Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has already released two adventures and one card expansion, and the popular digital CCG is gearing up for another big announcement tomorrow. Chances are this is another card expansion, but Blizzard's decision to hold the announcement at a special event in San Francisco implies that there may be something bigger afoot. Here at Shacknews we're anticipating the announcement, with various theories, suspicions, and long-shot hopes. Like, for example...
Champions Enter the Fray
The official Hearthstone Twitter account has been teasing this for weeks, constantly mentioning "Champions." That definitely implies a new card type, and we can hope it's not just another standard tribal like Murloc, Mech, and Dragon. Instead, speculation has run rampant on what a "Champion" mechanic could mean, from a card tier above Legendary, to companion characters similar to Magic the Gathering's Planeswalkers.
We're sure to get a better idea of what exactly a champion is, but Blizzard needs to show off more than just that detail. We need to see enough of them to get an idea of the breadth of the concept, along with at least a few other cards for flavor. Having the event at a physical space may also mean attendees like our own Ozzie Mejia will be able to try it for themselves, so watch for him to report back with his findings.
From the very beginning of this latest tease, those steeped in Warcraft lore have recognized the telltale signs of the Argent Tournament. That appears to be the theme for this expansion, but Blizzard could double-up and use the fitting opportunity to introduce another oft-requested feature: Tournament Mode.
What started as a simple CCG has ballooned into a major worldwide eSport, with smaller tournaments taking place regularly and Blizzard's own World Championships gaining huge viewership last year. So far most tournaments have been self-regulated with third-party tools or even pen-and-paper brackets, but a proper game mode with rule modifiers would be a dream come true for organizers.
Armor and Mounts
The Hearthstone blog often drops small "Inkeeper's Tales" with little world-building stories and veiled hints of upcoming content. Shortly after it began teasing the July 22 announcement, this entry prompted many fans to read between the lines and conclude that the expansion would include neutral armor, and mounts.
The armor seems obvious enough--the story specifically mentions that "even the magic-using types" could be seen wearing armor--but mounts are more of a stretch. It only mentions one potential mount and that could just be a flavor detail. Besides, how would mounts even work in a game like Hearthstone? We may find out tomorrow.
The Full Hero Roster
Blizzard's announcement of cosmetic heroes, at a hefty $10 a pop, was met with some understandable consternation. The three additional heroes added so far really haven't changed the dynamic much, but it is sorely lacking in selection. Players may be willing to drop that amount on one particular hero of choice, but so far only one-third of them are represented. We definitely need more selection, and this would be the perfect time to show off the remaining six. While it's at it, Blizzard should announce bundles that give a discount on multiple heroes, so more dedicated whales have reason to grab more than one at a time.
Quality of Life Improvements
Hearthstone has regularly used its expansions to pair with general quality of life improvements. That means bug fixes, user interface tweaks, and balance changes. Many of the largest bugs have been squashed, but more certainly remain. It would also be a good time to add more deck slots, since it's one of the most commonly requested interface improvements.
Finally, if Blizzard is looking for balance changes, it needs to look squarely in the direction of the Warrior's Grim Patron deck type. Some part of that is in desperate need of adustment, since the "Patron Warrior" has dominated the ladder and makes for the kind of one-turn-kill combos that the company has explicitly stamped out before. The infamous Leeroy Jenkins nerf was targeted at preventing Rogues from going from an empty board to lethal in one turn, and now Warrior is facing the same problem. Everyone, get out of here!
Steve Watts posted a new article, Battle Detected: Shacknews examines tomorrow's Hearthstone announcement