Hearthstone etiquette

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An exciting game full of surging battle, the explosive destruction of the enemy and the jeers and cheers of the audience, it's hardly surprising that Hearthstone can bring out less than polite behaviour in some players. But what exactly comprises correct or incorrect behaviour, and who makes the rules? This page explains some of the basic sources of contention and debate within the Hearthstone community regarding player etiquette.

For a discussion of the intentional aggravation of the opponent, see Bad manners.

Opinions[edit | edit source]

As with any social convention, etiquette and accepted behaviour within Hearthstone is highly subjective. However, trends of thought are readily observed on forums and other media, and it is natural enough to attempt to construct a basic common understanding to allow players to accurately express themselves and behave in a way which is correctly interpreted by the opposing player.

For some, these conventions provide an opportunity for considerate and respectful play, complimenting the opponent on a good play or apologising for ruining their chances; while for others they mean the chance to irritate and upset the opponent, using every opportunity to inspire frustration in the other player - or simply encourage them to concede the game.

While each player may think that the intent of their communication and behaviour is clear, different players often interpret the same actions in wildly differing ways. Since it is impossible to know for certain the intent of the opponent, it is often best to take an optimistic stance, and hope for the best in people.

Emotes[edit | edit source]

It never hurts to rub it in a bit

The main method of communicating during Hearthstone matches, emotes present a limited palette of expression, with only 6 possible emotes for each hero. Designed to minimise player harassment and time spent typing, the emote system also introduces a remarkable level of ambiguity into communication within Hearthstone. Players can silence their opponent's emotes using the Squelch feature.

Significantly, almost every emote can be taken to mean several different things. One factor in the ambiguity of emotes is the limited range of options provided, which in itself encourages players to find ways to use the existing emotes to express other, unspecified responses. In addition, many players commonly use emotes for sarcasm and trash talking, aiming to aggravate and insult their opponents, whether in a spirit of playful competition or with a more malicious intent. While an emote's meaning can to some degree be guessed based on context, the variety of sincere and sarcastic uses of each emote ultimately means that it is impossible to know the true intentions of a player's emotes.

Well Played

"Well Played" is a general compliment to the opponent on their play, but is also used by players at the end of a match to mean "good game".

When used mid-match, some players may assume any "Well Played" which is not immediately following an excellent play to be sarcastic in nature, insulting the player's competence, and may respond with a sarcastic "Thanks" or not at all, while others use "Well Played" at the conclusion of almost every match simply as a matter of good manners. In addition, "Well Played" may refer to player skill, or simply to a lucky sequence of cards or events.

Using "Well Played" as the victor, before the loser (e.g. at the end of your turn, just as or before you press the end turn button) has a risk of coming across as rude, as the winner has no idea if the comment is sincere or sarcastic. It is therefore safest to only "Well Played" as the victor after the loser has first emoted "Well Played" to avoid any confusion. Similar conventions exist in some other games such as Starcraft, with the use of the phrase 'gg' (good game) by the winner before the loser. However, waiting for the loser to share the emote before replying also limits the opportunities for friendly exchanges. Prior good-natured exchanges during the match can help clarify the player's intent.

Ironically, the game files still contain "good game" soundbites for each hero, used during the game's alpha. The "good game" emote was removed due to the developers being unable to find a way to implement it that wouldn't invite negative uses, such as pre-emptive "good game" emoting.[1] Perhaps unsurprisingly, in the absence of a "good game" emote, "Well Played" is often used for just this purpose.

Greetings

Another apparently benign emote, "Greetings" generates a (relatively) friendly greeting message. Its obvious purpose is most appropriate at the beginning of a match, but it often sees far more use during the match itself, serving a variety of purposes. Most simply, it may be used to express frustration at the time the opponent is taking to make their play (See Stalling, below). However, it is more often used as a form of gloating, usually at the end of a match or after a successful play. In this it represents a sarcastic alternative to "Well Played". Others use it as a tool for miscellaneous harassment, repeatedly emoting during the opponent's turn regardless of time, although this can be done with any emote.

