Is it just us, or could April really use that extra day in order to accomodate everything? At least that's the narrative we are going to stick with here, for all intents and purposes. Anyway, welcome to our slightly delayed recap of all things Hearthstone; as they unfolded over the course of the previous (extremely) busy month. If March 2022 was all about anticipation of what was to come, then the past few weeks marked the full delivery of said long-awaited in-game content.
In that regard, April 2022 might've very well been the most impactful month we are going to see in Hearthstone all year long. Besides what took place during this time period, we were also left with quite a few teases for the foreseeable future. And so the internal Year of the Hydra was off to a very interesting start. It would be hard to already forget the impact of the entire Standard rotation, the brand new expansion, or the refreshed Core Set, but there was yet far more that could be worth remembering:
Year of the Hydra
Not a flying (mythical or otherwise) creature for a change, the gryphon took off to be replaced by a multi-headed entity. Is it as many heads as Hearthstone currently has game modes on the menu? We did learn that a new one is not expected to grow anytime soon.
The game taking its time to work on the stablity, performance, and various QoL features while continuing to expand what's already there seems like a sound proposal. Even as the presented roadmap might've looked somewhat modest at a glance, misplacing the Duels icon as well in the process (and Arena, but then we are used to constant neglect in this case).
Standard Rotation & Core Set 2022
It's been more than half a month, so hopefully everyone had enough time to re-memorize everything and wrap their heads around this ever-confusing concept, but for the sake of maximum clarity:
Here is where we find ourselves at for the current year:
The refreshed Core Set 2022 might've proven even harder to internalize than any new or old expansions (we had our initial guesses), what with various old cards coming back and some of the cards we got used to over the past year taking their leave:
In fact, both Blizzard and the community members have released their own accessories to help make this whole transition smoother. If there is anything about this which still doesn't strike you as obvious, the presented visual tools can come a long way:
- Core Set 2022 Spreadsheet - What's Left, Stayed, and Returned
- Core Set 2022 Infographics - All Classes and Neutrals
If you haven't visited Hearthstone in a longer while, don't forget the free decks for returning (as well as new) players have received their regularly scheduled updates!
New Expansion - Voyage to the Sunken City
The final piece of the big three: brand new expansion to greet another Hearthstone year. Even during the early presentations it seemed like this set might stand out among the pack (although some would argue certain ancient echoes of another journey were evoked).
The best trailer ever? We are used to the more whimsical, musical-esque side of Hearthstone expansion showcases, so the soulful elven vocals paired with the electronic beats offered a great yet welcome surprise. For once, all the developers hyping it up had a very good reason to do so. Personal tastes aside, it's bound to be one video to remember due to its unique nature. Good to see the game is still able to explore new corners of its universe!
As for the regular new expansion things, we've had a couple of new mechanics to embrace. Not to mention having to relearn how the more board-based Hearthstone with its Aggro and Control counterparts (and lessened - but not eliminated - Combo shenanigans) felt like. Plus all the Naga, Mechs, and Murlocs one could take.
- New Keywords: Colossal & Dredge
- New Tribe: Naga
- All Sunken City Cards
- Flavor Text for New Expansion Cards
New expansion also inevitably meant a new Rewards Track (with more or less the same milestones as before). And so the cycle of gathering XP and gold continues.
Remember that you can always share your current progress with other community members on our forums!
Large Patch & Smaller Patches
Even before all of the above had a chance to happen, the massive Patch 23.0 hit the live servers a week in advance, setting the scene for everything that followed afterwards, as well as bringing new content and improvements to various other Hearthstone game modes:
Of course, that also came with its own host of consequent issues and fixes:
Since then, we've also encountered a number of smaller patches bringing various hotfixes, improvements, or even balance changes (as the developers heard the early feedback loud and clear). Not all of them required updating our game clients:
- Hearthstone Patch 23.0.1 - Pandaren Importer Nerf
- Hearthstone Patch 23.0.2 - Various Small Hotfixes
- Hearthstone Patch 23.0.3 - Balance Changes for Constructed, Battlegrounds, & Duels
If you try to keep up with most - if not all - of the game modes, it's been quite a lot to take in. Speaking of those, each one deserves at least a passing mention:
We know there is a lot in store for Battlegrounds, with plans to consolidate the whole experience across distinct Seasons, and another minion type (Naga) around the corner:
Meanwhile, there's been no shortage of smaller additions and improvements, not to mention the ever expanding line of cosmetics. Including all these splashy Finishers. Or, um, Strikes, as they'd rather be known as nowadays.
Passed over on the yearly roadmap, but definitely not forgotten on the development side. The Duels mode has been off to a strong start with the arrival of The League of Explorers' dual-class Heroes and numerous other aspects:
Minus points for not telling us ahead of time about the Heroic runs in progress getting retired and compensated with the usual Tavern Ticket.
