PCG: In terms of the new cards, some of them seem like obvious responses to the dominance of a couple of decks—I'm thinking of Miracle Rogue particularly—so at what point as a design team do you feel the need to intervene in the metagame to fix things that are perceived as a problem?
BB: Basically any time a deck gets very frustrating to play against, what you're actually feeling is 'I don't know what to do about this. There's no card I can add to my deck to feel like I'm crushing this type of deck.'
If you're playing against Control Warrior and you're a Priest, you can think 'Maybe I'll put Mind Control in' or something. For Miracle Rogue, specifically, I think players felt like they didn't know what to do against it. And so we just in general want to have tools available so that if you're seeing a lot of Miracle Rogues you can tune your deck specifically to beat Miracle Rogue, maybe at the cost of being a little worse against some other deck, but then you know what trade-off you've made and feel empowered and maybe less frustrated.
So it's almost not even related to the power level of the decks that you're playing against, it's more about the tools that we give you to feel like you can tune your deck based on what you're expecting to see on the ladder.
PCG: Pre-Naxxramas, had you become concerned that there wasn't enough minion playing and trading happening? A lot of the cards in this set feel like they're designed to encourage more minions on the board and more interaction between them.
BB: I think that that type of gameplay is really fun: trying to figure out do I attack the enemy hero or trade these minions, and how do I set up this series of actions to get myself into the best board position for next turn. I think that's very interesting, and so there's definitely a lot of cards in Naxxramas that can stick around a little longer with Deathrattles summoning new minions. We're going to see how that type of environment plays out over the next couple of weeks.
PCG: If there was any card that was going to be nerfed in the Naxx patch, I wouldn't have predicted the poor old Eaglehorn Bow. How close did you come to changing Gadgetzan Auctioneer or Leeroy Jenkins?
BB: We definitely discussed lots of different options. The reason we didn't change those cards is because we felt like we were introducing new cards in Naxxramas that give players tools against those types of strategy. So we'll see if we have given players enough tools. Maybe there'll be more tools in future updates and maybe we'll nerf a card again sometime, but right now we're excited about seeing what happens as the new cards are released and where things shake out at the end of it all.
PCG: Let's talk about the elephant in the room, or should I say the Doomguard. We're only one week in, but far from stemming the tide of Zoo it seems to have opened the floodgates. I've seen people complaining that they're facing 70% Zoo on ladder. Miracle Rogue is a deck that's played well at the top of the ladder, but often misplayed lower down, whereas with Zoo the decision making is comparatively easier and I think a lot of people find it frustrating to constantly come up against. I decided to join them rather than beat them and instantly went 8-3 with the new version of the deck. Quite a few people were conceding on turn three or four rather than seeing the game out. Surely that has to be a problem for you as a design team?
BB: I'll say that there's a couple of cards coming up in the Military Wing that I think are very strong against Zoo in general. So we're keeping an eye on things, but I think it's too early to say what effect Naxx has on the meta. Certainly we know what effect the first wing has had, but it's going to change dramatically as different cards are released.
PCG: But isn't the problem with Zoo not any one card but the Warlock Hero power itself? I heard Reynad [the player widely 'credited' with popularising Zoo] say he thinks that the Hero power will have to be changed at some point because as long as there are efficient small minions in the game, you'll always be able to run this strategy—and some of these cards which feel like anti-Zoo tech cards, such as Deathlord, will also probably play well in Zoo. They'll chuck down a 2/8 Taunt on turn 3 and build their board behind it. It strikes me as hard to come up with solutions.
BB: Sure. I think we'll see how it goes but it's not something we're planning on changing right now. Once Naxx is all out and we see what the meta is like we can think more about it at that time, but there's a lot of change coming in and who knows what the big decks will be at the end of it.
PCG: Okay, I'll leave the Zoolocks alone for now. What's the logic behind not having any neutral weapons currently?
BB: One of the things that's interesting about making a deck is choosing which class to start with, and when the classes have things that are unique about them it gives you some interesting hooks like 'maybe I'll choose Warrior because they can use weapons', or 'Mage can't use weapons but they can use freezing'. So giving classes hooks that are unique, that they get to mess around with, is useful for pointing players in different directions and also making classes feel different from each other.