Hearthstone’s Ben Brode on Old Gods and Reynad's match-making theory

The Polluted Hoarder is as greedy as his uncorrupted little brother. (But still only spits out one card when he dies.)

The Polluted Hoarder is Loot Hoarder's corrupted bigger brother.

PCG: When we had the meeting [at Blizzard] previously, Mike Donais was talking about how Face Hunter is reliant on Classic cards. With so many anti-aggro cards rotating out of Standard, is Face Hunter looming in the background as you consider balance changes to the Classic and Basic sets?

BB: I do think that’s one of the types of decks we could be looking at. I also think there are opportunities, in general, in the neutral pool to look at minions that are bolstering these types of decks, and are used in so many different types of decks that you see them constantly. If Piloted Shredder were in the Classic set, it would be a category for nerf for us, because it’s used in so many decks, it’s neutral, and it would be around forever. If there were cards of that type, those would be things that we would be looking at as well.

PCG: I was talking to a colleague and he suggested you should nerf Acidic Swamp Ooze, and I said “nobody plays it, why would you bother?” He replied that at some point they’re going to want to make a lot more weapons, and having a 2-mana creature that destroys any weapon is going to become a problem. Master of Disguise as well, which doesn’t get played but is a powerful effect that probably prevents certain cards from existing. Do you think there could be some surprises in the balance patch? Is there stuff that people aren’t talking about that will get changed because it will free up space for you to do things?

eater of secrets

Eater of Secrets

A few days after our interview Blizzard revealed this new anti-secret tech card which will be part of the Whispers of the Old Gods set.

BB: Perhaps to some extent. I think in general there are some things like that, which we might think about changing. But I also think that cards like Acidic Swamp Ooze are generally healthy to have available as tools. If you are smart and can expect what the meta will be, you can use those types of things. Having them in the Classic set means we don’t necessarily need to make different ways of handling those problems going forward. Kezan Mystic won’t be in Standard, and it’s a huge tool against Freeze Mage and other Secret decks. So is it going to be especially frustrating for players if Secret decks take off in a big way in Standard? Possibly. We might need to make sure that we’re keeping that in our mind when we’re developing sets for Standard going forward.

PCG: Brian Kibler made the case that he thought there should be a core set of cards, so Blizzard could pick and choose what was included each year. That made sense to me as a way to achieve your goal of keeping Standard fresh. You could put Loatheb back in one year, then take him out the next. Firebat made a similar point about removal cards like Frostbolt and Fiery War Axe. As much as they are flavorful and class-defining, they are so good that it’s hard to imagine any Mage or Warrior deck not running them. Could that get boring?

BB: Yeah, but Warriors have an identity. They smack minions with weapons, they gain armor. Mages blast minions with spells and freeze things. So we could give you Frostbolt and War Axe forever, or we could make Frosty-bolt and Freezey-bolt and those types of things in every expansion. It doesn’t bother me to have some amount of mainstays. Especially ones that are those kinds of tools like Frostbolt and Fiery War Axe, that aren’t meta-defining in the way that Mysterious Challenger defines a specific archetype of deck. You play these cards in lots of different types of decks.

I don’t think we’re definitely going to hit this out of the park on our first run through.

It’s helpful for returning players and new players to understand what the class is about, and to see these iconic names like Frostbolt, as opposed to Frosty-bolt and Freezey-bolt. But also if you played Hearthstone back in the day and you come back to Standard, there’s some cards that you’ll remember, and you’re still going to be using some of those in top decks. A lot of the decks will be changing, and there will be some decks that don’t use any of those. But they still could be around. Maybe you make a deck with just Classic and Basic cards, and it won’t be tier one, but you can go on the ladder and start playing right away. In experiencing the new Standard format, I think that’s important.

I don’t think we’re definitely going to hit this out of the park on our first run through. I don’t know if after we make these changes Standard will always be guaranteed to be dynamic and we won’t feel like there are some cards we still need to look at. And maybe going forward we do look at some other options like that. We felt that for this round, this is what we wanted to try, but I don’t think those are crazy ideas.

Next page: Secret Paladin isn't easy to play (honest) and Reynad's match-making theory rejected.

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.