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Hearthstone March of the Lich King interview: Death Knight class, Manathirst keyword and Undead minions galore! cover image

Hearthstone March of the Lich King interview: Death Knight class, Manathirst keyword and Undead minions galore!

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March of the Lich King awaits! We interviewed the Hearthstone team about the new Death Knight class, Runes, Undead minions, the Manathirst keyword and more!

March of the Lich King is the next Hearthstone expansion! It showcases the new Death Knight class, Undead minions and the Manathirst keyword.
Hearthstone Features Lead Chadd “Celestalon” Nervig and Senior Game Designer Cora “SongBird” Georgiou sat down with us for a group interview. Read on for details!

"Three classes were built into just the single Death Knight class."

Senior Game Designer Cora “SongBird” Georgiou

Death Knight class, Ghoul Charge and Corpse synergy

The Death Knight class arrives in March of the Lich King alongside the new Ghoul Charge hero power. When a player spends two mana, they can summon a 1/1 Ghoul with Charge that dies at the end of their turn. 
“The really special thing, I think, about Ghoul Charge, the Death Knight hero power, being that it works beautifully with the Corpse mechanic, which is integral to Death Knight design — is unique to them specifically and they gain Corpses when their minions die,” SongBird said.
The Ghoul Charge hero power for the Death Knight class in Hearthstone. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
The Ghoul Charge hero power for the Death Knight class in Hearthstone. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
The Army of the Dead card in Hearthstone. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
The Army of the Dead card in Hearthstone. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
A Death Knight player can use the Ghoul Charge hero power if there’s no minions on the board and simply go face, SongBird added. The big difference is that the Ghoul dies at the end of the turn and the player gets that Corpse. The Corpse can activate other cards and be spent as a resource. 
Celestalon went into how this new hero power is coincidentally similar to the Paladin’s Reinforce because Arthas was once a Paladin before he became the Lich King.

In World of Warcraft, you can choose to specialize in any number of ways with the different classes. So with Death Knight, it was a really wonderful way for us to explore these different types of Death Knights and how we can sort of tie deckbuilding into identity from World of Warcraft and from this unique experience that the players got to have playing as a Death Knight.

Cora “SongBird” Georgiou on the inspiration behind the Rune system

Death Knights and Runes in March of the Lich King

When Hearthstone fans get into March of the Lich King, they can play the Death Knight tutorial, Celestalon revealed. When a player first starts building a deck as the new class, they will be taught the Rune system. 
“I think we knew going in that because we were starting with such a large set of cards for Death Knight and because, essentially, three classes were built into just the single Death Knight class — that we had a lot more complexity here than with Demon Hunter or with any of the previous nine classes,” SongBird explained, referring to the Blood, Frost and Unholy Runes. 
Death Knight deckbuilding screenshot. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
Death Knight deckbuilding screenshot. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
These Runes are exclusive to the Death Knight class in Hearthstone, and the Hearthstone team wanted to tie deckbuilding into that identity specialization from World of Warcraft.
A lot of attention was paid to the deckbuilding experience and simplifying the UI as much as possible. This is so players can intuitively understand how to build decks with Death Knight. 
Frostwyrm's Fury in the new Hearthstone expansion. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
Frostwyrm's Fury in the new Hearthstone expansion. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
Corpse Explosion. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
Corpse Explosion. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
SongBird also mentioned that at this time, the Hearthstone team doesn’t have plans for extending this Runes deckbuilding system to other classes. 
“It would be a significant rework to other classes to make them use a specialization sort of system,” Celestalon added. “It's not to say that might not be something we go to in the future, but it'd be a really big change.”

Undead minions and dual-type minions in March of the Lich King 

March of the Lich King isn’t complete without its Undead minions. This new minion type can synergize with other cards to trigger bonus effects. Celestalon noted how Undead minions fit perfectly with Death Knight and how cards with Unholy Runes have a lot of Undead synergies. 
“We've had undead sort of creatures in Hearthstone forever, but not as their own minion type,” Celestalon told Esports.gg. “We've often thought, ‘Well, whenever we add Death Knights or a really undead-themed expansion, that'll be the time to do it.’ And this is it.”
Arthas' horse, Invincible is in March of the Lich King. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
Arthas' horse, Invincible is in March of the Lich King. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
Lord Marrowgar is a Death Knight Legendary. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
Lord Marrowgar is a Death Knight Legendary. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
One of the things that made the Hearthstone team hesitate to add Undead for so long was the combination of different minion types. Celestalon mentioned how some minions must be fairly specific if they are both a Mech and a Murloc. 
“Undead — Oh, there's a lot that are like, ‘Is this an Undead and a Dragon ‘cause it's a Skeletal Dragon? Is this an Undead and a Pirate ‘cause it's a ghostly pirate? Undead and a Murloc because it's an Undead Murloc?’” Celestalon continued. “So we also wanted to wait to do Undead until we do dual type minions, which is what we've done.”
Death Knight hero artwork. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
Death Knight hero artwork. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
Retroactively looking through every minion to determine if it’s Undead or not was also a labor of love by the Hearthstone team. SongBird told Esports.gg that in a lot of edge cases, the team screenshot images and posted them on Slack to ask if the minion counts as an Undead. 

