What makes a good meme card?

There’s something magic about certain cards. Every expansion has a few minions that at first, appears to be absolutely unplayable. But something about it inspires people. Instead of being cast aside, it is seized upon. Something that really should not work creates fleeting moments of hilarious effectiveness, in between embarrassing failures. But what exactly is it that creates the recipe for these kind of noncompetitive but strangely compelling cards?

They suck

Would Executus be fun as an overpowered autoinclude?

A fascinating effect on a terrible card

A key component in these meme cards is that they can’t be too effective. Sure, building a deck around the Rogue Quest was compelling at first, but after a few weeks of ladder dominance it began to wear thin. The best meme cards skirt the edges of brilliance, while retaining numerous crippling flaws. A prime example is Majordomo Executus. It has tantalising potential, but could never achieve any kind of consistent effectiveness due to the suicidal eight health cap and prohibitive nine mana cost.

By keeping the card low power-level, it ensures the joke never goes stale, as those who have the courage to try it out are doing it out of love, not desire to grind out ranks.

They’re innovative

To compensate for their over the top inefficiency, meme cards have to have a powerful pull. This is best achieved by it doing something no other card does. Weasel Tunneler embodies this perfectly. Sabotaging your opponent’s deck is the exact kind of wacky, nefarious scheme that gets people’s mind racing. It’s the kind of disruption you can’t get from any other card.

Not only does this allow for testing of new mechanics, it also lets Team 5 play it safe with potentially infuriating mechanics. If a weasel-tunneler-like card was ever competitively viable, it would be the most infuriating card in the game. But thanks to its sheer terribleness, it never feels horrible to play against, while still being hilarious when it works.

They’re inconsistent

Unliklihood of working makes Zerus more satisfying when he works

Of course, a card just being bad and innovative wouldn’t make it entertaining. It’s also necessary that the card is inconsistent; often relying on RNG to even have a chance of working. Shifter Zerus is perfect in this regard. Theoretically, with perfect RNG, it could be the best card in the game. However, the massive range of outcomes means that getting the right minion at the right time is almost impossible. This makes those one-in-a-thousand hail-mary situations where Zerus saves you that much sweeter.

By contrast, cards like Ticking Abomination are just consistently terrible, meaning that they never get those highs or lows where it decides games in your favour. Of course, this next ingredient sometimes changes this

They show up unexpectedly

The average Hearthstone player would never craft Nozdormu, much less put it in their deck. But sometimes, it can show up out of nowhere to decide games. In the Priest vs Quest Mage matchup, it’s actually a hilariously viable strategy to try and get Nozdormu off Free from Amber, disrupting their infinite combo with a 15 second turn timer.

These bad cards with unique effects also can make for some incredible game states. Archbishop Benedictus can be unexpectedly discovered vs a Fatigue Warrior. Lorewalker Cho can be evolved into. Back in the days of the Golden Monkey, a single Acidmaw could wipe whole boards in Legendary vs Legendary end-games. By not needing to show up in a deck to exist, meme cards can make the whole of Hearthstone that bit more exciting.

 

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

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Ben Brode’s favorite meme isn’t playable: What happened?

As stated on a recent Reddit AMA, Hearthstone Game Director Ben Brode’s favorite meme is the infamous “4 mana 7/7”, Flamewreathed Faceless. Poking fun at the card’s perceived overpowered-ness and the community’s salt that erupted as a result, the meme now has an ironic twist: Flamewreathed Faceless is far from oppressive.

In fact, it’s currently borderline unplayable, seeing zero competitive use in any Shaman decks. How did this card go from all-conquering outrage and humor generator to storied collection-filer? How did the 4 mana 7/7 go from OP meme card to an unplayable meme card?

Rise of a Giant

When Flamewreathed Faceless was released as part of the Whispers of the Old Gods expansion, it became emblematic of the power and frustrations expressed in the all-conquering Aggro Shaman. The card quickly slotted in, forming a staple part of the deck. Being able to plop down a huge body that required an immediate answer granted the deck some surprise wins. This was especially effective against Control or Midrange lists that lacked cheap, single-target removal.

The main advantage of the 4 mana 7/7 was how impactful just a single attack to face would be. 7 health is a huge chunk of starting HP, and against a deck as aggressive as old Aggro Shaman, it’s crippling. Even the presence of Flamewreathed Faceless in a deck can prove fatal, as saving removal for it can leave a Tunnel Trogg or Totem Golem unchecked, allowing burn to finish the opponent off.

