Ragnaros and Sylvanas will only be playable in Wild once Hearthstone’s next set launches

Sylvanas Windrunner and Ragnaros the Firelord are two of Hearthstone’s most iconic cards. Both are crucial characters in WoW lore and have been ever-present in decks since Hearthstone’s vanilla days. But today Blizzard announced that when the next set launches they will no longer be playable in the game’s main Standard mode, along with four other classic cards that Blizzard has deemed problematic. Instead, Rag and Sylv will be sent to live in Wild, the format where old sets remain playable after rotating out. Hopefully Doctor Boom is planning some sort of welcoming party.

The news comes as part of a suite of announcements related to the transition from the game’s Year of the Kraken, (you’d forgotten that was a thing, hadn’t you?), into the Year of the Mammoth. All of the cards due to be removed from Standard are in the gallery below, along with Blizzard’s explanation for why each was problematic. Azure Drake is the only other neutral being taken out, (the latest blow in Blizzard’s war on efficient card draw), while the others—Ice Lance, Conceal and Power Overwhelming—are all class-specific cards.

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"Stealth is a very powerful mechanic, and can also be very frustrating to play against—more for some classes than others. Hearthstone should ultimately be a game of plays and counter plays, and Conceal makes it increasingly more difficult for other classes to interact with Rogue minions as time goes on. We considered promoting Gadgetzan Auctioneer to Wild instead, but in the end we decided to move Conceal because Auctioneer has proven to be one of the most skill testing cards in the game. We think the power level of Auctioneer decreases with this change, and games where Auctioneer is played will be a bit more interactive."

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"Azure Drake is a strong Neutral card that ended up being a bit too versatile, and thus became one of the most played cards in the game. There should be more five drop options for players, rather than considering Azure Drake an auto-include."

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"Similar to Azure Drake, it’s hard to see a card at the six mana cost out-value Sylvanas. In addition, Sylvanas has the most powerful Deathrattle effect in the game—as a comparison, the Priest card Mind Control costs 10 mana. We have exciting Deathrattle build-arounds coming soon, and in combination with Sylvanas, they would be too powerful for Standard."

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"Ragnaros is heavily played in both control and mid-range decks and even shows up as a finisher in certain types of aggro decks. His high immediate value and strength at the eight mana cost made the decision during deck-building, 'Is this eight mana minion better than Ragnaros?' rather than, 'Is this eight mana minion the best choice for my deck type?' Dozens of cards in the seven to nine mana range never saw play because Ragnaros was always the easy choice in that range, and some decks only want to run one high cost card."

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"Power Overwhelming allows for extremely mana-efficient minion trades or high spikes of damage for only one mana. Keeping this card exclusive to Wild will prevent some crazy combinations and spike damage. Warlock decks also tend to use lots of Classic cards, so the decks changes less when new expansions release. This change will help increase the variety of cards in Warlock decks over time."

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"Freeze Mage is a fun deck that has been around for over three years now, and we’d like to see more variety with Mage decks after each major release. This move allows Freeze Mage to continue existing in Wild, while creating more variety in Standard. Ice Lance also prevented us from making powerful Spell Damage cards and designs that allowed you to duplicate your cards. Ice Lance was also a very high burst damage card, sometimes being a key component of 30 damage combos."

The implications for Freeze Mage players in Standard are dire (which I won't shed any tears about), but perhaps the real surprise is that Gadgetzan Auctioneer has been left to roam free in both formats. Explaining the decision to remove the cards from Standard, Blizzard said: 

“When cards show up too frequently in decks and are considered auto-includes, deck-building becomes more limited. Deck variety stagnates, potentially interesting build-around cards fall by the wayside, and the gameplay experience begins to feel less dynamic. Most cards should feel like situational additions to a deck, depending on the deck archetype the player is trying to build.” 

The six classic cards leaving Standard will now form the start of what Blizzard calls the Hall of Fame set, suggesting more removals from could follow if required.

