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HearthstoneMar 24, 2023 10:00 am CT

The Hearthstone Year of the Wolf will buff many cards you already have

The Year of the Wolf is about to start in Hearthstone, and it seems very much focused on updating the Core Set of cards to make it better than ever before. Once the upcoming Festival of Legends expansion releases in April, the Year of the Wolf will begin, rotating the three oldest expansions out of Standard mode — that’s United in Stormwind, Forged in the Barrens, and Fractured in Alterac Valley — but also updating those core cards that every player always has access to.

This update includes some cards rotating out, some cards that were already out being rotated back in, but most important of all: many cards that all players have access to are being greatly buffed. So let’s read on to learn the gist of what’s changing when the Year of the Wolf begins, and how it concerns you.

Old cards are returning to the Core Set, and getting buffed

The Core Set is the evergreen set of cards that all players have permanent access to, simply by leveling up their classes. Whenever there are changes to it, those cards get automatically updated for all players: once you have them, you have them. This time around, over 70 cards are being swapped out of the Core Set for new ones.

Some of the oldest, most classic Hearthstone cards that you’ve known for years are returning and getting buffed in order to keep up with the current power level of the game. This is a huge step towards leveling the playing field at the beginning of the new year, effectively giving casual players a new chance to catch up with the game, and compete with other players on more equal footing.

A fun example is the Druid Epic minion Ancient of Lore. This card was originally a 7 mana 5/5 with text that read “Choose One – Draw 2 cards; or Restore 5 health.” It was a very popular card in the very early days of Hearthstone, even being considered slightly overpowered — and it eventually got nerfed to only draw one card instead of two. Years passed, and power levels in the game rose so much that this card was eventually unnerfed, but its original power level was still too low to keep up with what the game had become.

Now, that card is returning while being buffed to be a 7/7, and restoring seven health instead of five, while still drawing two cards: it’s more powerful than it was in its original form, when it was one of the strongest cards in the game. It’s too early to tell if the card will see play again at its new power level, but it serves as a good example of how old cards are being updated to catch up with the times.

Tradeable is now an evergreen keyword; Magnetic is back too, albeit temporarily

The Tradeable keyword, which allows players to either play a card or send it back to their deck for the cost of one mana, while drawing another card to replace it, proved to be very versatile and popular. So the Hearthstone team has decided to keep it in the game for good by making it evergreen, and adding many cards with that keyword to the Core Set.

Another fun keyword that players miss is Magnetic, which allows a Mech that has it to be combined with another Mech, forming a single, super minion — with fan-favorite Zilliax being the poster boy (poster Mech?) for this effect. Well, Zilliax is back to the Core Set now, and even though Magnetic is not here to stay like Tradeable is, we will get to play with it for the next year, at least.

Other fan-favorite cards that are returning include Dr. Boom, Ragnaros the Firelord, and The Black Knight (which is also being buffed). This time around, the developers have stated that if things aren’t working out, they might re-balance or even swap cards out of the Core Set throughout the year — something which they didn’t usually do in the past. A very positive development.

Priest is getting the Overheal keyword, and support for Shadow and Undead

The Priest class has always been a tricky one for the developers to design cards for. Its core effect of healing isn’t as powerful as the things that other classes can do, so Priest has relied on other types of effects to succeed — effects which often feel unfun to the player on the receiving end of them. It’s super disheartening to see your opponent resurrect a full board of powerful minions that you just spent all your resources to destroy!

To remedy some of those woes, Priest is now getting its class-specific keyword, Overheal. This keyword will activate whenever a minion that has it is healed above its maximum health. This allows the Priest toolkit to still include many healing effects, while making them far more usable in general. In turn, having this new design space lets the developers tone down those other things that Priest does.

For instance, from now on resurrect effects are being restricted to Undead minions — and the Undead will become as much of a part of the Priest class as Beasts are for Hunters. Most decks that have used Undead minions with success lately have been Shadow Priest decks — and that archetype is still going to be supported, since Darkbishop Benedictus has been added to the Core Set!

There are changes to other classes as well — and other game modes

There’s much more to talk about regarding the Year of the Wolf reveal. Of note are the fact that Paladins are losing their Secrets — instead, other aspects of the class, such as Silver Hand Recruits and handbuffs, are being bolstered. But the usage of Secrets is simply finding a new home in Rogue. That class already had a few Secrets, but it’s about to get many more in the Core Set, making it a bigger part of its identity.

Battlegrounds haven’t been forgotten! The roadmap for the Year of the Wolf includes three major updates for that game mode, and each one of them will include, “at least one major new system update similar in scale to Buddies.” Exciting!

Finally, the roadmap also includes a, “Wild-focused update and a fun new way to play with older cards” — which sounds like a new game mode. Hopefully we’ll find out more about it soon! Either way, with the changes to the Core Set and the other assorted updates we’re getting, the Year of the Wolf is already sounding very promising.

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