Deck Guide: Spiteful Summoner Druid

Why So Spiteful, Summoner?

Because Gadgetzan Auctioneer, imma let you finish, but Spiteful Summoner has the best deals of all time.

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Spiteful Summoner Druid is a tempo deck that’s easily on par with Tempo Rogue or Dragon Priest in terms of explosiveness and ability to snowball the board. It’s overlooked because it looks incredibly awkward, but in practice it can keep up with all but the most aggressive of lists and get to victory before most control decks can prepare a response. The bonus of this being new to the meta is that most opponents will mulligan either for Jade or Aggro Druid, and this list is somewhere in between, so you can usually take advantage of the element of surprise, at least for now.

While it looks really awkward having basically no removal in this deck, you often don’t need it. Being able to ramp on turns 3 and 4 means that you’re progressing into your midgame very quickly, and you can utilize your minions to execute value trades for removal until you start pressuring. In other words, you usually don’t need removal because your opponent will need to remove their minions for you. You do run one Spellbreaker (with room to expand to a second should you see significantly more control in your opposing matchups) and you can get removal from The Lich King and utilize Ultimate Infestation in a pinch to remove a roadblock. Ultimately, though, face is the place.

In general, your game plan is to get to Spiteful Summoner ASAP and then push face; while there are some whiffs at the 10 mana spot (C’thun and N’zoth are easily the worst pulls) you will just as often pull one of the Deathwings, Y’shaarj, or Tyrantus as early as turn 4 or 5, along with a 4/4 body alongside it. That’s a lot of pressure for any deck to deal with that early, especially if you can pair with Bonemare the following turn. There’s some card draw variance involved that will ruin your games; drawing both copies of Ultimate Infestation before your Summoners significantly weakens the power of this deck, but while those games happen, they don’t happen all that often, and if the days of Secret Paladin have taught us anything, it’s that running two copies of a 6-drop allows you to play it on curve more often than not.

Why Should You Listen to Me?

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I’m a multiple legend player who climbed from rank 4, 5 stars to legend over the course of two days with this deck, with a 70% win rate over the course of the climb. I began with the list featured in the Vicious Syndicate Data Reaper Report from January 25th, and made a swap of Fire Fly to Glacial Shard at rank 2, 1 star; I lost two games total from that point until I hit legend.

Overall stats from the legend push.

Overall stats from the legend push.

Match history from the Glacial Shard Change

Match history from the Glacial Shard Change

Card Choices

2x Enchanted Raven: Any tempo deck needs good 1-drops, and a 1 mana 2/2 with no downside is one of the best you can get. As an extra bonus, this can cause your opponent to incorrectly assume that you're playing Aggro Druid, so they may spend removal or go out of their way to trade it off before it could be buffed by the Mark of the Lotus or Mark of Y'shaarj they think is coming, which helps the minions you actually care about stick around.

2x Glacial Shard: Again, you need 1-drops, and this felt much more useful in all stages of the game than Fire Fly did. It’s slightly weaker to rogue since they can just dagger it down or trade off a pirate, but in general, being able to present a 2 attack minion early is good. Being able to freeze a problematic 3 health minion in the early game can help you trade it off with additional pressure from a charging Patches or your hero power the following turn, and it’s extremely important to keep pace or pull ahead in the early game to allow you the space to play your ramp minions. Once you've gotten to the late game, the freeze effect is still valuable situationally, much more so than an extra 1/2 can be, especially when you're trying to empty your hand to get Ultimate Infestation played.

1x Patches the Pirate: Because you’re in charrrrrrrge now that you’re playing this deck.

1x Prince Keleseth: You’re playing a tempo deck, and since you’re not playing cheap spells, Keleseth fits right in.

He'd get along great with the seagulls from Finding Nemo.

He'd get along great with the seagulls from Finding Nemo.

2x Greedy Sprite: Half of the ramp package that helps this deck pull ahead. Note that you're not going to automatically drop this on 3 if you have other 3-drops in hand; you generally want to prioritize not losing board over ramp. For instance, if you’re against a rogue and they have a Southsea Captain on board, and you can choose between this and a Tar Creeper, play the Tar Creeper first at the expense of ramp. Greedy Sprite is much more important to get on curve in control matchups, but in aggro/tempo matchups you need to preserve your board state, and the 1 health can make it a liability if you just get tunnel vision and try to ramp immediately. Remember that you’re not Jade Druid or Big Druid; you have plenty of plays you can make if you miss an early opportunity to ramp.

2x Southsea Captain: Again, you’re playing a tempo deck with Keleseth so you’re playing Patches, and if you're playing Patches, you may as well get him charging out at 2/2 instead of 1/1. Make sure you keep track if Patches is still in your deck and use it for a favorable trade if so. Once Patches is out of your deck this is basically a vanilla 3/3, so don’t be afraid to use it to just fill out available mana.

2x Tar Creeper: In aggressive matchups this is a lifesaver. Prioritize playing this against a threatening board to force your opponent (hopefully) to trade in to it and give yourself a chance to catch up.

2x Mire Keeper: The other part of your ramp package. As with Greedy Sprite, make sure that you’re not ramping at the expense of losing board if you have other plays, and if you’re not playing it on curve, consider if you really need the extra mana crystal given the texture of the rest of your hand, because the extra 2/2 may be more valuable. Also, if you’re not going to use the extra mana crystal the following turn and you have other plays (for instance, if it’s turn 4 and you have Saronite Chain Gang and Malfurion in your hand), try to sequence your plays so you’re leaving over the least amount of mana. In that case, it’s better to play Chain Gang into Mire Keeper into Malfurion than Mire Keeper into Chain Gang and Hero Power into Malfurion.

2x Saronite Chain Gang: Another anti aggro tool that gets really powerful when buffed by Keleseth. If you’re seeing a lot of control (particularly control warlock), swapping one copy out for a second Spellbreaker is reasonable.

1x Spellbreaker: Silence is really strong in this meta; Voidlords are the obvious targets, but just getting through a taunt for lethal is valuable given you run no removal aside from Ultimate Infestation.

2x Cobalt Scalebane: Our game plan against control, and particularly against priest, is to stick a giant board and make the opponent deal with it. Scalebane helps a lot by buffing a minion’s attack while ensuring something lives through Dragonfire Potion. This is obviously less effective now that Psychic Scream exists, but it still works when you can get it down early thanks to ramp. Just be careful playing this into a priest’s turn 8 with only one other minion on board so Anduin doesn’t completely wipe you out.

