Hearthstone's heading to wizard school with the Scholomance Academy expansion (opens in new tab). The expansion releases on August 6 and as always, Blizzard has announced a new keyword to stir up the stagnated meta. Scholomance Academy ushers in Spellburst, a one-time effect that occurs when you cast a spell. Attached to both weapons and minions, this new keyword will encourage players to more carefully consider the best time to play specific minions, and squeeze the most out of their abilities.
Spellburst cards are interesting, but not exactly meta-shaking. They're basically Battlecry cards that are just triggered by playing a spell instead. The effects revealed over the past week are mild, dealing two damage to other minions or returning a card to your hand. We’re no strangers to these abilities, but some cards have particularly forgiving costs and health stats that are sure to make them auto-includes in decks.
Then there’s Headmaster Kel’Thuzad, a neutral Legendary that blows every other Spellburst card out of the water. Your opponent’s in big trouble if they manage to win a Brawl, because if you cast a spell that destroys any minions, Kel’Thuzad's Spellburst will summon them on your side.
Still, while Spellburst is interesting, it's nowhere near as exciting as Scholomance Academy's introduction of dual-class cards. These do exactly what you'd expect: capture the essence of two different classes and blend them into a card that can be played by either. Blizzard is dropping 40 of these mashups into the game, with each of the ten classes pairing with two others to blur the lines of their previously clean-cut playstyles. It's just as we feared too: Whoever teams up with Illidan is bound to receive a crazy new set, and the only fitting companions are Hunter and Warlock.
From the dual-class reveals this week, Hunter looks to have some of the best cards so far, borrowing from Druid and Demon Hunter. Granted, both cards are Legendaries, so they're supposed to be powerful. However, while these cards feature Rexxar's green borders, their card text echos the voices of Malfurian and Illidan. There are no compromises here: Hunter essentially just received Demon Hunter and Druid Legendaries, and both slot into Hunter's current archetypes.
Shan'do Wildclaw is a three-cost 3/3 that lets you either buff beasts in your deck by +1/+1 or transform into a copy of a friendly beast. Spending six mana, you could use this Legendary to copy Zixor, Apex Predator and receive a second Zixor Prime. For the same cost, doubling up on Augmented Porcupines for a nasty burst of deathrattle damage will also suffice. Highlander Hunter has been a solid Tier 1 deck for a while, and this card simply offers them more win conditions. Slam down Shan'do Wildclaw after Dinotamer Brann and you’ve got a disgusting King Krush duo that Charge for a combined total of 16 damage.
As if Shan'do Wildclaw weren't already a powerful three-drop, Hunter’s crossover with Demon Hunter is another three-mana stunner. Ace Hunter Kreen is a 2/4 that grants your other characters Immune when attacking. While Demon Hunters are usually more concerned with the opponent's face, this card really benefits Hunters as they attempt to build up their side of the board. In a current Highlander Hunter build, this could easily replace Scalerider to help establish early board control. The value from a Faerie Dragon/Stormhammer combo protected by Ace Hunter Keen could be tricky for other classes to handle, which just affords Hunters more time to continue summoning beasts.
While Hunter's dual-class Legendaries feel as though they're lifted straight from other classes, Warlock and Priest complement each other. Both classes are able to alter their health, with Warlocks tapping or sacrificing health for cards, and Priests healing for buffs and survival. Their shared four-mana 3/3, Brittlebone Destroyer, has a Battlecry that destroys a minion, providing that your hero's health has changed beforehand (in the same turn). Considering that hero powers only cost two mana—and there are plenty of cheap spells and minions too—this card offers great value on both sides. Not only does this slot into Warlock decks with ease, it's a more attractive Aeon Reaver for Priests. I'll take a 3/3 that I can guarantee will remove a minion over a six-cost 4/4 that may not be up to the job.
There are still plenty of Scholomance Academy cards left to be revealed, but I’m really impressed with Hunter so far, and Priest and Warlock also look as though they’ll be fun to play without compromising their class identities.
As it stands, I’m not entirely convinced by the Mage’s dedicated Legendary Mozaki, Master Duelist, a five-mana 3/8 with "After you cast a spell, gain Spell Damage +1". Sure, Sorcerer’s Apprentice will come in handy to make spells a little cheaper, and Mozaki looks particularly sticky as a 3/8, but it just feels lacklustre right now. Maybe I’m just a grumpy Mage after the Dragoncaster and Dragonqueen Alexstrasza nerfs (opens in new tab), but I’m craving a game plan that's more calculated than just generating random spells and hoping for the best.