In case you live under a rock, there’s a new Hearthstone expansion on the way called Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. It’s pretty amazing and features new tri-class cards which Anthony talked about earlier this week. But today I want to talk about something a bit different and take the focus away from the actual cards in the set and think about the set itself, or more specifically the release date for the set.

I navigated over to the pre-purchase page and saw that you can get 50 packs for the low-low cost of $49.99. That’s not a bad deal at all. Back in September when the welcome bundle was released, I took a look at the cost of packs. The best value for packs is $1.167/pack when you buy 60 packs. Getting packs for basically $1.00 by pre-purchasing saves you 16.7 cents/pack. Not bad.

What was much, much more interesting was the early December release date for Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. It’s actually incredible the difference that December vs. January makes. Why is that? Because of how Hearthstone Standard is structured. From the Hearthstone Gamepedia wiki: “Games played in Standard format include only cards from card sets released in the current or previous calendar year, as well as the Basic and Classic sets.”

This means that by being released in early December, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan will be legal in Standard for 13 months, through the end of the 2017 calendar year. When the ball drops in Times Square on December 31st, we’ll ring in the new year and say goodbye to Blackrock Mountain, the League of Explorers, and the Grand Tournament. In exchange we’ll begin a new Standard environment that includes Whispers of the Old Gods, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, and One Night in Karazhan (plus the basic and classic sets).

That is a huge change.

When Mean Streets hits the, um, streets, the Year of the Kraken Standard Environment will close out the last few weeks of the year with a whopping 897 cards. But, when the calendar turns to January 1st, 208 of them will be removed leaving us with 689 collectible cards in Standard. What is the ideal? 900 and 700 don’t seem that far apart, but one has to consider that 378 cards from that pool are the never-changing basic and classic cards.

208 of the 521 non-basic, non-classic cards constitutes just under 40% of the rotating segment of the Standard environment vanishing. The remaining 313 cards will be almost as large as the collection of 378 non-rotating cards. That’s a big shift in the size of Standard. In 2015 Blizzard produced two adventures (Blackrock Mountain, League of Explorers) and one expansion (Grand Tournament). In 2016 they’ll have produced two expansions (Whispers of the Old Gods, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan) and one adventure (One Night in Karazhan).

What’s the ideal configuration?

It’s easy to assume that whatever is most recent is best because some kind of progress has been made. So if two adventures and one expansion was ideal, Blizzard would have done it again. So two expansions and one adventure must be an improvement? Or will 2017 have two adventures and one expansion in store for us again?

Hearthstone isn’t Magic but it’s difficult to avoid the comparisons when it comes to having a rotating Standard environment. Magic’s card pool is massive compared to Hearthstone but limited Magic is a completely different beast from Hearthstone’s Arena. In reality it’s very likely that Blizzard is still experimenting with this whole “Standard” concept and I would imagine 2017 might see a few tweaks to the format.

Perhaps Blizzard will adopt a model of keeping the past two expansions and the past two adventures along with the basic and classic sets. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something along these lines. Blizzard needs to figure out what a “good” size is for the Standard card pool. Hopefully the release of Mean Streets of Karazhan will provide some answers.

Rich has been playing Hearthstone on and off since the closed beta and has a golden E.T.C. to prove it. He enjoys playing Warlock on the ladder and wishes he could get more than five wins in an Arena run. He’s trying desperately to figure out how Hunters always seem to have Call of the Wild on curve. 

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