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Return of the Ring

Jun 14, 2017

Hello again, this is Ryan Sutherland, aka HEX Rysu, here to bring you one more announcement for our upcoming Frostheart release.

Hogarthx900

In the story of Frostheart, Hogarth has sent out a summons to bring challengers from all corners of Entrath to the arena to battle for glory. Once again, that same challenge goes out to the players of HEX to come to the Frost Ring and battle to their heart’s content. As many of you have guessed, we couldn’t just have a full set of cards dedicated to Hogarth and the competitors of the Frost Ring and not give a little love to the PvE side of the Arena. Today, I’ll be going over all those changes and showing off some of the cool new loot you can get by returning to the Frost Ring.

New Champions and Deck Updates!

When I first started working on HEX three years ago, one of the first projects I was put on was creating the Frost Ring Arena. Since then, we’ve released two Adventure Zones and four new sets. With our seventh set just on the horizon, I don’t think anyone expected the Frost Ring to stand up to the test of time as well as it has. However, with all those sets coming out, the Frost Ring has begun to feel a little dated. In fact, very few of the cards in the Frost Ring are even legal in Standard these days.

So, what can you expect from the updated Frost Ring Arena?

First, we’ve updated all the old decks from the original Frost Ring. This means adding cards from all the sets since Armies of Myth! However, for many of these fights we’ve also overhauled the champions involved in those fights, meaning that some of the old decks have been both upgraded and their champion power has changed. For some of these, this change is minor. For others, it may seem like the old champion was completely overhauled.

To give you an idea of the kinds of changes we made, here’s the evolution of one of our old champions, Nelebrin Scout.

Nelebrin Scout

The Nelebrin Scout encounter is a classic mono-Wild ramp deck with huge troops at the top of the curve. We preserved the basic strategy of this deck, however the old charge power was a bit of an enigma to figure out. The gist of the problem was that bigger troops were more likely to survive, but the power wasn’t very clear in sharing that information. So, we decided to give him a new charge power.

When giving champions a new power, we didn’t want old Frost Ring players thinking that they were facing the same champion, so we also updated these encounters visually as well. Keeping the elf theme seemed correct, since this was at its core a ramp deck, but we figured it might be better to have a more recognizable elf than the Nelebrin Scout:

Artisanal Cheesesmythe

The Cheesesmythe Commeth!!!

Kraken Barrel CheddarDragon Valley BrieCheese Goliath

One of my favorite cards in HEX, the Artisanal Cheesesmythe, creates a much more interesting battle than the old Nelebrin Scout. The Cheesesmythe uses its Brie to survive until it can slam down a huge Cheese Goliath threat. Plus, he can even rebuy old troops and cheeses with a fine Cheddar. In addition to new charge powers and passive powers, we’ve overhauled this encounter’s deck as well. While the deck still features some old favorites like Chlorophyllia, Eye of Creation and Puck, Dream Bringer, the deck has been beefed up with newer additions like Mightsinger of Ages, Sylvan Performer and Heart of the Wrathwood. Plus, since the Cheesesmythe doesn’t have to adhere to the rules of normal deckbuilding, he’s also packing some Cheeses in his deck at the start of the game.

So that’s a champion that received a small amount of tweaking. Let’s look at one of the thirteen all new champions you’ll encounter:

Tormented Locksmith

Tormented Locksmith’s deck is focused on Diligence and card draw, as he digs through his deck searching for the Chaos Key to unlock his terrifying potential. When the Locksmith finally triggers his ability, he transforms into:

Unlocked Aberration

Basically, your end is nigh unless you can answer all of the Aberration’s threats. Being able to have new champions that pose new, deadly threats in the Arena helps to keep the Arena fresh. Plus, keep in mind that this is only one of thirteen new champions.

You’ll notice a few other changes to champions in this version of the Frost Ring as well. For one, you may have noticed that Artisanal Cheesesmythe doesn’t have the same frosty complexion as the old Nelebrin Scout. Part of the plot of Frostheart is that the Frost Ring is no longer deserted as teams from across Entrath travel to the Frost Ring to answer Hogarth’s call. This new art reflects this change as players can now battle flesh and blood instead of just sculptures made of ice.

