Hearthstone's Curse Of Naxxramas - Arachnid Quarter verdict

Tim Clark at

After weeks of being drip fed info about Curse of Naxxramas, Hearthstone’s single-player expansion, last night the Hearthstone subreddit had an almost Christmas Eve mood about it. Earlier, Blizzard had splurged the remaining cards over the game’s Facebook page, triggering a wave of combo theorycrafting that was as excitable as some of it was improbable. “So, uh, I could play Echoing Ooze while Sword Of Justice is equipped, give it Blessing Of Kings, and at the end of the turn I’d have a 6/7 and a 7/8 Ooze because the Sword will proc a second time?” Sure! Maybe! Let’s find out!

Truth is, these new cards—Curse of Naxxramas will add 30 in total as its five wings open up over the next five weeks—are desperately needed. After several months of riotous post-launch fun, Hearthstone’s metagame has stabilised around a handful of decks that are mostly based on bursting your opponent’s health down with brutal combos. Before today you couldn’t swing a Wisp on the ranked play ladder without hitting a Double Roar Druid, Miracle Rogue or (ugh) Zoolock. Without the injection of these new cards, there was a real risk of stagnancy.

But now Naxx is here and the hype is very much real. Or at least it is when the servers are working, which they weren’t for much of the afternoon. Slammed, presumably, although (as usual) it seems bizarre this wasn’t planned for. Fortunately, I managed to clear all three boss battles on normal, plus the two class challenges, despite multiple disconnections, earning myself six new cards for my troubles. And, here’s a caveat for you, I did that in just over an hour.

This first wing, The Arachnid Quarter, is free to enter over the month-long course of Naxx’s launch, but each subsequent wing costs real cash or in-game gold. (Bundles are available. Pricing details here.) The ease with which you can race through the unlocks may give some pause for thought, but I should also add that I used the leaked info about the bosses to pre-build some decks I thought would be effective. Which they partly were. Here’s how the the first wing played out for me...

[spoiler warnings]

Anub'Rekhan

Reward:Haunted Creeper
Deck used:Freeze Mage variant
The new Naxxramas themed board looks as gloriously spidery and slimey as expected. The first boss is Anub’Rekhan, a Nerubian lord who summons 3/1 spiders for the price of 2 Mana. (Somewhat better than the Paladin’s 1/1 ‘dude’ hero power.) Reasoning that I need to be able to ping these spiders consistently, I opt for a modified version of the Freeze Mage deck, with plenty of burn it to finish the big bug off.

I can almost sense the AI’s irritation as I draw Mirror Image, and then play a Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Unable to bust through the 0/2 Taunts quickly enough, I’m able to use the Water Elemental and Azure Drake to maintain board control. Around turn 7 I draw my Pyroblast, and from there it’s a simple matter of chipping his health down to 10. In the end I actually finish him off a turn early with a Thalnos-powered Fireball. Anub’Rekt! *high fives self*.

Grand Widow Faerlina

Reward:Nerub’ar Weblord
Deck used:Black & Blue Warrior
Next up, it’s the pleasing anime stylings of Grand Widow Faerlina. Her hero power involves firing a salvo of missiles, the number of which depends on how many cards you’re holding. Clearly I need to empty my hand fast, so I opt for a variant of Reynad’s infamous Zoo deck and promptly get my ass handed to me. Serves me right for straying onto the path of aggro evil.

I return with Blackacre’s recent Control Warrior build, and get pretty lucky. I decide to go completely ham in the midgame, sending an Argent Commander at her face despite having no other cards left and facing a formidable board. With the Widow on 3 health, but likely having lethal damage against me next turn, I luckily top deck a Fiery War Axe and finish her off. Much to the terror of Tom, our intern, who I almost hug. Next!

Maexxna

Reward:Nerubian Egg & Maexxna
Deck used: Maxxed Out Warrior
The final boss of the Arachnid Quarter is, appropriately, a big-ass spider. Maexnna’s power is to return a random one of your creatures to your hand for 3 Mana. To counteract this I again go for a Control Warrior, but this time with additional weapons and more Minions that have Charge to ensure I get my damage in quickly. Initially things go exactly according to plan, and I manage to deal with a Sea Giant using Cruel Taskmaster and Execute.

However, the arrival of a Sludge Belcher (the new 5 mana upgrade on Senjin Shieldmasta which leaves behind a 1/2 Taunt behind it), stops me in my tracks. I end up having to run Leeeeeroy into it and then things get close. Late on another lucky top deck, this time Gorehowl, secures me the win. GG, AI. But the cards are mine now.

Next page: Class challenges, Heroic Mode and verdict