Monday, November 16, 2015

[Hearthstone] Beating Heroic Zinaar

I blew through normal mode of the first wing of the new Hearthstone adventure "League of Explorers" with little difficulty. I thought I would give Heroic a try. Heroic Blackrock Mountain was really tough, in fact, I never got past the Grim Guzzler, but I'm happy to report I managed to defeat the first boss in League of Explorers, Zinaar.

Zinaar ramps by gaining a mana crystal and a card each turn. He also gives you a zero mana spell which uses the new 'Discover' mechanic to give you a minion or a spell card. This adds a significant RNG element to the fight.

The core of my deck is minions that synergize with the free spells he gives you. Mana Wyrm gets buffed, Flamewaker launches misses and Violet Teacher summons tokens. This is important because my deck is a little spell heavy.

Flame on!

Zinaar has several windfury minions that either have to answered immediately or blocked by taunts or freezes. Mirror Entity can be a life saver here, espeically if you 'discover' a 3rd copy in addtion to the two I included. In the event you don't have an answer for a big Windfury minion, I have two Ice Lance and Frostbolts.

If you get offered Mogushun Warden as a 'discover' choice, go with it. Early on in this fight, its just about surviving until you catch up to him in mana crystals.

Phenomenal cosmic powers..... itty bitty living space!

My Deck:

Arcane Missiles x 2
Ice Lance x2
Mirror Image x2
Mana Wyrm x2
Flamecannon x2
Frostbolt x2
Kobold Geomancer x2
Mad Scientist x2
Duplicate x2
Forgotten Torch
Mirror Entity x2
Polymorph Boar
Violet Teacher x2
Azure Drake
Flamestrike x2

Friday, November 13, 2015

[Hearthstone] Class Selection

A new Hearthstone season is upon us. Last season I made it as far as Rank 14 with a combination of a Tempo Mage, Patron Warrior and Control Priest.  Part of my problem with getting higher ranks is the lack of games that I play. Three to five games a day is pretty much all I can manage and some days it’s less than that. Most days, it’s just enough to get the daily done.

There isn’t a class selection screen like WoW, but you do end up deciding on a main and a couple of alts in the way you spend your dust. You have to craft the epics and Legendaries in most cases as their rarity makes it unlikely you will pull what you need from random card packs. The more dust you put into a deck for a particular class, the more that class becomes your ‘main’. I lack key cards (even the key rares) to really play Druid or Rogue well. If I get a daily for one of those classes, I typically will do it in Casual rather than tank my Rank.

My other problem is I can’t build a proper anything deck. I’m missing cards from every deck I want to make, and this is after crafting the two best neutral Legendaries in the game in Dr. Boom and Sylvanas Windrunner.

I looked at the top 10 best decks at the moment as rated by the site called Tempo Storm. The Tier 1 decks are Hybrid Secret Paladin, Mid-Range Paladin and Aggro Druid.

Hybrid Secret Paladin: missing Coghammer, Divine Favor , Mysterious Challenger (need 2), and Tiron Fordring. That’s almost 2500 dust I would need to craft it.

Mid-Range Paladin: missing Coghammer , Big Game Hunter , Quartermaster (need 2), Justicar Trueheart and Tiron Fordring . That’s a whopping 4800 dust.

Aggro Druid: missing Keeper of the Grove (need 2), Fel Reaver (need 2), and Force of Nature (need 2). That’s only 1700 dust, but that’s still as much as a single Legendary from other deck I might want to play.

It’s like this down the entire list. If I want to try to play any of these proven decks, I’m having to substitute in lesser cards to make them work. When I go up against the 'proper' version on the ladder, I'm at a disadvantage. That's if I'm even close enough to approximate the cards I'm missing. In some cases (Force of Nature, Mysterious Challenger), I’m missing the one or two cards that are the engine of the whole deck.

