Is the latest Hearthstone Expansion Galakrond’s Awakening worth it?

Galakrond’s Awakening is upon us, in a momentous rise aimed at shaking Hearthstone for all players. Its recently-released story mode features new collectible cards to be earned — and used in decks — which could lead to a shift in the Play Mode meta.

The Battle So Far 

If you’ve been following the lore, you’d know that Rafaam had been gathering allies earlier in the Year of the Dragon, forming the League of E.V.I.L to commit acts of villianary. Together, they pull off The Dalaran Heist, stealing quite literally the entire city before crashing into the ancient city of Uldum. There, they were stopped by the League of Explorers who managed to defeat five of the Plague Lords in the Tombs of Terror. However, Rafaam managed to escape with the Plague of Undeath, and headed North with a devious plan involving Galakrond… 

Who or what is Galakrond?

In an age before humans, proto-dragons, which were the predecessors of today’s dragons, ruled over the skies of Azeroth. Even during those times, Galakrond was already one of the most massive and mighty proto-dragons. His hunger for power only grew with time, and he began hunting down and cannibalising his own kin. This resulted in terrible mutations such as extra limbs and eyes (which you can see on his card forms). As the proto-dragons’ numbers dwindled, the leaders of the Dragonflights — Alexstrasza, Neltharion, Ysera, Malygos, and Nozdormu — began to take notice and banded together to eventually defeat Galakrond in Northrend, where his bones now lie.

Fast forward to today, Rafaam and the League of E.V.I.L are presently at Northrend — armed with Plague of Undeath to reanimate Galakrond — and it’s up to the League of Explorers to stop them.

Galakrond’s Awakening: A new (old) approach

This Adventure comes with 4 chapters, of which (half of) the first is free to play. Future chapters will be released weekly, and can be bought individually or as an entire Adventure, and with either gold or real-life money. 

Forgoing the “build-a-deck-as-you-go” approach from the previous two expansions’ Story Modes (The Dalaran Heist and The Tombs of Terror), we now go into boss fights with premade decks. After beating them once, you can challenge them again in Heroic Mode — where they are considerably stronger — and you now have to use your own deck.

The episodic approach (same as the one taken in much older expansions, like in the Curse of Naxxramas) is interesting, signaling a shift in Blizzard’s marketing strategy. It’s clear that they are allowing players to try the first Chapter of the Adventure, and then enticing them into buying the rest of the Chapters with promising rewards.

Unfortunately, this change also means a loss in replay value. The fights are mostly simple, with a mere three bosses per chapter (compared to eight in the previous expansions) as well as fixed decks that quickly lose their novelty. Heroic Mode, which allows for freeform decks, is also unlikely to be appealing to casual players as only my most beastly Galakrond decks had any chance of overcoming the bosses. While we’ll get more options as future expansions roll out, it’s unlikely that we’d want to wait that long to beat Heroic.

Overall, I’m admittedly disappointed in the return of the episodic storyline, due to the lack of content, options, as well as inaccessibility of Heroic Mode for most players. I’d have preferred to be able to try my own decks in Normal Mode and at least have premade decks as an option to take on the Heroic bosses, if to at least see how far I can go.

So, Is Galakrond’s Awakening worth the purchase?

Story Mode experience: fun, but once

Caution: this section contains spoilers for Galakrond’s Awakening. 

From a narrative standpoint, it’s immensely interesting to see how each side combats the other. The dual-sided playthrough allows for the narrative of the fights to overlap. For example, when playing as the League of E.V.I.L, you fight as Dr Boom and capture Reno at the end of Chapter One; and when playing as the League of Explorers, you play as Brann, who has Reno on the field — only to be captured by Dr Boom after the first turn, showing how they line up with one another.

You also get to play as a future boss and vice versa; in one fight you play as Kriziki the Winged and go up against Sir Finley. Later, you get to fight Kriziki the Winged as Commander Starseeker on the opposing side. Getting to experience the cards and Hero Powers from both sides is a really cool experience as you’ll be aware of the cards that can be used against you so you’ll know what to do and avoid. It was a treat to know the character you’re playing now is likely to develop into another boss in the future.

Strictly focusing on Story mode as a standalone adventure, its limited replayability really harms my willingness to recommend purchasing these chapters — even with its charm and unique narrative value. That just leaves Heroic Mode, which you may not feel the need to pick up again once you’re done with it. Unless you’re willing to build decks just to take on the Heroic bosses, clearing it can be arduous as well. 

Rewards for Play Mode: dependent on you 

Let’s consider the cost of obtaining the cards. Each wing costs you 700 gold, which is 7 packs of cards. In exchange for 35 potential cards, you get 8 confirmed cards you will not get anywhere else. 

Whether the cards are valuable to you depends on what you intend to do with them — we have good all-rounders like Explosive Evolution which will likely fit in most Shaman Galakrond and Battlecry decks, but also Cleric of Scales that can pretty much only exist in Dragon Priest decks. You’ll likely get cards you won’t use, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful; they do add variety and give you options should you require.

Here are some notable cards that you may be looking at from the adventure, with the first three obtained after completing the first League of E.V.I.L Chapter, which is free. 

