Sunday, November 15, 2015

Heroic Hall of Explorers Decks and Strategies

Heroic Zinaar Deck

This is the deck that I used to defeat Heroic Zinaar after 2 tries:

Name Number Mana
Arcane Missiles 2 1
Mirror Image 2 1
Clockwork Gnome 2 1
Mana Wyrm 2 1
Flamcannon 2 2
Frostbolt 2 2
Annoy-o-Tron 2 2
Snowchugger 2 2
Forgotten Torch 1 3
Frost Nova 2 3
Ice Block 1 3
Mirror Entity 2 3
Flamewalkker 2 3
Enhance-o-Mechano 2 4
Goblin Blastmage 2 4
Blizzard 1 6
Archmage Antonidas 1 7

The basic idea was to get huge value from a hand filled with "Wishes." I waited until I had two Flamewalkers on the board and the unloaded with 6 Wishes. This cleared the board of his minions and set up a situation where any spell I cast would do 4 additional damage. I finished with 24 health and a board full of minions. It is also important to keep some minions with Taunt on the board, as this protects your other valuable assets.

Heroic Sun Raider Phaerix:

I used a contemporary Secret Paladin and won on my second try.

Heroic Temple Escape:

After ~3 attempts this deck worked well:

Name Mana Number
Innervate 0 2
Target Dummy 0 1
Naturalize 1 2
Goldshire Footman 1 2
Shieldbearer 1 2
Annoy-o-Tron 2 2
Anodized Robocub 2 2
Mulch 3 2
Poison Seeds 4 2
Enchance-o-Mechano 4 2
Sen'jin Shieldmasta 4 2
Druid of the Claw 5 2
Sludge Belcher 5 2
Recycle 6 2
Sunwalker 6 2
Ancient of War 7 1

The key is to mulligan until having a taunt creature, removal spell and Poison Seeds. After that it was fairly easy to stall and get the win.

Heroic Scarvash:

This is a very tough fight. The Burly Rockjaw Trogg and Stonesplinter Trogg are very difficult to deal with. I tried almost every class except Shaman for about 25-odd games without having even remote success. I finally used this Paladin deck from Tempostorm. I was whittled to 2 health early in the game and then managed to stabilize the board and win. Doomsayer was not obligatory, but I think most times that I felt I had any progress prior to this deck, Doomsayer had been involved. I won with this deck on my first try, largely due to Aldor Peacekeeper.

Heroic Mine Cart Rush:

Use the pre-made deck and win. This is a fun test.

Heroic Arhaedas:

Name Mana Number
Innervate 2 0
Living Roots 2 1
Mark of the Wild 2 2
Power of the Wild 2 2
Dire Wolf Alpha 2 2
Doomsayer 2 2
Echoing Ooze 2 2
Haunted Creeper 2 2
Ironbeak Owl 2 2
Jeweled Scarab 2 2
Recombobulator 1 3
Mark of Nature 2 3
Savage Roar 2 3
Poison Seeds 2 4
Soul of the Forest 1 4
Keeper of the Grove 2 4

The key is to realize that you are receiving free creatures, but with zero attack. All that is needed is a buffing deck to make use of the free creatures. I won after 2 tries using the above deck. 

Heroic Lord Slitherspear:

I found this fight to be difficult as the high-powered minions seemed to come much too fast. I tried many standard ladder decks without positive results and ultimately net-decked this Rogue Mill deck, which was a lot of fun to play and worked on the second attempt.

Heroic Giantfin:

Also a difficult fight as the small minions arrive very quickly and Giantfin can revive 5 deceased Murlocs with one 4-mana spell. No standard ladder decks were effective. I won after net-decking this deck on the second try.

Heroic Lady Naz'jar:

Name Mana Number
Innervate 0 2
Target Dummy 0 1
Naturalize 1 2
Goldshire Footman 1 2
Shieldbearer 1 2
Annoy-o-Tron 2 2
Anodized Robocub 2 2
Mulch 3 2
Poison Seeds 4 2
Enchance-o-Mechano 4 2
Sen'jin Shieldmasta 4 2
Druid of the Claw 5 2
Sludge Belcher 5 2
Recycle 6 2
Sunwalker 6 2
Ancient of War 7 1

The key is to realize that you are getting a free "upgrade" at the end of each turn. Thus, the more creatures you can fill the board with, the more likely you are to win. If you feel that your RNG creatures aren't as good as the Lady's, use Poison Seeds. This deck worked on the first attempt.

Heroic Skelesaurus Hex:

Heroic Steel Sentinel:

This was by far the hardest fight. I eventually worked a Paladin deck into form to take advantage of Repentance, Equality, Consecration, Avenging Wrath and the neutral Alexstraza. This took at least 20 iterations.