To sweeten the pill for owners of the dearly departed, Blizzard is going to give them free dust with which to craft new cards. “We wanted to allow players to disenchant Classic cards that are being added to the Hall of Fame set for full dust refunds, but then felt that incentivizing players to dust their cool Wild cards was counter to our goal of making Wild awesome. So instead, we're just going to give you the dust, and you can keep the cards! Up to the maximum number of cards you could put in a deck, we will give you the full dust value of any cards you have that are being added to the Hall of Fame set.  (Yes, that means if you have at least one Golden Ragnaros, you'll get 3200 dust!) The dust will be automatically awarded upon log-in once the Year of the Mammoth begins."

Sylvanas Windrunner

Both Sylvanas and Ragnaros have topped our list of the best legendary cards in the past, but soon she will have no time for games in Standard.

Speaking as an owner of a golden Sylv, Rag, and a pair of Azure Drakes, that news is very welcome. In terms of removing the cards, my immediate reaction is that it’s a bold, but necessary move. Speaking to a senior developer on Team 5 recently, I suggested it would be a shame if Ragnaros coin flips continued to win games at major tournaments, as was the case at last year’s World Championships. I said I hoped the card would be relegated to Wild, but my source pointed out: "The problem is that it’s like taking Tracer off the Overwatch box", referring to how iconic the characters are. Nonetheless, Team 5 has decided to go ahead with what is bound to be a hotly-debated change.

The exact date we say sayonara to Sylv and Rag from Standard has yet to be announced, but it will happen at the same time the next set launches—which, based on last year’s timeline, should be revealed within the next few weeks. What we can say for sure, because it’s also in the announcement, is that the next expansion will be a full set, meaning around 130 cards, rather than one of the smaller adventures. That set is rumored to be called Lost Secrets of Un'Goro, and themed around dinosaurs.

Blizzard is focusing on full sets rather than the smaller adventures in 2017.

At the same time as the new set arrives, The Grand Tournament, Blackrock Mountain and The League Of Explorers will all rotate out of Standard, taking with them powerhouse cards including Emperor Thaurissan, Justicar Trueheart and Reno Jackson. 

Unusually, Blizzard also gave some insight into its plans beyond the next set, and the big news is that adventures are actually going away for now. Instead, there will be two more full sets of around 130 cards each, one released in the middle of the Year of the Mammoth, and the other at the end. Our back of a cigarette packet maths suggests that this will result in a larger Standard card pool overall, and hopefully also a meta that stays fresh for longer. Blizzard isn’t ruling out doing more adventures, but for the foreseeable future PVE content will be integrated for free as part of the full sets.

Here's a rough idea of how the Year of the Mammoth is looking. These are all 130+ card sets.

“Cards will be acquired via packs like other expansions in the past; additionally, each release will include optional single-player missions that will help develop the expansions’ thematic narratives and offer fun challenges. We’d like to continue being flexible and refine the way we roll out content so it’s more enjoyable for all of our players. The second expansion of 2017 will be our first step into this new design, and we plan on building on this concept over time. Additional details about our free single player content will come at a later time.”

The announcement also mentions improved support for Wild, which will be the format used next time Heroic Tavern Brawl rolls around, plus in-client integration for Fireside Gatherings. It’s unclear what that might entail, but fingers crossed it’s another step on the way to a proper tournament mode.

Goodbye green daggers, hello green eyes. Maiev Shadowsong is the new, and free, Rogue hero.

Finally, there’s also a new Rogue hero on the way. Maiev Shadowsong (pictured here) is a Night Elf warden who you’ll be able to earn simply by winning 10 games of Casual or Ranked play in Standard mode once the new expansion launches. Don’t make that face. On the logic that Blizzard eventually buffs the least-played class, there’s bound to be some new Hunter monstrosity that you can bang the wins out with. 

Let me know what you make of the changes in the comments below, even if it’s just to tell me of the sweetest time you purged someone by fire.