Hearthstone’s second adventure, Blackrock Mountain, launches in April. It’s all about dragons and the wonderful things that dragons can do.
For example some of these tricksy new dragon cards, according the game’s director Eric Dodds, can even affect cards in play while sitting in your hand. It’s a game-twerking change that will shake even seasoned players to their molten core.
I had a chat with Dodds about the upcoming changes in Blackrock Mountain, and whether or not Blizzard can anticipate the sorts of heavily optimised powerdecks that are undoubtedly waiting in the (dragon) wings.
PCGN: With Blackrock Mountain and other adventures, is the aim to re-muddy the waters for existing players, to break the most optimal decks and force players to become creative again?
Eric Dodds: Right now there’s the belief that there are optimal decks, and we’re still seeing the metagame shifting, even after Goblins vs Gnomes. We’re still seeing certain prominent, powerful decks in play. That said, I’m not sure that the most powerful decks have been discovered yet, though many people certainly believe that they have been.
As far as muddying the waters go: in this case with the dragons we want to create new deck archetypes, so it’s like “oh, wow, I’ve never seen dragon decks before, what can they do?”. Just like we saw mech decks with GvG, we know these new cards are definitely going to change up the metagame. But we’re also trying to make sure that we’re introducing additional one-off cards that are solutions to various metagame problems.
An example of that would be, well, we had the Antique Healbot that we introduced in GvG which, when you put it into play, heals you for a bunch of life. That’s a counter to some of the decks that are just trying to do a whole lot of damage up front at the expense of all else. We don’t necessarily claim we know what the metagame is going to do next, but any card we’re working on now is trying to address the metagame three to six months in the future, and as we’ve no idea what that will be we just focus on making sure there are metagame counters to a wide variety of possible circumstances.
For instance a card that people rarely talk about, but one that I love, is the Hungry Crab, which is a counter to the Murloc metagame. Right now there’s no Murloc metagame to speak of, so it hasn’t really encountered anything, but we don’t know that there’s not some unexplored Murloc deck out there that’s actually a powerful deck. This card counters it if that deck appears.
PCGN: So you can’t predict which decks will rise in popularity, all of that happens organically?
ED: Yeah, and that’s why we’re creating one-off cards that are solutions to metagames that don’t exist yet. As long as there are counters to all of those unknowable situations out there, then no matter how Hearthstone evolves, players can take it into their own hands to respond to that metagame.
PCGN: Dr. Boom has been mentioned by players as needing rebalancing. How is the decision made to nerf or change a card? And would you ever remove a card entirely?
ED: I’d hate to say “never”, but I’d be very shocked at myself if we ever reached a point where we’d do that. We always have the ability to change cards, but even then our goal is to never change cards unless they’re taking the game to an unhealthy place.
So we changed Undertaker fairly recently because we felt like a lot of decks were running that card. We were seeing lots of mirror matches, an identical deck playing against itself, and that’s not fun for players any more. The fun of the game is in experiences you haven’t seen before.
For instance, you mentioned Dr. Boom, which is a card a lot of people are talking about now. It’s a powerful card, but it’s not one that’s taking the game into an unhealthy place right now. So that’s not a card we have any particular interest in addressing or nerfing.
Really I would say that it’s highly, highly unlikely that we’d ever remove a card either. We’re even unlikely to make terribly many changes going forward. I won’t say “none” because of course we’re human, we might put a card out there at some point that makes the game not fun or unfair. But we’re very careful about when we do that. We try to do that as little as possible.
For more on Blackrock Mountain, here’s a list of all of the new cards revealed so far.