Blizzard announces new Hearthstone Expansion – Knights of the Frozen Throne

Blizzard had an incredible new announcement this week!

What?

No I’m not talking about Doomfist.

Yes, I get that he has a cool shotgun fist-

Look! Blizzard had a new Hearthstone announcement OK? And it’s a big one. The next expansion has been officially announced and it is Knights of the Frozen Throne, the first Hearthstone expansion to take us to the frozen peaks of Northrend.

Knights of the Frozen Throne imagines all of our favorite Hearthstone heroes as corrupted versions of themselves, versions that have fallen under Frostmourne’s control after lusting for its power. We even get to see all 9 heroes as their evil alter egos. We see a zombified Jaina wielding Frostmourne, Anduin converted to a dark shadow being, Valeera as an undead rogue, Rexxar as a Fel Orc, Uther as a Death Knight, Thrall, Garrosh, and Malfurion as primordial frost beings… and then there’s Gul’Dan who is, like, double evil now… I guess?

To give us a chance to control these new corrupted heroes, Blizzard has unveiled a brand new card type. We saw minions and saw spells, but now we are seeing the “hero” card type. When you play a hero card a new hero takes the place of your current hero. Think about how Jaraxxus or Majordomo Executus work, except they have no minion associated with them. This means they cannot be Dirty Ratted out of your hand, nor can they be counter spelled. If you have them, you can play them.

All hero cards have a few traits in common. First of all, they all give you bonus armor just for being played. Second, they each have a unique battlecry that activates when they are played, just like a minion would. Finally, they replace your hero power with a brand new more powerful one. We saw shades of this with Sulfuras and Dinomancy in Un’Goro but these are much, much more powerful.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a new expansion announcement if Blizzard wasn’t going to reveal a few cards. So let’s take a look at the very first hero card of the new expansion.

Deathstalker Rexxar

  • 6 Mana 5 Armor
  • Legendary Hunter Hero
  • Battlecry: Deal 2 damage to all enemy minions.
  • Hero Power: Build-A-Beast: 2 Mana- Craft a custom Zombeast.

Deathstalker Rexxar is an answer to Hunter decks that run out of gas. His five armor allows Hunter decks to last just a little while longer, and his hero power grants him new cards to cast, even if your hand is empty.

Build-A-Beast works much like traditional discover mechanics, with a little bit of Kazakus thrown in for good measure. When you activate it, you discover a beast twice, and this follows the same discover rules that all other discover cards operate on. However, the cards are then combined to create one new beast in your hand. The mana costs are added together, the attack and health are added together, even the text boxes are added together. In the reveal, we saw a Bloodfen Raptor combined with a Rat Pack to create a 5 mana 5/4 Zombeast that has “Deathrattle: Summon a number of 1/1 rats equal to this minion’s attack.” Now that’s value.

The only issue with this new power is it’s slow. It won’t fit well in aggro or mid-range Hunter decks, which are currently the major archetypes in the Un’Goro meta. For this to end up working, hunter will have to shift to a more control oriented archetype. Will they have the card to support that archetype? We will have to wait and see what other cards this expansion has to give us to find out. There is a slight chance that it will find its way into mid-range decks, however, if only because it comes with a board wipe. It’s just incredibly likely that 2 damage to all enemy minions won’t be enough to clear the board on mana turn six.

Blizzard noted that Deathrattle would be a major mechanic in this expansion, which is going to make anyone who kept their Spiritsinger Umbra around very happy. It’s also likely going to frustrate anyone who relies on decks that use board wipes to get ahead. They, of course, revealed a new deathrattle card as well.

Shallow Gravedigger

  • 3 Mana 3/1
  • Rare Neutral Minion
  • Deathrattle: Add a random Deathrattle minion to your hand.

