Sunday, August 31, 2014

Deathrattle & Faceroll Warlock

I've neglected Hearthstone ladder for so long. Between recording the Curse of Naxxramas series, learning other games and scrambling to get a new PC after the old warhorse finally died, I haven't had much time otherwise. Things seemed to have settled down a bit though, and this week I had the time to see what constructed looks like.

I heard about the resurgence of hunter now that Mad Scientist is out, and even played it a bit in casual to see how it handles. It's pretty gross, but it also meant the meta would be shifting to beat it. I played priest for a couple of days, running Zombie Chow for early removal then pulling the "Auchenai surprise", but priest just doesn't feel consistent enough to me. It's still very reliant on getting the right cards at the right time to even make it work, and if you like that playstyle Miracle Rogue just seems better at combo.

I've really been wanting to see how Undertaker handles, and settled on a deathrattle-loaded warlock deck for several reasons. I wanted to pack the deck with small deathrattlers to maximize the Undertaker, and the hero power compliments that nicely (we're all familiar with zoo I'm sure). I also wanted some early protection and Voidwalker fits the bill. With a nearly empty hand after the first couple turns, Soulfire is amazing spot removal. Additionally, Void Terror and Power Overwhelming are just nuts in a deathrattle deck.

The difference between this deck and zoo though is fairly large. Zoo struggles significantly more to bounce back when AoE removal hits the table. With so many deathrattles, opponents have to play their board clear very carefully and in most cases will find it hard to get the perfect time to do so. Zoo can also run out of gas against good control decks, while this build has a more solid lategame.

It also feels surprisingly strong in the meta right now too. With all the taunts (especially Unstable Ghoul), hunters will have a hard time getting a good Unleash the Hounds off. Additionally, decks designed to beat hunter aren't doing too hot against this either. I typically win against druids and control warriors (which brings a smile to my face). Things get a little more dicey against priest, as they have a lot of tools to wreck you with... though thankfully Mass Dispel hasn't been teched against me yet.

The last few days have been pretty good though. I went up seven ranks or so with a couple hours of play, so I'm happy. Best of all the deck is incredibly fun and often pretty trollish. If you get Undertaker and some small deathrattles in the starting hand, you can usually play very aggressively. Otherwise, Voidwalker and some of the other early minions make the deck appear to be more like typical zoo, which can be great for confusing opponents.

I run only one Void Terror - I think two is overdoing it because you'll not always have the right place to play it. There are times even one can feel like a dead card, but it's definitely strong enough to run a single. Kel'Thuzad and Baron Rivendare are also really greedy choices, but K.T. can turn a close late-game to a sure win. I've made no changes to the deck yet since I built it (and honestly it didn't feel that hard to put together), so we'll see how revisions go. I don't have Cairne, otherwise he'd be in here too.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Corruption in Gaming Journalism = Great Life Lesson

I've been nose-deep in Curse of Naxxramas and haven't had much time to stay on top of gaming news, so the video I'm about to post was my heads up. Supposedly there's a lot of stuff going down over at Kotaku concerning corruption of their journalism.

Not to knock Kotaku, but it should come as no surprise if there's a deep level of corruption in a major gaming journalism site. These websites have pretty much taken over where printed magazines used to be, and as a veteran gamer I can tell you the majority of those were propaganda pieces meant to entice you into buying games that in reality were utter trash.

In any event, I'd like to present Boogie2988's (you may have seen him as 'Francis') video about this - not because it goes into great detail of the story so much as his opinion on the subject. What he has to say about journalism - gaming or otherwise - as well as life in general is great advice worth sharing.

Curse of Naxxramas Ep39 - Heroic Kel'Thuzad

This is it, the final boss of Naxxramas awaits!
Heroic Kel'Thuzad is by far the toughest boss of the adventure (and rightfully so). He packs a ton of removal (both mass and single-target), has 65 health including armor, two ridiculous hero powers... and he cheats! The first hero power does 3 damage and freezes your hero (zero mana), and once you knock off his armor he immediately begins his turn. At that point the hero power changes to stealing a random enemy minion permanently for 8 mana and he summons two 5/5 taunts!

