We are over three weeks into Hearthstones new expansion: The Grand Tournament and I think it’s safe to say by now that Team 5’s new mechanics: Inspire and Joust, have been a colossal let down. There are 21 Inspire and 8 Joust cards out the 132 that were released with TGT and maybe 7 of them are seeing consistent play on ladder. Each subsequent Hearthstone expansion has become less and less meta-relevant and in this article I’ll break down some of the main reasons for this occurrence.
TGT: It’s Not All Bad.
Before I start my standard, vitriolic Hearthstone bashing, I should highlight some of the positives that have come out of this new expansion.
Remember a few months ago when Blackrock Mountain was released? I was so ebulliently excited for dragons; I thought that BRM would set a new precedent in that a themed based deck in dragons would actually be viable on ladder. Pirates, Murlocs, and Beasts already existed, but provided a picayune-value for their cost and did not synergize well in constructed mode. Dragons were supposed to be different though, and cards like the Dragon Consort and Blackwing Technician looked like they would hit ground running and instantly synergize with pre-existing Dragons like Ysera and Alexstrasza. Unfortunately, BRM didn’t take us to the Dragon holy land; Team-5 did not give us enough cards to work with and Dragon decks became a mediocre archetype at best. TGT changed all that, they released a plethora of additional Dragons and made up for making us think we spent twenty-five bucks on only Emperor Thaurissan. Dragon Priest has become a legitimate deck, performing very well on ladder thanks to new cards like the Twilight Guardian and Wyrmrest Agent. So TGT did end up giving us dragons. Yes it was spread out over two expansions and yes, BRM was a waste of everyone’s time, but you know what? We got our god damn dragons!
TGT wasn’t a complete miscarriage; at least Hunters got a serious nerf. That was one thing that was clear with this expansion: Team -5 made a concerted effort to slow down the game and make it more “control friendly.” New deck archetypes like Secret Paladin, Dragon Priest, and Taunt Warrior are direct counters to the much maligned Face Hunter. For the first few weeks Face Hunter became a non-factor and paltry second-class archetypes like Midrange and yes, even Control, became the new-norm for Hunter. It was disgusting to look at; people were ignorantly playing cards like Bear Trap and Ram Wrangler, thinking that was actually viable and good. Those cards weren’t folks; they were shit, Hunter became shit, and it was hard to conceptualize how it actually happened. The class cards they received were some of the weakest and it looked like Hunter was on pace to become one the worst class’s in Hearthstone. Fortunately, thanks to the Argent Horserider and shitty decks like the “Totem Shaman”, people have come to their senses and Face Hunter is back, albeit a lesser version, but at least not the detritus we were witnessing.
New archetypes and themes weren’t the only good things to come out of TGT; we actually got some incentivized ladder rewards! After the end of each season we now receive a treasure chest that contains additional rewards based on how well you performed in that given season. The rewards become subsequently better the higher the rank, starting at rank-20 and capping off at rank-5. The chests contain “the season’s Ranked Play card back, one or more golden cards, and some extra Arcane Dust.” Additionally, the hardcore arena players got a tepid response from Ben Brode surmising that golden cards in Arena would be cool, so you at least you suckers have that to look forward to!
Why The New Mechanics Failed:
Let me first preface this by saying that when I talk about these mechanics being a “failure” I’m directly correlating them to the ladder, a.k.a. “Constructed Mode.” The inspire and Joust mechanic have actually been radically meta-changing for the Arena; providing players with stronger options and more removal. Inspire and Joust has become a failed mechanic simply because there are not enough of them to make them work. The same thing applies to these mechanics as to what I was referencing to with Dragons. Team-5 has essentially given us a half finished product that might work in the future. New mechanics have been revealed but the effectivity of those cards has yet to be seen.
I’m not even saying that the concept of the cards is a bad idea, because it’s not. Placing a premium on the Hero power with Inspire is a fascinating idea. It devalues inherently weaker, draw-mechanic cards by not forcing the player to constantly drop a card and refill their hand. They can now slowly accumulate cards throughout their turns while also strengthening their board position by simply using the card-less hero power. On paper, Joust makes just as much sense by creating cards that flourish in control based archetypes. Creating a deck structured around high-costed, strong minions, is a great idea; it doesn’t get burned by aggro because its ideology is built around beating that archetype and it isn’t over powered because the cards are mediocre if the Joust isn’t won.
Unfortunately, neither of those mechanics has come to fruition due to the lack of tools that Team-5 has provided us with. Only the Druid (Savage Combatant), Shaman (Thunder Bluff Valiant), Priest (Confessor Paletress), and Paladin (Murloc Knight) have received halfway competent Inspire cards and only the Hunter (King’s Elekk), Paladin (Tuskarr Jouster), and Shaman (Healing Wave) were the only classes that received decent Joust cards. The neutral cards are even worse, with only the Silver Hand Regent and Mukla’s Champion being competent inspire cards and the Master Jouster being the only good Joust card. Arguing that any other card is decent is semantical because in reality, none of the new-mechanic cards are extraordinary; some can work in very specific decks, but in general, the majority are sub-par and many are nonexistent on the ladder. One doesn’t even have to look far to see this, with the majority of the professional players using old archetypes like Patron Warrior or non-joust/inspire themed decks like Secret Paladin and Dragon Priest.
In summary, my main contention with TGT is the release of two new, half-finished game mechanics. I understand that these mechanics will most likely improve through Hearthstones lifetime, but to hype these up and then release them as a broken product is not fair to the consumer. Akin to the Destiny story line and the Japanese manufacturing of air bags, the Inspire and Joust mechanics are just not up to the standard that Blizzard traditionally provides. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, make sure to leave them below!