State of Arena - 29/11/2018 Dev Insights

Arena Discussion
For the sake of clarity, the post I refer to is Tian Ding's post "Developer Insights: Arena Balance Through Science".

I've been meaning to start a discussion about Arena and the design direction it has been taking for a few months now. After reading Tian Ding's post, as Arena players, I'd like to know:

1) How you feel about the current state of Arena.

2) Whether you agree with the current approach to balance


I'm going to leave my answers to these questions, so that my vote be added to the pool.

1) I think Arena is currently a balanced but extremely boring experience:

Whenever I draft an Arena deck, no matter what class I choose, it always feels like a tedious grind. I believe there is little card diversity between decks of the same class, and even less factors for excitement and surprise.

In my eyes this is due to the low power level of cards on offer, coupled with a bucket system that makes it hard to have both fun and consistency. When I say fun I mean explosive effects like that of evolve, or firelands portal, which have incredible potential and good strength on average.

I am not saying that there is an issue with my chances of winning. I'm confident in my ability to draft a strong deck and avoid misplays and get to 7 wins. For that purpose I'm confident the system described in Tian Ding's post is going to work.

The issue lies with the fact that my role as a player is currently limited to slapping down whatever junk found its way into my hand that turn, and hope that the other player's junk is even worse.

I do not find trading interesting, when the only cards in my hand are Walnut Sprite, Coppertail Imposter and Sated Threshadon. Powerful cards, by definition, open more option than low power cards, and randomness adds a layer of complexity to the game.

On average I would rather play a fun deck against another fun deck, rather than have all my games be dull.

So no, I do not think Arena is in a good state at the moment. I believe that the recent changes to Arena (say from around the release of the Witchwood) have both made the game uninteresting to play, and uninteresting to watch.

2) So how would you rather see Arena then ?

I liked Arena most in the days of Knights of the Frozen Throne. Where discover palooza was out of hand and every game was a clownfiesta.

Don't get me wrong, the game may have been terrible in terms of balance. But I think it was tremendously fun, both to watch and to play.

And on my end I was able to consistently get wins while having fun ! My strategy was taking risks to draft synergistic decks to get a decent win rate on average.

What I'm trying to say is that I think its fine for Arena to not be perfectly balanced. I would much rather see perfect balance sacrificed if it meant that on average a player would get around 5-9 wins while having fun.

I don't really care if, in such a system, I can't make it to 12 because people above 9 have insane decks with near unbeatable combos. At least 1/10 times that's going to be me.

So, TLDR, please reconsider the design direction for Arena. More fun, more randomness, more powerful cards all around, even if that is at the expense of consistency of results for players, to a reasonable extent.

I'd be glad to know what you guys think. Thanks for reading.
I agree that the drafting feels more systematic and same-y than before, some cards you just see all the !@#$ing time. No doubt that this change was made to address complaints that there were too many different cards to play around effectively. But when you've got two opposite cards of similar occurrence in the same rotation anyway (eg. Explosive Shot and Crushing Walls) it becomes kind-of moot doesn't it?

Previously it felt like you were able to find victory with an inferior deck (essentially by knowing when to call bluffs and "sm0rc") so one could blame bad players for the abundance of insane decks at high wins, but currently there are a butt-load of excellent taunt minions (though people still generally avoid dedicated healing cards), and just a few high-powered taunts utterly obliterates your ability to salvage a crap draft.

Despite this you still have Rogues pulling Death Knights out of their derrieres, so I'm not really sure about the lack of "discover-palooza" which seems as prevalent as ever.
I think arena is mostly fine, but warrior is brokely op and needs to be fixed. It is soooo different in style to all other classes AND is cosistently offered strong synergistic cards. It is problematic
12/05/2018 02:33 AMPosted by Neovas
The issue lies with the fact that my role as a player is currently limited to slapping down whatever junk found its way into my hand that turn, and hope that the other player's junk is even worse.


