Year of the Phoenix - New Game Mode Speculation!
After last week's article about the upcoming expansion speculation it is time this week to turn our attention to the much hyped new game mode that is coming with that expansion. Let's start with an overview of what is coming and then dive into the details.
Most of the above graphic speaks for itself. Something to note however: The icons seem to mostly be specifically made for that particular thing. Meaning that the Battlegrounds icon is uniquely made for Battlegrounds and so on. This is of interest because the icon for the new game mode is also unique to just that, which means that perhaps we can draw meaning from what the icon looks like and extrapolate.
To start with, the icon looks like a shield with 2 fields of different color, with 2 swords crossed behind it. The feeling that this portrays combat seems pretty clear and the fact that the field is in 2 separate colors further promotes the idea that this is an icon that it is about 2 different sides clashing, which would suggest this game mode will be Player vs Player and not Player vs Computer opponents.
The icon will to people familiar with it also draw comparisons to the imagery used with the Hearthstone expansion The Grand Tournament, which saw a card back with a shield and 2 crossed Jousting poles, the game mechanic "Joust" from the Grand Tournament was also very much meant to be a style of honorable 1vs1 combat.
That said, it might be unwise to read too much into the icon. If we look at the Battlegrounds icon for instance, it does not signify much of anything to do with what we know about that game mode.
Blizzard has been unsurprisingly mum on what the new game mode will be about. What they did say was that it was going to use your card collection, and that no restrictions would be placed on which sets you can use, meaning that there is no Standard/Wild divide like in the normal game play and you can use your full collection. They also said the new game mode will be similar in scope and scale to Arena mode but not in game play.
That last bit can be interpreted in many ways. Is it similar in that it gives a similar type of rewards when played? Similar in that it will cost gold to participate in? Many things to consider there. What we know for certain though is that this is a significant game mode, that is likely meant to draw a lot of play and interest. So then to come back to the actual point of this post: What could this game mode be?
Knowing everything laid out above we can start with a basic speculation that has been around since the start of the game: Pack Draft. The idea here is that you build a lobby of people, like in Battlegrounds, and then draft cards from a pool in alternating fashion, to build a deck that you then use to play against people in the lobby, who drew cards from the same pool. It is a popular game mode in physical card games as it evens the playing field and doesn't require a huge collection to have fun with.
And there's the rub: no collection needed when Blizzard has stated that your collection will be very much used for this and has said, in relation to this: "We are a collectible card game and would like our players to feel better about their collection and its value." This idea then seems unlikely, unless Blizzard found some way to do a draft from just your collection and still keep a level playing field between players.
Also an old favorite is the demand for a Tournament Mode. Some way to play against a group of people and play competitively through a Tournament setting to decide a winner. If sufficiently supported such a game mode would be able to support every type of restriction in number of players and card format used. There could even be custom Tournaments made with restrictions to very specific expansions, like "Only Classic" or "Only Classic, Goblins vs Gnomes and Boomsday Project". The possibilities would be endless.
Again though there is something to make this popular suggestion unlikely. Back in February at the Hearthstone Summit that previewed the coming year and everything coming with it, we not only had a representative there, but they did an interview with Dean "IksarHS" Ayala, and in it he was asked about Tournament mode and said "I actually did a walkthrough of the application. I think having a competitive mode within the game that’s probably like esports level experience, is super positive and we are just trying to figure out the right way to do that in the client. We want to do competitive features in the client, just not right now."
"Just not right now" at a time Blizzard had earlier announced that they were doing this new game mode. The conclusion basically has to be that Tournament mode was not the game mode they were working on at the time and thus probably not what we will see this upcoming expansion.
A Tavern Brawl
Another suggestion that we have seen floating around is that Blizzard rework one of their Tavern Brawls into a stand alone game mode. There's a very good reason why this might actually happen: Battlegrounds game mode is a modified version of an autochess Tavern Brawl that has been seen several times. The game mode grew into something more complex and different, but some of the basics were ported over.
So which Tavern Brawl to turn into a separate game mode then? There's been so many! One of the popular suggestions is the Brawliseum Tavern Brawl series, which is usually a Deck building excercise with restrictions on which expansions can be used to draw cards from. This is similar to the restrictions mentioned above in the Tournament mode section, "Only Classic" or "Only Classic, Goblins vs Gnomes and Boomsday Project" or whatever other restriction Blizz would want to put out. It would likely be a format where there's a changing card pool to build with every so often (likely per week). There could also be an arcade like angle to it, where there are several different formats active at the same time, although questions about queue times would then certainly be something to watch for.
But that's not the only Tavern Brawl that might be turned into a stand alone game mode. The Tavern Brawls of the Felfire Festival of the past 2 weeks might shed a light on something else that can be done...
Dungeon Run Inspired
The past 2 weeks we have seen some pretty crazy Tavern Brawls, with Dungeon Run treasures, Hero Powers and amazing custom weapons being added to fairly normal decks to create some very unique and fun gameplay where you could feel what it's like to play the game when the normal rules no longer apply. So what if this was it's own game mode?
There's obviously questions about how you would go about creating a somewhat level playing field, but some version where you are allowed to pick a custom Hero Power and 1 or more treasures in an Arena like set up, and then get to build a deck from your collection to support that Hero Power and those treasures could be cool.
Another way to do it would be to have a mix between Arena and Dungeon Runs. Similar to Dungeon Runs you start with a small deck and a Hero Power and then while you keep winning, you keep adding cards from your collection and more treasures. The difference being that you play against other people making decks in this way, instead of against a computer simulated opponent. Like in Arena you would perhaps have several chances before you are eliminated, but the basic idea would be that you get paired against similarly winning opponents until a certain preset end point where you just "win", and claim your reward.
There's obviously myriad other ways Blizzard could go to achieve the basic premise of adding overpowered Dungeon Run special cards to a normally built deck, but these are some ways to do it. Similar to Battlegrounds, Blizzard could easily add and remove certain cards and powers if they prove problematic or underpowered and also similarly could start adding new cards specifically for this game mode once they get the content for it rolling. The possibilities would be endless.
These are obviously just the tip of the iceberg. Many more ideas exist about what could be done for a new game mode, so let us know if you liked any of the ideas presented or have other, much better ideas!