AN ADVENTURE TO DIE FOR
Zombies, spiders, and ghouls, oh my! Blizzard is offering Hearthstone players a fresh, new adventure-packed extension with Curse of Naxxramas. The expansion allows players to delve into the creepy necropolis of Naxxramas, which is familiar to World of Warcraft players, to defeat legions of the disgusting and undead.
Curse of Naxxramas is comprised of five wings, which open up week after week for a month: The Arachnid Quarter, The Plague Quarter, The Military Quarter, The Construct Quarter, and The Frostwyrm Lair. Each wing has a specific theme, each one being more terrifying than the last. Each wing has World of Warcraft bosses that represent the dangers within each wing. Players may choose their heroes and decks or choose a Class Challenge, which chooses the players decks and heroes for them. Because of these factors, each wing is very different and pose different levels of difficulties depending on what type of deck you build.
As Curse of Naxxramas is still continuing to open up wing-by-wing, this review is also an updating, work in-progress accordingly to the opening of the wings. As a result, a verdict on the expansion as a whole will be made after the last review, and will include reviews on all five wings in it’s review scale.
The Arachnid Quarter:
The Arachnid Quarter was decently more difficult than I imagined it would be as the first level of Curse of Naxxramas. The first thing I noticed was how fast-paced the game went. As soon as I finished, the bosses rapid-fire summoned their beasts and cast their spells faster than I had time to think. Though fast, it was a good pace because it forced you to think on your feet and not overthink it too much, which is how I already play the game. However, the drawback from the game running this fast was that it had a tendency to lag at times, sometimes making the plays run really jerky and inconsistently.
The first boss, the giant arachnid Anub’Rekhan, didn’t cause too much trouble with my Mage deck (the 3/1 Nerubian spiders it could summon was certainly easily enough stopped by my Fireball her spell). The second boss, the master of spiders Grand Widow Faerlina, was a bit trickier to overcome. Her hero power, which fired a missile for each card in your hand, was a doozy on minions with lower health, not to mention she, obviously, had more powerful cards in her deck than the last boss. The final boss, the monstrous arachnid Maexxna, was relatively moderate to the other two bosses. His hero power allowed him to “web” a random player on your team and return them to your hand. At the end of the journey through The Arachnid Quarter you receive a fair amount of decent, new cards and a somewhat powerful epic card (the boss, Maexxna). Being pretty experienced with Hearthstone I made it through the wing without dying, so I wouldn’t recommend beginning the Arachnid Quarter of Curse of Naxxramas without some leveling up.
The class challenges for The Arachnid Quarter were alright. There were two classes that could participate in this level, Druid and Rogue, and the decks for each are pre-generated. It’s pretty apparent right off the bat that the class challenges are a chance to explore the new card options that Curse of Naxxramas can provide in each respective deck. The Druid challenge was slightly harder than the Rogue, but both were pretty easy still. However, the class challenges are worth doing as they provided helpful cards for each hero’s deck. The Poison Seeds card reward for the Druid deck is particularly helpful for future Curse of Naxxramas levels, as well as regular battles.
As for the atmosphere, The Arachnid Quarter was presented in a vibrant and creative way. The battlefield was presented in a creepy purple and green pallet, including fitting props: spider eggs and webs, bubbling acid, and a chained sarcophagus stood out in my mind. Coupled with the creepy, Halloween-like music The Arachnid Quarter had the ominously fun feel that Curse of Naxxramas is trying to portray to both children and adults.
With The Arachnid Quarter came four completely new cards, one of them being the epic boss Maexxna. I have to be honest, none of these cards are very beneficial to my decks (one of them is a Rogue class-specific card, a deck I hardly ever use). However, Maexxna’s special ability comes in handy, especially in Hunter decks as it’s a beast. Perhaps with the continuous addition of new cards from further wings will a decent deck be made, but at the moment the cards are somewhat weak and ineffectual in most of my decks.
Overall, The Arachnid Quarter was a nice start to Curse of Naxxramas. Not too easy, not too hard, a good solid starting line to the exciting adventure to come.
