Giving Card Design a Try
For this article I designed 67 cards. When designing cards I didn’t think about making a class more powerful or sending it in a particular direction, I just tried to design really cool cards. Overall I think what Ben Brode said about card design is correct: “design cool cards not cool decks, let the players figure those out by themselves” (it is a rough paraphrase). For each class there is a minion and a spell for each rarity, I also made 4 neutral cards. This set in itself doesn’t have a common theme, I just got images I thought were cool from http://us.battle.net/wow/en/media/artwork/ and other World of Warcraft art blogs and tried to make the best of my imagination. Hope you enjoy the cards!
Baby Owlkin: The image is just too cute, when I saw it I knew I had to make a card out of it. I think the cards power level is decent as Druid has a lot of “Choose one” type effects and it is severely lacking a one drop. Overall I think the card’s power level is about the same as Mana Wyrm and thus is balanced.
Druid of the Serpent: This card is basically a very flexible Ancient of War. In the taunt form you lose 2 health, the upside is that you have the ability of charging this minion to kill an enemy minion (the key word poison just means destroy any minion damaged by this minion). Transform in a huge anaconda or a small and fast viper, the flavour is there! I think it goes without saying that both forms are beasts.
Tauren Elder: This one is the first card I designed and I really like it. The card offers the possibility of giving up a mana crystal for a huge mana boost. I think this card is certainly very strong because it is a small minion which your opponent doesn’t want to kill, on the other hand you have to offset your turn 4 in order to play it. Additionally notice that the mana crystals are empty so the card might be slightly too slow, overall I think it is a well designed card.
Teldrassil: This card is crazy, you give away Tempo for the possibility to ramp up until 15 mana crystals. The combinations you can do at 15 crystals are insane, Malygos and Aviana can set up crazy turns. I think this card by itself could potentially bring certain deck archetypes into existence, and this is exactly what I was aiming for: enable players to be super creative in deck building. Obviously before releasing such a card it would have to go through rigorous testing, some tweaking on the stats could be required.
Meditation: This is my favourite Druid card I designed, it is very flexible as it can do 2 completely different things. Usually Choose One effects have effects which do not diverge too much from each other, this one either sets up a taunt or draws cards slowly. Obviously for 5 mana giving a minion +0/+6 and Taunt is not that great, drawing 3 cards throughout 3 turns is also weaker than Nourish. What this card has going for it is flexibility. Overall I think this might not be a card which you include in your deck, but you might not be too unhappy to get it from a Raven Idol in certain situations. Lastly I would like Blizzard implementing a mechanic which makes you draw throughout a few turns, I think it could work out well.
Bestial Roar: When played on 2 beasts the card is as powerful as Savage Roar, when played on 3 or more beasts it becomes more powerful. I decided to design this card because it seemed correct to give some sort of burst which focuses around beasts, this is a direction in which Blizzard is pushing. Overall I think the card would probably be quite weak as Savage Roar is more consistent since you do play non-beasts, such as Living Roots, in Beast Druid. I also considered making it deal 4 Damage, but this seemed exaggerated as it would grant too much burst possibility.
Prowl: The reason why Prowl has to be a 4-mana Conceal which only targets beasts is that Druid has access to a lot of burst. Imagine being able to conceal 3 beasts, this already guarantees 8 damage to the opponents face (SMOrc) with Savage Roar if there is no taunt. Overall I found making Druid spells the hardest of any class, I just couldn’t come up with anything flavourful outside beasts.
Believer in the light: This one is probably a really bad card which is fun to play once in a while. I thought giving Paladin a Renounce Darkness effect would be interesting, I didn’t include the mana reduction to make it slightly different. Overall is one of those cards you probably try but you really don’t want to play competitively, Timmy and Jonny rejoice!
Murloc Commander: Billy is everywhere! I guess Amaz would like this card. This card gains you a net +1 mana, the card is 3 mana worth of stats which summons 3 mana worth of murlocs. I don’t think the card is overpowered as 2/1 Murlocs aren’t exactly the most resilient of creatures. I like this card and I think it would be used in different Paladin archetypes. Lastly, now that The Curator has been announced it has to be said Murloc Commander can also provide more options when deck building any type of Paladin deck.
