Hearthstone's 'Standard' Mode is the New Best Way to Play

As a Hearthstone veteran, I assumed I'd stick with the Wild format. I'm starting to suspect I was very wrong.

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When Blizzard announced it would be splitting Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft into Standard and Wild formats, I fully expected to be a Wild player. After all, I had been playing the game almost every day since it launched on iOS more than two years ago. I have a large collection, plenty of the most useful Legendary cards, and I'm a decent player. Standard sounded nice for newcomers, but not really the mode for a veteran like myself. It's only been a day since release, but I'm starting to suspect that I was very wrong.

My dabbling in Standad began innocently enough. I just wanted to try it out and earn the free packs in the process. But even now that I'm done with my freebies, I find myself going back to Standard. What about this mode is so appealing that I'm forsaking the game as I've always known it, and a solid chunk of my carefully cultivated collection to boot?

It's Less Overwhelming

This was essentially the stated rationale behind Blizzard's decision in the first place. There's a difference between hearing it from a developer and experiencing it for yourself, though. Hearthstone is a game in which the strongest decks are the ones that take advantage of combos and synergies, and as the pool of cards has grown, those combinations have grown so vast and numerous that it boggles the mind. I consider myself a mediocre deck-builder, but the task is hard enough without an abundance of choice making it even tougher to manage.

In fact, I strongly suspect this is a large reason for the usual, now Wild format, to revolve so heavily around what we call net-decking: the practice of copying decks found online for a competitive advantage. That overwhelming feeling means players don't feel competitive without decks that have been carefully engineered by high-level or pro players. 

There's More Experimentation

Perhaps because the format is so young, and maybe because a new expansion was just released, the Standard format is what I've wanted the Casual mode to be. A new expansion always leads to the development of new decks, but pairing this one with the format change means players need to seriously rethink their previous deck designs. Oftentimes in past expansions, we've seen the rise of one or two new deck archtypes, alongside revision and refinement of existing decks that incorporate a few of the new tools.

Standard is different. I've come across two or three types of decks for every class I've played against. Facing a Mage could mean the usual Freeze Mage, but it could also be a new kind of Tempo or a C'Thun deck. Shaman might be a Totem Shaman or an Overload Shaman or Evolve Shaman. In many ways, Standard right now is more wild than Wild, because we're not seeing existing fine-tuned decks that have been slightly revised.

It's More Surprising

All that is to say that the game is more surprising nowadays, and that's at the very heart of Hearthstone. I had grown accustomed to seeing my opponent's class and being able to predict their deck type with reasonable accuracy, even down to the cards they'd mulligan for and which turn to play them. Now I don't know what to expect, so I have to think on my toes. It's a more exciting experience on the whole.

It's More Balanced

When Blizzard announced its nerfs to the Classic and Basic sets, it was trying to tinker with the game balance. But now that it's out, it's clearer than ever that those nerfs, the new Old Gods set, and the Standard format change were all made to work in tandem for an unparalleled experience. Part of that is, as mentioned, every class has multiple viable routes and players are more prone to experiment. Players don't have a single go-to class like Secret Paladin or Combo Druid for guaranteed wins. Cards on the whole are better balanced against each other, and the deemphasis on Silence and Big Game Hunter make for more variety among late-game plays. 

The Gold Standard

Standard Mode is a remarkable achievement altogether. I'm sure I'll go back to Wild, at least to experiment, but for now, Standard is the superior experience in almost every way, even for an old-timer.

Editor-In-Chief

From The Chatty