After battling him with numerous deck ideas (and fighting to connect to servers), I finally found what worked for me. It's based around buffing minions to crazy size and pounding the lich's face in with a huge amount of card draw to dig for the combinations... a "Miracle Priest" of sorts. While it was frustrating trying to record an episode of the winning game, I felt the challenge was indeed worthy of a true heroic end boss. In some ways, I almost wish some of the other bosses were a bit tougher to get you ready for heroic Kel'Thuzad... but it's probably for the best that wish goes ungranted.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep38 - Heroic Sapphiron

Just one slight change can make all the difference between normal and heroic mode.
Heroic Sapphiron gets a small boost to health (as per all heroic bosses), but the real clincher here is that you do not get a Frozen Champion. That means at the start of each of Sapphiron's turns, all your minions will die. How does one combat a foe like this? I went with weapons and charge minions!

Warrior is a great choice due to the sheer number of weapons available and a respectable charge minion, though mage might also be a good class (assuming you have both Pyroblasts). The deck I played really felt reversed as my minions became removal and my weapons were used for face damage, but it worked pretty well.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep37 - Paladin Challenge

Uther vs. Kel'Thuzad!
This paladin deck isn't what I'd call the best ever. It's running Echoing Oozes without Sword of Justice and there's no Consecrations. Your chances at winning depend largely on your draws and if you can make good use of your buffs and Divine Favors.

Old K.T. tends to go through his opening hand fairly quickly, making Divine Favor useless early on. That's fine though because he's also running Acolytes of Pain which will inevitably load his hand back up. If you can hold out until then, you should have enough for a second (or third) push to finish him off.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep36 - Kel'Thuzad

The final boss of normal mode is one of the most entertaining yet.
I went priest again and had no problems defeating him, though a number of other strategies will work. I wouldn't play a weapon-heavy deck though, he runs Skeletal Smiths and starts off with a hero power that does 2 damage and freezes you (for zero mana).

Things get really interesting when he goes into phase two (yes, this boss has phases), which seems to happen at a certain health. The hero power becomes a no-strings-attached Shadow Madness for 8 mana, meaning you don't want to play a lone, powerful minion. Flooding the board isn't wise either because Kel'Thuzad packs Twisting Nether, so don't overextend.

Make sure to engage Kel'Thuzad in some conversation when you play. He has a response for each emote and seems to have a different match intro for every hero.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep35 - Sapphiron

It's time to face the Frostwyrm Lair!
I decided to try higher quality video. It took longer to render and upload, but it seems worth it.

As for Sapphiron, priest does the job again with Lightwell and Deathlord being the workhorses. Slow and steady wins the race against this boss - just keep healing and only play what you really need to... just make sure not to overfill your hand.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep34 - Heroic Thaddius

I tried to get fancy, and it didn't turn out like I planned.
Even though it took me a while to beat Thaddius, it's not too difficult if you stick to what works. Priest is capable of doing the job and I understand that warlock is also a great choice (mulligan aggressively for Corruption and Soulfire in the opening hand). Once you take care of his opener, the rest of the battle is just like the normal mode.

Of note, there is another trick I was not aware of: killing off his Stalag or Fuegen counts towards your summoning of Thaddius if you play them yourself. Note that his have no deathrattle because he already IS Thaddius. Still, it feels odd to kill Thaddius using Thaddius... I'm sure that will cause some kind of hole in the space/time continuum, perhaps opening a portal to an alternate reality. Wait, isn't that the plot behind the next WoW expansion? Now we know how it really happened!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep33 - Heroic Gluth

Rexxar shows Gluth who the top dog is around here...
A number of rushdown strategies are effective against Gluth, but don't expect a basic zoo deck to win. Gluth's hero power turns all YOUR minions to one health (not his), so things that only have one health aren't affected. Oozes are key to survival because his weapon in heroic mode is ridiculous. If you can find a way to efficiently kill his Zombie Chows, you'll regain all the health you lost during the first few turns - I suggest Explosive Trap or Consecration after weakening them a bit.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep32 - Heroic Grobbulus

This might be the toughest boss of Naxx to date.
Heroic Grobbulus has a great AoE hero power (better than Consecration and it's free), truly annoying minions and the best single-target buff in the game (+4/+4 and taunt for 3 mana). His big weakness however is that he lacks single-target removal. This looks like a job for... Gimmick Priest!!!

Lightwells and Deathlords will be your go-to minions as you buff them to ridiculous size and keep them healed. You'll eventually mire through his taunts and hit for massive damage.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep31 - Heroic Patchwerk

If you can't outrace Patchwerk, just slow him down.
Using a combination of oozes, freezes and bad-for-your-opponent deathrattles, you can get just enough damage to finish Patchwerk off before he chops you into pieces. Astute players will notice that Patchwerk's AI is set to kill deathrattle minions with his hero power, mimicking a mechanic of the WoW raid.

