Published on July 28th, 2014 | by Gregg Miller1
Gregg Explains: Curse of Naxxramas
A Hearthstone Expansion
Blizzard has recently introduced the first expansion to their popular digital card game, Hearthstone. The theme of the expansion is Naxxramas, a fortress of undead monstrosities led by the evil skeleton wizard Kel’Thuzad. Naxxramas has a lot of history in World of Warcraft: it was the final raid dungeon from vanilla World of Warcraft, and Blizzard remastered it to be the first raid dungeon in the Wrath of the Lich King WoW expansion.
The current wing, the Plague Quarter, is available for free during July 22nd through the 28th. You can use in-game gold to unlock future wings when they’re available, or as of the time of this writing, you may pay $19.99 to unlock the remaining four wings when they’re released. Otherwise it is $6.99 per wing, though the cost is less if you buy in bundles. Details can be found on the Blizzard blog.
One issue with the game prior to the expansion is that the meta-game had settled into a routine with little innovation well before this expansion came out. Decks that are dominating the constructed play scene never seem to change and everyone playing the same class uses practically the same deck. Like many collectable card games, given enough time players will be able to figure out most of the game mechanics, which stagnates the game. Introducing new cards and play modes will hopefully mix that up quite a bit.
Aside from introducing thirty new cards for players to unlock and collect, Naxxramas removes the Practice Mode from the game, and changes it to “Solo Adventures”. Do not fear, you can still play the older (and now smarter) practice mode. The bulk of the content is found in Player vs. AI battles similar to the opening demo fights when you first start up your account with Hearthstone.
The expansion is divided into five “wings” similar to how the raid dungeon was divided up for achievements. Arachnid, Plague, Military, Construct, and Frostwyrm Lair make the five wings, and each will be released every week, starting back on July 22nd.
The first wing, the Arachnid Quarter, is made of three boss encounters. The main boss of the entire dungeon, Kel’Thuzad, is your narrator through the expansion materials. Kel’Thuzad’s narration is not limited to between fights: in one match I was facing off against a boss that played a Sea Giant, and the talkative lich scolded the AI for using a non-approved card in their deck. In addition, the voice actor for the Innkeeper has been brought in to announce the names of your opponent.
Anub’Rekhan is the first boss you will face against. The massive scarab beetle has a hero power that brings in a 3/1 Nerubian for two mana. In my play through, their deck contained warlock and mage spells, in addition to minions from the new expansion.
The second boss is Grand Widow Faerlina, who has a hero power that will fire a missile for each card in the opponent’s hand, at a cost of two mana. Effectively, instead of practicing standard hand advantage, her hero power makes you decide if you’re going to push to a top-decking style of play, or if you will stomach through the randomly placed damage. She has a unique card in her deck that I’ve only seen in the Heroic Mode that gives her +1 attack during her turns.
Our third and final boss is Maexxna, the massive spider. Her hero power returns a random opponent’s minion back to their hand, at a cost of three mana. Against certain Battle Cry cards, this can actually be a benefit to the player facing off against Maexxna, depending on which card is returned.
After each boss is defeated, a pair of new, neutral minion cards is awarded to your collection. So far we get the Haunted Creeper, Nerub’ar Weblord, Nerubian Egg, and for completing the wing in Normal mode, Maexxna as a legendary card, that effectively is a 2/8 Emperor Cobra card for six mana, that keeps the Beast tag.
With the Normal mode completed, players unlock the option to run Heroic Mode, or the Class Challenges. Heroic Mode is a repeat fight against the previous bosses, but now they have fourty-five health instead of thirty, and their hero powers get improved. Anub’Rekhan now brings in a 4/4 Nerubian for two mana, Faerlina does the same thing for one mana, and Maexxna now returns two random enemy minions at a cost of zero mana and in addition starts with two Haunted Creepers in play.
The Hero Challenges in the Arachnid Quarter are for the Druid and Rogue. With a pre-constructed deck, provided within the game, you must have a particular class defeat a particular boss. Valeera Sanguinar (Rogue) must face off against Maexxna, while Malfurion Stormrage (Druid) must defeat Faerlina. There isn’t a way within the game to find out what your deck list is, but I do know they aren’t built with the traditional deck building rules. I’ve drawn third copies of cards, which is a phenomenon limited to the Arena currently, and impossible in constructed without the use of class specific spells in a Priest deck.
So far, this is a fun addition to the game. The Normal mode is rather easy, but I’m assuming that’s because the developers want people to get the new cards as soon as possible. Heroic and Class Challenge modes are so far incredibly difficult, and a fun challenge that will unlock a wing specific deck card back and the class specific cards respectively. Come back next time, as I go over the Plague Quarter.