When the next annual standard rotation takes place in Hearthstone, the Year of the Phoenix ending to be replaced by the Year of the Gryphon, it'll be a bigger shakeup than usual. This year, the Basic and Classic sets are going to be replaced by the Core Set, a bundle of 235 cards (160 class cards and 75 neutrals) that will include rebalanced and reimagined versions of well-known favorites alongside completely new cards.
Among the reimagined cards is Ysera, who used to give you one of her powerful Dream cards each turn. Ysera will become Ysera the Dreamer, and will instead give players one of each Dream card when played. Given that these cards are all nutty, it's a very powerful effect. She's not the only dragon aspect changing, either. Both Malygos and Deathwing are also getting reimagined cards, which you can see further down the page.
PC Gamer asked Blizzard whether players who have the golden version of the original cards will automatically get golden versions of the new ones. "You do not," game director Ben Lee told us, "but there are pretty easy ways to unlock those that players can participate in—basically, through achievements."
"You can earn all the Core cards," added production director Nathan Lyons-Smith. "You play the game, you get wins, you earn the cards—both the Standard and Golden versions. I think it's super exciting here that we're giving players a way to get meaningfully cool Dragon aspects for free, just by playing the game. As a player seven years ago, I would have never thought that would be possible."
Elsewhere in the new Core set, some of Shaman's egregiously expensive Overload cards have been rebalanced. For example, Feral Spirit will now only Overload for 1, making it easier to play cards on the subsequent turn.
The Core set will also include some returning 'favourites' from old expansions that are currently only playable in the Wild mode. As you've already gathered from the picture at the top, that means the comeback of Annoy-O-Tron, retired four years ago, who will once again be filling our brains with his honking HELLO HELLO HELLO.
Spell cards are changing too, with the permanent addition of spell schools. Every spell will be assigned one of seven schools—Arcane, Fire, Frost, Holy, Nature, Shadow, and Fel—which will allow for abilities that affect cards of specific schools, but not others.
Not everything is being changed though—staple cards such as Fireball and Tirion Fordring, for instance, remain the same. And 29 of the Core Set's cards are totally new. When the Year of the Gryphon starts players will be able to unlock the Core Set as they work each class to level 10. Those who've already reached the required level will have their collections automatically updated.
Here's a look at some of the Core Set.
As Blizzard previously explained in an FAQ, during next year's card rotation the Core Set will be swapped out for a new one, obtained the same way.
As to how much the Core set will change each year, Lee told PC Gamer: "We want the Core set to function as real, playable cards, and that's something we're committed to for the future. We're going to learn a lot in the first [few] months of this. Then, every expansion that goes past is going to influence our decisions for next year as well.
"I think a big part of the Core Set every year is there probably should be some exciting Legendaries. This year we're adding Vanessa Van Cleef. I love her design, it's really interesting and really fun. Thematically, it makes sense: Edwin's just gone and Vanessa's reappearing. Stuff like that is really cool. It tells a little story that I think players can get on board with and understand."
The other change coming with the Year of the Gryphon is the Hearthstone Classic format, which will sit alongside Standard and Wild and allow players to play Hearthstone as it was in 2014, prior to Curse of Naxxramas. Cards you can play in this format will have their own section in the collection manager and Classic Card Packs (useable in Classic or Wild) will be available to buy, with everything set at its original cost and stats. So yes, it's World of Warcraft Classic, but for Hearthstone.
BlizzCon is happening now. Here's how to watch it. So far there's been plenty of Hearthstone news, like Hearthstone Mercenaries, a roguelike mode with teams of heroes and simultaneous combat, and the Forged in the Barrens expansion being very much for the Horde.