Sunday, November 24, 2013

Preseason 4 Jungle Changes

I'm excited for Season 4 I think the changes will have a big impact on competitive play. Since I love jungling so much the first thing I did after patch 3.14 is play one game with each of my favorite junglers: Dr. Mundo, Hecarim, Nautilus, Evelynn, Zac, Rammus. I'll go over each champion and give my opinion on their current status and what changes effected them most.

First I should briefly go over the most important changes for junglers:

  • New jungle camp - Wight. This is just one monster by Blue buff that can provide a little more gold to very fast clearers, but mostly will give junglers a positional advantage because you can have more variety in your routes.
  • Updated jungle items - actually might not help that much. These have gold bonuses now so I thought they would change the jungle completely but the impact isn't that huge. You should still build the same items you used to on your old junglers. It just means junglers that liked these items now have a slight advantage. Also most people agree Wriggle's Lantern still sucks.
  • Trinkets - These are big. So far I think the sweeping lens is best for junglers as it let's you clear enemy wards. You can clear a ward then come back a short while later for the gank. Also a warding trinket would be fine if you want to help your laners ward but I think it's less good on a jungler. Now that there are more free wards available it also makes ganking a bit more difficult, but still possible.
  • Masteries - These were changed so much its still hard to tell who's going to come out on top from these. A lot of experimenting still needs to be done before we know the best setups to use and who will get advantages from them. Right now, the defensive tree just seems better for junglers. The jungle creeps do too much damage now to go without a lot of defense. I think these changes will make tanky farm junglers the best now. I've been running 4/26/0 in the jungle and the masteries deep into the defense tree are just so strong.
  • Smite - Now has a 40 instead of 60 second cooldown which is a pretty big deal. Every jungler can clear faster now.

Now I'm going to go through each jungler I've played so far and give my opinion on their strength in the current state of the preseason.

  • Dr. Mundo - muahahahahah Mundo goes where he pleases. Mundo is strong again! The extra camp allows Mundo to continuously farm which is what he's best at. Also the mastery changes were great for Mundo. In defensive tree there is Juggernaut (+3% maximum health), Perseverance (regenerates 3% missing health every 5 seconds), Second Wind (increases self-healing by 10% when under 25% health), and Legendary Guardian (reduces duration of crowd control effects by 15%). These are all so good on Mundo. I would rank him as tier 1 in season 4. I think he will hit a sweet spot where he's good enough for competitive play but not so OP that he gets nerfed. My #1 pick right now. Also FYI none of the new jungle items are great for Mundo I'd just rush Spirit Visage, which is so strong right now.
  • Hecarim - meh. He was becoming less popular throughout season 3 as more and more nerfs hit him. Season 4 changes didn't really hurt him but it didn't do him any favors either. I rank him as Tier 2. His ultimate is still great but there are better choices. Also I tried using Spirit of the Elder Lizard on him, but I feel it's just such a risky item that will only work if you are ahead. I recommend skipping jungle items and rushing Iceborn Gauntlet. 
  • Nautilus - still very strong. I don't think the new season effected him too much. He got a minor buff in the last patch so that helped and Spirit of the Ancient Golem is slightly better. I thought he was one of the best junglers already though and I think he still is. Tier 1.
  • Evelynn- a little worse. Changes to Spirit of the Spectral Wraith helps her sustain and clear in the jungle but it takes a while to build and is a big investment. I question whether it would be better to skip it altogether though and get an early Haunting Guise. She's always been situational because your laners really need CC to make ganks work, and that hasn't changed. The changes to masteries made her defense too low and really hurt her early clears and sustain, so I'd rank her as Tier 2.
  • Zac - Very good. I think the mastery changes helped Zac because he's so health based. The same things that help Mundo, help Zac. He can also farm pretty fast if you max W first and the new jungle is all about farming. I rank him Tier 1.
  • Rammus - Even worse than before. It's harder to gank now and Rammus's slow clear speeds hurt him even worse now that other farm junglers got buffed. He relies on his laners so much to take action when he ganks and it's so difficult to do anything without their help. Still, his taunt is so OP at rank 5, that he is still viable. Any idiot laner can pay attention long enough to kill their opponent if they are CC'd for 3 seconds. So I rank Rammus as Tier 2.
Overall, I feel the jungle changes are going to discourage ganking as frequently, and despite Riot saying carry junglers will be more viable, I think the opposite is true. Due to the masteries deep in the defensive tree being so strong and the addition of the extra jungle camp, I think we will have a return of the Season 2 meta of farming tanky junglers like Dr. Mundo and Shyvana.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Hearthstone: My Criticisms and Suggestions

In Part 1 of this series, I did an introduction to Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and in Part 2 I went over some strategy tips. In this post I'll go over my criticisms of Hearthstone and how I feel it could be improved.