Keep in mind that you average about 40 dust per pack that you open, but earlier on you will still be finding new cards you don’t have yet and won’t get nearly that much dust. Each pack is 100 gold and it takes me about 3 days to save up enough gold from quests and wins to get a pack. The only reason I had the dust to craft Boom and Sylvanas was from all the packs I got when I bought the pre-order to TGT. The only deck I have all the cards for is Face Hunter and well; I’d rather not play Hearthstone than play Face Hunter all the time.

The next card I'm going to craft is Big Game Hunter. He's an epic, but he's a very popular card. Then I'll be getting to the point where I'll probably want to craft a class Legendary (that can only be used in one class). That will really be picking my 'main' to put that much dust into one class. The contenders right now are Grommash Hellscream (Warrior), Vol'jin (Priest) or Tirion Fordring (Paladin).

Thursday, November 12, 2015

[WoW - Legion] Paladin Class Preview

While I was disappointed in the announcement that Legion would not be launching until September of 2016, I was excited about some of the Legion announcements that came out of Blizzcon like the new Transmog system and the way the entire world of Legion scales around you.

Ever since the announcement of artifact weapons, I knew I would be continuing to use my Paladin as my main in Legion. I couldn't imagine anything that could be revealed through the class previews that would change my mind. My dream was for Tankadin to get a Gladiator type of talent so I could stay Prot and DPS, but after Warriors lost Gladiator, I knew I was in for disappointment. I'll probably have to go Ret as my main raiding spec. I still love tanking and I'm sure I'll do my fair share in 5 mans or LFR, but I can't be a raid tank with only 50% (at best) attendance.

The developers stated they wanted to get back to the fantasy of each class. The mythos and fantasy of the Paladin was what originally drew me to the class. I love the idea of being the warrior dedicated to the Light helping those who cannot help themselves, championing the cause of the innocent, the helpless, and the powerless against beings of far greater power.


I was blown away by the news we would be able to trispec in Legion and they would have the UI to support it. I dabbled in Holy at one point in Warlords, but I’ve never done it very long. I prefer tanking and I needed Ret to solo/dps. Which spec do I give up? If I give up Ret, how can I solo effectively? If I give up Prot, then I can't tank. Now, I'll be able to have all 3 specs going. I may actually give Holy another try in Legion.


I like that they are bringing (or trying to bring) Holy back to the front lines. It always felt weird for the plate wearing healer (though in Vanilla and tBC we wore cloth like all the rest) to be standing in the back. I wonder how this will work in practice. Will the Holy Paladin be constantly running around trying to get close to each target? What happens for those ‘spread out’ raid mechanics? The talent to also base your mastery off your Beacon location should help, but it might very well undo their intended effect. If I can Beacon the tank and stand in the back, out of the melee mess, I probably will.

Blizzard will also need to code their raids better. One of the problems of Holy Paladins getting close is that sometimes ranged effects would target the Holy Paladin and hit the melee. Holy would need to be considered melee targets, but what happens if they stay at range? I do worry this new Holy Paladin mastery could be like the Resto Shaman mastery and not be very useful sometimes.


I also like that Holy will no longer be using Holy Power, but I'm not entirely sure about taking it away from Prot. It added some depth to the gameplay by having to make decisions on the fly about how to spend that Holy Power. Are we going back to the 969 days? My biggest worry from the preview is the new (old) talent Redoubt. Redoubt used to be talent way back in the day that increased our chance to block, but the new iteration gives us charges to use Shield of the Righteous or use Light of the Protector which is a new skill that does what Word of Glory with Bastion of Glory does today. The problem I see is that the charges are granted on an auto-attack critical. Crit turns into Parry for Tankadins but we generally don’t stack it. Will we now? I don't like the idea of basing so much of our mitigation on an RNG effect. A bad string of missed crits could really hurt our mitigation and we already aren't up to the standards of what DKs and Monks can do with their absorbs.


