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‘Hearthstone’ Blackrock Mountain Adventure Review – The Best Way to Experience this Fantastic CCG

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After five weeks of playing, thinking, and writing about Hearthstone‘s (Free) Blackrock Mountain Adventure (BRM), the fun is over and we are back to playing plain, old Hearthstone. No more Wings to explore, no more crazy bosses to tackle, and, more importantly, no new cards to get. What’s done is done though, and now that BRM is over, we can look back and see how Blizzard did in its second attempt at an Adventure after the successful Curse of Naxxramas. If we look at the Adventure as a whole, I believe that Blizzard did a great job thematically, perhaps better than with Naxxramas, as the Dragon-and-Fire themes were represented very well in BRM’s various wings. The card rewards were also great, and although they might not revolutionize the meta, I think they’ll help turn the RNG down a notch. BRM wasn’t perfect, though, and some of the issues that Naxxramas had also surfaced here, especially in terms of the Heroic Bosses and the lack of extra deck slots. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

When it comes to the cost, I found BRM to be more than reasonable at $6.99 (or 700 in-game gold) per Wing, or even cheaper if you pre-ordered the whole thing at once or bought more than one Wing at a time. When you consider all the hours of gameplay it offered in order to beat 17 Bosses in two difficulty modes, plus 9 Class Challenges, and the 31 cards you got from beating BRM (including 5 Legendaries), the price was more than justified.

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In respect to the theme, Blizzard chose one of the most important locations of World of Warcraft Lore, Blackrock Mountain, to set Hearthstone‘s second Adventure. For those who know the lore, the location was perfect for an Adventure primarily based on the clash of dwarves, dragons and fire, and I felt throughout BRM that the theme was very cohesive, probably more so than Naxxramas (which I thought was more predictable in the ways it translated the theme into the gameplay mechanics). Many of BRM’s encounters really turned the theme of volcano, fire, and explosions into interesting mechanics (for example, Garr’s Firesworn minions that acted like ticking lava bombs were a fantastic translation of theme to mechanics). Similarly, BRM really emphasized the theme of how Dragons are served by their many minions in the way all the Dragon synergies worked. I also enjoyed the many imaginative Boss mechanics BRM introduced, like for example the way Baron Geddon punished you for being unable to spend all your mana in a turn, the way General Drakkisath turned all cards into 1-mana cost cards, and, my personal favorite, the way Emperor Thaurissan forced you to protect his wife while at the same time trying to kill him. When I play an Adventure, I don’t want to feel like I’m playing an Arena match but, rather, I want the game to offer me something new and fresh, and BRM definitely delivered in that respect.

I do, however, have some reservations regarding the Heroic mode, some of which were also mentioned in our Curse of Naxxramas Adventure review. What Blizzard has been doing with the Heroic mode so far is give more armor to the bosses and make their Hero Powers do more of whatever they were doing in Normal mode (like summon a 2/4 instead of 1/2 minion, or buff the Boss’s minions by +2/+2 instead of +1/+1). The result is that the fun Boss matches of the Normal mode turn into RNG slogs in Heroic, with even top players having to replay them many times until the cards are drawn at just the right time. On top of that, you don’t even get a reward for going through the Heroic Bosses, since you get all the cards from Normal and Challenges. While on the one hand that’s good, considering the RNG-heavy Heroic Bosses, on the other hand I feel Blizzard is missing an opportunity here. Perhaps more card-backs would have been a nice badge of honor for beating the Heroic Bosses of each Wing (for me, one card-back for beating all the Heroic Bosses is not enough). As for the mechanics of the Heroic mode, I’m not sure I have a solution to the current situation, but I’m not crazy with it as it stands.

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Unlike the Heroic Mode, I enjoyed the Challenges quite a bit. Some of them were crazy (like the Mage’s Unstable Portal Deck), and almost all of them were entertaining, especially to F2P players because the Challenges’ pre-con decks allowed “budget" players to mess with Hearthstone‘s expensive toys (I actually think that these Challenges could be great as a kind of tutorial to new players because they teach the importance of card synergy in a very fun way). What I wish was different was getting to see the pre-constructed decklist before the match so I had an idea of what was to come. Some might enjoy the element of surprise, but I’d have liked to know what cards I have so I can strategize more and enjoy the challenges even more than I did.

Speaking of decklists, as great as BRM is, it once more reminded me of one of the main issues people have with Hearthstone at the moment – the limited number of deck slots. With an expansion that kept reminding me that I’d have to fiddle with my decks multiple times in order to beat the Heroic bosses, it was irritating having to change my Druid or Mage deck a dozen times throughout the Adventure so I could beat the various Bosses (especially given the fact that the Deck builder on the iPad ain’t the greatest). If Blizzard can’t offer more deck slots to everyone at the moment, then perhaps the solution would have been to give temporary deck slots tied to the purchase of BRM. It’s an issue that I hope Blizzard addresses in the next Adventure.

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Finally, BRM introduced some great cards, even making the possibility of a Dragon-themed deck more viable (although, still, not that competitive). Many people complained about the high-RNG nature of Goblins Vs Gnomes cards, especially as the randomness they introduced wasn’t the kind that can be mitigated by smart plays or by being prepared for random results. BRM cards seem to depend more on strong synergies (especially the Dragon cards) that reward strong players. There are some cards that reward you for killing many minions at once (like Volcanic Lumberer and Volcanic Drake), and that might be Blizzard’s attempt to help players defend against the meta-dominating Aggro decks (looking at you, Face Hunter). The Shaman class also got a much-needed buff, with Overload not being such a big issue for players anymore because of Lava Shock. Grim Patron is also appearing in many decks already because he’s probably the most fun of all the BRM cards. Finally, Chromaggus and Emperor Thaurissan are also seeing play already, but it remains to be seen whether they’ll stick around (if you want to know more about what we think of the BRM cards, check our BRM Guides at the end of this review). Overall, I think the new cards will be a good addition to Hearthstone while probably not altering the meta in any significant way (I suspect Blizzard is saving those kind of big changes for the next expansion).

Despite my few issues with the Adventure, BRM was a fantastic piece of work from Blizzard and an improvement on the already-great Curse of Naxxramas. It masterfully brought theme and mechanics together in interesting and exciting ways, it created new experiences, even for those who’ve been playing Hearthstone since the days of the beta, and it gave new and old players a relatively-easy way to get some cool new cards. After playing BRM Adventure, I’m even more excited about the direction Blizzard is taking Hearthstone, and I cannot wait to see what the next expansion holds.

Blackrock Mountain Adventure Guides:

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