The definitive analysis of the latest Hearthstone expansion. Can the Scholomance Academy be called a success? And the Year of the Phoenix?
A few weeks have now passed since our previous foray into the stalls ofScholomance Academy. Shortly after the post release wild undercutting we tested all the news of the Hearthstone expansion, moving cautiously in the forest of experimental decks that have moved the meta quite a bit during the entire month of August. Initially, the renewed effectiveness of the Demon Hunter put us on the alert again but then, thanks to some decisive interventions by the development team, we had to change our mind. Now the time has finally come to take a peek at the current meta and understand if indeed the second expansion of the Year of the Phoenix can be said to be successful. Here are our impressions.
The welcome of the Magnificent Rector!
During our first contact with Scholomance we outlined the narrative background that supports this second expansion of the year of the Phoenix. We therefore invite you to read the preview of Scholomance last July to learn more about the history of the Academy, a place of enormous importance for the very existence of Azeroth. Indeed, it was in Scholomance that the Cult of the Damned.
For now, just know that the Hearthstone development team has decided to lay the expansion on extremely fertile ground, a narrative crossroads indelibly imprinted in the memory of all admirers of the boundless cosmogony of Warcraft.
The material from which to draw was therefore very delicate but, like usual, Dave Kosac and associates managed – obviously respecting the light and carefree style that characterizes Hearthstone – to create a respectable content, respectful of the original story but at the same time unpublished and, in some way, cheeky with a Kel’Thuzad (not yet Lich subjected to the will of Arthas) in the guise of the Magnificent Rector.
The news of the academic year
The idea of the existence of a wizarding academy in Azeroth, however, shouldn’t be too surprising. Among other things, in the past of Hearthstone the themes dedicated to the arcane arts have already been explored (to learn more, refer to the review of Hearthstone A Night in Karazhan).
So in this case it’s not so much the “frame“to stand out, as much as the content, or rather” how “the latter was conceived and created by the team of creatives under Blizzard. The setting of the new expansion, of course, in addition to respecting the canons of the lore, still had to justify and support the unedited game mechanics, so as to give a sense of coherence to the Hearthstone game system.
The path taken by the developers was as simple as it was brilliant (or, at least, eclectic): imagine a school of arcane arts open to students from the four corners of Azeroth, with specific courses for each class and legendary professors, experts in the magical arts.
Here are explained, therefore, the novelties of the set that in recent weeks not only entertained us, but has also found its place in the goal without destabilizing it.
For those who missed them, let’s briefly recall the main game mechanics present in Scholomance.
Magic Impulse is a keyword that allows the activation of a bonus effect, which shows its effects only once and only after a spell has been cast.
The second game mechanic, Education, it is instead a new type of spell that puts players in the condition to find a card, and at the same time reduce the mana cost of the next card of the same type that will be played. It goes without saying that such a mechanic is perfectly suited to classes that make extensive use of spells in their strategies.
Last news to report – but not least – is the introduction of “bi-class” cards, or cards specifically designed to be exploited by two classes: an innovation second only to the surprise arrival of the Demon Hunter during last spring.
For the first time, in fact, players can count on cards designed to be shared between two classes: a revolutionary choice for Hearthstone. In fact, the team has always been very careful to preserve the identity of each class along the entire evolutionary path of the Blizzard card game. The new bi-class cards, on the other hand, help to make the smoother and more malleable deck construction.
The fear, as we have already mentioned at the beginning, was only one: that is, that this choice could upset the already precarious balance in which Hearthstone poured. With no little surprise, however, we were able to happily ascertain that this did not happen. What’s more: the innovations introduced have allowed players to create fun and effective situations and interactions.
The balance of the meta
As we have just anticipated, the goal has fortunately not suffered from the so-called “Illidan effect“which, at the beginning of the year, sowed chaos and destruction in the ladder.
If we exclude some corrective actions aimed at realigning some cards that are a little too popular with players (Kael’Tas is Illucia, for example), we can safely say that Scholomance – all things considered – has succeeded where other expansions have failed: to bring back “balance in the Force“.