Great post. This part in particular nailed my current feelings on arena.
Agree 100%
I drafted a Mage deck that had 4 spells to account for and 2 of them spells were secrets. I did also have 1 legendary (Pyros). Its frustrating to me because the Mage don't do her/his job without the primary arsenal the class is known for. It may be balanced in the part of every class can expect to get a high amount of non class cards. And even if you get some luck on synergy...can you count on it coming together for 12 straight games to get to the top? From my experience id say negative.
Thank you for you feedback everyone.

12/05/2018 11:10 AMPosted by TheZizz
Despite this you still have Rogues pulling Death Knights out of their derrieres, so I'm not really sure about the lack of "discover-palooza" which seems as prevalent as ever.


I agree that Rogue matches often involve a lot of RNG and discoveries. From my experience, the issue is that other class matchups do not.

I believe the current Arena engine allows players to pick Blink Fox and Hallucination because these cards do not (on average) make Rogue's win rate unhealthy. On the other hand you almost never see Rogue's strong tempo cards (Vilespine, Sap...), which you are not even offered the option to pick in most runs.

12/05/2018 12:17 PMPosted by Hellweek
I think arena is mostly fine, but warrior is brokely op and needs to be fixed. It is soooo different in style to all other classes AND is cosistently offered strong synergistic cards. It is problematic


I think that to keep Warrior win-rates healthy, with the class' weak hero power and strong synergistic cards, the engine has had to push incredible cards towards players, and may be struggling to prevent too strong warrior decks from being rampant.

After having played a few Arena runs in Rumble, I do think that there are currently more powerful cards being pushed toward players than at the end of the last expansion.

My concern is that this is not going to last.

For Developers how can a system which is focused around formulating drafts that have a 50% win-rate take into account the fun factor of playing the game ? Isn't all players playing nothing but Walnut Sprites perfectly balanced in the eyes of the engine ? Won't the system tend to constantly push Arena towards such an equilibrium during each expansion (i.e. a situation where players play only either neutral cards or irrelevant cards with no swing) ?
Devs asking for community insight? Yes! Hope they actually-write-back.

How do I feel about current-arena?
Politely, arena is absolutely-horrible since the day you guys made the choice to make arena buckets. Period. Bucket-system is not-fun. Because it is not-random, what so ever. You guys made pools of cards to avoid people getting constructed decks in arena...and control what we see, how often.

The point of arena is "make do with poor cards and great cards that nobody has controlled how we see them". Player-agency, over Blizz-agency.

The fun part of arena was comparing cards of the same-rarity, not the same-powerlevel. Please put arena back to random, with very, very sparse bans like Flappy Bird. Then, look at constructed and buff some of the cards you nerfed in the past that restrict the format. Example FWA, Blade Flurry. buff them back. Flare too. Thanks.
I like the controlled Arena.

I disagree that decks of a class always resemble one another. I drafted three Hunter decks back to back at the end of Boomsday:

First one was a very competent aggro deck. Went eight wins.
Second one was a meandering midrange deck. I was trying to draft aggro again but the draft didn't accommodate it and I didn't adapt. The resulting deck was very mediocre. Went four wins.
Third one I got a Spellstone relatively early and a Lich King. I drafted a kinda controlley deck with lots of traps and synergies. A very powerful deck that went eleven wins.

Three very different decks.

Now, there are class identities and cards that you see all the time. I feel that 90% of Mages have a Flamestrike. But I'm not sure that's a bad thing as such. It means that you need to take these things into account when playing.

The only class I really dislike currently is Priest as they have lots of super powerful outs that you can't really take into account when playing. Going wide is punished, going tall is punished, going high attack is punished, going low attack is punished. Not all at the same time by every deck but you cannot know what they have until they throw it in your face and flip the game around due to Mass Hysteria or Mind Control or Shadow Madness or Holy Nova or Topsy Turvy or whatever.