Also, there's a few other cool things you can do against Patchwerk (no pun intended). As a priest, ooze + Mind Vision means you get his uber weapon and any cards that force your opponent to draw will fatigue him for damage!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep30 - Priest Challenge

Anduin vs. Thaddius is easy mode compared to the last challenge.
This was about par for class challenges so far - not too difficult if you take a moment to think out your plays. As per the last fight against Thaddius, priest is more than capable of making his hero power negligible as well as healing through the lightning spells.

Curse of Naxxramas Ep29 - Warrior Challenge

Garrosh vs. Grobbulus is a clunky matchup.
I felt this "challenge" was really more about getting the right cards at the right time than anything. I see what they were trying to do, but it doesn't seem to flow as well as the other class challenges. I'm just glad I'm done with it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep28 - Thaddius

The final boss for the Construct Quarter isn't too tough, shockingly.
His hero power is basically a mass Crazed Alchemist for zero, and I immediately thought of the potential abuse that priest could have with that. While not a hard fight (at least in normal mode), Thaddius had the right cards for the theme.

Curse of Naxxramas Ep27 - Gluth

It's a dog-eat-dog world out there as I take on Gluth using Rexxar.
Gluth makes sure your minions won't stay out long because his hero power is basically Equality. He has a weapon that starts out very weak but gets buffed by deathrattles, which are packed into his deck. I ran hunter against him without too much trouble, but I feel a number of rush decks might fare just as well, especially if they include oozes.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep26 - Grobbulus

Grobbulus has a nasty set of cards.
This boss specializes in making a swarm of minions and can eventually buff them to incredible size. Additionally, his hero power is an AoE that can net him a 2/2. I found that a hunter deck digging for Unleash the Hounds is a good way to go. Scavening Hyena was an MVP as well because it seems that Grobbulus doesn't have much for single-target removal (thank goodness).

Curse of Naxxramas Ep25 - Patchwerk

The first boss of the Construct Quarter is definitely different.
Due to his recurring weapon, you're on a 6-turn clock. He has no minions, spells or even cards for that matter, so removal is a waste. His hero power can easily take care of slower decks, so I suggest rushing him down - zoo warlock does the job.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep24 - Heroic Four Horsemen

I prepare a deck specifically designed to beat the Four Horsemen!
The idea here is to capitalize on what we know about this boss. Baron Rivendare only has three minions, all of which he starts the game with and have a special ability to keep him alive. He has a ton of targeted removal, some minor AoE, and a couple of weapons.

Silencing, stealing or killing his minions can quickly spell doom for Rivendare. Minions that can't be targeted by his removal become huge threats, and deathrattle minions help to ensure he spends extra to clear your board. I didn't try it, but stealth minions might also be a good option as they're likely to dodge his removal until they get at least one good swing in.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep23 - Heroic Gothik

Heroic Gothik's not the hardest of the Military Quarter if you plan ahead.
Keep in mind that he'll use his hero power (1 mana, gain a mana crystal and draw a card) even when he's out of cards... the guy's not too bright. If you build a deck designed to outlast a fatigue battle, you'll do well. Also, he's extremely liberal with removal spells so bait them out with weaker minions before committing something important. Late game taunts are invaluable as he'll eventually run out of gas and has no direct damage to heroes.

Curse of Naxxramas Ep22 - Heroic Razuvious

This guy is a real pain. Make sure to watch the epic troll at 8:30!
To beat Razuvious, you musn't let him hit you with his weapon. Thankfully, he only has two of them but his RNG is amazing (I'm certain he's being used to test the new topdeck ability coming in the "Elite Skills Update"). Additionally, his hero power is ridiculous and can decimate your board (or health) quickly. I suggest a variant of Zeto's Anti-Noth Priest deck, adding in tons of taunt and Acidic Swamp Oozes to keep that sword as far away from your face as possible!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep21 - Warlock Challenge

Gul'dan v. The Four Horsemen finishes up the Military Quarter's class challenges.
Again, not a difficult game by any means. Void Callers can be nice to keep minions on the board, which is handy against the Horsemen's vast array of removal.