In addition, we’ve removed equipment from the Frost Ring champion’s decks. I’ll go into this change in more depth later in this article, so hang tight for now. Of course, as a player you still have access to all your equipment.

New Bosses!

Much like with the normal champions, we overhauled every boss deck and upgraded several of their abilities. Let’s take a look at how we went about updating one of the most reviled champions of the Frost Ring, Xarlox the Broodlord:

Xarlox the Broodlord

One of the most unfair things that Xarlox did was frontload the randomness of his powerful Terrorantula Eggs by starting them in your deck. This means as early as turn one you could be facing down one or more of these giant monstrosities. I think the Terrorantulas are a truly vennen way of defeating their foes, so I wanted to keep that aspect. However, I moved the egg generation to the charge power for our new champion, which gives players with a few turns of peace before they are at risk of hitting the terrifying Eggs. Of course, we had the perfect vennen to take over for Xarlox as well:

Phenteo

Phenteo gives up the passive Terrorantula creation, but in return he has an equally insidious ability. He starts by burying a large swath of your deck, meaning you’ll be fighting from behind with a smaller deck right from the beginning. While this ability certainly gives Phenteo an advantage to all his Eggs, it isn’t an instant backbreaker like Xarlox was. Of course, if the fight lasts long enough, he’ll be adding more and more Terrorantula Eggs to your deck as time goes by. This new Phenteo encounter is powerful, but I believe he is powerful on an axis that will be less frustrating for many players.

On top of updating the deck and charge powers, we’ve also given a big buff to the PvE cards that these cards are armed with. Here’s a handful of more powerful cards you’ll encounter in these boss decks…

Old Zared VenomscornZared Venomscorn
Old Wyatt the SapperWyatt the Sapper
Old KishimotoKishimoto

We wanted these cards to be powerful cards when they hit play, but many of these old cards just weren’t affecting games in a timely fashion. Overall these new versions should give a fine boost to some of our old bosses.

So, what other bosses have also made their way to the Frost Ring?

Well, there will be four brand new boss champions, which means we’ll be rounding out all of the Ardent and Underworld races. So of course, for the coyotle we’ll have the seer of seers, the prognosticator of prognosticators, Lanupaw.

Lanupaw

Lanupaw’s deck unsurprisingly leans very heavily on the Prophecy mechanic. His charge power mirrors the Deploy power of his namesake card. On top of that, Lanupaw has the power to gain vast amounts of health if you allow him to build up a powerful board. Of course, we’ve also equipped Lanupaw with some of our PvP champions as cards to give him a powerful slew of Coyotle to battle with:

Grandfather ElkDreaming FoxWinter Moon

Lanupaw’s deck is one of the hardest ones to stop if you allow him to start playing out all his Prophecy cards, since each draw that Lanupaw has is more powerful than the last.

Oh, and of course there’s one more champion that resides in the Frost Ring that we’ve already spoiled…

Hogarth, Master of the Arena

That’s right, when we announced Frostheart and spoiled Hogarth the Mad, we neglected to tell you that the champion and deck you get from Hogarth is the same one from the Frost Ring Arena, packed to the gills with all sorts of exclusive cards…

FrostmarePermafrost ColossusIce Shardling

Well, mostly exclusive cards, as you can see Frostmare is a card that you can collect through defeating the Frost Ring Arena.

Elite Champions!

As I touched on earlier, we’ve removed equipment from Arena champion’s decks. We originally included equipment in opposing decks to give the feeling that decks were becoming more difficult the further you got. Unfortunately, equipment didn’t ultimately do this job perfectly for a few reasons. For one, we like to include a lot of 1, 2, and 3 ofs in decks to increase the fun of replaying the Frost Ring, which is subpar when those cards are equipped. Also, we feel like it’s a good feeling to see an enemy card and know immediately what that card does. You gain mastery of the game in these moments. However, if your opponent plays a card like Imp Hoodlums and suddenly its stealing your artifact instead of destroying it, it makes you question every time you see a card. Interestingly, equipment for players doesn’t have this reaction at all, because you are the creator of your deck and get to optimize it the way you wish to. We feel equipment is still a great system for the player to take advantage of, but to improve player experience we will be taking away the AI’s shiny toys.

