Update: Blizzard performs incredible Deathstalker Rexxar u-turn, new zombeasts are inbound!

Update: Holy heck, Huffer fans—it actually worked! This morning Blizzard announced that following the fan feedback about Deathstalker Rexxar's hero power not evolving as new Beast cards are released, the developer has had a change of heart and will now be updating the card accordingly. On the official Hearthstone forum community manager Keganbe wrote:

"We will be updating Deathstalker Rexxar’s Hero Power to include new Beasts going forward. Please be patient, as this is a fairly complicated endeavor and we may need to start with a smaller change before a more permanent solution is implemented. We don’t have a date for this change to share with you today, but we will provide more information once we have it.

Please also note that as new Beasts are released, we may need to mark some of them as exempt for various reasons, much like how King of Beasts is currently excluded from the pool of Beasts that Deathstalker Rexxar’s Hero Power can pull from. Thank you for providing constructive feedback. We see your love and passion for Hearthstone and believe that the best way to make Hearthstone better is to do so together."

Honestly, this is tremendous news. As I said yesterday, Deathstalker Rexxar is one of the most fun cards in the game, and the fact he'll keep changing from expansion to expansion only adds to the sweetness of the design. Really glad Blizzard heard the fans on this one, and can't wait to start making even more gross Zombeasts.

Original story: Last Friday I wrote that with the release of Hearthstone's new Kobolds & Catacombs expansion, the associated subreddit was an unusually sunny place to browse. That lasted all of five minutes. Weirdly, this time the issue isn't with one of the new cards, (though complaints about the ubiquity of Corridor Creeper are already in the post), but with one of the Hero cards from Knights of the Frozen Throne, the previous set. Over the weekend it was discovered that Deathstalker Rexxar, the Death Knight card for the Hunter class, isn't using any of the new Beast cards when you activate his hero power.

For those unfamiliar with the how Deathstalker Rexxar works, its hero power enables you to stitch together two existing Beast cards into a new Zombeast card. This Zombeast will have the combined stats and mana cost of whatever you pick, plus all the card text associated. Here's a pretty good one I made earlier. As a proud owner of a golden version of the card, I was excited to see how the pool of possible beasts would switch up with each new expansion. However, it seems that's not going to happen. Hearthstone's principal designer Mike Donais joined the conversation on Reddit to explain why: 

"The challenge was not a coding one. It was combining 2 text boxes into one across 15 languages. A lot of things that work ok in English don't work as well in other languages. When text is written for a card, it has very specific templates and line breaks and spacing to make it fit and look good and some languages actually have very different rules and would surprise you what they have to do."

Donais added that he would "mention it again to the guy who works with the 15 localization teams regardless", but that didn't stop his comment getting downvoted 312 times. What's slightly strange is that Kobolds & Catacombs didn't actually add that many new eligible Beasts. Of the neutral cards there's only Dire Mole, which has no text, Plated Beetle and Stoneskin Basilisk, both of which have desirable and shortly-worded effects. The problem is likely to be the remaining neutral, Shimmering Conjurer, and the Hunter card Cave Hydra, which each have lengthy card text and annoyingly would be pretty good picks. 

The simplest explanation is that Blizzard doesn't want to have to deal with performing maintenance on one legendary card every single expansion. Which I guess is fine, but if so it should probably have been communicated that better on release. Like most players, I just assumed Deathstalker Rexxar would discover from whatever Beasts were currently around. 

With a surprising amount of negative reaction on Reddit—surprising, given that this wasn't exactly the most played card in the first place—game designer Ryan "Realz" Masterson weighed in to offer a more lengthy explanation for why Blizzard chose the path of limiting the card's options. I'm posting it in full below:

"During KFT development, some designers thought it would be cool if DK Rexxar did something similar to Kazakus (create a custom spell) and could stitch together two beasts to make a custom one. We talked about how that could work, including considering making custom minions exclusive to DK Rexxar with simple abilities that could be interesting when combined (like Kazakus). As you know, we ultimately settled on the existing set of beasts to represent the tools DK Rexxar has at his disposal.

"One major concern was the text. If you imagine combining any two cards with longer text, 4 lines from each becomes 7-8 lines of tiny text, and needing a magnifying glass to read a Hearthstone card (including and especially on mobile) would be a bit silly. With this in mind, every combination needed attention, and since every localized language is different, different languages had to settle concerns with different combinations. Moving forward, the number of new combinations introduced would grow (and grow and grow) with each expansion. We also would either have to restrict ourselves and never make a complex Beast with a long text box, or exclude cards on an case-by-case basis.

"Given the above, we knew we couldn't make a version of DK Rexxar with future updating. We gave DK Rexxar a set pool of options like Kazakus, but this time the pieces would start off as existing recognizable cards before they're combined.

"So we had to decide: Should we still make this card? We thought (and still think) the answer is absolutely - Yes! We wouldn't have as many cool cards in the game if new ideas were tossed aside at the first sniff of imperfection. DK Rexxar is really fun, and we hope players agree that the version we have now is definitely worth having in the game."

The future for our undead furry friends

Realz isn't wrong about Deathstalker Rexxar still being fun. Despite it not being the strongest of the Death Knights, every time you hit that hero power button it feels good. I mean, who doesn't want to create a giant wasp that is also a charging rhino. But it would also feel better if that power, dangerous though it is, kept evolving with the game. The fact it's a Discover effect that doesn't work how other Discover effects do should also trouble Blizzard, given that it's usually keen to maintain consistency. 

My hope is some sort of middle ground solution can be found that just shows the two picked parent cards when you hover over the newly created Zombeast. 

I've asked Blizzard for an up to date statement on whether there are any further plans to address the card. As scandals go, this one seems slightly small potatoes. On Reddit all the existing complaint threads have had to be merged into an enormous stickied megathread, which gives you an idea of how that site's readers feel about the issue. 

Alternatively, you could check out our list of fun Kobolds and Catacombs decks which the pros have been playing so far. All-spells Hunter may ultimately prove to be another meme, but right now it's a ton of fun, and Deathstalker Rexxar is a very good card in it.

Tim Clark

With over two decades covering videogames, Tim has been there from the beginning. In his case, that meant playing Elite in 'co-op' on a BBC Micro (one player uses the movement keys, the other shoots) until his parents finally caved and bought an Amstrad CPC 6128. These days, when not steering the good ship PC Gamer, Tim spends his time complaining that all Priest mains in Hearthstone are degenerates and raiding in Destiny 2. He's almost certainly doing one of these right now.