Why the Wild Open is best for pro Hearthstone

Perhaps we need a tournament that embraces the chaos and randomness of Hearthstone.
A shot of cards now found only in the Wild format
Some classic old cards can be found in Wild © IGN
By James Pickard

Hearthstone is already a crazy game. Babbling Books regularly pull Polymorphs. Ragnaros shots somehow find their way past a fortress of minions. Primordial Glyph conjures another Primordial Glyph, which conjures a Cabalist’s Tome, which conjures a Primordial Glyph, which conjures a Pyroblast. You get the idea. So if all of this madness can occur in Standard, just imagine what kind of salt-producing and headset-smashing surprises await in Wild.

Wild is a lawless land, a place where all card combinations are allowed and your most disgusting deck lists are free from restrictions. As the game’s card pool expanded, it’s here where Blizzard decided that all card and expansions are available for you to pick and choose from to create something entirely unique. With infinite possibilities, how did a lot of players take advantage of this new found freedom? They, er, continued to play Pirate Warrior.

OK, so maybe Wild isn’t exactly the hub of deck creativity it feels like it could be when the hardcore ladder grinders get involved, but there’s no denying it has the potential to offer a totally different competitive space for pro play. So far, however, the emphasis in most major Hearthstone tournaments has been in Standard. It makes sense: Blizzard want to push the latest batch of cards and players are regularly encouraged to devise new deck ideas with each cycle.

Nevertheless, the odd Wild tournament has cropped up in the past, and just last week Blizzard announced that later this year they’ll be hosting the Hearthstone Wild Open: a global tournament based on the CCG’s secondary game mode. The top 64 ranked players from the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific will compete for two spots per region in the playoffs, where they’ll also join the top two players from China. A $25,000 prize pool is up for grabs.

© StrifeCro

Clearly, this isn’t set out to topple the HCT or exist on the same level, but it is a chance for Blizzard to show off a different side of the game on the big stage – one many would consider they’ve neglected since its inclusion. It’s worth getting excited for too, because it could be the one event that capitalises on the direction the game has taken over the last couple of years to offer a refreshing and original experience for both players and viewers.

It’s no secret that the inclusion of more random elements and more discover mechanics has pushed Hearthstone in a certain direction over recent expansions. Opinion on this design choice is mixed. For some it has been the identity of Hearthstone all along and makes use of mechanics that can only be easily handled in a digital game. For others, it too negatively impacts the strategic side of the game, making it impossible to play around cards or read your opponent when their hand can be full of an assortment of minions or spells from inside or outside their class.

While the complaints have some merit, Hearthstone is, undoubtedly, still a game that demands a high level of skill to compete at the top tier. And that’s not just in moment-to-moment gameplay, but also in the preparation of decks, studying opponents, memorising cards played and so on. When you witness a lucky topdeck, it’s sometimes easy to hone in on that single moment and skip over the process that got a player into that position where – jokey reference here – believing in the heart of the cards could set up the win.

© Brian Kibler

But Wild, a mode where anything goes, ties in to Blizzard’s desire to make Hearthstone a game about crazy and unpredictable stories. Those ridiculous less-than-one-percent moments that people want to share and shout about the next day. Sure, you can still appreciate the smart plays that those who have an intricate understanding of the game’s mechanics and interactions can pull off.

But how much easier is it to point at a chain of explosive and unlikely events that turn a game on its head or set up a previously impossible victory. That’s what makes it into the YouTube highlight reel. That’s what gets clipped on Twitch. That’s what gets people talking.

These happen in Standard, but in Wild there’s the potential for them in every game. Now imagine the stories that’ll come out of an entire tournament in that game mode. Will we see the return of Dr. Boom? How will N’Zoth work with all those previously deceased deathrattle minions? Is Muster For Battle into Quartermaster into Lightfused Stegodon as insanely powerful as it sounds? The experimentation could be wonderful.

There will be some qualifiers who just bring Pirate Warrior, or Egg Druid, or any of the other decks sitting at the top of the Wild meta. There will be others, though, if they make it, who will bring the silliest and most obscure decks, because to them that’s what Wild is all about.

Though he hasn’t made the cut in rankings, DaneHearth was enthusiastic about bringing Wild decks he deemed the most fun to the tournament. There’s hope other players will feel the same.

© Dane Hearthstone

It is also a place where you’ve got a greater chance of seeing new amateur players, as all of the biggest names have their full attention on Standard. The Wild Open is a chance for up-and-coming players to make a name for themselves in a different discipline and make a whole new group of fans through their crazy deck ideas.

It would perhaps be unfair to call current competitive Hearthstone in the Standard format stagnant. It is, however, somewhat predictable. When you settle down for another best of five that runs through Quest Rogue and Taunt Warrior and Murloc Paladin, it can feel a little repetitive.

Journey to Un’Goro has done a great job, though, and offered one of the most diverse and exciting Hearthstone metas for some time. Even just recently have we seen new Shaman Evolve archetypes pop up in the Spring Playoffs. Perhaps the Wild Open can revitalise Hearthstone eSports further with outlandish decks built around some of the game’s maddest mechanics by new players. Maybe it’ll remind us why the game gripped us after that first match against the Innkeeper in the tavern.

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