Sunday, November 29, 2015

Breaktime: Hearthstone

Another non-EVE post.  If that offends thee, I pray you skip ahead a bit.

The past few weeks I've been entirely addicted to Hearthstone.  I've been playing for awhile (just after the Naxx expac hit, I think) but it was never a primary thing, just something to monkey with during downtime hours, or when I had 20 minutes before I needed to make dinner, or whatever.

Since we've been back from Blizzcon, it's been a large time consumer for me.  Not because of anything that was announced at the 'con or because of the new single player expansion (though that doesn't hurt), it's just the way the planets aligned and this particular game at this particular moment has struck my fancy.

The dozens/hundreds of games of Hearthstone I've played in the past few weeks has, I think (I hope) actually increased my ability to play.  I'm still not competitive in any sense of the word, but I'm starting to play differently, anticipate my opponent, and plan more than 1 turn ahead.  However, lately my play sessions have been pretty binary - I can go several games in a burst of wins, walk away for a half hour and come back to a string of losses.

My losses, at least lately, are against what I call gimmick decks.  If you play Hearthstone, you know the ones -- the Priest deck that gets Holy Champion out and then buffs the hell out of him at a moment when I don't have a Hex or Sheep.  The Druid deck that does amazing things with mana crystals and kills you by turn 3.  The mage deck that does weird things with Mana Wyrms, secrets, and Archmage Antonidas.  There are some really powerful feedback loops in Hearthstone that can blow a game up very quickly.

I did something this morning that I really didn't intend to do - I built a couple of gimmick decks.  My decks are generally built around synergy, of course, but I try not to wrap an entire deck around getting a few cards in a particular order.  I'm incredibly unlucky when it comes to such shenanigans.  But I got up this morning to be greeted by the 5-win Rogue/Warrior daily and both of those decks in my collection were horrible.  I adjusted the Rogue slightly and got a couple of easy wins and one afk-er, but needed 2 wins to clear the daily.

So I deleted both the Rogue and the Warrior and started over.  I'd been meaning to anyway.

For once, it worked.

Rogue:  Unearthed Raptor is a new (rogue) card from the latest expansion.  It copies a minion's deathrattle.  I'd been meaning to build a deathrattle deck for giggles, so I started here.  Hmmm... what else do I have?  In goes Fuegen and Stalagg, the brothers that summon 11/11 Thaddeus if they both die in the same game.  Baron Rivondare doubles deathrattle effects, so he's in of course.  There's a gaggle of others, but maybe you see where this is going.

First game, I play a Druid who is giving me a run for my money.  It's mid-game, we're both about even on health in the 15-17 range, and there are a few things on the board on both sides.  Fuegen had hit the board on turn 5 and died instantly.  In my hand are the Unearthed Raptor and Stalagg.  My next turn I draw the Baron and put the Stalagg and the Raptor into play, using Raptor to copy Stalagg's deathrattle.  Use my other minions to clean up the board and done.  Druids turn, he kills Stalagg, summoning Thaddeus and plays a taunty minion.

Even with Thaddeus on the board, my victory isn't assured.  We're both near 10 mana and the Druid has a fistful of cards to my 2 or 3.  If I had been the Druid, I might not have even been all that concerned; one good turn, maybe two, and he can break me.

But I know where this is going.  The Baron hits the table.  My Raptor suicides into the taunt minion, killing both.  With the abilities in play, I get another /pair/ of Thaddeuses (Thaddi?).  I've got a total of 33 attack on the board.  Thadd #1 attacks, bringing the Druid down to a few hit points.  I'm still nervous that I've left myself open to some sort of crazy druid surge, but I get a well played, and the Druid concedes.

I sit there stunned for a bit; the perfect combination happens on the very first game.  I am now spoiled forever on this deck, and I don't even like playing Rogues.

Not wanting to press my luck, I put the Rogue on the shelf.  I go back to my collection and construct a Warrior deck.  Another gimmick deck, less obvious, built around Divine Shielded minions.  This one shapes up to be a meatshield deck, basically throwing a ton of minions at the enemy in a suicide wave and a few other means of board control, and Warrior armor buffs (a Pally might have been a better pairing for the Divine Shield gimmick, but I needed a Warrior win).

I'd had my eye on a particular card I'd gotten recently - the Blood Knight - a 3-cost, 3/3 that consumes Divine Shields in play and gains +3/+3 for each one eaten.  I have a pair of them, and both go in the list.

First game, I play a warlock.  He gets off to a slow start but I begin with an Argent Squire (1/1, Divine Shield) and a Blood Knight in my hand.  I go second and am intending to burn the coin and have a 6/6 on turn 2.  Squire goes into play on turn 1 and remains unmolested.  On turn 2, I draw another Squire.  Hmmm.  Here I take a gamble -- I armor up (warrior special ability) and wait a turn.  Turn 3 comes and I burn the coin, play Squire #2 and the Knight, who comes out as a 9/9.  The opponent quickly mouses over him, mouses over his cards in slow procession, mouses back to the Knight, and then concedes.

I am once again spoiled on my first outing.  Make no mistake, my deckbuilding skills are subpar, and I expect this warrior deck to get deleted in a week or two when I realize how truly bad it sucks.

But for one, brief, shining moment.  The planets aligned, and I got the cards I needed.  Not a bad way to start a Sunday.

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