Hearthstone will make another major shift to its Standard play, Blizzard announced today. Starting with the next set rotation, the Basic and Classic sets will be removed from Standard play and replaced by a batch that Blizzard is calling the Core set. This comes alongside a few other changes, and a new Classic mode. It’s all a little heady, so let’s break it down.
The New Core Set
Hearthstone introduced the Standard and Wild modes in 2016 to keep gameplay competitive without the collection of playable cards getting too large and daunting for newcomers. Standard combined the Basic and Classic sets with the most recent two years of expansions. Basic cards are gained by reaching level milestones with heroes, while Classic cards are the regular, vanilla set of cards that come in randomized Classic packs. Wild would house absolutely everything, including older expansions.
Starting this spring, though, both Basic and Classic will be replaced in Standard with a new Core set. The Core set is a collection of 235 cards that will be free for all players. You’ll earn them by leveling up classes, and if you’re an established player who has already reached level 10 with each class, you’ll just have them all automatically as soon as you log in. You can also earn the Golden versions by completing achievements as each class.
This curated set of cards includes some from Classic and Basic, some returning from Wild, and various others. It will even include 29 entirely new cards. This will allow Blizzard to bring back older cards that might fit the flavor and synergy for an upcoming year of expansions. You can see the breakdown below.
But notably, unlike the Basic and Classic sets which remained static in Standard, the Core set will refresh every year, just like expansions rotate in and out of play. So this initial Core set is Core 2021, and a different set of curated cards will be automatically granted to players when Blizzard introduces Core 2022.
Blizzard did not specify which cards will be part of Core 2021, aside from noting some returning Demon Hunter cards and that the Priest’s aggressive card Shadowform will make a return.
Core Set 2021 Breakdown:
- 88 cards returning from Classic (54 Class cards, 34 neutral cards).
- 54 cards returning from Basic (41 class cards, 13 neutral cards).
- 55 cards returning from Wild (36 class cards, 19 neutral cards).
- 4 cards returning from Ashes of Outland (4 Demon Hunter Class cards).
- 4 cards returning from Demon Hunter Initiate.
- 1 card returning from Hall of Fame (Shadowform).
- 29 new cards (20 Class cards, 9 Neutral cards).
The Legacy Set and Hall of Fame
As part of the announcement, Blizzard also announced it will be retiring the Hall of Fame. This was essentially a repository for Blizzard to selectively pull cards that were becoming a problem for Standard play, either by limiting the design space or just having unforeseen consequences. The Hall of Fame was playable in Wild, but not Standard.
Now, since the Core set will give Blizzard more flexibility to match the playable cards in Standard to its expansion plans, the Hall of Fame will be gone. Those cards will be added into a new batch called the Legacy Set, which also houses the Basic and Classic sets. (Blizzard notes a few exceptions; several Witchwood cards with the odd/even mechanic had been moved to the Hall of Fame, and now they’ll return to the Witchwood set. And as mentioned, Shadowform will move to the Core set.)
The Classic Format
Finally, Blizzard announced a new (old) way to play Hearthstone, the Classic format. This will essentially allow you to play the vanilla, launch version of Hearthstone as it appeared in 2014. Many of the most popular cards of that era have undergone balance changes since then, and those balance changes will remain for Standard or Wild play. But you’ll essentially get mirrored, older versions of them for use in Classic.
So for example, Leeroy Jenkins once cost 4 Mana, Warsong Commander gave minions Charge, and Knife Juggler had 3 attack instead of 2. Those were all considered OP with the addition of later sets, but if you want to play like an OG, you’ll be able to. Classic Format will have its own matchmaking pool, and its own rank and reward systems just like Standard and Wild. You can progress all the way through your Tavern Pass and make it to Legend rank completely in Classic, if that’s your preference.
To accommodate the new mode, Blizzard is expanding the number of deck slots again. You’ll now get 27 slots in total, up from 18.
Blizzard is expected to share more details on Hearthstone’s next expansion sometime soon, as the first expansion of the year (and its accompanying rotation) tend to happen in the spring. That makes next week’s BlizzConline a likely spot for any upcoming announcements.
GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.