Greetings, fellow players! Curse of Naxxramas has now been in our hands for a couple of days and I thought it might be nice to chronicle my experience with the adventure thus far. This series of articles will serve as more of a “Things I Observed” while walking through the halls of the necropolis rather than a “How To Destroy Everything ASAP” guide. We will definitely have that kind of coverage for you in the coming days though, so stay tuned!
This first week brought us the Arachnid Quarter, full of spiders and interesting combat encounters. I made sure to avail myself of as few spoilers as I possibly could before I dived in to play, taking each screen slowly and letting the dialogue and music wash over me.
With that in mind, it makes sense to start with the atmosphere/flavor of the adventure. It was a nice mix of providing the darkness of what a trip into a necropolis might actually entail while still maintaining the level of humor that Hearthstone has been known for. (Just read the flavor text of nearly any card!) That said, I noticed that some people in the community were put off by this. Hearthstone has always had bright colors and funny moments, so it didn’t upset me much. Plus, the redeeming factor there for those die-hard “keep it real” fans should have been the music. The new soundtrack fit a darkened mood and I would love it if that music could randomly pervade other parts of the game besides just inside of Naxxramas.
Once you’re actually inside of the Arachnid Quarter, you’re face to face with three bosses that you must fight in order in Normal Mode – Anub’Rekhan, Grand Widow Faerlina, and Maexxna. You get to Heroic Mode by first defeating the bosses on Normal. The Druid and Rogue Class Challenges are also contained in the Arachnid Quarter.
Each boss has different decks, hero powers, and flavors to them and thus require different strategies to take them down, although it is possible to force your way through with only one deck. Normal Mode doesn’t ask too too much of you and players in the community have stated that they managed to down it with the Basic Decks included with the original game. Before we get down to brass tacks though, I do want to say that the new board is awesome. There’s plenty of stuff to poke and watch ooze or produce spores. Beautiful (if not gross) touches there.
Above are the Hero Powers for each of the bosses. In order: Anub’Rekhan’s Skitter, Faerlina’s Rain of Fire, and Maexxna’s Web Wrap. These are how they function in Normal Mode; they’re…a bit different in Heroic, to put it lightly. So, you can see that a strategy/deck that involves having multiple cards in your hand (Handlock, most control decks in general, etc.) would be a pretty bad take into Faerlina’s lair, whereas control and advantageous trades is what you would want in the Anub’Rekhan fight. Maexxna is just fun. You need to be able to keep a steady supply of minions on the board or else just burn her down with tons of spells before her board overwhelms you.
Some of the interesting things I noticed in the encounters:
- The bosses had quite the mix of cards – some from the original set, some from Naxxramas, and even a mix of class cards, too. Anub’Rekhan had Shadow Bolt and Frostbolt, for instance. Faerlina played Warrior spells (Battle Rage; Rampage) and Warlock spells (Hellfire). She even played a Dark Cultist (which made me drool with envy) and when she defeated me the first time (I know; I know… That hero power though with all my options in my hand as a Priest? Nope!), she actually BMed [bad mannered] me by playing some creatures, buffing them up, and then using her hero power to kill me when the latter was really all she needed. I don’t know if that was intentional AI or not, but I loved it!
- The Normal Mode AI is good, but makes mistakes. There was an instance, for example, where one of my minions was Mortal Coiled first and then killed off when, if done the other way around, the AI would have triggered the card draw part of Mortal Coil. There were also some times where a boss had enough mana to use their hero power and just skipped it or passed their entire turn altogether.
- Using emotes against your opponent actually gets them to respond! I thought that was an excellent touch. Definitely try it out against each one when you get in the game.
- It seems like you will always go first. I never once got The Coin in over 8 games.
Again, Normal was about the equivalent to the Normal AI in Practice Mode when we all started out bright eyed and bushy tailed so long ago. It isn’t meant by any means to break your back. With enough knowledge of your own deck and figuring out how the bosses’ Hero Powers work, you will certainly make your way through without too much sweating. Heroic Mode, however, is a completely different story.
One thing that I do want to key in on is that the “rules” are broken in Naxxramas. This is obvious from the bosses having cards from multiple classes in their deck, but they can also have more than two of a card in their deck as well, as I saw Faerlina play three Worshipers at one point. Now you may be asking what a Worshiper is; the bosses also have cards that we will never get to own, but that help bolster their powers and difficulty. Here’s a small gallery of some of the ones I encountered:
Some of these are rather similar to cards that are already in the game, but just far more overpowered versions. Necrotic Poison is a cheaper Assassinate; Locust Swarm is a MUCH improved, but more expensive Hellfire; Deathcharger is like a Flame Imp, but way better, in my opinion. The Worshiper card, in particular, is one that I would love to somehow see actually enter the game, since I have always been a fan of getting neutral weapons into the collection and that card would be a really clever way of accomplishing the task.
There were also the two Class Challenges for Druid and Rogue included in this wing to unlock Poison Seeds and Anub’ar Ambusher, respectively. These encounters were unique in that the game gave you pre-made decks. I found this to actually be refreshing since not only did you have little to no information about what your AI opponent would do, but you also had no idea what you were capable of with your own deck. Could you handle big threats? Would any of these buffs ever get to be played on an actual minion?! It was great to constantly be guessing and having to think on your feet. These challenges seemed straight-forward after you began to see what kind of synergy your cards were adding up to. I even had a guest appearance in my Rogue challenge…
All in all, I had an awesome experience playing through the Arachnid Quarter. My expectations were met and then blown away with the attention to detail and the level of fun and refreshing game play. I’m looking forward to seeing how the piecemeal addition of new cards to the game will affect the Ranked Play meta and what kind of crazy decks we’ll get in Arena, too. If this wing is any indication, the rest of Curse of Naxxramas should be an absolute pleasure to play. Until next time, my friends!