In a move that's bound to delight both World of Warcraft veterans and fans of Disney's Frozen (surely a sizeable Venn diagram intersection anyway), Blizzard has today announced that the next Hearthstone expansion will, as predicted, be themed around Wrath of the Lich King. The new set of 135 cards is called Knights of the Frozen Throne, and it's due to arrive sometime in August. To which your immediate question is likely: "So, have they finally added the Death Knight class?" And my answer is "kinda yes, but also no."
Let me explain. Since the start of Hearthstone players have earmarked Death Knight as the most likely 10th hero class (sorry Monk fans), with the assumption being that it would be added once the game was in need of freshening up. But Blizzard has always been cagey about talk of a new class. Probably because it would lead to every player focusing on the new hero in the weeks following launch, likely leading to a pretty samey meta. So, instead of adding the Death Knight as its own hero, Knights of the Frozen offers a more interesting solution: All the existing heroes get to become Death Knights.
Each class gets a new legendary 'Hero Card' that transforms them into a Death Knight, complete with a different hero power and other potent effects. In the cards spoiled so far Hunter gets to become Deathstalker Rexxar. This costs six Mana, and upon transformation gives you five armor and deals two damage to all enemy minions. A useable AoE effect in Hunter? I never thought I'd live to see it.
Cooler still is the hero power, which for two Mana enables you to 'Craft a custom Zombeast'. In the example shown, the player twice picked from a Discover-style selection of beasts, and the resulting Zombeast card was a smushed mix of their abilities—in this case a buffed Stampeding Kodo with Charge. It's like a teleporter accident at the zoo, and seems pretty good.
Also new to Knights of the Frozen is the keyword 'Lifesteal'. The way this works is that however much damage a Lifesteal card does, your hero will be healed for the same amount. It's essentially 'Drain' from The Elder Scrolls Legends, which was itself just 'Lifelink' from Magic: The Gathering—in any case, certainly a powerful effect, and one to look out for on cards like the new Paladin minion Chillblade Champion. Stick Blessing of Kings on that bad boy and it's a potential 14-point health swing from a single attack.
Knights of the Frozen will be the second full set released in Hearthstone's 'Year of the Mammoth', and true to its word Blizzard is including some single-player PvE content to compensate for the lack of any standalone 'Adventures'. Everyone will be given access to a prologue mission, followed by two wings comprising three bosses each, finishing up with a clash against the coffin-dodging Lich King himself.
The prologue mission also rewards you with one of the new legendary Hero Cards (picked at random, because hey Hearthstone) to get you started with your Death Knighting. This is a smart move by Blizzard, echoing the free C'thun which came with Whispers of the Old Gods. It shows that the design team has learned from one of the few mistakes they made with the Journey to Un'Goro expansion, which was too stingy to give players a Quest card for free. It's actually testament to that the usual is only now starting to set in. The timing of Knights of the Frozen arriving next month feels perfect.
Elsewhere it's much as expected, with a frosty new game board, similarly icy card back, and of course the obligatory discounted bundle of card packs. We'll have more thoughts on the Death Knight cards as they're revealed, but for now this is looking very fresh indeed. (In a snow-coated, cadaverous kind of way.)