Blizzard Announces the ‘Hearthstone’ Year of the Raven, In-Game Tournaments, and More

One of the best changes made in the lifecycle of Hearthstone [Free] was the addition of a well structured card rotation cycle. If that’s all gibberish to you, effectively what Hearthstone does is the same as many other collectable card games in that they’re constantly releasing new sets of card but to make the game approachable to new players (and to keep the metagame evolving) they “rotate” card sets. In the case of Hearthstone, they do this via annual rotations. We’ve already gone through the Year of the Kraken and the Year of the Mammoth, so this and this year Hearthstone takes to the sky with the Year of the Raven. Once the first card set of 2018 is released (which will be announced next month), cards from Whispers of the Old Gods, One Night in Karazhan, and Mean Streets of Gadgetzan will only be playable in the anything goes Wild format. Standard will then be limited to cards from Journey to Un’Goro, Knights of the Frozen Throne, Kobolds and Catacombs, as well as the three future card sets released in 2018.

With these rotations, Blizzard often moves cards from the Classic set to the Hall of Fame, which retires them from Standard play. In this particular rotation, three cards are being smoked out and Ben Brode took time to explain the methodology behind these decisions. First off, the Mage card Ice Block is out. The idea behind these Classic cards is to give decks the class flavor without necessarily being cards you would specifically build a deck around. Ice Block, basically forever, has been a definite “build around.” Brode made sure to mention to us that there are many more exciting Mage cards coming in the first set of 2018, so, I feel pretty confident in waiting to see what’s going to happen surrounding the Mage meta before getting too worked up about Ice Block going away.

Additionally, Coldlight Oracle is getting Hall of Fame treatment, largely due to it having one of the most powerful battlecry effects in the game. Coldlight Oracle, like Sylvanas in rotations past, was preventing them from releasing certain kinds of cards that interacted with battlecries and bounce effects just due to the strength of Coldlight Oracle. We’ll have to keep our eyes peeled for cards coming out in 2018 that might’ve allowed us to really abuse its battlecry.

Last, but not least, is Mountain Giant. Ever since it got nerfed to be a 25 mana card instead of a 20 mana card, it hasn’t seen tons of play. So, it’s going to the Hall of Fame and getting un-nerfed so all the Giants decks of days of yore will be once again alive in the Wild format.

The thing I’m most excited for is the new in-game tournament mode that Blizzard is planning on rolling out this summer. In a nutshell, anyone will be able to roll their own tournament either by inviting friends or providing some kind of alphanumeric invite code. Tournaments have a start time, and once you’re signed up and online when it starts you’ll be automatically matched with other players in a swiss tournament that’s entirely managed inside the game itself. Blizzard repeatedly reiterated that this is something that they want to continue improving, and while it won’t likely be an instant replacement for the tournaments manually run by esports organizations, that seems like a noble goal to have one day.

Oh, and quests will be getting easier to complete. Quests that might’ve required you to win 3 games will only require 2. Similarly, quests that had you play 50 quest cards will go down to 30. All 40 gold quests are getting buffed to 50 gold, and they’re shooting for all players to easily be able to farm up a half a pack a day just from playing quests.

While the dates are still fairly nebulous with the new set being announced “next month” and the in-game tournament mode coming “this summer,” these massive rotations are an exciting time for Hearthstone. Even if you don’t plan on buying any new cards, it’ll still be worth paying attention to in order to unlock the free Druid hero Lunara which you’ll get from playing 10 standard games! Pretty sweet.


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Blizzard Just Announced the 2018 ‘Hearthstone’ Wild Open Tournament Series

Blizz’ has been absolutely killing it these last few years with Hearthstone [Free] esports, and things are only getting better. This afternoon they announced the 2018 Hearthstone Wild Open, which will be a real-deal tournament entirely in the Wild format. If you missed the boat on what “Wild” is, a few years ago Blizzard introduced card rotation into Hearthstone so if you’re playing a “standard” Hearthstone game you only need to have cards from the most recent sets. “Wild” includes all Hearthstone cards, and watching games in the Wild format can be nuts.

Typically card games like Hearthstone are balanced around just making sure the meta is standard is good, leaving formats like Wild to just sort of exist in a state of broken combos and other hilarious decks. In the world of Magic the Gathering the equivalent format is “Legacy” which is stupendously broken to the point that some games can be decided based solely on who goes first. (There’s more to it than that, but, just to give you an idea of how broken combos can get.) Hearthstone’s Wild isn’t that bad, but, needless to say, watching matches will be very entertaining.

