Ahead of next year's 10th anniversary for Hearthstone, initial design lead Cora Georgiou took to the stage at BlizzCon today to reveal what's coming next for both the standard game mode and its (arguably more popular) Battlegrounds spin-off.
We already know quite a bit about the next expansion, Showdown in the Badlands, which is Hearthstone's riff on the Wild West. Georgiou announced that it will also be the first set to include a neutral 'Hero' card (ie one that replaces your current hero power, in addition to conferring other bonuses).
That card is Reno, Lone Ranger, it costs 8 Mana, and the text reads: "Battlecry: If your deck has no duplicates, empty the enemy board and limit it to 1 minion for a turn. It's high noon!" Reno's new hero power reads: Shoot this turn's magic bullet!"
That initial board clear effect is so powerful, and no-duplicate decks have historically been so popular that I'd be amazed if Reno, Lone Ranger doesn't see a ton of play. At the Hearthstone: What's Next panel (you can watch BlizzCon via BlizzCon.com, YouTube, or on Twitch) the team explained that Reno's crystal hand cannon swaps effect each turn. Here are the possible bullets it can fire:
During theBlizzCon opening ceremony, Georgiou also revealed a new kind of card pack is on the way, dubbed 'Catch Up' packs. These will contain cards drawn from the last two years of sets (meaning the cards will be eligible to play in the Standard or Wild game modes), but the kicker is that each contains up to 50 cards. The aim here is to get lapsed or new players' card collections up to scratch.
I asked about why the packs contain "up to 50" cards, rather than an exact number, and a Blizzard spokesperson told me: "[Catch Up packs] look at what cards you’re missing that are preventing you from having a full collection, and try to fill you in based on your collection status."
At present, catch-up packs are not purchasable, but you'll be able to receive them as part of various promotions. The spokesperson told us: "At the moment, you can earn Catch-Up Packs in-game (as well as from attending BlizzCon/purchasing either BlizzCon Collection), and they’ll be added into pre purchase bundles for Showdown in the Badlands, no matter if you prepurchased prior to BlizzCon or after our announcement."
Update: Blizzard has posted an article breaking down exactly how Catch Up packs work here.
Georgiou did say that all players will get at least one Catch Up pack as a log-in reward. Blizzard has been experimenting with generous incentives in terms of free packs for players coming back to the game, with some reporting receiving 150 as a welcome gift. Cynically, you may assume this is in response to a shrinking playerbase, but whatever the reason, it's good that the notoriously expensive game is loosening the purse strings in the players' favor.
Duos coming to Battlegrounds
The other big bit of Hearthstone news from Blizzcon concerned the Battlegrounds mode. "What started as an experiment has become a huge part of the game," said Georgiou before announcing that Battlegrounds Duos will launch in early 2024. When the mode arrives you'll be able to queue up with a buddy, sharing the same health pool and sending cards back and forth between each other.
Again, it wasn't clear exactly how that will play out, but obviously it sounds like a major change from the way the auto-battler currently functions. The mode is going to be playable on the BlizzCon show floor this weekend, so we should know more in the next few hours.
Georgiou also said that there will be a raft of new heroes and minions, many of which have been explicitly designed for Duos play. These days I spend much more time in Battlegrounds than Standard, largely because it doesn't tilt me off the face of the planet with the same regularity. So, it looks like I'll need to find a friend to jam some games with in 2023. (And then immediately abandon them when they refuse to accept my 'Force Demons' strategy in every lobby that they're available.)
Here are the other new Shadow in the Badlands card revealed in the What's Next panel. Note: If you're wondering why The Azerite Ox is so powerful, it's the Warrior class's highest reward for maxxing out your uses of the new 'Excavate' keyword.