You might remember a Year of the Phoenix roadmap, which was showcased alongside all the announcements in March. Given how hyped the first expansion of the year was (you know, new class and all), lots of players have forgotten about a few things that are ahead of us. Right now, we’re in “Phase 1” (which is the first expansion) – and the only thing we’re yet to see is the Seasonal Event. I don’t expect any surprises – it’s most likely a Fire Festival coming around June-July.
Looking at the Phase 2 & 3, some of the stuff is still locked (so we don’t know what will that be), but one thing that’s coming pretty soon is especially interesting. In Phase 2, we should get a new game mode.
While there’s still some time until the official announcements, let alone the new mode’s release, Blizzard has already given a huge hint that might help us identify the format. In the recent Reddit AMA with devs, Game Director Ben Lee has talked a bit about the upcoming format. Here’s the comment I’m referring to:
The new game mode coming later this year will allow you to use cards from older and newer sets. Currently, we aren’t putting any restrictions on which sets can be played within it, and there might even be some cool hidden secrets for using some of the older cards. – Ben (Source)
After reading this comment, two things come to mind. First of all, it seems that it looks like a Constructed format. Ben has also mentioned in one of the videos that the new mode will “use your collection”, which means that it won’t be anything completely unique like Battlegrounds. The second thing is that “older” (so Wild) sets will also come into action. After reading this reply, the first thing that I thought about is – like the title suggests – a rotating format. The idea itself is not exactly new. Almost 2 years ago, I wrote an article about other formats that we might see in the future, and rotating was among them. And, of course, it’s not just me. Over the years, I’ve seen many players requesting it.
Rotating Arena & Brawls
I started thinking about it once again roughly a year ago, when Arena implemented its current rotation mechanic. Back in the day, Arena had a Wild format. Then, it became Standard for a pretty long time. Neither of those was great. Wild’s card pool was becoming too big, while Standard got boring & stale. So Blizzard came up with an interesting solution – instead of sticking to Standard/Wild, they simply started to rotate out some sets in and out periodically. Every ~two months, we get a different set of expansions that are available to draft from (usually 6-8 at the time). It’s not as stale as Standard, uses a much bigger pool of cards overall, but not at the same time, so it doesn’t run into the same problems as Wild might.
Another thing that made me think that they might be planning it are the “Brawl Block” Tavern Brawls. They’re special, Constructed type of Brawls that only let you use cards from a few given sets. The first one launched a few months before aforementioned Arena changes – in January 2019 – and we’ve got a bunch of them ever since. In fact, we just had one last week, where players could build decks using only Adventure cards.
How Would it Work & Potential Issues
Since the whole concept has proven to be working quite nicely for both Arena and Constructed (as tested in Tavern Brawls), why not make it a permanent play mode? For most of the players, Hearthstone is usually most fun after some bigger meta shift. When things get stale and we face the same few decks over and over again, it becomes less interesting. So expansion releases or big balance updates bring back more players and more interest in the game. And that’s exactly what a rotating format would do. Since we would get a different line-up of available expansions every now and then, players would have to adapt and build decks with whatever they have available in time. Blizzard could make interesting combinations of sets – such as joining them up thematically or putting together expansions that share similar synergies (for example, GvG + Boomsday Project, or Blackrock Mountain + Descent of Dragons).
Of course, having such a format comes with a few issues. Most notably – what about new players? If you’re a veteran player, you should have a bunch of cards from older expansions, which would come handy in such game mode. But a new player won’t have them. In Wild, they can at least play Standard decks and still be somewhat successful. In a rotating format, none of the Standard sets might be present at the time. Assuming that Basic/Classic could also rotate in and out, there might be a situation in which they literally can’t play the mode, because they don’t own enough cards from current rotation to build a deck.
While those situations would be pretty rare, I can imagine that it would be common for players to not own too many competitive cards from a given set, which means that they would either have to craft them (and that’s not ideal given that the set will rotate out quickly and it might take a long time for it to come back) or wouldn’t be able to play good decks. Blizzard might implement an alternative, such as “deck recipes” that can be played by anyone, even people who don’t own the cards.
Keep in mind, however, that it’s just a speculation. All we know that the new format will feature both old and new cards. But I honestly think that it’s the most likely one. And what do you think? Would you like to see a format like that? If no, what other ideas do you have?