The second wing of Hearthstone’s Curse of Naxxramas adventure launched last night at 11:59pm PST. (Way to make that Tuesday launch date, guys!) This wing features the familiar faces of Noth the Plaguebringer, Heigen the Dance Dancer, and Loatheb, plus class challenges for the Mage and Hunter decks. Each wing costs 700 gold or $6.99.
Although Blizzard didn’t outright say as much I suspect that the odd launch time was to avoid the servers crashing, but it didn’t seem to help. It took about 30 minutes for my order to be processed, and for most of that time the game reported that I had 700 less gold in my account but the wing was still locked. They even had to shut down the Hearthstone store complete at one point. So much for a late start not crashing the servers!
(Editor’s Note: As I was reading over this post at 11:30am PST I saw someone on Twitter mention having difficulty completing their purchase, so these troubles may still be going on right now.)
Anyway, once I finally got access to the Plague Wing I found the normal mode bosses even easier than those in the previous Spider Wing. Here’s an overview, with spoilers of course if you care about that kind of thing:
Noth the Plaguebringer
Special Ability: A passive to raise a 1/1 skeleton whenever an enemy dies.
Strategy: I was a little worried about playing my aggro pally deck here because it has a lot of minions with 1 health that could be easily killed, but I one-shot this boss.
Card Reward: Stoneskin Gargoyle! 3 mana for a 1/4 drop that restores to full health at the start of your turn. I was pretty excited to get this card because it was really fun to play in the Druid challenge from the previous wing and can become an obnoxious early taunter.
Heigen the Unclean
Special Ability: 1 mana to do 2 damange to the “left-most enemy minion”.
Strategy: The first thing to note is that Heigen’s power means YOUR left, and he can do it when you only have one minion on the board. I had a little trouble with this guy until I used a special Priest deck I made for Heroic Maexxna that is almost entirely spells, offensive battlecries, and minions with charge. Any strategy that doesn’t rely too heavily on hitting things with minions will work here.
Card Reward: Unstable Ghoul. 2 mana for a 1/3 drop that has a taunt and a deathrattle which deals 1 damage to all minions. This seems like an interesting anti-aggro or zoo deck card?
Special Ability: 2 mana to do 3 damage to the enemy hero.
Strategy: Loatheb starts out with a whopping 75 health in normal mode, but do not panic! He will frequently play a Spore card, which is a 0/1 drop that gives all enemy minions +8 attack upon its death. Yes, +8. I one-shot Loatheb with my pally aggro deck (I recommend a cheap aggro deck for this boss) and I don’t care because it was so much fun, you guys. Turning a couple of tiny 1- and 2-drops into monsterous minions that hit for double digits is deeply satisfying.
Card Reward: Sludge Belcher. 5 mana for a 3/5 drop that has a taunt and a deathrattle which summons a 1/2 slime that also has taunt. Although it costs an additional mana, I feel like this might be a good upgrade for the classic Sen’jin Shieldmasta taunt (“Taz’dingo!”) with that deathrattle. Someone smarter than me will have to run the math, though.
Once you’ve killed all three of the Plague Wing bosses in normal mode you’ll get:
To which I said, “Wait, what?”. I will be the first to admit that I’m a total noob at Hearthstone theorycrafting, but this seems really lame and highly situational.
Anyway, tonight I’ll try the class challenges and maybe poke at the Heroic versions. While I don’t think I would pay $7 for a wing, I do enjoy the content and so far between the fights and the cards it’s definitely been worth my 700 gold.
Every so often I get an angry message from a reader that can be boiled down to “well, like, that’s just your opinion man”. And it’s true! All posts here are totally my own opinion, including this one.
A couple of weeks ago Ellyndrial wrote a post about how he’s been having a hard time getting into MMOs lately, WildStar in particular. He got a number of comments from folks who feel the same way, and I’ve seen a lot of people all over the internet saying the same thing: WildStar (as the latest game) is really well made and a great MMO, and they just can’t get interested in playing it.
I have always resisted hopping on the “MMOs are dead” bandwagon, but lately I’ve been changing my mind. When we have a game that is widely declared to be fun and yet an ever-dwindling number of people who agree with that can be bothered to play it.. well, that’s a pretty damning indictment.
And on a personal front, I find myself being slowly left alone in yet another game. As a serial monogamist with MMOs — I may change games, but I like to have one at a time that I’m quite dedicated to — I have been through this before. People trickled out of WoW, then out of SWTOR, then RIFT, then WoW again, and now WildStar. I guess I’m finally accepting that this is just the way things are now.
And so once I’m done with WildStar (whenever that may be, I haven’t even hit 50 yet) I’ve decided that I’m done with MMOs.