Ret doesn't look like it changed much though I am excited about the new teleport spell, Lothar's Might. As many have pointed out one of the new Ret talents is called Lothar's might, but Lothar was a warrior. How about Yrel's Might instead?

Overall, I’m cautiously optimistic about the future of Paladin. It looks like the specs are sharing less abilities than ever and I’m excited to try them all out during Legion, though I’m sure Prot will still be my favorite.

Friday, August 28, 2015

[Hearthstone] How to Allocate Gold Post TGT


I base my gold spending on Rare cards. In probability, we look at the possible outcomes. You are guaranteed to get at least 1 Rare card from each pack so we can set the probability of that event to 100%. With Epic or Legendary, we would first have to calculate the chance of even getting an Epic or Legendary in our pack and then calculate which packs had the best chance of giving a Legendary I didn't already have. I consider pulling a Legendary or Epic a bonus and not something to use as a basis for decisions. In the same vein, I can't see basing a decision on Common cards because they are too...well, common. If there's a particular one you really need, craft it, its cheap. I had to do that with Spider Tanks. Those suckers would not show up for me. If I ever get a wild hair to play Rogue, I'll have to craft my second Tinker's Sharpsword Oil.

Collection Manager

In order to know what you need, you need to know what you've got. I'm using a Collection Manager to track my collection. My personal choice is Hearthhead, but a simple spreadsheet would work equally as well. The core piece of data we want is how many Rares of each set we are currently missing. I don't consider a card 'gotten' until I have both copies. Sure, I could run one and I often do, but most of the time, you want to run cards in pairs. From my collection manager, I see that I'm missing 53 Classic, 22 GvG, and 16 TGT Rares.

Do the Math

Classic has 81 Rares, GvG has 37, and TGT has 36. The core question we need to answer is which pack gives me the greatest chance of pulling a card I don't currently own. Of course, not all cards are equal, some Rares are more powerful than others, but we don't know which card we will get so we treat all Rares equally. We do a simple 'sharp pencil' exercise to answer the question.

Classic has 81 Rares, and I'm missing 53. That means that each Classic pack I open has 53 chances in 81 of being a card I need. We express that as 53/81 or 65.4321% which we can round off to 65%. We repeat this exercise for GvG (22/37) = 59% and TGT (16/36) = 44% .

A Classic pack has a 65% of having a card I need, GvG has a 59% chance and TGT has a 44% chance.

In my particular case, Classic packs are the best use of Gold, but not by a whole lot. You can run the numbers for yourself and see what you stand.

Monday, August 10, 2015

[WoW - Legion] Ashbringer

I looked forward to the announcement of the new Expansion and I wondered how much information we would get. Since I've stopped raiding due to my new schedule, I've been playing around more with alts. My favorite has been my old Alliance Hunter (the one that got Rhok'delar back in the day) and I was giving quite serious contemplation to going Hunter for the Expansion. I'm doing so much more solo these days and no class solos quite like a Hunter.

One picture was all it took to change that.


THE Ashbringer.

My son, there will come a day when you will command the Ashbringer, and with it mete out justice across this land. I have no doubt that when that day finally comes, you will bring pride to our people, and that Lordaeron will be a better place because of you. But, my son, that day is not today. - Alexandros Mograine


I don't know if I can properly describe what The Ashbringer means to a Paladin player steeped in Warcraft lore. It is the the quintessential Paladin weapon. Forged by none other than King Magni Bronzebeard, wielded by Alexandros Mograine, purified and wielded by Tirion Fordring himself, and shattered Frostmourne at the peak of Ice Crown Citadel.

Now, Theogrun Bronzebeard, better known by the moniker Honor's Hammer, will join the line of Mograine and Fordring and wield The Ashbringer as part of a reformed Silver Hand to mete out justice to the Legion and all its followers.

