Blizzard announces next Hearthstone expansion: The Witchwood
What happens with Hearthstone designer Ben Brode gets lost in the woods with an old VHS camera? Two things. One, we get a new found footage horror movie that could rival The Blair Witch Project. Two, we get a new Hearthstone expansion announcement! Welcome to The Witchwood, an expansion filled with spookiness and new mechanics. Let’s take a look at what it has to offer.
The very first Legendary of The Witchwood has a powerful effect indeed. Azalina Soultheif may not have a lot of stats, but she has the ability to copy your opponent’s hand. Most players will want to play this in decks find themselves running out of gas, decks like mid-range and aggro decks. When their hand is empty, Azalina will allow them to trade in absolutely nothing for the full hand of their opponent. It likely won’t see competitive play, but we are sure to see more than a few meme videos made with Azalina as the focus.
Start of Game Deckbuilding Effects
The Witchwood will include several new cards that require you to build your deck in certain ways. These are very similar to Reno, Raza, Keleseth, and Taldaram, all of which are and were meta defining cards.
Genn Gremane is a Worgen (the thematic race of the Witchwood) who decreases the cost of your hero power provided that your deck only has even costed cards in it. This will cause you to have several dead draw turns, but you can likely make up for it by using your reduced cost hero power on those turns. This would be very useful in Paladin or Shaman, who can use their hero power to spawn minions on turn one. It would also be a decent fit in control decks that want to be pressing the button more often than not.
On the reverse side we have Baku the Mooneater who changes your hero power if you use only odd cost cards. Note, that this means you get to start with your hero power upgraded, which is much better than Justicar’s old battlecry upgrade. This might usher in a new age of Fatigue Warrior and Priest, who will be able to heal for four every turn. Expect this to be experimented with quite a bit in the new meta.
Echo is a new mechanic that allows you to play a single card multiple times. For example, if you had six mana, you could play Phantom Militia twice. You can tell that this slowly makes echo cards better the more mana you have available to you. A 2/4 with taunt for 3 mana isn’t all that great. However, 6/12 of taunt stats for 9 mana is pretty amazing in the late game. What’s really neat about echo cards is that they fit into any archetype. Aggro and Mid-Range decks can play them on curve and still recover their board if they have to play them as a topdeck. Meanwhile, control decks can either play them early to combat Aggro pushes, or wait to get the most value they can out of them in the late game.
The Worgen Swap Mechanic
Worgen’s are the Warcraft world’s resident werewolves. To show their shifting nature, certain Worgen cards will swap their attack and health while they are in your hand. So you can play Pumpkin Peasant as a 2/4 lifesteal on turn 3, or a 4/2 lifesteal on turn 4, which is slightly better since it will give you more health. Pumpkin Peasant, isn’t the greatest card in the set, however it is very likely that other cards will have similar mechanics and will end up tournament viable because of it. Be on the lookout for Worgens with taunt. Oh, and as another neat effect these cards will change their art when they shift into Worgen mode.
Rush is a new variant of the Charge mechanic. It essentially grants a minion charge, but only allows it to attack other minions on its first turn. It will be given to minions that would be too aggressive to hit the face with charge, but perfectly balanced if they can just control the board. Rush cards will usually also have a Battlecry that will affect them the turn they come into play.
The Return of Heroes
At the end of Blizzard’s announcement they teased another card, a hero card. While we have no idea what it’s stats and abilities are, we know that it will cost eight mana and will likely be a shaman hero (though the border color is hard to tell due to the low quality of the footage.) Hero cards were a big hit when they were first created in the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion. It’s entirely possible that we will see every class get a new hero, alongside a minion legendary much as they did in that expansion.
The Witchwood will introduce over 130 new cards to Hearthstone. It will likely release later this month alongside the new standard rotation.