However, we still wanted a ramping sense of danger and difficulty as you ventured further and further into the Arena. So, instead of using equipment, we explored making new, stronger versions of champions you’ve seen before with amped up powers. In doing so, we created elite versions of nearly all of our existing champions, giving them more cards in their starting hand, increased health, and starting them with additional cards in play. Aside from these changes, we left the decks mostly intact so that you’d never be surprised about what kinds of cards and strategies the elite champions would unleash on you. This system hit our goals in a much cleaner fashion, and now some of these mid-tier fights feel really challenging.

Artisanal Cheesesmythe ElitePuck's Daydream
Darkspire Enforcer EliteBloodsoaked Brawler

Some of the cards these champions start with fundamentally change the way the fights are set up. Every hit you take from the Cheesesmythe’s troops ramps him, while Darkspire Enforcer threatens you right out of the gates with a Bloodsoaked Brawler.

Lightning Skyhunter EliteCloudspeaker

Each of these champion’s charge powers have been kicked up a notch, and some of these passives, like Lightning Skyhunter’s (the updated Eldritch Dreamer), are just absolutely brutal. These guys are no pushovers, but unlike true bosses they won’t gate your progress. They’ll just make sure that every tier has more and more challenge as you progress. Here’s a breakdown of where you’ll see these elite fights:

TIER I       No Elites
TIER II      1 Elite
TIER III     2 Elites
TIER IV     2 Elites and Elite Boss

Oh right, I forgot to mention, if you want to fight your way out of the Frost Ring, there’s one final challenge on your way out: an Elite version of one of the Bosses!

Phenteo EliteHatchery Priest
Lanupaw EliteStarcaller Ancient
Hogarth, Elite Master of the ArenaIce Shardling

Phenteo buries twenty of your cards right out of the gate, while letting Lanupaw draw just a single Prophesied card can be a backbreaker thanks to Starcaller Ancient. These final bosses also sport a massive pool of health and start with a full ten cards in hand. These Elite bosses make for an extremely difficult and exciting finale to each Frost Ring run.

New Hogarth Challenges!

We’ve also gone back and looked at all our old Hogarth challenges to find the ones we liked the most to keep around and to add in a batch of all new ones. All in all, we kept three of the current Hogarth challenges that we enjoyed and added in twelve brand new ones. Like last time, some of these are beneficial to both players, while others are only in favor of the Arena. While I’d love to preview some of these, I’d much rather you all had a chance to experience them first hand in the Frost Ring, so I’ll keep my lips tight for now.

New Rewards!

I’m sure many of you are saying that this upgrade is great, but why should you care to go back to the Frost Ring Arena? Well, we’ve added 32 new cards to the Frost Ring to farm, which more than doubles what we had to offer last time. Here’s a few of the cards you’ll be hunting for:

Skulk of the WastesWarforged SlayerGooplasm
Book SmartsJungle AmbushEngrossed Bibliophile

On top of that, we’ve added over 200 new equipment for cards from Armies of Myth, Primal Dawn, Herofall, Scars of War, Frostheart and all of the new Frost Ring cards you’ll unlock. When combined with the equipment added from Frostheart, this is the largest influx of equipment we’ve added to the game in an update EVER.

We’ve also overhauled the loot system for the Frost Ring, meaning that you’ll be getting far more cards as opposed to equipment than you have in the past. This new system prioritizes giving players more cards than gold or equipment. For those of you who may not have farmed all our old items from the Frost Ring, don’t worry—we won’t be removing any of it. However, because we know many people will be looking forward to getting all of the new rewards we’re adding to the Frost Ring, we’ve made all of our old items scarcer. So, while it’s still possible to get some of those old cards and equipment, they’ll be dropping far less often than our new rewards.

That wraps up our peek into the new and improved Frost Ring Arena. Of course, what I’ve shown you is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more champions and secrets to discover when the Frost Ring goes live with the launch of Frostheart.

See you on the battlefield!


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