The only question left now is if I will keep him Tauren or if I will bring him back to the Alliance. It almost feels like Ashbringer needs to be in Alliance hands. Its never been wielded by any other than a human, though it was forged by Dwarves. It feels like an Alliance weapon. That said, I'm not sure it would look right on a Dwarf. Ashbringer needs to look big. It won't look right scaled down to a Dwarf. Human or Draenai would work, but man it would look HUGE in Tauren hands, especially male Tauren.

While the lore reasons are good, I'm in a solid guild right now, and I've started forming gaming friendships with some of the members. Granted, I'm not raiding, but my schedule should open back up in a couple of months.

It would be great if I could be Alliance and still be in my same guild. Its not like the factions really matter anymore. Pandas can be on either side and with Mercenary mode, you'll see people PVPing for both sides. We have banded together time and again to take down threat after threat: The Old Gods in Silithus, Illidan in Outland, The Lich King himself in Northrend, Deathwing all across Azeroth, The Thunder King and Garrosh in Pandaria, and the Iron Horde of Draenor. Why do we even keep fighting each other?

Friday, August 7, 2015

[WoW:Legion] Expansion Conjecture - Two Specs For All?

In World of Warcraft: Legion, the new Demon Hunter Hero class will only have two specs: one for tanking and one for DPS. I wondered if this might signal that all WoW Classes were going down to two specs. They did prune many abilities going into WoD. Is pruning specs next?

WoW currently has 11 classes with 3 specs each. You could argue that Druids actually have 4. That's 33 or 34 specs to add new abilities for Legion and balance for PVE and PVP. That's a ton of work. Now you add two more. We've already seen they have problems with the existing set of specs to the point that they nerfed one of the Warlock specs TO THE GROUND because it was so much better than the others it felt like the only right choice and said 'We don't want you playing that spec'. I think it was Demonology but don't quote me on that. Warlocks are my least favorite class in the game.

The designers also struggle to make each spec unique, especially the pure DPS. An Assassination Rogue kills stuff with daggers and poison. A Subtlety Rogue kills stuff with poisons and dagger and ... subtlety? With less specs they have more room to make each distinct.

Taking each class to two specs gives you only 24 specs to create new abilities for and balance. That's more manageable, but how would get you there?

The first thing I'd do is separate out the support classes (Tanks and Healers) from the pure DPS classes. In WoW, your pure DPS classes are Hunter, Rogue, Mage, Warlock, Your support classes are Shaman, Monk, Paladin, Priest, Warrior, Death Knight, Druid. The way I would do it is give every class a solo focused spec and a group focused spec. For the support classes, the support spec is the group spec and the DPS spec is the solo spec. For the pure DPS, I'd make one spec better at soloing and one better for groups.

Healers (Heal/DPS)
Shaman (Restoration/Enhancement)
Priest (Discipline/Shadow)
Paladin (Retribution/Holy)
Monk (Mistweaver/Windwalker)
Druid (Feral / Resto)

Each armor type is represented from Cloth to Plate. Shaman and Priest were obvious choices for healers since they are Heal/DPS hybrids. As an old time WoW player, I found Windfury too iconic to let Enhancement go. Discipline is something of a unique healing style so I kept that over Holy. I'll talk about Druids in the Tanks.

Tanks (Tank/DPS)
Warrior (Protection / Fury)
Death Knight (Blood / Frost)
Druid (Feral / Resto)
Demon Hunter (Tank spec name / DPS spec name)

The Tanks break down to either Plate or Leather. Death Knight, Demon Hunter and Warrior were obvious choices as Tank/DPS hybrids. I didn't want to have Paladin and Warrior both as tanks because they are a similar sword and board archetype. I went with Druid as the fourth tank because Feral lets me cheat them a DPS spec and keep their healing Resto spec.

Druids are the biggest challenge because all their forms are so iconic and they really have four different specs (Bear, Cat, Moonkin, Tree). You can keep Bear and Cat by keeping Feral but I wouldn't envy the person who had to decide between Moonkin and Tree, but in the end I decided that Boomkin and Cat were redundant DPS forms and went with Cat.