It was certainly a promising month for any and all Mercenaries. Coming up on its half a year anniversary, the (initial?) task revamp arrived with a bang, forever instantly changing how the mode was meant to be played. And that was just the beginning of a more structured approach for the rest of the year:
No longer a poor daily quest system with an endless grind for Mysterious Stranger, players could finally line up their progress in a less random way, also saving some time in the process. The excess coins issue remains for now, but the first important step out of what could be many was taken.
It's been nearly a month since the second special event for the game mode came to a close. That's more or less in line with the new content structure established for Mercenaries (as covered above).
It also means that for the time being the final encounter which unlocked following the whole Leeroy event marks the endgame for the PvE side of things.
As per tradition, there was the new rotation with the current sets as follows:
- League of Explorers
- Whispers of the Old Gods
- The Grand Tournament
- United in Stormwind
- Fractured in Alterac Valley
- Voyage to the Sunken City
Not specifically mentioned, but these include their respective Mini-Sets as well. Unlike with Duels, at least here we were able to provide a suitable reminder for precious rewards and a free collectible Tavern Ticket:
We were also provided with a semi-regular update for Arena leaderboards from the first two months of 2022, listing the top 200 players and their average win count across 30 consecutive games for each respective region:
Tavern Brawls & Standard Packs
Tavern Brawls wouldn't usually warrant a special mention, but there's been one silent change you might've noticed by now: Year of the Phoenix packs being awarded for the first win of the week did not turn into Year of the Gryphon offerings - instead, we went straight to Standard packages becoming the main new thing. Probably something most players are more than okay with.
The Diamond Club Expands
Slowly but surely, the Diamond card offerings within the game continued to grow. Besides Sir Finley, Sea Guide and Commander Sivara arriving with the new expansion, both Loatheb and Drek'Thar earned this special distinction (although the latter came at a rather hefty price). Vanndar Stormpike could only celebrate his lead for so long.
Just this past weekend, the time came for the third Masters Tour event of the year (pushed back by a week from its original schedule, which caused some issues for any players having to book time off well in advance) - the last in the set qualifying for the upcoming elite Masters Summer Championship in June.
It was also our first look at the highest levels of competitive Hearthstone in the wake of the most recent balance changes for Standard. Expect the results to inform both the ladder and tournament metagames in the weeks to come.
- Masters Tour Sunken City Delay
- Masters Tour Sunken City Overview
- Masters Tour Sunken City Results & Top Lineups/Decklists
But that's not all in the realm of Hearthstone Esports, as the beginning of April also gave us the first taste of something different - officially sanctioned Battlegrounds competition in the guise of Lobby Legends. Getting there took a lot of grinding and determination from everyone involved.
Prime Gaming & Free Packs
Blizzard's partnership with Amazon's Prime Gaming continued, allowing patient players to grab a couple of extra Legendary cards to date. Anyone who had been waiting until the release of the newest Voyage to the Sunken City expansion on April 12 could finally cash in and enjoy their loot.
- Prime Gaming for Hearthstone - Standard Legendary Cards & Packs
- Second Prime Gaming Loot Opportunity Arrives
All in all, the team has been feeling pretty generous this past month - with the theorycrafting streams finally embracing the Wild community and offering a number of rewards for following along on Twitch, as well as the crazy fun idea of throwing their very own Crab Rave. The remixed music was on point!
Honor Event - The End Was Only the Beginning
As we were reaching the end of the Fractured in Alterac Valley expansion's lifespan, the time also came to retire the thematic Battle for Alterac Valley event - the one which separated players into the opposite factions of Alliance and Horde, allowing us to achieve special ranks and earn associated rewards. The first of its kind for Hearthstone, this was a surprisingly faithful recreation of the Honor system known from the vanilla World of Warcraft MMO. We will always have the memories.
- Battle for Alterac Valley and Honor Event Overview
- The Alterac Valley Battle - Final Phase
- The Alliance Victory & Diamond Card Reward
- Battle for Alterac Valley in Numbers - Official Stats
It's a bit of a shame it had to come to an end. Or wait... has it really? While all the visible Honor gains and ranks had been disposed of a week before the launch of Voyage to the Sunken City, at the same time we were also granted the means to continue racking the points in the background and still be able to earn the adjacent rewards at our leisure - all accomplished through the special magic of particular achievements.