While I’m happy to see the Deathrattle mechanic come back, I’m uncertain that Shallow Gravedigger gives us much to hope for. Honestly, 3 mana for a 3/1 body simply isn’t enough to warrant playing when it can be taken out by any hero power that does one damage or creates a minion with a 1/1 body. Granted it replaces itself, eventually, but it replaces itself randomly. There is, maybe, one good deck that will use this card, and that’s Quest Priest. This one card is worth two ticks on the quest meter, which is a lot for a deck that is control oriented. Perhaps this will become the archetype to beat, if Priest sees the release of several new Deathrattle cards.

Blizzard has keyworded another often seen ability: lifesteal. Any card with lifesteal will heal your hero for an amount equal to the damage it deals. We saw two new lifesteal cards in the reveal. The first was:

Chillblade Champion

  • 4 Mana 3/2
  • Common Paladin Minion
  • Charge Lifesteal

I have to admit, I like this card. I’m not entirely sure that Chillblade Champion is going to be worth much on its own, but it’s a combo monster. Think of this card with the help of, say, Grimy Goons hand-buff mechanics. Suddenly you are dropping a 4 mana 5/4 charger that heals you. That’s nuts. One of the major issues with the Grimy Goons mechanic was that it couldn’t stay alive long enough to make its buffs worthwhile. Better Lifesteal cards might just let the archetype survive long enough to be revisited.

Lifesteal can also be put on spells, and of course we would see it put onto a new Preist spell.

Spirit Lash

  • 2 Mana
  • Common Priest Spell
  • Lifesteal
  • Deal 1 damage to all minions

While Blizzard appeared to be pushing the Control Priest archetype last expansion, it simply wasn’t the Priest deck that flourished. Instead we saw the rise of Inner Fire Combo Priest, and while that deck is quite good, it looks like Blizzard will continue to push the control archetype. Spirit Lash isn’t fantastic, but it combos spectacularly with spell damage. Drop Bloodmage Thalnos first and you have a nasty board wipe that heals you near full, exactly what Priest wants. Heck, its way better than Holy Nova, which does something similar, but much less powerful, for much more mana.

And finally, Blizzard had to show off one of the new legendary minions.

Prince Keleseth

  • 2 Mana 2/2
  • Legendary Neutral Minion
  • Battlecry: If your deck has no 2-cost cards, give all minions in your deck +1/+1.

Hearthstone has had a small problem with “curvestone.” Basically, every good deck attempts to play a one mana card on turn one, a two mana card on turn two, a three mana card on turn three, and so on. Many pros say that this limits the amount of fun and interesting deck types available to play. Well, Prince Keleseth is a card that dares you to not play curvestone. Running him pretty much guarantees you won’t get up and running until turn three, but makes everything else you drop just a little bit better. He seems fit for control decks, but control decks don’t run many minions. Overall I don’t think he will see much play; however I do like the idea of cards that only work under certain deck building conditions, like Reno Jackson.

Aside from cards, there will be a lot more single-player content created for Knights of the Frozen Throne. Players will take on eight bosses, which will operate similar to adventure bosses, except the content will be totally free. You can even earn cards by completing these missions. Anyone who completes the first mission will get a free legendary death knight hero card. It’s unclear whether or not this will be a specific hero card, or if it will just be a randomly chosen hero card from the new class legendries. We will have to wait and find out.

We still have a lot of questions to ask. For example, will these new class hero legendaries operate the same way that quests did in Un’Goro? Does that mean each class will have two legendaries? Will this be another dust heavy set?

What new cards will we see? The teaser trailer showed off zombies, abominations, ghouls, and frost wyrm, but it also showed off some cards we have seen already, such as Mad Scientists. Might we see the return of some cards form Naxxramas? Maybe we will see the return of Zombie Chow?

What will the other Death Knight heroes play like? Will we see new elementals to support the new card type? How will this change the meta? All of this will be revealed as we see more and more cards from the set.

Knights of the Frozen Throne will release in August, but pre-purchases are available now and they come with a new Frostmourne card back. Upon its release, a new “Frozen Throne” background will be integrated into Hearthstone’s background rotation. New cards for the set will be revealed on July 24th, so stay tuned for a full card review as they get announced.