2x Spiteful Summoner: This is the key to the deck. Since you only run 10 cost spells, you know you’re going to get a 10-drop every time, assuming you haven’t already drawn both copies of Ultimate Infestation. It probably goes without saying, but you want to get this down on curve whenever possible, and you want to prioritize playing Summoner when you’ve already drawn one copy of Ultimate Infestation, because it becomes a vanilla 4/4 for 6 mana once you’ve drawn the second copy. Keep in mind that none of the minions you will summon have taunt, so Summoner is not going to save you in a lethal on board situation. Some of the minions don’t have great stats comparatively, but the smallest you can get is a 5/7, and on average you’re going to get something with 8 or more attack and 8 or more health, which is usually more than adequate. Even C’Thun or N’zoth, as the "bad" results, aren’t bad for 6 mana with a bonus 4/4.

Hey, buddy.

Hey, buddy.

For reference, the minions you can get from Summoner are:

  • Kun the Forgotten King (7/7)
  • Tyrantus (12/12)
  • C’Thun (6/6)
  • Deathwing (12/12)
  • Deathwing Dragonlord (12/12)
  • Faceless Behemoth (10/10)
  • N’Zoth (5/7)
  • Sea Giant (8/8)
  • Ultrasaur (7/14)
  • Yogg-Saron (7/5)
  • Y’shaarj (10/10)

2x Bonemare: You’re playing a tempo deck that will often stick a board; Bonemare makes minions bigger, so that seems good. If you get Tyrantus from a Summoner, target it with the Bonemare against control so they can’t use hard removal, but target another minion other than Tyrantus if they have a board, both to spread the damage around and to preserve its health from smaller minions trading into it.

2x Corridor Creeper: You’re playing a non-control deck in the Kobolds meta, hence Creepers are in your deck. Try to save these for reload if you have a board already against control; they get cheap quickly, but putting it down onto a sizable board just makes Dragonfire Potion that much better.

1x Malfurion the Pestilent: Since this is basically Good Cards Druid, let’s put one of the best death knights in. Usually you’re going to use the hero power to push face damage, but be aware that there are some situations where armor is appropriate. Secret mage is one matchup where you don’t really need to kill them, you just need to put down taunts so they can’t get in chip damage with minions and then out-armor their direct damage. Also, don’t just auto-pick the taunts. Look at the board and determine if poison spiders are better, because there are more situations than most players would think where spiders are the correct choice, in that they do more to protect a board state when your health total isn’t in danger.

1x Grand Archivist: This card merits discussion, since many players (myself included) have vocally cut it from Spiteful Summoner Priest. The reason Grand Archivist works in this deck is it provides you emergency healing and/or card draw two turns before you can play Ultimate Infestation naturally, and it gives you a third card you can draw to obtain those effects.

The Wizard of Odd.

The Wizard of Odd.

Often when people look at this card in combination with UI, they look at the 5 damage targeted randomly and run in the other direction. Playing this card involves recognizing the correct situation for it. You do not blindly play this card on curve, ever. Grand Archivist is for situations where you’ve lost board and exhausted your hand, and you either need card draw or armor gain or both right now. In that specific scenario, this is what happens: 100% of the time, you get a 5/5. 100% of the time, you draw 5 cards. Most of the time, you gain 5 armor. The only variance comes in where the 5 damage goes, and there are generally two bad outcomes: If it hits the Archivist, you still have a 4/2 and a 5/5 and gain 5 armor. If it hits your face, the damage and armor cancel out and you still have a 4/7 and a 5/5. So the bad outcomes are reasonable, and you can calculate the odds of that versus the number of minions your opponent has on board plus their face, and usually the odds are in your favor.

There is a small possibility that it can pull running UIs out of your deck, but you’re more likely to draw the second UI from the first one than have that happen. Grand Archivist has won a few games for me and I wouldn’t cut it from the deck unless you don’t own any and don’t have the dust to craft one. I think running two copies with only two spells is a mistake, but one Archivist will improve your win rate and you shouldn’t cut it.

1x The Lich King: A lot of the time, he’s a big, dumb taunt. But sometimes you need a big, dumb taunt. You can generally make use of most of the cards he gives you, though. Death Grip can derail a priest’s plans. I’ve taken multiple Voidlords with Frostmourne. Death and Decay, Death Coil and Anti-Magic Shell give you additional burst. Obliterate and Doom Pact provide removal where you don’t run any. Army of the Dead is guaranteed to pull at least 3 minions. Again, this is one of the more replaceable cards in the list, but I’d put him in if you have him. If you want to play this list but are running into budget constraints, you could probably get away with an Ironbark Protector in this slot to learn the deck, but you’ll want the real Arthas if you’re expecting to climb in ranked.

2x Ultimate Infestation: Turns out, the only spell you need in the deck is the one that does literally everything.

"How did you get two Voidlords?" "Frostmourne."

"How did you get two Voidlords?" "Frostmourne."


In general, against all decks, you want a fast start paired with ramp. So that means you generally keep Enchanted Raven, Glacial Shard, Prince Keleseth, Southsea Captain, Greedy Sprite, and Mire Keeper (on the coin). If you have one ramp minion you should probably send back the others. If you have a good hand you can keep Corridor Creeper as well, but if you don’t have early game you should send it back.

Against aggro, you also want taunts to help you stabilize, so Tar Creeper is a keep. You can also keep Saronite Chain Gang on the coin if you know for sure it’s aggro (basically paladin or hunter) and you have other early game cards, otherwise send it back and look for earlier plays.

Against control, hold Spiteful Summoner. The way you win against greedy decks is by outvaluing them early, and it’s critical to get a Spiteful Summoner down as early as possible to create maximum pressure before they get access to their board clears and hard removal; even if they can clear the 10-drop, they still have a 4/4 plus whatever other minions you were able to stick to deal with, and that’s often too much for a control deck to manage all at once.

Glacial Shard is your friend against aggressive decks.

Glacial Shard is your friend against aggressive decks.


If you’re facing more control Warlock, taking out one Saronite Chain Gang for a second Spellbreaker is a reasonable move.

A list appeared as I was writing this guide that replaces one copy of Cobalt Scalebane with Leeroy Jenkins; I’m still in the process of testing that change but it feels like it improves some of the Control matchups.

For budget concerns, you can experiment with removing the pirate package and Keleseth with more Aggro Druid cards, like Druid of the Swarm, Dire Wolf Alpha, and Golakka Crawler. It may slow your early game down and remove the burst from charging Patches but it could still be viable.

You can also replace The Lich King with any good 8+ drop in your collection; that card in particular is valuable because of the utility of the death knight cards and the fact that it has taunt, but Ysera or Alexstrasza could be reasonable substitutions, or if you’re really strapped for dust, Ironbark Protector works in a pinch too. The same goes for Malfurion and the single Grand Archivist, but I’d highly recommend finding a way to get those two cards into the deck because they’re much harder to replace in terms of what they do for the deck.