The Plague Quarter:
Oh my goodness, what a difference of difficulty The Plague Quarter posed in comparison to the last Curse of Naxxramas level. The Plague Quarter provided the same fast-paced turn rotations that The Arachnid Quarter provided, but with noticeably more difficult bosses. Unlike The Arachnid Quarter with it being pretty moderate and versatile with different deck uses, The Plague Quarter battles require specifically crafted decks to overcome the niche bosses. I found myself rebuilding multiple decks throughout playing the different bosses, which I never had done with any other battle before.
The first boss, Noth the Plaguebringer, was a doozy to beat. Seriously, this boss has taken me the longest to beat out of all the bosses I have faced so far. His hero power allows him to raise a 1/1 Skeleton every time a minion dies, whether its yours or his. Additionally, his hero power is automatic and requires no mana, so while the Skeleton is a very low level it becomes quite a pest when it is constantly spawning after every minion death. The next boss, the disgusting Heigen the Unclean, was much easier to defeat and provided an easier method of avoiding his hero power, which creates 2 damage to the minion furthest on the left of your side of the battlefield. Finally, the final “fungal horror” boss Loatheb seems daunting at first with 75 health (the first boss to really change up the dynamic of the typical Hearthstone game), but proves to be the easiest of the level in beating when faced against high-level minions from your end. It also helps that he pretty often summons spores that, when killed, give your minions +8 attack.
The class challenges for The Plague Quarter were a lot more entertaining than the last level. The two classes that can be played for this level are the Hunter and the Mage. The Mage class challenge was strategic and required some thinking about the placement and timing of each card being played, which is something I very much liked. The Hunter class challenge, on the other hand, was a downright riot. The entire deck was the same card. I don’t want to give away anything, but I will say that the developers were definitely messing with players with this deck, in the best way possible. The card rewards for these class challenges were also pretty great this round.
The atmosphere and music for The Plague Quarter remains exactly the same as it did in The Arachnid Quarter, with only slight changes in the visual effects that the bosses’ hero powers and different cards create when activated. The same applies to the music, included the bosses’ corny and incredibly lame catchphrases. Heigen the Unclean actually says “I should have showered” when he loses… Creative, yet it still made me laugh.
Just like with The Arachnid Quarter, The Plague Quarter offered players four new cards. The card rewards from the three bosses are decent, nothing too special. But, the legendary card is final boss Loatheb himself, and it’s a very useful one. Loatheb’s battlecry is that spells for the enemy the next round cost 5 more, which hinders the enemy’s ability from immediately eliminating your Loatheb right off the bat. It’s a card that I have in a good amount of my decks and is used regularly by me.
The Plague Quarter was harder than I imagined a second level to Hearthstone’s expansion would be. However, it definitely made me think of how I build and use decks in different ways, which I consider a great thing. The Plague Quarter was overall more enjoyable and had better gameplay than the last level.
The Military Quarter:
The Military Quarter was more or less the same level of difficulty as The Plague Quarter. I thought that the theme was really interesting in comparison to the theme of other wings, mostly of how it is not overtly centered around the gross and undead environment of Naxxramas. Much like The Plague Quarter, The Military Quarter usually requires players to build specific decks when playing against the different bosses. However, after my experience doing that in the previous wing, I found it a lot easier to build these decks based upon the bosses hero abilities.
Instructor Razuvious, the first boss for The Military Quarter, uses a Warrior-like rush method against players. At the beginning, you’re given a Mind Control Crystal that is intended for you to use early on in the game to control his two Understudies, which have Taunt, to hold you out until you get stronger minions to compete against him and his powerful Massive Runeblade (which is your prize for your Warrior hero should you beat him). Gothik the Harvester, the next boss, is pretty much the Warlock hero in that his hero ability allows him to draw a card. However, his twist is that he has minions that have a Deathrattle that transfers them to your side of the field and deals 1 damage to you at the start of your turn. I found that 1 damage quickly turns to 4 damage as the Spectral minions build up your side of the field, quickly draining your health for both turns. The final boss(es) are The Four Horsemen. Technically speaking, Baron Rivendare is the “main” boss whereas the other three, Lady Blaumeux, Sir Zeliek, and Thane Korth’azz, are actually minions. They each have a 1-7 stat and an extremely annoying Immunity ability that only goes away when the three minion Horsemen are destroyed. Though in WoW they’re supposed to be the strongest Death Knights, in Curse of Naxxramas they were pretty easy to defeat.
