Hearthstone’s Doom in the Tomb event completely upended the Constructed environment, but it had an even greater impact on the Arena: the game’s limited environment saw three massive changes for the duration of the event, the combined effects of which created a totally new, yet strangely familiar environment in the Arena. It’s all temporary but there are still quite a few tips and tricks to learn if you want to achieve the highest possible average in the event: as it turns out, it’s all about the fundamentals in this year’s Dual-Class Arena, regardless of all the fancy options you’d expect to be flying around.
The Hallow’s End Arena Changes
There were three massive changes introduced with the Hallow’s End event for the Arena, some temporary, some permanent. As is customary at this time of year, the game mode is dual-class, meaning you select not one but two classes to play, drafting a deck from the collected pool of offerings from both. It’s the second choice which matters more, as that is the one that gets you the hero power. Those are not created equal:
The cards available in the Arena were also changed for this event, and it’s the first time ever that the Classic and Basic sets are not draftable in the format. Instead, it’s all the Wild cards (plus Ragnaros the Firelord and Sylvanas Windrunner from the Hall of Fame), which means this is the list of expansions and adventures you can expect cards from to show up:
- Curse of Naxxramas
- Goblins vs Gnomes
- Blackrock Mountain
- The Grand Tournament
- The League of Explorers
- Whispers of the Old Gods
- One Night in Karazhan
- Mean Streets of Gadgetzan
- Journey to Un’goro
- Knights of the Frozen Throne
- Kobolds & Catacombs
Having only above sets available means that all the staple cards from the evergreen sets are gone for now, and with this, almost the entire slate of class identities you’re familiar with. Paladin can no longer play a Truesilver Champion on Turn 4, nor Mage can cast a Flamestrike on Turn 7. There is no Sap to play around against Rogues, no Shadow Word: Pain for Priests in the early game. Warriors won’t have Execute or Brawl, Shamans can’t cast Hex or Lightning Storm. The list goes on. It’s a crazy world.
Last, but certainly not the least, is the removal of the “buckets” from Arena, at least for now. If you’re not familiar with the term, “buckets” refer to the way cards offered alongside one another in a draft were determined by the game. Originally, this was simply done by the rarity gems in the cards, offering three Commons, three Rares et cetera alongside one another. Eventually, Team 5 transitioned to a system which was originally meant to offer cards of similar strength alongside one another (ignoring rarity) to promote more interesting draft decisions. For now, this system has been cast aside – you can read more about its pros and cons here – and instead, no restrictions at all are in place on the cards next to one another. It means that not only you can see cards from different rarities, but also vastly different power levels offered next to each other.
This has a massive effect on the gameplay experience. Since one of the cards offered will often be clearly superior to the rest, the drafting process of the Arena will be simpler and more streamlined than for the last few expansions. However, it also means that knowing which cards are good in Arena plays a significantly bigger role than before, where you could pick any card, since they were close to each other anyway. The overall quality of decks is also much lower than it was in the past, simply because you have much less wiggle room in drafting for synergies without incurring a heavy penalty in value. (The buckets-based system also pretty much ensured that you’d end up with a few premium cards every draft, which is no longer the case here.) It also seems like the standard bonuses for class cards and spells were also removed with the changes – either on purpose or an accident –, which means there are very few initiative tools in an average. We’ll discuss how this impacts the gameplay experience later in this article.
How to Choose Classes in the Dual-Class Arena?
There are three factors to consider here: the strength of the class’ card pool in this wacky format, its synergy with your other class choice and the impact of the hero power selection. Warlock and Shaman clearly have a leg up on the rest of the field in this department, with the former gaining an even stronger arsenal of removal and AoE tools alongside strong early-game presence and the latter’s weapons toolkit and overstatted minions. Paladin and Mage are on the other end of the spectrum, losing their iconic evergreen toolkit with fairly little to show for it – though Jaina at least has one of the better hero powers to compensate.
So how do you mix and match the classes? This is one of those cases where HSReplay is not a reliable source of information as the site collects data based on the first class picked. That is, however, the less important choice to make as it is the second one which determines your hero power. As such, it’s counterproductive to pick a strong class with a good hero power on your first choice, simply because you lock yourself out of drafting it the second time around and therefore lose the chance of getting its hero power for the run. By the same token, Warrior will always be picked first by any player worth their salt simply because you do not want to be stuck with Armor Up in this format. As a rule of thumb, Warlock, Warrior and Priest have good control tools while Shaman has the standout card quality. Still, the classes with the ability to deal one damage (“ping”) with their hero power are all viable choices for the second selection, making Mage, Rogue and Druid reasonable jack-of-all-trade options. Hunter’s Steady Shot is great for any aggressive kind of gameplan and Life Tap remains a good source of value, though perhaps not as effective in this year’s Dual-Class Arena as it usually tends to be.
Once again though: this is a crazy time-limited event, so it’s somewhat of a wasted opportunity to min-max it. Try the craziest thing to think of and have some fun with it at least for a few runs – that’s what the free Arena ticket is for, after all!
Gameplay Tips & Tricks for the Dual-Class Arena
There’s a reason why many are referring to the current Arena meta as “Neutralstone”: the changes made to the drafting system coupled with what look like fundamental changes to the offering rates pushed the power level of the decks to incredibly low levels. There are very few class cards and spell offered, which means most Arena matches devolve into minion-on-minion combat with a huge emphasis on tempo. You just simply aren’t offered enough board clears and removal tools to reliably go for a dedicated control-oriented gameplan, and falling behind in the early turns often means death simply due to the repetitive damage dealt by the opponent’s one- and two-drops.
Since the pool of possible cards is so huge, it’s not worth playing around individual cards. In fact, many you’d instinctively consider are simply not in the format. No Hex, no Polymorph, no Flamestrike, no Sap, no Consecration: classes don’t really do what you’d normally expect them to, further eroding the potential for board clears and unexpected flip turns.
So where does that lead you? Identify the classes with the highest power level in terms of individual cards (again, Warlock and Shaman are a good starting point), draft a deck that’s capable of going fast – and since your opponent has likely done the same, play according to the tenets of aggro-versus-aggro matchups, which is, oddly enough, to value-trade until the cows come home. Since there are hardly any board clears and any tempo edge accrued is all but permanent, going two-for-one with any minion is a huge win. There are so few damage sources from hand that even a single Green Jelly can keep you alive if you’ve managed to take over the board – all but unthinkable in past metas.
It’s an odd amalgamation of systems and a fairly bland set of card offerings in an event which is known for its wacky hijinks – it remains to be seen whether Team 5 will find the time to adjust the rates which govern the appearance of spells and class cards, some of which were in place ever since the launch of the game. It may not me the flashiest of metas, but it’s not without merit: it serves as a fantastic way to really figure out the basics, focusing on tempo, value trades and basic minion interactions where you can’t just rely on a huge board clear or a two-card combo to bail you out. And for the oldtimers out there, it’s actually a pretty nostalgic gameplay experience…