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HiveMindEmulator

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The GvG arena meta shift
« on: January 16, 2015, 12:48:43 pm »
+10

This started out as a post in Arena Genereal, but then I decided it was long enough that it warranted its own thread. I then, of course, made it longer, but I hope it's worth reading.

Arena Pre-GvG

Before GvG, the game was something like this:
1. Pick Rogue, Mage, Druid, or Paladin -- Warrior if you must
2. Draft good class cards and lots of Raptors.
3. Don't make dumb plays.
4. Profit.

It really was that simple. Just doing that probably got you 80% of the way to optimal play.

Basically, the idea is that if you win the first 4 turns, most of the time you're going to win the game. Of course, there can be some major swings late in the game with the strong class cards, but assuming you have similar deck quality, having the upper hand after turn 4 went a long way toward securing the win. If you had the tempo advantage when you threw out your first good big guy (like Merc or Spectral), your opponent was going to have a hell of a time dealing with it, much less overcoming the inital tempo disadvantage.

So how do you win the first 4 turns? Mostly by having enough Raptors. If on any of the first 3 turns you could play a 2-drop while your opponent couldn't, you'd be ahead. And if they didn't have a game-swinging 3-4 drop (Senjin, Yeti, Crusader, Harvest Golem, Twilight Drake, or class stuff like Truesilver, Death's Bite, Water Ele, Multi-shot, Frothing, Unbound...), you really had your back to the wall. And there were only 4 neutral commons that fit this bill-- Sen'jin, Yeti, Crusader, Harvest Golem. Raptors could trade up with 3-health 3-drops, and with a ping hero power could trade evenly with 4 health 4-drops.

So you wanted to have enough 2-drops that you didn't get run over early, and you really couldn't have too many Raptors since they traded pretty decently with almost anything. What did this add up to? Drafting Raptors was a pretty solid thing to be doing most of the time.

Here's a first-order approximate list of draft priorities:

1. Game-swinging 3-4 drops (Sen'jin, Yeti, Crusader, Harvest Golem, and Dwarf (which lets you trade Raptors up for Sen'jin/Yeti))

2. Top tier big guys (Boulderfist, Merc, Spectral, Tiger, Champ) to close out the game

3. Good situational/utility cards (Ooze, Cult Master, Cleric, Inventor, Spellbreaker, Farseer)

4. Good 1-drops (Chow, Infiltrator)

5. Good/decent 2-drops (Amani, Bomber, Panda, Loot, Dire Wolf, Faerie Dragon, Raptor, Bluegill, Unstable Ghoul, Creeper, Bloodsail Raider, Croc) and second-tier 5 drops (Silver Hand, Warlord), Raging Worgen

6. Third tier 4+ drops (Smith, Fen Creeper, Commando, Big Panda, Stormwind Knight, Frost Ele, War Golem) and Abusive Sergeant

7. Third tier 3-drops (Wolfrider, Acolyte, Flesheating Ghoul, Grizzly, Razorfen, Panther)

8. Weak stuff, depends on your deck.

This is only a rough outline, and there were some shifts depending on your class and what rares you end up with, but for a first-order approximation, this is pretty close to what you wanted to be doing.

Notice there are only 18 cards that were significantly better than Raptor. (Yeah Bomber is strictly better, but often just did the same thing.) That's 18 neutral commons out of 87, just over 20%!

So what changed with GvG?

1. There's way more stuff that can 2-for-1 Raptors.
2. There's way more playable 2-drops.

Shredder, Mech Yeti, Spider, and Brute all join the top tier, nearly doubling its size. Plus there are a couple rare 2/4 3-drops (Sapper, Illuminator).

The new playable 2-drops are Annoy-o-tron, Sheep, Gilbin, Mechwarper, Micro Machine, Puddlestomper, Ship's Cannon, Stonesplitter, and one per class except Warrior (if you count Glaivezooka, which isn't really a minion). That's about a 67% increase.

But the total common card pool only grew by about 23% from 103=87+16(class) to 127=109+18(class).

Between these two factors, the importance of drafting Raptors has gone way down since:
1. It's easier to win the tempo on turn 3-4 rather even if you don't on turn 2.
2. There's so many 2-drops that if you find yourself short on them, it's not hard to catch up in the last few draft picks. It's of greater relative importance to draft the better high-end cards, since there was only ONE good 5+ drop added (Force Tank).

So draft-wise, it seems you want to bump up all the decent 5+ drops. And play-wise, the game is less likely to be decided by someone failing to draw their 2-drop. With the games going longer, classes with better high-end cards (Druid, Priest) or later-game hero powers (Warlock, Priest, Shaman, Paladin) get bumps relative to the better early-game hero powers (Rogue, Mage). Also, the increase in sticky minions makes buff cards better, and thus the classes with more buffs (Paladin, Shaman, Priest).

