Lessons for Legendary Quests

Legendary Quests were one of the standout features of Un’goro. After the rotation of the Blackrock Mountain, The Grand Tournament and League of Explorers, Quests helped to create unique decks and playstyles in the relatively limited card pool. Now almost a year after Un’goro, it might be time to look again at quests. What worked and what didn’t? And how lessons from Legendary Weapons and Death Knight Heroes help make Quests better?

What Quests got right

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Quests solved the consistency issues with powerful Legendaries

Quests brought a whole lot of innovation. One of the most interesting was the guaranteed mulligan. As quests naturally want to be played as soon as possible, having a singleton win condition would be frustratingly random. But by always having the option of the Quest in opening hand, this decision created consistency and minimized frustration. A similar effect might have been useful for Death Knight Heroes, as not drawing them can become frustrating when your win condition depends on it.

Quests also were also at their best when they rewarded unusual playstyles. Hearthstone often feels a bit one-dimensional; play big minion, hit face. But a few of the quests created some fascinating gameplay alternatives. Rogue’s Quest, while infamously oppressive, was both interesting to complete and to benefit from. Meanwhile Quest Mage created a unique twist on Freeze Mage. A few Legendary Weapons inherited these unique interactions, most notably for Kingsbane and Shadowreaper Anduin. This helped create idiosyncratic and hard-to-master combo decks to round out (and maybe terrorize) the meta.

The tempo problem

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Death Knights are late-game oriented but provide a tempo kick to get you there

One of the biggest downsides of Quests was that it ended up crippling your early tempo. Not only did you end up skipping your first turn, you would spend a card that often wouldn’t pay off for many turns. This lead to Quests naturally becoming anti-control tools, as the tempo loss from this will often make your deck inherently weak to early pressure.

Death Knight Heroes managed to circumvent this. Aside from a powerful hero power, Death Knight Heroes grant 5 armour and an immediate battlecry effect. This offset the inherently late-game orientation of the card, granting it a tempo bonus to stabilise from. Quests could perhaps benefit from a similar strategy. Obviously on turn one, the benefit would need to be orders of magnitude less. But maybe a 1/1, or some armour, or 1 damage, or a card generation would allow Quests to be more competitive early on.

Finding the flavour

Beyond balance, Quests also had a key issue with flavour. Some of them nominally made sense. Warriors went venturing into a volcano, Mages started warping time; but others seemed weak at best. What do Paladins have to do with Kaleidosaurs? Why would a non-Morgl Shaman ‘Unite the Murlocs’? Why would a Rogue venture down to the Crystal Core? Legendary Weapons and Death Knight heroes on the other hand, had compelling and interesting flavour. The voice lines and art of the Death Knights were a dark and compelling twist on the traditional hero archetypes, and Legendary Weapons fit their classes well whilst having some surprisingly well-implemented voice interactions.

If Quests ever return, more attention should be paid to unite their flavour and interactions with the core class identities they represent, and building the cool ideas off the classes and not stapling them on seemingly at random.

Playstyles, not minion types

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“Play X number of Y minions” was never especially fun

The most interesting Quests were the ones that rewarded playstyles rather than specific tribes and minion types. Taunt Warrior didn’t really play that innovatively; it still ended up plopping down minions. Deathrattle Priest and Murloc Shaman had the same problem. Any Quest that simply relied on playing a number of specific minion types ended up squeezing out the room in the deck for interesting class cards, making the archetype seem one-dimensional.

Future Quests should be more like the Rogue, Paladin or Warlock Quests, that pushed broader synergies than just “this one type of minion”. They allow more flexibility and creativity, while making classes feel more distinct. If Quests ever return, hopefully they will be even more fun the second time round.

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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