Hearthstone's New United In Stormwind Expansion Turns Game To Solitaire, Say Fans

Hearthstone's latest expansion introduces new Mage and Warlock quests that are dominating the meta--and making a lot of players angry.

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Hearthstone's latest expansion, United in Stormwind, launched this week and introduced the usual suite of new cards and mechanics. That has also renewed conversation among the community, who are commonly complaining that the new expansion stifles interactivity and turns the game into "solitaire."

The critique extends from two new class-defining Quest cards. Hearthstone has used Quests before, 1-Mana spells that give a set of conditions to complete to get a big reward. It's not uncommon for decks to be built around these Quests as win conditions, and Stormwind introduces a twist with Questlines--multi-stage quests with even bigger rewards. These quest conditions are supposed to be harder to fulfill, but judging by the community's reaction, the Mage and Warlock quests are just too easy.

Mage and the Sorcerer's Gambit

The Mage questline, Sorcerer's Gambit, revolves around playing different types of spells. At each stage of the quest you must play one Arcane, one Fire, and one Frost spell to advance the questline. You get to draw cards as a reward for completing each step of the questline, and the ultimate reward is Arcanist Dawngrasp--a minion that gives you +3 Spell Damage for the remainder of the game.

In theory, requiring playing different types of spells should make the quest difficult. It reduces synergy between cards, and Frost spells can be especially hard to come by. But players have already refined the deck with a massive amount of card draw and cheap spells that become high-damage powerhouses once the spell damage aura takes effect. What's more, the deck often plays no or almost no minions, just spells, which means there's often not much an opponent can do to disrupt the strategy. It's just a matter of trying to finish the Mage off before they complete their Quest and burn you out, often in the same turn.

Warlock and The Demon Seed

Similarly criticized is the Warlock quest, The Demon Seed. Warlocks' class identity is built around sacrifice--their hero power trades health for card draw, and several of their cards either discard cards in hand or sacrifice their own minions. The Demon Seed makes this work to their advantage by ultimately granting Blightborn Tamsin, a minion that makes all self-damage hurt your opponent instead from that point forward.

Again, the quest itself would appear difficult to complete since it requires you to continuously damage yourself. But by synergizing that requirement with strong healing spells and cards that give good benefits for self-pain, the current Warlock build has a high survivability. That lets Warlocks reliably survive into the late-game when it can both control the board and hurt the opponent with self-damage. And like Mage, there isn't much interactivity for opposing players. The Warlock simply spends their turn progressing their quest by hurting themselves, and then wins by doing a ton of damage to themselves.

Nerfs Inbound?

The community has been vocal about these decks being problematic. The Hearthstone subreddit is full of posts making solitaire jokes, complaining that the meta is un-fun, and sharing glory stories of overcoming their Mage or Warlock opponents.

Blizzard has been more aggressively pushing balance changes after recent expansions, often correcting any major issues within the first couple of weeks after a new expansion launches. Given the volume of pushback from the fans, it wouldn't be surprising to see Blizzard announce changes as early as next week. GameSpot has reached out to Blizzard regarding balance change plans.

That said, this is far from a guarantee. The meta is always shifting, and popular decks are bound to inspire people to craft decks to counter them. Already fans are rallying around Hunter as the most consistent counter for Warlock--its high damage potential means it can semi-frequently finish the Warlock off before they finish the quest--and certain Paladin or Druid decks to counter the burn-down aspect of quest Mage. Blizzard may be looking at the player data and finding that the reality among the larger player base isn't represented by the vocal community. Or it could simply decide to let the meta settle a little more before stepping in.

Either way we're well past the record for fastest balance changes in Hearthstone history. When Blizzard introduced the Demon Hunter class last year, the company nerfed it the very next day.

This expansion launch occurred amid the backdrop of ongoing allegations of misconduct at Activision Blizzard, resulting in the departures of Blizzard president J. Allen Brack and head of human resources Jesse Meschuk. The legal action had an impact on the Hearthstone team directly, which canceled its planned card reveal stream out of respect for its coworkers.

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