This past Thursday marked the release of the final wing of Hearthstone’s second adventure, Blackrock Mountain. All in all the Adventure features 17 bosses, 31 new cards, a new card back, and a brand new game board. Blizzard set the bar high with the Curse of Naxxramas Adventure, but did Blackrock Mountain reach the same lofty heights?
By Fire Be Purged!
First things first, how’s the new game board? At first glance it’s easy to see that fire and lava are at the forefront here. Blizzard did an excellent job on this board, with the each corner being genuinely interesting. Starting with the bottom right, if you’re like me and have a need to destroy the board as much as possible this area is for you. There are four eggs to crack, two of which contain whelps, and the ribs emerging from the ground can be played like a xylophone. The top right is basically a big sink but instead of water it contains lava. In the bottom left there’s a forge where you can spam click to create new weapons and dowse the forge if it gets to hot. And finally above the forge lies Ragnaros’ hammer, which you can sink into a lava pit and discover what else lies underneath. Overall the board is really interactive and interesting and the vibrant reds and oranges offer a whole new visual aesthetic to the game.
The bosses of Blackrock Mountain have two difficulties, normal and heroic. This structure is excellent because normal mode is relatively easy so if you buy the wing you’ll be able to complete it and get the cards. On the flip side if you want a challenge Blizzard offers heroic mode. The reason the heroic mode bosses are so great is because they not only test your gameplay skills but also your deck building skills. You’re not going to be able to show up with a ladder deck and succeed. You have to build a custom deck specifically tailored to countering these bosses. Each boss is basically like fun problem solving challenge, which makes you think about Hearthstone in a new and unique way. Even after you figure out the right deck and the correct strategy to use you’re still going to need some luck to win. This leads to some epic gameplay moments. Since heroic mode is so challenging there are times where it can be a little frustrating. Bosses like Chromaggus and Baron Geddon can take hours to finally beat. But if your really struggling there’s thousands of user created decks online to help out. If the internal gratification of defeating these bosses isn’t enough, after beating all heroic mode bosses you’ll receive a new card back you can use to show off your achievement.
Blizzard did a wonderful job with the boss designs this time around. None of them feel lazy and on top of that each one is unique. The fact they can continue to come up with new, fun and interesting boss mechanics is impressive. Some, like Majordomo Executus and Skeletal Nefarian, have different phases requiring you to beat multiple bosses with different hero powers in one round. Others like Razorgore and Rend Blackhand swarm the board with overpowered minions. And a few like my personal favourite, General Drakkisath, are just plain ridiculous and fun. Speaking of fun Blizzard followed up its extremely popular Hunter class challenge in Curse of Naxxramas with an even more hilarious Mage class challenge this time around.
Dragons, Dragons, Dragons!
Let’s get to the most impactful part of the adventure, the new cards. Blizzard pushed a dragon theme with this expansion with 12 of the 31 cards either being a dragon type card or having dragon synergy. There was a lot of hype about dragon decks finally being viable in tournaments and on ladder. So do these decks work? The answer to that is “sort of.” The two classes that have experimented the most with dragons are Paladin and Priest. Dragon Consort is the card that made it seem like Dragon Paladin would work and while it seems to be an alright deck its questionable on whether it will stand the test of time. At this point it can be argued that standard control/midrange paladin is simply better. As for Priest, it seems that the decks are just not good enough but its possible a refined deck list will appear soon. All that being said there is no doubt that the dragon cards are fun and powerful with cards like Nefarian and Chromaggus being real highlights. In the next month or so we will see if the decks can be tuned enough to be viable on ladder and in tournaments.
While the dragon themed cards have been a little underwhelming Blizzard introduced some incredibly exciting cards. The Grim Patron card created a whole new burst Warrior deck finally allowing the Warrior class to have multiple types of viable decks. Emperor Thaurissan is so far considered the best all around card, as it’s responsible for reviving freeze Mage and enhancing double combo Druid. And Flamewaker brought a whole new type of tempo mage to the forefront. What might be most impressive is that all the cards released seem to have some sort of place in the game. Very few feel underpowered and the majority can fit in some sort of deck. It seems most of the cards are incredibly well balanced which is so important to a card game and also extremely difficult to achieve. Overall with this expansion Hearthstone seems to be healthier than ever with a lot deck variety existing in the game. The Blackrock Mountain Adventure was a resounding success.