Earlier this week, Iksar asked players for some feedback. His exact question was – “If Hearthstone used to be your main game but isn’t anymore, what would get you back?”. Of course, he got many different answers, but one that gets repeated very often is to reduce the amount of “created by” cards. Of course, it’s not the first time I read about it. “Created by” meta was widely discussed multiple times over the last few expansions. Depending on which decks were most popular, the complaints got more or less common, but they were always there.
The general population is definitely against it – at least if we extrapolate from the “vocal minority”, which participates in such discussions. But what exactly is the “created by” meta and is it as bad as people say?
History of “Created By” Cards
Back in the day, when Hearthstone was still a more fresh game, players usually played their 30 card decks and that’s it. Yes, we still had randomness – a lot of it in fact, but you know what cards you can expect, you know what your opponent can or can’t play from his hand. Not counting some rare techs, once you’ve seen the first few cards, you often knew your opponent’s entire deck list and they, for the most part, couldn’t play cards that aren’t on it. Sure, there were some exceptions, but for the most part they were either small (like Spare Parts in GvG) or not very strong.
Things have started changing when a new mechanic was introduced in League of Explorers – Discover. It was a love at the first sight – players really enjoyed to play around with it. It felt like a good kind of RNG, one that’s not completely random, one where you also have a choice. And that’s true – Discovering, especially from a small pool of options, is definitely less random and more skill-testing than completely random generation. Since players loved the mechanic, Blizzard has started to slap it everywhere (it’s also not the last time this happened – we could say the same thing about Rush cards too).
Over the next expansions, we’ve started getting more and more cards that create other cards, hitting an absolute peak in Year of the Dragon, with literally dozens of cards that create other cards per expansion. That’s also when the first more serious complaints started. Yes, I’ve read about the issue every now and then before, but it was never so apparent, and most of the players were more angry at RNG in general and not card generation in particular.
Why People Hate Them?
There are many reasons why people don’t like “created by” cards. The first one definitely has to be RNG. While we can never remove it from Hearthstone, it’s a card game after all, there were periods of time when the game felt less random, when we had decks that required a lot of skill to pilot and you couldn’t win with them just because you high rolled. Card generation adds to the RNG and removes part of the skill – you might know entire deck your opponent is playing, card for card, and still lose to a tech card that simply shouldn’t be there. A great example would be playing a weapon-based deck, knowing that your opponent doesn’t play weapon removal, only for him to play First Day of School, which generates Sky Raider, which generates Kobold Stickyfinger to steal your weapon. You can be playing the matchup perfectly and still be heavily punished by card generation RNG.
Another reason would be not ever running out of resources, which drags out the games. While it’s not DIRECTLY related to “created by” cards, the more of them you run, the harder it will be to run out of cards, because they will just replace themselves. Before they were so widespread, resource management was significantly more important, even for Control decks. Right now it seems that any slower deck can’t run out of cards no matter what they do, and even faster decks have a hard time running out of resources. Someone top decking is a quite rare sight in today’s Hearthstone.
“Created by” cards being very popular is also sort of a hit against deck builders. Because the more randomly generated resources you have, the less actual deck building matters. You no longer need to cover every weakness of the deck – instead you can add a bunch of cards that will let you discover spells, minions etc. that will do it for you. Current day Priest decks absolutely don’t need to make their decks work in every situation. Draconic Studies covers the minion front (you can pick one that works best in a given matchup), Renew or Sethekk Veilweaver give you a lot of spells that you normally don’t put into your deck (more AoE, healing, value generation), and cards like Wandmaker or Cobalt Spellkin give you even more of those. Those card make the deck more “universal”, while a deck without card generation either has to specialize in one thing or put a lot of tech cards in.
It’s also worth mentioning that lots of players aren’t inherently against cards that generate other cards – it’s more about the amount. If you run a couple of cards that can give you something else, that’s good. If you play 60 cards during a single match, most of them random, now that’s a problem.
Do “Created by” Cards Have Any Good Sides?
Well… yes, and no. Just like always, when discussing whether something is “fun” or “annoying”, there are no objective answers. I’ve already told you why people don’t like “created by” cards, but there are also some bright sides.