Compared to the weeks immediately following the release, in fact, things have changed a lot: the Demon Hunter no longer sounds big (if we exclude the archetype “Soul“based, precisely on the combos with the Fragments of the Soul), and the newfound balance has favored the presence of a good variety of decks at every step of the ladder.
From the lowest levels up to the Top Legend, in fact, several very interesting archetypes have appeared on the scene (or quickly returned to vogue). First of all the Rogue with his Miracle, closely followed by an excellent Pure Paladin and an equally effective one Hunter, even with two variants: Face (the most aggressive and loved by players) e Highlander.
Warlock is Mage they struggle slightly but still remain highly competitive, as does the always annoying Bomb Warrior, the only archetype that Garrosh can currently afford to survive at high levels. In strong recovery, however, the Druid with his Guardian.
The shaman is currently the hero who most of all needs an adjustment, which we hope will arrive soon.
Phoenix … Happy?
It goes without saying that it is still early to sum up theYear of the Phoenix. After all we are still in the second expansion and still missing the grand finale, scheduled as usual during the last months of the year.
The evaluation on Blizzard’s work can only be partial, therefore, even if some points (or goals, if you prefer) emerge on which it is good to dwell. The new grafts in the development team have in all likelihood made it possible to rejuvenate a system that now appeared old and a bit too stuck in the past, and the effects were seen starting this year, not surprisingly represented by the mythological Phoenix .
In this sense, the introduction of the first new class after so many years undoubtedly represented the break between the old course and the new.
In addition to Illidan’s debut, among the novelties arrived this year there was the beginning of the rework dedicated to the classes most in need of intervention, the unprecedented balance of the meta, the fun with bi-class cards, the restructuring of the ladder and favor for new players with duplicate policy. The balance, net of some uncertain steps, at the moment appears quite positive. We’re curious to see if Blizzard actually has something else in store before the end of 2020. The Battle pass, maybe? Or some long-requested features?
The Forbidden Library
In conjunction with our review comes a new patch, which sets the stage for the limited-time event called “Forbidden Library“, which will last three weeks and will bring other news.
First of all a new feature for the Battle, through which up to 4 players will be able to queue together for a Ranked Battle.
Should the lobby exceed four players, the game type will automatically switch to a “Private Battle” of five to eight players.
In addition, in accordance with the setting of the expansion, new heroes appear in the Inn: the members of the Barov house. Recall that the Barov were one of the most powerful families of Lordaeron whose home, the manor of Caer Darrow, was an ancient fortress built on a place full of arcane force of elven origin. For Kel’Thuzad, it was the perfect place to found a school of necromancy, spread the Cult of the Damned, and train his followers in the magical arts.
During the second week, however, the new single player adventure called “The Book of Heroes“, where players can learn about the story of Jaina Proudmoore from his beginnings until his transformation into one of the most powerful wizards in Azeroth.
The Hearthstone Book of Heroes, according to what has been declared, will bring new free content even for all the next 12 months, telling the stories of the ten card game heroes.
By defeating all bosses in this first adventure, players will earn one envelope of the Magician containing only class cards. Finally, as the last content of the Forbidden Library, the Heroic Racetrack: for 1,000 gold (translated into € 9.99), it will be possible to participate in a competitive Brawl using cards from the collection. The rules are simple: continue until you reach 12 wins or 3 losses.
Hearthstone Scholomance AcademyPC Analyzed VersionAfter weeks of experimentation, we can say that the Scholomance Academy is an excellent expansion compared to what we have seen and experienced in the past. The meta evolves naturally and without major jerks; the variety is not lacking, as well as the fun. The development team finally seems to have managed – despite the internal revolution and the events that are still creating many problems in the States – to give a decisive impulse towards a renewal of the famous card game. It is no coincidence that the Phoenix was chosen to best represent the desire to change and to look to the future with renewed vigor (and optimism). The balance, net of some missteps (physiological, when you decide to take a new path), at the moment appears however positive. We are curious to understand what else the Phoenix has in store for us in this strange 2020.