Threaten

"Threaten" is sometimes used by players as a more dramatic or humorous form of greeting. The obvious hostility of this emote seems to minimise its use a genuine form of harassment, for which purpose other, more friendly emotes are ironically preferred. It is therefore usually safe to to take "Threaten" as a friendly or playful emote.

Synergises well with minions such as Wisp, Snowflipper Penguin and Murloc Tinyfin.

Oops

"Oops" can be used to express having made a mistake, or acknowledge (or point out) that the opponent has. This is of course open to use for insulting the opponent for mistakes made, or implying that they have made an error when they have not. "Oops" is often used in response to the opponent's "Oops" to agree or sympathise regarding the mistake in question, or simply to make it clear that the player was already aware of their misplay.

Thanks

As well as being used in response to "Well Played", "Thanks" also sees a range of uses, from genuine appreciation to joking thanks for being the recipient of a devastating play, playful thanks for side-effects such as being granted card draw through the destruction of an Acolyte of Pain, or the unnerving thanks of a player informing their opponent that they have just inadvertently sealed their own fate. Once again, the interpretation of the true meaning of the emote is left to the discretion of the recipient.

Wow

Intended to express surprise at an impressive or unlikely turn of events, "Wow" is a neutral alternative to "Well Played" that avoids commenting on the player's skill. It was introduced in Patch 5.0.0.12574 (2016-04-24), replacing the earlier "Sorry" emote, which had seen primarily sarcastic use by players, and appears to have been considered the worst offender of the emotes.

Stalling[edit | edit source]

One focus of genuine griefing and aggravation in Hearthstone is the intentional delaying of the match. Delaying an inevitable conclusion, or simply stringing out each and every round, is almost always seen as impolite, as it wastes the time of both players. However, as ever, this behavior is determined in the eyes of the observer.

While unnecessarily extending rounds simply in order to annoy the opponent is of course bad behaviour, many impatient players will begin to harass the opponent if they take more than a bare minimum of time to make their decision, a behavior which in itself can, ironically, inspire the opponent to delay as much as possible the completion of their turn.

In some cases, players will genuinely seek to aggravate their opponent in this way, particularly by taking all possible actions before then leaving the "End Turn" button unclicked. However, it should be remembered that there are a range of possible reasons for this, from connection issues to real-life distractions, to wanting to make the most of their time to consider potential strategy, or simply having forgotten to click the button. In terms of perspective, choosing to become aggravated in response to what may simply be an accident is generally not productive for the player's own satisfaction, and a philosophical approach to such delays is usually more effective, since there is after all little that can be done to prevent this behavior.

Overall, players should not be afraid to take as much time as they need to plan and execute their turn. In many cases there are more than enough potential actions and points to consider to warrant the use of the full turn, especially if the player is new to the game, something which is almost impossible for the opponent to know. If the opponent harasses you for legitimately taking your turn, use the Squelch function.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Conceding[edit | edit source]

Once the player realises they have no way to win the game (or to survive the next turn), it is generally considered polite for the losing player to concede, saving the other player time.

However, the point at which players should concede is highly subjective, and players should not feel pressured into conceding. Given the unpredictable nature of Hearthstone, it is usually worth playing out each match in full, until defeat is certain. A strong start by the opponent can often make a match seem unwinnable, but victories can come when least expected, and even a loss can provide an excellent opportunity to examine your deck's weaknesses, or consider what could be done next time to defeat the opponent.

Players may also choose not to concede for other reasons, such as to complete quests such as "Spell Master", "Destroy Them All" and "Beat Down" which reward specific actions. By drawing out the game another turn or two, the player may be able to complete one or more quests, which is often the main reason for the player's choice of deck and class. If this is the intention, the player should take their actions as quickly as possible, in order to waste as little time as possible (for both players).

