Welcome to the first week of spoilers for Frostheart. I’m HEX Rysu, aka Ryan Sutherland, lead designer of the set, and I’ll be your guide through our upcoming winter wonderland.
For the first time in the history of HEX, we are going to put the war between the Ardent and the Underworld into the background of the game and focus on another part of the story that is brewing high in the frosty peaks of the Hyperborean Mountains.
Two and a half years ago, we gave players the first peek into the tortured madness of Gerhardt Hogarth when we introduced the Frost Ring Arena to the game. Since that time, Hogarth’s enslavement to the spirits of the Arena has continued, but Hogarth’s still scheming. The mad mage has sent out a call to adventurers from all parts of Entrath to come to the arena for one special tournament that will fulfill the desires of anyone who is able to dominate not only the other competitors, but also the unique challenges of Hogarth’s own creation. Of course, Hogarth is not without his own reasons for doing so….
So, what does this mean for HEX? Well, it means all sorts of new characters, five new keywords, twenty new champions, ten new gems, and fresh archetypes are coming out with Frostheart!
Well, ok, maybe not the Dinosaurs on Entrath…
Because he has been generous enough to host the festivities, we’ll begin with Hogarth’s harnessing the elements of the Frost Ring. As many of you well know, Hogarth is famous for creating icy forces to defend the arena. This is represented in game with the new keyword: Frostform.
Frostform is a Diamond/Sapphire power that allows players to play troops for a cheaper Frostform cost. However, doing so comes with its own price. Troops made from ice are efficient to summon, but they are not quite as tough as the real thing. Playing a troop for cheaper means they will transform into an Elemental version of themselves that only has 1 point of Defense.
Let’s look at an example of Frostform from the set:
Borean Leopard can be played for four as a respectable 3/4 with Steadfast, but if you have it earlier in the game, you can also play it as a 3/1 for only two resources. Of course, since this is a transformation, any other buffs that you give it will carry over from one version to the other. Plus, if you play the Brittle version of the Leopard, you can use reversion effects to transform it into its base form.
Now that you get the basic idea behind Frostform, let’s look at one of the more exciting cards with Frostform in the set: Alchemite.
Alchemite is powerful on both sides of its Frostform. Either you can play it as a cheap 3/1 that can be a solid source of card advantage throughout the game so long as it can keep attacking, or you can play it for its much more durable 3/6 body. Plus, Alchemite can use the card advantage it generates to evade all forms of removal at the cost of a single card! Plus, when you put it back into your hand, it reverts, which allows you to play it again later in the game for the full five resources (Not to mention it removes any negative effects that might be on the card). This makes Alchemite extremely versatile, offering Sapphire decks a powerful tool in the near future.
Aside from Hogarth, a few of the visitors to the Arena are also coming with their own keywords. The Pack has been training hard for battle and are ready to introduce the new Gladiator mechanic.
Gladiator shows up on Ruby and Wild troops this set and gives a troop a boost to stats depending on whose turn it is. During your turn, troops with Gladiator get additional attack, while on opposing players turns they get an additional boost to defense.
Here’s Robo-Gnoll, who has Gladiator 2, as an example:
This is what Robo-Gnoll will look like in your collection. However, while in play, it’ll look like one of the following depending on whose turn it is:
Troops with Gladiator excel at both attack and defense, depending on what the situation calls for. Also, note that Gladiator stacks, so if you were to give Robo Gnoll an additional 2 Gladiator, it’s Gladiator will rise to Gladiator 4. Maybe you’ll do this with a card like Mad Packmaster:
Mad Packmaster is a pretty crazy, both in terms of being a few screws loose and the fact that he’s able to pass Gladiator out to your different troops throughout the game. This guy is a great curve topper for Gladiator decks in limited since he affects the board immediately, has a decent body of his own, and leaves a bonus even when your opponent deals with him.
How about one more Gnoll to show off what the Pack has to offer… and how about we make it the biggest Gnoll of them all. For those of you who have played through the second chapter of our campaign, she might be a little familiar:
Locke is quite the bright little Gnoll, and he knows that if you’re going to get into a bloodbath with some of the most dangerous beings in Entrath, it’s probably a good idea to not get your own hands dirty. So, Locke paid a visit to the new queen of Brutecrown Bluff and took their greatest warrior (with a little help to Locke’s own patented Jackhat) on his quest to build a bigger, badder clan of Gnolls.
Nogg Nogg gets to attack with a whopping 10 points of attack, and then defend on your opponent’s turn as a gigantic 5/10 blocker. Not only that, but one death simply isn’t enough to defeat Nogg Nogg! She returns back from the dead, ready to rumble once more, after being dealt with the first time.
These are but a few of the Gnolls that the Pack will have at their disposal. When it comes to pure physical combat, they are certainly the most dominating.
The Pack are not the only team bringing a new mechanic to fight in the Frost Ring. The Luminaries, a sect of female clerics who worship Lumos, the Primal of Enlightenment, have their own mechanic: Illuminate.
The first time you Illuminate in a game of HEX, you’ll summon one (or more) of these guys:
I’m sure that for some of you, that’s enough to sell you on the mechanic alone. For me, there probably isn’t a cuter piece of art in the entire set, but I might upset some fans of the Merry Caravan by saying that.
While you have at least one Candlekin when you Illuminate, you’ll be given a choice: Either you can choose to summon more Candlekin, or you can choose to give all your Candlekin a permanent +1[ATK]/+1[DEF]. The Luminaries’ Candlekin army grows wide, then grows big, and you get to decide when to make more troops or when to start growing them.
