Hearthstone 2016 – A year in review
Sottle rounds up the most memorable moments of the year, and then Yogg deletes his work and makes him start again. As we near the end of the Year of the Kraken—did anyone actually call it that? Do we even still remember that it’s a thing?—the Hearthstone community can look back on 2016 and safely say it was a massive year for the game. We saw changes that affected everyone, from the most casual players up to the most competitive pros. Yes, there was the madness of Yogg and the crushing dominance of Midrange Shaman, (don’t worry, we’ll get to those), but on the whole 2016 delivered great memories and glorious memes. Here’s what stood out most for us.
The Hearthstone Championship Tour format took a massive step forward in 2017. By switching to a year-long tournament circuit, Blizzard enabled storylines to develop around lesser known players. In the process many new stars were made, including Dr. Hippi, Amnesiac (AKA The Yung Savage—note there’s no ‘o’, Blizzard), and of course the new world champion Pavel.
The whole setup had a much more legitimate, professional feel, though that isn’t to say the competitive scene was perfect. Players cried out for Swiss all year (and will be getting it in 2017), open cups felt like a matter of willingness to grind rather than a testament of skill, and some of the HCT events were played in the most stale of metagames. The important thing is that lessons were learned and the plans for 2017 are aiming to fix most of these issues. We have a new advanced guide for the arena that can help you understand the game better.
Standard is finally introduced to competitive play
The start of 2016 introduced a largely unprecedented concept in terms of Hearthstone’s design philosophy: Changing a lot of cards at once. Previously, Team 5 had been more careful with nerfs than Kobolds are with candles, but to lay the ground for the first Standard rotation the designers unleashed an unprecedented wave of adjustments that gave us hope that they would continue to tweak power levels throughout the year.
While that hasn’t been the case, combined with the new set’s arrival and huge swathes of cards leaving Standard simultaneously, it gave us a huge metagame shake-up. The Force of Nature-Savage Roar combo bit the dust and briefly left Druid floundering for an effective play style, and the demise of the face-loving Leper Gnome gave control fanatics even briefer hope that aggro might struggle. At Dreamhack Austin—the major tournament that immediately followed Standard’s arrival—excitement abounded with new deck archetypes as far as the eye could see. To add to the surreal air, after so many near misses Chakki walked away the winner with a control-heavy line-up.
The sets that have followed Whispers of the Old Gods can best be described as hit and miss. One Night in Karazhan was largely underwhelming and ushered in a period of absolute Shaman dominance due to the inexplicable decision to give Thrall the Spirit Claws weapon. Very few classes got anything approaching the power level of the new Shaman cards, and so the era of Shamanstone was upon us.
Salvation was finally found on the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, which threw another grenade amongst the pigeons. Say what you will about the current power of aggro decks (and who could have predicted that?), but the ladder is packed with new decks. This is better than a situation where players think: “Hey, this new card is sweet, I’ll just add it to my existing tier one deck”.
Mean Streets cards were strong enough to birth new archetypes like Kun Combo Druid, Jade Shaman, various Reno decks, and bring about the rebirth of Pirate Warrior and Dragon Priest. Even Miracle Rogue is back with a new eyepatch-wearing bang. Overall then, a solid 4 Mana 7/7 out of 10 for card releases. No, I have no idea what I mean there either.