Consecrator: With Quartermaster gone from standard I feel a similar type of effect is needed. I decided on this effect since Blizzard is pushing the divine shield theme in Paladin. This card when coupled with Rallying Blade can make for a really powerful best case scenario, on average though I would expect it to be quite hard to pull off. Overall I think this could help some type of midrange Paladin build gain back some grounds.
Soridormi, Keeper of Time: Lifecoach might hate me for this one! I think this card is actually very powerful as it is a sticky 4/12 body with an 8/8 hidden inside it. I justified such power with the fact it is a very slow card, it has no immediate impact on board. Another thing to consider is that Soridormi completely overshadows Nozdormu, there would be no reason to run Nozdormu over this card. Lastly it might be crazy powerful in N’Zoth Paladin as it is another very strong Deathrattle minion which you can play. Overall this one is probably way too powerful and the stats need to be toned down to 4/8 or something along those lines, consider though that Deathwing, Dragonlord has a potentially stronger Deathrattle and doesn’t see play at 10 mana.
Judgement: This Secret I find very cool, it is hard to play around and it will surprise you if you do not expect it. Whilst the card might not be playable I think it is an interesting mechanic, effects which pop after a certain amount of actions have been completed add a new layer of complexity to Hearthstone.
Purification: A better assassination to give Paladin more options. Don’t have much else to say about this one.
Holy Earthquake: Initially I wanted to make the card 6-mana. I decided to push the cost up by one since I believe coupling a stronger consecration type effect with a strong heal needs a higher mana cost in order to be justified.
Cute Cub: I don’t know about this one, on the one hand it is really strong if you can pull it off on the other it is kind of hard to activate the Deathrattle effect. On turn one you are usually answering a 1 or 2 attack minion meaning that making the Cute Cub die could be quite challenging, even if you do run Abusive Sergeant. It must be emphasized that the reward for being able to pop the Deathrattle might be way too strong, it would enable the hunter to push a lot of damage in the early turns of the game. Maybe making the Cute Cub a 0/2 and the Heartbroken Mother a 5/2 or a 4/3 would make the card more balanced.
Expert Marksman: I love this one it is so cool! In itself the effect is really powerful, on the other hand I think the fact it can only target minions makes it so it is never a free fireball to the face (even if it can be a free fireball on an enemy minion). This card again might be too powerful but I think the mana cost, randomness and the stat-line justify it having a potentially really strong upside.
Enormous Ravager: Really strong body but it is basically a 10/5 as it takes double damage. If you manage to silence the beast it could reward you highly, but to be honest it is probably really rarely worth it. In any case I though designing a card like this would be cool and that is why I did it!
Nathanos Blightcaller: A Reno Jackson condition for your hand with a very powerful effect. I think this take on Reno effects is cool as it does tell your opponent you don’t have any 2 cards in your hand, so, for instance, the opponent will know he doesn’t need to play around double Kill Command. Additionally this is a Hunter legendary which I think could actually see play, it has a very strong effect and a decent enough stat-line, the card can actually compete for the 6-drop slot!
Aimed Shot: Another option for removal for Hunter. When building my Reno Hunter deck I noticed the deck had a really hard time running enough removal for big threats, I think it is justifiable giving another removal for big minions to hunter.
Beast Shop: You pay a card and draw beats from your deck, it is basically an arcane intellect for Hunter. The class lacks draw so I think this one was kind of neat, even if it is nothing extraordinary.
Beast Rally: This is a second take at a card draw mechanic for Hunter. This one is either a really bad cantrip or a 5 mana Sprint, certainly a high risk high reward card. I think Midrange Hunters might want to run this card as a one of, and I think the risk attached to it and the fact that Hunter wants to be a proactive class justifies the mana cost at 5.
Student of the Light: This is obviously a card to help priest during the early game. If the opponent doesn’t play any minions this card is a 0/4 for 1, it is pretty useless. On the other hand, if you are facing a Zoolock this card immediately makes it so that Priest can actually fight for the board during the first few turns. Also to consider is the fact Inner Fire is a legitimate card to run in a deck with Student of the Light, potentially enabling the card to trade very favourably in the early game. Overall this card might be a little too powerful but we do know priest is in pretty bad shape as of now.
