While much of the Hearthstone playerbase has been greedily tucking into the new cards available for constructed play, many Arena fans have been less than enthralled with some of the most recent changes that Blizzard has made to the format.
In Arena play, you're thrown a random selection of three cards from which you must choose just one (or rather, the cards used to be random before a few manual tweaks were made a year or so ago to start limiting certain cards in the draft, or eliminating them altogether). Once you've gone through this process thirty times you have your deck.
The most controversial change has come from a new synergy pick tweak which was introduced just ahead of the launch of the latest expansion Knights of the Frozen Throne. To ensure your deck has some kind of early starting shape that the rest of the draft can be built around, the first two cards you choose now posses some sort of synergy, and there's an artificially created pool of options you'll be presented with.
The main problem? Some of those synergy pairings are created a little less equal than others, leading to a minority of very good synergy drafts, alongside a much greater pool of pretty uninspiring efforts. The Arena community is not impressed and feel as though they are being used as a live experiment. Neither have they been pleased to learn that around a dozen of the new cards were left out of the drafting pool without notice.
In a lengthy Reddit thread about the synergy issue, game director Ben Brode first explained the thinking behind the introduction of this new system:
”With every new thing we add to the game, we learn from community feedback, and iterate,” he began.
“Community feedback is a critical part of the process, and the idea that we should only release perfect things that require no feedback is unrealistic.
“We believe mixing the Arena experience up more frequently is better than leaving a single rule-set in place forever.
“Regarding "synergy picks", one of the areas we think Arena is weak right now is the ability for players to feel really clever during the Arena drafting process. Often you pick cards that are individually powerful, but taking a card that is powerful given other cards you might see is very risky.
“We've been experimenting with different prototypes to try and bring this level of gameplay to Arena, including paper printouts of Hearthstone cards so we can test without needing engineers to go in and change the whole system before we find out if a change is even fun.
“It's been difficult to provide the ability for players to chase synergies (and to feel clever by doing so), while maintaining the "anything can happen" feel that makes Arena awesome. This was a first foray, and the community feedback will feed into our next iteration. We consider Arena, and hell, the entire game, to be a collaboration with the community.
He finished by imploring the community to work with the developers, rather than create a sense of opposing factions at loggerheads with one another over the game's development:
”I come to Reddit every day. I love reading about and discussing Hearthstone, the development process, and how we can make things better together. I don't want our communities to have a "players vs developers" vibe.
“I want to work with players to make the game we all love to play even better. Feedback is critical, but when it's delivered in a way that pits us against each other as factions, it is damaging. Let's work together!
As for those missing cards, these will be reinstated in an upcoming patch. In turns out that a bug with the game's internal card editing tool led to a handful of cards being excluded from the drafting process by mistake - they'll be back in an upcoming update.