How Will the 30 New Cards in The Curse of Naxxramas affect Hearthstone?

Death and balance.

Only five of the 30 new cards slated to be released for Hearthstone’s first single-player campaign--titled The Curse of Naxxramas--were officially unveiled at PAX East 2014 today. But if those cards are anything to go by, then it seems deathrattle is going to become a lot more common in Blizzard's recently released card game.

Deathrattle (abilities triggered upon a Hearthstone minion's demise) feature in four of the five new cards so far confirmed for The Curse of Naxxramas, and is apt considering the campaign's eponymous setting. In World of Warcraft, Naxxramas is the floating necropolis of the archlich Kel'Thuzad--in other words, the undead have sway in this corrupted location. Players will be able to tackle this creepy area when The Curse of Naxxramas is released later this year, and marks the first of Hearthstone’s single-player-focused Adventure Mode releases.

A spooky new board awaits in Naxxramas.

So what exactly is Adventure Mode? In this mode, players will do battle against a series of AI opponents to gain new cards. The Curse of Naxxramas will have five sections or "wings" to play through, with each wing featuring anywhere from three to four bosses. Cards are earned as you defeat bosses, with bonus cards also being awarded for clearing wings. Any card earned will be usable in Hearthstone’s regular Play or Practice modes, while Naxxramas-themed cards will also be added to the mix in Arena matches. Only the first wing--the Arachnid Quarter--will be free. The subsequent four in Naxxramas will need to be purchased either through in-game gold or with real world money (although Blizzard has not confirmed what the cost will be). And your reward for completing all of Adventure Mode? 30 brand new cards, including class-specific ones earned by completing class challenges.

So how will the introduction of 30 new cards to Hearthstone affect the game’s balance? Lead designer Eric Dodds says balance is something Blizzard is continually monitoring, with a new team created within the company that continually monitors balance issues.

"Before we had done a lot of balancing by what we thought was the right thing to do, and we did some internal balancing, but because we were in beta, there was also a lot of balancing going in because the community was helping out a lot," Dodds said. "But going forward, we now have a balance team making sure that all of these cards are balanced, because we have to make sure these are not cards that will break the game. So we have an internal team that is working on these specifically."

Baron Rivendare is afoot.

Dodds says the introduction of 30 new cards also has the potential to significantly impact Hearthstone’s metagame. "What’s interesting I think is there will be an interesting metagame happening during those four weeks as new cards come out, and decks suddenly change. Everything will be different, and then a week later, all these new cards come out. So over the course of the month we’re going to see really interesting changes and shifts in the metagame."

"One of the cards I’m excited about is Baron Rivendare, because it makes deathrattles trigger twice. There will undoubtedly be things that happen that honestly we haven’t even thought about as possibilities. There are certainly the simple ones where I have a harvest golem and I get two damaged harvest golems out of it. It’s one of those things that I expect interesting combinations to come out of the community."

What happens, then, in the case of these new cards inadvertently unbalancing the game? Dodds says the solution is not to withdraw cards, but rather to empower players with solutions by introducing new cards into the mix.

"As far as card changes moving forward, our plan is, ideally, not to make any card changes because we want these cards to feel really solid in player's hands. That said, if something is clearly very out of hand--and that’s a super subjective thing to say--then it's something we’ll talk about," he said.

"But really what we want to do is when we feel the environment changes and changes in a way that doesn't work super well, is that we put additional cards out there in the player's hands that allow the player to take control. Because really the way we think about it is that we're just providing tools for the player to have a fun experience. So if it feels like they don't have the right tools for that experience, then we better put some more tools out there."

If you choose to never put in a dime, you can still access all of the content over time.

Hearthstone production director Jason Chayes.

For a game that has so far kept most of its gameplay modes free (buying cards and Arena are, of course, a different matter), the move to charging for a new mode is an interesting one for Hearthstone. But for production director Jason Chayes, the move still perfectly aligns with the game’s goal of allowing players to access content in whatever way they please.

"We basically wanted to make it that no matter how you were experiencing Naxxramas, you were able to unlock the various wings for free just by earning the gold and unlocking it. That's an important philosophy we have for Hearthstone, is that if you choose to never put in a dime, you can still access all of the content over time. So that is a core part of how Naxxramas is designed. Beyond that, though, if a player is interested in getting to that content a bit faster, they can spend a bit more money and access it as well," he said.

The Curse of Naxxramas is set for release sometime in "summer" 2014 for PC, Mac, and iPad.

The first five cards unveiled for The Curse of Naxxramas.

See more coverage of PAX East 2014
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RandolphRam

Randolph Ramsay

Randolph is the managing editor of GameSpot, and needs more time to play games.

PAX East 2014

PAX East 2014
14 comments
1wikkid1
1wikkid1

I really wish they had figured out some system that would let those of us who own WoWTCG cards to import those into the game... obviously only the ones that exist within Hearthstone. Got a fat stack of em cards collecting dust, along with the loot ones.

ziproy
ziproy

They gotta balance the characters. You either play against the Paladin, the Druid, or the Priest. That's it. The only time I fought a Warrior was when I also was playing as the Warrior so that really pissed me off

mchylins
mchylins

"Only two of the five cards have deathrattle."


Yes, but 4 of the cards 'feature' deathrattle.

Flamewolf75
Flamewolf75

"Deathrattle (abilities triggered upon a Hearthstone minion's demise) feature in four of the five new cards so far"


Only two of the five cards have deathrattle.

no_concern
no_concern

"Dodds says the solution is not to withdraw cards, but rather to empower players with solutions by introducing new cards into the mix."


lol where have I heard this before?  Crunch time comes and OUT COMES THE NERF BAT.

jimmy_russell
jimmy_russell

If they don't get android support before this update, I will be sorely disappointed.

feleas
feleas

@1wikkid1  yeah it really looked like a slap to the face to collectors of the WoWTCG cards.

feleas
feleas

@ziproy  yeah priest is a little out of control right now. especially since at turn 3 I was facing a 20/20 lightwell >_>

shina777
shina777

@ziproy haven't seen a priest in ranked past rank 10 since weeks, 6% paladins, 10% warrs, 13% hunters, 24% druids 27% warlocks, very few mages (novice engineer / frost spells nerf to blame here) . You do however encounter a lot of priests in casual mode because they do not fare well in the ladder but that's about it. 

People don't like fighting priest,  cheap removal lots of stuff to play around + your own cards to consider. Fights are often long and frustrating but win ratio is low for them in competitive play

1wikkid1
1wikkid1

@no_concern  It's obvious that Blizz interest is in selling as many cards as possible. So it's no surprise that now that they've got HS working well, probably across all systems even though they haven't announced when the droid version is coming out, there's going to be a flood of new cards.

And every time there's a new batch coming it will feel like all the old cards are getting nerfed because the new ones seem so OP. It was the exact same thing with the TCG. How else are they going to sell the things?

xenus13
xenus13

@feleas @1wikkid1Yeah, played for years then they stopped the TCG clearly to boost the Hearthstone user base. I'm a massive fan of Hearthstone but trying to unload all my WowTCG cards is almost impossible now that their value has been cut drastically.

shina777
shina777

@feleas @ziproy Yet so vulnerable to a 2 mana ironbeak, but yeah that spell seems OP like most of priest cards but all that doesn't seem to help priests get to higher ranks on the ladder. Play strong 4 damage creatures and 2 or 4 silences and you find them quite hopeless. yeah now and then planets align and they get the combo going, but that like one game in 7.