Tauren Healer: There is not much to say about this card, it should be a decent 4 drop which enables some sort of good trade and survivability. I think it fits the Priest arsenal pretty well even though I don’t know if overall it would actually be played.
Lightbender: Now you can go back to playing Lightbomb! Yey! There is a catch though, your opponent will always know you have the card in your hand. What this means is that whilst you do get a really powerful card your opponent will play around it as he will know you can play it. Additionally whilst the stats are ok they do not trade super favourably, even though having 6 health is a big deal for a Priest card.
Spirit Healer: The stats are good and it can act as a mini C’Thun depending on the size of your board and how much you healed. I feel this should enable Priest to have a proactive play which can be really strong tempo swing on turn 6, for now all the Priest has is situational reactive cards in that slot.
Power Word: Hope: Initially I wanted to make the card heal every minion on board but then I realized that with Auchenai synergy it would be way too powerful. The card obviously combo’s with Northshire Cleric, enabling you to draw an absurd amount of cards. Additionally it makes it so that it is very dangerous to disrespect any Priest minion as the punishment could be insane. I feel this card would be really good and cool to play with!
Shadow Word: Torture: This is what Shadow Word: Horror should have been, a clear that is very strong against zoo type decks but that doesn’t do that much against decks which run a lot of big creatures. In an aggressive metagame this should allow Priest to be the anti-agro class that it was always meant to be! Additionally it adds a layer of planning if one wants to clear a wide board since you have to set the minions health in the right order. Lastly if it is a Patron board this card might go in an infinite loop, meaning that I think it is for the best if after 14 times the effect will cease no matter what.
Mind Flay: 4-mana minions have always been terrible to deal with for Priest, fear not! Now you can Power Overwhelming one of your opponents 4 health minions, attack with it and remove it. I think this card is a really powerful card, and maybe it is under-costed. On the other hand it is removal specifically for smaller minions thus on average you will actually go even or negative on the mana cost. I don’t know about this one, I certainly think Priest players would be happy to see this card!
Dwarven Tank: If bolster Warrior becomes a thing Dwarven Tank could help the archetype. The stats are vanilla for the cost and they are well distributed for a Taunt minion. Overall I think this is a solid card for any Warrior deck (should also help Warrior in arena!)
Crazed Spinning Troll: You cannot play this one on an empty board for sure! The stats on this card are very bad as it will always be a 5/3 at most. The effect is kind of crazy and it would probably be a possible to tech this card against token heavy decks, more probably than not the card is just bad. I don’t know what I was thinking when I designed this one, it certainly looked like a fun design at the time!
Gnome Combatant: I like the idea of a Gnome picking random fights on the street, thus I designed a Gnome Combatant! Overall I think this one seems pretty good but it is actually balanced as without support from task master and inner rage it can only clear two small minions. Additionally even if a Charge and Windfury minion is insane, if it can only attack enemy minions it becomes just a pretty strong removal tool. I think though maybe reducing the health to 5 and increasing the attack to 5 would make this card a bit less oppressive against very aggressive decks.
Muradin Bronzebeard: Warrior is the class with the most card draw engines in the game, meaning Muradin is a pretty powerful legendary for the class. If it survives a turn this card will always be at least a 2/4 for 2, if it survives more it can be insane. On the other hand it must be emphasized that most of the time the card won’t survive to see the next turn, meaning that even if the effect is very powerful it is not broken because trading into a 1/4 is pretty easy.
Shield Crush: If you have no armour it is awesome, if you have a lot of armour your opponent will rejoice since you will lose it all. Shield Crush is probably a removal that would be played in more midrange oriented decks, it is a no activation removal which if you have no armour costs nothing. In Control Warrior running this card would be very risky as the opponent would be really happy to see that 40 armour disappear all at once. Overall I think making removal for Warrior requires you thinking about cards which Control Warrior wouldn’t want to play, the archetype already has enough premium removal as of now.