Achievements XP - The Next Cycle
We more or less could've seen it coming, as it's been the pattern for the past few expansions: Fractured in Alterac Valley's Gameplay achievements had their XP bonuses disabled a week before the release of Voyage to the Sunken City, and since the arrival of the latest expansion we've just switched to chasing down the extra Rewards Track boosts from the newest set of thematic achievements. Avalon has been hard at work to assist everyone in these valiant pursuits:
Hearthstone Q&A Series
Dean "Iksar" Ayala added two more entries in April to the ongoing semi-regular "Community Q&A" series. As always, we could count on Flux to be on top of it with very detailed recaps:
Dust Refunds - How *Not* To Do It
For all the things they got right, the Hearthstone team unfortunately dropped the ball when it came to handling a handful of cards available for dust refunds - primarily the ones for Sir Finley, Sea Guide and Ambassador Faelin. The full disenchant value window ended within a day of the expansion release, not giving many players a proper chance to react. And the only warning about it came in fine print within a long blog post. All in all, very disappointing.
For whatever reason, the adjusted Pandaren Importer was also not given the usual full 2 weeks of dust refund value; but at least it wasn't just limited to a couple of days.
The Wild Side of Things
Never a dull moment. Wild format was off to a rather hotly contested start, with 24 reverted card nerfs causing quite a ruckus (hi, Kael'thas Sunstrider) even before the newest expansion had a chance to arrive.
Besides that, you could always count on Swizard to be able to wake up and whip up a detailed Wild deck write-up seemingly every other day. The newest Voyage to the Sunken City set provided ample opportunities in that regard.
Among the Fan Community & Artworks
We kept shining the light (it does get pretty dark underwater) on any and all things that had to do with community creations. It's a pretty vast realm!
Of particular interest here might be Sinti's interview with Wan 'Windwalker', detailing the process of creating an entire social system concept for Hearthstone. It almost looked too real.
Demonxz95 brought us a handful of eclectic choices across Fan Community Spotlights, involving the very unusual pairing with this one game that was on most everyone's mind during April:
- Custom Elden Ring Heroes for Hearthstone Duels
- New Custom Set & Custom Soul Warden Class
- Custom Duels Allegiance Expansion
After a small slumber, Card Design Conversation ventured back onto the sea:
And our word searches embraced quite a few interesting themes:
The returning series continued with Koetti moving into the frame to showcase special Hearthstone art - both above and below the water levels.
New expansion release of course meant a large number of varied decklists swirling around, especially during the early days. This is where it all started as the metagame was taking shape over the past few weeks.
- Day 1 Constructed Standard Decklists
- Week 1 of Top Wild Decks
- Standout Standard Decks for Every Class
- Late Season Climbing With Budget Decks
Not to mention the more focused narratives:
- Sunken City Best Decks - Colossal Minions
- Sunken City Best Decks - Class Legendaries & Neutral Legendaries
We also got a chance to be a little whimsical with yet another returning series:
- Memes and Dreams #23
- The Budget or Fudge It Naga Showdown
- Fun Facts About Some of Hearthstone's Rotating Cards
Each Hearthstone class was also given its very own special review for both Standard and Wild - may they remain as a testament to how right or wrong we (and the community at large) were about some of the new cards.
We also didn't forget about our special Tavern Crawl and Community Compendium options!
Last but certainly not least, it wasn't too difficult to predict which Core Set card would definitely stand the test of time. None other than our dear Nozdormu the Eternal.
And guess who found themselves receiving yet another sweet set of Hearthstone-themed gifts? Well, it certainly wasn't me. At least Hearthstone Santa remains kind and generous even towards the (ever so slightly) misbehaving individuals.
If you find your personal interests expanding towards the business side of things, it's worth noting that the Activision Blizzard entity released its financial results for the first quarter of 2022. The overall engagement and profits were all around lower when compared to the same period from a year ago. Hearthstone only really got the most tiny of mentions, and the board of directors approved the pending acquisition of the company by Microsoft.
April Fools' Day
To end this not-so-little recap on a lighter note, we ought to acknowledge the harmless bit of fun afforded to us by one special occasion at the start of April. This year the things progressed rather far with particular... umm, rebranding attempts. Who knows what the future has in store?
And wouldn't you know it, the spirit of the former Game Director - that is, Ben Brode himself - descended upon unsuspecting Hearthstone players to grant them something they didn't even know they needed: precious one (1) piece of Gold.
But we weren't alone in poking fun at ourselves with a flair; Hearthstone team decided to step in by preparing a peculiar edition of their trademarked patch notes. Alas, the Priest class somehow avoided deletion in the end.
Except this particular joke ended up having some real consequences in at least one instance, as one poor worgen decided that many years of derision must cease at long last, and kept the imaginary buff for good. No longer unloved, disrespected 6/3 minion! We could only get behind that change.
Uff, this was a truly massive month as seen above, both in terms of in-game happenings and on-site content. One can only wonder whether any other time period within this ongoing Hearthstone year might come anywhere close.
How well were you faring on your own adventures across the weeks of April? Anything deserving of a special mention; does everything still feel fairly fresh? Let us know about your personal recollections!