Is Random (RNG) Resource Generation in Hearthstone Too Strong?

One of the defining features of a digital card game compared to a physical card game is the ease at which random effects can be handled. It is possible to generate anything out of thin air, you’re not limited to just a bunch of 1/1 tokens or such, but can instead create entirely new cards, which in turn can create entirely new cards, which in turn can create entirely new cards… But at what point is it too much?

Early Forged in the Barrens definitely had its fair share of random outcomes thanks to the prevalence of Deck of Lunacy. After the nerf, Deck of Lunacy is mostly gone, even while No Minion Mage as an archetype has continued as one of the better decks in the game. Randomness as a whole, however, has not gone anywhere.

Randomness Incarnate: Priest

The main representative of random outcomes in the current Hearthstone meta is Priest. The deck is one continuous stream of random effects:

When playing against Priest, I have at times been unprepared for the seventh Sethekk Veilweaver or the fourth Soul Mirror. With more careful use of resources, perhaps such threats could have been answered effectively.

A Priest deck can easily play more generated cards than cards from the deck during a game.

While Priest is strong at the moment, it is not the best deck in the game. In fact, better decks such as Secret Paladin and Rush Warrior, contain fairly little randomness in them. Clearly, random resource generation is not the most powerful feature in the current meta. However, it can still be problematic.

High-Variance Outcomes

Randomness can be problematic when the outcomes differ from each other significantly: while a card may be balanced on average, its effect in individual games can provide huge swings that win or lose the game on their own.

Jandice Barov is a good example of high variance. Jandice’s low-roll is a 1/1 Blood Herald, and her high-roll is a 7/8 Earth Elemental or game-changing value from the additional resources generated by Envoy Rustwix. Interestingly enough, Jandice had even more variance during Madness at the Darkmoon Faire, but she became more consistent and even more powerful after the rotation. This increased power led to her mana cost being increased from five to six, and yet she is still a great card. Blizzard was not worried about a strong card with high variance and only chose to intervene when the power level increased further.

Runed Orb is another good example. It is currently played in slow burn decks, and there are not that many direct damage spells in the game. Consequently, whenever you manage to discover Apexis Blast or Fireball from Runed Orb, your odds of winning that particular game increase by as much as ten percent.

These types of random outcomes do not seem to bother the developers. Even when cards are strong and swingy, they are fine as long as they do not become absolutely dominant like Deck of Lunacy did before it was nerfed.

Resource-Generation Chains

On the other hand, Blizzard is well aware that repeatable random resource generation can be oppressive. Dragonqueen Alexstrasza was the key moment, as she was initially changed to not be able to generate another copy of herself, and later this was turned into a general rule that prevents Discover cards from discovering new copies of themselves.

However, this does not prevent more indirect forms of resource-generation chains from happening. Some examples of such chains include the following:

The existence of repeated random resource generation can make it nigh impossible for a deck to run out of resources, and given enough time, can result in answers to almost all situations. While this does not make the decks with random elements the best ones, it can have a major effect on the overall meta: the slower your deck, the more you are exposed to repeated random generation, and the better the odds that a deck full of randomness can answer all of your threats. As a consequence, playing faster decks is preferable, when it is not possible to play around random things.

Are Cards Strong Because They Are Random, or Are They Just Strong?

It is important to distinguish between random outcomes that take games into completely surprising directions from random outcomes that are simply strong. Two prime examples here are Rinling's Rifle and First Day of School.

Rinling's Rifle‘s Secret pool was greatly diminished by the rotation. There are far fewer conditions to check for in Standard without cards like Snipe and Pressure Plate in the Hunter Secret pool. The Secret pool did not grow any stronger on average, either. Yet, Rinling's Rifle continues as one of the strongest Hunter cards in the game. Getting a free Secret, any Secret, into play from the weapon is just that strong, even when the overall pool is weaker now.

First Day of School has a bunch of variance included: it is not quite the same to pick up an Imprisoned Gan'arg as it is to get a Safety Inspector. You may even gain access to Mage spells through Wand Thief. However, almost all outcomes of First Day of School are just insanely powerful. Using one card and zero mana to get access to two one-cost minions is just really, really strong. The random aspect of First Day of School is a minor part of its overall power. (Note: That part was written before balance update, but I’ve decide to leave it, because the point still stands.)

Consequences of Randomness

As randomness in the game increases, the skill cap becomes lower. It becomes impossible to play around all the random outcomes, and the edge you can gain in the game becomes smaller.

