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Hearthstone’s new expansion is about World of Warcraft’s beloved Barrens

A new game mode, Mercenaries, is also on the way

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.

The next Hearthstone expansion is on the way, and it brings the collectible card game back to one of World of Warcraft’s most iconic zones. Forged in the Barrens is an expansion with 135 new cards that takes place in the Horde zone the Barrens, just outside of the Orcish city of Orgrimmar.

Forged in the Barrens brings a new keyword to the game: Frenzy. Cards with Frenzy have a one-time effect that triggers the first time a minion survives damage.

The Barrens is where Trolls, Orcs, and Tauren all spend time leveling up, and the zone is infamous for being absolutely massive, which made quests like finding Mankrik’s wife pretty perilous. Add in a chaotic general chat, and the Barrens has remained a highlight of the classic World of Warcraft experience. As this is a Horde-centric expansion, new cards will feature characters like the troll shadow hunter Vol’jin.

Forged in the Barrens arrives alongside a big set up of shakeups to Hearthstone. There’s a new “Core Set” that replaces the Basic and Classic sets. The Core Set is a mix of cards from previous expansions, re-balanced cards popular with the community, and a few brand-new cards like Ysera the Dreamer or Malygos the Spellweaver. Hearthstone’s Core Set is completely free and is simple for players to pick up and play. The original version of remastered cards will be available, alongside the new variants, in the game’s no-holds-barred Wild mode.

There are also new Spell Schools, with all of the game’s various spells being organized into Arcane, Fire, Frost, Holy, Nature, Shadow, and Fel. This will “expand possibilities for spell-slinging Hearthstone players and will be added retroactively to previously released spell cards.”

Hearthstone - a cast of characters, including the blood elf rogue Valeera, Ragnaros the Firelord, Illidan, and other assorted characters all pose for the game’s Mercenaries key art. Image: Blizzard Entertainment

If that’s too much info to take in, there’s a new Classic format, which puts Hearthstone back to its balance state in 2014. Much like World of Warcraft Classic, Hearthstone will be teleported balance-wise to a time to back before the Curse of Naxxramas expansion. This Classic mode is for players who preferred the early balance of the game, or want to revisit a time without quite so many keywords, card combos, or the Demon Hunter class.

Finally, Hearthstone Mercenaries is a new game mode coming to Hearthstone in 2021. Mercenaries is a strategy RPG that builds off the game’s single-player campaigns and the Book of Heroes, which told fairly long stories through a sequence of Hearthstone battles.

Hearthstone Mercenaries introduces players to a set of new characters, and players level them up through successive battles. Over time, players will have to learn which characters go well together, and set up specific character combos in order to best increasingly difficult fights. Mercenaries joins Battlegrounds, an auto-chess variant, and the player-vs-player gauntlet mode Duels as a new Hearthstone gameplay mode that will b supported longterm by the developers.

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