Yesterday you guys saw my Blizzard Developer Application Letter, which included a well described five examples of good card design.
Writing that letter, that is likely to not be even read, kept me thinking about the opposite of the situations: When a card’s design is so bad, it causes problems to the game.
So I decided I had to write this “Counterpart” article, which should discuss what a Bad design is and its roots, so that it gets easier to spot possible problems in the future.
Just as I did in the last article, I will try and spot the currently seen problems in card design and go a little deep into them.
As it is obvious right now, I won’t be going into yogg-saron-hopes-end because of how obviously terribly designed it was, but I will open up with a little discussion regarding the card.
Yogg Saron Hope’s End Discussion
So, Yogg Saron is, for reasons we’ll be seeing further in this article, a terribly designed card, however the simple fact that a card like this can be created kind of means it should be created at some point. And why is that, you ask me? Because it is FUN!
A card like this MUST exist in the game, there is literally no doubt about it, because the game wouldn’t be as fun to play with friends without it. However, I don’t believe that Yogg Saron should have ever made it into competitive Hearthstone. In my humble opinion, Yogg Saron’s only possible change should be to cut it from competitive all together: Standard Ladder, Wild Ladder and Competitive Duel. Everything from friendly duel to casual Hearthstone should keep Yogg-Saron as a playable card.
With that said, let’s start our list:
My Top Four Terrible Design Examples
Pre-Nerf undertaker – In case you are wondering the pre-nerf Undertaker image can be found HERE!
Now, to the discussion itself: Low-cost cards, with high health and perfect stats distribution, that snowball into winning the game are just too good in a game like Hearthstone. Removal is bad and inefficient, and since we are talking about a game that doesn’t have a powerful scaling when it comes to mana orientations, cards such as pre-nerf Undertaker, tunnel-trogg, mana-wyrm and even darkshire-councilman are just too bad for the game’s health. They are super low costed cards that can snowball into much better cards, and usually meant that if they aren’t instantly responded the game will quickly get out of control. In the last article I mentioned babbling-book as an amazing example of “good card design” because it really is, and what got me into thinking that was exactly this counterpart. Cards such as flame-imp totally proves we can have good Aggro cards that aren’t capable of winning the game on their own but are still very powerful, and Blizzard should have their eyes opened for this as it was a problem in the past, is a problem nowadays, and can be much worse in the future.
dr-boom – Uncontrollable RNG can often lead to unfair situations. We are experiencing this today with Yogg-Saron, and Dr. Boom was an example in the past that caused many player’s wrath. Adding randomness such as the Boombots or piloted-shredders often leads to game swings that aren’t controlled by the player and often are super meaningful to the game’s outcome – This happens because the good RNG will come as an effortless bonus. The worse outcome of a Boombot was still a good one, because the opponent often had to play around it, meanwhile the best outcomes of Boombots often would have won you the game on the spot. Similar thing but on a much smaller portion happened to Piloted Shredder, while nowadays we have this kind of randomness on tuskarr-totemic, which can lead to huge tempo swings when followed by totem-golem summon or unresponded mana-tide-totems or flametongue-totem, meanwhile the worse Tuskarr Totemic outcomes are still considered “ok”, as they add for totem sinergy and board presence.Just to try and clarify, the randomness will imply on something you’ll get as a bonus for playing the card, meaning you get a “free cast” whenever you win the randomness, which often leads to huge tempo boost, winning the game. So if you follow my logic, you then understand how unfair and stupid yogg-saron-hopes-end feels in the game – it is a card that can invalidate everything that happened on the game up until that every moment. The possibility of “effortless bonus” is literally infinite, which leads to the most discussed problem in the game right now.
arcane-giant – Blizzard literally opened themselves up for the one thing they said they hated and never wanted to see in the game: One Turn Kill combos. I have to admit I like Arcane Giant – Actually, I love it. But the fact it allows for possible, easy to settle, OTK combos really gets me worried. Nowadays the number of spells is just too high and they’re usually very good, we even have a bunch of spells that summon minions, so we can play even more spells than we were ever supposed to, leading this to easily be casted for 0 mana in a lot of decks (I often cast this for zero on my Malygos Druid, like a LOT of the times). So, on a game where you can play 8/8s for zero mana, and you have cards such as charge and faceless-manipulator (which I am just fine with them existing, by the way)…. Well, you get my logic. Easy-to-settle-OTK-Combos are a threat to the game’s existence as a whole, and creating a card such as this one means that for the next two years Blizzard will always have to ask themselves “Will this make OTK Warrior viable?” whenever making a card, and don’t forget: Cycle Warrior lists are already a thing, and will always be given that everything from the “Cycle”package is Classic! The card doesn’t even necessarily needs to be part of the “cycle strategy”, just good enough to make the deck either more consistent (literally anything can trigger a future tier-1 OTK Warrior list) or independent of the Combo, and Boom: OP Deck that needs a nerf and will make the company look bad (again) just appeared.
A similar thing happened with nzoth-the-corruptor, but in this card at least the design limitation is clearly visible – you can’t make good Deathrattle Taunt minions. PS: I don’t consider N’Zoth to be a bad design example, since the limitation is clear.
Another point to note about this card is that instead of trying to fix current super Tempo-oriented metagame, Blizzard just keeps adding more and more Tempo-Meta cards. I have no idea of a metagame where playing 8/8s for zero mana is considered healthy, the fact that this needed a minimum mana limitation is so blatantly obvious (highly likely of 3 mana) that the fact it doesn’t have is proof of Blizzard’s lack in card design.
lightning-storm – So, I wanted to put every single overload card up to date here, but I just had to pick one, so Lightning Storm it is because it has always existed in the game.The overall Overload mechanism is terrible – Because it will always be too bad or too good. It is impossible to balance something that only plays with Tempo (the most complex factor to analyze in the game when it comes to card design) – you’re either stuck with 7/7s for four mana, or you’re locking yourself out of ways to respond what your opponent is doing the following turn. This means that either Shaman sucks, or is too good. Unless, of course, Blizzard decides to someday get rid of Overload, or make decks that don’t play with overload at all (which can happen in the future with new expansions!), Shamans will always be either at the top or at the bottom. Another reason I choose Storm over the other Overload cards as an example of terribly designed cards is because it’s RNG can lead to super frustrating turns, given the card is below the curve for Shaman standards and requires positive RNG to be considered effective most of the times, but will always lock your mana, crippling your future plays.
This article was meant to have Five examples of bad designs, but in the end I couldn’t find any other card that would fit into a different type of bad design that wasn’t already mentioned here. I thought about maybe citing Priest cards as they’re all too situational, but their situationality isn’t necessarily a bad thing, only the fact that all of them are, which isn’t related to a single card but actually the class design philosophy.
With this, I close the article of badly designed cards! Do you guys think there is any other example of bad design? Let me know in the comments!
Hearthstone has been getting heavy criticism lately as the design team has been failing in both their cards as well as their philosophy, and articles such as this one might make it so we can spot problematic cards even before they’re playable.
Keep this article in mind as it should be used as a codex for future analysis, let’s remember to come back here in the future to think about the new cards Blizzard makes!
Love you guys, hope you enjoyed the read!