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Hearthstone launches the supervillainous Rise Of Shadows expansion

The dark heart of the cards

Blizzard's popular free-to-play CCG Hearthstone has rolled out its eleventh expansion today, Rise Of Shadows. Tapping into the current wave of superhero movie buzz, the theme of this expansion is cape-swooshing, moustache-twirling cartoon supervillainy, complete with expendable lackeys, evil schemes and do-gooders to bully. As usual there's 135 new cards to collect, including some fun new keywords like Twinspell, Lackey-summoning minions and self-upgrading Schemes that become more powerful with every turn they're left brewing in your hand. Below, the launch trailer.

You can see all the new cards in the expansion here, many featuring the new trio of keywords. Twinspell is easily the least interesting, effectively just letting you cast a spell twice. Strategically very useful, but dull. Schemes are a bit more interesting and play nicely into the supervillain theme, with each of the five villains getting their own auto-upgrading card. They're initially underpowered, like Dr Boom's Scheme giving you just one Armor for 4 mana, but they can become extremely powerful if left long enough. Perhaps Twinspells offset sacrificing a place in your hand to a Scheme.

For me, at least, the most interesting new system is Lackeys. Several new cards can add Lackeys to your hand, token-type cards that only cost one mana, and despite being 1/1 fodder types, each one has a useful ability. The fun part is that there are five types of Lackey, and which you get is completely random. Hearthstone has always been a chaotic game by CCG standards, with The Boomsday Project expansion having a lot of game-scrambling oddball cards with high costs. Lackeys feel like an attempt to bring some of that wilder play to the early game.

Unlike the past few expansions, Rise Of Shadows is going back to charging separately for its accompanying single-player adventures. Due to launch a month from now, the solo part of this expansion will feature one free chapter, followed by a series of additional adventures that can either be purchased one at a time for 700 in-game gold or $20 for the set. While this means that you'll be able to earn some cards from the single-player adventures, I admit that I had gotten used to having a new, less competitive reason to return to the game every few months.

Heartstone: Rise Of Shadows is out now. The game is free-to-play, available here. Logging in now will net you a free Legendary card from the new set, plus some new quests to earn additional goodies.

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