I’ve been playing Hearthstone for close to three hours straight now; the longest I’ve gone without rage quitting since the game’s release.

My girlfriend’s glaring at me from the corner of one eye, arms folded, face contorting with the sort of constrained fury that comes whenever a boyfriend has extended periods of fun without them.

But I ain’t stressing. Her boiling rage is nothing compared to the ferocious ass-whupping I’m suffering right now at the hands (claws?) of the eldest son of Deathwing. I might be Ragnaros the Firelord, but if you took one look at the game board, you wouldn’t be lying if you called me Nefarian’s bitch.

And if I lose, there’s no way I’m not clicking that big, blue shiny “Brawl” button one more time…

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It’s Different

I don’t know how balanced the Nefarian vs. Ragnaros Tavern Brawl is. I’m sure within the next few days there will have been dissertations written on that very subject by Hearthstone intellectuals far more erudite (and less fun at parties) than I.

What I do know is that Tavern Brawl mode is different; the cards are different; the “heroes” are different; the overall feel is different; and it’s fun as all hell.

Tavern Brawl is a much needed change of pace from Ranked Ladder play and Casual play. Oftentimes Ranked Ladder feels like a monotonous grind; you face the same constructed decks over and over and over again with little variety in between and there’s little incentive for between Rank 20 and Legend to even climb the ladder in the first place. (Besides bragging rights and moral victories.) That is, there’s no difference between coming in Rank 15 and Rank 2, so the gripe from many in that category is, “What’s the point of playing?”

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Tavern Brawl’s timing couldn’t be any better because it provides players that are burned out on Arena and Ranked mode a truly fresh experience that’s quick, easy to get into and enjoyable whether you win or lose.

Reddit user ikefalcon summates the Tavern Brawl experience well:

The way Tavern Brawl is designed, I have fun whether I win or lose. Part of the reason for this, I think, is that there is nothing on the line. I haven’t bet an Arena fee, and my ladder rank is not at stake. Even the imbalance between Rag and Nefarian promotes this because if I lose as Rag it’s OK because I wasn’t supposed to win anyway. This greatly reduces rage-quit factor. If I face bad RNG, it’s suddenly just hilarious rather than infuriating.

He goes on to say:

The ability to earn gold and complete some quests frees up Casual Mode for it’s intended purpose: Testing new decks. Now, Tavern Brawl is where you go to earn gold and complete spell, minion, or damage quests, and perhaps there will be fewer refined decks in Casual Mode.

Well said. There’s also one factor he’s forgetting: Fucking people up as Nefarian and Ragnaros makes you feel like an absolute beast; a veritable Azerothian demigod in your own right. The endorphin rush is similar to how Odysseus must have felt when he returned home to Ithaca after 20 years. Be warned though — going back to Gul’dan andThrall seems almost mundane afterwards.

Nefarian and Ragnaros

That’s right: Blackrock Mountain adversaries Nefarian and Ragnaros are the focal points of this week’s Tavern Brawl. Ostensibly, Nefarian has a more face deck feel, which means his goal is to deal as much damage possible with the quickness. Ragnaros on the other hand is more Control-oriented, although the decks have cards that contain elements of both playstyles. There have been some complaints that the showdown is imbalanced and that Nefarian is the vastly superior of the two, but I haven’t found that to always be the case. (If you’re having trouble winning as Ragnaros, check out this How To Win With Ragnaros at Tavern Brawl thread on Reddit.

Nefarian starts his first turn with 5 mana; his hero power costs 2 mana and allows him to add a random spell from any class in the game into his hand… where it then costs 0 mana. Holy shit. I’ve gotten 0-mana Pyroblasts and Flamestrikes already and believe me, I feel absolutely filthy afterwards.

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Ragnaros is no slouch himself. His vaunted mace, Sulfuras (a 2/6 weapon that he starts the game with), has a Deathrattle that turns his Hero Power into the aptly-titled “DIE, INSECT!”, which deals 8 damage to a random enemy. He has plenty of cards that seem disproportionately powerful compared to their cost, such as Son of the Flame (3-mana minion with a Battlecry that deals 6 damage), Whirling Ash (2-mana minion with 4/5 stats and Windfury) and he gets an absolute behemoth of a card in legendary Golemagg, a 20/20 minion that costs 1 less for each damage Ragnaros has taken.

A lot of the fun in playing Ragnaros comes from seeing if you can weather the storm (while simultaneously establishing board presence) until Turn 6 or so, when your Hero Power shifts and you can really start slugging back.

For a look at each character’s Tavern Brawl deck list, check out this thread on HearthPwn.

Favorite Moments So Far

Ragnaros-ception: Playing as Ragnaros and summoning the Ragnaros card via High Justice Grimstone to secure the win. You like that Ragnaros gangrape, don’t you, Nefarian — you dirty bastard?

Nathzerim Nefarian: Getting Bane of Doom as Nefarian and summoning Mal’ganis, bestowing my 30 HP/28 Armor Nefarian with an impenetrable shield and helping me secure the win in 4 turns.

Future Tavern Brawls We’d Like To See

If we’re talking playing as legendary characters, Arthas Menethil/The Lich King has to be up there near the top on anyone’s list. The Icecrown quest line where you get to play as Arthas were among my favorites in Wrath of the Lich King and World of Warcraft in general, so playing as him, even in fleeting fashion during a Tavern Brawl feature would be boss.

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Something like Amaz’s Death Knight Class Concept, perhaps?

Illidan Stormrage because, well… when’s the last time you saw someone drop Illidan? (To be fair, he did hand me my ass in the Tutorial the first time I faced him. Keep that between us.)

Vol’jin. Dude needs some of the spotlight. I was disappointed that after establishing Vol’jin as Warchief, Metzen decided, “Whelp. That’s enough of that. Time to get back to Thrall!” in Warlords of Draenor. And although my friend, fellow AiPT editor and walking World of Wacraft lore encyclopedia despises trolls and even Vol’jin as Warchief of the Horde, I’m sure even he would play the hell out of a Vol’jin deck with an army of trolls at his beck and call. “You come get da voodoo!” (Or maybe a Horde based deck where he can really flex his military might as Warchief.)


Been enjoying Tavern Brawl so far? Which future Tavern Brawls would you like to see? Sound off in the comments.