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HearthstoneFeb 16, 2017 12:48 pm CT

Hearthstone details the Year of the Mammoth

The first year of structured Hearthstone play, Year of the Kraken, is quickly coming to an end. The Year of the Mammoth looms on the horizon and the Hearthstone team has just detailed exactly what that means.

Set Rotation

Hearthstone introduced its Zodiac specifically to rotate old sets out of Standard play. When Year of the Mammoth begins, Blackrock Mountain, The Grand Tournament, and League of Explorers cards will no longer be playable in the Standard game mode, each of them shifting over to Wild. Whispers of the Old Gods, One Night in Karazhan, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, and most of the Classic set remain in Standard — along with every set slated for 2017. The Classic set will always be included in Standard play, but this year, Blizzard is making some exceptions:

In order to keep Hearthstone exciting and accessible as more cards are added, Standard allows players to use the most recently released cards, as well as a core of Basic and Classic cards. Our overall intention with Standard is to keep the game feeling fresh for all of our players, and to allow newer players to jump into Hearthstone quickly, without collecting lots of cards to build a competitive deck. Standard also gives our developers more freedom when designing new cards for the future.

However, over the course of the Year of the Kraken, certain cards in the Classic set have contradicted these goals. When cards show up too frequently in decks and are considered auto-includes, deck-building becomes more limited. Deck variety stagnates, potentially interesting build-around cards fall by the wayside, and the gameplay experience begins to feel less dynamic. Most cards should feel like situational additions to a deck, depending on the deck archetype the player is trying to build.

To help meet our goals, certain cards from the Classic set will become exclusive to the Wild format. These cards will be added to the new Hall of Fame set, which will also include cards that are currently in the Reward set.

The following cards will not be playable in Standard:

  • Azure Drake
  • Sylvanas Windrunner
  • Ragnaros the Firelord
  • Power Overwhelming
  • Ice Lance
  • Conceal

The developers provide full explanations for why these particular cards will be excluded — and joining a new Hall of Fame set — over on their blog. While Hearthstone typically allows players to disenchant nerfed or retired cards for their full dust value, that isn’t the case this time around. Because these cards can still be played in Wild and you won’t necessarily want to disenchant them, you’ll simply receive their dust value for free.

Expansions and Adventures

Hearthstone players have grown accustomed to Blizzard’s rhythm of game releases: Expansion, Adventure, Expansion, Adventure, and so on. However, in 2017, Blizzard will not be releasing any Adventure packs at all. Instead, all expansions except their next expansion (which is likely to be Lost Secrets of Un’goro according to recent leaks) will include both elements.

For the Year of the Mammoth, our release cycle will include a ~130 card expansion at the start of the year, a ~130 card expansion in the middle of the year, and another ~130 card expansion at the end of the year.

Why the change of release cycle?

At their core, Adventures paint colorful and thematic stories about the Hearthstone universe. Imagine being able to learn about the history and lore behind each of our sets inside the game in a similar way! Defining who the Jade Lotus are through a series of battles between the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan families would have been a great way to supplement the overall Gadgetzan story arc. That concept is something we would like to do more of in future sets: Take the storytelling and cool missions of Adventures, and combine them with the card pools of expansions.

Cards will be acquired via packs like other expansions in the past; additionally, each release will include optional single-player missions that will help develop the expansions’ thematic narratives and offer fun challenges.

As someone who enjoyed Hearthstone adventure packs and the narrative twist they placed on Warcraft lore, I’m actually fond of this change. For all Mean Streets of Gadgetzan played around with the concept of Gadgetzan’s evolution, creating strong themes for each of the crime families, the expansion utterly lacked the fun narrative elements present in adventures such as One Night in Karazhan. Similarly, it may be a small niche, but there certainly are players who dust off Hearthstone only when a new Adventure releases entirely to dip their toes into those single-player challenges. This change should make every release relevant rather than every other release.

Again, the next expansion will not include these combined elements. However, the second expansion of 2017 — slated for the year’s third quarter — will include such elements.

Awards and rewards

Hearthstone is celebrating the start of the Year of the Mammoth in advance of its next expansion. While dates for these events (or the expansion’s release) have yet to be revealed, players will receive login bonuses in the form of gold, dust, or card packs. In addition, the new Rogue hero Maiev Shadowsong will be given to all players who win 10 games of Hearthstone in Standard Ranked or Casual mode after the next expansion officially launches.

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