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Hearthstone’s Arena Is Not Fun to Play

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By alexander_hinkleyDate: Apr 15 2016 Views:

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Arena

I made the mistake of playing Hearthstone’s Arena mode the other day in an effort to break up the monotony of playing the same handful of decks game in and game out just to remain competitive. I had previously sworn to never play Arena again because of how random it is. I love goofing around sometimes but there comes a point where the amount of randomness in the game totally defeats the purpose of playing. The screenshot above represents the last Arena game I will ever play.

This mode simply is not fun. Almost every game I played, the result was the same as the above screenshot – my opponent has a board full of minions and I have none. Those three minions I had on the battlefield in the above image were the most I was ever able to get out all game and the only reason they survived at all was because he attacked me for lethal damage instead of wiping them out. Unfortunately the game was long-since over. Let’s look at some of the problems of this mode.

Decks in Arena have no synergy. Unlike in constructed, your deck in Arena is just a bunch of random cards cobbled together. This means a card that has a special ability which works in conjunction with another card or card type is generally useless. Each turn is basically just slapping down your largest minion or as many minions as possible. There are fewer set-ups and combos. For example, cards that buff all other Murloc cards obviously aren’t worth playing when you have no other Murlocs.

I picked Paladin as my hero for this Arena session and I had the choice of zero removal or damage spells throughout all of my picks. No Consecrations in the card pool. No Hammers of Wrath. Heck, I never even saw a Humility to pick. Anybody who has played limited in Magic: the Gathering knows how important removal is in a draft or sealed format. Having a deck without a single removal or damage spell means I had already lost games before they even started.

I couldn’t pick any Paladin-specific cards that I liked, either. No Muster for Battle. No Aldor Peacekeeper. No Murloc Knight. I didn’t even see any Legendary cards to choose from in my pool even though several of my opponents both played at least one. Every card I had to draft from was as bland as it comes. Chillwind Yeti was one of my strongest cards. Think about that. Chillwind. Yeti. How is this supposed to be fun again?

Due to the lack of both synergy and removal, aggro decks are rewarded even more heavily in Arena than they are in other game modes. Aggro is already extremely prevalent in ranked, does it really need to be the overwhelming majority of decks in Arena as well? Blizzard must feel like they’ve failed when Hearthstone games go past three minutes long or something.

Arena

Nearly all of the games I played featured my opponent filling his board with weenies and pumping everything. In my first loss, the guy had six minions and played a Bloodlust to finish me off with over 20 damage in one turn. I had zero minions on the board.  The second loss came at the hands of back-to-back Savage Roars. Then look at the screenshot again, my third loss. Another full board versus a virtually empty one. These aren’t winnable games. There’s nothing I could have done differently. Losing games like these is not testament to my skill or to my opponent’s. Three out of four games (one win my opponent disconnected so really I only got to play four games) end with one guy barely even being touched and having 20-30 power on board compared to the other guy getting completely blown out and having 0-6 damage on board, something’s wrong mechanically. This isn’t fun.

At least in constructed wins and losses feel earned (most of the time anyway – RNG losses are always bitter and RNG wins bittersweet). None of the wins or losses in Arena feels earned. Arena is the equivalent of mana screw in Magic the Gathering. Good job you killed me because I couldn’t play anything. You must be the best!

I’ve referenced MTG a few times in this article but the truth is limited in Magic is nothing like Arena in Hearthstone. Limited in Magic actually requires just as much if not more skill at the game compared to constructed  play whereas Arena arguably takes no skill at all because it’s so random. Is there a way for a Paladin to win the game highlighted in the screenshot at the beginning of this article without a board wipe? No, there isn’t. That’s a huge problem, because it means the game was already decided before we even started playing. And if that’s the case… why bother playing at all?

I’m sure some of this article’s more braggadocious readers will attempt to say I’m just bad at the game or the mode and while I could potentially persuade these naysayers by pointing out my ranked record or tournament history, there’s really no point in it (plus chances aren’t they wouldn’t have even read this far before commenting anyway). I’ll just say this, though: there’s only so much you can do when the best card in your entire deck is a Chillwind Yeti!

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