The Corridor Creepers, Spiteful Summoners, and Ultimate Infestations are all core to the deck; if you’re cutting those, you’re playing something else.

Matchup Advice


Tempo Rogue - Favored

You’re basically trying to do the same thing that the tempo rogue is trying to do, except that you can do it earlier than the rogue can, thanks to Greedy Sprite and Mire Keeper. You want to try to stay even with the rogue in the early turns; which 3-drop you play first is extremely important, since your goal is to make awkward trades for the rogue with your taunts and then use things like Patches and your hero power to clear their early minions off. If you can keep pace, going Spiteful Summoner into Bonemare usually cements the game for you, and you can reload with Ultimate Infestation to present more threats than they can address while also developing. You’re looking for chip damage early until you’ve sufficiently snowballed the board, and then face is the place.


Raza Priest - Slightly Favored

Your goal against Raza Priest is to apply constant pressure from turn 1, but not so much that they can reset the game with a board clear. You want to prioritize ramp early to get Spiteful Summoner down ASAP; if you can get one out ahead of their turn 6, you can make Dragonfire Potion awkward for them with anything but a Yogg-Saron pull, and get a decent amount of damage in ahead of Psychic Scream. At that point they’re reliant on having their single copy of Shadow Word Death as an answer, and if the pull happens to be Tyrantus, only Scream and Anduin will help. Absent Summoner, you want to build boards that are resistant to their clears. That means mixing in minions with high health and low health when you’re worried about Dragonfire Potion or Wild Pyromancer, attack above and below 5 when you’re worried about Anduin, etc. If you already have a board that’s scary enough for the Priest to want to clear, hold back Corridor Creeper for reload. The difference between dropping a big minion and dropping a big minion along a free 5/5 can be the difference between winning and losing. You generally want to end the turn before Anduin can come down, because the hero power makes it much easier for them to stabilize and clear your threats turn by turn, even without Raza. If they do manage to get Anduin down, don’t overlook Grand Archivist as a way to re-establish board, even once both copies of Ultimate Infestation have been played; a 4/7 is hard for them to clear and can give you a Bonemare target to push a lot of damage the next turn. Sometimes the priest will just get everything they need and win anyway, but in general, if you can maintain pressure to not allow them to safely draw cards on the early turns, you can stumble into a weak turn from their end where you can just step on the gas and not let up. Note that one thing that should work in your favor is that the priest needs to mulligan for Jade Druid since it’s easily their worst matchup, and holding their expensive cards should give them fewer tools to fend off your early pressure.

You can, in fact, beat Raza and Anduin on curve. Sometimes.

You can, in fact, beat Raza and Anduin on curve. Sometimes.

Dragon Priest - Favored

Similar to the rogue matchup, except you’re even faster than the dragon priest. Present threats and make them react, and just be sure not to build a board of minions with 3 or less health to play around Duskbreaker. You’re generally developing threats while they’re discovering cards, and you can have a Summoner and Bonemare down long before they can get theirs online, at which point you just steamroll them.


Control/Cube Warlock - Slightly Unfavored

The game plan for control Warlock is similar to that against Raza Priest, except that you need to be able to end the game even more quickly in order to whittle them down before they can start chaining Voidlords, because you really don’t have any way to go over taunts aside from Ultimate Infestation. Make sure not to overcommit too many 3 health minions into turn 4 to play around Hellfire, and stagger your minions’ health in order to play around Defile. If you have a good hand in the mulligan it might be worth holding Spellbreaker to get past the first Voidlord; don’t silence the Lackey because that just delays the inevitable. If you see a lot of this matchup and little aggro, you can swap one of the Saronite Chain Gangs for a second Spellbreaker to help against the Voidlord parade.

Zoo - Favored

Like dragon priest and tempo rogue, you’re doing similar things only faster. Make sure to keep pace early, save Spellbreaker for Councilman or Bonemare targets, and push to Spiteful Summoner. It’s going to feel like you’re losing but you can flip the board all at once with a good Summoner pull. They’re going to have to tap to keep up, which will help you toward lethal when you hit them in the face with a 10 drop.


Aggro/Murloc- Slightly Unfavored

The way you win this matchup is by throwing up a bunch of taunts and letting them make the trades for you. Tar Creeper and Chain Gang are MVPs here, and you can use your hero power and Patches to clean up some of the weakened minions. Take value trades where you can and wear them down slowly with chip damage. Also try to take off Divine Shields with your hero power when you have no other plays to play around Tarim and Rallying Blade. You’ll trade more than normal in this matchup, but the way you win is by preserving your board and removing theirs to deny them value from things like Tarim or Blessing of Kings. Try to play out more small threats instead of one big threat to stay even on board and play around Divine Favor.


Secret Mage - Unfavored

This is the one matchup where you’re going to be playing defense most of the way. Secret Mage doesn’t care about your taunts, and Counterspell only has Ultimate Infestation to trigger it. Try to save the coin or a spell from Lich King immediately before you want to play Ultimate Infestation so it doesn’t get get countered. Grand Archivist is also useful for getting UI out without Counterspell getting in the way. Prioritize armor to play around burn from hand once you’re below 15 health; if you’re careful, you can outheal the burn they can throw at your face and let them fatigue themselves to death.

Control/Big Spell Mage - Favored

You want to get in ahead of Frost Lich Jaina as much as possible. The good news is that they can only deal with your high health minions all at once with Dragon’s Fury and even then only with a high roll. Better, their Raven Familiars are useless while you have Ultimate Infestations left in your deck, because the only spells they can reveal from your deck cost 10 mana, so they lose the check every time. Like priest and warlock, just keep pressuring them and don’t give them a chance to clear your board completely. Hold your Spellbreaker in case they run Doomsayers, which some lists do. If you have multiple minions on board when you play Bonemare, try to not go all in on the highest health minion to play around Polymorph. If they get Jaina down, try to play fewer minions and hit them in the face with the Malfurion hero power to whittle them down without giving them opportunities to make more Water Elementals.


Face Hunter - Slightly Unfavored

This matchup plays out similar to Paladin, except that you have to worry more about burst that can go over your taunts in the form of the hero power and Kill Command, plus they can charge out a Corridor Creeper with Tundra Rhino when you don’t expect it. Try to keep taunts up and trade off the beasts, and make sure once your health is lower than their attack on board plus 7 (2 from hero power and 5 from Kill Command) that you find a way to armor up as best you can. Malfurion is your best friend in this matchup assuming you can get to 7 mana.


I honestly didn’t see a single druid during the climb, but I would imagine that you’d play the aggro matchup similar to paladin, the mirror similar to tempo rogue, and the jade matchup similar to priest or control warlock.

Shaman and Warrior

Maybe next year.

