In the previous article I demonstrated how a TCG’s metagame can be tracked with an actual physical clock rather than using the already established tier lists. There has recently been an oversaturation of meta reports which make keeping up with the game and tracking the meta accurately a daunting task – not only do all sources provide different and sometimes even contradicting data, but people have to spend upwards of hours sorting through matchups by percentages, compare and contrast decklists that differ by only a single or couple of cards yet somehow stack up differently across the field, they get shoehorned into the “tier” system and read increasingly poetic and decreasingly accurate descriptions of decks and where they are in the meta. It’s time to fix all that. Last time around I introduced the Hearthstone Metagame Clock, demonstrated how it functions and what it’s advantages are. To recap:
Using a graphic instead of a tier list combined with matchups combined with popularity among players combined with long descriptions has the upside of being easily parsable and conveying the most crucial information to the user at an instant. At it’s core, the Metagame Clock is a simple tool created with the purpose of being easy to understand. That being said, I’ve been adding more and more functionality to it, in order to represent incredibly vast amounts of information in a tiny space and hopefully make it the go-to method of looking at the meta.
In the beginning, the Metagame Clock looked like this:
It’s sole purpose was to show the 15 decks most relevant to the meta and their speed. As previously explained, a lot about them can be extrapolated from that alone. However, even back then the clock had some extra functionality layered on top of that. Some of the circles are slightly larger – a visual indication that these decks are perhaps more “important” than the rest. Those are what I call “cornerstones” – one deck from each archetype that defines the meta and bends it around itself. Going even further with this, we can take the cornerstone decks and form a tier list if we wanted to – the larger circles as tier 1 and the rest as tier 2. Usually for the shape of the metagame we only care about tier 1 and 2, the rest are pretty much irrelevant, albeit very viable decks.
Seeing as I can do a lot more with the clock approach other than simply putting 15 decks in an arbitrary arrangement around a circle, I decided to keep layering functionality on top of this concept. While the clock can serve its “Prime Directive” in this state, there is no reason not to create something better, as long as the original purpose is not lost. Working with my graphics designer, Marina Zaharieva, we have come up with a way to represent tons of information on the clock.
For starters, we obviously have the decks that we want to track. However, we have to give as much visual guidance to the reader as possible in order to improve parsability. When looking at a circle with a deck’s name in it, we only learn that deck’s name and nothing else. Because of the stupid and simplistic naming conventions in Hearthstone, we can sometimes decipher what type of a deck it is and it’s class – Control Paladin is really straightforward, isn’t it? But what do we do in the case of “Water Rogue”? We still know what class we are talking about, however somebody who isn’t all that familiar with every deck in the game will have little to no idea what the hell is going on. Remember that the Clock is not aimed at professional players, it’s for the typical ladder grinder who needs a quick and easy-to-understand orientation in the meta so that they know which deck to queue with. Is Water Rogue the Miracle deck using pirates for an aggressive opening and better board contention or is it something else? In the same vein, what does Miracle Rogue mean to somebody who doesn’t already know about it? There is no “miracle” keyword in the game. (This is a very far fetched, everybody who would look at a Metagame Clock knows what Miracle Rogue is… but the point still stands) We needed a way to show which class and archetype a deck belongs to regardless of its name.
Additionally, the clock already shows how decks stack up based on their speed, without the need for win percentages, compare-and-contrast tables and all that. The cornerstone decks serve as a guide – they are the most prominent and overall “best” deck within their archetype… but we can’t really distinguish between them. You know that if you plan to climb the ladder with aggro, you would probably choose the cornerstone deck, but if you want to simply climb – which cornerstone do you pick? I felt particularly strongly about this, because the original way to represent those “key” decks didn’t leave room for distinguishing between them outside of making one even larger. I think we found a somewhat elegant solution that both provides that function that I want and fits the overall fantasy of a real clock. On the same subject – I felt like simply making the cornerstones bigger really took away from that fantasy, so we went for a highlight approach.
Overall, I feel that we’ve done a good job with the clock and realising more of its potential. Coming out of Alpha and into Beta, the Hearthstone metagame clock looks like this:
Further explanation on how to properly read it:
- The decks are arranged based on their speed from 1 to 12, relative only to each other.
- “Cornerstone” decks are highlighted.
- Archetypes are colour-coded – Aggro, Mid-range, Control and Combo.
- Classes are represented both by their hero power and written on top of the specific deck’s circle. We take the opportunity to give as many cues as possible in order to improve parsability.
- The shorter arrow points to or between the most dominant deck(s) that you should be on the lookout for.
- The long arrow points to or between the other most dominant deck(s) in the meta.
- Combo decks don’t really fit into the classic definition for deck speed, so they hover in the middle. Those closer to the edge and the other decks behave more similarly to decks of that archetype, where those closer to the middle are the most “pure” combo decks. Regardless of their proximity to the center, their position is still indicative of their speed.
And now, an example on how to interpret the presented clock:
If you are looking for a deck to play, look no further than what the big hand of the clock is pointing toward. These are the decks with the proper speed, matchup spread and overall position within the meta that will ensure the highest win percentages when climbing. The smaller hand of the clock, the one with the lense, indicates which are the next best decks – they also bend the meta around themselves, however something is pulling them back, be it more polarized matchups or easier to hate out with tech. However, what they lack in those areas they in others. Right now, the small hand of the clock is aimed at Murloc Paladin, Secret Mage and Quest Rogue – very dominant decks within the metagame. What makes them a preferred choice for the ladder climb is their speed. These are fast and aggressive decks that leave little wiggle room to the opponent. While they are not so well rounded in their ability to persevere through interaction, they don’t leave many opportunities for it to happen. We can also see that Token Druid is also in that category, joining Secret Mage in the almost-a-cornerstone-deck category.
Other than what to play, a broader look shows us the state of the meta. Very dominant aggro decks that together bend everything around themselves are joined by a plethora of mid-range decks of various attributes, mostly chosen for their different matchups than anything else. Few control decks should come as a surprise to nobody, however we can see that Taunt Warrior is still determining some aspects of the meta and continues to be a cornerstone. Combo decks are present, however only one of them is bending the meta in significant ways.
Our lead artist, Marina Zaharieva, will be making a post on the evolution behind the graphics of the clock, the design choices made and the philosophies behind them, so look forward to that as well.