Despite his incredibly busy schedule, Brian Kibler took some time to talk with us at BlizzCon regarding the current state of Hearthstone, his thoughts on some of the decks out there, and exactly how amazing casting in front of the BlizzCon crowd was. Having previously designed card games, made the Magic: The Gathering Hall of Fame, and now being a full time caster and streamer, he has an extensive knowledge base to draw from regarding some of the challenges facing Hearthstone.
How do you think things are doing now that Warsong Commander has been nerfed?
I think that the Warsong Commander change is a very good one. Warsong Commander is just fundamentally a problematic card [with] the kind of gameplay that it encourages. I think the biggest problem that Hearthstone is facing now is not one of individual cards, but sort of a systemic thing. The fact that it lets you introduce more and more powerful cards [and] the cards that you are going to play don’t change that often.
We can see people complaining about Secret Paladin in particular, but it’s not a symptom of Secret Paladin and individual cards, it's the fact that people play against the same sort of decks on a regular basis. It’s difficult to keep up with making enough cards that are interesting and powerful enough that players will want to put them in their decks when the same cards that have existed for so long are still around.
Do you think Secret Paladin is problematic?
I don’t think Secret Paladin is a problematic deck. I mean if you look at the World Championships there are zero Secret Paladin decks in the top four, there were two in the top eight, but both of those players were eliminated. I think that the deck is powerful but it’s in no way problematic in the axis on which it interacts like decks like Patron Warrior [and] Miracle Rogue were. I think that we won’t see the same sort of changes needed. I also feel like the change to Warsong Commander only happened fairly recently and people haven’t adapted that much. They’re just like, “Oh, Secret Paladin is a deck and now I’m just not really building my deck specifically to beat it,” like they were with Patron Warrior.
Blizzard talked about how over the next few weeks people will finally tune their decks against Secret Paladin and Kripp mentioned that Control Rogue may rise and help counter it a bit.
It’s possible, yeah. I mean just in this tournament we’ve seen players playing Rogue, Freeze Mage, Dragon Priest, Patron Warrior (even without Warsong Commander), [and] all have been successful against Secret Paladin. Part of people’s problems with Secret Paladin is that it does feel like the games play out very similarly every time. It’s just play my big minion, play my big minion. And it is a deck that will be really problematic for a lot of strategies to beat, but it’s not in itself inherently overpowered.
Do you think Hearthstone needs more frequent balance changes? Or is Blizzard being careful appropriate?
I think Hearthstone needs more frequent changes.
As to whether that’s cards being changed or new content coming out, or perhaps different game modes or formats. One of the ways that other collectible [card] games have addressed this in the past, like Magic for instance. Magic has a number of different
formats. . .one format is its primary game mode for most tournaments that only uses cards from the past two years.
Even if you look at decks now, people talk about, “Oh, cards like Mysterious Challenger [are] overpowered,” or whatever. But the reality is that most cards in most decks are still from the classic set. And that’s going to be the case for a long time unless either there’s massive power creep, which amusingly the community will complain about, or those cards are somehow nerfed or retired from particular game modes. I think that having alternate ways for people to play the game - so it’s not just the same thing all the time and you won’t necessarily see the same cards all the time - is important for Hearthstone’s long term success.
Obviously you've been busy, have you seen any of the new cards?
I had a chance to look at them briefly. I think there are some really cool things going on in there. There are some cards that look like they may be able to help some of the classes that have not necessarily had that much success. I mean we did see all nine classes at the World Championships, we [even] saw all nine classes in the top eight at the World Championships. I think that the sort of people who are bemoaning the fate of say Priest, or Shaman, or Rogue are in many cases overstating the problems that those classes may have. But I do think that providing the tools for players to explore decks that are not necessarily successful right now like Control Rogue or Overload Shaman. There are cool tools for those in the new set.
Any Arena players are going to notice that some cards seemed specifically tuned for Arena.
The Fierce Monkey, the 3/4 taunt for 3 [is] obviously a huge, huge deal for arena and potentially a contender for constructed play as well.
How has casting the championships been?
It’s been a lot of fun. It’s really cool to be a part of this incredible event, being up on the awesome stage, and seeing all of the really good games we’ve seen so far this championship.
What's been your favorite thing so far about the event?
The coolest thing about BlizzCon and the World Championship here is really being able to see the passion that so many people have for the game. Being part of this big crowd, who are all cheering for their favorite players. Being able to meet so many fans, interact with people who tell me they watch my stream, like my videos, content, whatever. Just being able to interact with all those people who otherwise I mostly only interact with through a computer screen.
And that tavern is pretty sweet, huh?
Oh yeah, the stage is incredible. The production value of this event is really unlike anything else that exists.
Have you enjoyed having a live crowd for once?
It’s great. Actually hearing the huge cheers go up when players win or people react to important card draws. Especially as a caster it really helps build the excitement that really is a part of the game. But it’s hard to draw on that same energy when you’re casting from the studio or your home.