Enrage: Bloodlust for 3 mana would be insane, the problem is you have to get to under 12 health first! I really like the Warrior cards which become more powerful the less health you have, they are really flavourful as they bring me into the fantasy of being a Fury Warrior. This card is probably not that strong as the opponent can play around it pretty easily, overall though I like cards designed like this and this is why I did it.
Rally the Troops: This card might be totally broken, it requires no set up and it fills up the board. The flavour is there and I had to make it 3-drops and not 2-drops if not about 15% of the time you would summon a doomsayer making the card useless. I think the design is cool but I am not too sure, this is certainly one that should be tested extensively since in Hearthstone we lack hard removal for large boards.
Amani Assassin: The card is bad but it is pretty flavourful. I do not think every card needs to be playable by itself, and I think Amani Assassin is one of those cards that might make players think about on how to build a deck to support this card.
Backstreet Thug: This card is an additional removal for Rogue, it might help a more control version of the deck to come into being. It might seem strong but activating a 5 mana combo is really hard thus if you manage I think you should be rewarded.
Undercity Torturer: The stats are insane and probably I should make it a 4/8, I just wanted you guys to see it in the first iteration of it. Consider that any taunt which has more than 3 attack will block it. Additionally it cannot attack the enemy Hero, thus it is just pure removal. On the other hand the fact that Rogue has access to cards like Cold Blood means that this card could just remove minions for days, making it very un-fun to play against.
Alexi Barov: It is another early game option for Rogue, it could enable a more weapon based deck with the addition of some more support. Overall I fear this card would become an auto-include in any Rogue deck as it is a bit too good when fighting for the early game. On the other hand since cards from standard rotate out, having strong early game for Rogue MIGHT be ok for a cycle (I think this card could be one of the really broken ones).
Evenom: Costs a lot if you are using it just as a Deadly Poison, on the other hand if you pull it off it does give you a lot of potential swings for future turns. In general I love card advantage mechanics, this is why I decided to design Evenom as it is; an over-costed card which give you tools to set up for huge tempo turns.
Adrenaline Rush: With a card like Adrenaline Rush you have to be really careful as if it is too cheap it will just make Miracle Rogue unfair to play against. I think making it 3 mana when using Preparation on it makes it decently strong whilst still putting some limits of what you can do with it.
Swords of the Goddess: Basically with this one I wanted to give Rogue a new Blade Flurry like clear in order to help the class with wide boards. I think it might be too strong at 3 mana since Rogues can usually cast a lot of spells in one turn, probably making it 4 mana would make it so that it is a bit harder to make the effect consistently good. I think this one is one of those cards which is probably really broken and could by itself make Rogue become the number 1 class.
Broken One: In the current form it can cast lightning bolts on your minions as well, meaning that it is probably not that strong. I was wondering if it would be too much to make it target only enemy minions and I concluded it is, the tempo it might give you is too much of an upside early game. On the other hand if you are a gambler you might want to play this one!
Pandaren Trainee: This card is bad but it is so funny, look at his face! It has the potential of being a huge tempo swing as well as killing himself, it is a Servant of Yogg’Saron which always casts Lava Burst! I think this is just a funny card and anyway Shaman does have enough good cards as of now, we can give them a bit of gambling tools too! Probably increasing the stats to 3/4 or 4/5 would be fine.
Time Destroyer: Crazy effect for a crazy good image. In order to make it good you have to play whilst you have a decent sized board, if not it will just be a 1/1 for 1 mana. Can’t think off the top of my head how good it would be as of now, but I think this is one of those cards which can aid creativity when deck building.
Tolok the Totem: I hope a similar card will get printed. It is the indirect nerf that Tuskarr Totemic needs, whilst also pushing Shaman in a more flavourful direction. This card can be completely insane if you have enough totems on board, whilst being just a 3/3 for 3 if you play it on curve after just one totem. Tolok can be both a huge tempo swing late game if played with Thing from Below and some totems, whilst being ok early game.
Ultimate Totemic Call: Call of the wild, just it is totems and they don’t do much! I fear actually this card could be broken, putting tokens on board is really good when you are playing Shaman. This card coupled with Thing From Below and Tolok the Totem could be game breaking late game. Probably either Ultimate Totemic Call or Tolok the Totem should not exist whilst Thing from Below is still in standard.
