Today during the Hearthstone Championship Tour event in Shanghai, Blizzard announced its next expansion for the digital card game: Knights of the Frozen Throne.
As with most major Hearthstone expansions, it will add 135 new cards to the game, but this marks the first time in the game’s history where Blizzard has released two full-size expansions in a row. Previously, the developer has split up major expansions with smaller “adventure” sets that added around 40 cards each.
As announced earlier this year, Blizzard is doing away with the concept of stand-alone, paid adventure sets. Instead, beginning with Knights of the Frozen Throne, every expansion will include free single-player missions of the variety that used to exist in those adventures.
Blizzard says the Knights of the Frozen Throne single-player content will include two wings of three boss fights each, along with a prologue and a final boss fight. For each wing players complete (including the final boss), they will earn a free Knights of the Frozen Throne card pack, for a total of three packs.
With all the new cards, Blizzard is introducing two major new mechanics to the game. First off, cards can now have a new keyword: lifesteal. Whether it’s on a spell, a weapon or a minion, cards marked with lifesteal will heal the player who used them for any damage dealt.
One example of lifesteal, pictured above, is the Chillblade Champion. This paladin minion has charge, which means it can attack the same turn it’s played, and also has lifesteal. So in essence, a paladin player can get this minion on the board and heal three health to themselves in the same turn.
Blizzard also showed off a spell that uses lifesteal: the priest card Spirit Lash (pictured above). For two mana, this card will deal one damage to all minions on the board and then convert that damage into health for the priest. This has potential to be both a powerful board clear ability and a nice boost of healing, and it’s a great tool against rush decks that flood the board with cheap, low-health minions.
Knights of the Frozen Throne also introduces the concept of hero cards. Playing a hero card will actually transform the player’s chosen hero character, changing their hero power ability. These changes will all be themed around the idea of transforming the characters into death knights, the fearsome undead warriors of Warcraft lore who serve the titular Frozen Throne.
Only one hero card has been revealed so far — the hunter card, Deathstalker Rexxar (pictured above). This legendary card will cost six mana, and when played it will deal two damage to all enemy minions and give the hunter five armor.
Those effects are powerful and arguably well worth the six mana in and of themselves. But on top of that, playing the Deathstalker Rexxar hero card will change the hunter’s hero power to “Build-a-Beast,” an ability with the description “craft a custom Zombeast.”
After spending two mana to use this ability, players will be presented with a choice of three random beast cards, and then three more random beast cards. The two chosen cards will be combined, adding up the mana cost, attack power, health and card text of each. In an example shown, the player chose the hunter beast Rat Pack and combined it with the neutral Bloodfen Raptor. This created a five-cost minion with five attack, four health and a deathrattle that fills the board with one-attack, one-health rats.
“You can do some really disgusting things when you jam two of these beasts together,” Hearthstone director Ben Brode said in the announcement video.
Hero cards are legendary, which will make collecting them a more time-consuming task than other cards in the set. However, Blizzard says players will receive one random hero card for free by completing the prologue portion of Knights of the Frozen Throne’s single-player content.
Blizzard also recently made major changes to how it gives out legendary cards. Players are now guaranteed to open at least one legendary within the first 10 packs of a new expansion. Any subsequent legendaries are now guaranteed to be ones they do not own, so players don’t need to worry about cracking open repeats of legendary cards they already have instead of something new and exciting.
Beyond showing off the new mechanics, Blizzard revealed a couple other cards from Knights of the Frozen Throne. The legendary card Prince Keleseth (pictured above) is a cheap minion with a major risk/reward effect. If you play him in a deck that has no other two-cost minions, you will buff up all your other minions by one attack and one health. Traditionally, two-cost minions are some of the most important and most heavily weighed in Hearthstone decks; it’s possible a card like this could push players to explore new strategies, or it could just end up ignored because two-cost cards are just too important.
The Shallow Gravedigger (pictured above) is a fairly straightforward minion. It’s not terribly powerful as-is, but given the death-heavy theme of the expansion in general, it’s possible we’ll see other powerful Deathrattle cards or Deathrattle-buffing cards that would make Shallow Gravedigger a solid choice for some decks.
Blizzard says Knights of the Frozen Throne will launch in August. More card reveals are coming starting on July 24. Beginning today, players can partake in a special pre-order deal for the expansion, where they can get 50 packs for a special price of $49.99. As with previous deals of this variety, the pre-order will also include a special Frozen Throne-themed card back.