Last year, Blizzard made the biggest change to Hearthstone (Free) in the history of the game by introducing card rotation which I’m not sure was that surprising as it was the inevitable solution to the problem of keeping the card pool down to a reasonable size both in the interest of the overall metagame as well as to make the game more approachable to new players. Moving on from the Year of the Kraken, this year we’ll be transitioning into the Year of the Mammoth. The card rotation wheel spins one more time, which means that cards from Blackrock Mountain, The Grand Tournament, and League of Explorers will all be shifted over to the Wild format. Additionally, Blizzard is mixing things up even further by moving six Classic cards over to what they’re calling the “Hall of Fame" which will similarly remove them from the Standard card pool and make them only playable in Wild.
The Classic cards getting moved into the Hall of Fame really make a lot of sense, particularly when you consider one of the purposes of card rotation is to allow for increased design space. Ideally, you want new cards introduced to be as cool as they can be to keep the metagame evolving and Blizzard has already cited instances in the past where they couldn’t release a particularly cool card idea they had because it’d be completely broken when played in combination with other cards in the card pool. Shoving these Classic cards over to the Hall of Fame solves that problem, and leaves the totally broken card combos where they belong: In the terrifying land of Wild decks.
The first card getting Hall of Fame treatment is Azure Drake. Blizzard’s rationale is that it’s just too versatile and is an auto-include in any deck that runs a five mana card. They mention it’s one of the most played cards in the game, which again, for the interest of an evolving metagame isn’t a great thing as you want players using the new cards instead of just sticking with old staples.
Sylvanas Windrunner is also rotating out for similar reasons, as it just provides far too much value for six mana leading to it being run in far too many decks. Hell, I think basically every deck I’ve played recently has had Sylvanas in it, and it’s high up on the list of legendary cards people recommend new players craft first. Apparently there’s also some exciting Deathrattle cards coming in the future, and Sylvanas existing inside of Standard would just be too good.
Following incredibly similar value logic is resulting in Ragnaros the Fire Lord getting peaced out to Wild as well. As Blizzard says, the decision of “Is this eight mana minion better than Ragnaros?" isn’t really something you want players making in the interest of creating varied decks that use loads of different cards. The value and strength of Ragnaros at his mana cost led to many other high-end cards never seeing play because Ragnaros was just the better choice.
Three class cards are also getting the boot over to Wild, starting with Power Overwhelming, which is just stupidly mana efficient and so good that it’s in practically every Warlock deck. Again, Blizzard is shooting for greater variety by removing these core auto-includes, which should spice up Warlock decks a bit more in the future.
Ice Lance moving over to the Hall of Fame is a major blow to the Freeze Mage deck which Blizzard mentions has been a dominant Mage deck for over three years now. So, Freeze Mage heads over to Wild and in the process Blizzard can make more interesting spellpower and duplication cards that don’t have to keep the incredible burst damage of Ice Lance in mind moving forward.
Last, but certainly not least, is Conceal, which can be exceedingly frustrating to play against as I’m sure everyone by now has faced up against a Rogue that dumps out a ton of minions, pops Conceal, and leaves you sitting there deciding if you want to just concede or not. Conceal’s removal hinges on Blizzard’s desire to keep Hearthstone full of interesting counterplay, and when you spend your turn going “WELP," that goes against the spirit of what they’re trying to accomplish. Interestingly enough, Gadgetzan Auctioneer almost got cut instead, but they decided to leave it because its power level should decrease without Conceal around.
So by now you’re probably thinking, “ARRGGGHHH BLIZZ TAKIN’ MUH CARDS!!!" and wondering if there’s going to be a full-dust disenchant. Well, they’re going one step further, and if you’ve got any of these cards they’re just giving you their dust value. So, if you’ve got a gold Ragnaros, guess what, you’re getting 3200 dust for free when the Year of the Mammoth kicks off.
This is the part of the whole announcement where Billy Mays would step in and say, “But wait, there’s more!" as even more changes are coming in the form of the way Blizzard releases cards in the future. It sounds like they’re more or less phasing out adventures, and instead just releasing three full card sets, sold via packs, and each set is going to include roughly 130 cards.
The totally rad part is, adventure-like content will be coming with the release of card sets in the form of single-player missions that explore the story and theme of each new card set. The second expansion of 2017 is when this new adventure plus card set thing is going to happen, and I’m super excited for it as it seems like the best of both worlds for people who love cracking packs and for people who loved the single player content that adventures provided.
In the realm of real-world play, Blizzard has plans in 2017 to encourage tournament organizers to explore hosting tournaments that use the Wild format, and after the release of the next expansion there’s going to be another Heroic Tavern Brawl that utilizes the Wild format. Additionally, they’ll be building more in-client features to support the local Hearthstone Fireside Gatherings, which sounds pretty cool. I’ve got my fingers crossed for some sort of in-client way to organize small tournaments, but we’ll have to wait and see what Blizzard announces.
Once the Year of the Mammoth launches, there’s going to be all sorts of things happening in game like daily login rewards, and Maiev Shadowsong will be joining the game as a alternative Rogue hero you can play as. Maiev is unlocked for free simply by winning ten games once the new expansion kicks off.
It’s a lot of changes happening at once, but I’m loving the direction Hearthstone is going. Between all the new things coming in the Year of the Mammoth and the changes being made to the ranked ladder, I’m looking forward to playing Hearthstone in 2017 even more than I was already.