Earlier today, Blizzard revealed its plans for Hearthstone's upcoming Year of the Dragon. Among the big changes revealed are an overhaul to Arena mode and a more robust approach to single-player. But one of the most anticipated changes involves the annual Hall of Fame class, which takes a handful of Classic cards and removes them from Standard play.
This year's Hall of Fame class is a little different, not only reaching into some Classic staples, but also reaching into the current Standard for the first time ever. That means saying goodbye to the Odd and Even deck-building mechanics first introduced in The Witchwood a full year early. The removal of Genn Greymane and Baku the Mooneater from the Standard almost represents a rare mea culpa from Team 5. It serves as something of an acknowledgement that Odd and Even decks have dominated the Standard meta over the past year.
Earlier this week, Shacknews had the opportunity to chat with Hearthstone Principal Game Designer Mike Donais about the new Hall of Fame class. We discuss the inclusions of Genn Greymane and Baku the Mooneater, as well as the process behind determining which cards should go into the Hall of Fame. We also make sure to ask about a few cards that came close to making the Hall of Fame class, but just missed the cut.
Shacknews: What is the process in determining which cards go into the Hall of Fame?
Mike Donais, Principal Game Designer: So it's a couple of different factors. Actually, it's a bunch of different factors. The two major ones are the power level of the cards and the class identity. So if there's a card that's really powerful from Classic and it's been around for five years, it's showing up in a lot of decks, and it's having a huge impact on the meta, eventually people start saying, "Okay, well that was fun for the first couple of years, but now we're ready for something different."
Doomguard fits into this category. In the past, we hesitated, because we liked that Doomguard captures Warlock's flavor in that it's a Demon, it's a big Demon, and it has Discard attached to it, which is class identity for Warlock. But now that we've started replacing Basic and Classic cards with new cards, we know we can put in another card to solve this problem in the future.
For Naturalize, it was more of a class identity problem. It was still a very powerful problem, but it also broke Druid's class identity of single-target removal. Druid needs weaknesses, because it has plenty of strengths. So it moves, as opposed to Wild Growth, which we changed recently to be 3 Mana. Wild Growth fit the class identity of Druid and was very powerful, so we changed it. It's still there, though, and it teaches people that Druid is about Mana creation and not about removal.
Shacknews: You reached into Standard for the Hall of Fame this time around. What made the team decide to just jump in and address Even and Odd decks in Standard?
Donais: What we would do in the past is, normally we would nerf these cards. But they had a very specific identity and a very specific mechanic that wans't easily changed. The Hero Powers they create are the same as Justicar Trueheart had before them and they had pretty clean designs. We could completely redesign it to be a Battlecry, for example, instead of a Start of Game effect, but I think that it's not the spirit of the cards. It's a huge nerf and would make them very unplayable.
However, moving them to Wild lets people who love these cards continue to play them, which is the whole purpose of Wild, to play these cards that they love. So we decided to move them to Wild, put them in the Hall of Fame, where I think they'll have a good home there.
Shacknews: Were there any other candidates for the Hall of Fame?
Donais: There's lots of other candidates. We talked about cards like Malygos, which we talk about every year. We decided not to go with Malygos again, because of all the new decks that he creates. An important thing in card games is to have different types of decks. Not every type of deck should be medium-sized minions fighting. There needs to be small minions, big minions, and there needs to be some Malygos decks and other tricky decks that have different game plans. That's what makes card games interesting.
Shacknews: There's actually a specific card I wanted to ask about. I wanted to ask about Mind Blast. The reason is, I've noticed in the meta over recent expansions that most Priest decks are being built around the one-turn kill potential offered by Mind Blast. Did the team ultimately decide not to include it because it's a problem that sort of fixes itself with Shadow Visions rotating out?
Donais: I think the Mind Blast problem will be temporarily improved because of Shadow Visions leaving, but I don't think that's a hard solve. Mind Blast is also on our list, both because it doesn't match Priest class identity. They're not supposed to be the face damage class. And it's also pretty powerful in the right decks. It has had a big design impact on us with the resurrection decks especially. You're seeing people resurrect and do Mind Blast.
At the same time, it's created a bunch of Priest archetypes that wouldn't have existed without it. So I think it's cool that it has existed this long and created all these new decks. But it's on our short list, along with Malygos.
The Hearthstone Hall of Fame cards for 2019 will make their way into Wild with the start of the Year of the Dragon. The new Standard year will begin with the launch of the game's next expansion, which is currently unknown. Look for more information about the launch of the next Hearthstone Standard year in the weeks ahead.