When I reviewed Hearthstone a few months ago, I mentioned that I didn’t see myself stopping anytime soon. That held true as I’ve played consistently since then, even getting my wife into the game (who plays more than I do now). Blizzard has kept Hearthstone moving in a great direction. I’ll dissect the game’s latest changes and updates right here and now.
A few months ago, a new mode called Tavern Brawl popped up on the Hearthstone main menu. Tavern Brawl is a separate game mode available from Wednesday afternoon through Sunday night. The rules of the brawl change each week. Some weeks feature pre-made decks, some require you to build a deck, and some make heavy use of a mechanic or idea. Tavern Brawl has been live for a few months now and we’ve already seen some recycling of old brawls, which is fine by me. I don’t expect something new every single week.
Most of the brawls are pretty good. The very first one pit Nefarian against Ragnaros with crazy decks and hero powers. I really liked that one. Other good ones include the brawl where all minions are Webspinners and the “I want all the spells you have” brawl where all spells also summon a random minion of the same cost. The most recent brawl with random, pre-made decks per class wasn’t that great.
The only reward for Tavern Brawl is a classic pack for your first victory of the week. I’d like to see a simple leaderboard of win totals for each week, as well. There are some weeks where I feel like I’m just crushing Tavern Brawl and I’d like to know how I stack up. Other than that, Tavern Brawl is a great diversion from seeing the same old decks in ranked and praying to the RNG gods in arena mode.
The Grand Tournament
Hearthstone’s second expansion pack, The Grand Tournament, has been live for about a week now. The main focus of TGT was making hero powers more meaningful and Blizzard has surely done that. Above is a new legendary, Justicar Trueheart, who just flat out makes your hero power better. After her battlecry, mages can do two damage, paladins summon two recruits, warlocks draw for free, etc. This is one of the crazier cards added with TGT.
Two new mechanics came with TGT: inspire and joust. Inspire triggers each time you use your hero power and really works well. For example, the one mana 1/2 Lowly Squire has an inspire effect of +1 attack, so each use of your hero power turns him into a pseudo Micro Machine. My personal favorite is a new paladin minion, the Murloc Knight. He is a four mana 3/4 which has an inspire effect of summoning a random murloc. He’s making a run at Whirling Zap-o-matic for my favorite minion spot.
Joust is a new effect that compares two random minions from each player’s deck. If your minion costs more mana, you win the joust and get some kind of bonus. The Master Jouster is a six mana 5/6 that gains taunt and divine shield if you win it’s battlecry joust. Skeleton Knight is a six mana 7/4 that has a deathrattle joust to return him to your hand. Overall, joust is a bit slow and too random for my liking. It’s an interesting mechanic, but inspire is easily better.
There are other cards to augment your hero power, as well. Maiden of the Lake is a four mana 2/6 who reduces the cost of your hero power to 1 while the Fallen Hero, a two mana 3/2 mage minion, increases your hero power’s damage by one. Between the augmentation cards and inspire, hero powers have a whole new meaning in today’s Hearthstone.
Current state and looking ahead
Hearthstone is still an excellent game. It’s easy to pick up, hard to master, and drip feeds you just enough card packs to keep you on your toes. The addition of The Grand Tournament card packs and Tavern Brawl mode add even more layers to Blizzard’s free-to-play gem.
My only fear is how Blizzard will balance giving new players more content while keeping the entry barrier low enough for new players. We are already at three types of cards packs and two solo adventures. In a few months, I’m sure we’ll have another expansion on it’s way. Can Blizzard keep new players coming to the table and keep veterans happy? I hope so.