I haven't really figured out how all the classes stack up against each other yet, or what the right draft priorities are beyond the very top, but late game seems much more important than before, and Raptor seems much more like a vanilla card than an arena dominator like it was before.

For reference, my new priorities are something like this:

1. Game swinging 3-4 drops (Shredder, Mech Yeti, Yeti, Crusader, Spider, Brute, Dwarf, Sen'jin)

2. Top tier big guys (Boulderfist, Merc, Spectral, Tiger, Champ)

3. Harvest Golem (2 attack power makes it much weaker than the new top 3-drops) and stronger situational/utility stuff (Ooze, Cult Master, Cleric, Spellbreaker -- no Inventor for reasons similar to Harvest Golem, and no Farseer since there's more stuff that straight-up kills it for 3).

4. Second-tier 5-drops (Silver Hand, Warlord)

5. 1-drops (Chow, Infiltrator)

6. 2-drops with upside (Amani, Bomber, Panda, Dire Wolf, Micro Machine, Loot), third-tier 5+ drops (Smith, Fen, Commando, Frost Ele, Tank), and Inventor and Farseer.


Thoughts?
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popsofctown

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Re: The GvG arena meta shift
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2015, 03:12:41 pm »
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Infiltrator over Bomber?  That's kinda surprising.. maybe you mean that the tiers spill over onto eachother somewhat and Bomber is actually better but Bomber seems even stronger than before nowadays.


I strongly suspect that basic frequencies remain constant even as new commons are added, and that's a really big component of arena gameplay changes.  But I can't verify that.  But that's how I explain a lot of the shift to midrange and control in arena.

My only post-gvg 12 win run was a Druid deck that took high quality fatties early on and scooped up necessary 2 drops in the last two picks.  So it's a good strategy.
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HiveMindEmulator

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Re: The GvG arena meta shift
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2015, 03:50:47 pm »
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Yeah the tiers are only to first order, but I actually do take Infiltrator over Bomber. Infiltrator is like Backstab. You use 1 mana you would otherwise waste, and then some time in the next couple turns, you essentially get to Backstab something. That's pretty solid. Mad Bomber has upside, but it's not quite as consistently powerful, imo.
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markusin

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Re: The GvG arena meta shift
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2015, 07:20:07 pm »
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I also noticed how there are way more neutral minions in the 1-4 mana range relative to those costing 5+ mana (anf having 6+ health). I believe this has had the effect of keeping Mage top tier just of how the downcurving makes Flamestrike stronger.

So yeah, you should be more willing to pick up stuff like Warlord and Ravenholdt post GvG.

I'm curious, what tier would you all place Madder Bomber and Bomb Lobber? To me, they belong somewhere around Warlord or perhaps even higher.
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Jorbles

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Re: The GvG arena meta shift
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2015, 08:51:38 pm »
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I think Bomb Lobber is better than a Madder Bomber. You can turn the game around with both of them, but Bomb Lobber never does anything bad, and you can usually line it up in a way that it only has one target. I wouldn't necessarily directly compare it to Warlord but would look at my deck probably. Do I have a need for more big bodies or removal? They fill different roles in Arena.
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Titandrake

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Re: The GvG arena meta shift
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2015, 02:51:48 pm »
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I haven't picked Madder Bomber yet - a bit of an aversion to that much RNG, and I normally get a creature with a better than 5/4 for 5 body. I'm probably undervaluing it though.

Bomb Lobber is really good. I treat it as almost-always-Argent-Commander and value it only a little below Argent Commander itself. I'd put Argent at 3 with Harvest Golem. Everything in 2 except for Tiger, I'd pick over Argent on average, and Tiger vs Argent is close for me.
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popsofctown

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Re: The GvG arena meta shift
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2015, 11:37:18 pm »
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Madder Bomber isn't going to do much to help you survive the sea of flame strikes that is the 7+ win territory
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HiveMindEmulator

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Re: The GvG arena meta shift
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2015, 08:15:46 pm »
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I'm curious, what tier would you all place Madder Bomber and Bomb Lobber? To me, they belong somewhere around Warlord or perhaps even higher.

Rares are of course different from commons because they compete against different things, but if those cards existed as commons, Bomb Lobber would be one of the best 5 drops. It's very easy to get 2-for-1 out of it. It's almost always going 2-for-1. While it's technically situational, the situation is very common. Madder Bomber is a bit more situational. You don't want to play it when you have stuff it might kill. And even if you don't have anything, you can't expect it to kill anything with more than 2 remaining health. It would be with the third tier, as a more situational but bigger Commando.

Madder Bomber isn't going to do much to help you survive the sea of flame strikes that is the 7+ win territory

Not super relevant, since you're probably not playing Madder Bomber when you have other stuff on board.
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popsofctown

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Re: The GvG arena meta shift
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2015, 08:58:39 pm »
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I'm curious, what tier would you all place Madder Bomber and Bomb Lobber? To me, they belong somewhere around Warlord or perhaps even higher.

