Hearthstone’s upcoming Ashes of Outland expansion will not only see the release of a new Demon Hunter hero class and a variety of new cards, but it will also bring some welcome (and drastic) changes to the game as part of the Year of the Phoenix update.
The headline feature of the initial Year of the Phoenix update is an updated pack opening ruleset which prevents the opening of duplicate cards regardless of their rarity. Previously, only Legendary cards were protected from duplication. While it’s still possible to unlock two lesser rarity cards in order to complete your collection, you will not receive further copies of the cards after that. This will drastically reduce the number of card packs you will need to purchase in order to complete your collection. Furthermore, this rule will be applied to any packs that you currently own once it goes into effect.
Hearthstone’s ranked play mode is also receiving an overhaul. Basically, there’s a new tier system that groups players into ranking classes until they reach the Legend rank. It appears to be somewhat similar to the system used by games like Overwatch. Furthermore, this new system will attempt to better match players with similar abilities based on their performances during previous and current seasons. This should lead to much fairer matches and a more enjoyable ranking process for top players.
New players will also be granted a free competitive deck in the class of their choice. That same offer will be extended to any players who haven’t logged in to the game within the last four months.
Interestingly, Hearthstone’s Priest class is also set to receive a fairly significant overhaul as part of the Year of the Phoenix update. This overhaul will see certain Priest cards removed from the game’s standard mode of play and be replaced with new cards. Other Priest cards are being reworked entirely. Blizzard hopes that these changes will clarify the Priest class identity by allowing them to better control the board and be less reliant on bursts of damage as they have been in the past.
Speaking of cards, Year of the Phoenix will see cards released during Hearthstone’s Year of the Raven rotated into the game’s Wild format. Joining them will be a new set of Hall of Fame cards which will no longer be playable in Hearthstone’s Standard mode.
This year’s Hall of Fame cards not only includes six of the previously mentioned Priest class cards (Auchenai Soulpriest, Holy Fire, Prophet Velen, Shadowform, Divine Spirit, and Northshire Cleric) but five neutral cards. They are: Acolyte of Pain, Leeroy Jenkins, Mind Control Tech, Mountain Giant, and Spellbreaker. Blizzard has identified each of these cards as either being too powerful or otherwise limiting the design space.
It’s no exaggeration to say that this is the most substantial yearly update that we’ve seen from Hearthstone since the game’s launch. True to this year’s phoenix namesake, it really does feel like Blizzard is starting a kind of rebirth for the game.
Make to check out our hands-on impressions of the new Demon Hunter class right here!