hearthstone

Hearthstone: Blackrock Mountain First Impressions

Last week, Hearthstone’s newest solo adventure, Blackrock Mountain, was released after much anticipation from fans. Unlike true expansions, the solo adventures in Hearthstone features five different sections of a popular dungeon from the World of Warcraft that unlock at a rate of one per week. Furthermore, the adventure contains 31 preset cards that can be obtained by completing various areas of the adventure and specific class challenges. This might seem like a meager amount in comparison to the 143 card Goblins vs Gnomes expansion, but players are also aware of exactly what they’re getting so there’s no gambling for legendary cards involved.

Blackrock Mountain costs $24.99 In order to unlock all 5 wings. This might appear to be quite a bit for only 31 cards, but considering 5 are legendary the cost isn’t bad when compared to what it would take to obtain them from opening packs. That is, however, only relative if each player finds those specific cards particularly useful. Unfortunately, all cards are soulbound after being acquired, which means they can’t be broken down for dust. After playing through the first wing, and analyzing the cards for Blackrock Mountain it makes me a little wary of whether or not the expansion is worth the money.

hearthstone

Blizzard sure likes to keep us waiting.

GADGETZAN PRICING

The pricing structure for Blackrock Mountain is done in a way that promotes players to buy the entire package all at once. It’s cheaper, more efficient and guarantees Blizzard gets their money, even if it’s a little less than if players were to buy each wing individually. It is possible to pay for the entire experience with in-game gold, but not many players have 3500 gold stored up. Moreover, wings have to be purchased in order, so if you’ve got your eye on Nefarian you have to buy all five sections. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that Blizzard intentionally put the best cards in the last few areas, but various class-specific cards can only be unlocked in their respective dungeons. Additionally, Blackwing Lair has the best value with 7 cards as opposed to every other wing that contains 6.

Cost seems to find a nice balance in regards to both paying players and free players. When compared to most other card games, $24.99 isn’t terribly expensive and is generally the same as a few booster packs of competing card games. On the flip side, 700 gold per wing isn’t that bad either. A casual player can easily grind out around 50 gold each day, which requires about 14 days per wing. This means if a player started saving a month before launch they would never have to play catchup and those that didn’t would only have to wait about twice as long as paying players.

 

QUESTING ADVENTURER

I doubt that anyone is really buying Blackrock Mountain for the boss fights. The Blackrock Depths had some interesting mechanics, but all of the bosses were quite gimmicky and rather easy to dispatch. I definitely wouldn’t pay $6.99 for the hour it took to clear the three bosses and two class challenges. However, the class challenges are generally quite fun, such as the mage deck with only unstable portal, but again it’s unlikely that many people will play the matches more than once. The Heroic mode definitely adds a bit of a challenge, but more often than not they usually just require a very specific deck to beat. Additionally, there’s no real incentive for the added effort other than a special card back, which we all already have too many of.

hearthstone

I wonder what I’ll choose…

DECK MASTER

If you didn’t venture to Blackrock Mountain for the questing, then it’s obvious that you came for the cards. Unfortunately, some players might leave the mountain a bit disappointed. When compared with the Curse of Naxxramas, there are quite a few underwhelming cards in Blackrock Mountain. If Naxxramas had the “Deathrattle” theme then Blackrock Mountain has a dragon/reduced-cost-with-death theme. A large majority of the cards cost an absurd amount of mana but can have their cost reduced for each card that died during the turn.

This appears to be a really niche mechanic, unlike deathrattle which is almost always useful, and makes the cards generally more risky than they are useful. Dragon’s Breath, for example, costs 5 mana and only does 4 damage, but its cost is reduced for each minion that died during the turn. This sounds decent enough, but a 4 damage card usually shines early and it’s unlikely that enough death will happen to put this card in a cost-effective state. After a few matches with Dragon’s Breath in arena, where value cards shine, I never really got enough value out of the card and would have always preferred a fireball or Frostbolt. There are plenty of other cards that follow this same pattern such as Solemn Vigil; in order to be the exact value of Arcane Intellect two minions have to die. Obviously there are situations where these cards could shine, but I’m not sure it’s worth sacrificing the early game for a potential advantage later on.

While the reduce cost on death mechanic is rather underwhelming, the additional dragon race cards could prove interesting. There are many cards that are either dragons or have effects based on having dragons in your hand. Before Blackrock Mountain, most dragon cards were incredibly expensive but the recent additions have made a deck based on keeping dragons in your hand not so painful. Both Hungry Dragon and Volcanic Drake would be great drops around turn 4, while Twilight Whelp and Blackwing Technician have a lot of value early game. The biggest downfall is that two of the strongest dragon-specific cards, Twilight Whelp and Dragon Consort, are class specific and almost limit making a dragon deck to one of these two classes. Due to a few other cards appearing almost unplayable at this point in time, Dragon Egg and Drakonid Crusher come to mind, there are still very limited deck options.

hearthstone Blackrock Mountain

I’m thinking Emperor Thaurissan will find a nice spot in my druid deck.

On a positive note, it seems that Blackrock Mountain is less focused on the power creep than Naxxramas by focusing on very specific play styles. Unfortunately, this specificity also makes a few of the cards counterintuitive. For example, Hunters get a card that benefits from an empty hand, but they also get a card that lets them draw if their hand is empty. Putting both of those cards in the same deck is certainly going to make for a bad situation. Rend Blackhand is one of the most situational cards ever created and without his battlecry activating he also has some of the worst value ever. An 8/4 for 7 mana is atrocious, but on top of that his battlecry requires two very specific qualifications, making him probably the worst card in the set and a terrible waste of a legendary. There’s also Demonwrath, which becomes essentially useless if playing against another demon player.

All in all, it seems that Blackrock Mountain’s value can change dramatically from player to player. Anyone looking for a meaningful PvE experience isn’t going to find it here, however, there are also some very powerful cards if used in specific situations. On the contrary, it’s also possible that some players might not find a single usable card in the bunch. We’ll be sure revisit Blackrock Mountain and take a further look at the impact of the cards on the meta once they’ve all been released.

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About Nick Shively

Nick is an eSports and RPG enthusiast. He can normally be found in the deepest parts of a dungeon or in the arena slaying opponents. Nick has been a gamer since an early age and involved in the industry since 2011. He obtained a degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2015.