It’s almost that time again when the big Hearthstone clock in the sky counts down to a new Hearthstone year: the Year of the Wolf!
Before we sink our teeth into the Year of the Wolf, let's take a look back at the Year of the Hydra. The Year of the Hydra has been an amazing year for Hearthstone! We swam with giants in Voyage to the Sunken City, playing over 325 million Colossal minions to make big waves. We solved a murder-mystery (of sorts) in Murder at Castle Nathria, playing over 973 million Locations in our quest for clues. And finally, we faced the cold beyond in March of the Lich King, where we were introduced to the new Death Knight class and its Undead army. Since that fateful meeting, we’ve played over 4.4 billion Undead minions across all modes. We’re excited to keep that momentum rocking and rolling with our next expansion, Festival of Legends, to kick off Phase 1 of the Year of the Wolf.
Throughout the Year of the Wolf, we’ll be focusing our efforts on making Hearthstone and Battlegrounds the best they can be, with more new cards and more Battlegrounds updates than ever before! We even have a few surprises planned for later in the year, including a Wild-focused update and a fun new way to play with older cards. But first, let’s take a look at this year’s Core Set.
Core Set Updates
Soon, Standard will be saying goodbye to the expansions from the Year of the Gryphon: Forged in the Barrens, United in Stormwind, and Fractured in Alterac Valley. After the rotation, Standard will consist of Voyage to the Sunken City, Murder at Castle Nathria, March of the Lich King, Festival of Legends, and the updated Core Set. This year, we have a big shakeup for the Core Set, with over 70 cards being swapped out for new ones!
We’re making philosophical changes to the Core Set this year. We’re adding new keywords to Core and adding cards that just rotated out of Standard because we think they can do some good if they stick around a little longer. We’re also looking to be more flexible about the Core Set throughout the year by allowing for both planned adjustments and unplanned balance changes.
Keyword Update: Tradeable
Tradeable is a keyword that was introduced in United in Stormwind. Cards with Tradeable can be played for their normal cost or traded into your deck for another card. Tradeable has been incredibly popular since its introduction. It’s easily understood, it helps smooth out draws, and it makes situational cards feel better to play. In short, it’s a good keyword that players were sad to see leaving Standard. So, we brought it back!
Starting this year, Tradeable will be an evergreen keyword—meaning that it’s a keyword that we intend to use across most expansions for the foreseeable future, like Rush or Divine Shield. Since Tradeable currently only exists in United in Stormwind and Fractured in Alterac Valley, we’re starting by adding a few of the more popular Tradeable cards from those expansions into Core. However, you should expect to see new Tradeable cards introduced throughout the Year of the Wolf and for years to come.
Returning Keyword: Magnetic
Magnetic is a keyword that appeared on certain Mechs in The Boomsday Project. Mechs with Magnetic could either be played as normal or played directly to the left of another Mech on the board to fuse with it—granting its stats, effects, and enchantments to the Mech in play. Magnetic is a fun and flavorful mechanic that continues to be used in Battlegrounds. We’re bringing back a package of Magnetic cards to this year’s Core Set, including the fan-favorite epitome of unity, precision, and perfection: Zilliax.
Unlike Tradeable, Magnetic is not becoming an evergreen keyword. That means that these Magnetic cards will not necessarily stay in Core beyond this update. That said, we do have plans to continue making fun Mechs and other cards that are attractive to these returning Magnetic cards. We look forward to seeing what types of decks these cards will be drawn to, and their pull on the field.
Priest Tune Up and new Keyword: Overheal!
As we prepare for the launch of Festival of Legends, it seemed like Priest could use a tune up with this Core Set update. Our process for this type of tune up was to look at the class’s core mechanics, adjust those core mechanics to promote play patterns we like, cut support for play patterns that aren’t working, and re-align themes and mechanics going forward.
When we think about the core Priest fantasy, the first thing that comes to mind is healing. But, traditionally, healing is not as strong or flexible as other class’s core fantasies, like damage or even Armor. Our first decision was whether we wanted to abandon that identity or lean into it and make it better. We decided that Priests healing is so iconic that we owed it to Priest’s fans to make healing work.
Just printing bigger heal effects doesn’t change the situational nature of healing and risks those effects becoming burn through cards like Embrace the Shadow. We also tested adjustments to Priest’s Hero Power, and some of those experiments were interesting, but Hero Powers are so engrained in the game that there’s a high cost to changing them—and a lot more certainty required before making that call.
So, instead, we created a new keyword to make healing more flexible and rewarding: Overheal. Cards with Overheal have an effect that is triggered when they are healed over their max health. Overheal is a new evergreen class mechanic, like Combo is for Rogue, meaning that you should expect to see Overheal cards throughout the year, and for years to come. It also means that we will continue printing healing cards for Priest, including some cards that are intended to interact with the new Overheal keyword.
Of course, healing isn’t the only Priest identity. Aggro Priest has been pretty good recently, but it has also traditionally been a little all over the map. We’re looking to tighten that identity up a bit by adding Darkbishop Benedictus to Core in order to keep the Shadow identity consistent. We’re also adding Undead as a core part of the Priest identity going forward, like how Beasts are a core part of Hunter identity.
We’re also going to be more deliberate in considering which of Priest’s traditional mechanics we’re going to highlight, and how. Priest has had an issue where some of its mechanics have some of the biggest gaps between what’s fun to play and what’s fun to play against. For example, making future resurrection spells only resurrect Undead minions would let us continue printing those powerful and flashy effects, but make them more predictable and less frustrating to play against.
What’s important to remember is that this is just a tune-up, not a complete rework or a reimaging. We plan to monitor how these adjustments are received and do more work later if more is needed. We look forward to hearing how these changes feel to play with and against.
These types of tune ups are the sort of thing we’re hoping to be able to do more frequently in the future. They are less about one-time massive shakeups and more about continuous tuning over time to make Hearthstone better. These tune ups allow us to tackle problems that aren’t specific to a particular set, but to a class more generally, like when a core identity needs some adjustment or when set A isn’t meshing well with set B. We’ve set the stage for a look at Paladin, for instance, by trying out the class without any Secrets in this Core Set. We plan to check in on that adjustment and see about further tuning for the class later this year.
Full Core Set Updates
We've created a giant infographic with all the cards entering and leaving the Core Set for easy reference. We've also created a handy reference to all the cards getting adjustments in the Core Set this year. Click on those links and zoom in for more information. Remember, the Core Set updates this April, with the launch of Festival of Legends. Now that the stage is set, look out for more Festival of Legends previews throughout the card reveal season!