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Hearthstone’s Bonanza of New Features in the Year of the Griffin

For a while, my friends and I have repeated a joke. “Hearthstone?” We’d say. “More like Dearthstone. Because it has a dearth of options.” 

I’m the only one who says it. Sometimes, my friends tell me to stop. But that’s showbiz, baby.

At least, it was showbiz until at 5:30PM ET, February 19, 2021, at Blizzcon aka Blizzconline. At that time, on that day, Blizzard announced a Hearthstone shake-up so massive, so earth-shattering, the very foundation of my award-winning joke has crumpled to Barren ash. (Or should I say “Barrens” ash?) ((I shouldn’t.))

Introducing Hearthstone’s newest expansion: Forged in the Barrens.

This photo, and all photos in this article, courtesy of Blizzard

The new expansion will be the first spotlighted in the brand-new Year of the Griffin, which plans to roll out soon. The Year will bring not only the new Forged in the Barrens expansion, but a host of new expansions, new game modes, and even a new spell classification system in ‘spell schools.’

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Spell schools? Looks like we’ve got homework. Now, all of the game’s spells will be organized into seven new schools: Arcane, Fire, Frost, Holy, Nature, Shadow, and Fel. Each school brings its own advantages, synergies, and custom combos. With this release, we can expect a number of new crazy-specific customizable spell plays.

The new Year seeks to resolve many of the issues players have voiced in the past year. The addition of the Demon Hunter class and a new rewards system left many beginning-to-intermediate players feeling like they stood less of a chance on ranked ladder. The pay-to-win feeling has permeated all aspects of Hearthstone culture, especially on streamers’ Twitch chats as well as the Hearthstone subreddit. Even the most recent mode, Duels, was criticized for its reliance on the cards in a players’ collection: players without the best cards (which were often the rarest/most expensive) would be crushed by players with more advanced collections, and players without a sizable card stockpile were all-but barred from playing the mode completely. 

Well, Blizzard seems to have heard our cries, pitching the new year as “The best time to get into Hearthstone.” With an all-new classic mode, players can play Hearthstone as it played in its original state, full of legendary cards like Ragnaros, Sylvanas, and Leeroy Jenkins, which had since received nerfs or outright bans in standard format. 

This also coincides with a new standard feature, the “Core Set,” which replaces the basic and classic sets, redoing many classic cards’s current states and adding 29 new cards to the game available to all players for free. The Core Set will transition certain cards like Annoy-o-Tron from Wild to Standard and buff other cards entirely, like Rogue’s Assassinate. Some of the standouts of this new and improved Core Set are the new Malygos and Ysera, which look, quite frankly, insane.

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Blizzard also teased a brand-new gamemode, Hearthstone Mercenaries, which promises a customizable single player experience rife with equipment, new cards, and challenges of its own. More details will be released in the next few months, but I’m looking forward to seeing what Mercenaries has to offer.

Finally, the Blizzard team even offered a free legendary to all players, available now in all card collections: Shadow Hunter Vol’jin.

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To check out the full trailer released by Blizzard, check out the video below:

With all these new changes, it seems like I’ll have to come up with a new joke to repeat ad nauseum. Hearthstone? More like Heartstone. Because it has so much heart.”

I’ll keep working on it.

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