Hearthstone patch 4.2.0 launched this week as potentially the most substantial non-expansion update to Hearthstone ever - Blizzard has treated players to nine more deck slots, new ways to search their card collection and a new unlockable hero portrait, alongside a very special feature for new players referred to as 'deck recipes'.
The amount of decks a player may keep at any one time has been a particularly contentious issue between Blizzard and the Hearthstone community for some time now. This has become so much of an issue that the designers have had to address the subject on Twitter, Reddit, and even an interview with PC Gamer to quell demands over the two years since the game was released. Still, it appears that the technology is finally here as this most recent patch, which released yesterday the 14th of March, allows players to keep a total of 18 decks at once - an upgrade from the previous limit of 9.
While this may be the highlight of the update for many players, the April/May release of Hearthstone's newest expansion, Whispers of the Old Gods, has been heralded in this update with an option to pre-order 50 packs of cards exclusive to the expansion, open-able as soon as the expansion hits. Players who take Blizzard up on this offer will immediately receive a new card back, themed after the expansion, that can only be obtained by this promotion. Veteran players may remember when Blizzard did a similar promotion prior to the release of Hearthstone's second full expansion, The Grand Tournament, only to backfire when an inquisitive Reddit user discovered the expansion's release date ahead of time using a client-side exploit. Blizzard has remained intentionally vague with the release date of Whispers of the Old Gods - stating a late April / early May release - and with the inevitable demand for clarification from fans, it's not out of the question that we may see a similar incident.
In addition to deck slots and card backs, a new 'Hero Portrait' for the Paladin class depicting the Warcraft character Lady Liadrin has been made available. Previous alternative hero portraits for the Warrior, Mage and Hunter classes debuted last year at a price of US$10 each to the annoyance of fans, including YouTube content creator TotalBiscuit who referred to the added Mage portrait as a "ten dollar JPEG". It would appear that Blizzard have revised their method of releasing these portraits with Lady Liadrin, however, as the new hero portrait may only be obtained by reaching level 20 in Blizzard's other title, World of Warcraft - a goal that does not require the expenditure of money as it is the top level that can be reached in the World of Warcraft starter edition trial.
On top of all that, Blizzard seems to be renewing its commitment to helping new players access the more competitive aspects of Hearthstone by adding 'deck recipes' - a variety of decklists that appear in your collection to suggest how to create various competitive archetypes. Blizzard will not be granting players with incomplete collections access to all the cards therein, however, but rather suggesting substitutes within these decks wherever gaps appear. Spotted among these lists are recipes for decks such as Handlock, a deck that has seen competitive play since launch, and Thrill of the Hunt, which appears to be Blizzard's name for a deck colloquially referred to as 'Face Hunter', a Hunter class deck that revolves around constantly attacking the enemy player directly.
Diving into the features that perhaps only the most organised Hearthstone players may care for, additional methods of browsing the in-game card collection manager have been added. Now, players may sort cards by attack, health and mana cost range, as well as search for exclusively golden cards, new cards or cards they simply have too many of. A long-standing bug with Hearthstone's enrage mechanic has been fixed and the game has been entirely localized into Thai, upping the number of languages Hearthstone is now available in to 14.
For the full patch notes and further information see Blizzard's official blog post on Hearthstone patch 4.2.0.