Stoneskin Gargoyle is pretty meh, outside of some fring priest decks maybe (won me Noth Heroic, though). Unstable Ghoul may be kind of neat against Zoo or something. Sludge Belcher I really like, while it is simply a Tazdingo who has eaten a Goldshire, a Taunt generating another taunt is just infuriating. Loatheb we must see where the meta goes, if the existence of Loathab himself forces a more minion-centric meta, it won't see much play.The two card I really want to get m,y hands on are the Dark Cultist and the Spectral Knight.
After the release of the first wing of the Curse of Naxxramas expansion for Hearthstone, Blizzard Entertainment made some slight changes in preparation for the Plague Quarter, the second wing.
Among these changes was a shift in time as to when the new section would unlock. According to Blizzard, each quarter was to be released on Tuesday. Last week, the Arachnid Quarter went out during the day, which caused the servers to suffer from high latency and people to disconnect due to the increased traffic. As a result, Blizzard released the Plague Quarter at 11:59 PM PDT, making it technically a Tuesday release; presumably this was an attempt to alleviate the server load surrounding a new release. However, this did not mean the Plague Quarter was free of issues. In a blog post early on July 30th, Blizzard stated that some customers were experiencing issues accessing the new section. Some players were charged for the wing but not granted access, and some were even charged twice. Not everybody was affected, though.
In the Plague Quarter, the enemy AI focuses on whittling down the player's health, making cards that keep the hero alive or at least redirect damage important.
The first boss, Noth The Plaguebringer, has the passive ability to summon a 1/1 Skeleton minion for each minion killed. This can be both useful and detrimental to the player. Early on, it can be challenging to contain Noth's board control, but after weathering the early storm it is easy enough to break his units down and deal enough damage to defeat him. Arguably the hardest card in his deck to deal with is Plague, which destroys any non-Skeleton minions on the board. This card is only available at turn six, so it is avoidable if planned for when making early moves. For defeating Noth The Plaguebringer, the player is rewarded with the Stoneskin Gargoyle card, a 3 mana 1/4 minion with the passive ability to fully heal itself at the start of the player's turn.
The second boss is Heigan the Unclean. Much like Grand Widow Faerlina, Heigan has a gimmick that can be used against him but can also spiral out of control if not accounted for. His hero ability is a spell that does two damage to the left most minion, making minion placement an important aspect in defeating him as well as making sure any leftward minions have a plentiful amount of health. For heroes like the Paladin, who can summon a 1/1 Silver Hand Recruit with their hero ability, making sure other minions can risk taking the two damage is a good strategy. Heigan also uses a card called Mindpocalypse, which grants both Heigan and the player two cards and two additional mana crystals. Heigan can play this to cause players to exceed the ten card limit, which sometimes destroys vital cards. Defeating Heigan grants the player Unstable Ghoul, a 2 mana 1/3 taunt minion with a Deathrattle perk where every minion on the board takes one damage.
For the final boss of the Plague Quarter, Blizzard took a different route. To defeat the quarter, players face off against Loatheb, who has 75 health as opposed to the normal 30. Defeating Loatheb requires a very aggressive board control deck, such as Zoo Lock, Backspace Rogue, Aggro Paladins, or Beast Hunter. These decks work against Loatheb's spell, Deathbloom, which deals five damage to a minion and creates a 0/1 spore. These spores, which are part of Loatheb's gimmick, give the player's minions eight more damage once they killed. Loatheb also has a global damage spell in Sporeburst, which deals one damage to all minions on the board and creates one spore. Players that are able to create and maintain a full board can quickly accrue enough damage to make Loatheb's health and minions a non-issue. Loatheb's hero ability is also worth keeping an eye on, as it deals 3 damage directly to the player for 2 mana. Defeating Loatheb grants the player Sludge Belcher, a 5 mana 3/5 minion with Taunt and a Deathrattle that creates a 1/2 Sludge minion with Taunt.
As with the Arachnid Quarter the player is granted a final reward card after defeating the bosses in Normal Mode: Loatheb. Loatheb is a legendary 5 mana 5/5 minion whose Battlecry makes all enemy spells cost five additional mana the next turn. This is a useful minion to have when facing off against a spell-heavy deck, for obvious reasons. In coordination with Shadowstep, the Loatheb card can make spells cost exceedingly high and even unusable for the entire match, provided there are no cards to counter it.
Not content with just Naxx, Blizzard also continued the Hero challenges, this time focusing on the Hunter and Mage.
For the Hunter challenge, the player faces off against Loatheb, but with a twist. All cards drawn are the Webspinner minion, a 1 mana 1/1 beast whose Deathrattle is the key part of this challenge. Once Webspinner dies, a random beast card is sent to the player's hand. This is, by and large, a luck of the draw game mode, which is challenging yet comical. Winning the challenge rewards the player with the Webspinner card, which is effective in a beast heavy Hunter deck. In coordination with cards like Maexxna or even Emperor Cobra, Webspinner can be useful in helping clear the board of high damage enemy minions.
With the challenge for the Mage, Blizzard decided to focus more on clever and effective uses of Secret cards. A Secret is an ability where a spell card is played, unknown to the opponent, which is triggered by a specific condition. For example, the reward card for the Mage challenge is Duplicate. When Duplicate is on the board and a friendly minion is destroyed, two copies of the destroyed minion are put into the player's hand. The challenge itself isn't difficult, as effectively playing and capitalizing on Secrets is the main point. It is more of a tutorial on how to use Secrets for those who have little experience with it.
Much like the Arachnid Quarter, the Plague Quarter introduces new cards that are already being used in top level play, and it continues to breath new life into a formerly stagnant meta.