And you know, in a lot of edge cases, screenshotting it, putting a picture into one of our Slack channels and being like, ‘Is this Undead?’ And somebody — most of the time it's Chadd — will react yes or no. Because a lot of the time these things are not super cut and dry. So yeah, I think it was really interesting. It was certainly a labor of love.

Cora “SongBird” Georgiou on the Undead minion type

Manathirst keyword, Blood Elves and Silvermoon City lore

The Blood Elves are also in the spotlight in March of the Lich King as they draw power from the Sunwell. Celestalon said the new Hearthstone expansion focuses on the Scourge invasion of Silvermoon City, adding that March of the Lich King takes place at the very start of the second Scourge war.
“At that point, the Lich King has awoken and is attacking the various capital cities of Azeroth,” Celestalon said. “And we're focusing specifically on the Scourge invasion of Silvermoon City. So it's not strictly canon, but it does fit within the Warcraft [timeline].”
The Sunwell is Hearthstone's first neutral Legendary spell. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
The Sunwell is Hearthstone's first neutral Legendary spell. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
Silvermoon Sentinel has the Manathirst keyword. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
Silvermoon Sentinel has the Manathirst keyword. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
The Manathirst keyword fits in with Blood Elves as they use the Sunwell for power to combat the Scourge’s advance. Manathirst has solid gameplay and is flavored nicely to focus on that side of battle, according to Celestalon.
“If you have x mana crystals do something extra,” Celestalon explained. “It doesn't spend that mana.” 

You’re playing a very tanky, control-oriented Death Knight deck. You’re gonna have to figure out ways to end the game, but you certainly won’t have much trouble surviving.

Cora “SongBird” Georgiou on the Vampiric Blood card

March of the Lich King decks and meta

When asked about a favorite card out of the ones revealed so far, SongBird said Vampiric Blood. This card gives a player +5 health. The player can spend 3 Corpses to gain 5 more health and draw a card.
“I think in this initial batch, Vampiric Blood is such a cool,” SongBird said. “You obviously need to build into a triple Blood deck to be able to play it, which is a big ask. You’re playing a very tanky, control-oriented Death Knight deck. You’re gonna have to figure out ways to end the game, but you certainly won’t have much trouble surviving.”
SongBird added how playing cards like School Teacher can result in additional copies of Vampiric Blood. “I’m very curious to see what the highest health total a triple Blood Death Knight can hit with Vampiric Blood ‘cause that card is spicy.”  
Vampiric Blood. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
Vampiric Blood. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
Overseer Frigidara. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
Overseer Frigidara. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
Meanwhile, Celestalon is excited about Overseer Frigidara. This is a Legendary minion with a Battlecry that draws 2 spells. If they're both Frost spells, then the card deals 2 damage to all enemies.
“I like a lot of the Frost, aggressive, spell damage sort of decks,” Celestalon said. “It’s good to draw some of your combo pieces, clear off at least some of their board at the same time and it’s just sort of a workhorse card in the deck.”
March of the Lich King Death Knight Preview Showmatch information. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.
March of the Lich King Death Knight Preview Showmatch information. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.

March of the Lich King launch date

The March of the Lich King  launch date is December 6th. Until then, Hearthstone players can look forward to a bunch of exciting card reveals and a creator-driven event. 
The Death Knight Preview Showmatch will happen on November 16th to 17th starting at 9 a.m. each day. It will happen on Twitch and be casted by Slysssa and Garrett.  Twitch drops will be enabled, allowing fans to earn a couple of free March of the Lich King card packs.
Amy Chen
Amy Chen
Editor | Twitter @AmyChenOfficial
Amy Chen is an esports journalist and enthusiast who specializes in in-depth interviews and breaking news. A University of Toronto and Humber College graduate, she is passionate about building up the Canadian esports industry. Her current favorite games are Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, and she has always had a soft spot for World of Warcraft!