First I'll say what I like about it. Its a fun game. The overall gameplay is good. Most of the mechanics are simple and easy to learn, but still allow for interesting decisions and strategy. The hero system is great. It provides variety to decks and leveling up to unlock new cards is exciting because the cards unique to each class are really cool. Deck building is fun and easy to learn too. The suggested cards system and mana curve info they give are really helpful.

My criticisms of Hearthstone mostly lie outside the gameplay. My biggest problem is it seems so hard to get enough gold to unlock new cards. You only get gold for winning, so when on a bad losing streak, it feels as if you've accomplished nothing. Also the main way you are meant to earn gold is by doing quests that require you to win with specific heroes. You can't receive new quests until you complete your current quests, so you are practically forced to play certain heroes. So I'm playing heroes I don't like, and then losing with them due to my lack of experience. So I still can't even complete the quests and I'm just wasting my time. My suggestion for this is to have new quests be randomly assigned every day. Or alternatively, make the quests rotate on certain days. That way I could be excited to play on Shaman Saturday and try to win as much gold as I can. The biggest improvement to the system in my opinion would be if you received gold for playing every single game. You would get a little gold for playing unranked games, more gold for playing ranked, and even more gold for winning games. This would encourage people to keep playing even when they're losing and it makes you feel a little better about those losses. I love that League of Legends does this for IP and I think Hearthstone should do it too.

If you really want new cards and gold, then playing the Arena yields the best rewards. If you win a few games, you'll get some of your gold back, some crafting dust, and one or two card packs. My problem with this is, in the Arena you don't use cards you own, so what's the point of unlocking new cards? I like the Arena, but I prefer playing ranked, so I'm frustrated I feel almost forced to play Arena just to earn cards for ranked. It seems like they want to encourage you to play both modes, but I feel most players prefer one mode or the other, and should be able to play the one they prefer without feeling penalized.

I'm also skeptical about their card purchasing system. I just don't feel drawn to buying plain random packs. I feel it would be more enticing to buy card packs if you could buy different types of packs like 'little minions', 'big creatures', or 'spells'. Stuff like that. It would also be cool if they created a system like Magic: The Gathering, where there are different expansions that are released from time to time with new cards. These expansions could have special pre-built decks you could buy, like 'Murloc Invasion'. I think that would be a great way to introduce people to the game that aren't prepared to make their own decks and give them some ideas on how they can make deck building creative and fun. These decks could also have some unique cards to entice more veteran players to buy them.

I like Hearthstone, but I wouldn't spend money on it in it's current state. It needs just a little bit more to entice me and pull me in. I'm not a big trading card game fan, so I'm sure there are plenty of people that will spend money on this game besides me, but I don't see why the audience should only be trading card game fans. If the game was just a little more rewarding for the average or casual player, then I think more people would get sucked in to this game for a long time (myself included).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hearthstone: Basic Strategy

In Part 1 of this series I went over a basic introduction to Hearthstone. This time I will delve deeper into how to play the game and give you some tips for winning from my experience thus far.

Deck construction:

Once you pick the hero you are using, try to pick cards that synergize well with your hero power and the hero cards that you like. For example, as a Shaman, you can create many totems on the board with 0/2 so they do no damage but help in other ways. If you can use cards like Bloodlust that give all your minions +3 attack this turn, then those totems are suddenly a huge problem for your opponent.

Card draw is important and useful in almost every deck. Since you only draw one card per turn, other cards that draw cards are powerful. I once built a deck full of 1 and 2 mana creatures thinking i could overwhelm my opponent early on and just keep playing a ton of minions. By turn 6 though I'd have 6 mana but only one 2 mana card in my hand! I wasted a bunch of mana by not having enough higher cost cards to play. This deck could have worked if some of my cards drew other cards.

When creating a deck, its important to have a good mana curve. This means that you should have a good distribution of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7+ mana cards. On the deck building screen it will show your current mana distribution when you hover over your hero in the top right corner. Generally its best to have a few 1 or 2s, many 3-5s, and a few 6+ cards. It depends on your deck and your play style though. If you are a Mage with the ability to clear most enemy cards early, then holding out until late game and using higher cost cards could be an effective strategy.