Playing Against This Deck

The most important thing is to not be caught be surprise. If you mulligan for Jade Druid you’re going to start out behind. If you mulligan as you would for Aggro you should set yourself up better.

As Control, early board wipes, silences for Greedy Sprite to slow it down, and some sort of hard removal for the 10-drop are key; if you can survive the first few waves and get to a point where the Druid has a weak turn, you should have a chance to start setting up and advancing your win condition. Just be prepared for the big minion to drop on their 6 mana turn, and try to get as much value from your board clears as you can without exposing your life total too much. You may need help from their deck order (ramp after 10 mana, both UIs before the Summoners, etc) but you can come out on top if you can survive the initial aggression.

As Aggro or Tempo you just need to be able to go faster than the Druid can. Be prepared for taunts to come down and try to save a buff or removal for them. If you're ahead by the Druid's 6 mana turn, the Summoner itself isn’t as much of an issue for you (because the 10-drop won't have taunt) but the follow up Bonemare will be, so factor that into whether you need to try to clear the huge minion or not. Your window of opportunity is the first four turns to establish a dominant board position while they’re busy ramping. If you can do that while holding a silence for the Bonemare target you should be able to push enough damage. Also, don’t trade off the Greedy Sprite; let the Druid do that for you, because A) they always will, and B) that delays their ramping by one turn, which gives you more opportunity to develop your board.



Go Spite Their Face!

Spiteful Summoner Druid is a fresh take on a fairly familiar concept. The bad news is that it still feels mostly similar to decks you’ve likely been playing for a while now. The good news is that if you care mostly about winning, this beats Tempo Rogue at its own game, while being fast enough to surprise the control decks. You probably already know how to play this deck if you’ve played Tempo Rogue for any amount of time, so you should be able to get started quickly and start getting good results right away. If you’re frustrated with your available options, give this deck a try. And then be thankful that Patches is only in charrrrrrge for a few more months.

If you like this content, please consider subscribing to my weekly podcast, Off Curve, where I talk about Hearthstone while driving home on my commute. You can find it in iTunes and on Google Play. You can also follow me on Twitter and Twitch for more Hearthstone content. Thanks for reading!

Deck Import Code


Deck Guide: Big Priest

“Tonight! A tale of terrible tragedy!” (For your opponent, that is!)

Why go big?

Because you like posting “don’t talk to me or my son ever again” memes on Twitter, obviously. Also because you’re skilled at drawing Barnes. 


Don't talk to me or my son ever again.

Don't talk to me or my son ever again.

All joking aside, I honestly believe Big Priest is well positioned against nearly everything in the meta right now. The reason that the deck gets dismissed as a meme deck is the presence of Barnes and Y’shaarj. To be sure, games where Barnes pulls a skinny Y’shaarj, who in turn pulls a full-fat Y’shaarj, will definitely happen, but that’s not how you win most games. In fact, overvaluing Barnes is why most people who play the deck struggle at first, and why many just give up on it. 

Here’s the sneaky thing about Big Priest. This is Control Priest in meme deck’s clothing. If you ignore Barnes and focus on what the rest of the deck is composed of, you have five giant minions which serve as your eventual win conditions, cards that exist to cheat out or resurrect those minions, and the rest of the deck is made up of a pile of removal and control tools. A LOT of removal and control tools. And that’s the key to the deck. Once you stop focusing on trying to cheese out early wins and use Barnes and Shadow Essence to develop into board control instead, your win rate will go up dramatically. In other words, this is a control deck with the potential to high roll some wins, not a deck that has a high roll combo and a bunch of cards that help you survive until you find it (if you even draw the cards in the right order.)

So why should you play this instead of Highlander (Raza/Kazakus/Anduin) Priest? One word: Consistency. Yes, that’s right, this “meme deck” is often more consistent in terms of controlling the game and then closing it out than Highlander. Decks like Tempo Rogue and Zoo often demand specific answers to specific board states; running an overwhelming number of removal spells, as well as running two copies of most of them, ensures you’ll probably have some sort of answer for nearly every early board state in time to stabilize and start dropping bombs of your own. Highlander’s weakness is running a large variety of one-ofs; it’s very easy to draw into the wrong cards for a dire situation, or have one of the specific combo pieces at the bottom of your deck, forcing you to exhaust additional resources to survive long enough to find it. It’s also worth stating that Highlander’s popularity helps you as a Big Priest player; until you’ve shown Barnes or Shadow Essence, your opponent will likely be working under the assumption that, once you’ve played a card, they don’t need to play around it again for the rest of the game. In the case of your strong board clears like Dragonfire Potion or Shadow Word Horror, that sometimes will lead your opponent to overextend into the second copy of one of those cards, giving you a significant advantage. 

Stats from this month's climb from ranks 15-5.

Stats from this month's climb from ranks 15-5.

Why Should You Listen to Me?

I climbed from Rank 4 to Legend over a weekend with Big Priest In September with a 62% win rate. I’ve put in another 50+ games with the deck over October, and I’m already at Rank 5 as of October 5th, using Big Priest almost exclusively from rank 15 (aside from some experiments with other decks at floor ranks). 

Legend Sep 2017.jpg

Card Choices

Deck code: AAECAZ/HAgiiCaUJ1gqoqwKFuAK3uwLCzgKQ0wILlwLTCtcKoawCtbsC6L8C6r8C0cEC5cwC5swCtM4CAA==

Deck code: AAECAZ/HAgiiCaUJ1gqoqwKFuAK3uwLCzgKQ0wILlwLTCtcKoawCtbsC6L8C6r8C0cEC5cwC5swCtM4CAA==

Silence: Being able to handle a problematic minion’s text or buffs while also addressing the rest of the board is useful. Don’t forget that you can silence the 1/1 from your Barnes to get a full sized minion if you need the board presence, or if you’re concerned the 1/1 might get stolen via Potion of Madness. 

Holy Smite: Good for addressing early minions without spending a more premium removal, or clearing a 6 or 7 health minion along with Dragonfire. Can also be used late game with Anduin for burst damage. 

Pint-Sized Potion: A surprisingly flexible card. Most often paired with Shadow Word Horror as a board clear, but can also be used to get a larger minion into Pain/Potion of Madness range, preserve health on your minions while trading, or as fuel for Anduin’s hero power. 

Potion of Madness: Good early answer to pirates and early Hunter boards, as well as Raza priest’s early card draw minions. Can also be used to pull a small taunt out of the way to get in face damage late. 

Shadow Visions: The general rules apply; try to use this to find specific answers, ideally once you’re sure what you’re playing against, but tossing it out on 2 against a known opponent’s deck is fine too. When in doubt, take Essence or Servitude. Grabbing extra copies of board clears is usually fine too. 

Shadow Word: Pain: Good single target removal. Remember that larger minions can be shrunk with Pint Sized Potion to get into Pain range in a pinch.

