Hearthstone game director Ben Brode acknowledges that Rush (which lets minions attack other minions the turn they come out) might just seem like a "bad version of Charge." But despite the "downgrade," he thinks Rush will avoid some of the problems that made Charge cards hard to balance. In contrast to Charge, Rush lets players catch up without the potential for non-interactive, one-turn-kill face damage. With Rush and Divine Shield, Ghostly Charger acts like direct damage on minions that leaves a minion behind to boot. A useful utility card when you need to catch up. Ratcatcher could be an easy way to activate friendly Deathrattles on your own schedule, Brode points out. Beyond that, you can sacrifice a minion that already attacked to get its benefits for yet another attack, or you can sacrifice a minion right after playing it to effectively give it Rush. In most games, you'll play Walnut Sprite early because "you've got to play something on Turn 3," Brode says. But because of the Echo ability, which lets you replay the card as many times as you want in the same turn, you might decide there's more value in waiting until turn 6 or turn 9. That flexibility is the real value of Echo cards, he says. On first glance, Squashling just looks like "a bad Voodoo Doctor for Priest," Brode admits. But the ability to spread the healing out among many targets (and to fill the board late in the game) makes it much more valuable in many situations. To make an effective Murloc deck work, you have to have Murlocs out early in the game. But if you draw those Murlocs late in the game, they're pretty much wasted. Ghost Light Angler threads that needle by being valuable in many early and late-game situations. Unlike similar opponent-weakening cards, Curse of Weakness has the potential to absolutely ruin your opponent's next attack while also letting you make beneficial trades during your turn. This could be a huge tool when you just need a little bit more time to stabilize the board. As if Warlock decks needed any more help these days, here comes Dark Possession to make it even easier to get extra Doomguards and Voidlords into your hand. The self-damage can even be a synergistic advantage with some other Warlock cards… Deathweb Spider is one of two new Witchwood cards that Brode said you could play early for a limited effect or wait until later to get a more powerful effect alongside the Warlock's self-damaging hero power. That early/late game flexibility seems to be a major focus of many Witchwood cards. While waiting for a hero power is the easiest way to activate a card like Duskbat, cards like Dark Possession, Flame Imp, and Kobold Librarian can also be used to get them out for a bit less mana. Zero-mana spells can be pretty dangerous (see the original version of Soulfire) but Zap seems to get the balance right, providing a useful-but-not-overpowering tool for Shaman decks. The Overload can even be beneficial for activating effects on other cards, Brode points out. Shudderwock might seem like another crazy, Yogg-Saron-style overpowered meme card, but Brode says it's less random than it seems, since all those replayed battlecry effect have to actually come from your own deck. Combined with cards like Corpsetaker or Saronite Chain Gang, Shudderwock can even buff and/or copy himself automatically, leading to some crazy power shifts and minute-long animations. In many situations, Vilebrood Skitterer ends up just being a less-effective version of Assassinate. But if you can kill a weak minion, leaving a body behind on the board gives the chance to get two swings of the Poison effect, which could be very effective in Arena. Nightscale Matriarch's ability to fill the board as you throw around healing effects can be pretty powerful, but turn 7 might be too late for it to have very much import to the game's flow. Thirteen stat points for 5 mana makes Quartz Elemental a pretty good value. Priest's healing effects mean the drawback is pretty manageable, too. And who needs to attack if you put Taunt on that big body? Brode notes that Prince Liam can turn a deck full of low-cost early-game minions into late game threats at the perfect moment. I personally worry that I'll end up getting some really crappy Legendary minions filling up my deck after I play this guy… but I'd probably have a lot of fun doing so! As a 4/11 Taunt minion, Wyrmguard can provide a super-tough wall for the opponent to get through on turn 7. Combined with the doubling power of an earlier Emeriss, though, this thing becomes a crazy 7/22 Taunting monster. With Cauldron Elemental in your deck, all those wimpy Flame Elementals become "real threats," as Brode puts it. Seems about right to us. For control decks, Baleful Banker can help derive maximum value from those powerful Battlecry minions, and it can help prevent fatigue damage in long matches. Combined with the battlecry-copying powers of Shudderwock, things could get out of hand quickly. Brode compares Carrion Drake to cards like Maexxna, which provide a hard-to-destroy body that can poison multiple opposing minions. The stat-line and relatively easy-to-activate ability make this one to watch out for in control Hunter decks.
In a livestream event today, Blizzard revealed the final handful of unrevealed cards from its upcoming
Hearthstone expansion, The Witchwood, which launches April 12 with 135 new cards. Over the weekend, we got a sneak peek at 20 of those cards and discussed their design and potential with the game's ever-genial director, Ben Brode.
Click through the gallery above to see the newly revealed cards and read about Brode's thoughts on where new abilities like Rush and Echo fit into the current state of the ultra-popular card game (with a little bit of our own analysis thrown in for good measure).