DPS (Solo/Group)
Hunter (Beast Mastery / Marksmanship)
Rogue (Assassination / Combat)
Mage (Frost / Fire)
Warlock (Demonology / Destruction)

Frost, Demonology and Beast Mastery are all pet assisted DPS specs so it made sense to make them more solo focused. Assassination sounds like something you'd do alone. I don't know Rogues well so I'm spit-balling that one.

The biggest impediment is that players think of themselves more as their spec than their class. Brewmaster Monks think of themselves more as Brewmasters than Monks. There are Beast Mastery Hunters who probably wouldn't play anymore if Beast Mastery was gone.

I realize this will probably never happen but it was a fun thinking exercise nonetheless.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

[Hearthstone] Season 16 (July)

Hearthstone's 16th season wrapped up and I'm happy to announce I made a new personal best rank this month. Previously, my best rank was Rank 17, but this month, I hit Rank 16.

I realize no one cares what happens at Ranks 15 or above, but I'm pretty pleased with it. If we compared Hearthstone to WoW Raiding, Ranks 25 to 20 would be like the LFR level of Hearthstone. Ranks 19 to 15 are Flex, 14 to 6 are Heroics and Ranks 5 to 1/Legend are Mythic.

I used a couple of different decks to climb this month. I try to keep one deck of each class so I can always do the daily quest to get gold to buy packs. It also helps me learn the tools the other classes have so I can try to anticipate what my opponent might be able to do on his turn.

My main deck was a more of a taunt heavy Priest deck. My preferred play style is more mid-range or board control (Tank) but the current environment in Hearthstone promotes a faster, rush (DPS) style. I got tired of constantly losing to those hyper-aggressive, rush decks that aim to finish the game before Turn 6. I had two choices. I could either make my own hyper-aggressive rush deck or I could try to make a deck that countered that play style. I chose the latter.

Taunt forces your opponent to attack the minion with Taunt rather than another minion or your hero. You can still target minions without taunt with Spells or certain Battlecry effects, but if you want to attack with a minion, you have to attacked the Taunt minion first. The aggressive decks generally have lots of small, cheap minions and attack your hero at every opportunity.

I'm not sure my deck can climb a whole lot higher, but I'm going to aim for Rank 15 next season before the Grant Tournament drops. Your rank is reset at the start of each Season (each month). The early part of the season tends to be even more dominated by aggressive decks. Those decks typically have faster games allowing people to climb the ranks more quickly.

I'm not sure I'd recommend using this deck. It can go horribly, horribly wrong. It runs quite a few high mana cards, and buffs. If you wind up with a bunch of buffs and high mana minions in your opening hand, its probably going to be loss. Against aggressive decks, Deathlord won't hurt you much since all their minions tend to be small. Against other Control style decks, it can lose you game as I found out when I a Control Warrior got Ysera on Turn 4. Oops.

The deck also lacks a bit of late punch. Many times you will rely on your opponent to provide you with the pieces to kill him. One time, I Mind Controlled my opponents Ragnoros the Firelord for a win. Another time I wiped my opponents board with Unleash the Hounds that I got from Thoughtsteal.

But you are doing well in Hearthstone with a 50% win rate, and given the current state of the game, you are more likely to run into an aggressive deck than a slower one.

I've had some epic games with this deck and I enjoyed the playstyle. I'm looking forward to seeing what it will do next season before everything gets crazy as people try out new decks from the expansion.

ProtHoly (Taunt Heavy Priest)
Circle of Healing x 2
LIght of the Naaru
Power Word : Shield x 2
Northshire Priest x 2
Resurrect x 2
Shadow Word : Pain
Annoy-o-Tron x 2
Deathlord x 2
Shadow Word: Death x 2
Thoughtsteal x 2
Shade of Naxxramas
Arcane Nullifier
Auchenai Soulpriest
Sludge Belcher
Holy Nova x 2
Sunwalker x 2
Mind Control x2