Last week or the week before, I did a quick post about the new season in Hearthstone. A few times I said that I refused to speculate myself, but I did mention a rumor that I heard that made sense to me. Someone made the connection between each Hearthstone season and the sorts of sets that we could expect from them. Their conclusion was that the Year of the Raven would be one of dark and mystical forces. While that part seems to be true with at least the first expansion, that’s the only rumor that has so far been true.
The extension of this thought was that Hearthstone might be travelling to the World of Warcraft zone Duskwood. I had my suspicions that wasn’t true that I wrote in the article. Admittedly, my only evidence for my theory was that the gem in the center of the card just didn’t put off much of a Duskwood vibe. Still, I’ll take a victory lap when I get something right.
Instead, we are going to a forest in (near?) Gilneas known as the Witchwood. Even having played World of Warcraft obsessively for almost 3 years and then off and on for another 5 or 6, I had to Google Witchwood to make sure that it wasn’t just some Hearthstone version of Duskwood. Sometimes Hearthstone adds to or modifies WoW lore in that way. They didn’t this time. This is honest to goodness WoW lore that they’re using this time, albeit, a somewhat obscure one.
So, what do we know about the Hearthstone version of Witchwood. Surprisingly, even though the expansion isn’t due until April and most of the major card reveals are still a week or two away, we know quite a bit from what has been released. Let’s explore the spooky forest, shall we?
One of the things that the Hearthstone team has been consistent is that they want to use Hearthstone to explore ways to make the game unique by doing things with the digital format that you can’t do in paper. I mean, I like Magic and I like playing Magic on the computer, but that’s all it is. It’s just Magic on the computer. Even the new game, Arena, which is supposed to be more user friendly and attract some of the Hearthstone crowd into Magic, is just Magic on the computer with a different wrapper.
That’s not true with Hearthstone. Once upon a time, Blizzard did have a paper World of Warcraft TCG and I still enjoy playing it from time to time. When Hearthstone came along, they stopped supporting the paper cards. I feared that Hearthstone might just become WoW TCG on the computer. The fear was initially supported by them recycling card art and mechanics from the game. But, the fear was put to rest when Chris tried to make a paper version of Hearthstone and found that it would be too bogged down by all of the RNG inherent in Hearthstone.
The point of this all is that the Hearthstone developers have been successful in their attempts to make the Hearthstone experience unique. That’s not to say that all of their ideas have worked. You need look no further than these cards to realize that. As I said to Chris when he asked me about them, “The idea is interesting, but the execution so far is pretty terrible.”
I’m not the only one who thinks so. I was watching a streamer the other day who was trying to put together decks for the even and odd cards that had been revealed using the cards that are available in the game so far. He made sure to repeat several times that the card pool was incomplete and that there might be cards from the Witchwood expansion that could strengthen the decks. But, so far, none of the decks even looked to be fun. Certainly none of them would be viable in any competitive format, except maybe the mage deck that used the card that upgrades your hero power at the start of the game.
Echo – I recognized this one from Eternal. It doesn’t work exactly like it does in Eternal, but it is has some similarities. In Eternal, when you draw a card with Echo, it creates a copy in your hand that you can then cast. With Hearthstone, the card is copied when you play it and then you can cast it over and over again. For instance, if you had the Phantom Militia card which is the only one to have been spoiled so far, you could cast 3 2/4 taunts on turn 9 or 10. Depending on what cards they put the echo mechanic on, it seems like it could be much more broken than the Eternal version.
Rush – The designers have been saying for a few expansions now that they think the charge mechanic was a mistake. It really became apparent when Patches the Pirate was such an oppressive card in Standard and they realized that it would most likely continue into Wild. There was one other card that had charge but could only attack minions, so they must have taken inspiration from that one for the new mechanic. I realize that charge is common to all card games in one form or another, but it is especially annoying in a game like Hearthstone because it is one that is, according to the designers, predicated on board control and trading. Rush brings that aspect back to the game while still having minions that attack right away.
The release schedule for Hearthstone used to be two sets and an adventure released each cycle. I might be wrong about that. But, there were adventures released that allowed players who didn’t want to pay money and didn’t play enough to get gold for packs to get dust or cards. They did away with adventures recently, which I thought would have a deleterious effect on the game. Honestly, as with most decisions, it hasn’t had much of an effect at all that I can see. Perhaps those players who relied on them to increase their card collection more than I do would argue otherwise.
They are still releasing adventures. It’s just that the focus of them has changed. With Kobolds and Catacombs, they put together a solo adventure mode that allowed you to pick one of the established classes and build a deck through randomly offered cards. The mode also gave “loot” in the form of additional cards or game effects. It is a fun mode, but that’s all it is. There are no rewards for defeating all of the encounters and the boss. That’s a bit disappointing because even a tiny bit of gold for your first time with each class would be nice to have. Oh well, no big deal.
They’ve expanded on this idea with Witchwood. It is similar to the Kobolds and Catacombs solo mode in that you fight against a predetermined number of encounters. Also, after you defeat an encounter, you get loot cards to improve your deck. Where it differs is that you choose from one of the four new classes in the above picture instead of the established classes of the game. I’m pretty excited about this idea because I generally enjoy the single player modes of card games.
I’ve logged probably twice as much time in Eternal’s single player modes as competitive. I’m stuck on an encounter in HEX, but I did enjoy it while I was playing it. I don’t spend nearly as much time in the single player mode in Hearthstone compared to the competitive modes, but I do still enjoy playing through this game mode. I just want some rewards is all.
I’m not sure what to think about the odd and even decks. I like the idea of trying new things. But, this idea just seems bad overall. The new mechanics are cool. Echo seems like it is just waiting for the right card to be abused to a horrifying degree. Can’t wait for the first noob to try to point a rush minion at my face and “Whoops” him. More of a solo mode that is fun can only be a good thing. It also leads to the possibility of even more going forward. Stay tuned for the official 2GG preview once all of the cards have been spoiled.