Hearthstone’s most recent expansion, Whispers of the Old Gods, completely changed the game when it was released in April. Meta-defining cards like Dr. Boom, Force of Nature, and Big Game Hunter were either nerfed or made irrelevant in tournament play by the introduction of a new card rotation system. Even now, the meta continues to ebb and flow with emergent strategies in the aftermath of the changes. The past month alone has seen the rise of potent fine-tuned decks like Aggro Shaman and Dragon Warrior, which are currently wreaking havoc on ranked play.
Soon, though, the Hearthstone meta will see another major shakeup with the release of One Night in Karazhan, a new card adventure based on World of Warcraft’s garish, glamorous Karazhan dungeon. As a purchasable “adventure” and not a card expansion, Karazhan’s cards will all be available to players who buy access to the content—meaning that they don’t actually need to be collected. This is a nice gimme for players who still haven’t finished collecting the various legendaries released in Whispers of the Old Gods, and it should go a long way to making the competition more fierce as more players gain access to top-tier cards without the investment that collection requires.
One Night in Karazhan is basically a grab bag of past Hearthstone ideas.
As for the cards themselves, One Night in Karazhan is basically a grab bag of past Hearthstone ideas. It’s got the dragon synergies of Blackrock Mountain, the discover mechanic of The League of Explorers, and even more deathrattle mechanics like the ones that defined Naxxramas. Of particular note here are the legendary cards, whose significance can be difficult to read at first glance but may affect the metagame the same way that Reno Jackson did after the launch of League of Explorers.
Prince Malchezar—a perfectly serviceable 5 mana 5/6, adds five legendaries to the player’s deck at the start of the game. It’s great in mill decks, but its impact on more control-oriented decks is harder to read. The Curator is a 7 mana 4/6 legendary which, while considerably under-statted, has the potential to draw three cards once it’s summoned—provided the player has a murloc, a dragon, and a beast in their deck.
So far, the most controversial card of the expansion has been the Firelands Portal—a 7-mana mage spell that deals 5 damage and also summons a random 5-cost minion. It’s an extremely efficient and pro-active card, and its synergy with mage cards like Flamewaker and Mana Wyrm make it a good candidate for constructed decks.
Most of the controversy surrounding Firelands Portal, though, revolves around the card’s implications for Arena play, where mage is already considered to be extremely powerful. As a common card, the Firelands Portal can be drafted pretty easily into an average mage deck, and its high efficiency and multi-purpose application mean that it will almost certainly make mage the undisputed arena champion. Hearthstone Lead Designer Ben Brode has already gone on video to address the card, saying that it won’t help to change Firelands Portal’s rarity—instead, Brode says the card is a symptom of balancing problems within the Arena format itself.
It will almost certainly make mage the undisputed arena champion.
At this point, it’s tough to tell the impact that Karazhan cards will have on the overall Hearthstone metagame. As with past expansions, it’s likely that a few cards will show up in a majority of decks, while others will pop up in niche situations and a few will disappear from competitive play altogether. As evidenced by the Firelands Portal, though, one nice side-effect of new cards is that they exacerbate old issues in ways that Blizzard can ultimately correct. For now, though, if you’re planning on playing in the Arena post-Karazhan, take our advice and pick mage.
One Night in Karazhan launches on August 11th, and will roll out over the course of a few weeks. Read more about the adventure here.