Shadow Word: Death: Good single target removal. Note that one uncommon interaction that’s good to be aware of is that you can use Nightmare from Ysera to get a smaller minion into Death range. 

The award for Best Supporting Actor goes to...

The award for Best Supporting Actor goes to...

Barnes: Playing the (high) role of Prince Keleseth. Your win rate when you play Barnes on curve goes up dramatically; feel free to just slam him as soon as possible. If you pull him later in the game, consider which minions are still left in your deck and try to play him when one of those minions would be most advantageous to you. 

Eternal Servitude: The strongest card in the deck once you’ve gotten a minion down. Just be careful if you’ve used Potion of Madness liberally; the resurrect pool may have fewer usable options than you’d like. That said, I don’t think I’ve ever played Servitude and not had a usable pick. 

Greater Healing Potion: Sometimes you just need to heal for 12. 

Mass Dispel: With all the cards that provide buffs to minions (Murlocs, Keleseth, Cobalt Scalebane, Mark of the Lotus, etc.), being able to reset a board that is getting out of control is valuable.

Shadow Word: Horror: One of the most underrated cards in Priest up until this expansion. This usually gets fine value on its own, and paired with Pint Sized Potion is your only clean answer to 4-attack minions outside of lucky deathrattles from Obsidian Statue. 

Dragonfire Potion: Your most premium removal. You have lots of options and two copies of this card, so you can be a little less stingy with this than when playing Highlander Priest, but still try to save it for boards where it will make the biggest impact. Also remember that the “except dragons” part is occasionally relevant, most often when you have Ysera or your opponent has Cobalt Scalebane. 

Shadow Essence: One of the obvious drivers of the deck, because it cheats out a big minion that you can resurrect. One key misplay many people make with this deck is going all in on this card when they shouldn’t. If Barnes hasn’t been drawn, you’re effectively playing Russian Roulette when you play Essence, which is fine if you know the percentages; every minion you’ve drawn increases the odds that the pull will be Barnes dramatically. With all your minions in the deck, the odds are 17% that you’ll pull Barnes; if you’ve drawn 3, it goes up to 33%, and with 4 drawn it’s a coin flip. When you’re behind on board on turn 6, understanding how likely you are to get a minion with taunt as opposed to Barnes, especially if you have other removal options to choose from, is key to success with this deck. Don’t just blindly go into Essence on 6 every time because it’s not always correct. 

His friends call him "Shadow Word: Megadeth".

His friends call him "Shadow Word: Megadeth".

Shadowreaper Anduin: We’re playing a priest deck in 2017 so we’re playing Anduin. This isn’t our primary win condition like in Highlander Priest, but the ability to wipe a large board (especially against Jade Druid and responding to Bonemare turns) and get enough damage to close out close games makes him worth including. Just keep in mind that Anduin wipes out your big minions also, so try not to play him with Lich King or Y’shaarj on board. 

The Lich King: A big taunt who generates immediate card advantage. Most death knight cards are self explanatory, but a note on Army of the Dead: If most of your minions are still in your deck, especially if your Eternal Servitudes are gone, this can be an ok play when you’re behind to get board presence. Just calculate your odds first. Also, Doom Pact can be played on an empty board if you just need space in your hand. 

Obsidian Statue: Easily the reason you’re playing the deck in the first place. Healing plus removal plus taunt all in one. You’re usually going to play this as a stall or emergency heal, but don’t underestimate the capability of Statue to set up a board clear. Very often the response from your opponent will be to go wide on the board to try to protect their threats from the Statue’s deathrattle. If you can follow this up with a board clear, you can often buy yourself a bunch of time to stabilize. Statue into Dragonfire is very effective in clearing out problematic minions with more than 5 health. 

Ysera: Probably the weakest minion on its own because she provides card advantage but doesn’t directly affect the board on the turn she comes out. That said, Ysera sticking for several turns can provide late game burst via Nightmare and Ysera Awakens, as well as soft removal via Dream and additional minion pressure. Keep in mind that Dream can be used to remove a taunt to create lethal, Nightmare can be used to get a smaller minion into Shadow Word Death or Anduin range, and the 7/6 is immune to Dragonfire Potion. 

Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound: If you’re tracking the cards in your deck correctly you should generally have a good idea of what Y’shaarj can pull out when played from hand. In most decks he’s dangerous to play on his own, but here he’s fairly likely to bring a big taunt along for the ride. And it goes without saying that Barnes into Y’shaarj ends some games before they start. 

Don't expect this to happen every game, but it's fun when it does.

Don't expect this to happen every game, but it's fun when it does.


The six minions, Shadow Essence and Eternal Servitude are core to the deck and cannot be cut without significantly affecting your win rate. It’s true that this is a fairly expensive deck and the minions are all epic or legendary, but they work because they immediately impact the board when they’re summoned via Barnes/Essence/Servitude. If you’re missing one and want to try the deck out to see if it’s worth investing dust in, look for minions that cost more than 7 mana that have some sort of continuous/end of turn effect, or deathrattle. Nozdormu, Charging Devilsaur, and Gruul are all minions that have popped into “budget” versions of this deck, and there is also a Malygos/Velen build that requires a different mix of spells. 

As far as the non-summoning spells go, feel free to adjust the list based on your local meta. Some cards that occasionally see play in the list include Forbidden Shaping and Free From Amber for additional minion generation, Mind Vision and Thoughtsteal to provide more early game options without putting bad Barnes/Essence minion targets into the deck, and you could consider Holy Fire or even Mind Control if you find you’re running into problematic minions like Cobalt Scalebane or Primordial Drake that you can’t clear otherwise. 


This is the most important part of playing Big Priest. Mulligans are important in every deck, of course, but mulliganing incorrectly with Big Priest is usually the reason why you’ll end up losing a lot of games because you have minions clogging up your hand and no answers to the board. The mulligan is more or less the same regardless of matchup, and the general rule is incredibly simple:

Pitch minions. Keep spells. That’s it. 

Ok, there’s a bit more to it than that, but that’s the general rule. Note that you do not hard mulligan for Barnes ever. Not against Priest. Not against Druid. Not ever. 

As stated in the intro, the way you lose with this deck is overvaluing Barnes. The truth is that, as good as Barnes is on curve (and yes, the win rate with him in your opening hand is something between 70 and 75%), there are five other minions in the deck and all of them are universally terrible to get in your opening hand because they’re dead cards for at least eight turns, and they limit your possible results from Barnes and Shadow Essence. The odds of drawing one of those minions by throwing spells back is significantly higher than the odds of getting Barnes, and the potential upside of drawing Barnes is outweighed by drawing any other minion. This doesn’t guarantee you won’t draw your other minions, but mulligans are always about percentages and never guarantees. 