Let’s look at some cards that Illuminate:
Initiate of Wax is a very peaceful looking card that shows the innocent side of the Luminaries. She’s often been surprisingly powerful in our limited games, and ranks as one of the cards that has both a very high upper limit of how many I’m willing to play in a deck while also showing up very late in packs.
Templar of Lumos, on the other hand, shows the very militant side of the Luminaries. Also, unlike the Initiate, she can singlehandedly build an entire army of Candlekin over time. Clearly, it’ll be hard to have full context for this card until we give you all of our new gems later this week, but suffice to say, the Templar does a great job of rounding out a Candlekin army.
Finally, we have one additional card related to the Candlekin, and while it doesn’t have Illuminate per se, it does have the return of a long-awaited keyword:
Like many of you, I’m a big fan of Escalate. It’s been one of our most beloved mechanics from Shards of Fate, however it is tricky to fit into every set so we sadly couldn’t keep it around all the time. That said, I’m super excited to have it back for Frostheart. Most of the new Escalation cards fit into one of the team’s archetypes, as we see here with Light the Votives. This card is great at providing you the start to your Candlekin army as early as turn one, while also having the potential to create a large crew of Candles late in the game.
Clearly, both Hogarth and the competitors of the Arena have extremely powerful magics aiding them as they vie for their own goals. However, deep beneath the Arena is a new kind of magic that has been lying dormant over for centuries, Runic magic.
Runic is a keyword found on actions of all shards in Frostheart that gives them the ability to be replayed later in the game for free once a resource enters your hand. Let’s walk through how this happens by looking at Runic Fury:
When you play Runic Fury from your hand, it will give it’s buff to a troop. Then, instead of going to your crypt as an action normally would, it transforms into a Rune and goes into play:
This Rune will lie dormant in play until the next time you draw a resource, which will trigger the Rune and transform back into Runic Fury and buff an additional troop. At this point, since the action was not played from your hand, it will go to your crypt as normal.
Runic provides tension every turn as your opponent will have to keep their troops back to defend, knowing that an extra burst of damage could come at any point. Not to mention it turns resources, which are usually seen as ‘dead draws,’ into powerful turns if you happen to have several Runes in play.
Clearly, Runic on the right action can be powerful since you essentially get twice the output of that action, and we couldn’t just let you play any action twice…
Or, maybe we can!
Runeseeker is one of a few cards in the set that allows you to transform cards into Runes. While Runeseeker is expensive, it allows you to play any action in your crypt for free (once you draw a resource, that is).
Runic serves as a mechanic that ties a lot of the set together. Not only does it help with cards that want you to play a bunch of actions, but it also helps with one of the limited archetypes that looks for more constants. Not to mention, it works extremely well with the next and final mechanic of Frostheart: Fateweave.
Fateweave is a mechanic that allows you to manipulate your next draw step by allowing you to choose to draw a resource or a non-resource card.
Let’s take a look at Guidance as an example:
When you play Guidance, you’ll be presented with two options: Seek Fortune and Seek Adventure.
If you choose to Seek Fortune, then a random resource in your deck will be put on top of your deck. If you choose to Seek Adventure, then a random non-resource card in your deck will be put on top of your deck. This allows you to set up your future turns. If you need a resource to play a big card, use your charge power or activate your Runes, you can go off and seek your fortune. If you don’t need those things, you can be adventurous and find a troop or action that might allow you to continue playing cards out. Of course, when it comes to Guidance, you get that card immediately.
Fateweave has proven to be a favorite among those who have played with it internally, serving as a great way to smooth your draws without being overly powerful. You’ll see quite a bit of the mechanic in Diamond, Sapphire and Wild in this set. Here’s one more card that I think will be popular for any Sapphire control players out there:
With a single card, you can both stop your opponent’s play and set up your next draw step for an extra resource or additional power.
For those of you who have been following our lead up to Frostheart, you’ve become acquainted with several groups who have shown up at the Frost Ring Arena. You’ve seen some of the tools the Pack and the Luminaries are bringing to Hogarth’s tournament, but you haven’t seen anything for the Blightbark Court, the Cult of the Nameless City, or the Merry Caravan. That’s because these teams don’t have a specific keyword power, but they certainly still have their own play style that you guys can look forward to. I know many of you have chosen your favorite sides already, so here’s a quick rundown of what you can expect from those teams:
There are some other factions conspiring at the Frost Ring, but you’ll have to wait to find out more about them.
One final thing for Frostheart which is new, although I wouldn’t call it a full new keyword on its own. Instead, it’s a collection of Keywords that you’ve seen in the past. In Frostheart, on just a few cards, you’ll see a new term called Boon. A Boon can be any one of a group of our core keywords. For an example, we have the Toolkit Assistant:
So, when this Assistant enters play it gains one of our core keywords. This can be any of the following:
This means that any time you play the Toolkit Assistant or other cards like him, he’ll be granted one of those powers at random. While we haven’t fully explored this space in Frostheart, by creating this new terminology, it allows us to expand what we can do with keywords. Also, by defining precisely which keywords are a part of this term, it means that Boons won’t be bogged down by drawbacks like Defensive, keywords that are too game warping like Invincible, or ones we just aren’t supporting currently or which make no sense on a troop in play like Mobilize or Empower.
That’s it for today, but Frostheart is coming upon us soon. Make sure to check back on HEXTCG.com over the upcoming weeks as we continue to show you more of Hogarth’s world, the different teams, and everything else Frostheart.
As per tradition, I’m going to leave you with another group of card names from the set to look out for:
See you on the battlefield!