Other reasons include being unaware or uncertain of their defeat, or simply wanting to see the opponent play out their finishing move, or to reveal which Secret they in fact had in place all along. It can also make good strategic sense not to concede, even when defeat seems inevitable: the opponent may not realise your predicament, and may themselves be about to concede. Through bluffing, players can sometimes convince the opponent that they still have a chance, and thus achieve victory in an unusual and seemingly impossible manner.

Unfortunately, as with stalling, there is no way for the opponent to distinguish between a player who is completing quests (or simply has not spotted their impending defeat) and one who is intentionally wasting time, and there is little the player can do to hurry their opponent along. This is a common cause of hostile emoting, but it should be noted that harassing the opponent rarely has the desired effect: in many cases it even encourages the opponent to draw out the game in order to frustrate their attacker.

Grandstanding and time wasting[edit | edit source]

Sometimes you should just get it over with

Another issue surrounding the conclusion of a match is accepted behaviour from the victor. The main debate surrounds whether a player is allowed to make the most of their final turn, taking time to build a powerful combo, or whether they should simply deal lethal damage as quickly as possible.

Some players consider it rude to take any but the shortest possible route to victory, considering it a waste of time which serves only to flatter the ego of the winning player. For others, who may have spent several turns setting up a grand play, it may seem only right to use Inner Fire and 2 x Divine Spirit to send their massive 28/28 Mogu'shan Warden smashing into the opponent for the final 1 damage, rather than sending a limping Leper Gnome to meekly finish the job. Others may simply wish to use several smaller spells to finish the opponent, rather than a single hit from a minion.

For many, good Hearthstone play is an art form, and the execution of a well-planned and devastating combo is one of the great pleasures of the game. Being expected to simply use Arcane Shot when you can put to use the Unleash the Hounds combo you've been saving up may seem a little mean-spirited. However, not everyone enjoys being spectator to their own defeat, even when the victor puts on a good show. For others, it may be fun to see spectacular plays being put into action, even if they are the losing party. The degree of latitude granted by each player at these times varies widely, and taking too long to finish is generally met with the opponent's concession.

Beyond the simple execution of a long-planned finale or nifty finishing move, some players may intentionally string out the last turn, or even extend the game by several turns. Both of these types of play are fairly universally considered bad manners, whether using every possible card for entirely inconsequential purposes, or by holding back a card such as Pyroblast in order to present the semblance of a game which could still be won.

In response to players who are dragging out the final turn or two of the game, the answer is simple: concede. If you are certain of your imminent failure, and the opponent clearly is not concerned with your own enjoyment of the game, there is no reason to pander to their preference to draw out the game. When the opponent hides game-winning cards, it is much harder for the player to respond, as usually this is only confirmed with the player's defeat, and conceding due to belief of such can allow the player's paranoia to cause them to lose games they may otherwise have gone on to win.

Advice[edit | edit source]

Hearthstone is for some a place for fun and play; for others challenge and competition; and for others aggression and aggravation. Ultimately each player will find a way to derive their preferred kind of pleasure from the game, and with the game's primary focus on player vs. player matches, these differing modes of play and their respective players are frequently to be found clashing against one another.

Overall, be considerate of your fellow players. Exercise a little compassion toward your Hearthstone brothers and sisters, and while enjoying passionate battle, try to remember how it feels when the shoe is on the other foot, and the Pyroblast in the other player's hand. Have a little humility and try to be gracious in both victory and defeat.

Often, bad behaviour is due more to accident or lack of consideration than aggression and intentional aggravation. When it's not, there is little you can do about it. Ultimately, each player has little control over their opponent, but can choose to take control of their own experience, through focusing on the game itself and choosing to ignore perceived aggression.

If you find yourself suffering harassment from other players, make the most of the Squelch feature to minimise disturbance. Emotes aside, there is little that can be done to prevent players taking their time during games, besides adding Nozdormu to your deck. Have patience, stay happy, and try to think the best of people.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Gnimsh, iHearthU.com (2014-02-07). Interview with Hearthstone Developers: Eric Dodds & Ben Brode