Hearthstone's latest adventure One Night in Karazhan is a very upbeat set thematically — but the card collection has caused a lot of consternation amongst competitive fans from the get-go. Constructed players were mad about the release of Purify for the nonexistent ninth class, while the oppressive Shamans received more tools. Arena players were mad about Firelands Portal being a common, cementing Jaina Proudmoore as the tyrant queen of the arena.
Indeed, the backlash from the community is so intense that within weeks of Karazhan's full release the devs responded with an arena card ban list and card nerfs. It's been a little over a week since the card nerfs, and well, Midrange Shamans dominate the ranked meta as Mages still terrorize the arena.
While there is still some potential for new decks and strategies to emerge, there is only so much innovation you can squeeze of the adventure and card nerfs. There won't be a new Hearthstone card release for at least 1–2 months, and this is being optimistic that Blizzard is sticking to the annual production goal of two expansions plus one adventure. Though Hearthstone remains an amazing game despite the imbalance, even the most dedicated players can get bored during long stretches of nothingness. The meta starts to get stale, and it's just the same old sauce curdling in your bowl. Luckily, there are ways to keep Hearthstone fresh as we approach the stale meta phase of the game.
1. Jump In The Arena
Tired of this oppressive and un-interactive meta? Play Arena! While some of us play it by default, I say this knowing that Hearthstone is defined by Constructed/Ranked. Good/pro players are known for how many times they achieved Legend, and an overwhelming majority of players stick with Constructed.
There are many benefits to playing Hearthstone Arena. First of all, the satisfaction of doing well in the Arena with your draft can't be rivaled by any other feeling. The Arena forces you to make tough decisions during your draft, as you are building a deck from scratch. You will be forced to take bad cards from time to time. And winning a game with some crappy card is just an amazing feeling. You learn to appreciate overlooked cards that don't ever appear in Constructed.
Which brings me to my second point. You get a much deeper connection to all the cards from Arena play and will likely develop an encyclopedic knowledge of cards from the exposure. You begin to have affinities to cards that you become comfortable playing (Addled Grizzly). And I believe there are much greater stories stemming from the Arena. The factors that come into play — from the two differently built drafts and the bigger card pool, to the gameplay decision-making — all mingle into something magical. You will remember epic moments in the Arena, and also certain runs.
From a resource standpoint, Arena runs typically break even around three wins, which is a completely achievable 50 percent win rate. With deeper Arena runs, you start making gold profits, but these runs will typically help you build your collection through card packs, building up your dust. This may be underrated, but it can easily give you a leg up in crafting whatever you want for the next card expansion.
2. Try Something New
Playing Arena as a Constructed player is technically trying something new, but there are other things you can do within the game. Despite being a wasteland for broken cards, Wild Hearthstone will instantly provide relief from seeing the same deck rotation in Standard. Overall there's more deck and class diversity, with viable Priests running amok. A player in Wild also has the chance to create deeper decks with all the cards around. While things are unsettled, Wild has a chance to appeal to a distinct audience once there are more card sets in the game.
It also isn't a horrible idea to try a new deck if you're sticking with the Standard meta. We're still fresh off the recent nerfs, and decks are currently in the process of optimization. Before everyone figures things out, take advantage by busting a out new deck. It doesn't even have to be some whole new deck, just variations and techs off a popular archetype. I recently made a RenoLock deck without any guides, and it came out quite differently to the conventional Reno deck. And it has a 67 percent win rate now, at Rank 10! I don't expect this to keep up as I climb the ranks, but it is fun to win with such a deck.
Hearthstone can also be made a fun experience when playing with other people. I recently started playing Arena co-ops with Tweeps who love the Arena as much as I do. I've always seen Arena co-ops on streams, but never imagined I would be part of one myself. There are so many benefits in being part of an Arena co-op, namely, having an extra set of eyes to evaluate the board state, as well as learning the play style of others. Debating plays and picks is also a quality of the Arena co-op.
3. Set New Goals
Sometimes you won't even notice the arduous Ranked meta when you have a set goal in mind. While grinding to legend status — or some other arbitrary rank — is a real goal, the ability to keep a winning streak is all the more magnified on the path to attaining said goal. You'll probably get more bummed out than before.
In my opinion, grinding for a golden hero, with 500 ranked wins, is the best way to not notice the meta. I acquired golden Rogue in the throes of the Huntertaker meta, shortly after the release of Blackrock Mountain. I had about 400 wins when I picked up the "Fast/Cycle Rogue" deck, which was essentially an aggro deck that tried to outrace Face Hunters. While my win rate was fairly close to 50 percent, the games were not only fast but also fun, as I was playing a whole new Rogue deck. Though I am nowhere close to earning another golden hero, the push I had for golden Rogue was a great lesson in not noticing what was going on in the meta.
Another goal one could take on is beating the Heroic difficulty on the adventures. While these guides exist on HearthPwn and elsewhere, this isn't really a fun way to go about it, more of a quick cheese to get the card backs. Take the time to go through the Heroic adventure levels, refine your deck strategy, and repeat. It could be a new rewarding experience within the game you are tired of playing.
4. Play Less Hearthstone
Despite being classified once as a stress-relieving game on Google Play, Hearthstone is far from relaxing. The time going into a stale meta is a good time to try out some other games. The natural digression from Hearthstone would be other electronic card games. The Elder Scrolls: Legends is a similar card game from The Elder Scrolls franchise, and has a greater deck-building capacity, with at least 50 cards in a set. Further, there are fun lane effects that remind me of field power bonuses from Yu-Gi-Oh!, as well as unique qualities in runes and prophecies. Duelyst is another cool card game that has elements of grid movement and positioning. Also, Duelyst is a game that releases four new cards every month, allowing things to not go completely stale.
If one needs a little time off Hearthstone, there are plenty of gaming options right on the Battle.net launcher. WoW and Heroes of the Storm are free-to-play games that one can jump right into. I personally have gone back to playing occasional Heroes games in groups versus computers. WoW is a different beast within itself, and can potentially suck you in for eternity. Overwatch, Blizzard's FPS endeavor, seems to remain strong, is staking it's claim as a competitive eSport.
5. Create Something
Taking a prolonged break from Hearthstone could be detrimental to one's long-term prospects as you get behind earning gold and understanding the competitive meta. A dull grinding phase should not be a reason to walk away from such an amazing game. There are ways to dial back your Hearthstone play, while maintaining your love for the game. Get creative. Start streaming your matches on Twitch and YouTube. Write about it, vlog about it. Record podcasts about the game. If you can draw, create a Hearthstone masterpiece! Channel your inability to play the game into something positive for the community.
Tell me in the comments section below about what you do to keep Hearthstone fresh.