Blizzard are introducing a completely new way to play the Hearthstone this year with Dungeon Run mode - a single-player adventure that pits you against a series of eight powerful bosses. The free-to-play mode selects encounters from a pool of 48 potential bosses, meaning the possible combinations of encounters and decks that you can play run into the hundreds.
Dungeon Run is part of the new Hearthstone Kobolds and Catacombs expansion.
Hearthstone Dungeon Run bosses and encounters
The system is designed to be infinitely replayable, and the difficulty certainly helps that: if you die in Dungeon Run, the entire session is over. Some bosses are even "rare spawns" that won't trigger as often as others. Hence seeing all of them will take some time.
Below is a list of all the currently known bosses along with their hero powers. Bosses are separated into three pools - one for first bosses, one for last bosses, and the larger one for all the bosses you can encounter in the middle batch.
- First bosses
- Giant Rat
- Rat Race (2 Mana): Summon two 1/1 Rats.
- Freeze (2 Mana): Freeze a minion.
- Normal bosses
- Elder Brandlemar
- Dampen Magic (2 Mana): Put a Counterspell onto the battlefield
- Waxmancer Sturmi
- Wax Clone (1 Mana): Creates a 1/1 copy of a minion
- Room of Traps (Rare)
- Battlecrier Jinzo
- Battlecry (Passive): All battlecries trigger twice.
- Last bosses
How to play Hearthstone Dungeon Run
The rules of Dungeon Run are pretty simple: each attempt starts you from the beginning, and you need to defeat eight encounters to win. To start, you choose a class and are given a simple deck of cards. You begin with just 15 health and ten cards, but this will improve over the course of a run. Everything you need can be found in the dungeon; defeating enemies will provide you with loot cards that will be useful in your journey.
Dungeon Run cards
Your first pick will always be a passive from the following pool:
- Captured Flag - Your minions have +1/+1.
- Glyph of Warding - Enemy minions cost 1 more.
- Justicar's Ring - Your Hero Power is upgraded and costs (1).
- Khadgar's Scrying Orb - Your spells cost 1 less.
- Mysterious Tome - At the start of the game, play 3 random secrets.
- Potion of Vitality - Double your starting health.
- Small Backpacks - At the start of the game, draw 2 cards.
- We also know of a Stealth-related passive teased in an interview during BlizzCon, but details on it have not yet been revealed. Server engineering lead Seyil Yoon says it "totally changes your game" when picked.
We really recommend Small Backpacks but "the idea is they're all really good," according to missions designer Dave Kosak. "We try to make it so your first decision is one of the most interesting ones, cause you end up sort of building a whole deck on that."
Outside of that first pick, every second win (so third, fifth, and seventh) will reward another Treasure card. This can include the passives, but also these:
- Bag of Coins - 0 mana. Fill your hand with Coins.
- Boots of Haste - 1 mana. Your minions cost (0) this turn.
- Gloves of Mugging - 1 mana. Steal 3 cards from your opponent's hand.
- Horn of Cenarius - 2 mana. Recruit 3 minions.
- Rod of Roasting - 10 mana. Cast 'Pyroblast' randomly until a hero dies.
- Vorpal Dagger - 2 mana. Poisonous. Mega-Windfury (Can attack four times a turn.)
- Wand of Disintegration - 3 mana. Silence and destroy all enemy minions.
- Wax Rager - 3 mana. 5/1 Elemental. Deathrattle: Resummon this minion.
- Wish - 10 mana. Fill your board with Legendary minions. Fully heal your hero.
In addition to this, every win will let you pick three new cards to add to your deck. These come in a variety of pools, with nine for each class. Included are the "Legendary" pool that adds three of the game's most powerful cards to your deck, but also more synergy-focused ones like Dragon Priest or Warrior.
"There's also a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes to kind of help you build the deck. So, for instance, if you pick the C'thun batch of loot, first of all, it's guaranteed to have C'thun in that first batch so that you're not waiting for it. But also, it's slightly more likely that you will see more C'thun cards going in," Kosak explains. It isn't guaranteed, but you won't get trapped by poor RNG either.
This weighting is part of why it's also really difficult to work out how many variations there are for runs. It also means that even the most linear player is going to alter their strategy eventually. "You kinda have to be responsive to the choices that you're given," Yoon says. "You can't necessarily walk into a particular dungeon run, saying 'I'm going to build this type of deck' because that option may not be available to you."
