The importance of the new Hearthstone Formats
The future of Hearthstone is in the balance. Blizzard has announced that coming soon the regular ranked ladder will be replaced with two formats, Wild and Standard. Wild will be the same thing as the current ladder, with each new expansion and adventure being available to play. Standard is where things get really interesting. Only cards that were released in the current and previous calendar year can be used. So Goblins vs. Gnomes and Curse of Naxxramas will all be unplayable.
Personally, I welcome our new Standard overlords. The meta has slowed to a crawl, Paladins and Druids are the only true competitive choices. When Standard comes out, decks like Secret Paladin would no longer be a viable. This would only upset the bots created to farm victories in ranked. I love playing fun decks like Murloc Paladin or Egg Druid but have always been too afraid to use them in ladder. I’ve reached Legend with decks in the current meta, I would love to use something new.
Curse of Naxxramas was the first expansion Hearthstone ever produced, bringing with it cards that have become staples in many decks. Take for example, Sludge Belcher. No card for 5-mana comes anywhere close to the Belcher’s level of value. When Standard comes, cards like Stranglethorn Tiger and Silver Hand Knight will take the slimy guys place.
This is an important step in the growth of Hearthstone. Prior sets shouldn’t limit the creation of new and unique cards. As long as Dr. Boom exists, no 7-mana cost card will ever be considered “good.” Dr. Boom has the most value, why would I play anything else? Same goes for Haunted Creeper and Piloted Shredder, two cards I have despised for a long time. Losing a game because your Shredder dropped a Doomsayer is a pain I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
Magic the Gathering has had a system where they rotate cards out every year, which always keeps the formats fresh. Hearthstone is still only two years old, and this format change is exactly the spark needed to keep the game fresh. A new meta will emerge, not just a new card added to an old deck (I’m looking at you Keeper of Uldaman.) I’m not a fan of the removal of old adventures and expansions, making them unavailable to new players. The first game I ever played was on the first wing of Naxxramas, so I’ll always have some new eyed nostalgia for that crypt.
HearthHead has a story about how the Standard mode will affect the top decks. Secret Paladin will possibly go away and give its place to more of a midrange Paladin, since it’s losing almost half the deck. Midrange Druid won’t lose much unless the upcoming nerfs really hit some of its core cards, Zoo will lose some cards but should be able to replace them, Freeze Mage should survive, and Patron Warrior should get another substantial hit after the Warsong Commander nerf.
GosuGamers has a story on the problems Standard will face, and it’s quite an interesting read. The first issue is too few cards in Standard as it stands. Magic has a thousand new cards a year while Hearthstone released 208 in 2015. The rumor is that expansions will be much bigger from now on, but we’ll see. The other issue is that many of the synergies won’t work anymore since some cards will be left isolated on the wrong side of the format divide. Also, some of the cards that need to leave Standard will stay, and they might still cause problems. Finally, there’s the sense of lost progress since it will feel like Blizzard has to reinvent the wheel.