Mean Streets of Gadgetzan will be upon us within the next few weeks and it begs one very important question: When is the next expansion or adventure coming out? Gadgetzan will be the fourth full expansion set to be released into the Hearthstone catalog. The first expansion, Gnomes vs. Goblins, came out in December of 2014. The second expansion, The Grand Tournament, came out in August of 2015. The third expansion, Whispers of the Old Gods, came out in April of 2016.

Given the game’s original release date of March of 2014 we have gaps of nine months, nine months, eight months, and now eight months again between expansion releases. That seems like a pretty stable release cycle but there is one inherent problem: it doesn’t line-up nicely with the Standard format calendar.

There have also been four adventure sets released since March of 2014. Curse of Naxxramas was released in July of 2014, four months after the initial expert expansion released. Since then we’ve gotten Blackrock Mountain in April of 2015 (nine months), League of Explorers in November of 2015 (seven months), and One Night in Karazhan in August of 2016 (nine months). So again we see that the design and development cycles are fairly consistent, around eight months, and consistent with expansion releases, but we also have the same problem.

Why is it important for the expansion and adventure releases to line up with the Standard calendar anyways? For starters we don’t exactly know when the Year of the Kraken is going to end precisely. Standard rotates when the first expansion comes out in a calendar year. With Mean Streets releasing at the end of the calendar year, it will likely be seven months at least until the next expansion. Will another Adventure come out in that time, making the card pool even larger?

The question faced by many casual players, especially those getting into the game now, with the excitement of a new expansion, is whether or not to waste dust crafting cards from old sets, or waste gold buying old adventures. What is the shelf life of The Grand Tournament, Blackrock Mountain, and League of Explorers?

One of the benefits of Magic the Gathering’s format rotation model is that when you buy new cards you know exactly how long they’ll be usable. This isn’t always consistent or well-designed but the information is always provided. With Hearthstone we simply don’t know. Sure, we know there will be a Spring expansion at some point, but it might be nice to pin that down better.

At some point in the next few months there won’t be anymore value to having cards from those sets which puts casual players in a bit of a conundrum. Do we or do we not waste our time with those sets? Is it better to just focus on the content we know is sticking around longer. meaning Whispers, Gadgetzan, and Karazhan and saving up for whatever comes out in 2017?

My advice is to do precisely that. Unless your goal is to obtain Legend and compete in tournaments, or you’re really interested in the Wild format, I don’t think it’s worth crafting cards from The Grand Tournament, especially not Epic and Legendary cards. I also don’t think it’s worth investing in Blackrock Mountain or League of Explorers.

More importantly, it would be good for Blizzard to clarify their release plans when a set comes out. Gadgetzan and Whispers will have the same shelf life from this point forwards, which is unfortunate in a sense because it’s eight fewer months we’ll be able to enjoy Gadgetzan. That’s unfortunate and I think it would be in the players’ best interests if the Standard rotation was changed.

Of course, I’m not developing the game so I can’t speak to the challenge of changing the rotation up from that point of view. However, from a fan and casual player perspective I think Hearthstone’s current Standard rotation does not provide the consistency or value that it could if the expansion releases were more regular (e.g. every May and December) and if Standard rotation was tied to every expansion release instead of just the Spring release.

I’m not too worried though. It took Magic the Gathering almost a decade to figure this all out and Hearthstone has the benefit of Magic having gone through this all before. I expect by the end of 2017 or at least no later than the end of 2018 we’ll have a much more regular and predictable Standard format rotation model and expansion/adventure release cycle.


Rich has been playing Hearthstone on and off since the closed beta and has a golden E.T.C. to prove it. He enjoys playing Warlock on the ladder and wishes he could get more than five wins in an Arena run. He’s trying desperately to figure out how Hunters always seem to have Call of the Wild on curve. 

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