Rares are of course different from commons because they compete against different things, but if those cards existed as commons, Bomb Lobber would be one of the best 5 drops. It's very easy to get 2-for-1 out of it. It's almost always going 2-for-1. While it's technically situational, the situation is very common. Madder Bomber is a bit more situational. You don't want to play it when you have stuff it might kill. And even if you don't have anything, you can't expect it to kill anything with more than 2 remaining health. It would be with the third tier, as a more situational but bigger Commando.

Madder Bomber isn't going to do much to help you survive the sea of flame strikes that is the 7+ win territory

Not super relevant, since you're probably not playing Madder Bomber when you have other stuff on board.
You're agreeing with me, it's something your putting in the 5 drop slot in your deck that's not helping out.  Gurubashi Beserker, Tiger, Spectral Knight, Belcher, Frostwolf Warlord, Fen Creeper, and Smith all dually occupy the 5 drop slot for you and occupy the "my deck needs some anti flamestrike stuff" role for you.  5 drop minions that don't help out both ways need to be doing something really really awesome. 
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Dekryr

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Re: The GvG arena meta shift
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2015, 04:29:14 pm »
+1

Between these two factors, the importance of drafting Raptors has gone way down since:
1. It's easier to win the tempo on turn 3-4 rather even if you don't on turn 2.
2. There's so many 2-drops that if you find yourself short on them, it's not hard to catch up in the last few draft picks. It's of greater relative importance to draft the better high-end cards, since there was only ONE good 5+ drop added (Force Tank).

So draft-wise, it seems you want to bump up all the decent 5+ drops. And play-wise, the game is less likely to be decided by someone failing to draw their 2-drop. With the games going longer, classes with better high-end cards (Druid, Priest) or later-game hero powers (Warlock, Priest, Shaman, Paladin) get bumps relative to the better early-game hero powers (Rogue, Mage). Also, the increase in sticky minions makes buff cards better, and thus the classes with more buffs (Paladin, Shaman, Priest).

I haven't really figured out how all the classes stack up against each other yet, or what the right draft priorities are beyond the very top, but late game seems much more important than before, and Raptor seems much more like a vanilla card than an arena dominator like it was before.

Thoughts?


My thoughts. This is very interesting because I've basically heard the exact opposite from other people. GVG made the game faster, because it didn't add a lot of great higher cost creatures, added many good cheaper creatures and also diluted the card pool away from spells and removal, making it much harder to find them. Because of this, missing a 2-drop is more likely to lose you a game post GVG because it is harder to find spells to catch up and with so many good 3 and 4 drops it is more likely for your opponent to have them and get way ahead of you on turn 3 & 4.

I still think hitting 2-drops is absolutely essential to good Arena performance. I agree that drafting tiers should have shifted post-GVG and your new summary looks good to me. You are absolutely right that the really good 3 and 4 drops are highly coveted. Also, getting good late game cards is a higher priority because of the diluted field. However, I'm not sure I'm willing to say that hitting turn 2 is less important now than it was before. It is now much more likely that your opponent will have a turn 2 minion and a solid turn 3 and 4 minion, while you try to catch up.

I think much of what you said is good advice, but I think that Raptor got worse not because it's terrible and hitting turn 2 is less important. It got worse because there are now more and better 2 drops, so you can more easily pass it up knowing that you will probably get something better later. Curving out with minions is more important now than it was in the past and you do not want to miss turn 2.

I wonder what other people's thoughts are? Is the arena faster now or slower? Do you get snowballed worse when you miss turn 2 now or do you find it easier to come back on turns 3, 4, and 5?
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HiveMindEmulator

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Re: The GvG arena meta shift
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2015, 06:13:10 pm »
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^It depends on what you mean by "hit turn 2". If you don't have a 2 drop, the increased quality in 3 drops helps you, overall.
If you are second, you coin a 3 drop out. And if you're first, you answer their 2 drop with a 3 drop. So your 3 drop is coming down first, which makes improvements to 3 drops benefit you more than your opponent. Yes you're still behind, but you have a better chance of catching up than you did when your 3 drop was a Raging Worgen.
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HiveMindEmulator

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Re: The GvG arena meta shift
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2015, 01:09:04 pm »
+2

I didn't see this until recently, but about a week after I wrote this, ADWCTA made a post about GvG arena meta on reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/CompetitiveHS/comments/2rfrr6/gvg_arena_class_tier_list_part_1/

He doesn't really talk about 2-drops, and agrees with Dekryr that the meta is faster. I guess the big thing is that the stickier board makes it harder to clear and start over, so tempo is more important relative to card advantage than before.
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