When a game's had as many card sets and metagames to evolve through as Hearthstone, there comes a time when you need to pull back and reassess. Blizzard is doing just that with a forthcoming update, intended to neatly establish each of the classes' core identities with the help of some new cards.
If you're unfamiliar with the model, Hearthstone's competitive ranked mode has a rotating set of cards based on the most recent expansions layered on top of a Base cards and a set called Classic. The Base and Classic sets provide a foundation, ideally a set of tools that are useful without being 100 percent mandatory. This includes cards from each of the nine Hearthstone classes, as well as neutral minions that any class can use.
Blizzard has rotated cards into and out of Classic before, but with the upcoming update, it's adding several cards to Classic, while removing two current options, to define its vision for the game moving forward. In a blog post on the Hearthstone site, the dev team went into detail on the strengths, limitations, and weaknesses of each class as they saw them, before laying out the card changes.
Vanish, a very handy Get Out Of Jail Free card for Rogue players, and Mind Blast, a convenient direct damage spell Priests could use for big damage, are being removed and put into the "Hall of Fame." Replacing them are two cards: Rogues get Plaguebringer, whose Battlecry gives a friendly minion the one-hit kill Poisonous; and Priests get Radiance, a one-mana heal-for-five spell that's essentially the inverse of Mind Blast.
For Priests, we've added Radiance since we wanted to have a low-cost spell that could be used for tricky spell synergies that also provided a powerful baseline heal for the class. Plaguebringer provides Rogues with another way to destroy minions and further establishes this class as the masters of Poison.
Joining the Classic set are a number of new cards, some for specific classes (like the titanic Siegebreaker for Warlock or Divine Shield-granting Righteousness for Paladin) and some neutrals for all classes, like the resurrecting Legendary minion High Inquisitor Whitemane. Blizzard says its been working on these for "quite a while," and feels it's the right time to add them into the game.
While it's only just been announced and there's time to see how this shakes out across the different ranks, initial reactions seem mixed. SI:7 Infiltrator is interesting, as a universal answer to Secrets, and Brightwing seems like a pretty cost-effective early drop with potential for big plays. Where negative consensus falls is on the Priest, who's losing a big card in Mind Blast for a healing card that seems comparably ineffectual. There's hope it opens up space for further exploration of what Priest can do in the future, but it effectively harms a strong Priest archetype without giving it an answer. These cards seem underwhelming by nature, as they're supposed to provide a base without being so powerful as to necessitate using them; but it's a fine point of balance that some don't believe this revision nails.
"I do like the fact that they are clearly establishing class identities and communicating them with us," wrote one Reddit user. "I also understand that they want classic to be a set that is at a lower power [level] than the others, so new expansions are more impactful. However, right now it just feels like we are constantly losing interesting and impactful cards that we've played with for years for new boring and potentially unplayable cards."
Despite reaching 100 million players in 2018, Hearthstone has faced stiff competition in the card game space, and has seen recent trends like auto chess slide into its territory, catching the eye of many prominent streamers and influencers. There was some question as to where the game would head next, after two of its prominent devs left to form their own studio to work on properties like Marvel. These changes, alongside concentrated single-player efforts like The Dalaran Heist campaign, could be bids to bring players back into the fold. Whether a fresh base set will do that or not, at least Vanish is gone.