Logically, the class challenges in The Military Quarter are aimed towards the spell-heavy Warlock and Shaman heroes. As I use spells in my decks fairly often, I found these challenges useful in changing how those kinds of decks can be built and used. Though, I have to admit, the challenges for this wing weren’t as fun for me to play as they were informative. Additionally, the interaction between the bosses and the player are pretty bland for this wing. The bosses quotes are really strict and angry much like a drill sergeant in the military, which is predictable and stereotypical.
Again, The Military Quarter offers four new cards as rewards for its completion. The regular cards, while all fitting the same military theme, bear different abilities which allows them to be best used in different decks. The Deathlord card is a particularly overpowered Taunt minion. The boss card, Baron Rivendare, is really useful with all the other new Naxxramas cards as it allows them to trigger their Deathrattles twice.
The Military Quarter in the end was good not great. I found it too similar in difficulty to The Plague Quarter for me to be surprised by anything that the enemy could throw at me. I did particularly like the class challenges and the cards that they offered (the Shaman reward card is REALLY powerful with particular Deathrattle minions).
The Construct Quarter:
This wing shakes up Curse of Naxxramas in that it has not three but FOUR bosses! Which I found to be a positive as the Hearthstone extension was beginning to get a bit repetitive. The theme for this wing is bringing to life abominations who are all… gross. The second boss Grobbulus, for example, is confusing to me because I’m not really sure what he/she/it actually is. The difficulty for this level was slightly harder than the last two wings and required me to fight the bosses a few times to get the hang of the impact of their hero abilities.
Patchwerk (or Patchtwerk as I like to jokingly call him) is a really interesting boss in that he actually has no deck. That’s right, NO cards to draw. With the standard 30 health I was confused as to why Blizzard designed this battle this way… Then he hit me with his 5-8 Hook weapon. Ouch. After trying to rush him I figured out that the best way to beat this guy was destroy his weapons and make him draw cards to Fatigue him. Grobbulus, the disgusting thing I mentioned earlier, was way more difficult. His hero power becomes really annoying when you have weaker minions, as it can destroy those minions and subsequently summon one for himself. Even more annoying is his buff card that gives +4/+4 and Taunt to a minion. I was about to throw my computer across the room when he played that card on an Echoing Ooze (a minion that duplicates itself at the end of the turn its played). The third boss, Gluth, looks like a decaying pile of leaves but ultimately wasn’t too hard to beat with the use of a rush deck. The final boss, Thaddius, was a pretty fun one to battle. He has a hero ability that triggers automatically during his turn that swaps the attack and health of all minions on the battlefield. I found this extremely useful when playing Nerubian Eggs.
The bosses for this level were very simple with their responses. In fact, Grobbulus only said, “Meat” when interacted with. Patchtwerk sounded like what I image Grawp, Hagrid’s giant half-brother, would sound like in Harry Potter. The class challenges for this wing varied. The Priest class challenge I found to be fairly easy. However, the Warrior challenge was infuriatingly hard. If I wanted to throw my computer when fighting Grobbulus before, then I definitely wanted to stomp the crap out of it when fighting him in the Warrior class challenge. Just, ugh, no.
The Construct Quarter actually offers six new cards for players as rewards. With the exception of Wailing Soul, I found all the cards to be extremely powerful and useful (especially when used with Baron Rivendare). Players receive two boss cards for beating Thaddius, Stalagg and Feugen, who, if both played throughout the battle, summon the titan Thaddius at a whopping 11-11. They definitely gave players a huge cheat with Stalagg and Feugen if playing an opponent unfamiliar with Curse of Naxxramas.
