The first new Mercenaries of 2022 are here, and all of them are sweet! Valeera who?
Mercs Patch 22.2 is finally on the way! Landing on January 25th, the update brings with it a new host of Mercenaries, changes to PvE, and our first new addition to The Village: “The Training Grounds.”
We’re also getting Alterac Valley, a new PvE zone full of new Bounties that will also guarantee Task 7 Equipment for these new Mercs if you do it on Heroic! Let’s jump into some analysis on these new toys which were announced by Blizzard.
The first of our new Caste– err, Fighters, apparently, is Balinda Stonehearth. Continuing the trend of “The Legendary Merc is a Fighter” after Edwin and Valeera, Balinda is a very unique Merc.
One of the first real characters to be tailor-made to fit multiple different archetypes, Balinda is a Fire/Frost hybrid. Her abilities either stack Frost Weakness or Fire Weakness onto individual enemies, allowing you to synergize with Jaina and Varden, Ragnaros and Baron Geddon, or a combination of all of them!
With good Speeds and some insanely powerful Equipment, Balinda looks pretty good. She has a choice of two different Elementals to summon a la Mukla’s Big Brother, which provide even more opportunity for players to force Valeera to attack into a weak Summon and waste her first turn.
Stormpike’s Salvation even starts to do a great Appetizers impression, stacking Health for every turn Balinda is alive. Some really spicy plays start popping up when we consider her a Human for some Anduin shenanigans alongside this passive “healing.”
Captain Galvangar also features a good unit type, which was definitely a big focus in this wave of Mercs. He’s an Orc, whose brothers and sisters were already getting more attention as of late. Whether Galvangar replaces Saurfang, Rokara, or some other piece of the Horde puzzle, he’s definitely worth some attention.
Rending Cleave is another ability with a Bleed, a mechanic that has been showing up on a lot of the newer Mercs. But alongside this Bleed Galvangar even has an anti-Heal in Fatal Strike, denying any healing for two turns. This feels like an Anti-Anduin tech if I’ve ever seen one, and could actually singlehandedly fix the MAM vs. Orcs matchup.
Frightening Shout is his final ability and the sickest one of them all, since it puts abilities that your opponents used that turn on a three turn Cooldown. This might as well read: “Delete the ability your opponents use this turn.” This type of disruption is relatively unprecedented and might even make Galvangar good enough to see play outside of Orcs.
Sinestra is one of two new Dragons coming in Mercs Patch 22.2, and I think she’s the better of the pair. She features some insane numbers: Bleed for 10 (the highest yet), Heal for 50 (the highest yet), and AoE for 30 (the highest yet). I’d be surprised if there’s almost any Merc that can 1v1 Sinestra in the late game as she cycles between Mana Barrier and Twilight Extinction to heal for 70 and AoE for 30 every two turns!
Most importantly Sinestra is perfect for the underrepresented Dragon typing, so now is the best time to bust out that Diamond Alexstrasza you’ve been sitting on. Alongside Wrathion, our other new draconic intruder, and most likely Brightwing and Voone, there might finally be something here! But again, don’t sleep on the fact that Sinestra can simply always target herself with her Dragon-only ability and simply grind you out from the bench.
Wrathion is full of crazy stuff: he has Fel abilities, Shadow abilities, a DRAGON FORM?! Much like Balinda was built to be included in a bunch of different compositions, Wrathion feels like a great step in a new, flexible direction of Merc design. Want to combine Tail Swipe with Vol’jin? Go off. Want to stack Fel Damage with Jaraxxus and turn into a giant, Fel-Fire Dragon? Your dreams are now a reality.
Horn of Wrathion will likely be a mainstay Equipment as it lets you instantly transform into said Dragon-form, but even that isn’t straightforward. Wrathion gains extra Health when he transforms based on how much damage he did in Human form (another Human by the way), so there’s a real decision to be made.
Do you instantly jam into Fel mode, or do you try and push the limit of how huge you can get and suddenly heal for 40 or more? I’m definitely curious to see how good Wrathion is, and is probably the hardest Merc to evaluate from this Mercs Patch 22.2.
Lokholar the Ice Lord
This is my favorite Mercenary from this new wave, and hoo boy will Lokholar make waves (albeit frozen ones). The meta has been in desperate need of Protectors that can kill Valeera– that sneaky snake is hiding and untargetable, which prevents her from taking damage. But read Hail Storm, Lokholar’s sweet new ability: it deals random Frost damage, which means it can go through Stealth! Thanks to Lokholar’s Red color, that means each snowball will crit Valeera– if you’re lucky enough to hit her.
But why get lucky when you could just a billion damage instead? This Merc might literally have been made to counter Valeera: with Frigid Winds, Lokholar’s best Equipment, you get to stack +4 Frost Damage for every time an Enemy acts. Not Attacks, acts.
That means every Valeera comp that rips three abilities at 0 Speed now supercharges Lokholar to a ludicrous +12 Frost damage, which means every piece of Hail does fifteen damage. Each of those now crit Valeera for thirty, and you fire off five of them! Combined with Jaina and Varden this Merc is going to be a powerhouse. I fear that we might be entering a new frigid meta before long. But hey, as long as it isn’t infested with Valeera, I think the community will be happy.
Hearthstone Patch 22.2: Nerfs, and more Battlegrounds, Duels, and Mercenaries content
The 22.2 Hearthstone Patch brings Standard and Wild Balance changes to end the Rogue meta. Huge Battlegrounds and Duels updates coming too. Check everything in this article.
The Training Grounds
The last big detail of Mercs Patch 22.2 (other than the fact that Alterac Valley will be the way to unlock each of the above Mercs’ Task 7 Equipment when you do it on Heroic) is the release of The Training Grounds. This new corner of your Mercenaries home base will allow you to hide away a Merc to let them passively gain Experience over time, even when not playing.
To new players, this is ultimately good news. Despite costing 100g to unlock and 200g to upgrade, quality of life improvements like this are going to help the grind. However, the value of your Gold as a new player to Mercenaries is extremely high. Buying packs is an amazing way to grow your collection, but only in the beginning.
After you have a good amount of Mercenaries, buying packs becomes a waste of gold or Money as you begin to only unlock Portraits instead of new Mercs and Coins you don’t need. If you’re new to Mercs, I’m not sure this upgrade is worth it– I would hold off until we get more information about how quickly The Training Grounds actually levels you up.
But the real issue is this: Experience was not the gateway struggle that Mercenaries needed to solve. That would be Coins, and to a lesser extent Task farming, though Task 7s being unlocked via Heroics is a welcome change. Entrenched players have been begging for a way to convert their useless Coins on Maxed Mercs, and this new feature does nothing to solve that.
The hopeful take, instead, is this: the fact that The Training Grounds doesn’t help with that problem when it very seemingly could have sounds as if there’s another fix, in some other way, coming down the road. Once players can convert their Extra Coins into something useful, the list of desperately necessary changes for Mercenaries will be cut down to almost nothing.
As always, staying strong and playing in whatever way still lets you have fun without burning out is the priority. We’re still in this game mode’s infancy, and I still have faith in the depth and fun of the format.
For more Hearthstone news and guides, stay tuned to esports.gg. Good luck grinding!