Hearthstone is Substantially Changing Play; New Modes, Rankings, and Deck Slots

Blizzard Entertainment’s addictive competitive card game Hearthstone is making some major changes to their format, beginning with the launch of their upcoming expansion. While small changes and balance tweaks have been previously added to the game, the announced changes will change the structure of competitive play, taking hints from notable physical card games like Magic the Gathering.

According to the latest blog post on the Battle.Net Blog, the Standard Mode is going to begin excluding any cards not released in the original packs, current year, or previous year beginning this Spring. This is a standard move in competitive card games, which normally want to limit the scope of cards allowed in competitive circuits.

What this translates to is cards from the Curse of Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes expansions will not be able to be used in the new Standard Mode. Sets allowed include the following:

  • Basic
  • Classic
  • Blackrock Mountain
  • The Grand Tournament
  • The League of Explorers
  • Spring 2016’s Expansion

If you hear “The Year of the Kraken,” it is Blizzard’s official name for the first year of the new Standard Mode, with each new year being renamed for one of the zodiac constellations in Azeroth’s sky.

What about the current Standard Mode that allows any card in the collection? That is being renamed to “Wild Mode.” Wild will aim to be less balanced and more frantic, where Standard spotlights newer cards and focuses on equalizing balance. With that said, nothing is changing other than the name for Wild Mode.

Rankings play a major part to the competitive scene — the new changes would bring a new ranking, one for Standard and one for Wild Mode. While you are able to reach Legend in both modes, you will only be rewarded for your highest mode so players can pick a preference without penalty.

Some less popular changes being added include major balance changes to select classic cards (which have been around since the launch of the beta) and limitations on the Adventure Wings. To the latter point, adventures and expansions will no longer be available if their Sets are no longer part of Standard Mode — players won’t be able to purchase or play Curse of Naxxaramus or Goblins vs Gnomes unless they had already purchased a wing previously. However, players will still be able to craft these cards using Arcane Dust. This seems like a truly bizarre move that is universally angering the fanbase.

On the plus side, Blizzard plans on doubling the deck slots — from 8 to 19. This has been much requested by fans since the game first opened to the public.

Taken as a whole, this is a huge change to a game that has been fairly dependent on the current balance and meta. It will be interesting to see how the hardcore fans receive this update and what balance changes are implemented in the future.

Hearthstone is available to play now on PC and iOS — the major alterations will be launching Spring 2016.

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Lou Contaldi

Lou Contaldi specializes in both reviews and the business behind gaming. He began writing about tech and video games while getting his Juris Doctor at Hofstra University School of Law. He is maybe the only gaming journo based in Nashville, TN.

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