At this year’s BlizzCon opening ceremony, Hearthstone Game Director Ben Lee kicked off the celebration of the Year of the Gryphon by revealing the game’s next expansion set, as well as a new single-player mode coming later this year.

Lee started his presentation by mentioning the Core Set and how it would be replacing Hearthstone’s Classic and Base set, which we covered when it was announced last week. Among the new cards in the Core Set will be new versions of the legendary dragons Ysera, Malygos, and Deathwing.

Next was the upcoming expansion, Forged in the Barrens, based on the iconic low-level Horde zone from World of Warcraft, as we speculated earlier this week. This set includes 10 new legendary neutral “mercenary” cards, such as Blademaster Samuro and Shadow Hunter Vol’jin, the second of which is available to everyone for free by logging into the game; you can also pick up a 30 Years of Blizzard card back for free from the shop.

There are two new mechanics coming in the set. The Frenzy keyword grants a one-time effect the first time a minion takes damage, while Ranked spells have increased effects when you have five or 10 mana, so they stay useful throughout the game. Speaking of spells, there are new “schools” of spells, such as Nature, which will unlock additional gameplay options. Learn more about Forged in the Barrens on the Hearthstone site. And don’t worry, Alliance fans; Lee said you’d see more of your “beloved characters and locales” later this year.

Finally, Lee talked about a new game mode coming later this year: Hearthstone Mercenaries. This will be a mode offering “strategic RPG gameplay” where you build teams of iconic heroes and villains, such as Sylvanas and Ragnaros, and lead them through randomly generated missions on a map. Each mission offers new challenges, and overcoming them grants you equipment to power up your party, and even evolve its members into new, more powerful versions of themselves.

Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

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