We Were Not Prepared: Hearthstone Adds It’s First New Class Since Launch
Aside from metroidvanias, if there’s another thing we at The Gamesharks love, its card games. Since its launch in 2014, Hearthstone, a card battler based around World of Warcraft, has added in numerous expansions based around iconic characters and locations in W.O.W, as well as introducing some unique characters of its own. Each expansion brought with it new cards and strategies for the games nine classes, each based around a playable W.O.W class, but for the first time, tying in with the newest expansion, Hearthstone has decided now is the time to introduce a new payable class to the game. Enter, the Demon Hunter!
In game, the class is portrayed by Illidan Stormrage, a character iconic to many W.O.W players, as the first ever demon hunter in the lore of the world of Azeroth. Before officially being able to play the class, players must first complete a short 4 mission prologue that brings players through a brief retelling of how Illidan became the first of his order, only to be imprisoned for 10,000 years. The missions are, while simple, a fun introduction into how the new class will play and how its cards are designed to work. Upon completion, players receive the hero portrait for Illidan, as well as 30 cards and a pre constructed deck, allowing you to dive right into the class when it launches with the Ashes of Outland expansion.
Warriors who embrace the dark powers of the demons they hunt, demon hunters are relentless in their mission, to embrace the darkness to stop demons from invading the world. This theme translates extremely well into the types of cards the Hearthstone team has designed for the class, with a large focus on attacking and dealing damage whenever possible. Demon hunter has a variety of cards that summon small minions or allow your hero to attack itself, and many other cards that have added effects whenever you make an attack with your hero. They want you to be attacking so much as a demon hunter in fact that your hero power, something you can use once a turn unique to each class, is to give yourself +1 attack for the turn.
The thing that really sets this hero power apart though, is that unlike all the other hero powers in the game, which cost 2 mana out of a possible total of 10, this one only cost 1 mana. Granted, this is only half of the Druids hero power, which would give you 1 attack and 1 armor for 2 mana but having one class with a lower cost ability than the rest could potentially prove to be stronger than anticipated.
Building on that, my first glance at the cards given to demon hunter gave me an interesting first impression, that the cards may end up synergizing too well. While we won’t really know until players start using the new class in matches, designing a new class this late into the games lifespan puts it at odds with the games other 9 classes. For the last 6 years, each of the original classes has had its ups and downs of popularity and gameplay, depending on which cards were allowed in standard format, and even some of the unique mechanics and attributes of each class sometimes get forgotten about when it comes to new cards that synergize with them. With this new class, it seems at first glance that most of the cards available tie directly into or benefit from the aggressive playstyle encouraged by the classes ability to give itself attack power easily or to equip a variety of weapons. The weapons themselves benefit greatly from being able to add more attack damage, and we also see a variety of minions that have added effects in game when you make an attack with your hero. These effects range from summoning more minions to gaining attack bonuses, and the synergy doesn’t even end there.
Demon Hunter also has many ways to summon small token minions that can attack immediately, which is common in many decks for other classes, but it seems to work better for this class than for others. We also see many cards that if played at the right time, can take advantage of your minions dying, meaning your small token minions provide even more value beyond removing low health targets.
These strong combinations haven’t gone unnoticed by Blizzard however. A patch was introduced only two days after the expansion went live that nerfed four of the Demon Hunters most problematic cards. These changes did nothing to the cards themselves beyond making them more costly to play, meaning you will have to wait a little longer into the math to play them or not be able to play as many in a single turn.
While the new class isn’t unstoppable, it is boasting a win rate hovering above 50% right now, and in a game with 10 distinct classes to play, that is still a significantly high chance to win. If the class has any distinct weaknesses, I will say the classes strong use of low health rush minions could prove to be easily countered with enough board clear. I’ve had some luck against Demon Hunter using a highlander Mage deck. Having a lot of freeze effects, single target damage, and board clear cards like flame strike and blizzard helps me stall out my opponent long enough to stay alive and keep them from doing so much damage that I can’t recover quick enough.
While its been less than a week since we’ve gotten to use this new class, the fact that there have already been some nerfs within two days might signify that there are more coming as the new meta develops itself. That being said, I am very curious to see how this new class will evolve like the other nine as new expansions continue to add cards and see if the Demon Hunter continues to be dominant in Hearthstone.