The Construct Quarter was a perfectly executed higher-difficulty level to the previous wing. I found the battles to be challenging and infuriating, which is what makes you appreciate paying $25 for Curse of Naxxramas! The cards earned from this wing are phenomenal for a multitude of decks and strategies.
And now we (finally) come to the last wing of Hearthstone’s first expansion, the Frostwyrm Lair. Unfortunately, I found the final level to be an extremely disappointing wrap-up to Curse of Naxxramas. The difficulty of Frostwyrm Lair was insanely easy in comparison to the previous wing, I’d say it falls somewhere in between The Arachnid and The Plague Quarters.
Frostwyrm Lair takes the opposite approach to The Construct Quarter in that there are only two bosses to face. The first is the “mighty frost-wyrm Sapphiron,” who resides as one of the final bosses to Naxxramas in WoW and has an intriguing battle. It’s hero ability, Frost Breath, is to destroy all minions that are not frozen, which can be deadly considering its an automatic ability. However, players are given Frozen Champion at the start of the game, a minion who is permanently frozen and gives the minions to its adjacent Immunity to Sapphiron’s Frost Breath. Lastly, the final boss is Kel’Thuzad himself in the flesh (err, bone). I have to say, Kel’Thuzad is a bit of a joke throughout the whole adventure, but especially in the battle against him (whether or not Blizzard intended him to be for battle is unknown to me). Ever sassy, he taunts nearly every move you make when fighting him and, after experiencing his easy difficulty, players realize that he’s nothing more than a puppet in the whole grand scheme of things. His hero power creates damage as well as freezes your hero, which can be fairly annoying if you’re implementing the use of weapons on your deck. What I’m most disappointed with in his battle is the lack of Mr. Bigglesworth, his cunning kitty. You would think he would have a card for him to play which would cause utter destruction, but alas I dream.
The Paladin in the only class challenge for Frostwyrm Lair. If battling Kel’Thuzad was disappointing enough, the Paladin class challenge will only add insult to injury as its poorly constructed and really difficult to beat. The card given as reward, Avenge, can be particularly useful in buffing minions within the players Paladin deck, which makes it worth completing.
The card rewards from completing Frostwyrm Lair make up for how lackluster the battles themselves were in the wing. Echoing Ooze is a good card to buff up when it’s played because it copies itself at the end of the turn its played (particularly good for spells in Hunter and Druid decks). Shade of Naxxramas, the card everyone playing Curse of Naxxramas coveted due to it’s +1/+1 ability every turn and Stealth, was also a great addition to many of my decks. Kel’Thuzad was the legendary card for Frostwyrm Lair. His ability summons all the friendly minions that died earlier in the turn, which makes him damn useful for Deathrattle decks.
Frostwyrm Lair was generally pretty disappointing as a final level, but made up for it a bit with it’s great card rewards. In the future, I hope that other Hearthstone expansions end off better than Curse of Naxxramas did.
The Verdict: 8.6 out of 10
As much as I bashed Curse of Naxxramas towards the end of the review, I still think it was a fun experience. Many would question whether it’s worth it to pay for all the wings of the Hearthstone expansion, and my answer is: Yes. If the adventure alone isn’t enticing enough for players, certainly the cards rewarded for completing the various levels makes the $25 spent worthwhile. There is not one deck that I am currently using that doesn’t employ a Curse of Naxxramas card, and I have found that they not only improved my decks but changed how I think about playing certain strategies. The only real downside to the expansion was how it ended on such a lifeless (no pun intended) note, as well as the awkward and sometimes glitchy gameplay with some bosses. But, as I said before, the cards received for its completion make up for its negatives.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.
Audrey Lips is one of MONG’s Associate Writers and is currently balancing a Journalism major while secretly hoping to get her Hogwarts acceptance letter. You can follow her TMI posts on Twitter.
This review is based on an independently purchased game through Blizzard’s online store. This reviewer has played 50+ hours of the expansion alone, and countless more on the whole game.