While we wait for the bulk of card reveals from the recently announced United in Stormwind set to fully commence, there is still half a week of this slow "dry period" left to get through. The small balance patch we recieved might be able to slightly refresh the Standard meta, perhaps once again making the laddering something enjoyable to do meanwhile. Besides that, we have had a number of teases and pieces of information pertaining to the new expansion, as shared by Hearthstone developers in various interviews or Twitter posts. We figured it would be handy to gather them all in one place, for anyone who doesn't follow these things too closely or might've missed some of the takes.
We have already covered a good deal of such informative insights here before - so we will aim not to repeat most of that again, instead focusing on what wasn't specifically mentioned, fills in the blanks, or otherwise offers a new perspective. All relevant links provided alongside the direct quotes below.
New Tradeable Keyword
- That 1 mana tax (which can't ever be reduced to 0) of shuffling in these cards might prove to be more important than we realize, slowing down the cycling potential of a deck ever so slightly. It shouldn't be a no-brainer.
- There were tons of Tradeable options in the initial batch, but it led to some strange interactions. Feels better when this flexibility is on a handful of cards; even more so when they have largely situational applications.
- Combo decks especially could become fond of this increased potential for consistency, as one could effectively run a 28 (or fewer) card deck. It's a good thing mana constraints remain.
- Trading doesn't count as playing a card, which matters for effects such as Galloping Savior. Drawing a card off the top of one's deck then works as usual, coupled with the reshuffling of the remainder of it.
- The other player gets to see the card once it's been used for trading on the relevant turn.
- Tradeable cards permanently keeping enchantments is interesting (think Kingsbane). For example Rustrot Viper would benefit from Scavenger's Ingenuity, and Impatient Shopkeep get buffed by Stage Dive.
Seen a lot of love for the new Tradeable keyword! The short description of it is: Drag this into your deck to spend (1) Mana and draw a new card. But for those who love thinking about the nitty gritty details…
- Trading does not count as playing a card.
- You draw the top card of your deck (counts as a draw, like normal.)
- After drawing, the Tradeable card is shuffled into your deck (DOES keep enchantments, unlike normal.)
- You can Trade while at 10 cards in hand; it doesn't burn the drawn card.
Also: - You can't Trade if your deck is empty.
- The Tradeable card is revealed to your opponent when you Trade it.
Trading always costs (1). The card's cost is irrelevant to the cost of Trading.
In playtesting, it felt like it need more of a visual indicator that you could swap it out for something else, at a glance. The banner under the mana cost is visible without hovering over the card.
The other thing that we tried early on is we had Tradeable decks. The goal of doing Tradeable decks would be you just trade and you have a bunch of things on the board that trigger whenever you trade. So we had tons of Tradeable cards, but we found that the mechanic actually really shines when it's on a few cards. When it's really specific that including these in your deck is important, but it's not so prevalent that I'm spending my entire turn just trading with myself, trying to find the right cards to make my deck super consistent.
Tradeable cards underwent a bunch of iterations during development like if you play a Tradeable card you get to discover a card from your deck. Things really started clicking when we got the interaction where we drag the card over to the deck to make Hearthstone feel a lot like a physical card game.
- Historically, Quest mechanics did not enjoy a great success rate in Hearthstone. We've had a few outliers (the most infamous being The Caverns Below), but there has definitely been more misses than hits.
- Will this current iteration deliver with its incremental rewards and big Mercenary payoff moments? There is always that concern of being too slow as opponents tempo out cheap minions and burst against your quickly depleting Health pool.
- Sorcerer's Gambit wouldn't be such an easy fit in the current No Minion Mage as it might seem at first glance. The only Frost spell there is Brain Freeze, and Fire mainly focuses on Combustion and Fireball (plus a copy of Flamestrike for some). Tons of Arcane spells though. Apexis Blast, Refreshing Spring Water, or Mask of C'Thun play for no particular team.
- For what it's worth, we can expect a lot of Fire Mage support to arrive soon.
- The Demon Seed coming for Warlock doesn't necessarily mean we are going to see even more strong healing options for the class. The dev team is wary of instances where it might become too much (that said, let's note that they still chose to make Touch of the Nathrezim, as revealed just recently).
- Blightborn Tamsin will even deal our fatigue damage to the opponent instead. New Altar of Fire shenanigans about to commence?
- In the most recent episode of The Angry Chicken podcast, we've heard even more teasing about that special Priest Questline, and how aggressive the Warrior's one is. They better deliver!