In game:

Having a board advantage or a hand advantage is typically better than a health advantage. The goal in this game is to bring your opponents health to 0, so it seems obvious that having more health than your opponent means you have an advantage. That's often not true though. A board advantage means you have more or stronger minions on the board than your opponent. If you maintain a board advantage this will very quickly lead to your opponents death even if he had more health than you. Its easy to lose a board advantage though if your opponent has a hand advantage. By having a lot of cards in your hand you have more options. If you have 4 minions on the board and 1 card in your hand and your opponent has 1 card on the board but 8 cards in his hand, your opponent has a lot of ways to wreck your board and kill you.

It's usually better to clear minions first rather than attack the enemy hero. This is because leaving creatures on the board gives your opponent more opportunities to buff them. A 1/1 minion in the right deck can quickly get out of hand and become a 5/5 threat. By missing opportunities to clear your opponents minions, you are giving them more options for their next turn.

Don't be afraid to suicide your minions for the right reasons. It's rarely good to skip attacking with your minions, and by being the aggressor you can decide what trades are best for you. If you take the 'wait and see' approach, your opponent gets to decide the pace of the game. Although, to contrast this, just because you can play a card doesn't mean you should. Even if you have to waste mana by not doing anything other than using a hero power for a turn, its better than wasting cards. A good example is the spell Polymorph which turns a minion into a 1/1 sheep. You may be tempted to use it on the enemy 4/4, but that spell would be much more valuable when used against an enemy 7/5. So if you can sacrifice two of your minions to clear the 4/4 and save your Polymorph for a time when you really need it, then that's the best choice.

Be aware of the enemy hero's potential. Against a Mage be careful playing all your minions at once because their spells can clear your whole board. And against a Priest, if you think you're so smart playing your biggest creature on turn 8 with nothing to support him, then you're in for a surprise when he gets mind controlled and the Priest kills you with it. The capabilities of different heroes you'll mostly need to learn through playing though.

I hope these tips were helpful. Let me know if you disagree or have any questions.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

An Introduction to Hearthstone

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a new free to play game by Blizzard currently in closed beta. It's based on collectible card games. Below is a great layout of what the gameplay looks like from

The goal is to reduce the enemy hero's health down from 30 to 0. You play minions or spells which damage or control the enemy's minions or hero. These cards cost mana to play. You gain one mana crystal per turn until you are at 10 mana crystals, and each turn your mana is refreshed to full. There are 9 classes you may play as in Hearthstone and I believe they are the vanilla World of Warcraft classes - Mage, Priest, Warlock, Hunter, Druid, Warrior, Paladin, Rogue, Shaman. Each hero has their own specific hero power that makes them unique.

This video is somewhat dated but it gives a good overview of the game:

There are two important game modes. 'Play' allows you to play ranked games against random opponents of your skill level from decks you built with cards that you own. Each deck has 30 cards. At first you'll start with very few cards, but you can earn in game gold by winning games or completing quests. So far these quests have been quite simple such as 'Win 2 games as a Mage or Priest.' Once you have enough gold you can buy a pack of random cards to open. Or you can skip that whole process and buy them with real money. Also, each hero has unique cards you can only earn by playing that hero and gaining experience to level them up. There is also a crafting system that allows you to create some cards you are missing by destroying ones you don't need.

The other main game mode 'Arena,' costs gold or real money (currently $2) to enter. In this game mode you can choose between 3 champions randomly presented to you. Then the system shows 3 cards to you and you must pick one to add to your deck. Then it shows 3 new cards for you to choose from, and repeats until you reach the 30 card deck. Then, you play in the Arena against opponents of your skill level using that fixed deck you created until you lose 3 games. Once you lose 3 games that deck is gone forever and if you want to play in the Arena again you must pay to re-enter. The benefit is though that you get nice awards from the Arena that scale depending on how many wins you get with that deck.

There is also a practice mode to play against AI opponents but you get minimal rewards for doing that and it isn't really the point of the game. It is a nice introduction to the game though.

At first I thought Arena was my favorite mode because I liked the element of it that chose cards for me, but now I'm really getting into building my own decks and fine tuning them over many games to do what I need, so I've been doing the ranked Play mode more often. The Arena is a one shot go, so if you build a bad deck you just need to suck it up and do what you can. The awards for the Arena are great though so it's still tempting to play.

So far this game is pretty fun and I quite like it. I will write two more sections about Hearthstone. The next installment will be basic strategy, and the final installment will be my criticisms and suggestions.