Name Mana Number
Repentance 1 2
Argent Squire 1 2
Equality 2 2
Acidic Swamp Ooze 2 2
Annoy-o-Tron 2 2
Haunted Creeper 2 2
Knife Juggler 2 2
Muster for Battle 3 2
Aldor Peacekeeper 3 2
Big Game Hunter 3 1
Consecration 4 2
Mogu'shan Warden 4 2
Tournament Medic 4 2
Antique Healtbot 5 2
Avenging Wrath 6 2
Alexstraza 9 1

Heroic Arch-Thief Rafaam:

I initially did not understand that the Rare Spear was activated by cards or Rare rarity. I don't know what I was thinking. I think any deck that gives a lot of low-value, low-costed rares will win the game. I won the first try with all the cheap Rares (blues) that I could find using the Rogue class. I also included both Nerubian Egg, Dragon's Egg, Ancient Watcher and Eerie Statue assuming there would be no way for Rafaam to buff these.

Heroic Rafaam Unleashed:

This was the easiest of the Four final bosses. I completed this on the first try with a standard build of Secret Paladin. I played this deck hoping for the tempo advantage, Noble Sacrifice and Repentance to help. I played one Noble Sacrifice out of hand and then was able to play 2 Mysterious Challengers. I used Sylvanas Windrunner to exchange for on of the 10/10s that only take one damage at a time. Finally, I was able to fill my side of the board and played a non-traditional Enchance-o Mechano that I keep in my Secret Paladin deck for fun. This sealed the win with some much needed Taunt.

And that is how to get:

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Darnassus Aspirant

Darnassus Aspirant

Darnaussus Aspirant is a "key" card for druids introduced with The Grand Tournament set. This ramp card allows Druids to hopefully gain mana acceleration early in the game, when it matters most. However, the card is ideally used to get a few bodies on the board earlier (prior to turn 6) than your opponent. However, when Aspirant does not come out prior to turn six it can become a major hinderance, especially nearing turn 10 when it can actually cost a mana. Thus, what is the correct number of Aspirants to play?

Previously, the only cards for acceleration were Innervate, Wild Growth and Nourish.  Wild Growth can be useful throughout the game with some limitations toward the late game. Nourish often was playable only from the mid to late game and often creates a hard decision between the promise of more mana or the gamble of more cards. There are many other 5-mana cards that seem more playable at key points during the middle game, which is why it's only used in 3% of druid decks in the current iteration of the meta and 7% of decks over time play the card. Innervate is always a good draw and is always useful.

Based on the hypergeometric distribution, having one Aspirant in the deck suggests a 31% probability of drawing it by or on turn 6. Placing two Aspirants in the deck increases the probability of drawing at least one to 52% by turn 6. Having seen both by turn 6 occurs only 10% of the time and having both show up by turn 10 occurs 21% of the time. Therefore the best case scenario of seeing one is 20% improved by playing both and the worse case scenario of seeing the both by turn 10 occurs a rare 21% of the time and seeing both early in the game occurs a non-negligible 10% of the time. Note that these statistics would also apply to Shade of Naxxramus, another card where the 1 of, 2 of debate is healthy.

I'm continuing with two Aspirants as of now as part of this list, but may switch it up if there are too many dead draws at the end of the game.

Dusting a Rogue

The Rogue class of characters has always interested me. Fast, sneaky and able to deal significant damage seem like a recipe for fun.  However, Hearthstone Rogue has not lived up to anything I would consider fun or interesting. If rogue decks were absolute winners, I would keep my rogue cards, but Rogue is not hot. It makes the list at number six for class popularity, but completely fails to make the ranks of top tier decks or see much competitive play.

The Rogue class likely suffers heavily from its hero power. Having to actually attack your enemies with your hero (with a weapon equipped) is a huge downside for rogues. Paying 2 mana for the priveledge of losing your hero's life total is not great. In addition, Rogue cards are currently geared toward relatively 'linear' strategies for deck building. When was the last time a midrange rogue was suggested?

Altogether, Rogue would greatly benefit from an upgrade to its class card base to allow Thrown Weapons or some other method of using a weapon without committing the hero. This would fit with the Rogue being a leather wearing glass cannon and less like a warrior charging into battle. Some Reveal Hand mechanic would also be interesting and keeping with the Roguish nature and create an interesting play style that may not require a complete reworking of the class. 

As for me, I'll be dusting some of the Commons, Blues and Legendaries I have, while keeping the Epics. For a casual player, repopulating the sometimes many epic cards require to effectively use a class is a more costly endeavor than obtaining the 1 or 2 class legendaries.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Casual Guide to Nova

I have now played Nova to level 10, giving me credentials as a casual Nova player. As many Nova players have suggested and data support, Nova is best played in Quick Match or lesser venues. A team dedicated to supporting Nova could leverage her abilities, but for most pick-up games, results with Nova will be feast or famine, denying her a favorable place in ranked play. For casual players, Nova is a great choice given her stealth and both basic and heroic abilities that are easy to use.

This mini-guide will serve to address how best to play this character and how best to maximize Nova if she is a member of your team.

Assumed Talent Tree (option1/option2/option3):

Ambush Snipe , Gathering Power, Anti-armor Shells, Precision Strike/Triple Tap, Lethal Decoy/Double Decoy, Crippling Shot, Bolt of the Storm/Precision Barrage/Fast Reload

How to play:
Early: Until level 10, Nova should attack minions for XP and try not to get killed. If enemies are aggressive, consider positioning to catch retreating Heroes with less than 1/2 health. Don't try to ambush and burst down enemies at this phase unless they have overextended themselves in a lane. Holo Decoy can be used to deplete ammo from Towers throughout the game. If the early game environment is hostile to laning (5-man roving enemy team), distraction of Heroes and ammo depletion with Holo Decoy are reasonable activities.

