Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Dealer

Eventually, I worked it out.

Yesterday, I learnt how to play Hearthstone in a little over five hours.

I'll freely admit that there was one reason only for this diversion: the Hearthsteed. I'll also go on record, be controversial and admit I don't like the look of the thing at all, it is just another mount to add to the total. So this was for all intent and purpose a totally cynical exercise in getting something for winning three games of cards... except, along the way I learnt stuff, and I ended up enjoying myself when I worked out how to play. And this is why I decided that it is probably worth spending five minutes considering what happens when you actually stick at something, don't let it beat you and make yourself step very distinctly out of your comfort zone.

That has a definite relevance to Warcraft, especially in light of events during the last seven days.

Yes, it was against the AI. STILL A WIN IS A WIN :D

I was given a Beta invite sometime in the Summer of last year, and can remember giving up trying to even understand what was going because I simply did not grasp the principle. Coming back to it yesterday I found myself thinking pretty much the same thing until I made my first of many important logical associations: at the start, playing the AI, losing was mostly all that was going to happen. If decks scaled on power, then the higher my level, the better my cards would logically become over time. Consulting various guides suggested by my Twitter brethren showed that all the 'Starter' Decks assumed I was at L10, and when I understood that this first journey was a significant one, things began to make sense. I let the Computer give me a bunch of cards and then it was a case of reading them, beginning to grasp the significance of the commands on each one and what it could do and using that knowledge to begin to actually play. And I did.

The Gimmick Card has to go ^^

Then I started faffing with my own cards: I grasped the significance of keeping certain ones back until others were played. I decided to throw my lot in behind a Hunter deck (WELL DUH) because the principles were based on the class I understood the most about, and as it transpires it made life considerably easier. I am aware that this may not be the most powerful or ideal combination for 'Open' play, but I like the way certain abilities interlock with others, how I can use 'power' cards to boost existing ones on the table. When I won that first AI fight above purely on merit, there may have been a Dwarven Male Arms Aloft 'BRILLIANT!' celebration as a result. You see, the thing is, all you people who play these games and understand about stuff like card synergy and advanced strategy need to remember that for every smart-witted deck wielder there's a counter, a Ying for their Yang, the doofus who's making it up as she goes along.

And yes, I had to ask how I opened my first pack of cards when I earned them at L10. Feel free to snigger behind your Golden-Backed Hero cards, you're more than welcome to. I have no illusions here. I'm a Ditz with some Hearthstone cards, but I did enjoy myself. Once I'd beaten all the Basic UI decks and understood that some Heroes get weapons (WHERE IS MY BOW?) I felt buoyed enough to go try the Real World.

If the Game says I'm ready... ^^

However, as I discovered, the AI was definitely lulling me into a false sense of security:

My first three games were an education in how to play: two mages and a hunter deck that picked me up, grabbed me by the lapels, stared into my face and in Jason Statham's voice informed me 'YOU'RE NOT 'ARD ENOUGH FOR THIS GAME.' Suddenly I couldn't make a single mistake, because if I did I was smooshed into the ground with a foot to my head and that was it, game over. Thinking about strategy began to actually matter, and I'm utterly pants at planning, I just want to play. However, if there was a free horse at stake I was going to do things properly. I would like to thank everyone who offered to win-trade with me BUT REALLY THAT'S STILL CHEATING. I was doing this to attempt to understand how the game works, and that meant I would indeed need to eat dirt for a while so I could get up and spit it in my opponents faces. Possibly. Actually, no that's mean. Anyway, I digress, and once I actually paid attention, the first win was registered. After that, it was only a matter of time.

Good Game, Exent!. I HAZ MOUNT NAO.

My secret success to winning the Hearthsteed? I LEARNT TO PLAY. More importantly, I tried to understand WHY I lost, and what meant that other people won. To break it down, this is pretty much how the five hours went:

  • Default Mage Deck until L6 I let the Computer pick the cards. I didn't play any opponents, just the UI. I then switched to a default Hunter Deck and played until I'd beaten all the UI opponents, which took me (conveniently to L10) I then used the Default L10 Hunter Deck from Icy Veins.
  • Many Minions Win Prizes. Having lots of things on your table appears to pay dividends in early games, though there are abilities such as Flamestrike which can decimate you. In the end, having lots of stuff that buffs other stuff seems to be a good idea, which means the more stuff you have out, the more damage you can do. Yes I'm being overly simplistic, card experts ^^
  • Go read this post about using your 'Coin' Card :D
  • Gonna suggest taking the 'Hero' that plays the class you're most comfortable with in the early stages of your career, playing the 'familiarity' Joker that means you'll be grasping abilities you know that help you in Warcraft. If I put my Psychology Hat on I'd say there's something comforting there in terms of reinforcement or summat, but having a Hunter Deck was a distinct advantage. It also meant that when I came up against Snake Trap for the first time it made perfect sense in context because that's just how the trap works IN WARCRAFT. Bet that's deliberate.
  • Losing is inevitable. Don't give up. Look at why you were beaten, not that it happened and you feel bad. Try and analyse the method by which your opponent did it, and try and find one thing in each game you think you did well at, and remember to try that again for the next game. If it helps, MAKE NOTES. There is no shame in doing this.

That's basically it. Except, not quite.

I went back last night and played a few more games after I'd won the Horse. Not against other players, but the UI, and once this thing makes it to tablet I can really see myself having it to potter around with. I doubt I'll ever reach the lofty heights of the serious players, but my brain has now been attuned to the possibilities of playing a Hunter somewhere OTHER than Azeroth, which is good news for another MMO which is about to go to pre-order next week. If they'd let me stop being Rexxar and be a Female Dwarf instead, my life would basically be complete.

In fact, I could see P quietly playing a hand or two of this with Crais in Stormwind whilst they wait for the Expansion. Nice work, Team 5 :D


Jonathan said...

I managed to get a beta invite for this over Christmas and played it a few times - enough to get the gist of it whilst still losing most games. :-)

I agree with you about playing a class you're familiar with; starting out with a mage definitely helped me with getting the hang of it.

Must try and get my three wins now that there's a reward for it...

ep said...

"And yes, I had to ask how I opened my first pack of cards when I earned them at L10."
You are not alone. I had to get BF to come and tell me what to do. On the one hand - clever, they're trying to make it almost like you have real cards! on the other... it is not intuitive on a computer screen. Actually, lots of things in this game aren't. I couldn't figure out what happened with the cards I got in my first deck... had to be shown how to make my own decks, for example. Crafting? I don't understand. Sigh.

Bartosz Szafarz said...

As a WoW PvP fan, I have to say that what you've written in this post actually applies to any PvP environment, including WoW (I'm thinking arena mostly). It's this mentality switch PvE players have to make.