When extraordinarily strong random outcomes exist, games are simply decided by them. It does not matter what the opposing player does when one player rolls high enough.

When significant resource generation exists, decks that use it get to play with near-infinite resources, which drives slow decks out of the meta as they cannot keep up. This makes the meta faster and more aggressive as a response.

We can see all of these effects in the current state of Hearthstone. The level of skill one could display in the original game was higher than it is in the current Standard format. If you take a good look at Hearthstone esports, you can see how there are more non-games now compared to a few years ago. Skill can still decide games, but the advantage a good player can gain over other competent players is smaller than before.

We are also seeing a smaller number of different archetypes than before: almost all decks are some form of aggro decks that can snowball an early advantage and finish the game in just a few turns if everything goes perfectly. Combo decks are almost gone, with Lifesteal OTK Demon Hunter the only one trying to get something done. Control decks are almost gone, with Control Warlock slowly fading away and Control Priest being the only competitive control deck. Traditional midrange decks do not exist either: Midrange Demon Hunter is the closest thing to a midrange deck in the meta, and it is struggling as well.

Random resource generation is not the only contributing factor to this development, but it is one major reason.

However, does it matter?

Decks may be more uniform than before, but the game is faster-paced. Keeping the game fast can be good and attractive to players.

Randomness may lead to a less skill-intensive environment, but it can also generate flashy moments that did not exist in vanilla Hearthstone. The things that can happen in the game right now are mind-blowing compared to what was possible before. Blizzard has clearly embraced these spectacular moments with their decisions to not touch high-rolling random effects unless their overall power level becomes too strong: they are fine with individual games being decided in big explosions as long as they do not decide all games.

Hearthstone is a very different game than it was back in 2014. You can time travel to that era anytime thanks to the Classic format to see for yourself. Much of this development has been intentional. This is the Hearthstone the developers want to play. Maybe it is the Hearthstone you want to play as well.

Old Guardian

Ville "Old Guardian" Kilkku is a writer and video creator focused on analytic, educational Hearthstone, and building innovative Standard format decks. Youtube: Twitch:

Check out Old Guardian on Twitter or on their Website!

Leave a Reply


  1. Thortsein
    May 14, 2021 at 7:57 am

    I’ve always felt that RNG gets a bad reputation because of hindsight bias. People are much more likely remember the times they were screwed by RNG rather than helped. In the long run, good luck and bad luck are equally distributed between all players. RNG is a zero sum event, for every time you lose to RNG you’ll win because of it another time. Obviously there are some cards that are too problematic, like the original Yogg, but overall, I think RNG card generation is a great skill tester. People with consistently high win rates are people who are open to the opportunities that RNG can create.

    Without RNG we’d all just be playing chess and that gets boring.

  2. Vincent
    May 14, 2021 at 5:02 am

    I love cards that generate cards or effects, a strong aspect of a digital cardgame. I love the new Kazakus, I love to discover cards. I dislike cards that intervene too much with your hand and deck. I hate Mindrender Illucia and Tickatus.

    • Junehearth
      May 14, 2021 at 6:08 am

      Discover mechanic is ungealthy to strategy. It gives access to more number of tools than acceptable. For example, a horrible card designs are wand thief or renew. Controlled randomness is healthy. A fantastic card design is wandmaker.

  3. Porror
    May 14, 2021 at 1:19 am

    Hey topdecks, I just want to balance the discussion here. Because I think people who like RNG, like me, are also people who would less likely read your article and subsequently also not be part of the comments.

    For me hearthstone is the ideal mix between rng and skill. Any games that embraces a good deal of luck is ideal as a hobby. I also believe luck is an element that too many people focus too much on. In poker you can really say that luck of the cards should be the top factor in any game but I wouldn’t want to gamble against professionals. Chess is a good example of a game where RNG is nonexistent, but I’d rather play a game of heartstone or poker.

