Hearthstone is getting a big shakeup with a new 'Core Set' and Classic Format

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Some big changes are on the way to Hearthstone, which will replace Basic and Standard cards in the Standard format with a new Core Set of 235 cards, free for all players, that Blizzard says is "intended to provide a modern collection of starting cards to players of all types and make Hearthstone even more approachable for newcomers."

The Core Set will break down like this:

  • 88 cards returning from Classic (54 class cards, 34 neutral cards).
  • 54 cards returning from Basic (41 class cards, 13 neutral cards).
  • 55 cards returning from Wild (36 class cards, 19 neutral cards).
  • 4 cards returning from Ashes of Outland (4 Demon Hunter Class cards).
  • 4 cards returning from Demon Hunter Initiate.
  • 1 card returning from Hall of Fame (Shadowform).
  • 29 new cards (20 Class cards, 9 Neutral cards).

Cards in the new Core Set will be earned by leveling up each class, the same way as they're currently earned in the Basic Set. Cards will be awarded as players climb through levels 1-10 for each class, Neutral Core cards will unlock based on the overall number of class levels achieved, and Golden version can be unlocked by earning achievements in each class. 

If you've already achieved level 10 or higher across all classes, which will be the case for many players, you'll get the full Core Set for free when it becomes available following the next set rotation. However, unlocking a card in the Core Set will not grant you access to it its original set. 

"Unlocking a card in the Core Set doesn’t grant you ownership of the card in its original set," Blizzard explained in an FAQ. "You can use them for the duration of the year. Next year, a different set of cards will comprise the Core Set."

That's another big change: The start of each new year in Hearthstone will see the existing Core Set "refreshed" with a new set made up of new and existing cards. Blizzard clarified that there will be no dust refunds arising from the change, because no cards in Standard or Wild are being nerfed: "We are rotating Basic and Classic to Wild just like other card sets that have moved to Wild in the past, and providing the new Core Set for free," the FAQ says.

The Hall of Fame is also being retired: Once the Core Set goes live, Basic and Classic sets will instead move to Wild as the Legacy Set, which aside from a few exceptions—Greymane, Baku the Mooneater, and other Hall of Fame cards from the Witchwood will return to the Witchwood set, and Shadowform will return to Standard as part of the Core Set—will also include current Hall of Fame cards.

Here's a quick rundown of how it will all look when the changes are in place:

(Image credit: Blizzard)

And in an echo of Blizzard's decision to finally release World of Warcraft Classic in 2019, it's also rolling out a new Classic Format for Hearthstone that will make use of the game's original 240 cards—in their original incarnations.

"When logging in after our patch for the next expansion (before expansion content unlocks), your entire collection of Basic, Classic, and relevant Hall of Fame cards will be mirrored and available for deck building in the Classic format—as they were in the patch of June 2014 (after we made a few important changes), with any and all balance changes since then reverted," Blizzard said. "Yes, in the Classic format Warsong Commander can give minions Charge, Holy Smite can go face, and Leeroy Jenkins will cost 4 mana! If you want to relive the old-school Hearthstone experience, Classic will be the place for you!"

Access to the Classic format will be granted when you unlock access to Wild, and it will have its own separate matchmaking pool. Classic format cards will appear in their own section of the Collection Manager, and Classic decks will have a unique border so you'll be able to tell them apart from Standard and Wild decks. Classic packs will add two versions of cards to your collection, one for Classic format and another for your Legacy set in Wild, with different stats for each where applicable: Knife Juggler in Wild will have 2 attack and 2 health, for instance, while the Classic version will have 3 attack and 2 health.

Launch dates for all of the above haven't been announced, but Blizzard said the Classic format will go live with the patch for Hearthstone's next expansion, and the Core Set will arrive with the next set rotation, when the next expansion unlocks. The full Core Set will be revealed in the card library a few days after BlizzCon, which this year will run as an online-only event, fully free for all viewers, over February 19-20.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.