In what represents the biggest change to Hearthstone in the six years since it launched, the next expansion will introduce a brand new 10th class. Many players had long given up hope of that ever happening due to the balance complexities it involves, but with the arrival of Ashes of Outland on 7 April, the fearsome Demon Hunter class will become fully playable.
Who is Illidan Stormrage?
Illidan is Malfurion's brother and resident WoW anti-hero, a night-elf that betrayed his people to embrace demonic power so he could use the Burning Legion's own weapons against them. His nickname, The Betrayer, is well-earned. He switches sides often and only works to further his own mission to destroy Sargeras and the Burning Legion.
The Demon Hunter's Hero Power is Demon Claws, which provides a one-mana, one-turn +1 boost to the hero's attack power. That might sound a little drab, but the low cost compared to other hero powers makes it very flexible. The Demon Hunter class also has access to an exclusive new keyword called Outcast, which triggers additional powerful effects when the card is played from the far-right or far-left position of your hand.
The Demon Hunter Hero is, of course, Illidan Stormrage—self-proclaimed Lord of the Outland and First of the Demon Hunters. Blizzard describes him: "He’s an aggressive attacker who leads his fel-infused forces into the fray, rending his foes with weapons and claws. Where other Heroes may focus on buffing and healing their minions, Illidan is less concerned with keeping them alive—even benefiting from their deaths—as he is more than willing to make difficult sacrifices to defeat those who stand in his way."
A brand-new class calls for a full-on analysis, and we've got you covered: Tim played Demon Hunter for a whole day at Blizzard, so you can check out his deep dive right here.
The Demon Hunter class will be free for all players who complete the Demon Hunter Prologue missions, which tell Stormrage's origin story with a Hearthstone twist. All ten Demon Hunter Basic cards will also be free to everyone, along with a new Demon Hunter Initiate set of 20 cards. A total of 45 further Demon Hunter cards will be rolled out over the course of three expansions planned for the Year of the Phoenix.
Take a look at the starting batch of Demon Hunter cards from the Basic and Initiate sets.
And here are three more which are part of the Ashes of Outland expansion. The rest will be revealed over the coming weeks, including one on this very site on 18 March.
Ashes of Outland also adds a new, more powerful kind of legendary minion called Primes. Every class except the Demon Hunter has a unique Prime, each of which has a powerful Deathrattle effect: After they're removed from the board, a dramatically-upgraded version of the card is shuffled back into the deck. The Warrior minion Kargath Bladefist, for instance, starts as a 4-Mana 4/4 with Rush, but when upgraded to Kargath Prime becomes an 8-mana 10/10 with Rush, granting 10 armor whenever he kills an enemy minion.
Another new kind of card introduced in the expansion is called Imprisoned Demons. They lie dormant (ie unable to attack or be harmed) for two turns after they're played—but which have powerful "tempo-shifting effects" once they awaken.
A big, welcome change to opening card packs is also coming in Year of the Phoenix. Duplicate protection, which ensures that players do not receive duplicate legendary cards from packs, will be extended to all card rarities. That means you will not receive a third common, rare, or epic card from any expansion pack until you've got at least two cards from every other card of the same rarity.
Even better, the expanded dupe protection will apply to card packs from all previous expansions, including any that you may currently have sitting around unopened. That'll get you where you want to go more quickly, and it should save you some money, too—we've got a breakdown of the numbers here.
The Year of the Phoenix will also see an update to the Priest class which will replace six Basic and Classic Priest cards, as well as a rebalancing of other crucial cards in the set—full details on that are available here. The Witchwood, The Boomsday Project, and Rastakhan’s Rumble card will migrate to Wild at the start of the year, and nine cards from the Classic set, and two from Basic, will be added to the Hall of Fame:
- Acolyte of Pain (Neutral)
- Leeroy Jenkins (Neutral)
- Mind Control Tech (Neutral)
- Mountain Giant (Neutral)
- Spellbreaker (Neutral)
- Auchenai Soulpriest (Priest)
- Holy Fire (Priest)
- Prophet Velen (Priest)
- Shadowform (Priest)
- Divine Spirit (Priest)
- Northshire Cleric (Priest)
Blizzard also plans changes to ranked play, with better matchmaking and improvements to the progression system, free competitive decks for new and lapsed players, and more content throughout the year including in-game events, free Solo Adventures, and major Hearthstone: Battlegrounds updates. Hearthstone: Ashes of Outland is set to go live on April 7. Full details are up at playhearthstone.com.