Middle: Once you obtain either Triple Tap or Precision Strike, you are ready to burst down light to moderately armored Heroes. Rotations: Holo Decoy>Pinning>Snipe>Heroic Ability. This rotation (ideally) depletes a few cooldown abilities (Holo Decoy), slows the target for easier Snipe and Autoattacks and gets kills with either Heroic ability. If you cannot accomplish Pinning Shot and Snipe in <1sec you lose the benefit of Ambush Snipe favoring the more conservative: Holo Decoy>Snipe>Pinning>Heroic Ability.

Late: Nova can begin to burst kill all but the most resistant Heroes after taking Crippling Shot, though non-Warrior characters will remain the best targets. If you took Triple Tap, position yourself to catch retreating heroes and don't use unless a kill is assured and especially not near structures or groups of enemy minions or mercenaries. If you took Precision Strike wait for double/triple/quad/mega kill opportunities.

Tactical use of Abilities:
Snipe: A skill shot with long range. Used mostly for burst damage. If you took Psi-op Rangefinder, can also be used in fights that persist to catch runners.

Pinning Shot: Damages and slows enemies early and increases damage with Crippling Shot. Good for preventing escapes, rarely good for preventing pursuit.

Decoy: A double of Nova that appears to attack enemies. Good for tricking enemies into using cooldown abilities, breaking stealth/concealment and for augmenting damage in late game. Occasionally can be used to kill a retreating Hero given its relative long range.

Stealth: Nova's stealth ability is what makes her a good casual-players hero. Stealth allows you to engage at the time and place of your choosing. Don't squander stealth by bad positioning, entering fights you cannot possibly assist meaningfully or win. Don't think too highly of stealth. Some players are very good at spotting stealthed heroes. Stick to bushes/vents when possible, advance along borders instead of in the open and shadow other players if no other cover is available.

Ineffective Pursuits:
Taking Mercenary Camps alone, laning alone, holding objectives or attacking structures.

How to play with Nova:
Don't ask or expect Nova to engage in 'Ineffective Pursuits' as above. Do watch where Nova is positioned. Feeding Nova with grabbing abilities helps keep her out of harms way. Ideally, grab an already damaged character (3/4 health) as Nova can usually burst most non-Warrior characters at this level of health without use of a heroic cooldown.

Nova is a fun hero. Strive to lead your group in either kills or hero damage or both and don't get caught unstealthed and out of position.

Eydis Darkbane and Fjola Lightbane: Legends or Myths?

The Grand Tournament cards Eydis Darkbane and Fjola Lightbane invoke decks strong with buffing mechanics. Whether these cards warrant entire decks or represent very strong candidates for the 3-mana position remain questions. The questions that remain for the casual gamer are whether these legendaries are worth the cost and for which classes and decks these cards make the most sense.

As for cost, on average, each pack of cards nets ~94 dust, so purchasing $20.00 of The Grand Tournament (TGT) packs should allow crafting of 1 of these legendaries assuming that you dust most of the cards opened. As such, this isn't a huge investment. Further stats on opening of packs can be found here and my own work here.

Both cards are notable for having good attack and health for 3-mana. The archetype of a 3-mana card is arguably the Spider Tank with 3 attack and 4 health. Eydis and Fjola have those specs plus the added benefit of "3 damage to a random enemy" and "gain divine shield" when "you" target either with a spell. These are both good effects. 3-damage aimed randomly is rarely useless and usually helpful, but it will cost you some mana and usually another card to do so. Otherwise you will be required to target Eydis, perhaps creating some opportunity cost compared to another minion you'd rather target. As for Fjola's divine shield, this lends itself better to a deck archetype familiar to Magic the Gathering players called "Infect," where the goal is to relentlessly upgrade and attack with one or two specialized minions. The option for a "Hexproof" style of play is also available from the Divine Shield itself. Using either of these strategies would require a deck with at least some buff cards, such as Spare Parts. Prototype decks can be found that include both cards, but my sense is that this card will become a Priest standard and a one-of (probably Eydis) in aggressive decks with some buffing spells.

Staying power:
If you can get either of these cards out early in the game and target them with a buff they have some chance of remaining in play and may offer reasonable board control from turn 2 (with the Coin) to 5. Cards costed 3 or less with Charge have 3 or less attack, except for Arcane Golem- a card that I have not seen a lot of on the ranked ladder. The real concerns are Polymorph effects and Silence effects which still are threats available for 3-mana or less. After and during turn 5, things start to get more difficult for Eydis and Fjola, but they will certainly require some resources before quitting the board.

Eydis Darkbane and Fjola Lightbane have created a great deal of excitement. My sense is that for a casual player these may be good investments, especially if playing buff-heavy classes such as Druid, Paladin or Priest or a Spare Parts-heavy strategy.