As much as it sounds like, oh, that could just go in no minion Spell Mage […] I think popular versions of Spell Mage right now don't actually run much Fire. And so it ends up being fairly important that you have an even mix of them, and that they're cheap enough to mix them in the right orders.
You have to play a Fire, Frost and Arcane [spell] before moving onto the next step. So you can't just play two Fires and move to the second step and get progress on that second step. No, I have to order which spells do I play? So you do favour putting cheaper spells in[to your deck]. Things like Flurry probably get a little bit more gameplay, which I think is good… the spell damage plus three [reward] is super huge…
That said, Mage gets a lot of Fire stuff this expansion.
Warlock has a bunch of healing right now, as it stands, with the Soul Shards. So I think that's something we're actively watching. Because… Warlock has a really good hero power. The downside is, is that you don't have a lot of ways to heal yourself. And lately we've swung the other way where they've got a lot of healing. So I think we actually have to watch how much healing we give Warlock.
The Shadowy Future of Priest
- Just the arrival of Darkbishop Benedictus seems to have everyone on the dev team excited about the new possibilities, and how it puts all existing cards for the class in a new light.
- In fact, Darkbishop Benedictus has earned that rare honor of being one of the two Diamond cards for the upcoming expansion (we have yet to see whether it's going to be obtainable through the Tavern Pass purchase or by collecting most of the Legendary cards from the set).
- The hype around the returning and revised Shadow Priest identity is substantial, but it won't be the only class archetype in the set that gets some support (cue the collective groan of Standard Priest detractors).
- There are two more confirmed but not yet revealed cards that should fit in nicely with the Shadow theme - so it's actually not as much as one might've hoped for.
- Best not expect the kind of burst direct damage that Face Hunter is capable of (or a new Mind Blast), but rather a more midrange focus with some minions and situational removal.
- Currently, Raise Dead, Palm Reading, Hysteria, Soul Mirror are all Shadow, and we have seen their power (all too) often. Only Devouring Plague heals a little, but then what is Discover for. At least Shadowed Spirit may not feel as alone anymore.
- Bring on the Shadowform!
I think it does almost create a new class identity for Priest where it's like, yeah, I can go face, but at a certain cost. Nearly all of my healing, if it's not Lifesteal, comes from Holy spells. So there's a huge cost to going down the Shadow path. It's one of their major archetypes [in this set], so they're going to get a couple of pieces that go along with it.
There's just something about Shadowform that we want to keep returning to, and this is a tool that I think we could use in the future as well. We've tried cards in the past like ‘if you are in Shadowform, do something.’ And I think that with this sort of base, we can start doing those cards again. And so I'm excited to see what this looks like in the future, too.
I don't know if it's quite as just face-centric as something like Face Hunter. It's a little more [of a] tempo-y, mid-range-y version of that. You do play some minions, but you've got that situational removal. You've got these spells that can go face, some limited healing through Lifesteal and two more cards that we haven't revealed yet, but will fit in that nicely.
There was a while where we were like, okay, Priest, no face damage. But we decided – with making the right restrictions on your play style to go along with it – we think this is a cool thing to do now, to be – okay, if you're doing the Shadowpriest thing and you're very upfront about being a Shadowpriest and you have made these concessions to how your deck works, you can do that thing and be good at it. So the Shadowpriest archetype is definitely something I'm really excited for. And it makes you look back at your cards from previous sets and be like, okay, wait, which ones were Shadow? What's my deck going to look like? What can I use out of those? I love that it re-evaluates or recontextualises the existing cards as well.
One of the things I think is amazing about releasing cards like this is that it makes you reevaluate all of the spells in Priest that have come in the last couple of years.
Now you have to think about spell types, what Shadow cards does Priest have available, and that to me is one of my favourite things about Hearthstone - each new set, each new mini-set, makes you evaluate each new card that’s currently in Standard.
Storytelling in Hearthstone
- We are used to various narratives being told and shown to us mainly through single player Adventures, so this year's focus on chronicling the journeys of Mercenaries through an array of ways comes across as a certain novelty.
- The team seems committed to continuing down that path, creating and exploring that vast Hearthstone and Warcraft lore.
- Given that Stormwind is such a major hub in the Warcraft universe, we can expect some well-known characters to make an appearance. It's been a long while since we've had a version of Varian Wrynn.
- When talking about their favorite Mercenaries, Celestalon picked Varden Dawngrasp, while Matt London sided with Guff Runetotem and then teased Xyrella's Questline as one of his absolute top cards. If it turns out to be even half as flashy as her current animations, we will be in for a treat.
