Hearthstone: Ashes of Outland is the next major expansion for the Warcraft card game, Blizzard announced today. This is an especially flavorful expansion, too, as it's set smack in the middle of 2007's Burning Crusade World of Warcraft expansion.
Ashes of Outland is a 135-card set, the first of three Year of the Phoenix sets, and it features two new card types: Primes and Imprisoned Demons. Primes are similar to the old Shaman Legendary White Eyes. They're Legendary minions that shuffle a stronger version of themselves into your deck whenever they die. The Warrior Prime Kargath Bladefist, for instance, is a 4-cost 4/4 Rush that shuffles Kargath Prime, an 8-cost 10/10 Rush that grants 10 armor whenever it kills something.
Imprisoned Demons, meanwhile, are minions that stay Dormant for two turns after you play them. While Dormant, these demons cannot attack, take damage, or be targeted, much like some of the special minions in the latest Adventures. After two turns (at the start of your third turn), these demons awaken and trigger a special effect, from buffing minions in your hand to damaging the enemy board. These cards are all demons, but every class - not just Warlock, the demon expert - will get both an Imprisoned demon and a Prime. This includes the Hearthstone Demon Hunter, the surprise 10th class which will arrive alongside Ashes of Outland.
The Year of the Phoenix is bringing more than just new keywords, too. Ashes of Outland will usher in a new set of duplicate protections designed to make opening card packs more exciting and building a collection less expensive. Game director Ben Lee explained this system at a pre-release event in February:
"When you have more cards, you have more options to have fun," Lee said. "So coming with the first expansion of the year, duplicate protection will now apply across all rarities. What this means is that, whenever you open a card of a given rarity, it will be one that you haven't already got. Basically this means the game is cheaper. This will also affect all old expansions, including those you already own. We passionately feel this is the right thing for the game."
In a separate interview, game designer Chadd Nervig confirmed that this upgraded duplicate protection works off the cards you've already obtained from packs, not the cards currently in your collection. In other words, you can dust unwanted cards without worrying about pulling duplicates.
On top of that, Blizzard's launching a new experience for returning players who are interested in checking out Ashes of Outland. If you haven't played Hearthstone for four months or more as of April 7, 2020, you'll receive a free starter deck for the class of your choice when you return. These starter decks are nothing to sneeze at, and come with several high-rarity cards. Returning players will be able to claim their deck by completing a short mini-adventure that introduces mechanics from the Year of the Dragon.
For one final treat, all players will get access to one Legendary from Ashes of Outland in a free update coming. Kael'thas Sunstrider, a six mana 4/7 which makes the third spell you cast each turn cost zero, will be available to all players later today.