Tempest: Initially I wanted to make this card one mana but I thought it would be way too strong since you could pull off crazy amounts of bursts. At 2 mana this card should be fine, overloaded turns are the ones you do not want to fall behind and you can do maximum 12 from hand given 6 overloaded crystals. I liked the design of this card because it adds depth to the Shaman Gameplay, now you can also plan on how to use removal when overloading.
Totemic Power: I feel a card like this one could push a more totem focused control Shaman archetype, even if the reason I made it is just that it seemed a really interesting effect. The effect of this card is mirrored, in the sense that for each minion you destroy a random enemy minion is also destroyed. On average totems should be less valuable than enemy minions hence the 4-mana cost. I believe at 5-mana this card could still be ok since for how powerful the effect can be, on the other hand the effect is similar to Shadowflame and this is why I settled for the 4-mana cost.
Overgrown Imp: If you don’t have a demon on board you get a slightly bigger yeti, if you do you have a very big drawback. I think about this one there is not much to say, it is a pretty balanced demon which goes into a non-demon deck. Additionally in arena it could be a very solid card to pick, rarely you will have a demon based deck. One thing to consider is that maybe it would be interesting if it could also target enemy demons making it more similar to Sacrificial Pact.
Servant of the Legion: I know the character in the picture is the Shade of Aran, but I liked the artwork and thus decided to make it into a card. Discover is the best mechanic that was introduced by Blizzard until now, it allows you a certain degree of control over the Random aspect. Discovering a Demon could be really cool if you have a Demon based deck as this might allow some demons which rarely see play be picked in the right situation.
Ultimate Voidcaller: You are guaranteed a minion from the Deathrattle, the only problem is that depending on the amount of Demons in your deck the variance might be much higher when compared to the original Voidcaller. I think the stats are justified since it replaces itself when it dies, making it nearly always more valuable than its cost in the long run. I think the effect is cool as it could help demon synergy which is lacking in standard.
Sargeras, the Dark Titan: This one is not very creative, it is just a N’Zoth for Demon decks. I decided to make the card like this as I feel Demon decks would need a win-condition if they were played, as of now they do not pack enough of a punch in order to be played.
Incinerate: With this card I was really conflicted between 1 and 2 mana, I made it 1 mana because I knew at 2 Mana it would be too weak to ever see any play. This is a mortal coil which cycles itself for another mortal coil and can guarantee infinite value given enough targets. Overall I think the card is not crazy strong but the fact you can get it from Peddler might mean it should not exist in Standard whilst Peddler exists as it could consistently allow Zoo to be shut down by other Warlock decks.
Ultimate Sacrifice: 10 damage is a lot of burst but I think it can be justifiable given that Warlock has to Life Tap a lot, meaning on average the Warlock should be at a lower life total compared to the opponent. Additionally the card has no impact on the board and thus it is useless most of the time. Overall I don’t know if this card would ever be used but I thought it was an interesting mechanic to propose.
Drain Mana: I don’t know why Blizzard doesn’t like the players interfering with each other’s plan, I think it is one of the most fun aspects of a card game. For example, when on ladder it was full of Worgen Warriors I teched snipe in my Reno Hunter deck, this enabled me to win a match-up by effectively denying my opponent his whole game plan if I could time my card correctly. Drain Mana does the same, it suppresses your opponent’s abilities by stealing a mana crystal. I think you could justify the effect of this card at 5-mana as it effectively gives you a Nourish worth of Ramp. On the other hand this card is completely useless late game and is effectively a wasted card slot if not used on turns 4-5-6, I think the mana cost is thus justified.
Dalaran Scholar: This one with Emperor could be very broken as it could enable insane combos. The reason I decided to create this card is to have an alternative to Bloodmage Thalnos when building a spell heavy Mage deck, you can have more spell power sacrificing card draw. This card should probably be thoroughly tested before it could come out as 2 spell power is a lot, especially for Mage which has access to a lot of low costed burn.