This is not a winning hand.

This is not a winning hand.

So, maybe I’ve convinced you and maybe I haven’t, but your next likely question is, “But what if I’m stuck with a bunch of spells that don’t look useful for what I’m facing? Don’t I want Potion of Madness against Hunter every time?” Sure, you want it, but you don’t need it. You run so much removal in this deck that you’re likely to draw into the cards you need by the time you need them. For instance, let’s say you’re really worried about Vicious Fledgling. You run a Silence, two Shadow Word Pains, and a Mass Dispel, and those are just the single card answers to it not including two card combos. You sometimes need to be creative with combining removal for specific board states, but trust the deck to give you what you need. 

In general, pitch minions (and Shadowreaper Anduin) and keep spells. Eternal Servitude is the only spell you should throw back if you don’t have Barnes in hand already, because it’s as dead as the minions until you get a rez pool. If you get Barnes in the initial mulligan stage, feel free to hard mulligan for Eternal Servitude and keep whichever spells you got that seem useful in keeping the board under control until you can drop Barnes. 

Tips for Specific Matchups

Priest - Even

  • If you can, Silence or Smite the 1/1 from Barnes if you haven’t seen Potion of Madness yet. Against Raza this shouldn’t keep you from playing Barnes, but if your opponent has done nothing yet and you suspect it could be a mirror match, there’s not too much harm in waiting a turn or two to set that up. Giving your opponent an extra minion in their rez pool, especially if they have Servitude in hand, can lose you the game on the spot. 
  • Don’t play Y’shaarj from hand until you’ve seen Anduin from your opponent if Lich King is still in your deck. Giving your opponent a 2-for-1 while pulling that minion out of your deck can be a swing that you can’t recover from. 

Rogue - Slightly Favored

  • The early game comes down to who can high roll who first. 
  • Try to save Anduin for a Bonemare turn; you’ll take out the Mare and the target at once. 
  • Make sure to calculate potential burst into your turn planning. Many rogue decks run Blazecallers or some combination of Leeroy, Shadowstep and Cold Blood. Leeroy + Shadowstep + Cold Blood = 16 damage. 
  • Silences are key to address huge Edwins or Bonemare targets. 

Warlock - Slightly Favored

  • Try to save your Deaths for Doomguards; none of your other removals are very effective against them. 
  • Make sure to hold back a board clear for the Gul’Dan turn.
  • Potential burst usually comes in the form of Doomguard, Bonemare and Soulfire, plus Doomguards that will get resurrected by Gul’Dan past turn 10, so be sure to factor that in when deciding whether or not to clear.
  • In general against zoo, if you can get value from your board clears and have answers for Doomguards, you should be able to run them out of resources eventually.

Shaman - Favored

  • This matchup is pretty straightforward; they need a board to win and you have clears for days. You can more or less ignore anything that isn’t a Mana Tide or Flametongue for the first several turns, since an early Evolve is actually good for you, and you don’t have to worry about Bloodlust until turn 5. That said, there’s nothing wrong with using a Potion of Madness early to clear out a couple of 1/1s. 
  • Once they can Bloodlust, you should always be counting their damage to decide if you need to address a board or not. One of the strongest plays you can make is to not clear on turn 4 or 6 when you’re not at risk of lethal, let your opponent overextend, and then get additional value from the board clear the following turn. 
  • In general, you want to use Horror to clear non-Evolved boards and save Dragonfire for post-Evolve. After you clear a couple of times you can usually just grind the Shaman out of resources and either beat them down with your big minions or just wait for them to concede. 
Friends don't let friends use Devolve against Big Priest.

Friends don't let friends use Devolve against Big Priest.

Hunter - Favored

  • Try to save your board clears for when you see a Bearshark or a Hyena; either of those minions can get out of hand quickly and it can be difficult to deal with them. Similarly, if you have Silence try to hold it for Highmane. 
  • As long as the hunter doesn’t get a ridiculous opening this matchup is pretty winnable; just keep clearing until you can get one or two big minions down and you should be able to grind them out of resources as long as they don’t run Rexxar. 

Warrior - Favored?

  • I’ve seen very few warriors post nerf, but most of what I’ve seen has been modified pirate warrior. Follow the same guidelines as the other matchups, but your threshold for when to board clear is much lower since pirate warrior doesn’t go as wide. Your taunts are often better than Oozes at removing weapons. 

Paladin - Favored

  • Most paladins are Murloc; Silence handles Warleader in absence of pain, and if you can catch a Megasaur in the first board clear you should be ok. 
  • Mass Dispel is a good substitute for a board clear in a pinch; paladin is so dependent on tribal synergies that it can cut a big board down to size quickly. 
  • If you can, hold Silence for Tirion late, and having a board clear in reserve for Tarim usually clinched the game. 

Mage - Unfavored

  • Every version of Mage is a difficult matchup. 
  • Try to hold Barnes for when a Secret is on board; that’s your only way to test for mirror entity. Pint sized Potion and Holy Smite are good spells to hold to test for Counterspell. 
  • Against quest and Control Mage, you basically go as aggro as you’re able and try to beat them before they get their draws. Remember that Silence can unfreeze a minion in a pinch. 

Druid - Even

  • Your goal here is to build up enough pressure before they can get their UI online; any turn where they have to address your board is a turn they’re not ramping mana. 
  • Make sure to figure their armor into your turn planning, especially once they have Malfurion online. Feral Rage and Earthen Scales are worth considering also. 
  • You absolutely want to hold Anduin as long as you’re able; it’s your only way to clear a board of huge jades once they get out of Dragonfire range. Similarly, you want to try to use Shadow Word Horror to clear the early boards and save your Dragonfires for the mid-sized boards, since it will be hard to get value out of Horror once the jades start ramping up.
  • If you do draw Horror toward the late game, save it for spiders from Malfurion or Spreading Plague. That can sometimes create lethals you wouldn't have otherwise.
  • If you’re mulliganing for spells you should be fine if your opponent turns out to be Aggro Druid. Just hold a Death for Bittertide Hydra and hold a board clear in reserve to handle Living Mana. Usually the game ends once you clear followed by dropping a big taunt.

Go Get Big!

Big Priest may not be a meme deck, but it’s got good matchups against nearly everything in the meta, is really consistent once you learn to play it, and honestly, it’s just a blast to play. Don’t let the occasional Shadow Essence into Barnes dissuade you from dominating your opponents with statues and dragons and undead knights for days.

If you like this content, please consider subscribing to my weekly podcast, Off Curve, where I talk about Hearthstone while driving home on my commute. You can find it in iTunes and on Google Play. Thanks for reading!