(“But ArcheAge!” friends have said, but while ArcheAge is a great game it requires social support more than most MMOs, and I scoff at the idea that players are actually willing to involve themselves to that level.)
I don’t want to go through it again. The hype before a new game, or as somehow a game starts to get a critical mass of players. The feeling that this may be it, maybe this is the time that people stick with it and we can put down roots like we did before. Maybe this time we can play together. It’s happening! It’s happening! It’s… shit.
And good on you folks who like playing solo in MMOs. Power to those of you who are happy running LFR and never wish you could be doing the content with friends. I may not understand those of you who hop to a new MMO every six weeks — don’t you ever get tired of restarting? — but you seem to be having a good time and that is what it is all about.
But let’s face facts, MMOs are a dying breed. Maybe the target audience is just too old and has too many responsibilities to feel any obligation, however so minor, to a game. Maybe people get their social interaction from Twitter and whatever instead. Maybe people never really liked MMOs, they just liked WoW. Someone said to me recently (and if it was you, thanks!) that “WoW created WoW players, not MMO players” and I think that is absolutely the truth. Some of the folks who just stopped logging in to WildStar one day are already back in WoW, in fact.
I played MMOs to be social, to achieve things with friends, to be part of a community, but I’ve realized that these things don’t exist any more, or not for many of us. Whole essays have been written in the last few years on how people don’t want to be social in their games.
If a game can be well-made and fun and interesting and yet people who acknowledge that still aren’t interested in logging on, then what hope does the genre have? After much consideration, I don’t think I want to stick around to find out the answer.
I borrowed the idea for this post from Mr. Murf Versus. He said I could!
In Hearthstone I seem to have found my equilibrium at level 18 in ranked. Last night I played for three hours and after a few runs up and a few back down I ended up exactly where I started, two stars into 18. All of my ranked games are with an aggro pally deck that’s heavy on 1-drops, but I feel like I’m missing some firepower if the match gets to mid-game so I might need to revise.
In WildStar I’ve been plugging away to level cap, hitting 47 last night. That opened up the Malgrave Trail adventure, which is apparently patterned after Oregon Trail. Even more importantly, though, I got to level 26 in Scientist levels which means my first piece of mount flair! My hoverbike now has a turnip in a specimen jar on the back. I wish WildStar had non-combat pets, but being able to decorate your mount is pretty satisfying on the cosmetic front.
Herding the Masses on ArcheAge and the Path of Predictability. Also Geek Sprinkles on Why This Carebear Thinks ArcheAge Shouldn’t Have a PvE Server.
The Bloggess on Women Who Are Ambivalent About Women Against Feminism.
Going to a Farmer’s Market is dangerous for my time and my wallet, particularly at this time of year. So much amazing produce, and I want to cook it all! I have three recipes to share this week, although unfortunately thanks to the necessities of curing and pickling I can’t confirm how good any of them are for another couple of weeks yet.
I’ve been watching Slowbeef play Dark Souls on YouTube. This is definitely a “second monitor” LP — it’s not that gripping on its own, but Dark Souls was such a phenomenon and has been so lauded for its storytelling devices that I wanted to see what the deal was.
On the other hand, the Slowbeef and Lowtax playthrough of ancient Sierra game Phantasmagoria (referenced frequently by Arolaide on the podcast!) is totally worth the primary monitor.
In non-game news this week I started Fringe, which is available on Netflix. It’s a lot like Supernatural in format, if a little more dark and serious. I’ve just about finished season one and I’ve been quite enjoying it, if nothing else for John Noble’s delightful wacky scientist routine. I’ll be interested to see how the show does in their second season once the characters have gelled a little more.
The comment highlight goes to Tesh from the latter topic, who said:
“It does take a special kind of courage to effectively say “screw you, player base and industry at large, we’re doing what we want to”. The interesting thing is, players buy it anyway and subscribe anyway.”
I dislike how downright mocking Blizzard has been over the years towards “fluff” systems like costumes and housing. It’s okay to not think a system is right for your game, but they’ve frequently given off the vibe that anything that isn’t serious war orc business is for babies and I find it irritating.
I don’t post on Google+ very often, but it “Auto Awesomed” some of my photos from last night’s Celebration of Light fireworks here in Vancouver and I really like the effect:
Meanwhile on Tumblr I posted this amazing Sailor Moon fan art.
And finally, real talk on Twitter about Pacific Rim:
@mrmoneda Wow, I just rewatched that last weekend & I can't remember his name. There was Dude Bro, Mako, and Idris Fucking Elba.
