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Topic of the Week: Are online tools for Hearthstone playing the game for you and should Blizzard ban them?

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As Hearthstone has grown into one of the most played games in the world, the community around it has been creating tools and websites to serve itself in getting better. Early on these were tiers for Arena cards, articles on better play and the odd decklist for particularly good synergies. However, this have evolved further now with sites like TempoStorm providing a regular breakdown of every relevant deck and how to play it. There are seperate programs that will track the cards in your deck, your win-loss ratio, your opponents and how and what they play. Now popular website HearthArena has announced they will be releasing a game overlay that will automatically pull information from the game client during an Arena draft and tell you which cards to pick and why.

My question to you is: does this take things too far and should Blizzard step in to prevent these tools becoming the defacto way to play the game? Here’s HearthArena’s preview of the overlay:

In case you don’t have the half hour required, HearthArena was previously a browser-based tool that you would type cards into while doing an Arena run. It would look at your deck so far and what each pick could give you and evaluate which was the best, making a suggestion based on a tier list modified via various factors. It’s totally free to use but a bit of a pain to type the cards into each time. Now they’re creating a version that will pull all that data from the client directly, give you the information on an overlay and also track which cards you’ve used in your deck, your wins and rewards and so on.

That ease of use is the main change. Anyone will be able to make an account and download the app and immediately have access to the expert opinions of a pair of seasoned drafters on all of their picks, helped along by a big ol’ algorithm to crunch the numbers. That’s going to improve their decks immensely and be a big advantage over anyone not using it. Even if they’re blindly following the suggestions, a powerful deck in Arena is often far more important than making the correct plays. While the idea is that players will also make their own decisions, the majority are more likely to just power through each draft taking what’s suggested, then blame luck when they lose.

However, it is just providing access to information that’s available elsewhere. It’s quicker and slicker, but getting rid of it won’t stop committed players from gaining that advantage anyway. It also isn’t that much different from netdecking in constructed – a practice so widespread and simple that it’s impossible to imagine the game without it and the idea of getting rid of it in a world with the internet is laughable.

Perhaps more importantly, where’s the line? There will come a time when tools that tell you the best way to play will be available. At that point I’d say they should be disallowed, but if deck quality matters more anyway, why do I not object to it? I’m not sure, though Blizzard have done similar things in WoW before, getting rid of functionality that allowed mods to tell you how to play, but obviously having no way to stop people explaining the best gearing and talent choices – far more important than pushing the correct buttons everywhere but the highest levels. Hearthstone’s Ben Brode has stated that anything players could work out normally will be allowed, though that information comes from a now year-old tweet.

We’ve reached out to Blizzard and are awaiting an official response. What do you folks think? Opinions over on Reddit are split. Will you be using the tool when it comes out on October 1st?

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