Blizzard has announced that 2019 in Hearthstone will be known as the Year of the Dragon, and in doing so has laid out its plans to make a number of tweaks, changes and additions to the game that will come into effect once the new season begins with the launch of the first expansion of this year.
Before we go into fine detail, here are the headline announcements:
- There'll be three new expansions in 2019, including a vast single-player mode
- Nine cards are moving into the Hall of Fame
- Seasons are being added to Arena
- A new “smart” deck builder will offer more flexibility and assistance with deck creation
- A handful of quality of life improvements are also being made to the game
Expansions and New Single-Player Content
Once again, Hearthstone will have three expansions in 2019, with each one adding another 135 new cards to the game including new keywords and mechanics. More details are coming soon.
Elsewhere, a “new and evolving” single-player experience will also be a major part of Hearthstone in 2019. Things are still in the early stages, but we're intrigued by what we've seen so far at the recent EU Summit, so make sure you give our breakdown and hands-on impressions a read.
Hall of Fame Cards
As with previous Hearthstone yearly cycles, a small group of cards will be rotated out of Standard play and into Wild to encourage more deck diversity, and challenge players to discover new strategies.
With the start of the Year of the Dragon, a total of nine cards from the current collection will no longer be playable in Standard. They are the following:
- Divine Favor
- Genn Greymane
- Baku the Mooneater
- Black Cat
- Gloom Stag
- Glitter Moth
- Murkspark Eel
The Hearthstone development team offered a number of reasons as to why these cards were chosen to be moved into Wild.
In the case of Doomguard, it had been such a powerful card in the meta for so long that they wanted to make a change. For Naturalize, Blizzard no longer feels it fits the Druid class identity, as they aren’t about having big removal effects.
Two of those cards in the list stand out above the rest, however: Genn Greymane and Baku the Mooneater.
Ever since their introduction in The Witchwood expansion, they’ve made Odd and Even decks a prevalent part of the Hearthstone meta. They were designed to take the effect of a card like Reno Jackson, but make the advantage you gain from playing with a deck-building restriction more consistent.
After a year of dominant play, however it’s become apparent that they are simply too powerful – and Team 5 has clearly heard from players that they want to see a change.
“We saw a lot of new Odd and Even decks in a lot of different classes, with people experimenting with almost every class as either Odd or Even," explained Principle Game Designer Mike Donais at the event.
"That went pretty good, it's just that after a year people had feedback that there's just a little bit too much, it's impacting them too much.
"One of the things we love about Hearthstone is that it's constantly evolving. There are new decks being created and the meta's shifting and we think that Genn and Baku being promoted to the Hall of Fame will really help to continue to let Hearthstone evolve.”
Naturally, with Genn and Baku moving into the Hall of Fame, so too will all of the class-specific Odd and Even cards that directly support them - Black Cat, Gloom Stag and the like.
And, of course, you will be able to keep these cards in your collection while also gaining the full Dust value as if you disenchanted them.
New “Smart” Deck Builder
When the Year of the Dragon begins, a new “Smart” Deck Builder will be added to the game that expands and improves upon the current offering in Hearthstone.
Rather than simply offering a selection of deck recipes, this deck builder will monitor the meta and update itself to include the most popular and most successful deck lists currently being used in Hearthstone.
“The smart deck builder is updated regularly – usually every single day. It looks at high ranked players, usually rank 5 and above,” explained Mike Donais.
How does it work, though?
Say, for example, you want to play a Freeze Mage deck. What you’ll be able to do is find a version of the deck that the deck builder deems the best currently available, and it will then assemble all the relevant cards together for you.
If you're missing cards from the highlighted deck list, it will then fill the gaps with the most powerful cards in your collection, while maintaining a sensible mana curve.
Another example given involved playing a Druid deck that contained Deathwing. You could go into the deck builder, select Druid, add Deathwing to your list and then the tool would automatically fill out the rest of your deck with the most meta-viable option available from the cards you own.
It doesn’t sound like it will solve all deck building problems that may arise if you’re playing with a small collection, though, as Mike Donais inferred that players “need to have about 35-50 boosters before they can start building decks that are somewhere in the meta”.
That said, its ability to adapt to meta changes makes it much more interesting than the static deck recipes of old.
Arena will be undergoing a few changes of its own with the start of the Year of the Dragon.
The major difference players will see is the introduction of a season format for Arena. What this means is that the card pool will be refreshed every two months as different Classic and Wild cards sets are cycled in or out of the mode, although Blizzard stresses that the latest set will always be included in this pool.
The intention behind this change is to make something that “will be more fun for people who play a lot of Arena” and spend a lot of their time striving for 12 wins.
Blizzard has confirmed that the following sets will be in the first Arena season: Basic, Classic, Curse of Naxxramas, Whispers of the Old Gods, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, The Witchwood, and the first expansion of 2019.
There’s also good news for those of you who like to play Arena but are sad that none of your wins there count towards unlocking Golden Hero portraits. When the Year of the Dragon begins your progress towards these will be tracked in Arena mode as well. Hooray!
Other notable Year of the Dragon updates
- Farewell to Mammoth events - These will include a special log-in bonus between March 25 - April 2 rewarding card packs from the Journey to Un’Goro, Knights of the Frozen Throne and Kobolds and Catacombs sets. A new Tavern Brawl: Brawl Block – Year of the Mammoth will also be added to the game which only allows you to create decks using cards from the above three expansion sets.
- Random card back option - When setting your card back for each deck you’ll now be able to let the game choose one at random for you. A neat way for you to show off your vast card back collection!
- Rerolling Legendary Quests - The name says it all, but you’ll now be able to spend your one daily quest reroll on Legendary Quests as well.
- No tournament mode for 2019 - “As far as tournament mode goes, there's still no progress on that and it is still put indefinitely on hold. Certainly, we will not be working on it in 2019,” said Blizzard’s Ben Thompson. They are still figuring out how to make something that everyone will be “proud of and happy with” based on player expectations.
That’s everything we have on the Year of the Dragon for now. For more on what’s coming to Hearthstone this year be sure to have a read of our first look at the single-player content for 2019.