The Witchwood: Enter Hearthstone’s First Expansion For The Year of The Raven

Well, ladies and gents, it’s that time once again where Blizzard’s free-to-play collectable card game readies itself for a new year of card sets and solo adventures. So brush off the arcane dust off your collections and let’s jump into some of the new content we can expect to see from Hearthstone’s “Year of the Raven”.

For the unacquainted, Hearthstone is a collectable card game based on Blizzard’s previous game series Warcraft, and was released sometime during 2014. With each year, Blizzard released several card sets and expansions but soon realised creating new cards and keeping it balanced would prove to be difficult as too many cards mean too many combinations to keep in check. As a result, the developers introduced a “Year” concept where they would rotate out three expansions every year into the “Wild” format, where every card in every set is available to use. Meanwhile, Hearthstone will introduce three new ones to replace them in the “Standard” format, in order to introduce new mechanics without sacrificing game balance.

Alright, that’s your history lesson done for the day. On to the modern times!

For 2018, Blizzard has titled their new “Year” as “Year of the Raven”, so we’re expecting to see more Edgar Allan Poe puns and Bran Stark references. In the midst of writing this article, they’ve revealed that the next card set will be called The Witchwood, based on The Blackwald in Gilneas from WoW. A common theme that ties the set together would be haunted woods from fairy tales, monsters that lurk in said woods and the citizens of Gilneas, who gained the power to transform into WoW’s version of werewolves, Worgen.

One of the more exciting features is Monster Hunt, a single-player mode that is very similar to Dungeon Run from the previous set, Kobolds and Catacombs. While not much is revealed about Monster Hunt, we do know that players are given four exclusive classes to choose from, instead of Dungeon Run’s nine standard classes, so we’ll have to see what kind of experience Monster Hunt has for us.

With every rotation, some cards from the core Classic set will be placed in the “Hall of Fame”, where it cannot be used in “Standard” format but can be used in the “Wild” format. The cards being sent to the Shadow Realm the “Hall of Fame” are:

  • Ice Block, a mage secret that would prevent the user’s death for a turn.
  • Coldlight Oracle, a neutral Murloc that allowed you and your opponent to both draw 2 cards. This card was so strong it created a whole new tactic for Rogues called the “Mill Rogue”, which based itself on making your opponent draw their deck and burn cards due to overdrawing.
  • Molten Giant, a neutral giant that had a steep mana cost, but cost less for every point of damage your hero had. Along with being sent to the Shadow Realm Hall of Fame, it’s also having a nerf reverted [From 25 mana cost to 20 mana cost] in order to give wild players an easier time to work with it.

As with new Yearly content, a new hero will be available for players to collect. Lanaya, the feisty dryad Lunara, first daughter of Cenarius, has protected the forests of Azeroth for millennia. Play 10 games in the updated standard format and you’ll unlock the new Druid hero for a RAVIN’ good time. ‘[“hehe”]

Migrating [“hehe”] from Constructed to Arena, several changes have hit the live servers for Arena. Instead of the previous draft where one selects three cards of the same rarity, you now draft using value and power levels. Your options may differ in rarity and additional effects, but otherwise, your options are more or less in the same vein of strength and value. Legendaries will still come in threes, but they’ll also be in the same power levels. This allows you to make more valuable and strategic decision as you draft; instead of taking the Frostbolt spell, maybe consider taking the Shattered Sun Cleric for a stronger minion in play.

In addition, Arena-only cards are a new feature in the game. Unique class spells that offer interesting new ways to draft decks, and will appear more often since certain picks [Specifically, Pick 1, 10, 20 and 30] are now guaranteed to be Rare or better quality. It does feel like Blizzard is reducing some of the random aspects of Arena, making it easier to balance cards and ensuring there are no must-have cards that guarantee maximum wins once you draft it.

One of the more unique features The Year of the Raven will introduce is the ability to host your own friendly Hearthstone tournaments within the client itself. This means quite a few things: players can look forward to a smoother competitive experience as they set up a small tournament with their friends, less technical issues for organisers to deal with and more interactions with your favourite streamer as they can now easily set up tournaments for their subscribers and fans.

*Feel free to skip this part if you’re not interested in the Hearthstone competitive scene*

With the end of Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT) last January, Blizzard has already begun their prep for the next HCT. The year will be split into 3 seasons, most likely to coincide with each expansion release, and each season will consist of several Tour Stops in the different regions which will lead up to a Seasonal Championship. Professional players will score competitive points from events in all regions, then compete in playoffs depending on the region they play in. Points are determined from their standing in either the Ranked ladder, previous Seasonal Tour Stops and Seasonal Championships they’ve participated in and any HCTs they have participated in before.

Phew, that was a mouthful.

Season One’s regional tour stops is almost over, with all of the tour-stops ending with spectacular games. HCT Oslo, the last tour stop, took place between 24th to 25th of March, which means season one’s championship will be announced soon. With most of the tour stop winners confirmed to be participating in the championships.

Are you excited for Hearthstone in 2018? With the release of several cards from the new card set, The Witchwood, check out some opinions on the new cards and the changes coming to the Arena in our Hearthstone compilation article, coming soon!

Visuals courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.

Wesley Tay

Wesley here. When I'm not too busy being trapped in a basement, I'm usually playing video games about war, death, suffering and cupcakes.

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