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Hearthstone: Saviors of Uldum - Plague of Murlocs interview

Hearthstone has unleashed a Plague of Murlocs as part of its recent First Fest-E.V.I.L. incentive. Now that the incentive has been met, Shacknews takes a closer look at this debilitating Shaman spell.

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Hearthstone's ongoing year-long storyline is set to continue with the game's next expansion. The Saviors of Uldum ventures into the deepest parts of the desert, where the League of E.V.I.L. is on a collision course with the League of Explorers. The deserts harbor their own terrible dangers, including some that have been caught in the game's latest batch of spells. Blizzard has unleashed Plagues upon the player base and Shacknews was among the first to witness the Plague unleashed by the Shaman.

Plague of Murlocs may not be the breakfast cereal described in the video above. But it is indeed what happens when your board becomes, "Oops! All Murlocs!" This spells takes every minion on the board and transforms them all into pesky, slimy, amphibious warriors.

Hearthstone - Plague of Murlocs

(3) Plague of Murlocs
Type: Spell
Class: Shaman
Rarity: Epic
Transform all minions into random Murlocs.

Plagues and other cards have taken on a number of forms throughout their creation and Plague of Murlocs is no different. The spell underwent several iterations and ideas that didn't quite hit. There were several design changes before Team 5 ultimately decided on the spell's current form and it's cool splash effect. To learn more, Shacknews took some time to speak to Stephen Chang and Hadidjah Chamberlin about Plague of Murlocs' journey from concept to final card.

Shacknews: Walk me through the design for this card. Was the intention always for the Shaman to get a plague of Murlocs?

Stephen Chang, Game Designer: Early on, we knew we wanted to do Plagues for Saviors of Uldum as a card cycle, because it felt integral to the storyline of the League of E.V.I.L. bringing plagues to Uldum.

We tried a variety of different mechanics for the Plagues. Originally, I think one of the earliest iterations was that they were all 10-mana spells. Another version was that they would make you lose two Mana Crystals, because they would have this big, impactful effects. I think the earlier version of this was Plague of Frogs and it made minions turn to Frogs. One issue with that is, when you have zero-Attack minions on the board, sometimes you can get stuck and can't play cards out of your hand. So we nixed that.

The one after that ended up being Plague of Murlocs, which transforms minions into Murlocs. It's a pretty cool effect. It's similar-ish to the Devolve card. You can use it as a soft area-of-effect Silence, since there are no Taunt Murlocs right now. But you can also make a bunch of your Totems into Murlocs, which can be pretty powerful in a Murloc deck.

Shacknews: You mention some of the earlier incarnations. Were there any other earlier ideas for this card before it reached its final form?

Chang: The earliest one I remember was Plague of Frogs, which would turn the board into Taunt Frogs and that one would also make you lose two Mana Crystals. We explored a cycle of the Plagues making you lose two Mana Crystals and they would have a more powerful effect, which would ultimately be a detriment. But those didn't feel that great to play, so we ended up doing these straightforward, two-sided powerful effects, where you the player playing the plague can take advantage of it more, because you're prepared for it. And if the opponent gets subject to the plague against them, more likely they're on the punishing end of it.

Shacknews: I see that this card has offensive and defensive potential. You mentioned Devolve and a board of Totems on your side. What are some other situations where you'll want to use this card?

Chang: I think, in general, you want to use it for board presence. There are certain cards you can play that will generate a lot of token and then you can use this to give you an instant board. Also, if your opponent has an extra large minion with Taunt or is much more menacing than your board of small minions, you can play this and sort of even the playing field.

It's also effective against Reborn minions, which is the other big mechanic for this set. It'll turn them into Murlocs, effectively Silencing them.

Shacknews: And I see some great interaction possibilities here. Like, you could really mess with the Resurrection pool for the Priest with this. Are there any other unexpected interactions or synergies that may not be clear when just looking at this card?

Chang: I do recall a few times where you can get a lot of Murloc Warleaders with a Bluegill Warrior. And you'll get Nightmare Amalgams and stuff like that. You can make a fairly large board. There are times when you'll get Scargils and make your hand cheaper. Depending on the types of Murlocs that come out, you can react to it differently and there are ways to interact with it if you have a Murloc-centric deck.

Alternatively, you could use it as a soft board clear if you're playing a heavy control deck. You can play this and combine it with Lightning Storm and potentially clear off the board.

Shacknews: How do you approach Murloc cards, in general? I know there were a few expansions where we didn't really have any Murlocs, but now they're starting to come back and they're coming back for Shaman. What is the approach when designing a Murloc-focused card?

Chang: For this one in particular, a lot of it was based on the flavor of Hagatha and her ability to manipulate the minions around her. And one of the things she learned to do was make Murlocs. So it came from that regard. We were looking for powerful effects that we wanted to have for the Plagues and having that tide that Hagatha has gives us an angle that we want to explore. And in experimenting with the card, we came to really enjoy the gameplay.

Shacknews: How did you approach this card from an artistic standpoint?

Hadidjah Chamberlin, Lead VFX Artist: The Plague cycle is the kind of effect stuff that I live for! For all of the Plagues, we wanted to have a unifying theme across them visually. The one that I did was Plague of Death, just to establish the style for the Plagues. Our artist Dominic [Camuglia] is actually the one who did the effects for Plague of Murlocs and he killed it! This is one of my favorite effects ever. It was very much about this kind of weird, gross, almost sentient water sweeping onto the board and washing across everything.

The story we were going for was this watery corruption that would transform everything into Murlocs. On the technical side, we also had to cover the board in water so that we could transform everything without new cards popping into existence. But yeah, the Plagues were such a fun cycle on the art side, just because there's so much story and flavor in them and the Plague of Murlocs, I think in particular, came out amazing.


Plague of Murlocs is the second of the Plague cards to be unveiled, with more on the way. They'll all be a part of Hearthstone: Saviors of Uldum, the second expansion for 2019. Look for it to arrive on August 6. And if you enjoyed the silly video at the top, remember that you can witness more Shacknews shenanigans when you subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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