The next Hearthstone expansion, Rise of Shadows, will feature 135 new cards, an expansive story and a whole lot of explosions. Releasing April 9, the set stars the League of E.V.IL, five baddies taken from the last half decade of Hearthstone lore. King Togwaggle, Hagatha, Dr. Boom, Rafaam and Madame Lazul have all joined forces to help take over Dalaran, the mythical floating city in the sky. The Defenders of Dalaran, a ragtag group of heroes, set out to stop them but they’ll have to be smart to save the day.
Rise of Shadows celebrates the history of Blizzard’s main card game on the heels of it’s five year anniversary. “We don’t want to introduce 135 new cards, we want to answer the ‘and then’ question,” Ben Thompson, creative director of Hearthstone told Newsweek at a preview event in Los Angeles. “It’s incumbent on us as a team to figure out why that expansion feels different and why would a player invest their time, efforts and money into playing. A story or Legendary cards aren’t just enough, it’s how you combine each of them to create a personality of it’s own that adds to the greater whole.”
Like every Hearthstone expansion, there are enough new keywords to keep the game fresh. The bad guys have access to Lackeys, a group of five one-mana minions that can be added to your hand with cards like E.V.I.L. Miscreant. Then there are Schemes, dastardly plans that increase in power exponentially the longer you hold them in your hand. Hagatha’s Scheme costs five mana and starts off dealing one damage to all minions. If this starts in your opening hand, it’s already a board clear by the time it can be played. There are also Twinspells, which can be played twice throughout the game.
One of the most interesting aspects of Rise is Shadows is its use of past Hearthstone characters. Madame Lazul is the main troll from the teaser trailers who hasn’t been since she warned players of their impending doom in the cinematic for Whispers of the Old Gods . “She’s the one that comes up in conversation, fans really like her a lot, loved the cinematic and thought she had a lot of character to her,” Thompson said. “Being able to reach back and pull her forward feels good because it talks to the fabric of a world that’s uninterpreted.”
Lazul’s name was created for this new expansion; before this she was just known as the fortune teller. The story team spent a lot of time figuring out what name would be the right fit and Thompson believes they have come up with something that stays true to her identity.
Alongside reusing past characters, Rise of Shadows brings back some memorable keywords and abilities. Arch-villain Rafaam transforms your deck into Legendary minions, similar to the Golden Monkey from the League of Explorers expansion. Rather than force new players to learn the over a dozen keywords released since Hearthstone’s launch, Thompson and the rest of Team 5 decided to only have one card with each keyword. “We don’t want to inundate people with all these things and assume that they knew what these terms are,” Thompson said. “New players coming are not going to have to learn five different keywords on top of these four new mechanics.”
Card reveals from Rise of Shadows will start to roll out over the next week, so stay tuned to Newsweek to learn about all the E.V.I.L. that’s coming.