With the upcoming changes to Hearthstone, there are more than a few people flaming out on the forums (well anywhere they can complain about it really) that the changes will make it easier to get Legend. They think all the good players will be playing Standard, and because all the good players will be in Standard, the scrubs can make it to Legend on the “Wild Side” (see what I did there?). At the risk of drawing the ire of our listeners, I wanted to put my opinion out there for those players who don’t really know what to think about all this. It’s easy to get caught up in other people’s tirades because they tend to be louder, talk more, and generally be more consistent in pushing their opinion on anyone within earshot. When other people bring up valid points, these individuals attack the person bringing up the points rather than making sound arguments about why they feel the way they do. This blog post is not meant to convert anyone to my way of thinking. Nor does this blog post necessarily represent the feelings of my co-hosts. This blog post is being written for players who are caught up in the whirlwind of online toxicity and wondering where they fall on the side of the two debates on skill that I will talk about in this post. It is meant to simply lay out a point of view I feel is a healthier alternative to tearing people down for playing the game the way they want.
So let’s talk about the term “Snowflake” and why it is a thing. When you hear people talking about “Snowflake” decks, they are talking about decks created outside of the Netdeck meta in any particular card game. A unique deck if you will. The people that lean towards “Snowflakes” tend to care less about what the meta is and more focused on what it will be, or changing the existing meta. The Netdeck community in Hearthstone tends to look down on “Snowflakes”, unless they prove to be successful however, then they will sing their praises and defend their right to play them until their last breath. I love seeing new and creative decks as I ladder. It helps to break the monotony that oftentimes finds it’s way into the grind as I have to play the against the same decks again and again. While not always effective, I have seen some really cool ideas and gotten ideas of my own from playing against “Homebrews” as they are often called.
So now let’s talk about “Netdeck” and what that means. “Netdecking” is the process of going online and finding a deck someone else has created and playing it yourself. These decks are usually the decks the community has deemed the most powerful or efficient. The people who “Netdeck” tend to find more fun in winning than creating, or are unable to create decks that meet their own standards. “Snowflakes” have been known to look down on “Netdeck” players as unimaginative and even as cheaters, to a degree. Personally, I believe that finding a deck you want to play online and building it yourself is not cheating, and not all players who use “Netdecks” are unimaginative. I think the “Netdeck” community as a whole are more focusing on the climb and getting the highest ranking possible each season and they are willing to use almost any deck to get there. This strategy is not without it’s own merit. To take someone else’s idea and win with it does require skill. You have to learn how to play the deck competently in order to win consistently enough to reach the upper ranks.
Neither side of this debate has been particularly nice to each other. “Snowflake” players tend to talk down to “Netdeck” players, and I think “Netdeck” players do tend to be more defensive and as a result. I have found “Netdeck” players to be more vocal and toxic in places like the official forums. They tend to be of the belief that if you deviate from the meta, you are doing it wrong. It is not uncommon to find “Netdeck” players saying things like “People seem to take some special pride in making non-optimal decks AND THEN LOSING. I don’t get it. If you made a homebrew deck that’s worse than a netdeck, you wasted your time just to prove that you couldn’t reinvent the wheel”, or “They’re insisting on playing the game with some made up idea of ‘honor’ that nobody ****ing agreed to and then getting upset when they are beaten by superior decks”. It doesn’t help their case that, in the current meta, the net decks of choice are those many players have deemed “cheap” or “underhanded” in the way they win. These decks are perceived to require less skill and are more forgiving to misplays while still maintaining a high win rate at a relatively quick pace. In the eyes of the “Netdeck” player, this makes those decks optimal, but in the eyes of the “Snowflake” player, it makes them vile. Venom has not been exclusive to the side of the “Netdeck” community, and the “Snowflake” community has dished out it’s fair share of insults. It is common to see phrases like “I feel sad for people who have to netdeck to win.”, or “It’s pathetic that people use them because winning is the only way they can have fun”, and finally my personal favorite “Netdecking is no different than hiring someone (for free) to play the game for you”. As you can see, both sides have very different opinions about the proper way to play the game, and they don’t really mesh with the other players side.