One of the things that we wanted to do when we started Year of the Gryphon was to have the stories of these Mercenaries represented in all the pieces of Hearthstone: collectable cards, singleplayer content, Battlegrounds heroes. We wanted it to be everywhere in the game. I was always fascinated by transmedia as a storytelling mode and I felt like Hearthstone itself tied into that nicely.
I find it very enjoyable to be able to tell stories inside of a card game. It may not be a natural, logical storytelling format, but I was able to draw from older storytelling modes, whether that be radio drama or even theatre. […]
And so far it seems like players have responded really positively, that they are able to suspend disbelief, just like you would when seeing a play, and get into the story even though you have that bit of distance, what with it being a card game.
Well, we’ll get to see some of that coming in Stormwind. It’ll be fun - I don’t want to spoil any cards that are yet to be revealed, but there are some major characters that you’d expect to find in Stormwind that’ll be appearing in the set. But also, WoW is just a really rich source of material, and it’s fun to pull from that rich canon and also from our imagination, as well as how those things mix. The Mercenaries and how they interact with canon characters.
When there is a big cohesive set of settings and characters - that makes a great situation for a new expansion set (or mini-set if it’s that size). For more one-off characters, we tend to go for Hero Skins, or now Battlegrounds Hero skins and Bartenders. So I’m looking forward to all the ways we can mix and match and introduce more of these characters in.
- It's been a long wait, considering how Battlegrounds first appeared on everyone's radar over 1,5 years ago. Not that they could've exactly predicted or planned for this kind of widespread popularity.
- Looks like the team is quite satisfied with the customization options they've managed to come up with for the game mode so far. And very much excited about what else is on the horizon. If it all works out, the profits might be substantial.
- Could this mean that in the future they might also be able to stop charging for the artificial gate-locking in the form of Battlegrounds Perks and just bake it in by default? One can dream.
- The two upcoming sets of Hero Skins follow very specific themes (Beach Party and Shadowlands, respectively), and Celestalon kindly provided all their names ahead of time.
- Don't worry about Battlegrounds Skins being mixed in with their Constructed counterparts - there's a new Collection window attached to the game mode.
- Alternate bartenders Ragnaros and Ve'nari will most certainly find their fans, especially if somebody prefers a different kind of attitude than what Bob has to offer.
- Celestalon was full of praise for Matthew Mercer's work as Tiki-Lord Ragnaros - if you haven't yet listened to the samples, make sure to check them out here!
- After all, this is only the beginning.
Names of the Shadowlands Battlegrounds Hero Skins:
Finley of the Kyrian
George the Ascended
Ysera of the Night Fae
Beach Party skin names:
Grill King Bolvar
Pool Party Maiev
Battlegrounds is super-popular and we’re going to keep supporting it - new minions, heroes, that stuff. But there’s another real big piece coming and that is along with the release of United in Stormwind, we are launching customization options for Battlegrounds. Just like the Hero skins for the constructed game, we’re launching Hero skins for Battlegrounds, as well as alternate Bartenders!
That is Tiki-Lord Ragnaros! He’s set up shop in a Tiki hut and is selling Sulfuron Slammer drinks, and he’s our new Bartender! If you like Ragnaros, if you want to get yelled at, want to get called an insect, Ragnaros sounds like a good bartender.
- We shouldn't really expect the coming iterations of the Rewards Track to be much different than what we got with Forged in the Barrens. Even though it would be nice to see a few more tweaks.
- We've had a closer look at the Stormwind board directly from the artist who designed it. There might be something secret to uncover...
- Mailbox Dancer might well be the unofficial human mascot of this next expansion, and we've been given some insights straight from the source. Namely, where did the fish come from.
I think we’ve got it in a really good place now, so there’s not a whole lot of major changes to it between the sorts of things you saw in Forged in the Barrens and United in Stormwind. But there is lots of new content - new Hero skins, new card packs to earn, gold to earn, achievements to do. Gameplay achievements especially are a ton of fun to give; exciting opportunities for all the cards in the set to shine. But overall we’ve been refining and narrowing the progression system down to just the right spot and it’s in a pretty good spot, I think.
All in all, there is a lot to look forward to. We should start having more detailed answers soon enough. It might be because I've played way too much Alliance across various Warcraft games, but everything is shaping up to be even more promising than the start of the Year of the Gryphon was. What are your sentiments?