Hearthstone is the immensely popular free-to-play card game from Blizzard Entertainment. For the last year, millions of players have duked it out with goblins, gnomes, zombies, and dragons with three play options: plain old duels (ranked or not), solo adventures against the AI (one can purchase themed adventures or just practice dueling), and the Arena, which is a limited format. This week debuts a new way to play: Tavern Brawl.
Tavern Brawl defines a new set of rules every week (e.g., only odd-cost spells, or neutral-only minions) and could require deckbuilding or provide themed decks. (This week it's the latter.) It's a free mode, like "Play" (contrast to Arena, which costs 150gp/$1.99). Brawls run from Wednesday to Monday, and you do get 10gp for three wins and so forth like in Play mode. For at least the first few Brawls Blizzard is providing a Classic pack for winning your first Brawl.
You need to have a hero to Level 20--not on the ladder mind you, but in your hero collection. Hence, there won't be any brand new players in Brawl; but honestly, you can get a hero to level 20 in about a week of very casual playing.
Here's my first impressions as I fired it up.
- New sound effects introduce it, some new music and a nice splash screen. Looks like it'll count your wins for the week, and tracks the days.
- I am Ragnaros, taking on Nefarian. 60 life! A 2/6 weapon, and can poop out Magma Ragers for 2-mana.
- Nefarian's got 30 life, 30 armor--and 5 mana?! Fuck me. The 2-mana Hero Power yields a random spell from any class, and makes it cost 0!
- I open with a Flame Imp--the opponent counters with Blackwing Corrupter and a Defense bot. Jeez.
- Crazy huge spells. Crazy wild minions: 4/12 that buffs all your attacks +3 every turn. 2/4 dogs that resummon each other if one dies. The 6/6 with Taunt for 3 mana seems tame by comparison. How's about a 20/20 for 50 with Molten Giant text?
- The opponent rushed out (can't blame her, so rich with mana). Emptied her hand and was in top deck mode. Well, top deck mode where she can spend 8 mana on whatever she draws and play a free spell from the Hero Power.
- I stabilized at 4 life after two Flamestrikes and some key 6/3 shoot-for-6 guys and got the win. Largely thanks to my opponent not Hero Powering into any burn.
Going to be a lot of folks complaining about balance this week, I bet. An extra spell per turn that costs 0 vs. the ability to play one of the worst minions in the game seems to tip in one direction.
I like the idea of Tavern Brawl a lot--the Casual Room in Hearthstone's Play mode has long lacked a reason to exist. It's best use case was as a golden protrait farm for incredibly experienced players to utterly obliterate newcomers. With Tavern Brawl, folks that don't want to work the Ranked ladder can spend their energies in a mode that promises interesting interactions, occasionally deckbuilding skills, and cool rewards.