The biggest hurdles to pass for the Standard format
Unless you have been living under a rock the last few days, you have heard by now that Hearthstone is set to introduce a standard format with the release of the next expansion.
My general opinion has always been that this is quite a bad idea, but now it is coming and nothing can change that. And this is not some minor change, but likely the biggest makeover of the game yet. Blizzard's own blog goes into quite the detail about how this will pan out but personally I still see quite a few hurdles ahead which is what we're going to talk about today.
Issue 1: Too few cards
This was and has always been my primary argument against Hearthstone picking up the standard format. There just not enough cards being released. Under this system, Magic releases almost a thousand new cards each year, while cycling out about the same number.
In comparison, Hearthstone released 208 cards in 2015. That doesn't even meet the numbers seen in other formatless TCGs. Quantity is an essential cogwheel of the Standard format both in Magic and in the old WoW TCG and I would be concerned about Blizzard trying to fit a square into a circle if they try to implement standard without the proper quantity.
The solution is abundantly simple: MORE CARDS!!! This spring expansion will have to deliver hard in both quality and quantity. I would probably be disappointed if we get anything less than 300 new cards. We're still to hear from Blizzard on this issue.
Issue 2: Isolated synergies
With the removal of most mechs, [card]Gorillabot A-3[/card] and [card]Clockwork Knight[/card] are completely cut off from their engine. Cards like these are one of the reasons which originally made me believe it would be silly for Hearthstone to initiate formats at this time.
Formats would likely run smoother if interactions like these were completely avoided. Even though Gorillabot was never a metagame staple, the amount of days it get to spent at its full potential is just too short. A simple way to smooth things out is to have all synergies locked in the same standard rotation. For example, if the spring expansion introduces a new tribe “elementals” then the last time they should receive additional support should be in this year's winter expansion/adventure. There should not be any cards to support this tribe in the 2017 packs and that should be the way going forward.
In the mean time as a final band-aid to the current situation, Blizzard could simply “retire” the Clockwork Knight from TGT packs meaning you can still craft him but players buying new TGT packs will not be hindered by this useless card. Not that it would happen.
Issue 3: Cards that probably should (but seemingly never will) be phased out
Some people might remember this row of cards. In my first article on GosuGamers, these were my top five cards that would keep causing issues in the future of Hearthstone. Seems like I was more right than I would like to be because under the system proposed, NONE of these cards would ever be phased out of standard play.
Granted, Blizzard has promised to take a hard look at some of the classic cards and push some long considered changes. This will no doubt fix some of the cards presented and I am sure that the [card]Savage Roar[/card] combo will not be left untouched and Knife Juggler will likely not be allowed to continue his dominance either.
But will Blizzard go far enough? That is the question. Most of these cards have hindered progress and helped push the metagame into a stale place where a lot of the new cards didn't see use and one of my concerns is that too many cards like these are allowed to remain untouched for another year.
I see this issue as another place where Blizzard is seemingly trying to assemble a standard format system but is missing or ignoring a few essential pieces. In Magic, the core sets are meant to define the foundation of the game, but they are not just a collection of cards that happened to be the first ones ever released. Instead, they are composed of cards carefully chosen for the format. These cards either didn't need to be removed or could prove useful to the new rotation given the fresh wave of new cards.
Instead Blizzard has chosen the easy shortcut of simply relying on the classic set which is likely going to be too monotonous. Which brings up the next issue.
Issue 4: Lost Progress
To say that the classic set is not equally made for all classes would be an understatement. Not a lot of people will remember the state of Paladin before Goblin vs Gnomes. Given the current age of justice, it almost sounds crazy that Uther was once the worst hero in Hearthstone at the end of the Naxx cycle. The classic set for Paladins severely lacked arsenal and paired with a horrible match-up against Miracle Rogue placed then on the bottom of the rankings. It was hindered by too many secrets and far too little secrets synergy.
A lot of what we saw from the cards released in Goblins vs Gnomes was progress towards evening out the difference in the quality of cards. Paladins needed the board control tools, because the class didn't have and never got any kind of burst combo that other classes relied on to finish out a game.
This progress will ultimately have to be redone and there will be a lot of reinvented wheels in the process. Paladin is set to lose its most potent early drops and will likely need to see a lots of cards with similar purpose in the new set: a new 2-drop and a new value 3-drop for starters. Next year when [card]Mysterious Challenger[/card] and [card]Anyfin Can Happen[/card] get phased out, they are going to need brand new win conditions, too, while Warriors will still be smashing with [card]Grommash Hellscream[/card] and Handlocks will still be wrecking with their giants.
According to Blizzard, the basic set is meant to serve as a foundation for Hearthstone, but in the case of Paladin, their classic arsenal is so lackluster that it serves more as bottomless pit for anyone who tries to invest into the class, because nothing of value will stick around. The entire identity of the class gets to be rotated every other year.
There is no apparent solution to this, or at least none that Blizzard is likely to use. The best one I can think of, aside from not using classic as a foundation, is to augment the classic set with one or more of the cards from Goblin vs Gnomes that have come to define the Paladin class. This could be done with some other classes as well, “uplifting” a card to classic if you will. This would mean that there would be bigger equality in the number of cards available through classic, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The world of Hearthstone didn't end when Hunters got an extra legendary in The Grand Tournament, and it will not end if Paladins are allowed to keep one card to maintain some identity and make up for the rest of their classic junk. My personal card of choice for such an uplifting would be [card]Quartermaster[/card]. While [card]Muster for Battle[/card] is being rotated out, it is still a safe bet that Paladins will be about spawning Silver Hand Recruits between [card]Silver Hand Regent[/card], [card]Justicar Trueheart[/card] and potentially some new spawn recruit cards in the spring sets.
The alternative is that Paladin in Hearthstone simply won't have any identity or foundation at all and every other year the class will feel completely different and be almost unrecognizable. Actually come to think of it that is extremely accurate to how the class feels to play in World of Warcraft. Maybe all of this is intentional.