Core Sets: Basic Set = BS, Classic Set = CS, Reward Set = RS
Expansions: OldGods = Whipsers of the Old Gods, TGT = The Grand Tournament, GvG = Goblins vs Gnomes
Adventures: LoE= League of Explorers, BRM = Blackrock Mountain, Naxx = Curse of Naxxramas
When Standard play mode was announced for the first time, one of my reactions, beside the excitement for a huge change, was the fear that the card pool might be too limited. With two set leaving and only one cycling in, I preemptively assumed that there will remain too few cards in the format. Another thing that I was worried about, was the fact that there will be a huge card pool that, as far as we know today, will stay forever. My gut feeling was, that because BS and CS will always be in standard, there would be too little change in any set rotation. These fears were mostly unfounded. I will show you why this is not the case, at least imho.
Total Card Pool in Standard Play Mode
Let’s take a look at the card pool before OldGods. There are BS and CS. Aadditionally there exist three adventures and two expansions, as well as two cards from the Rewards Set (Old Murk-Eye and Captain’s Parrot). All sum up to 741 collectible cards right now. Naxx and GvG account for 30 and 123 cards respectively, adding the 2 cards form the RS, a total of 155 cards will be leaving the format when Standard hits. On the other hand, 134 cards will be added from OldGods, raising the initial Standard play mode card pool to 720 in May 2016. That’s a mere 21 cards difference to what we have at the moment.
As you can see in fig. 1, BS and CS consist of 378 cards together, that’s a 43.2 % of all cards available at the time of OldGods’ release. If we look at the Standard card pool the percentage is even higher, accounting for 52.5 %. That’s a lot! It will change over the course of the year of the Kraken to an estimated 42-43 % (885 cards at the end of 2016, estimation see below). That’s still a lot. Over the next years, these numbers might drop to 38-47 % (see also below) which is a bit better. If we take a look at this from the other side, we will see almost approx. 30% of all cards changing in one year and 60 % in two years. I would have liked a higher number of 70 to 75 % but I am fine with it to keep the balance between change and stability for returning players.
I do not have any exact insights into Magic the Gathering ™ (MTG), but from a quick calculation, in MTG, the Core Set sits at about 22-26 % of the card pool for 2016, which is more or less the number I aimed at intuitively (please correct me if I am wrong). On the other hand we should not forget, that we cannot quite compare MTG with Hearthstone as there are 5 colors compared to 9 classes and neutral cards. I am not able to calculate how these numbers in the two games relate. If anybody can dig up a formula that gives an approximation on how much variability each game has, I will be happy to insert it here. My math skills aren’t enough for that task, of that I am sure. Anyway, we can state, that the two games are very different, not only in the colors vs class aspect as well as in the design itself. In my opinion that is good, I always incentivize diversity over homogeneity. Back to the topic at hand: the card pool might be bigger and there might be reasons for bigger changes every year, but I think the way it is, is a good compromise even the more hardcore base can live with if the new sets continue to introduce exiting and new concepts as LoE did.
Card Pool Estimation
Disclaimer: This paragraph is speculative, please keep that in mind while reading.
I took the theory that Polygon mentioned in one of their OldGods articles when Standard and Wild were announced. They said, that there will be 2 expansions alternating with one adventure coming out every year starting every Hearthstone year with an expansion. Blizzard has not confirmed this theory but not totally denied it either. With another adventure and another expansion supposedly dropping after OldGods in 2016, the mean card pool size throughout the “Year of the Kraken” will be a bit higher than it has ever been until now. With expansions at around 130 cards (rang 123-134 cards) and adventures approximately 35 cards so far (range 23-45 cards, with CoN being exceptionally low), it is relatively easy to calculate where the card pool might settle over the course of the next years. Beginning with 2017, we assumedly see two expansions and one adventure rotate in and out every year, a total turnover of about 295 ± 30 cards per year. The number of cards available in Standard would settle between a minimum/maximum of 800 to 960 ± 30 cards (see figure 2).
Wild Card Pool
The Wild card pool on the other hand will steadily rise with no upper limit. When the formats split, Wild will contain 875 card. By the end of 2016, there will be an estimated 1040 cards available. Every following year, there will supposedly 295 ± 30 cards added to the format. This would result in approx. 1335 and 1630 cards at the end of 2017 and 2018 respectively (compare fig.2). We cannot even start to imagine what crazy synerfgies will arise in this format. I only got one concern with that. There might be card concepts that would be interesting and not overpowerd (OP) in Standard. Thesecards at the same moment might be massivly OP in Wild. As a result, such card would never see the light of release. This would be a sad thing. Therefore I would really appreciate that Blizzard woudl do one or the other thing, or both. I would like to see a straight out ban of those cards for wild. Above that I would love to see a third format which does not care about crazy interactions and one millon damage to face on turn three, it’s fun, right?
This brings me to the end of this part where we took a look at the overall card pool in formats. To get back to my initial fears we can see that they were really unfounded. 800-960 cards are a lot to play with in standard, if the speculations about set rotation are right. Even if the number falls short of 100 cards, available card pool is big enough to provide sufficient variety. The turnover of cards is around 10 -15 % lower than in MTG and the total Standard card pool is also approx. 30% lower. Taking into accord that Hearthstone is meant to fit the needs of hardcore and casual players alike, imho it is a good compromise between complexity and accessibility.