Air Raid: 2 Mana. Twinspell, Summon two 1/1 Silver Hand Recruits with Taunt.
Paladin Class

At first, this card seems pretty uninspiring, 2 mana for two mere Silver Hand Recruits. Yet there’s quite a bit of value for Zoo Paladins. Firstly, the taunts can keep you safe in the early game, where it’s difficult to break through two taunts quickly and effectively. It’s vulnerable to AoE spells, but that’s the risk of running a Zoo deck anyway. Overall I think this is a good card; providing a strong but not overpowered effect. If not for Zoo Paladin, other deck archetypes can consider this as a cheap defensive option.

Eye of the Storm: 10 Mana. Summon 3 5/6 Elementals with Taunt. Overload (3). 
Shaman Class 

This card immediately stood out to me, due to its cost. It can only be played in the later game, and will overload you in the next turn. I ran it on both Elemental and Overload Shamans for experimentation, and it felt pretty useless; too late to impact the game and too costly. While it does provide a huge power spike, you’ll need control and or tempo to make use of it, making it a pretty win-more card. I found that other minion-generating cards such as Rain of Toads, Nithogg, and Dragon’s Pack were better as they provided value earlier. Plus, the lack of direct synergy with Galakrond Shaman makes this card less useful in the current meta.

Twisted Knowledge: 2 Mana. Discover two Warlock cards.
Warlock Class

This is an odd card for me. Why would a Warlock, who has Life Tap, need extra cards? Upon playing, I realised its potential: you can pick what you need there and then, twice. Sometimes, you find cards that swing the balance in your favour. Other times, you find cards that will be useful, albeit later. It’s pretty good since it’s a Discover effect which has less RNG involved than Add or Draw. For new players, this can provide access to novel cards that you don’t already have, creating a little more fun.

Bomb Wrangler: 3 Mana 2/3. Whenever this takes damage, summon a 1/1 Boom Bot. 
Warrior Class 

I like this card because I like Boom Bots. They’re cute, can fight, and go out with a bang on an enemy’s face. On a more practical note, this card is good with Enrage Warrior decks to solidify board control. It can summon 1 to 3 Boom Bots, which can prove to be a lot of value with cards such as Cruel Taskmaster and Inner Rage. It can be used in Mech Warriors but may not be the most optimal choice as the card itself isn’t a Mech. For newer players or for those with less “complete” decks, this is probably a good substitute for the more expensive cards.

From here on out, you’ll have to purchase the Expansion’s Story Mode to access these cards:

Fresh Scent: 2 Mana. Twinspell, give a beast +2/+2.
Hunter Class

A useful card for just about all Hunter decks that tend to contain multiple Beasts. Twinspell allows for two power spikes, at a nominal cost. It helps with control, tempo, removing major threats, and can help set up an OTK at the right time. If you’re running a Mech Hunter deck though, this card probably won’t be able to help much.

Licensed Adventurer: 2 Mana, 3/2. If you Control a quest, add a coin to your hand. 

A coin can be vital, helping to curve out minions and giving potential tempo boosts. If you’re running Quests, you’re almost guaranteed to get value out of this card. But if you’re just running Side Quests, then the strategy will be more volatile as you’ll need to draw both to use them. It’s still stable enough for me to recommend, although you’ll probably one of these in your deck is enough as you’d find better value in other cards.

Shadow Sculptor: 5 Mana 3/2. Combo: Draw a card for every card you have played this turn. 
Rouge Class

When I saw this, I thought it was bad, and playing it felt worse. Rogue generally has plenty of options for card draw/generation, such as Shiv, Fan of Blades, Clever Disguise, Pharaoh Cat. On its own, a 5 Mana 3/2 minion is weak and unable to help with Tempo. This card will only be good for refuelling after spamming low-cost minions but it’s otherwise frustrating to use.

There are players who claim that Shadow Sculptor is great with Umbral Skulker and Chef Nomi; I have not tested these myself so I will hold my thoughts on that. Although bear in mind that these are very niche archetypes you will have to be very invested in.

Animated Avalanche: 7 Mana 7/6. Battlecry: If you played an Elemental last turn, summon a copy of this.
Mage Class

A very powerful yet extremely niche card, as you’ll need to run Elemental Mage for it to reach its full potential. In my opinion, it’s really powerful for swing turns as it’s unlikely for enemies to always be ready to remove two 7/6 minions. Still, having to keep an Elemental in my hand in case I draw Animated Avalanche is a huge drawback. I had to keep my Water Elemental in reserve for 4 full turns, and had to rely on spells to control the game. That being said, it was fun to summon two 7/6s at once. 

So, is Galakrond’s Awakening worth it? 

With all that’s said, 700 gold per wing is quite a stretch to me, as each pack can be disenchanted for an average of 102.71 dust, you’ll lose out on about 718.97 dust per chapter, and 2,875.88 dust if you buy the whole Story; that’s one Legendary, Epic, Rare, Common, and plenty left over!

Furthermore, as this is the last set of the expansion, these cards are going to rotate to wild in early 2021 so you get less playtime with them as well. If you’re planning on buying them with gold, it’s hard for me to justify. If you’re a completionist or just like having options, purchasing them with SG$28.98 could be something to consider. 

I will be doing in-depth write-ups for all the cards in the Galakrond’s Awakening expansion — stay tuned!

Visuals courtesy of Blizzard SEA.

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