Blackrock brings back the fire

BLIZZARD RELEASES its newest adventure for their incredibly successful card game, Hearthstone. The new expansion features weekly wings and new playable cards.

On April 2, Blizzard released Hearthstone’s second adventure expansion, Blackrock Mountain. The newest addition follows the same general formula as the previous expansion, The Curse of Naxxramas. Each is a five-wing single player adventure, with a wing released every week. The wings can contain anywhere between two to four bosses, with each providing a collectible card and wing providing a collectible legendary. There are normal and heroic modes, and class challenges, which contain prebuilt decks against certain bosses. BRM, like Naxxramas, includes 31 new playable cards to the game but contains 18 class cards, compared to Naxxramas’s nine. In this respect, BRM is much more class oriented and increases diversity among the heroes.

The first wing of BRM is a blast. In Naxxramas, the hunter class challenge deck only contained the card Webspinner, which adds a random beast to the owner’s hand when it dies. This made the challenge entertaining because you never knew what kind of beasts you were going to receive. The mage challenge for BRM has a similar theme, using Unstable Portal, instead of Webspinner for the entire deck. I far prefer the mage challenge because Unstable Portal allows you to add any random minion to your hand and also reduces its cost by three, enabling huge tempo swings. In addition, the mage challenge opponent sometimes plays Millhouse Manastorm, a minion that allows spells to be played for zero for a turn. This results in the mage player using all of his or her Unstable Portal cards at once. Unstable Portal is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.

Moving on, the few cards released just this week have inspired a variety of new decks that are combo intensive and make the game more dynamic than it was before. The card Grim Patron, a three attack minion, spawns another Grim Patron if it takes damage and survives. This is best used in a Warrior deck, which contains many cards that do one damage; in addition to Warsong Commander, which gives minions with three or less attack charge, allowing minions to attack the turn they are played. Therefore, in a single turn, a warrior player can play Warsong Commander and Grim Patron, play a couple of area of effect cards, fill up the board, and attack with all of the Patrons. Patron’s steep five mana cost, in addition to Warsong Commander’s three mana, may make the combo seem unfavorable, but when combined with Emperor Thaurissan’s mana reduction effect, more than four area of effect cards can be triggered. Therefore, this style is of play that is more than viable. Another playstyle that has arisen is a mill rogue deck, which utilizes the new card, Gang Up. This card shuffles three copies of a card on the battlefield to the user’s deck. Combined with Coldlight Oracle, which makes both players draw two cards, mill rogue has increased survivability to fatigue damage. Gang Up also has versatility in that opponent’s cards can be shuffled and valuable Antique Bots can be copied as well. The longer the games last, the better chance the mill rogue has of winning the game.

The next wing of BRM will see the Molten Core area of Blackrock. The most notable reward from this coming week is Majordomo Executus, a legendary whose deathrattle replaces your hero with Ragnaros the Firelord. I foresee many mages trying to use this card in conjunction with survivability cards, such as Ice Block and Ice Barrier in a freeze mage deck, in order to counteract Ragnaros’s squishy eight health. I am skeptical of its efficacy; however, like many predictions made about Naxxramas and how Sludge Belcher was underrated, Majordomo could be on the same level as Dr. Boom. Another interesting card releasing next week is Axe Flinger, which deals two damage to the enemy hero after taking damage. This card, when placed in Grim Patron decks, could provide that small push in damage to lethal. What with more than four ways to deal one damage, Axe Flinger could prove deadly. The only issue I foresee is its steep four mana cost, but this could be counteracted by Emperor Thaurissan’s previously mentioned effect.

BRM brings a diverse selection of cards to Hearthstone. The new universal mana cost reduction effects and added holding cards effect have never been seen in the game before. It will take at least a couple of months for the meta-game to settle, and at that point, Blizzard will have probably announced the next expansion for the game. However, it’s always exciting to theory-craft over the possible effects the expansion will have on the meta. The new cards, even in the first week, have added more diversity to existing decks run at all ranks of play. I just love the reactions my friends give when I pull a Grim Patron one turn kill; it’s just so satisfying. If coming expansions include just as creative cards, the future of Hearthstone is bright.