I like how your skill actually matters and the games aren't a ridiculous clown fiesta of RNG effects deciding the games. There's still quite enough room for idiotic turns of evens (I had a Warlock down to one health as a Hunter and he gets Alexstraza from his Pinata and wins the game; or I play Soul Forge on turn two, my Molten Blade turns into a Twig on turn three and I coin it out and then play the Axe on turn four to get ten mana - won that game trivially; or my opponent Cubes his Arfus and eventually wins with the three Lich King cards; or my Cauldron gives me a Stormbringer and I manage to retain a wide board for a turn and the resulting six Legendaries include Tyrantus, Ysera, and Lich King).
Card diversity could be increased, for sure. It's a little early in the expansion to say what I'd like to see less of (but BDP certainly had its culprits). The weird thing I notice is how some decent-ish neutral cards from the base set are rarely seen in drafts or in play. Imp Master, Injured Blademaster, Crazed Alchemist & Murloc Tidehunter come to mind.
12/11/2018 11:29 AMPosted by nogoodnik
Card diversity could be increased, for sure. It's a little early in the expansion to say what I'd like to see less of (but BDP certainly had its culprits). The weird thing I notice is how some decent-ish neutral cards from the base set are rarely seen in drafts or in play. Imp Master, Injured Blademaster, Crazed Alchemist & Murloc Tidehunter come to mind.

I see Imp Master somewhat frequently (he is bucketed pretty low I think) but I can't indeed remember when I've last seen an Injured Blademaster played or offered. The other two are indeed surprisingly rare but I do recall seeing them at least once in a while.

But an interesting observation!
Arena is obviously not in a good state now. It has been worse in the past for sure, but there are some things that can be changed. I agree with all people that say arena has become uninteresting since the bucket system was introduced, I think it should be removed. Besides, it never really worked. Especially in legendary buckets, which one would you pick between Lich King, Prince Valanar and The Darkness? Geez, that's a tough one. A lot of low power level cards appear very often, the only real choice comes in 1 or 2 buckets. For example in warlock, Dreadlord, Voidlord and Siphon Soul. The rest is just a fest of ''pick your garbage carefully''.

Other than that, warrior probably needs some examining. Lots of very powerful cards, which also appear quite often during drafting. It's very easy to make a warrior with a bunch of great weapons, spellstones and the new *common* card Dragon Roar that in my opinion is much better than Omega Assembly. Giving warrior a little ''paladin treatment'' would be nice.
12/12/2018 01:52 AMPosted by FireHades
Especially in legendary buckets, which one would you pick between Lich King, Prince Valanar and The Darkness?

You do realize that those are in different buckets so you never actually decide between those three? (There's three Legendary buckets.) Without the bucket system OTOH you'd sometimes get to decide between those three - a real test of drafting skill!

Other than that, warrior probably needs some examining. Lots of very powerful cards, which also appear quite often during drafting. It's very easy to make a warrior with a bunch of great weapons, spellstones and the new *common* card Dragon Roar that in my opinion is much better than Omega Assembly. Giving warrior a little ''paladin treatment'' would be nice.

They adjust things often. I see Super Colliders way, way more rarely nowadays, for example. I also can't remember when I've last seen a warrior with two Spellstones (let alone be offered them when drafting myself).
>Drafts warlock
>Offered skull of manari second pick
>Offered no demons
12/15/2018 11:25 PMPosted by Echo
>Drafts warlock
>Offered skull of manari second pick
>Offered no demons
Do you recall the other two options you rejected over Skull of Manari?
In Arena, at second pick, there are only two scenarios where I would pick Skull. Either because I figure it'd be so much fun if it works that I willingly accept the risk (and the probably outcome of a failed run); or because the two alternatives are even worse - and I honestly struggle to come up with two legendaries that I would both consider worse than Skull at second pick. Mlihouse would be one, but the other?
Sincere thanks to the Arena Design team for introducing changes that address the issues raised in my post !

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