Curse of Naxxramas Ep20 - Shaman Challenge

Thrall v. Gothik, not too tough.
Not a lot to say here. Trade when you can and buff the guys he gives you with Flametongue Totem.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep19 - Baron Rivendare/Four Horsemen

The final boss for normal Military Quarter is actually a bit of a challenge.
Removing his starting minions is the only way you're going to win. He lacks any other minions (from what I saw) but makes up for it with tons of removal. I think a number of decks are viable, but you must have a way to efficiently remove the minions (which are 1/7) and still provide threats that can end the game. I'd think that silencing all the horsemen would remove his immunity, making things pretty easy...

Quest Design by Extra Credits

A few months ago I happened upon a cool YouTube channel that focuses on game design called Extra Credits. I haven't gotten around to watching every episode I'm interested in yet, but today I saw a couple of videos discussing quest design, particularly those in MMOs, and would like to share them with you.

This is exactly what I've been talking about in terms of MMOs lacking innovative quests. Thankfully, Extra Credits provides some ideas towards improving the experience and points out a few titles that are at least attempting to do the same. 

I played LotRO a few years back when it first went free-to-play (well I played a bit in beta too, but not much), and at the time it felt like there was a considerable gap between the free and paying players. I'm not sure if that's changed any, and I might have to revisit it at some point to be sure.

While I've heard complaints about The Secret World, the sheer fact that they're trying some new approaches to questing sounds like enough to at least look a bit deeper into what they offer.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep18 - Gothik the Harvester

The second boss of the Military Quarter likes giving you things you don't really want.
Trading with Gothik's minions is a lose-lose situation. You get a 0/X minion that deals 1 damage to you each turn. While that's less damage than the original minion was going to hit you for, it's still annoying. You can mitigate this to some extent by buffing the spectral minions (making them useful) or finding a way to clear them from your board (i.e. Hellfire).

Smart Robots!

If you haven't seen the changes coming to Minecraft in 1.8, you're in for a real treat. New mobs (both animals and monsters), super-customizable banners, red sandstone, armor stands and a number of other goodies are on the way!

In the case of armor stands, there are several mods that have already covered this (Bibliocraft being one the most popular)... but these new stands have some added functionality. They're entities and can ride minecarts, be tossed around by slime blocks and all that fun stuff. They can also be posed and altered via command blocks. With some time and creativity, Wubbi of ZipKrowd came up with a "smart" robot capable of cleaning up an area. Take a look.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep17 - Instructor Razuvious

The Military Quarter is open!
As usual, the first battles against the wing's bosses are fairly easy. Watch out for his weapon - it's a lot of damage if he connects with your face! Cheap taunts with 4+ health are advised so his hero power won't easily remove them.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep16 - Heroic Loatheb

Last boss of Heroic Plague Quarter, we'll see how things handle for the next wing's release...
It seems that Unleash the Hounds ends up as the quickest route to victory here. Let him fill the board (hopefully with several Spores), then Unleash for a one turn kill.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep15 - Heroic Heigan

Second boss of the Plague Quarter (Heroic) isn't as bad as Noth, but still annoying!
Interestingly, the same deck to beat Noth can likely beat Heigan as well. His hero power punishes anything but the largest minions, and his rushdown can quickly overwhelm you. Playing big minions that you can keep healthy is a solid strategy for bringing Heigan down.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep14 - Heroic Noth

We begin the Heroic Mode of the Plague Quarter with a rough start...
That hero power combined with Plague makes for the toughest matchup to date. You cannot trade against Noth, so you must have removal. Thankfully his early game is a bit slow, allowing you to hopefully establish a strong start.

The go-to class here is priest, due to all the healing potential for keeping your minions alive. It's still a hard fight though.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep13 - Mage Challenge

Jaina takes on Heigan in the Mage Challenge!
This felt almost too easy. You're given a pretty strong deck to beat Heigan with. Just make good use of Duplicate and your deathrattle minions, and you'll have this won in no time.

Curse of Naxxramas Ep12 - Hunter Challenge

The Hunter Challenge is... different.
This is actually a pretty easy challenge, especially if you happen into a Starving Buzzard. Also, take some time to count up damage options - you can get amazing amounts of damage if Loatheb has multiple Spores in play.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Ep11 - Loatheb

Final boss of the Plague Quarter for Normal Mode!
Loatheb has a huge life total, but fear not! His own minions will be his undoing, assuming you can take advantage of killing off the Spores while you have some minions in play. He's not as tough as he looks.