Hearthstone’s Murder at Castle Nathria expansion has been out for almost a week now, and like every other set of cards released by Blizzard, a meta for the best decks and cards has quickly developed. Here are our first impressions of the latest expansion.
Three times a year Blizzard drops a new expansion for their flagship card game Hearthstone. The game’s developers have the content release schedule for the game down to an exact science, offering diehards roughly around 200 cards per expansion along with new a theme, gameplay mechanics, and cosmetics.
Murder at Castle Nathria represents the second expansion of 2022, following April’s Voyage to the Sunken City during a time dubbed the “Year of the Hydra.” Nathria’s content trumps Voyage by a considerable amount as it’s the biggest expansion since 2020’s Scholomance Academy, tied with it for the most collectible cards released in an expansion for the game at a healthy 270.
After spending time with the new cards, I can safely say that Nathria is a refreshing set of cards that has a fantastic theme and introduces a new mechanic and card type that Blizzard hopefully makes permanent additions.
Murder at Castle Nathria’s new Infuse mechanic hits the spot
There are two main gameplay additions added in Nathria, each taking a big swing to change up the flow of battle.
One of them is a new keyword called Infuse. Infuse flavor text reads, “Upgrades in hand after (X) friendly minions die.” In practice, it encourages players to hold onto the card in their hand until enough minions on their side of the board have died in order to get the added effect when played.
The Infuse keyword also encourages decks with lots of minions in them, which has always been my favorite way to play Hearthstone. Right at release, there are plenty of Infuse cards that are dominating the meta, including one of the faces of the expansion Sire Denathrius.
Obtained for free by players who play in the opening days of the expansion, Denathrius might be the most powerful Legendary printed this year. He fits nicely into most decks, and can actually “endlessly” Infuse and make his Battlecry deal infinite amounts of damage while returning it all as health. He doesn’t necessarily burn a hole in your hand until turn 10 when you have enough mana to play him as he’s always gathering more power to be played.
Denathrius can turn the tide of any battle, but he’s not the only Infuse card dominating the meta. At the start of Castle Nathria, Warlock has been one of the two most dominant classes in Standard play, along with Hunter. This is mostly because of how strong the Imp-focused decks are, thanks in part to the new Mischievous Imp.
The Imp 4-drop, when Infused, can put 9/9 worth of stats on the board by turn 4. Since Imp Warlock decks run tons of 1-cost cards, Infusing this card takes roughly no time at all. While many players have already called for nerfs, it’s proven to be incredibly fun to play as well as very cheap to craft off the bat.
Hearthstone’s new Locations cards need some balancing
On top of Infuse, Hearthstone also introduced an entirely new type of card called Locations. Locations take up one space on the board but cannot be targeted by spells or minions at all as they have no health bar. They each have an effect and can trigger it every other turn until their durability runs out.
At launch, it’s clear some of the Location cards are much more powerful than others, with some being the basis of a deck and others not even begin considered for play. For example, Warlock is so powerful at the jump because of their Location card Vile Library which can grant huge stats at very early points in a battle.
Tons of Hearthstone players have been calling for this card to have its mana cost increased as Warlock can summon tons of Imps at once. making their boards too easy to fill up with beefy stats.
Each class got one Location card with Murder at Castle Nathria, but only Warlock’s has been a must-include so far. Plenty of Location cards have been completely absent from the meta so far, like Demon Hunter, Warrior, and Paladin. Of course, it’s possible as time goes on players will develop new strategies which include them.
However, until that potential creativity kicks in, it looks like they need slight balancing adjustments to get them just right.
Castle Nathria is spooky
When Blizzard originally announced that Hearthstone’s newest expansion would adventure back to the Shadowlands, I was initially quite confused.
Just a few months ago, World of Warcraft revealed its next expansion as Dragonflight, which felt like a much-needed shift away from Shadowlands, which had soured players throughout its lifespan. Despite initial hesitancy, I can report that the murder mystery party of Murder at Castle Nathria delivers on its theme and its character shines through in its card designs.
Murloc Holmes might not be a card that sees play in Standard, but it certainly is a fun design with a cool concept of solving clues about what’s in your opponent’s hand. Also, the artwork is fantastic.
A standout from the Venthyr campaign in WoW Shadowlands has made his way over to Hearthstone in Theotar, the Mad Duke. One of the more memorable characters from the Shadowlands has one of the most interesting effects in Castle Nathria and he allows the player to discover a card in their opponent’s hand and swap it with one of theirs.
In a meta that has tons of high-value cards, Theotar stands as a well-needed counter. There are plenty of archetypes that rely on one card like Mage with Kel’Thuzad, the Inevitable, and Shaman with Baroness Vashj, where Theotar can swing the tide of battle by stealing away the Legendary.
Another Legendary that has been a huge addition with Castle Nathria is Prince Renathal, who allows players for the first time to start a match with 40 cards as well as 40 health which the developers told us provided quite a difficult balancing process.
So far, Renathal decks haven’t proven to be meta-dominating just yet, as face-decks are very powerful right now and typically stomp him out too quickly.
However, playing a slower Renathal deck is extremely fun and requires a good amount of calculation to execute correctly. Over time players will create better decks around him and surely will stay a focal point.
Blizzard has delivered one of Hearthstone’s best expansions in years with Murder at Castle Nathria. If you are a Hearthstone fan who fell out of love with the game, this is the expansion you will want to return for.
Outside of a few balancing changes needed, like every expansion at launch, they’ve delivered new gameplay mechanics that pair nicely with the theme and have reinvigorated a well-deserving player base.