The only thing that is the same each run is the initial batch of cards you get for picking a class. This is a ten card deck that isn't exceptionally powerful, but contains a broad range of cards from that class that prove useful in the early matches. We've only seen the Warrior, Mage, and Priest ones so far, but each contains various expected cards - Fireball, for example. Priest even has a Mind Blast, which is significantly more useful in a world of ten health first bosses than it is against 30 health players.
"We try and have a deck there that's... it's a little under powered but, I mean, it's a good ten card starter deck. There's a lot of different types of things that you can build with it. So, if you lean really hard into spell power, that Mind Blast [might be okay,]" Kosak says.
"Right, there are other synergies that you can choose later on, that can contribute to making your deck better even when the starting cards are sometimes not that great," Yoon explains. This ties into deeper strategic thinking throughout a run, with a need to transition from aggressive strategies early on to having a more solid plan later down the line.
Hearthstone Dungeon Run gameplay
So is Dungeon Run any good? Yes. With no need for your own collection, it's simply an adventure into Hearthstone's wackiest elements. Only the first ten cards and your self-chosen class are pre-determined. Everything else is selected at random, letting you decide how you want that run to go. While the demo build on the BlizzCon show floor only contains three bosses, none of the three full runs I played felt even vaguely similar.
It feels like a PvE Arena, only with all the dials turned up to 11, out of no fear that anyone will ever have to be on the business end of the overpowered cards this creates. Rather than choosing between two moderately understated Taunt minions, you're deciding if you want the Legendary package of three cards that adds a lot of power, or another three strong synergy picks for your rapidly developing Dragon Priest.
Treasure picks are the second level of that, giving you omnipotently powerful additions to your deck every couple of battles. The first will always be from the passive pool, giving all your minions +1/+1 or letting you start the game with two extra cards. Then you might get the Horn of Cenarius, giving you three minions from your deck for two mana. In case you're wondering, yes, that is the treasure you should take after the Legendary pack, for the option of 20 power on turn two.
It's great fun. All the fun of Arena without the PvP frustrations or the sometimes anemic decks thanks to the ridiculous power on offer. PvE without the all-or-nothing feel of the Knights of the Frozen Throne Lich King fight, and an actual on-ramp of difficulty that doesn't involve you either overpowering it with a large card set or still finding it impossible due to being a new player.
This feels like a system you could play forever, especially if it continues to be expanded. Even if you played the same class and tried to go for a similar deck every time, merely the variation in bosses that you face is going to make it different, plus all the RNG involved in an average game of Hearthstone. It is easily the largest piece of PvE content added to the game in terms of time to complete and replayability, and it's completely free while not being dependant on your collection. That's exciting.
It also feels less influenced by the power of streaming than the Lich King attempt. While it will be fun to go through Dungeon Runs - hundreds of them, according to one member of the development team - beating it, and even getting the optional 100% completion rewards of beating it with every class, don't require a full collection. This avoids many of the problems that have faced Hearthstone since the beginning, and will hopefully be a method used again in the future.
"The Dungeon Run, it's interesting because it turns out to be less about the bosses, and more about the deck that you're building," Kosak says. "That was kind of a learning experience for us. We discovered that the bosses can be very simple, they can have very simple hero powers, and very simple decks, because as long they're creating an interesting challenge for you, it's how you're responding to those challenges that makes a difference. So it's not quite like fighting the Lich King where you're encouraged to restart if you don't think you got a good start. It plays very, very differently. I think that will come across."
Hearthstone Dungeon Run difficulty
We asked Blizzard directly exactly how difficult things would get, especially since a new card back was available for finishing a run with each class. "So, normally, you get one of those big treasure cards after every other fight," Kosak explains. "So after the first boss, [then] after the third boss, etc. So at BlizzCon, we wanted you to see more treasures, so we just gave you one after every fight. Already by the third fight, you're more powerful than you should be.
"When we were talking about the difficulty of it the key thing for us was, if you lose, it's still fun so long as you had a chance to build a deck and actually got to express the deck you were building. As long you got to try your tricks, right? That's usually around the third or fourth boss. Like, if you got defeated before then, it felt like you didn't really get to play. So we ramped up the difficulty accordingly. Round about the fourth or fifth boss, we start really cranking up the difficulty."
Kosak continues to say that the final bosses are "really, really tricky" and "major encounters" that you'll need a powerful deck to face, with either extremely good cards or a strong synergy - or both.
Hearthstone Dungeon Run card back
While the front of the cards is where all the action happens, all good Hearthstone players know the back is equally important. Complete Dungeon Run with every class and you'll unlock a special card back.