  4. Archadoom
    May 13, 2021 at 11:51 pm

    First i want to say that i am happy that someone talked about it but i disagree i think that in past years of hs the RNG was so mush powerfull,now is only mage and priest (to have a little RNG like hunter weapon doesnt hurt me or first day of school,we speak about 2 cards in each deck that contains 30,with that RNG i can accept it and is ok),to have these 2 classes so random effects is that dissapont and is out of control especially priest and luna mage(even after nerf),these 2 classes right now they are 2 standard picks in tournaments and they are in every category in ladder from bronze 10 until high legend,so i dont think they will nerf all priest/mage cards with random effects and we must endure it for 2 years to play again these 2 classes with so RNG and lets hope in mini set or in the next 2 expansions do not see any more created by,it is nice to be as i said previously only 1 card x2 times in your deck and is different to be 2-5 cards x2 that is your 1/3 of your deck rng

  5. Junehearth
    May 13, 2021 at 4:53 pm

    I was both surprised and happy that this issue is being talked about. There is just too much resource generation. It takes zero skill. Wand thief and renew are cards that should not exist. I lose all my games due to too many discover effects. Discover is a toxic mechanic. I just hate all discover cards.

  6. PitLord
    May 13, 2021 at 2:57 pm

    “If you take a good look at Hearthstone esports, you can see how there are more non-games now compared to a few years ago”, You just have to look any mirror match with mage in specialist format (a mode that i hate) .

  7. Bicycleghost
    May 13, 2021 at 1:33 pm

    I might be mistaken, but didn’t they say, a few expansions ago, that they are trying to drop the level of RNG, slowly in the next expansions? For me, the level of RNG is slowly becoming unbearable. One of the cards I hated the most in the last few years was ‘The Amazing Reno’. Such a bad hero power, yet the battle cry was too good to pass on. Sad 🙁

    • Stonekeep - Site Admin
      May 13, 2021 at 6:32 pm

      Yes, they’ve said that they want to reduce it. And honestly, they did. Forged in the Barrens has much less resource generation than previous expansions (although we have one very popular Neutral one – Venomous Scrorpid). But we’ll really need another rotation to feel the results, because 2020 had a lot of random resource generation.

      It’s already better than last year after Lackeys have rotated out, though. Right now lots of resource generation is mostly limited to Priest, and Mage to a certain extent (but not as much).

    • Gtom
      May 14, 2021 at 8:26 am

      They said that randomness will be reduced. It was by the time when Discover keyword was introduced. Up until then it was always Add X into your hand. I don’t think there are too many resource generation cards, the problem is some resource generation cards generate another resource generation cards.

      Palm reading or Renew are fine by themselves but combined together causes problems. Similar Venomous Scorpid is strong but fine but combined with resurrect mechanic of Raise dead causes issues.

      I do wonder why too much card draw per turn can be an obvious issue but at the same time too much card generation per turn is being overlooked easily by developers. Maybe 30x Priest ban in 32 games of week 5 of GM will be a wake up moment.

  8. Giovinap
    May 13, 2021 at 12:45 pm

    I am in the dislike RNG group. I am not impressed by WOW moments when I have spent 3 or 4 turns to build the perfect end game board to watch someone spin Yogg’s wheel and wipe it clean or watch a mage play their Nth flame strike haha. I can see why it would be fun to be on on the other side though.

  9. Goblinta
    May 13, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    Randomness bothers Spike.

    It can bother Johnny.

    Little Timmy ADORES randomness.

    I am the Timmy-est of all Timmy’s.

    For god’s sake, I still play Duels and a lot of Duels at that.

    I think the randomness is just fantastic.

    It makes for entertaining games.

    It makes for “remember these forever” moments.

    Some of those moments are Heroic Triumphs.

    Some of these are Slapstick Comedies.

    Some of these are Ancient Greek Tragedies.

    But they give Hearthstone a lot of its soul.


    Without RNG,

    How would Trolden spend his time?

    • Nerose
      May 13, 2021 at 2:49 pm

      Yes! Well said! I love being a Timmy, and Duels is my favorite mode.

    • Stonekeep - Site Admin
      May 13, 2021 at 6:37 pm

      Yeah, that’s why I think that there needs to be some balance. Clearly there are people who like RNG, otherwise they wouldn’t design cards like that. I honestly think that the game would be boring without any kinds of random card generation, discovers, RNG effects etc. Some matchups would get old very quickly, as much as it’s annoying to lose because your opponent got a perfect card. But for me it’s not very fun knowing how each step of the matchup is going to go and often relying on a different kind of RNG to decide the games – draw RNG.

      But last year was horrible, we had SO MUCH resource generation that it was crazy. There’s a point at which you just can’t play around anything, because opponent is generating more cards than they’re drawing. That’s why I like having some RNG, because it adds variance, and makes people use cards they normally wouldn’t have (lots of unplayable cards are used in cool and interesting ways because they’re generated at the right time). But if there’s too much of it, it also gets unfun very quickly.