“We didn’t know exactly how good Grim Patron was going to be”

Hearthstone Blackrock Mountain Lava Shock

Shaman is widely regarded as being towards the bottom of the classes and Lava Shock doesn’t seemed to have fixed the issues with the old Overload cards being underpowered. Are there any plans to revisit the way Overload works?

MD: One of the cool things about Overload is it’s specific to Shaman, so it gives us room to make Shaman decks that are different from other Shaman Decks. In the future we could make a Shaman deck that has a lot of Overload cards, and “Overload matters” cards. Lava Shock is a step in that direction. Like you said, people don’t play a lot of the Overload cards because the individual cards are not powerful enough, but with new set releases that could change. We could just push some Overload cards and suddenly Lava Shock’s value goes up and people have a version of the Shaman deck that includes Overload. Shaman, though, has performed very highly with a new Mech deck, even though GvG has been out for months. People have been having a lot of success with it. Sajvz recently played it and reminded people about it, but a lot of people have been using it at very high ranks and doing very well.

As someone who plays a lot of Druid, I know how much my opponents dislike losing to the Force of Nature-Savage Roar combo. Personally, I think it’s balanced fine, but the combo creates an issue in that all the new Druid cards you design have to be balanced with it in mind so as to not make it feel degeneratively powerful. Isn't that a bit suffocating from a design point of view? Because if you look at the Druid cards that have come out since vanilla Hearthstone, none of them see regular use.

MD: Yeah that’s actually true for a few different classes. Warlock has a very strong hero power, and some very strong cards, so it doesn't gain as much from new expansions because it’s tough for us to improve that. Same with Face Hunter. You’ll notice that Face Hunter has only gotten one card basically in the last year or two. So we have to be really careful to design cards that push it in another direction. So, for example, with Druid maybe we could make Token Druid better, or we could make Beast Druid better. But it’s because of things like Ancient of Lore and Innervate and Wild Growth and Keeper [of the Grove]—all these very strong core Druid cards that could go in any deck—we do have that problem you described. And we talk about how to solve that, and hopefully we’ll have some solutions in the future.

I think that Hearthstone doesn’t want to be tied just to the World of Warcraft MMO. We want to be tied to the whole Warcraft world.

It feels like with both Druid and Shaman, there’s just a staple set of cards you have to include. I wonder, long-term, how you’re going to battle that versus power creep.

MD: The main thing is by building alternate versions, like Dragon Druid or Token Druid or Beast Druid. If we can push a new direction, that’s our best design goal for stuff like that, and that’s why we tried to make Mech Mage and Dragon Paladin.

Are there some cards which are fun and flavorful which don’t see play because they were nerfed in the past, but might be less problematic now? I’m thinking of Novice Engineer, Nat Pagle and stuff like that.

Unstable Portal

Unstable Portal

MD: If there’s a card that we like the design for, we try to figure out what part of the design we like, and then make new cards that capture that idea really well. Like Unstable Portal is one of the cards that many people have said is their favorite card. We find out what we like about Unstable Portal and make more cards that capture that particular aspect in different ways in the future. Novice Engineer is not a card I like. I don’t like card draw in Neutral cards like that. It’s too easy to put in your deck, and it’s just like you’re playing a 28-card deck. So I don’t see that as a direction I’m going to push in, but there are a bunch of other ideas in the same vein that I do like. We are going to keep adding new cards that capture the goodness of it.

Are you going to do anything to help new players coming in? How about selling pre-built decks that wouldn't include all the flashy cards, but would get you a rudimentary version of, say, token Druid?

YW: Taking care of new players is absolutely a priority for us, and we have a designer who spends most of her time and effort thinking about it. We've already started pushing a little bit into that area, like we've introduced a new quest where you can play practice games and get rewarded with a pack early. The thing I’ve learned—again it’s a social experience thing—but I think those type of quests can really help new players. Watching their friends, and learning from that, provides ready access to something that’s very valuable: a Classic pack. And then, obviously, you mentioned some other cool ideas as well, but yes—we’re definitely already starting to push in that direction, and we’ll continue to do so.


PCG: And in terms of future expansions, are adventure modes a format you feel still work and are still going to be something the community enjoys?

MD: Yeah, people really responded well to [Blackrock Mountain]. It did really well. It lets you think about Hearthstone in different ways. It actually helps new players get more comfortable with deck building because of the narrow challenges. They’re like: “Oh wow, one of my minions is getting thrown into play every turn, I should play really big minions.” And they go and edit their decks, and they win, and go “wow, deckbuilding is easy, I can do this!” And they get more comfortable with it.



I thought it was nice that a lot of the battles quite subtly taught you about Hearthstone fundamentals like tempo.

MD: Yeah, there was a lot of different stuff going on, and it was also kind of flavorful and it had a good story. Hearthstone doesn't have a lot of that, so it’s nice to introduce that once in a while.

YW: Sorry [laugh] I was just smiling and had to stop. I was thinking about the last mission when you fight Nefarian again and I don’t know, he cracks me up every time. “Four fireballs, just kidding! Ten fireballs!”

Do you think you’ll still look at vanilla WoW raids for future adventures?

MD: I think that Hearthstone doesn't want to be tied just to the World of Warcraft MMO. We want to be tied to the whole Warcraft world, and I think we can do that by going in different directions, and I think that you’ll see more of that in the future. Just discovering our own things. Goblins vs Gnomes isn't like a big thing in World of Warcraft, but it’s still captured in the lore completely, so it was cool to do some things that aren't part of the lore and maybe get introduced in the future to World of Warcraft because they’re so cool and loved in Hearthstone.

Pirates vs Ninjas is what reddit says, and everyone knows Reddit is always right.

YW: My god there was a leak! [laughs]

Tim Clark

With over two decades covering videogames, Tim has been there from the beginning. In his case, that meant playing Elite in 'co-op' on a BBC Micro (one player uses the movement keys, the other shoots) until his parents finally caved and bought an Amstrad CPC 6128. These days, when not steering the good ship PC Gamer, Tim spends his time complaining that all Priest mains in Hearthstone are degenerates and raiding in Destiny 2. He's almost certainly doing one of these right now.