Design, Hearthstone

Hearthstone – Role of Randomness

With the release of new Goblins vs Gnomes cards, and the appearance of random effects revealed, I would like to talk about the role that randomness plays in Hearthstone. Card games are known to be random due to the act of drawing. The randomness of card draws tests you to make the best of the situation with what you have. But in Hearthstone, the randomness doesn’t just end there. Monsters and spells can target random minions or do random amounts of damage. How does this prevalence of randomness affects gameplay?

The Ways Randomness Affect Hearthstone
• Randomness as a mechanic
• Adds Challenges
• Help New Players
• Memorable Games
• Fun

Randomness as a mechanic:
animalcompanionThe first belief that people have about randomness as a mechanic, is that is used as a balancing tool. Randomness is seen as a downside added to make sure cards aren’t too powerful. For example, Animal Companion is a 3 cost spell that summon beasts that are way stronger than any normal 3 cost counterpart. Musha is a 4/4 with taunt that has 2 more stats than Ironfur Grizzly. Hogger has 2 more stats than Wolfrider. Leokk has 2 more health than Raid Leader. Imagine how much stronger Animal Companion would be if you could choose which beast appears.
However randomness also acts as a soft counter to stealth and taunt. An example that already exists is using Deadly Shot to deal with stealth Gadgetzen Auctioneer. Since random effect doesn’t need to be targeted, stealth minions aren’t safe from their effects. It is no mistake that Bomb Lobber does 4 damage to a random minion. This is Blizzard’s response to make sure all classes have an answer to the playstyle of Miracle Rogue. The ability to bypass Taunt gives aggressive decks another resource to use to manage a win through control decks.
But why don’t we just make a card to remove stealth (or directly bypass Taunt)? This known as a hard counter. One example currently exist in the form of Flare. However it is important to not introduce too many hard counters into the game. (Some are allowed, to act like emergency brakes). The reason is because having too many hard counter would drive one mechanic to extinction. If too many hard counters to stealth exists, then stealth wouldn’t be viable to play, so people would stop using it. And if that happens, people would stop using stealth counters. And then you can have a bunch of cards that people just aren’t playing. Or worse you create a seesaw effect where people are just jumping from stealth to non-stealth as the prevalence of counters change. Having soft counters allow both stealth and their counters to exist at the same time, because there is a chance that stealth works fine and chance that it would fail.

Adds Challenges:
knifejugglerOne of the biggest complaint about randomness is that it adds luck to the game and take away skill. People argue that randomness dilute the meaning of a victory. However, I believe that randomness give players another way to show they are skillful. It takes skills and careful planning to manipulate randomness in your favor. This could mean clearing your opponent’s field of all creatures so that your Ragnaros is sure to hit your opponent’s face or even just clearing a favorable board position, where it would be beneficial even if Ragnaros kill one of your opponent’s minions instead. Randomness cause constantly different board position and the player is tested in their ability to adapt to each situation. This can be seen when you are trying to clear your opponent’s board with a Knife Juggler. As the your Knife Juggler’s is throwing knifes and ticking down the health of your opponent’s health, you unlock new options to trade favorably. Knowing how to take advantage of the randomness is a mark of a skilled player.
And not just in playing the game, control of randomness can be seen in deck creation. Mad Bomber has been seen in some pass decklists of Control Paladin or Aggro Warrior. In Control Paladin, Mad Bomber’s random effect is combined with Equability and Acolyte of Pain. In Aggro Warrior, Mad Bomber can be used to gain tempo on your opponent or enrage your on Raging Worgen. Players take the random effects into account and build decks to extract the most value out of them, so that even bad rolls can be useful.

Help New Players:
webspinnerAt times, there is going to be a less skilled player playing against a more skilled player. Matchmaking will never be perfect and maybe old players are just introducing the game to a new player. The less skilled player has to believe that he or she have a chance to win. Not feeling that there is a chance to win is what makes a player feel like surrendering. If all the new players keep getting constantly beaten and not think they can compete with existing player base, they would get discouraged and just quit. And the growth of the game will stall. But if there could be a chance for the less experience player to win, they would continue to play another game. This effect is already integrated into the random draws that you experience. But in Hearthstone, it is compounded by the random effects of the minions. Variance is an advantage the favors the less skilled player more than the skilled player. There are effects such as Webspinner or the new Unstable Portal that adds a random minion, not from the player’s deck, to their hand. This is an interesting way to introduce new cards to new players.

Memorable Games:
ragnarosHave you ever been at 8 health with a minion of the field and then your opponent plays a Ragnaros on the field? Did you hold your breath waiting to see where that fireball lands at the end of the turn? Random effect creates tension and excitement in the game because who know what would happen. You don’t know, your opponent doesn’t know, all the viewers doesn’t know. It is not a surprise that Hearthstone quickly became such a Spectator game. Everyone has those stories, stories of a crazy top deck that won you the game, or a perfect Knife Juggler roll screwed you over or even the crazy Mad Bomber that tied the game. These memorable moments, good or bad is what creates meaningful stories that you share with your friends and for some, is the content on Youtube that brought laughs to many.

madbomberAnd lastly randomness is just fun. Fun, crazy, wackiness! Let’s not forget why we are playing games. Sure, it can be to winning. But why do we play to win, because that is fun too! So let’s go, draw some card, roll some dice and have some fun!





Battletag: XinVL


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