Servant of Trogg-Saron

Tunnel Trogg was a huge part of Flamewreathed Faceless’s success – and hate

Flamewreathed Faceless’s fortunes were intimately tied to that of a far smaller minion: Tunnel Trogg. This minion determined the power of Flamewreathed Faceless in two main ways. Firstly, it was a key and powerful synergy tool for the card’s 2 overload. Flamewreathed Faceless’s downside was always the lack of immediate board impact. Even at 4 mana, a deck as proactive as Aggro Shaman could rarely take turns simply plopping down stats. Buffing Tunnel Trogg by 2 provided a much-needed immediate damage impact.

More generally, Tunnel Trogg was the card that lead Aggro Shaman to come into being, and its the card whose rotation returned it to obscurity. Without its niche as a punchy minion with which to top curves, Flamewreathed faded with it. But surely the sheer value and efficiency of the 4 mana 7/7 would give it other uses?

Stats don’t rule all

Other cards can provide premium stats for cheap, without clunky overload mechanics

Unfortunately for meme-aficionados everywhere, Flamewreathed Faceless simply couldn’t find a home in other Shaman decks. Revive-focused “Bogchamp” Shamans flirted with it for a while, but ultimately its lack of taunt and crippling overload relegated it in favor of beefier Taunt minions that could be more easily comboed across multiple turns. Midrange Shamans found the tempo loss when it was hard-removed too damaging against control, and the vanilla body did little against aggro.

In short, the card fell into the trap of many Hearthstone cards: Not doing enough, soon enough. The downside of the overload meant that playing Flamewreathed became a short-cut to Tempo oblivion against many enemies. Sure it could trade favorably, but only if not removed and after giving up 6 mana across two turns.

If the card had Taunt or some other immediate effect, it perhaps would have lived on. But as it was, it became an unwieldy anchor on any deck that wanted to run out. Not contributing to win conditions and slowing down the game plan, it was an easy cut to make.

The meme, eternal

While Flamewreathed Faceless has vanished from competitive Hearthstone, it’s memory and memery live on. The joke changed/grew subtle. The punchline was less about Blizzard releasing an overpowered minion and more about the hysterical overreaction of Hearthstone’s community to ill-judged overpowered cards that prove anything but in the long run.

The fact that Purify sees play in strong, meta Standard decks without any changes, and the infamous 4 mana 7/7 is unplayable is a estament to the community’s collective inability to judge cards in the long run; and on the subtle and evolving ways memes can grow from complaints to community satire.


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

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Did Zinedine Zidane Forget the 2006 World Cup?

Real Madrid advanced to the Champions League semi-final with a 3-0 win in the second leg and 3-2 win on aggregate, which is Zinedine Zidane’s best accomplishment as manager. After the match Zidane responded to a question asking if he was nervous during match, where he answered, “I never lost my head as a player, will never do so as a coach”.

Apparently he forgot this moment during the 2006 World Cup Final against Italy:

Zidane headbutts Italy’s Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup Final. From http://www.whoateallthepies.tv

This moment has been ingrained in popular culture with people producing “memes”, games and even a statue in Qatar that was later removed.

From anildash.com

 

Headbutt statue in Qatar. From bbc.com

Leading up to the World Cup, Zidane had announced that he would retire after his contract ran out with Real Madrid at the end of the 2005-2006 season. This meant that his final match during the 2006 World Cup would be his last ever. Entering the World Cup Final, Zidane had an assist and two goals on his way to winning the Golden Ball, which is awarded to the tournament’s best player.

France matched up with Italy in the World Cup Final, for Zidane’s last game. During the match, Zidane scored on a penalty in the seventh minute, but the biggest moment of the match didn’t happen until the second half of extra time, 110 minutes into the game. Zidane and Materazzi, an Italian center back, started exchanging words in the box. The confrontation ended up continuing into the midfield where the infamous headbutt occurred. Zidane claimed that he headbutted Materazzi because he insulted is mother and sister. Materazzi has since admitted to making comments about Zidane’s sister, but not his mother. Zidane was sent off with a red card and Italy ended up winning the World Cup in a penalty shootout. In the immediate aftermath he stood by his actions due to being provoked.

Even as Zidane was beginning his coaching career in 2014 for the Real Madrid B team, he stated he would be “disappointed but, still support his player”, if a player on his team headbutted an opponent.

Maybe the next time Zidane decides to say he never lost his head, he should remember the final game of his career.  He is now known for headbutting his opponent in route to a loss on the largest stage of soccer.