It took about 30 minutes for the new Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft expansion—Curse of Naxxramas—to skyrocket me into the blistering heights of overconfidence...and then drop me down into the claustrophobic lows of underperformance.
Look, I haven't been here every step of the way. I played Hearthstone during the beta, got both nostrils full of its card-game crack, then decided it would be best for me and my family to just put. The game. Down. There are many, many players out there that can detail the best min/max deck builds for each and every character, and each and every situation. I can't do that. But I can tell you this:
Curse of Naxxramas has its hook firmly lodged into my cheek. Also, that Gaming Nexus Editor-in-Chief, Chuck Husemann, has got a lot on his plate if he wants to keep his Hearthstone cred on the up and up. His future wife is more competitive than he is, and after a tough head-to-head match with our beloved EIC, she regularly scuttles him back to his comfort game of choice, MechWarrior Online.
Curse of Naxxramas is an expansion pack in five parts. The first part, Arachnid Quarter, launched July 22. It's free during its first month of release. So, like, now. And that lag time you're experiencing is the lag of 10 million registered Hearthstone players bum rushing the show. The Naxxramas launch has gone off without a hitch otherwise, though, so don't even hesitate. You're only hurting yourself if you're not playing Hearthstone. It's certainly made a believer out of this non-card-game player.
Week two opens the Plague Quarter. Week three, the Military Quarter. Week four, the Construct Quarter. And the fifth and final week opens up the Frostwyrm Lair, where presumably the title antagonist grabs me by the nape of the neck and pounds my face into the table repeatedly until I cry a full 32 ounces of shameful tears into my keyboard which presumably unlocks the necessary cards to put this undead, Mumm-Ra-lookin' jerk to rest.
So, yeah, the first of three bosses in the Arachnid Quarter stepped up to catch a beatdown. He was a spidery fellow named Anub'Rekhan and he went was the unexpected loser in a friendly game of baseball.
The next 20 minutes, however—fighting boss number two, Grand Widow Faerlina—had me reconsidering, reorganizing and reshuffling my usual decks, but also reconsidering my lot in life. Her "Rain of Fire" hero power shoots a fiery missile for every card chilling in your hand. Stuff gets ugly if you're sitting on some high-powered cards that you can't get into play quickly. She's overpowered as all get out. But it's a single-player game and the bosses are bringing all-new decks to the table, so what are you gonna do?
And that's where I'm at. This first Arachnid Quarter is a sturdy challenge already. And no baseline game this good should be this free. But it is.
Again, Curse of Naxxramas's Arachnid Quarter is free right now if you hop on it. The remaining four sections will cost $7 (each) or 700 in-game gold (each) to unlock, though buying up the whole lot nets a discount. Naxxramas will add a total of 30 cards to your deck at the end of the five weeks' worth of brawling. That is, if you can hack it from cover to cover. Which I clearly can't.