Rearrange Us: Finding What I Lost With Apple Music

One of the ways that I like to remind myself that I'm living in the future is to think about what technology lets me do today that would have completely blown my mind in high school or college. I've always been really into discovering music, and when I was on a high school budget, this basically meant listening to the weird indie rock radio station that played Counting Crows six months before anyone else, instead of listening to the same 20 songs over and over again on Z100. The idea of being able to just decide that I want to listen to a particular album, especially if I didn't already own it, would have been mind blowing to me at the time. As it was, there was a local record store chain called Compact Disc World that would let you both listen to any CD they had in stock before you bought it, and return it if you didn't like it, which was unheard of in the late 90s. I ended up buying a lot of albums from them with my supermarket cashier income, and I only returned one or two over the years they existed, for fear that they would put me on a list if I were to try to take advantage of their way too generous return policy. (There were stories, you see.)

So it's no exaggeration when I say that, when I got my first iPod in 2005, it was like the skies opened and the sun started shining down. All of a sudden I had access to all of these albums I'd collected in one place. What's more, I had more than a few albums that I had bought for That One Song, and now I could listen to that song without having to find the CD and seek to that track. Why, I might never have to listen to the radio again! iTunes in particular appealed to the cross-section of my tendencies as a music nerd and a data person. What I realized, after poking around with Smart Playlists for a couple of days, was that iTunes was basically just a database that held my music, and I could query it to tune it exactly the way that I wanted. This ended up being one of my first "big data" projects; the 15,000 tracks I ultimately had in my library might not be big data in the truest sense, the data was big to me, especially at the time.

It took me several iterations, but eventually I ended up with an extremely elaborate system of smart playlists that worked off of metadata like last played date, date added, genre, and even hand keyed tags that I entered into the comments field of the tracks. I underwent a several month project where I rated every single song in my library on a five star scale to facilitate those smart playlists. (There was one dark day where I started researching hacks to enable half star ratings, but cooler heads ultimately prevailed.) I had all of my and my wife's music in the same library, but we never had to listen to each other's music if we didn't want to. I even had a smart playlist to let me re-rank anything that I hadn't listened to in a while, to make sure that I still liked them as much as I had originally. (If this sounds borderline obsessive, by the way, you're not wrong; this is both the positive and the negative of hyperfocus.)

Ah, memories.

Ah, memories.

The only problem I eventually ran into with this system was storage space on my devices, especially once it stopped being reasonable to carry an iPod alongside my phone. My music library, even if I just limited to the smart playlist that had only the cream of the crop, was just too big to fit on an iPhone. Eventually, I caved: I signed up for iTunes Match to alleviate the problem by streaming most of my music instead of storing it locally. That resolved the issue with storage space, but it ultimately created other problems with my system, because iTunes Match was generally unreliable at updating metadata like last played date. For most people, this would be a minor inconvenience at most, but for me, this ended up making my smart playlists less consistent, which, in turn, made them less useful. The smart playlists still worked, but ultimately I ended up using them less and less as time went on.

All this background is to say that I care about my music library. A lot. So it was kind of a big deal that, when Apple Music first came out, I decided that I would stop worrying and learn to love the algorithm. What I'd hoped was that Apple was going to use all of the listening data that they had been collecting from me for nearly a decade (between Genius and iTunes Match) and be able to both surface music that I would want to listen to from my library, as well as find me new artists I might not have found otherwise. That didn't happen. Apple Music asked me if I like to listen to a bunch of artists that I probably have never listened to intentionally in my life, and then I was on my own, and the recommendations were generally irrelevant to me. For You improved somewhat with iOS 10, but though the first few days seemed like an improvement, it eventually began to cycle through the same set of album recommendations, no matter how much I tried to use the love and dislike buttons to correct it. Though their playlists are generally well curated, I found that there were only a handful that ever really appealed to me, and they didn't seem to get updated over time. Even the nature of the recommendations could seem suspect at times; while I'm sure Chance the Rapper is a wonderful artist, it doesn't make sense to me why I would want to listen to him since I'd been listening to The Shins.

Even though I knew that For You wasn't doing a great job, it worked well enough that I'd learned to live with it. It wasn't until MacStories wrote a review of a new app called Picky, an alternative Apple Music browser, that I'd started thinking about this again. What Picky does is very simple: It provides you all of your albums, artists, songs, etc. in a long scrolling list; what makes it different is that you can filter that list by how many songs are in each list item. I'd basically given up on using Apple Music's browse function to find something to listen to, since, unlike my smart playlists, it had every artist who appeared in my library even once, regardless of whether they were one of my all time faves or happened to be the last song on a random sampler CD I'd gotten years ago. Using Picky, on the other hand, immediately led me to find Mates of State again; Rearrange Us is one of my favorite albums, and I realized that I hadn't listened to it in at least a year, simply because I just couldn't find it in my Apple Music library by browsing, and For You's algorithm never surfaced it to recommend it. This led to a negative feedback loop; since I hadn't listened to Mates of State, Apple Music didn't know that I wanted to listen to them, so it didn't suggest them, so I didn't listen to them. All of a sudden, Mates of State was gone from my listening rotation. Presumably, had Apple Music pulled in my listening history from before the service launched, this might not have happened, though without knowing how the algorithm finds its suggestions, this could have happened anyway, or with a different artist.

Screenshot 2017-02-19 19.37.38.jpeg

That's ultimately what ended up concerning me after I had this realization. This isn't going to make me switch to Spotify or cancel my Apple Music subscription, to be clear. There are reasons beyond just music discovery that keep me with Apple Music as my primary streaming service; the convenience of being able to use the built-in music player outweighs whatever bad music discovery bugs there are, and I'd much rather pay a flat monthly fee than go back to agonizing over every album I might want to add to my library. What this does, however, is underscore how careful we need to be about letting AI into every aspect of our day to day lives. This is a case where I knew that the For You algorithm wasn't great, I trusted it anyway, and I ended up completely forgetting about an artist who I really enjoy listening to, simply because it wasn't offered to me. This episode isn't affecting my life materially, but it's very easy to look at recommendations in all sorts of areas of our lives (news, perhaps?) and wonder what we should be seeing that's not being presented. This isn't even to suggest that there's an ulterior motive here. I'm pretty sure Tim Cook isn't trying to keep me from listening to Mates of State, but it's just easy to lose track of things if we're relying on smart assistants and algorithms to offer them to us.

There's a happy ending to this story, though. I haven't listened to Mates of State in so long that they released a new album that I've never gotten to listen to, so it's new to me. Maybe if I binge listen to their back catalog enough, Apple Music will get the hint. Here's hoping.