Naga Sorceress: This is a new take on the Discover mechanic, it is an attempt at controlled RNG. The stats on the card are quite weak for its mana cost but the effect is really strong, especially considering that if you played just 3 spells you can guarantee you know what you will get. Overall I think cards like Naga Sorceress add depth to the Gamplay as they allow players to really manage their resources and decide when they want to play a certain card given their other options.
Draenai Spellcaster: if you set it up correctly the tempo that this card can give you is insane. I can already see Spellcaster into double Arcane Intellect and a Bunch of other spells. Broken! The stats of the card are very defensive, maybe slightly too defensive as it is potentially really hard to deal with. Overall this is another card which requires planning when you use it, and obviously it is another card that needs to be submitted to rigorous testing as it might be slightly too powerful.
Kael’thas Sunstrider: Again another effect with controlled RNG which depends on which spells you used during the game. The idea is similar to the one behind Naga Sorceress, but instead you get a Cabalist Tome worth of cards attached to it. Overall I hope somebody at Blizzard sees this one and makes it, I love Control Mage!
Invisibility: This card could make Freeze Mage become a tier 1 deck and would probably be the reason for an uproar of the Hearthstone community. If the classic set could be rotated out cards such as Invisibility could be printed since; the design space that is currently held by Ice Block and freeze effects would finally be freed. I love the design of this card as it lets you plan ahead by guaranteeing you will survive another turn, it can always be a desperation play if you are just hoping for a top deck.
Frost and Fire: I love effects which add cards to the hand and your deck, I guess you can see this from the Mage cards I have created! Frost and Fire is an interesting card since if you put it in a Reno Deck you probably don’t want to play it unless you drew the natural Frostbolt and Fireball, or you can decide not to include these spells. It must be emphasized that this card is very slow but it is very valuable as it is basically allows you to play 2 cards you would want to play in nearly any Mage deck but only filling one deck-slot, enabling you to put more cards in your deck.
Frost Prison: It can stall a big threat for a couple of turns but probably it is just a useless secret. The good thing about the Mage class is that they have a lot of tools which enable the creation of random spells. What this means is that even if this is a spell you might not include in the deck it can always have a place in competitive play (thank you Ethreal Conjurer and Cabalist Tome!).
Friendly Traveller: A 2/1 which cycles itself, it is not bad and it is interesting. I think the card is balanced as it is basically a card cycle for 3-mana, probably it is even slightly weak. Additionally imagine stealing a big legendary off the opponent. Now everybody can play Priest!
Goblin Mercenary: It’s a strong card and it is cheap, the problem for you is that it gives the same minion to your opponent when it dies. When designing this card my thought process was that the person which plays it earlier should be slightly more advantaged to deal with the stats as it will be a later turn. I think the card is probably weak, but maybe it gives more tools for a silence deck in wild?
Trophy Collector: He might have what you need! Or maybe he just has two Totemic Mights he wants to get rid of! Overall I like card like this one, it might not be a card you want to include in your competitive deck but, in other modes, it can certainly see play. Additionally it is a buff to any Randuin deck!
The Innkeeper: I feel this one could be very broken as it can completely destroy the game-plan of some classes, namely Control Warrior and Control Warlock. I decided to go with it as the card is interesting but if there is one card in the set which I have to say is probably not fun to play against it has to be the Innkeeper, as it can make it so you are left with only one option: concede.
Designing the cards was a lot of fun and I will admit it was also quite difficult. The class cards I like the most are the Mage ones, as I wrote before is my favourite class, with Control Mage being my favourite deck archetype. After going through this journey into card creation I realize what amazing job the devs are doing when creating cards, it is very hard to balance such a complex game. Additionally I gave myself free reign over the type of cards I could design since this was my first attempt at it, devs usually have to create cards with a certain flavour since they cards are attached to a certain theme. I suggest to anyone who has some time to try creating some cards, this might help you improve your understanding of the game.
One last thing is that I was considering writing an article analysing cards created by readers, if you have a card you want me to analyse send it at email@example.com with your name (so I can give you credit) and I will try to analyse the cards in next Wednesday’s article! (if I get enough submissions). You can create cards at http://www.hearthcards.net/
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