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Hearthstone enters Year of the Dragon and with it, Blizzard is introducing a heap of changes to how the leading digital card game is played. Changes will affect ladder rankings, as well as which cards are eligible for ranked play.

More ladder ranks

With the Year of the Dragon, Hearthstone will double its ladder ranks, from 25 up to 50. The change comes with some adjustment as to how many stars you need to progress up a rank.

hearthstone ladder

Baku, Genn, Doomguard enter Hall of Fame

Without a doubt, however, the bigger change is the cards that will go into the Hall of Fame. Those will not be available for Standard play and only be playable in Wild, where everything goes.

The big offenders of the last year have been Baku the Mooneater and Genn Greymane. The two legendaries are archetype-defining and are at the heart of the very powerful odd and even decks, respectively. Their Start of the Game effect allowed players to buff up their hero powers merely by including them, at the cost of only playing odd or even mana cost cards.

Since the power of odd and even archetypes has grown beyond what Blizzard has hoped for, the devs are reigning the main culprits to allow for wider design space. Four additional cards made to synergize with the odd/even mechanic will also be tabled: Glitter Moth, Murkspark Eel, Black Cat and Gloom Stag.

“Baku and Genn are powerful cards that have promoted new strategies since their introduction in the metagame,” Blizzard wrote. “Those strategies have been more prevalent than we’d intended in Standard, and we felt that they might end up overshadowing what we’re going to introduce in the Year of the Dragon.”

While exiled a bit earlier than expected, having arrived just last April, Baku and Genn will be in good company. Three Classic cards will join them: evergreen Zoolock finished Doomguard, aggro Paladin’s card draw king Divine Favor, and Druid’s hard removal Naturalize.

“While we like that minion combat is as much a part of the Warlock’s identity as destructive magic, we want to acknowledge and embrace the class’s weaknesses when they lose control of the board. To that end, we want to limit the amount of damage a Warlock can deal from their hand,” Blizzard wrote about Doomguard.

Soooo, where’s Malygos?

Hearthstone fans expected that at least one more card will make it to the Hall of Fame: Malygos. A 4/12 dragon with +5 Spell Damage effect, Malygos has been enabling One Turk Kill decks for years now. With the release of Zerek’s Cloning Gallery and Flobbidinous Floop, it wasn’t unreasonable for Malygos to retire to the Hall of Fame.

But Blizzard is determined to keep Malygos in, at least for a little more.

“He’s been talked about for quite a while,” Blizzard’s Mike Donais told PC Gamer. “One of the things I love about Malygos is that people are always trying to build new decks around him. Every year there are like five new Malygos decks, and most of them are 40 percent [winrate] decks. People play them for a while, experiment, and tune them until they get them up to 41 percent, then give up.

A better — but purchasable — single player

Blizzard is also working to improve the single player experience in Hearthstone. Building on top of the Dungeon Run mode, Hearthstone will have deeper, richer single player storylines, but they’ll no longer be free after the first episode. Each additional chapter will cost 700 gold, or $20, but will offer more content than Dungeon Runs previously did.

Arena will have rotating sets

Hearthstone’s draft mode, Arena, will also deviate from its usual form. Arena will have a complete face-lift and will now use a pool of six card sets which rotate every two months. The first rotation will feature:

  • Basic + Classic
  • Curse of Naxxramas
  • Whispers of the Old Gods
  • Mean Streets of Gadgetzan
  • Witchwood
  • Year of the Dragon’s first expansion (unannounced)

These are all major, daring changes from the Hearthstone team. The Hall of Fame status of Baku and Genn is sure to divide the community, though it’s likely for the better, given the prevalence of the odd/even archetypes. The changes to Arena also sound great on paper, as players will need to adjust their drafting strategies and tier lists for every new pool. New metas of best/worst heroes are also likely to develop based on different set combinations.

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