It’s a rough and tumble world in Gadgetzan.
The streets are divided among the three crime families, and one wrong step could mean spending your nights sleeping with the murlocs. Choose your family wisely because the Grimy Goons, Jade Lotus, and Kabal are all vying to gain control of the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan.
Hearthstone’s fourth card expansion introduces 132 new cards to the game and several new mechanics. Each of the three crime families have multi-class cards which are similar in scope to the basic cards, but only work for certain classes as opposed to every class. The Grimy Goons, denoted by their toughness and brawling style have cards that are used for Hunter, Paladin and Warrior decks; the Jade Lotus cards work with Druid, Rogue and Shaman decks; and finally the Kabal spellcasters have special cards that work with Mage, Warlock and Priest decks. Each crime family only received three speciality cards each — a legendary, a rare and a common — but each of the crime family cards are quite valuable in the current meta deck construction.
While there are many new cards with interesting quirks the largest shift comes with the introduction of jade golems. Used exclusively by the Jade Lotus crime family, jade golems are summoned minions that with each successive summon grow in power. The first jade golem summoned is a 1/1 minion, the second is a 2/2 minion, the third a 3/3 minion and it continues as such until the game is finished. It’s a fascinating mechanic as it typically requires your deck to be built around getting these minions out as fast as possible, but the significant mana cost in order to summon the horde means you have to survive long enough to get the monster minions onto the field. It gets very interesting whenever you’re in a mirror-matchup as it takes lots of skill and a little luck to get out with a win.
It’s also the last expansion before the old sets start getting rotated out in Standard. Which means that what works right now won’t with the next expansion, which is true for most expansions, but will be magnified several months from now.
While the expansion is definitely a welcomed addition, I wonder about the direction individual classes are headed. Each expansion in some way reacts to the meta, while it would be great to have perfect balance across the nine classes it’s an unrealistic expectation. However, this expansion also feels like some classes are pigeonholed into playing a certain way. I think this is particularly true for the Mage and Priest classes. Priests seem to only survive when partnered with dragons, and the control decks that were popular and relatively well balanced were obliterated because of jade golem. Mages also had this expansion double-down on spells, which perhaps isn’t the worst thing as it is a mage, but there is still a lack of quality mage minions to get balance and variety in the deck construction.
There’s still lots to like and Hearthstone continues to grow it’s player base, with relapsed players usually coming back each expansion. There’s still greater variety in deck types than was ever seen this time last year. It’s come a very long way, but it still feels like there’s room to grow — which is pretty good place to be. As the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan closes out the Hearthstone year, there’s still plenty of time to see what new and creative ways players will find to defeat their opponents.