I’ve been into gaming almost my entire life and I’ve tried a lot of different genres, from my favorite MOBAs, to sports simulations, and even to the two newest rising genres: the auto battler and battle royales. Aside from MOBAs, one of my definite favorites are card games which I have played since I was six.
Blizzard’s Hearthstone was launched back in 2014 as a spin-off card game from the company’s iconic RPG World of Warcraft. It was an instant hit for card game fans, since it was simple and easy to learn. What made fans stay – yes me included – was that the game was difficult to master, and no two matches are the same.
Over the past few years, Blizzard has constantly updated the game keeping gameplay fresh and non-monotonous. While these were great, none was massively game-changing than their newest expansion, Ashes of Outland where the company is finally adding another class for the first time since the game’s release. The tenth class is the Demon Hunter, with the vanilla hero being none-other than Illidan Stormrage the Original Demon Hunter from WoW.
You can unlock the Demon Hunter class by completing the Ashes of Outland story mode (Prologue) in single player. Last year Hearthstone produced great single-player content for the three expansions in Year of the Dragon. For Ashes of Outland, it’s no different and the prologue story gives players the nostalgia of Illidan’s transformation from a Druid Sorceror to the Demon Hunter. Once you complete the story, you can unlock the Demon Hunter Class as well as all 30 base Demon Hunter cards.
The Demon Hunter Class is unique from all of the original classes. It’s the first hero class that has a one mana cost base hero power, this makes the hero ultra-aggressive in the early game. Playing the new class, somehow reminded me of the aggressive decks, such as “Face Hunter” and “Kingsbane Rogue” among others. But unlike the other classes, the Demon Hunter’s kit can be played as a control deck as well since Blizzard has equipped it with board clearing spells.
Ashes from Outlands is the first expansion from Year of the Phoenix, Hearthstone’s “game year”. Aside from the Demon Hunter class, new quality of life updates have been placed in the game, such as a new ranking system (nice!), new card mechanics, and cards going to the Hall of Fame. Blizzard has also added duplicate protection when opening packs, this protects players from getting more than two copies of a card, which makes gathering cards easier and less frustrating.
The biggest thing the Year of the Phoenix is bringing to Hearthstone is the revamped ranking system. The new ranking system replaced the previous ladder system with a ranked league system. The new system has six rank leagues or class: bronze, silver, gold, platinum, diamond, and finally legend. The first five ranks each have 10 ranks within themselves with players earning a higher rank by winning games. The new ranking system makes it easier to know your skill level compared to the ladder system before. This was great as the previous ranked system confused a lot of newer players to the game.
If you’re a returning player or a new player who wants to try the game out, Blizzard is giving away a returning/beginning deck. Players can choose one competitive meta deck for free to help them start in the new ranked system.
For Ashes of Outlands, the new card mechanics introduced were outcast and dormant. Outcast cards provide additional effects when played as the leftmost or rightmost card to the field. This new mechanic is pretty useful to catch opponents off guard especially when played a couple of turns when drawn. The dormant mechanic, on the other hand, was already in the game even before the launch of Ashes of Outland, Blizzard just added new cards that use the dormant mechanic as a time based rather than the conditional based on previous cards.
If regular Hearthstone is not your cup of tea, its auto battler mode, Battleground, is also as fun as the main game. I started playing the mode since its release and have been having a ton of fun with it. Battlegrounds have continuously gotten updates since launch, which is great since some comps were way overpowered (hello Nightmare Amalgam). Ashes of Outlands will add some new heroes in the battleground pool as well as bring back some old ones.
The Year of the Phoenix and Ashes of Outland has brought new life to the six-year-old card game. With two more expansions set to be released, it’s definitely a great time to get back to Hearthstone in 2020.