Hearthstone Tavern Brawls Review III: Those Cards Spin Me Right Round, Baby, Right Round

Hearthstone has a bit of a problem for new players. They don’t have enough cards, so they cannot easily compete. Blizzard is trying to rectify this problem through the Tavern Brawl. A game mode where the rules of Hearthstone change a little each week based on a theme. I cover the content problem here, but we’re going to discuss the last five brawls this week.

hearthstone_tavern_brawl_poster
Tavern Brawls

What’s A Tavern Brawl?

A Tavern Brawl is basically a player versus player game of Hearthstone with different rules each week. Each brawl awards you a classic pack per week for your first win. I have problems with this set up, because I seriously wish I could just play the AI. But that’s just my own personal preference.

This idea of the rules shifting each week is good because it presents us with a new meta game that’s solely restricted to the brawl. Each week starts on a Wednesday and the brawl rules in that section of the game are turned on for the next five days, with the brawl interface going inactive on Sunday.

The brawls themselves have no other real change on the game dynamic. You’re still sitting down to play Hearthstone. You’re still trying to kill your opponent, but some of the other core principles of the game might change. For example [and this is just thumb-sucking, I have no idea if they’d ever do this] – they might restrict you to only using cards that cost eight or more mana to cast. So you’d construct your deck with big dudes and duke it out like that.

The new rule sets were as follows:

Week 10: Double Deathrattler Battler

Either you: went into Naxxramas and picked up some of the cool deathrattle cards [this cost you gold/money] – or you invested heavily in getting things like Piloted Shredders and Savannah Highmane [and other craziness] to play this Brawl. In it, any time a deathrattle effect happened, it’d happen twice. So four 2/2’s off of Savannah Higmane when it died. Double 1/2’s if Sludge Belcher passed on to the next life. This was a nice idea that rewarded you better if you had a bigger collection.

Week 11: It’s raining mana

A lazy brawl that encourages you to build a money deck. In this brawl, mana gets bumped up by two, instead of one. So turn one is as usual. Turn two means three mana, turn three means five mana and so on. About the only significant thing this brawl did was teach you that the “mulligan matters” because you weren’t always inclined to throw away a potential turn 3 5-mana play. [Whereas, in a regular game, you’d almost always throw that five mana guy to get someone cheaper.]

Week 12: Underdog Rules

A coat of arms for all underdogs, everywhere. Red for love, blue for loyalty, a pawprint and the letter u :)
He’s the underdog and he’s OK!

A fantastic idea. I hope something more gets done with this concept. When you’re in a brawl and you get behind by 3 life, the game – at the end of your turn – gives you a random minion. This is great from all sorts of perspectives. It lets you build “suicide black” decks. [This is Magic:  The Gathering slang.  It means trading life for cards/minions, etc] It lets you catch up if things get too bad, it allows you better scope for trading your minions into his. If there’s one problem with this format it’s that it can make the Warlock power completely crazy.  [which was the problem I saw automatically] Draw a card? And gain a guy? Don’t mind if I do.

Week 13: Annoy-o-Tron Versus Boom Bot

Both these bots are annoying to some extent or another. Boom Bot comes with Doctor Boom, and, well, the less we say about him the better. Annoy-o-tron just exists to slow you down.
[robotic voice]: Annoying Robots!
Like Nefarian/Ragnaros and Medivh/Alleria before, this is just a straight up “brawl to determine who’s the best.” One side [Boom Bot] is the zerg deck and the other was the control deck. Hilariously, I played them both as control decks ;) – I really liked the slow, gradual, thoughtful playstyle of Annoy-o-Tron, though. You really had to put on your thinking cap and work with the cards you had to make sure you had the best advantage possible, or you’d get flattened by the Boom Bot rush.

Week 14: Clockwork Card Dealer

My God, this is such a good idea, I can’t even describe how happy I was by this particular set of rules. Basically: If you have a one cost card on turn one, the dealer finds it and puts it into your hand. It does the same for turn two and turn three until you hit turn ten, when the draw becomes random again. If two cards share the same cost, the dealer rolls a magic number behind the scenes and puts one or the other in your hand.

This is how you make an intense/interesting Brawl. Eg: If you’re playing priest, you can almost guarantee that turn ten is going to be a Mind Control, so you need to – very carefully – stay on your toes and play at your best. The downside? It was a “build your own deck” week, which generally means “here comes the money.” Not much fun for people with a small pool of cards to choose from.

Week 15: Randominium

Take the laziest Tavern Brawl of all time [Encounter at the Crossroads], now slather that with even more random [every card in your hand at the end of your draw phase is randomly re-costed] and you have possibly the worst experience Hearthstone has to offer. Did you need a taunt guy to stave off the zillions of damage your opponent is doing, because he pulled a bunch of legendaries? Good luck. The deck builder gave you a pile of free/common cards. And when you are on the other side [turn two Chromaggus into turn three Foe Reaper 9000] it just feels like you’re pressing a giant win more button. In most of these games, if you’re losing from turn one, you may as well concede, because you may [or may not – and the may not side is far higher than the may side of the equation] get the tools to deal with the problem.

I’m not going to lie. Some of the interactions are hilarious. I got a Lord Jaraxxus, [and still lost, mind you. He had too much board presence by the time Jaraxxus was even remotely useful/showed up] which made him reconsider [for a moment] what he was doing, and he started running guys into my 6/6’s. But most of the time, it’s a slot machine and it’s not fun. [This particular brawl cements everything I’ve come to dislike about Hearthstone in one place: the randomness, paired with the absurd power creep equal an unfun mess of an experience.]

My Rankings:

  1. Randominium: Not just lazy, but a lazy rehash with added randomness so you could get some extra salt into the wound.
  2. Double Deathrattler Battler: A cool idea squandered by forcing people into money decks.
  3. Annoy-o-Tron versus Boom Bot: I like the play style of Annoy-o-tron. But the rest is just “Hearthstone with fixed avatars and decks.”
  4. Clockwork Card Dealer: Hey, who knew? You can actually make a game of Hearthstone strategic and thoughtful!
  5. Underdog Rules: Such a very small, but clever idea. More thought provoking deck-building challenges like this, please.

I participated in every brawl in this set, but I didn’t get footage of Double Deathrattler Battler. [Sorry :( – I started getting sick at that point] – you can see everything here.


Image credits:

Shield courtesy of:  Wikimedia Commons

The Letter U + Dog Pawprint:  Pixabay

Other Images:  Hearthstone Wiki