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Hearthstone’s first new class since launch is a game-changer

The next expansion, Ashes of Outlands, is a big one

Illidan Stormrage artwork Image: Blizzard Entertainment
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

Hearthstone has held steady at nine classes since the game’s launch. Each class comes from World of Warcraft and has its own hero power, a pool of unique cards, strengths, and weaknesses. While World of Warcraft would eventually add more classes, Hearthstone has kept the core nine.

Now, a new class is coming to the game: the Demon Hunter. Illidan Stormrage, the Demon Hunter, will be coming to Hearthstone in the Ashes of Outland expansion, along with a free campaign that re-tells his origin story and grants players the Demon Hunter deck they need to play the class in competitive modes.

A second story campaign, based around a new threat called the Rusted Legion, will be coming to Hearthstone in a future patch. The Rusted Legion, run by Mecha-Jaraxxus, is raising the heroes who have fallen across Outland ... and strapping buzzsaws and lasers to them.

Here’s everything coming to Hearthstone in the upcoming Ashes of Outland expansion, from big mechanics to little Easter eggs.

The Demon Hunter

“Demon Hunters are brutal, in your face attackers that wield foul magic and utilize huge demon allies,” says game developer Alec Dawson in an interview with Polygon. Much like the Warlock, they use demons in their arsenal — but the Demon Hunter tends to use big, beefy allies rather than a swarm of smaller minions.

The Demon Hunter’s hero power is Demon Claws, a 1-Mana ability that grants 1 Attack. This gives the Demon Hunter a lot of up front power compared to other classes. It’s not as safe as the Mage’s Fireball or versatile as a Rogue’s daggers, but it’s cheap. In addition, the Demon Hunter has a keyword called Outcast, which makes cards more powerful when they are played from the right- or left-most position in a player’s hand.

“[Demon Hunters] don’t have much in the way of card generation, but you can run them out of resources,” says Chadd Nervig, game designer on Hearthstone. “They have card draw, but not generation, so you can fatigue them. They’re susceptible to hard removal. They also just don’t have much in the way of hard removal themselves; if they want to clear a big minion of yours, they have to use their face to do it. They don’t have any assassinate or polymorph cards.”

While Blizzard expects one of the immediate Demon Hunter strategies will be to try and swarm the board with early overwhelming force, the class is designed to have multiple playstyles and strategies.

For those who were disappointed with Illidan’s interactions — or lack thereof — with his twin Malfurion and crush Tyrande in World of Warcraft’s Legion expansion, the three of them will have in-game interactions in Hearthstone. The Demon Hunter’s story campaign releases on April 2; the Demon Hunter is available to play on April 7.

New minions

Every existing class — except the Demon Hunter — will also get a Prime minion. These Legendary minions have two forms. The first is a standard version of the character, like Kargath Bladefist or Lady Vashj. Upon being removed from the board, a second version of these characters go into the player’s deck. Kargath Prime and Vashj Prime have much more powerful effects; Kargath has Rush, and upon killing a minion, he grants the Warrior 10 Armor. Vashj Prime comes with +1 Spell Damage, and allows a Shaman to draw three spells, and reduces their Mana cost by 3.

The second new kind of minion is the Imprisoned Demon. These minions are dormant on the board for two turns, they cannot interact with the game or be removed by the opponent. Once active, Imprisoned Demons tend to be very powerful cards. The opponent must use the time during which they are dormant to prepare a strategy or they’ll overwhelm the game.

Priest changes

Priests are also seeing a slate of changes, largely centered around solidifying their identity as a control class. These changes won’t arrive as new cards in Ashes of Outlands; Blizzard is going to the class’s core cards and making some tweaks. Some of these cards are slightly different, like costing less mana or dealing more damage. Others are totally new.

“There were aspects of their basic and classic sets that we weren’t planning to support, so they were sort of misleading Priests and taking up space,” says Nervig. “Things like Prophet Velen, which is an iconic Legendary for Priests, sounded really cool ... but really was only used for [one-turn kill strategies], which we weren’t planning to support.” These cards are now in the Hall of Fame, and can be used in the game’s Wild mode.

The first piece of Ashes of Outlands will drop on Tuesday, March 17. Players can log in and receive the Legendary card Kael’thas Sunstrider. When Kael’thas is on the board, the third spell cast every turn is free.

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