Blizzard has announced its content plans for the upcoming year, including release plans for expansions, major changes to Standard, and a new hero-alternate.
As detailed on the Hearthstone Blog, once the first expansion launches this year, it will mark the beginning of the Year of the Mammoth as well. That means Blackrock Mountain, The Grand Tournament, and League of Explorers cards will be added to the Wild format, and no longer accessible in Standard.
Classic Cards in Standard
Blizzard is making yet another major change to Standard this year, though, by moving some Classic cards to the Wild format. Previously Classic cards would all be accessible in Standard by default, but the company said it found some were still too frequently used or limited the design space. Now, some Classic cards will be added to a new "Hall of Fame" set, alongside last year's Reward cards that were moved to Wild. This will let Blizzard selectively move certain Classic cards to Wild.
The first six cards to be added to the Hall of Fame will be the neutral cards Azure Drake, Sylvanas Windrunner, Ragnaros the Firelord, and the class cards Power Overwhelming, Ice Lance, and Conceal. The first three were simply so powerful they didn't have much competition at or even above their mana cost. Blizzard also hinted that it has build-arounds for Deathrattle coming that would be broken if Sylvanas was still included in the Standard set. The others seem aimed at curbing design problems. Power Overwhelming led to high damage spikes, Ice Lance made Freeze Mage too standard and limited spell damage, and Conceal limited the other player's ability to respond to minions.
On the bright side, Blizzard is giving a consolation prize to long-time players who may have a lot of these newly-dubbed Hall of Fame cards. If you have a card in the set, it will give you the full Dust value, and let you keep the card. If you have a Golden Sylvanas, for example, you get 1600 Dust and you keep the card for play in Wild as well. It's limited to as many cards as you can have in a deck, which means one for Legendaries and two for all others.
A Wild Adventure
The Year of the Mammoth will also bring a significant change to the pace of expansions. They've usually alternated between expansions and single-player adventures. During the Year of the Mammoth, we'll instead get three expansions, with around 130 cards apiece. (We have good reason to believe the first will be called Lost Secrets of Un'Goro.) Blizzard still wants to explore story and lore in the Hearthstone universe, but will be introducing optional single-player missions to develop the narrative, similar to those found in the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. Those will start rolling out with the second expansion, due in the middle of the year.
The Wild format is going to get additional support, with its own Heroic Tavern Brawl, and more tournaments. Fireside Gatherings will also be getting additional in-client tools for support.
Finally, Blizzard has announced a new hero alternate coming this year. Maiev Shadowsong will offer an alternate portrait, emotes, and special animations for the Rogue class. The Night Elf will be awarded for finishing 10 games in Standard Ranked or Casual after the next expansion launches, kicking off the Year of the Mammoth.