The biggest advantage of a deck with tons of “created by” cards is that it doesn’t really get boring to play, or play against. I loved oldschool Hearthstone, but Control games were often really boring. They went until fatigue, you knew exactly what resources your opponent has, they knew what you have, and there wasn’t too much wiggle room. Yes, they were great in their own way too, I loved beating my opponent by forcing them to use all the removals and having that one more threat ready to drop after they run out of cards. But overall, the games were predictable and the matchups no longer had much to offer after you played them ten times or so.
Another thing is that decks full of “created by” cards also require a lot of skill to play. While you can learn how to play it in general, you will have to heavily adapt your strategy every single game depending on what cards you get. But wait, didn’t I say that they remove part of the skill? That’s the thing – they’re doing both. A straight up 30 vs 30 cards deck doesn’t necessarily require more skill to play, just a different kind. You need to be more analytical and plan every move ahead. On the other hand, when you play a matchup full of generated cards, you need to be able to adapt quickly and constantly make small adjustments. Your grand game plan is often not as important as what’s happening right now and what cards got generated. Getting back to the Priest decks that are full of card generation – the cards you get from Sethekk Veilweaver can completely change your gameplan. For example, getting more healing means that you might not need to worry about your health that much even in Aggro matchups and focus more on playing minions. Generating Grave Rune and other buffs might make you play for the tempo in slower matchups and try to win this way, because your opponent will have a hard time getting rid of your board. Getting that extra Soul Mirror means that you can deliberately plan on falling behind just to get a huge swing in your favor. And so on, and so on.
And finally, while it might sound cliche, but those cards often create memorable moments that you can talk about, show to your friends or just make YouTube compilation videos from. Hearthstone is sort of built on those “feel good” moments and those cards make achieving that more easily. No wonder why it’s mostly the more invested players who have issues with those cards. Casual players often don’t care about deeper strategy, they want the game to be fun. And I can’t deny that winning the game with a perfect card you’ve just generated is a nice endorphin rush. Those cards are also kind of helfpul for streamers, because they keep viewers engaged. In a meta like the one we have right now, which didn’t change THAT much since the expansion’s release (it didn’t need to, because it was mostly balanced from the get-go), people are getting bored of seeing the same exact decks over and over again. Which means that those cards add more variety. And if a streamer’s opponent gets perfect, randomly generated answer – that’s still fine, because you’re the viewer and it doesn’t affect you directly – heck, watching streamer rage at the outcome is also fun in a slightly twisted way.
I feel like Blizzard knows quite well that players no longer like “created by” cards so much. The vocal minority is often mentioning it on Twitter, reddit AMAs and even the official forums. In one of the interviews, Iksar mentioned that this is the most randomly generated cards the meta will ever have. And I understand their perspective – even if devs think that, they can’t just ignore one of the most common community complaints. In fact, the recent patch that made cards no longer be able to generate themselves a big step in the right direction. “Chain” generation, even if not common, was very frustrating.
In my opinion, the biggest issue is (like I’ve already mentioned earlier) not the existence of those cards, but ubiquity. A deck having a few cards that generate extra resources is not a big deal. It makes for some interesting game experience, and while the RNG can really make one of hte player’s life miserable from time to time, the advantages would probably outweigh the negatives. Things get much more problematic when you face decks like Control Priest, Galakrond Rogue (not very popular right now, but the card generation was rampant in the deck when it was) and – of course – Tempo / Small Spell Mage. I had games when my opponent literally played more generated cards than cards from their own deck. And it wasn’t a very fun experience, the games were mentally exhausting, dragged for very long and – in some cases – I would win them multiple times if my opponent didn’t (randomly) get a perfect answer. But in moderate amounts, those cards can be healthy for the game.
I also think that the last two expansions got much better on that front. The number of those cards have peaked last year, but Year of the Dragon is obviously still in Standard, so all those cards can be played. And yes, we still have cards that generate other cards, but not as many. The biggest offender in Scholomance Academy are definitely “Study” cards, but even with them I still think that we’re in the “healthy amount” territory. Also, Demon Hunter class in general shows promise in a way that it mostly relies on cards from the deck & cycling, not so much on generating resources – and Soul Demon Hunter is both strong and interesting to play (I talk more about Demon Hunter in this article if you’re interested). So if someone wants to play a class with next to none card generation, you should try Demon Hunter (Wandmaker is the only one they run).
What do you think about it? Do you like the amount of card generation we have right now? If you think that they’re problematic, what would be your solution?