It’s been a big month of long-anticipated announcements for Hearthstone, including card nerfs, changes to the ranked mode ladder format and some cards shifting out of standard as the game enters the Year of the Mammoth. Blizzard isn’t done with the news, however, as it hits players with another big announcement today.
This time the changes are focused around Arena mode. In this mode, which has existed mostly unchanged since before Hearthstone’s full launch in 2014, players must pay either 150 gold or $1.99 to buy in to a run. Once you’re in, you choose one card from a set of three over and over until you have a full deck of 30 cards. Then you play against others who put together their deck the same way until you lose three times or manage to get the maximum of 12 wins. A reward is doled out based on the number of wins you eked out.
So what’s changing? When patch 7.1 goes live, Arena will change from Wild format to Standard. Up to this point, Arena has stayed in the Wild format, meaning that every card ever released in the game can be found in your draft. Once this patch is implemented, only cards from expansions released in the current and previous calendar year will be found in Arena.
Blizzard says this change is to allow for specific synergies — such as the Jade Golem mechanic added in the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion late last year — to be more achievable in Arena. Without it, new synergies and deck types would become increasingly impossible to utilize in Arena as the total number of cards continues to grow.
Alongside this change, Blizzard is also tweaking the frequency at which “common” rarity cards show up.
“After this change, the number of common and Basic cards that show up overall should be lower, giving more room for fun rare, epic and legendary cards to show up in an Arena run,” Blizzard said in its statement today.
Two cards will be especially impacted. Blizzard says Abyssal Enforcer and Flamestrike — two powerful board clear cards — will show up “approximately 50 percent less” in Arena runs.
While the most powerful board clears in the game may be a bit rarer, spells in general will become more common. Blizzard says that players who don’t manage to get enough spells often end up at a disadvantage in Arena, because they cannot punish opponents who overextend with by playing too many minions. To solve this, the developer is looking to have spells and minions show up in a closer distribution moving forward.
As usual, Blizzard also says it will be watching these changes closely once they’re implemented and may bring in further tweaks or possibly even additional Arena formats as needed. Previously, in September of last year, Blizzard revealed a list of 45 cards that it removed from Arena in order to balance the win rate of some classes over others.
Patch 7.1 and all of the big changes it’s bringing to both constructed and Arena play will arrive “near the end of February.”