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Randomness rules ‘Hearthstone’ expansion

  • GAME-Hearthstone-jpg

    Screen shot from ‘Hearthstone.’

    BLIZZARD ENTERTAINMENT

  • HEARTHSTONE-card-jpg

    A card from ‘Hearthstone.’

    telltale games

  • HEARTHSTONE-Logo-jpg

I am astounded that Magic: The Gathering, a competitive card game I first learned in junior high, is not only approaching its 25th anniversary but is also now a professional sport played worldwide. The game involves an incredible amount of skill and psychology to play, but also leverages a wealth of personality thanks to the fictional universe the game takes place within.

This brings us to today, with famed World of Warcraft developer Blizzard launching the sixth expansion of its online, collectible card game Hearthstone, which has taken over phones and competitive esports stages since the game’s launch in 2014.

Hearthstone is an example of Blizzard doing what it is best at: Taking a beloved genre and opening up the core mechanics for a more casual audience. Much in the way its team-based, first-person shooter Overwatch revitalized a genre suffering from a flood of generic, white army men toting guns, Hearthstone has done the same for card games.

The biggest difference between Hearthstone and Magic is an element of randomness. Being a digital game, Hearthstone introduces game mechanics that are impossible with a physical game such as Magic, like cards that steal your opponent’s cards from their own deck. Hearthstone gets downright zany at times, showing that personality goes a long way towards creating a product that people love.

Which brings us to Knights of the Frozen Throne, the newest Hearthstone expansion and one that leans into that aspect of randomness in ways that call back to the most famous World of Warcraft expansion of all time.

Based off 2008’s Wrath of the Lich King expansion, Frozen Throne introduces a new card type in the form of “Death Knight” heroes. These powerful cards have a casting cost akin to normal cards, but replaces your hero — the Avatar players base their decks around — with an evil, undead version of that character.

For example, the half-orc hunter Rexxar goes from summoning beasts to battle to creating his own, gaining a hero power that lets you craft a special “Zombeast” from two other cards. Each hero in Hearthstone has a Death Knight counterpart, creating potential new deck types that could see play in ranked and competitive play.

Death Knight cards are shaking up the landscape for popular deck-types as well. Once maligned as underpowered and slow, Warlock decks are seeing a surge in power thanks to the Death Knight version of Gul’Dan.

This 10-cost card summons all of your Demon-type cards that have died during the match and changes his hero power to an attack that deals three damage for two mana. Thus far, Death Knight cards have proven capable of altering the flow of a match in a single turn, leading to a wealth of new decks and tactics.

While proven winners in the Hearthstone meta-game such as pirate-based Warrior decks and jade-wielding Druid decks have not lost their power, only time will tell if Death Knights will change the landscape of Hearthstone. Knights of the Frozen Throne is out now, contains 135 new cards, and a free legendary hero card is available for those who complete the new, free prologue mission for the expansion.

Gaming mice

Famed gaming device company SteelSeries has long had its toes dipped in the esports pool. Founded in 2001, it supports a multitude of competitive games with its headsets, keyboards, and mice all geared toward giving players an edge over their opponent.

The company’s newest releases, the Sensei 310 and Rival 310, are said by SteelSeries to be the first 1-to-1 esports sensors for a gaming mouse, and the quality shines through for both of these comfortable, feature-filled gaming devices.

Both mice feature a CPI (or counts per inch) of 100-12,000 and low-latency sensors, which means that even the smallest of motions are picked up, allowing for precise movements. That may sound like standard hardware company doublespeak, but in use I found both the ambidextrous Sensei and ergonomic Rival to be some of the most precise devices I have used for competitive gaming.

SteelSeries also offers the ability to tweak specific numbers for sensitivity and CPI with SteelSeries Engine app, letting users set up profiles for particular games and even save settings onboard the mouse itself thanks to a built-in 32-bit ARM processor. The ability to take your mouse settings on the go is a fantastic feature and one that will be a boon to professional gamers on the go.

The other feature that has won me over is the split-trigger buttons, which give consistent clicking force and never left me feeling like my clicks were going to fail for being too fast.

Plenty of gaming mice tend to wear out quickly when it comes to clicking, but the Sensei and Rival’s left and right mouse buttons being independent of each other means fewer durability issues down the road. If you are in need of a competitive product that will last the long haul, the Sensei and Rival are the right choices for your esports needs.

The SteelSeries Sensei 310 and Rival 310 retail for $59.99 each and are available only at SteelSeries.com.

Contact William Harrison at DoubleUHarrison@gmail.com or on Twitter @DoubleUHarrison.

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