At BlizzConline the Hearthstone team revealed a swag of news for the year ahead, now officially dubbed the Year of the Gryphon. With Core Set news already announced, we started to get into the details of what to expect in the year ahead.

The first expansion for the new year has been announced – Forged In The Barrens – with a new Frenzy keyword and ranked spells that improve as your mana pool grows. But we also saw many additional feature updates that will change the whole game alongside the sweeping new changes brought about by the Core Set changes.

Spells will now have spell schools attached – Arcane, Nature, Holy, Shadow, Fel, Fire, and Frost. This update will add these schools to all existing spells, with new cards from the Barrens set as well as Core opening up interactions based on spell types instead of simply "when a spell is cast" as known in the past.

During the announcement session we also started to see more Core Set cards and how these changes will feel, with many old cards updated or cards from past sets returning to become 'Core' for the year ahead. Again, every year this list will change and update – and be available for free – so it seems to give Hearthstone more room to tinker with systems that underpin the annual cycle of cards they know will be in the Standard rotation.

The Aspects are dead. Long live the Aspects.

Updated versions of Ysera, Malygos and Deathwing were all revealed, with each now using a Battlecry mechanic to deliver utility to the player. The biggest example is Ysera – instead of one random Dream card per turn the player gets a full set of Dream cards put into their hand. Far less random, far more strategic. Nice.

Everyone's favourite junior Shaman Zappy Boi also makes an appearance in the new cards in the core set (or just a very similar looking 'Novice Zapper' perhaps), plus some legendary reveals including Vanessa VanCleef and Overlord Runthak.

Shaman as a class is also getting an overhaul, with buffes to some key Overload cards (Feral Spirit, Lightning Storm, and Earth Elemental) as well as replacing the Wrath of Air totem from their Hero Power with a new Strength Totem that gives another friendly minion +1 Attack at the end of each turn.

The success of game modes for Hearthstone is also clear with the arrival of a new mode, Mercenaries, set to launch during the first expansion window this year. A rogue-like vibe is at play here – very Slay The Spire in style – with both a standard and PvP option for pursuing this style of play.

Alongside the already announced Classic format (play the game as it was when it first launched in 2014), there is so much coming to Hearthstone this year. Fresh vibes galore and an easier entry point for new players makes it look well set to have a very good 2021.

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