Hearthstone’s next expansion introduces Spell Schools, which is not so much a new concept but more of an expansion of the specializations in the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game (WoW TCG) from 2006. Although it was presented quickly alongside the new keywords for the expansion, Spell Schools have the potential to redefine how Hearthstone is played in the long term, and although it was not mentioned, could be a great nerf to the RNG-factor that some players hate.
What Are Spell Schools?
Different from keywords like Reborn, Rush, and the upcoming Frenzy, Spell Schools were introduced as “a permanent addition to Hearthstone, which will be applied retroactively to many previously released spells.” Using the Priest class as an example, you might be familiar with the two main ways to play the class in World of Warcraft, putting talents into specializations like a Holy or Discipline healer, or into Shadow as a damage dealer. Some skills can only be used when you are specialized into one of those two roles, or simply break you away from having certain abilities. Using Holy abilities, for example, used to cancel Shadow Form.
In Hearthstone, Spell Schools appear to be following this route, allowing you to specialize, like with talents in the MMO. Priests will receive five brand-new spells from Forged in the Barrens with the Holy tag, or interacting with it, while a massive 67 spells from all other prior sets will retroactively have the Holy tag or some specialized interaction applied. The same can be said for the Shadow tag, which Iksar teased a few weeks ago after a recent AMA, with four new spells, and 109 retroactively changed from previous sets.
As a direct result, Hearthstone looks to be giving you the option to create a specialized deck as either a Holy or Shadow Priest, as well as several other classes. While this is most excellent, it is merely a recycled concept from the old trading card game.
The Original Shadow Priests, Affliction Warlocks, And Protection Paladins!
From its launch in 2006, the WoW TCG required you to build a deck around a Hero that, much like the WoW MMO, had a specific talent specialization that would allow you to use certain cards and exclude others. As seen below, Boris Brightbeard is a Holy Priest that could not use most of the Shadow spells listed in our article, which you can read here, but could cast restorative Holy spells.
The limitations were a great way to help guide newer players towards the types of cards that would most benefit their deck in terms of synergy, as opposed to Hearthstone that only separates cards into class-specific and neutral. Over the next eight years, there were 22 expansions to give you more tools to create highly specialized decks, so this never really felt like a limiting factor.
Spell Schools Might Punish RNG, And That’s A Good Thing
Put simply, Spell Schools might be the most important change ever made to Hearthstone, assuming that the synergies eventually reach efficient levels. At first, however, Spell Schools could feel like a flop, and this would be totally normal. Often when Hearthstone introduces a new mechanic, there is some catchup required with more expansions to fill out a deck from concept to competitive.
More importantly, there is one more unmentioned consequence of the new Spell Schools, which is that RNG should be weakened in the long term. For example, cards that can generate random Legendaries are often fun to use but usually useless because of how specialized those cards are. Similarly, a minion on the board that is transformed into a random Legendary has the same odds of being a mighty 12/12 Deathwing, or a sad 0/4 Nat Pagle.
Going forward, random card generation will likely pull from all the Spell Schools, meaning that you receive a spell or minion that might be useless without synergistic support, or is simply understated for its mana cost because in a specialized deck, its Holy or Shadow tag makes up for the shortfall.
The same can be said of the new Mercenary cards like Bru’Kan, the new Shaman Legendary minion that provides +3 Nature Spell Damage. Unless you also happen to randomly generate spells with the Nature Spell School tag, you will probably be falling behind your opponent.
Once again, it needs to be repeated that Spell Schools might feel underwhelming at first, but think of the new mechanic like the Warlock’s Discard strategy. Although Discard has been in Hearthstone since launch, it took several expansions before it because a viable mechanic in both Standard and Wild. Over time, we may see the overall meta of Hearthstone evolve in a positive way thanks to class specializations in Spell Schools, adding whole new layers of complexity for players and prolonging the life of the game for years to come.
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The Fantastic, Science-Fiction, and Horror are Patricio’s go-to genres for literature, film, and gaming. Dead by Daylight is his daily bread and butter as he writes for TheGamer. He teaches Spanish at McGill by day and writes next to his Staffy x Boxer rescue from the SPCA by night.
Patricio graduated from the University of Alberta in 2006, 2012, and will have one more degree in hand by 2020. Innovation in game development, the economics of making games profitable, and the downward, decadent spiral of former great gaming companies fuels his soul to write daily. Will Blizzard Entertainment do something controversial often enough to keep this reference relevant? Patrick certainly believes they will.
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