced lasting new strategies while also helping new players. Instead we have a card that becomes another card, performing a function already performed by existing cards in other sets. Pilfer is half of Burgle. Tome of Intellect is so redundant it’s crazy. Never before have cards been so defined by their Common rarity.
I realize my argument amounts to “these cards are boring, they should be better, but I have no suggestions on how to actually do that!” It’s no use criticizing without offering a clear and realistic alternative.
I suppose that because the quality of Hearthstone as a whole is so high, and the talent on Team 5 is so clearly exceptional – and because content updates so seldom occur – we expect every patch to bring flashy, exciting stuff for us to play with. That’s unrealistic. This Classic card injection is the equivalent of a quality-of-life update for the newest players. The epic Icicle may see some play in higher ranks, but as it’s non-aggressive in a world where Tempo Mage is queen, I wouldn’t bet on it.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the announcement is the prospect of more new Classic cards being added. Will the devs continue to work on the new player experience, or will they give us the meta earthquake that more experienced players lust after? Until then, we elders shall have to content ourselves with scattering salt from the sidelines.