Tavern Brawl, a new Hearthstone mode

J Updated
Tavern Brawl

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. 


There Will Be Games
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jeb's Avatar
jeb replied the topic: #204696 20 Jun 2015 23:52
I followed up with more thoughts in Trash Talk after racking up some wins with both decks.

Nefarian is the easier deck to play, and savvier players have a legitimate edge with Nefarian. (A prominent streamer was going for 100 Brawl wins and was 63-8 with Nefarian and 33-28 with Ragnaros on NA and EU servers.) It's still fun, and those Rag wins feel great!
MacDirk Diggler's Avatar
MacDirk Diggler replied the topic: #204711 21 Jun 2015 11:14
I am really enjoying playing Rag more. if you win with Nef you feel like you held serve, and with Rag you feel like David taking down. Goliath.
I like going 2nd with Rag. I almost always coin out a 5/1 guy turn 1, and then another turn 2. With any luck he can only kill one of those with a spell and the other he has to trade with his board. I mulligan looking for the 6/6 taunt and the Whirling Ash which does 6 damage when he battle cries. With all that going on I can usually stabilize around 30 life and shed the weapon for some Die Insect. if I have Molten Giants in my hand around then Nef is in a world of hurt. The spells Rag has that do 5 damage with overload of 2 CANNOT be used mid game unless desperate. If you use one you are just going to fall farther behind. And of course it you must be prepared to deal with board flooded with whelps when Nef gets to 8 mana. the hardest card for me to deal with that Nef has is the 4/12 that pumps his other minions attack by 3 beginning of his turn. If Nef gets him out early it spells trouble.

I am 8-2 in my last 10 games with Rag. Against some dummies to be sure... But knowing how to play Rag has doubled my chance to win with him vs. a couple of days ago.
jeb's Avatar
jeb replied the topic: #204713 21 Jun 2015 12:14
I agree--playing with Rag is more fun. There's a lot more game there--you do need to be thinking pretty hard in turns 3/4/5 to have a shot at winning. I Brawled my 11yo this AM (Happy Father's Day, USians), and I "missed" some DIE, INSECT shots that could have turned things. She played well and got me. At the endgame though, her board was a 7/3 and an empty hand and I had the 4/3-Thaurissan-Maker, that 20/20 dude, and my 2/4 Hounds out. If DIE, INSECT had hit that guy the turn before... sigh.

I am now 13-0 with Nef and 4-12 with Rag.

//forgot to say, I played Brawl with my Flame Imp, Magma Rager, and 6/3 guy to her Razorgore and Technician. Razorgore won (of course).
iguanaDitty's Avatar
iguanaDitty replied the topic: #204740 22 Jun 2015 09:50
I won my second try as Rag with a board full of the 2/4 hounds that regen. The opponent made some suboptimal plays but once I got board control it was all over.

Lots of fun, regardless. Actually has me interested in playing again once a week. I had gotten really bored with arena and I never was into the grind for legend to begin with...too many face hunters.
jeb's Avatar
jeb replied the topic: #204750 22 Jun 2015 11:00
Well, the first Brawl is over. The mode, I think, is a complete success. It makes HEARTHSTONE interesting in the short term, and it's something they can do week after week. A lot of HEARTHSTONE's growth was driven by the eSports ("Spike") community, and the focus there is on winning almost to exclusion. For that crowd, winning = fun. For folks like me, and a bunch of folks here, I imagine, given our hobby; playing = fun. So things like FaceHunter go over well with the folks yammering about HEARTHSTONE on Reddit or Twitch; but are withering to folks like us.

Tavern Brawl is an olive branch to the Timmy/Johnny communities. It's about playing and doing something interesting. Beating Rag down to single digits and playing that free Tree of Life? That's a Johnny thing to do. Swinging Sulfuras and calling forth your magma hordes--that's a Timmy experience. I saw a few Twitch streamers playing Brawl and despising it, vocally. I saw a couple that seemed to really like it. It's a great low-key way to explore HEARTHSTONE, and I think it also does a good job dangling Adventure modes to folks that are on the fence (that's the kind of game you get in Adventures). It brings a whimsical puzzle-like aspect back to HEARTHSTONE and can keep that feeling going week-over-week between big releases.

My final record was 5-12 with Ragnaros, and 16-1 with Nefarian. Kudos, Blizzard!
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #204756 22 Jun 2015 12:32
Guess. I'm kind of in-between there. I really like designing a solid deck and winning with it, but I'm not to the point where I'm compelled to put the time in to reach legend. I remain firmly "meh" on the first Brawl because it didn't really engage me where I like the game (putting a deck together and then running it through its paces.) I liked the pre-mades in the Naxx and BRM class challenges because they were so wacky. But doing it once was enough. Same here.

OTOH, I'm firmly in the grip of Heroes right now. I've generated enough gold to have picked up Zagara, Uther, Arthas, and Rehgar and will shortly have Tyrael and Li Li added, too. That'll be 10, which opens me up for Hero League... which I'll probably never seriously play for the same reason I don't ladder consistently in HS: lack of time. Hopefully, the next Brawl allows some creative input. If not, I'll be in the Nexus.