Hearthstone’s Arena mode receiving an overhaul, dozens of cards to be removed

Balancing a wild, weird card digital card game like Hearthstone has never been an easy task for Blizzard, but the developer has especially struggled with the game’s Arena mode. In this mode, players draft a deck of 30 cards on the spot, choosing each card from a selection of three that are presented at random. The rarity of cards affects how often they show up in arena drafts, which means classes that have more powerful common cards have generally been far and away the best in arena.

In a blog post today, Hearthstone associate designer Dean Ayala explained some of the trouble the team at Blizzard has run into while trying to balance Arena mode and introduced a surprising, sweeping new plan to fix things.

“When you first enter Arena and are offered the choice of three different classes, our goal is that you can look at those choices and choose any class without feeling disadvantaged because of their power level,” Ayala wrote. “Most of the feedback we’ve received on Arena is centered around class balance.”

In particular, Ayala said players have expressed frustration that the mage and rogue classes generally hog the top spots in Arena, with paladin as a distant third and every other class fighting to even be worthwhile.

So how do they fix things? Ayala said that the developer first experimented with removing cards from the Arena pool at the launch of the Whispers of the Gods expansion, where C’Thun-related cards could not be found in Arena. More recently, the One Night in Karazhan addition Purify was cut from the Arena pool because beleaguered priest players complained about how terrible it was.

Ayala stated that Blizzard wants to “avoid removing strong spells and weapons” and “avoid removing iconic cards,” but it has warmed up to the idea of cutting “lower-performing cards in order to make room for a class’ more commonly utilized cards to show up in your Arena draft.”

He went on to reveal a massive list of 45 cards that will be removed from Arena in an upcoming patch. Every class will have cards chopped except for paladin. Here’s that list in full:

Mage

  • Forgotten Torch
  • Snowchugger
  • Faceless Summoner

Rogue

  • Goblin Auto Barber
  • Undercity Valiant

Shaman

  • Vitality Totem
  • Dust Devil
  • Totemic Might
  • Ancestral Healing
  • Dunemaul Shaman
  • Windspeaker

Warlock

  • Anima Golem
  • Sacrifical Pact
  • Curse of Rafaam
  • Sense Demons
  • Void Crusher
  • Reliquary Seeker
  • Succubus

Druid

  • Savagery
  • Poison Seeds
  • Soul of the Forest
  • Mark of Nature
  • Tree of Life
  • Astral Communion

Warrior

  • Warsong Commander
  • Bolster
  • Charge
  • Bouncing Blade
  • Axe Flinger
  • Rampage
  • Ogre Warmaul

Hunter

  • Starving Buzzard
  • Call Pet
  • Timber Wolf
  • Cobra Shot
  • Lock and Load
  • Dart Trap
  • Snipe

Priest

  • Mind Blast
  • Shadowbomber
  • Lightwell
  • Power Word: Glory
  • Confuse
  • Convert
  • Inner Fire

In addition to these cuts, Ayala said that the team will continue looking into further solutions to balancing Arena, including weighting the frequency at which cards show up in a draft based on factors other than a card’s in-game rarity.

Ayala recently spoke with Talkgamer about randomness in the game and whether or not Blizzard was worried about its impact on competition. You can read that interview here. For more Hearthstone shenanigans, check out our full playlist on YouTube.

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