Everyone! Get in here! It’s time for the first of a multi-article series on Hearthstone! On April 26, Blizzard released its much-advertised new expansion to its trading card game, titled Whispers of the Old Gods. It can also be the expansion that guarantees Andrey Nolden many more years of YouTube employment. Introducing the four gods of Warcraft lore into the forefront of the trading card game, these new cards have ushered in an entire new metagame. The Old Gods come as part of 134 new cards, with Old God C’Thun as a free gift to those who log into the new expansion. The expansion was also one of Blizzard’s most generous expansions, with players receiving three packs for logging in during the launch window, and another ten packs for winning a total of nine games in the new Standard format. Therefore, in this first article, it’s necessary to touch base with the titular Old Gods, and the rotation of major cards from the older expansions Curse of Naxxramas and Goblins vs. Gnomes.
Hearthstone’s metagame was flipped inside out for this expansion, with new cards that saw highly popular combos be removed from competitive play. Cards such as Dr. Boom (or Dr. 7 as a joke) and Unstable Portal or the unfriendly Force of Nature + Savage Roar Druid combo saw removal from the competitive format or severely reduced in power. Powerhouse Mage decks remained relatively untouched in an intriguing decision, and Rogue players saw devastating losses with Blade Flurry being given an increased cost and removing its ability to deal damage to the hero. Other classes like Paladin and Warrior diversified their pool, and Shamans received a fairly nice buff to their collection.
It is lunacy to talk about the new expansion without talking about the titular Old Gods and their effects on the game. With each of the Gods costing a meaty 10 Mana crystals to summon, their addition to the deck and fields change the tide of battle, sometimes for the worse. A major hit and success is Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End — also known as the ultimate RNG card that casts randomly targeted spells based on the number of spells cast. Ten spells means ten chances for Yogg-Saron to devastate the board and player…which in turn gives Andrey “Trolden” Nolden plenty of video opportunities for his “Funny and Lucky Hearthstone Moments” YouTube series. Second, major hitter is C’Thun, not only for his status as a “free to play” legendary. His ability is downright absurd, allowing him to deal out damage based on his attack. C’Thun of course has decks that build around that attack stat, with many new monsters in the expansion considered staples to C’Thun decks. These new monsters add attack points to C’Thun as part of a Battlecry or an end-turn effect (Twilight Elder). It definitely gets to be a bit of a nuisance hearing Disciple of C’Thun’s Battlecry over and over again with repeated match play, however. Third Old God Y’Shaarj ends up falling behind in the pack with a limited niche use, and often (for me) saw quick removal and thus little usage of his special effect in summoning a minion from the deck at the end of each turn. The final God, N’Zoth, is absolutely monstrous and makes its mark in Paladin decks where the field is immediately swarmed by Deathrattle minions. There are of course other decks that utilize N’Zoth, but in my plays on Standard, it was mostly Paladins swarming the field with Divine Shield combos.
The rise of the four Old Gods has introduced a new way to play the game, not only in Standard format, but in how players manage their endgame strategies. Games now tend to drag on towards the tenth turn more than ever in an effort to drop down the Old Gods, to massive effect. In the case of Yogg-Saron, many have heard the despair of Pyroblasts straight to the hero’s face. With the launch of Standard play, most people chose to bid farewell to the older cards from the Curse of Naxxramas expansion and the Goblins vs. Gnomes booster pack expansion, opting to keep current with The Grand Tournament and Classic packs. Gone are the days of Loatheb finding ways to torment players, and gone are the days when Mal’Ganis was dropped onto the field early by Voidcaller. On a sadder, personal note, Mages lost their handy Unstable Portals and Piloted Shredders, making the days of Mech Mage bite the dust in Standard play. With much of these old staples being taken out of rotation, it brings about an interesting phase of strategy, for both old and new players alike.
Whispers of the Old Gods adds hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of potential game play strategies to the table. A bevy of cards features the ability to turn the tables on luck, thereby inviting many more casual players to the fireplace for some hilarious game play. To cover the aspects of competitive change in this article alone would fulfill pages; the article was split up, and the next one will cover more of the strategic nerfs that Blizzard introduced to class and neutral cards as well as talk about some of the expansion’s biggest hitters that aren’t Old Gods themselves. We’ll catch you in the next piece; in the meantime, why not pull up a chair by the hearth and play a couple games?