Almost two years into the existence of Hearthstone, Blizzard has announced massive format changes with the future of the game on the line. Thus far the evolution of the title has been relatively predictable: we've seen an adventure, then an expansion, an adventure, and so on. Along the way we've been treated to things like the release of Tavern Brawls and alternate heroes. And while some were content with where the future looked to be going, others had deeper concerns, Blizzard included.

Questions are plentiful regarding how Hearthstone will be changing, but many members of the development team are quick to state that the Standard format doesn't yet exist with a large expansion and a balance pass on the Basic/Classic set still to come. We sat down to talk with Community Manager Christina "Zeriyah" Sims about the transition, addressing community concerns, and what this all means for the future of the game.

"There’s been a lot of great feedback from the community regarding the introduction of formats," says Sims when asked about the community's response. "We’ve seen our fair share of constructive feedback as well, and we hope that keeps coming."

The largest backlash from the community has centered around no longer being able to purchase non-Standard content from the in-game store.


Fortunately the development team was prepared, understanding that this is a pivotal moment in the history of Hearthstone. "We tried to anticipate how the community would react as much as possible," Sims continues," and make sure we can help address concerns appropriately. Our robust FAQ helped with this, but there were a few questions and concerns that weren’t addressed in the FAQ, so we’ve tried to be as diligent as possible in addressing or discussing our reasoning behind these decisions."

The largest backlash from the community has centered around no longer being able to purchase non-Standard content from the in-game store. Once this update releases, players will find Goblins vs. Gnomes packs and the Curse of Naxxramas adventure removed from their clients. While cards from both sets will still be able to be crafted, this does have major implications on how users will obtain a sufficient collection for the Wild format. Others are simply annoyed because Naxxramas isn't just new cards, it's an entire PvE experience that people have come to love.

We brought up these worries regarding what appears to be a very large entry barrier for what's supposed to be a large part of the Hearthstone experience, but Sims was quick to address the fact that Blizzard's focus is making Standard accessible. In their eyes, new players should focus on Standard first, "We don't think jumping right into Wild will be as good for new players as competing in Standard," she explains, "so we'll be encouraging them to stick to Standard, at least until [their second year]."

"We’d like to see how things go," Sims adds, "Once we’ve all had some time to play with the new formats in a live environment, I think we’ll learn quite a bit." Her thoughts echo that of Senior Producer Yong Woo who confirms that there are plans to use that content in the future, despite the fact that it may no longer be in the store. In a recently published interview with Polygon, Lead Designer Ben Brode says they could "come out of the vault" for a small window of time, however, Blizzard is quick to reiterate that nothing is set in stone just yet.
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At face value, it appears as if the development team is focused on making changes for the long term health of Hearthstone first, and dealing with those repercussions - such as the non-Standard content dilemma - later. We asked about avoiding ruts and how some are worried that Blizzard might feel pressured to simply make a new version of important cards when they're cycled out. "The content we’re working on is really exciting," Sims states, "so we’re not really concerned about ruts right now. If anything, we may have gone a little too crazy with the next set!"

"I’m looking forward to a fresh meta game and to see what decks develop," for now, Sims is excited about what the changes will bring. "There are a lot of interesting cards in League of Explorers, The Grand Tournament, and Blackrock Mountain that may have been pushed aside for the 'best in cost' cards."

But Sims continues to stress that Wild isn't just going to be forgotten, "In addition, one of the cooler things about Wild is that the pool of available cards will be massive, so players that enjoy playing interesting card combos should have a lot of fun playing in that format as well." A significant portion of the community is worried how the team will keep both Wild and Standard balanced considering cards that are perfectly fine in the latter may be absolutely broken when exposed to older cards in the former. And no one wants to see cards inhibited by either. "We’ll be monitoring balance in both formats," she says, "Wild is a part of Hearthstone and we expect it to be a fun, viable way to play. We’ll learn a lot post-release and make adjustments as necessary."

That said, Sims tells us a large part of this effort also helps bring diversity back into Hearthstone. Some major archetypes are losing tools they heavily rely upon and Blizzard has taken a stance, saying they're looking to bring some of the more troublesome cards into check.

"We’re planning on making changes to some cards in the Basic and Classic sets, which we’re hoping will ensure that Standard succeeds as a dynamic format. We’re also releasing a new expansion set when formats arrive so that will also have a big effect on the game. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and make additional changes if necessary. " She continues talking about certain decks losing essential cards - either from cycling out or nerfs, "No one deck can reign forever. [Midrange Druid, Freeze Mage, etc] may lose some tools, but that’s the interesting thing about Standard.

"Some people become bored after facing the same decks over and over; for those players, the game will be more fun if the meta changes more frequently. Formats will help move this along, along with new cards and a wider overall design space.

"Who knows what the next big thing will be? That’s up to our players to discover."

Update: We've added clarification in regards to deck types losing tools where the text could have read as Blizzard specifically saying Druid and Mage cards might see nerfs. Sims was speaking in regards to them losing tools as a whole and not just about nerfs.