While most of the Activision-Blizzard gaming community’s attention has focused on the ongoing lawsuit, it hasn’t stopped Blizzard from unleashing their latest Hearthstone Expansion, United in Stormwind. Just as Forged in the Barrens featured a return to the origin of the Horde for many players, so have the Alliance returned to their capital, Stormwind, for their adventure.
Compared to the decision to reboot the Standard set still lingering over this year’s expansion, United in Stormwind feels very simple in design. Hearthstone designers decided to introduce a few particular concepts into the gameplay.
Trade Your Hand In for a Quest
The first new Keyword is the TRADEABLE Cards. They allow a player to ‘trade’ a card with the deck, spending single mana in exchange for putting the said card back in the deck and drawing a new card. While this mechanic is simple, it offers players much flexibility for playing cards. For example, the Librarian is a three attack/four health minion that can silence an opponent’s card. While silences are helpful, they are only useful in specific contexts. Having the ability to trade that card into your deck allows players some flexibility to make sure they get what they need.
It’s also not a mechanic that severely changes the gameplay. While having a quick redraw can help the game, the cards attached to it (like the 0 mana Provoke, which forces enemy minions to attack a select minion) are a bit droll by design.
The other central element in this expansion centers around the new Questline cards. Questlines are where players must fulfill a three-stage series of mini-quests designed to empower their quest concerning the assigned Mercenary for their class. Doing so provides the player an assortment of bonuses for the rest of the game.
Whether it is investigating claims of a traitor with the Rogue Scabbs or defending the Dwarven District with the Hunter Tavish, each class has a set of tasks to complete. Some are pretty simple, such as taking damage on your turn or using damage spells. Others require particular builds, like the Warrior’s pirate deck.
While these quests are undeniably fun, they are also restrictive in a sense. In the case of the Demon Hunter’s questline, players must emphasize fast draw mechanics and low-cost cards, lest they lose a ton of cards. That said, the payoffs can be immense and game-changing in some cases and underwhelming in others. For example, the Priest questline will give players the ability to shuffle a card into the deck that, if drawn, will insta-kill their opponent. The only problem is that getting there requires playing seven different cards of increasing mana counts to get there.
But that’s what adds to the fun. Building a deck that can perfectly fulfill a questline’s criteria within the first few rounds is challenging and often de-escalates players who prefer Aggro playstyles. It can also change the game immensely in your favor, depending on your draw. By having Tradeable cards in hand, those odds get even better.
In my playthrough, I enjoyed the Warrior, Mage, and Warlock questlines the most, while I found the others lacking. The Druid questline was particularly underwhelming.
The final unique addition of this expansion is the Equipment Kits and Mounts. Each class is given a mount card and a weapon that offers some buff or bonus effect. While the game has experimented with similar cards in past expansions, this is the first time that all classes receive their version. In some cases, they offer large bodies to fill the board, while others may make your spells that much stronger. Your results may vary.
The State of the Game
What remains difficult to determine is how this changes the meta of Hearthstone. In the first few days of play, I found that most players who were still involved were drawn to the questline-centered decks. They offer simple mechanics to focus their deckbuilding around, a nice touch for those unwilling to spend days and weeks experimenting.
If you’re willing to invest and spend some time in the game, You’ll find United in Stormwind to be an interesting, albeit predictable expansion of Hearthstone. I heartily recommend giving it a try.