— Jessica Cook (@Liores) July 26, 2014
I’ve started getting back into Hearthstone this week with the arrival of the new Naxxramus PvE experience. Blizzard started out with the Spider Wing this week, and it was available free to everyone. So far I’ve knocked off the three normal mode bosses without too much trouble and the two class challenges. The latter in particular are really fun and are more of a Hearthstone-themed puzzle than anything, which I enjoy.
I’ve also poked the heroic mode bosses with my existing constructed decks, probing for weaknesses. And while my actual moment-to-moment play is getting better I think (rank 18 so far, wooo) (that’s good for me okay) the heroic bosses just remind me that I’m so far behind the curve when it comes to actually creating decks. I think most nerds have played at least a year or two of magic in their misspent youths, but somehow it passed me by.
Like, I can figure out that because Maexxna is a big cheater who spams an ability that returns your cards to your hand, I’m going to want a deck heavy in spells, charges, and offensive battlecries. But what mana curve is best? What should I mulligan for? (I just recently learned that this is a thing good players think about, and even have different mulligan “goals” depending on the class of the opponent.) Do I need much churn? There’s a lot of trial and error — play a game, replace two cards in my deck, try again.
I’ll get it eventually. In the meantime, below is a list of five of my favorite Hearthstone cards. Note that they’re not all great cards to play — I’m not knowledgeable enough about the game to put together that list — but whether it’s their art or audio cue or ability, these are the ones I enjoy playing the most.
Keeper of the Grove – I just crafted this feller a couple of days ago and the flavor text cracked me up: “These guys just show up and start Keeping your Groves without even asking.” Damn Keepers, get out of my Grove!
Twisting Nether – I do not have this card myself, but I have had the gold version played against me. It’s so pretty I almost didn’t get mad when all my minions died. Almost.
Defender of Argus – I think this card is pretty hot right now in most decks, and with good reason. Aside from the usefulness, it’s extremely satisfying to play: one 4-drop gives 1/1 and taunt to two different cards. Feels good, man.
Defias Ringleader – By far the best audio cue. Beat it!
Knife Juggler – Assuming you can keep it alive for a turn or two, this is by far my favorite card to play. It is just so much damn fun to throw it down and then back it up with a bunch of 1-drops to wreak havok on your opponent’s best laid plans. A good session with a Knife Juggler makes me cackle with glee, and I can’t ask for much more than that from a game.
Massively has a pretty fierce takedown today of Garrisons in Warlords of Draenor, the next WoW expansion. Author Eliot Lefebvre seems disappointed in almost every aspect of the feature, saying, “[Garrisons are] a half-baked Facebook game integrated into the leveling experience. Except those usually give more housing options.”
Dang, dude. That’s cold.
I’ve played with Garrisons a bit in the WoD beta, and to be honest I don’t find them very interesting. They’re essentially the farm from Pandaria combined with SWTOR’s companion crafting quest system, integrated in a way that makes them mandatory while levelling. I don’t feel any particular attachment to my Garrison, and the focus is more on function over form.
That all being said, I think more than anything Blizzard is dealing with a pretty serious perception issue here: Garrisons are not and have never been housing, and people who are expecting housing features are going to be very disappointed.
If you look back at the original feature announcement at Blizzcon 2013, to their credit Blizzard shied away from using the h-word. Garrisons are a “personal fortress” that provide “a piece of land to call your own”. They allow for customization of “layout, appearance, and gameplay effects” with “a number of configurations”.
The only documented time I can see “housing” come up is in a comment by Tom Chilton during a panel on the first day of Blizzcon where he said, “Garrisons are the World of Warcraft version of housing…integrated directly into the world.” In retrospect he probably shouldn’t have used that word, but the phrasing is enough to provide a little wiggle room in interpretation.
(Side note, but this is the Tom Chilton who said in an interview in 2010 that “housing will be introduced to World of Warcraft some time right after “never”.” That’s the same attitude the company had for years about a costume system and oh gee, transmog turned out to be one of their most popular new systems ever. Dorks.)
The media and player interpretation of the Garrisons announcement sort of skipped over the details and went straight to housing. GameSkinny, for example, lead with the headline, “BlizzCon Announces Player Housing“. Even WoW Insider, arguably the most Blizzard-friendly news site, reported the news as “Player housing in Warlords of Draenor“, although the article itself correctly states that the feature is more like a Real Time Strategy minigame than anything.
Garrisons are not player housing, even if we wish they were. They are a personal quest hub, the farm writ large. Anyone who approaches the feature expecting player housing is going to be very disappointed. And I understand that disappointment! I would have loved housing back in my WoW days.
But as much as many players might want housing in WoW, this is not it, and as Blizzard has repeatedly shown disdain at the idea of implementing anything approaching the housing in RIFT or WildStar or Everquest II or even Ultima Online I think for the foreseeable future this RTS clicky thing is sadly as close as we’re gonna get.