As I am finishing up watching this weekend’s Summer HCT NA Championship, I find myself asking if this weekend satisfied my thirst for competitive Hearthstone. I was startled by my revelation that I really don’t know. While there were some very well played games, and I love seeing the influence that the Kara adventure is already having on the tournament meta, I am still seeing great play and strategy at risk of being completely undone and overshadowed by RNG. I actually found the Batstone event to more entertaining and though invoking.
After the Grand Finals today, I took to Twitter to see what was being said about today’s final matches. While some tweets were congratulatory of the participants, I found that far more people were complaining about the state of the game. Most of the comments revolved around Hearthstone not being able to be considered a real competitive esport because of the vast amount of RNG involved. The most common complaint is that the amount of RNG in the pro scene prevents organizations from being able to maintain enough consistency to allow them to field much in the way of pro teams. Card games already have an inherent random element to them, so I ask, how much is truly too much?
I have an opinion on that, and if you have listened to the show or read any of my blogs, then you know that I am not short on opinions. While it is no secret that I am not a fan of most RNG, a certain degree of RNG does keep a certain level of unpredictability in the games. I don’t like to see a flawless game upset by one RNG based card. I say that, but we are fortunate enough to play the game in a vacuum. Let’s say that you are playing a game outdoors, such as golf. Most golfers come into an event having a general knowledge of the course. They know their opponents, for the most part, and know how they like to attack the course. The golfer comes in with a strategy for each hole and how they want to navigate their way to the finish. With all that prep, the one thing they cannot control is the weather. The weather can affect the course in so many different ways, and you can prepare for those to a certain degree, but things can also change quickly. Elements such as the wind, can even change direction in the amount of time it takes a golfer to complete their swing. So even those sports that have been around for decades have had to deal with random elements. That being said, not every golfer is having to play through a hurricane or tornado (or both) somewhere between holes 1-4, and it sometimes seems that happens at some point in every match in the Hearthstone Tournament scene. If you have played in even local open events, you have probably run into this and the rage is real.
Standard was supposed to fix the pro scene, right? I know that Standard format kept me playing Hearthstone after the meta became stale and outright boring to me. I championed it’s arrival and I feel that it has already had an impact on the game, but it isn’t done yet. Like most things worth saving, it takes time, effort, and patience. The last thing I wanted to see was the dumpster fire of pro team after pro team shuttering their line-ups in the same way that recently occurred with Heroes of the Storm, but that is exactly what has happened. Their reasoning? Predictable deckbuilding, problems with the current Conquest format, and more games being decided by RNG have made it virtually impossible for players to have consistent success across the board. Let’s look at the list of competitive teams that have left scene in just the last few months:
While I am certain there will be teams that step up to take their place, I am also certain that there will be more teams folding as long as the perception is that RNG is more impactful than skill.
Do I think that their is too much RNG in competitive Hearthstone? Yes, and I am not alone. The number of viewers that tuned into Batstone compared to the number of viewers I saw over the course of this weekend proves, in my mind at least, that people want to watch Hearthstone where skill is rewarded. However, I do think that there is perhaps an overreaction to the current state of the game. The Standard format is just beginning to influence Hearthstone, and I feel that before people pass judgement on the pro scene, we need to give the Standard format a little longer to impact that game and prove that Blizzard can use it to influence the game. Knee jerk reactions and nerfs are not always the answer, and to throw up our hands before seeing a at least a full cycle of Standard is like firing a coach after the first year. Hearthsone is young, and Blizzard is still working through how to best present it. With that being said, sponsorship is important for any sport/esport, and sponsors need to see a return on it’s investment. I stand by my opinion that a knee jerk reaction isn’t what is needed here, but I will also concede that if Blizzard doesn’t want to spend years trying to repair this brand, they will need to move faster than their normal glacial pace. So what’s the answer to my original question of “Did this weekend’s event satisfy my thirst for competitive Hearthstone?” I would say “yes”, but with concern for the future.