Adventures in Flatland: PSVR and Me

It feels like the last three months or so has been nothing but news about virtual reality finally becoming actual reality. First the Oculus Rift finally shipped (if you launch a piece of hardware but don't actually fulfill any orders, does it make a sound?), then the HTC Vive released, followed by Sony's E3 keynote which made it clear they're all in on VR as well. I've been admittedly down on VR for a long time, personally. Part of it is limited experience - I tried an Oculus dev kit at Boston FIG back in September, but it didn't really do anything for me. In fairness, the software I was trying wasn't particularly exciting, and the headset kept nudging my glasses enough to break the immersion. Even beyond that, though, it feels like VR is a promise that's been made for as long as I've been aware of technology.

I remember first looking at colleges in Boston in the mid-90s and coming across an internet cafe called CyberSmith that had Dactyl Nightmare set up in the foyer. I didn't try it then, but I desperately wanted to. Obviously, that wasn't to the level of what we have today, but it's been two decades since I was first confronted with the possibility of strapping goggles onto my face and entering another world, and the closest that I've gotten until now is the 3DS.

This was cutting edge VR technology in 1995.

This was cutting edge VR technology in 1995.

So after hearing all the hype and the stories of wonder and magic, it was announced that Sony would be conducting demos of Playstation VR at Best Buy and Gamestop following E3. I decided it was time to give VR a fair test on hardware that was intended to be released to the public. So I got in the car and drove to a Best Buy(!) in Worcester(!!) to finally experience the future for myself.

I'll say, in terms of product demonstrations conducted at Best Buy, this was one of the better ones I've experienced. I've been to Nintendo's collaborations with Best Buy to demo Super Smash Bros and Super Mario Maker, and those ranged from slow to utter fiasco, with long lines snaking around the store, a single hardware station that needed to be rebooted, and longer than necessary demo periods. This demo had a reasonable line that moved fairly consistently, with a Sony employee who knew the technology well, the demos were ready to go ahead of the start time, and he made sure to wipe down all the equipment in between each demonstration.

The excitement to try the unit was palpable from the few people in line ahead of me. The two people immediately in front of me had driven from Albany to Worcester just to try PSVR, and filmed each other on their phones as they played. From chatting with them in line, I learned that they had apparently made similar treks for Oculus and Vive demos. I was honestly starting to believe the longer I waited in line, watching the 2D representation of what the demo participants were playing on the TV in front of them.

There were a handful of game demos on hand, including Battlezone (a tank sim), SuperHyperCube (a puzzle game), and soccer and ocean diving simulations, but the only game anyone chose to play (myself included) was Eve: Valkyrie, which is a space combat game in the vein of the classic X-Wing games. As I waited in line, I saw the cadence of the demo repeatedly: The headset was put on and calibrated, the participant looked around the cockpit, then launched into space and chased enemy starships for about three minutes until the glass of the cockpit cracked and the screen faded to black, indicating that the demo period had ended. Everyone who tried it seemed to be impressed afterward; my new two friends in line in particular were especially blown away. Finally, it was my turn. I put on the headset, had it adjusted for blurriness, and, well...

I wasn't really impressed.

The game did everything as advertised. It definitely presented me the world that I was seeing on the television in front of me, and I was able to look around at any angle freely, and there was depth there. The problem was, I couldn't get past the fact that I could still see the pixels. Like, really see the pixels. Some of the text on the HUD was hard to read at times. And I couldn't really shake the feeling that what I was seeing wasn't as much real as it was projected on a dome in front of me. As the game ramped up in intensity, I started to feel my stomach lurching a bit. It wasn't bad enough that I wanted out; it wasn't even really as bad as a tame rollercoaster like Big Thunder Mountain Railroadat Disney World. The feeling was noticeable and uncomfortable, though, and it was one more thing to take me out of the suspension of disbelief.

Not quite my reaction.

Not quite my reaction.

Really, what struck me when the demo ended was that it felt like that five minutes was enough for me; I didn't want to go back for more. It felt, at least to me, like PSVR wasn't quite there yet to create that illusion of reality that's enough to get you to suspend disbelief and immerse yourself in another world. It's entirely possible this has something to do with me and my ability to perceive VR, though; my experience didn't seem to be the norm (unless the people in front of me were being exceptionally polite) and I've heard from others since that they were really impressed by the technology. In fact, my experience seems so out of line with what others have reported that I've even questioned if I did the demo "the right way". I can only trust my own experience, though, and based on that, I'll probably be saving my $400 come October.

I think what it comes down to is that VR ultimately asks a lot more than any other gaming technology (or technology in general) of the people investing in it. It asks a considerable amount of money, sure; you're looking at minimum $400 for the headset plus whatever PC or PS4 hardware and peripherals that you may not already own just to be able to power it up. More than that, though, it asks you to cut yourself off from the outside world to experience it. You can't share these experiences with other people in the room in real time, nor can you experience VR passively or while multitasking; it demands your full attention to the exclusion of literally everything and everyone else, and that can be difficult to find time to provide. Putting that headset on effectively says to everyone else in the household, "I'm cutting myself off from everything else in the world, you included." I'm already well aware of how much we do that with screens that we hold in our hands that I'm not sure if I'm ready to take that to the level of introducing a sensory deprivation helmet into the family, especially when cost and technical limitations limit one to a single headset.

The biggest thing VR asks for, though is a considerable amount of faith that the content is going to continue to come. I still remember both the Wii and Kinect launches and how blown away we all were by the games that were available at launch and the different experiences they enabled; I also remember how quickly those streams of content dried up in the year or two following those launches. Assuming VR catches on like the common wisdom says it will, investing in VR as a whole may not be a gamble, but investing in any individual VR rig could very well be. The current landscape looks like VHS/Betamax or Blu-Ray/HD-DVD all over again, only with three major players instead of two, and that's an incredibly costly investment in a platform that could very well lose out in the marketplace as technology converges.

So ultimately I'm not ready to make that leap yet. Based on my experience with PSVR, I'm not convinced that virtual reality is at the point where I'm ready to jump in head first. Maybe trying the Vive will convince me. Maybe the technology just needs to come down in price some more. Maybe my eyes or my brain just don't work the way they need to for VR to ever work for me, and I'm just going to be stuck playing flat games for the rest of my life. It's hard to say right now. All I know is that I've seen what Hearthstone looks like in VR, and I'm OK with playing it on a flat screen for a while longer if that's what's meant to be.

Blue Skylanders Are a Missed Opportunity To Gain Understanding of Autism

When Activision announced their color-swapped toys for Autism Awareness Month, they got a lot of instant praise. Over at Pixelkin, I had a slightly different reaction from my vantage point as a parent of autistic kids.

But there’s also a risk that treating autism in this way is similar to how every consumer product gets a pink version for breast cancer awareness month. It could send the message that autistic people are sick or disabled. And that awareness will somehow lead to a cure.

If you're interested on hearing more on this topic, we also discussed it at some length on Isometric #97.