Moustache-twirling cartoon supervillainy is the theme of Hearthstone's next expansion, Rise Of Shadows. Five big bads from previous expansions have formed an alliance, and rather unimaginatively called themselves the League of E.V.I.L. Schemes, lackeys and callbacks to previous expansions abound, plus a few new heroic types to counter their monster-of-the-week plans. Below, an announcement info-dump trailer, plus the obligatory musical sing-along intro to the new set, although this one isn't nearly as catchy as the past few - Disney villains they ain't.
Intriguingly, Rise of Shadows is going to include some cards that seem specifically designed to undermine absurdly powerful combos. The Spellward Jeweller might not be a powerhouse as a minion, but her Battlecry making your hero untargetable by spells or hero powers for a turn seems like a great way to protect yourself if you see the enemy setting up a known combo. 'Scheme' cards such as this also seem geared towards setting things up gradually, with the card growing more powerful with each turn that it sits in your hand. A nice use of the supervillainous theme, for sure.
One other fittingly cartoon-villainous concept in this expansion is Lackeys. Some cards (like the EVIL Miscreant) add random Lackeys to your hand, one-mana-cost 1/1 minions with surprisingly useful Battlecry abilities. The only problem is that there's five different Lackey types (one for each of the five villain groups united), and they'll be dealt to you randomly, so you'll have to improvise your strategies a a bit. Hearthstone has always had an element of chaos to it, but it's interesting to see it stacked at the cheap end for once - a world away from The Boomsday Project's mid/high-level Hail Mary plays.
Rise Of Shadows will also mark the beginning of a multi-expansion story arc, with the next few sets of cards and their corresponding PvE adventures apparently chaining together into something approaching coherent lore for the game. Sadly, it seems that the free ride is over for solo players, and we're going back to them selling expensive single-player adventures. While the first chapter of the Rise Of Shadows PvE segment will be free, the remaining four will either cost 700 gold each, or $19.99 for the full set.
The Rise of Shadows expansion launches on April 9th, and will contain 135 cards total, some of which you can see here. Those itching to throw money at it now can claim a random legendary card plus some cosmetic doodads by pre-ordering a 50 or 80 card bundle on the official page here.