At the launch of any expansion Blizzard’s massively popular online collectible card game Hearthstone simultaneously seems to be at it’s best and worst. On one hand you have the excitement of new cards where basically every pack holds something you can keep rather then merely being fodder for dust while at the same time the difference between a free to play plebeian and pay to win god is never more stark. Really it’s balancing these two opposite feelings that is the key to success and enjoyment in these early days and (soon to be) weeks I’ve found in now my many many games both ranked and unranked in the new post Tournament game.

Now because I’m fundamentally an optimist lets start with the good. Hearthstone seems fresh again and by that I mean I’ve seen a lot less cookie cutter decks you can find online and people trying crazy combo’s I just didn’t think existed. For example the Totem Druid has gotten some really big boosts from the Grand Tournament and the Paladin’s hero power can turn deadly really quickly; even on the losing end of these strategies and I was there quite a bit more then I was accustomed too (my Control Warrior needs A LOT of work) you still find yourself smiling and nodding your head in knowing approval. This is a feeling that just does not happen the 50th time you run across an Mech Mage or Handlock (back in the day).

Beyond that as I mentioned above nothing really beats opening a bunch of new packs and finding nothing but new and exciting cards. I personally for the past few weeks was basically a dwarf and was hoarding all the gold and dust I could get my hands on for the day The Grand Tournament dropped, even though I got basically zilch in my eight or so packs (by “best” card was a Golden Rare...) it was still exilerating to open those packs finally. Also as somebody who basically kept myself in the dark about the vast majority of the new cards (minus Jason’s great article on the crazy new ones) seeing the commons that will be changing the game for the first time was a great treat.

That being said that is the good parts to a new expansion and now the bad parts. Blizzard famously offered 50 Packs for $50.00 and while many laughed at it Hearthstone doesn’t make over $20,000,000 a month just from existing people do buy into these deals and that is clear this week. Of the dozens of players I faced (Ranked mode especially) the amount of Tournament cards present was a little surprising especially when compared to Goblins vs. Gnomes launch which to me clearly shows they either saved A LOT more then I did or thought possible or bought in. Now this is fine the money must flow after all but as a previously mentioned Free to Play Plebeian this brave new world is a scary one with fearsome new decks brimming with cards you don’t yet have access too.

Of course Blizzard is good in this way and as the game has grown so too have the way for people to catch up and kinda evade the monsters on the ladder. The first is of course wait it out and be content to play in the lower tiers for a little while anything bellow rank 10 I have found to be more then handle able for anyone even if you periodically run into a Tournament buffed deck. Of course although the new Tavern Brawl hasn’t opened since the expansion this will be a safe haven for us who just like to build up slowly and collect cards through the natural free to play place. Finally as I keep saying to my friends the Arena is your friend where the playing field is a leveled one. Where you don’t really need to be afraid of these new constructions and can just play as you will.

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At the end of the day Hearthstone is a changin’ and that is both good and a bad thing as I said however I personally feel the changes have been for the better. The Inspire mechanic is inspired while Jousting seems less so (the Mage vs. Hunter Tavern Brawl last week gave us a taste and right now I think the feeling Mage/Inspire was better is a proper assessment) however that could change who knows I’m not good enough to see where the meta will flow. If you like Dragons as I do The Grand Tournament is for you seriously Dragon decks are viable now. Finally you’ll lose a lot but who really cares you lose anyways its not like your staking cards and when you win the wins are sweeter. The Grand Tournament right now is more the wild west then a tournament but if you’re a Hearthstone fan I can assure you you’ll have a good time so I say charge right into The Grand Tournament.