Players have until February 18th to sign up to compete in your specific regional open qualifiers which will take place between February 22nd and 25th, then March 1st through 4th. The regional playoffs will be on March 7th for the US, March 9th in Asia, and March 1st in Europe. (These events will be streamed.) On March 31st, the finals will kick off at the Blizzard arena and $ 25,000 worth of prizes will be split between the top 8!


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Blizzard Announces Big Changes for the 2018 ‘Hearthstone’ Esports Season

Depending on which areas of the Hearthstone-niverse you find yourself wandering in, chances are you’ve seen some pretty harsh criticisms of the way Blizzard has structured their Hearthstone [Free] esports over the years. Pro players often complained about the uncertainty of what it took to make it into different playoff events, rewards were really top-heavy, and a bunch of other super valid issues. When I’ve asked Blizzard about these things in the past, the answer is always some variation of, “Just wait to see what we announce for next year.” Well, that announcement was here, and once again Hearthstone esports has been drastically shifted around, seemingly for the better. There’s an entire visual guide to dig through, but here’s the highlights:

Aside from shifting the Hearthstone year into three distinct seasons, they’re also introducing the “Hearthstone Masters” program, which sounds like taking a stab at the way Wizards handles pro Magic players. Basically, you have a rolling total of the points you earn over the previous three seasons and there’s three tiers of point targets which at the bottom include invites to monthly online tournaments with cash prizes and at the top includes appearance fees, invites to seasonal playoffs, and more. The goal seems to be to reward consistent play, which is a great direction to move towards.

I think what will likely have the largest impact on the overall competitive scene is drastically shifting the playoffs prize structure. This year, the way it worked was that if you played in a playoffs event you needed to be in the top 8 to get any kind of meaningful prize payout. Everyone 9th place and beyond got $ 100, which hardly even covers the cost of getting to an event. Now, everyone who competes in a playoff event will get $ 1,000 and the prize tiers ramp up quickly with 16th place rewarding $ 2,500, and every place beyond that rewarding another $ 250 with 7th, 6th, and 5th rewarding $ 5,000, $ 5,500, and $ 6,000. (And everyone beyond that gets an invite to the championship.)

Additionally, individual teams will also get prize payments depending on where their team is, with 1st place getting $ 7,500 per player and 10th place getting $ 750, with rewards scaling in between. I love this change too, as it only further serves to rewards all the top players for participating instead of having huge prize pools for the top players and (effectively) door prizes for everyone else.

Of course, as a dude who just really enjoys watching competitive Hearthstone, what I think of these changes is sort of irrelevant. Now that they’ve been revealed, I’m super curious to follow what some of the more outspoken members of the Hearthstone pro player community think… Which means watching lots of Hearthstone streams. We’ll have those reactions in next Monday’s Hearthstone roundup, unless anything particularly bombastic happens before then in the esports structure reaction scene.


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Blizzard Reveals Additional Details and Card Reveals From “Kobolds & Catacombs”

Blizzcon opened with a bang with Ben Brode taking the stage and revealing the next expansion for Hearthstone [Free], Kobolds & Catacombs. We already knew a few tiny snippets about it, like the single player vaguely roguelike dungeon crawl mode, but in the main Hearthstone panel, loads more details and cards were discussed.

First off, all nine classes are getting legendary weapons and each of these are said to have their own flavor with unique powers that reflect the theme of each of the classes. For instance, the legendary weapon Aluneth draws three cards each turn players have it equipped. It seems like the entire meta is going to revolve around weapon destruction like Acidic Swamp Ooze.

Continuing with the theme of discovering treasures is unidentified item cards. These cards will have a persistent base effect and an RNG component which varies a bit each time you draw them. The card revealed showing this in action is Unidentified Elixir which always gives a minion +2/+2, along with another random effect. (You can see all the varieties below in the card dump below.)

Oh, and Spellstones which were only teased earlier got a lot more detail revealed. Basically, each class now has a spell which “levels up” as the game goes on. They initially start in their ‘lesser’ form and by completing mini-objectives (like gaining armor and a variety of other stuff) they get more powerful. It’s a bit like quests, but with individual cards instead of one overarching effect.

Tasos and Eric are on the scene at Blizzcon and have some interviews scheduled, so expect a bunch more coverage of the event. In the meantime, here’s all the cards that have been revealed so far (and if this was 10 years ago it’d be prefixed with a huge 56k WARNING!):


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