So what’s all this really about? Why are people getting so upset in the way other people play the game? It’s just a game, right? In my opinion, it’s about all about validation. We all want to be a good player, a great player, the best player. I mean, who doesn’t want to be considered the best at doing something they invest time and energy into, right? It goes deeper than that though, and this is the part where our own perception of our skill becomes less important. Whether they want to admit it or not, almost every player wants everyone else to think they are a good player as well. This means that everyone starts looking for a measuring stick. This is where the pursuit of the elusive Legend Card Back comes into play, and in my opinion, where a big misconception has occurred. This card back is awarded to those players who surpass level one on the ladder in a given month. This card back is associated with those players who have a high degree of skill in Hearthstone, but this is a little misleading. The Legend card back is not an accurate representation of a highly skilled player. The Legend card back is representative of a player who possesses a high degree of skill AND/OR has an above average amount of desire/time devoted to climbing the ladder. Do I believe all players who have achieved Legend are skilled players? Yes, I do. Do I believe that all Legend players are highly skilled players? No, I do not. I believe that a highly skilled player in Hearthstone is able to win in a wide variety of situations and with a wide variety of decks. I do not believe that achieving Legend Rank in Hearthstone requires a person to be versatile. I believe it can be done by simply mastering an efficient deck, maybe two, and logging enough games to get there. Make no mistake about it, this still takes skill, but I believe it is more about time in game. Based on what I see, I believe that Legend rank is 30% skill and 70% time investment. Does this mean that I don’t respect a player for reaching Legend Rank? Quite the contrary, it takes a good deal of dedication and hard work to reach Legend, and I respect that regardless of the deck or decks you use to get there or whether you pulled it off the internet or made it yourself. It is an accomplishment to be proud of, but achieving the rank does not mean you are any more skilled than the level 14 who was only able to devote 11 hours of gameplay to climbing the ladder. That player could be doing his daily quests every day to save gold for the next expansion, because they can’t sink money into buying packs, or because they have other responsibilities outside of the game. The point I am trying to make is that the Legend title has become a tool for some to belittle the skill of those that have not made the time investment into reaching it, and that isn’t right. The title of Legend is a great carrot to keep us playing daily each month, but it isn’t for everyone, and it is not the measuring stick by which a player’s skill should be judged.
Golden Heroes are a little better at showing experience a player has with a certain class, but the game has been out long enough now that it is becoming common to see several Golden Heroes at any given play session and at any given rank. So then how can you tell when a player is highly skilled if you can’t rely on Golden Heroes or the Legendary card back? I think tournament performance is a good indicator. Just be sure to factor in who they have beaten, who handed them their loss, and not just the win/loss record. Other than that, just watch them play. They will see things that you won’t see, and it will be apparent. I believe there is a section of Hearthstone players out there who drive the meta with their ability to create and adapt deck concepts and consistently win with them. These players are creating the decks that people look up online and use to climb the ladder. Most of these players are already pros, but there are some very talented players out there who stream that aren’t Legend yet. I also believe that there are more than a few players who are participating in local tournaments, that are consistently giving proven players a run for their money. How do you know if you are a highly skilled player? Highly skilled players are equally adept control players, midrange players, and aggro players. They are effective regardless of the type of deck they are playing and can play at a high level when you take away resources or place difficult restrictions on them. Do I think a “Snowflake” player is a more skilled player than a “Netdeck” player because they built their own deck? No, I don’t. Nor do I believe that a “Netdeck” player is more skilled because they have a ridden the back of “Secret Paladin” or “Face Hunter” to 500 wins or even a Legend Card back.
In conclusion, I truly believe that there is more than enough room in Hearthstone for players of all styles and philosophies. You may not agree with my opinion, and you don’t have to, because that’s all this really is, one player’s opinion. A player should set their own goals and play the game the way they want, not letting anyone dictate their level of enjoyment through insult or shame. So whether you want to create your own deck to climb the ladder, or whether you want to play a proven deck and play to win, it’s your choice. That’s what makes games like this great. Now agree to disagree and get to playing, because that ladder isn’t going to climb itself!