Demons, Demon Hunters, The Burning Legion

Those all sound pretty familiar, right? That's because the set I'm talking about is Invasion of the Legion, created by ZardozSpeakz. It's a set all about... the invasion of The Burning Legion and lots of outlandish things, and the ashes of them. *wink, wink*

But what's a Burning Legion without... burning? In this set, you will find a new keyword, Burning. At the end of your turn, a minion with Burning will deal 1 damage to itself and trigger an effect.

So, let's dive through to see what this set is all about with Zardoz. Dive through The Dark Portal that is.

Give us a taste of the set. What's the set about? What can we expect to see?

Zardoz: "I approached Invasion of the Legion with the following premise: What if the other 8 classes fell to darkness and became Warlocks? In the game's existing lore, many characters begin as one class and later become a warlock. This is why I picked Medivh the Accursed as a free neutral legendary for the set; he is a mage who falls to darkness and summons the Legion to Azeroth. When you draw him, your hero power changes to Life Tap and so you also fall to darkness.

Becoming a warlock also means sacrifice. Drawback mechanics like discard (Fizzlebang the Mad), destroying mana crystals (Blight) and converting health to mana (Prince Kael’thas) are found across all 9 classes, twisting how they usually play. And of course, it means DEMONS, lots and lots of demons. I themed each class around a specific unique demon from Warcraft lore. For example, Warriors are led by the pit fiend Mannoroth the Flayer, while Rogues are led by the traitorous dreadlord Tichondrius the Dark."

How long have you been making your own cards?

Zardoz: "I hadn’t played any CCGs in about a decade, but I play a lot of Dungeons and Dragons and enjoy homebrewing my own monsters, classes, magic items and spells. Back in 2016, I was listening to a game design podcast called “Remaking Magic” about custom MtG cards. I don’t even play MtG but it's a great podcast for anyone interested in game design. The podcast talks about Hearthstone quite a bit, I got curious and started playing in the Karazhan era. I think I made my first HS cards shortly after that."

Where does the idea for the Burning keyword come from?

Zardoz: "I had already designed a couple dozen cards and didn’t yet have a unique keyword. When I looked over my cards, realized I already had a keyword, but I hadn’t realized it yet. Many cards had the same text as the classic card Imp Master, which starts with “At the end of your turn, deal 1 damage to this minion and...”.  But that trigger text is so long, you’re limited in the effect. Changing it to a single keyword really opened up my design space for cards like Legion Historian.

And it's no mistake this effect is first seen on the classic set Imp Master, its just like the warlock hero power, sacrificing your own life for POWER. It also allows runaway effects, things that can trigger too many times and harm you if your opponent lets the card sit on the board,  cards like Fireblood and Raging Doomguard. There are also cards which can quickly spiral out of control and might win you the game, like Archimonde the Invader and Burning Legionnaire."

With Ashes of Outlands now out, what similarities and ideas do you notice from this set that ended up making it in that set?

Zardoz: "This is the weirdest part about my set. Many of the cards I made are now actual cards in Ashes of Outland. Some of this is just in card names, and some of it is in card effects. To be clear, I don’t think Blizzard stole my ideas. Knowing their design cycle, they were making Ashes of Outland about a half year before I made my set. Many of these cards were bound to happen, they’re important parts of Warcraft Lore. But it's really fun for me to compare my cards against theirs!

For example, I made Hunter’s identity for my set entirely based around Illidan and made him the preorder hero skin for Hunter, but now Demon Hunter and Illidan are their own class! I made Skull of Gul'dan a legendary Hunter weapon. It has the Burning keyword and slowly gives the Hunter random warlock spells, until it’s fully consumed and then it changes your hero power to Metamorphosis. I imagined it’d be an overlay on the hero, similar to priests Shadow Form.

Lots of the same Legendary cards exist in both sets. I have Prince Kael'thas, Akama the Elder, and Maiev Shadowsong in my set. I also have Xavius the Firstborn, who just replaced the Illidan in the Classic set. The classic Xavius card spawns Xavian Satyrs now instead of Flames of Azzinoth, and those satyrs use the same old Wow TCG art as my Felwood Hellcaller card. I also made Warglaives of Azzinoth and Open the Dark Portal cards.

Other cards are just really similar in theme or effect. I made Stranglevines have the same effect as the new demon hunter card Immolation Aura, though mine costs a lot more! My rogue cards include 3 new secrets and the ability to generate secrets from other classes. Bamboozle is a much better version of my Imposter! card. I used the dormant mechanic in my priest card Void Shift, to reflect the idea of a minion being locked in a dimensional prison. I played with the idea of imprisoning minions in the hand with my card Nathrezim Jailer. And probably the strangest one is my Dark Wander card, which just like the actual card Disguised Wanderer, appears to be a nod towards Diablo 2, and the mysterious cloaked hero who holds Diablo within himself."

One thing about this set that I noticed was the amount of cards that interact specifically with Legendary minions. What's the thought behind these?

Zardoz: "Many of the legendaries in this set are important heroes and villains from Warcraft lore. I had a lot of fun with this, maybe too much fun, I doubt Blizzard would include so many iconic characters in a single set, though Ashes of Outland does have quite a few! I decided early on to have cards that interact specifically with legendary cards. My version of Maiev Shadowsong does this, pulling a legendary out of your opponent's hand.

To be honest, I think this mechanic is fun, but maybe it doesn’t belong in this set. I really like the Descent of Dragons card Dragon's Hoard. It’s fun to play, and the flavor is perfect. I made Invasion of the Legion before DoD, and it made me think twice about whether Legendary mechanics belong in my demon set. I’m sure its a mechanic I’ll play with again in the future."

Do you have anything behind the scenes that you wish to share?

Zardoz: "I adjusted the card art on many of these cards, at least 40 or so. Hearthstone has a really distinct visual look with highly saturated colors and high contrasts. The card art also has to fit in a weird oval shape. Lots of old art from the paper WoW TCG is used in this set, but because those were printed on paper they appear dull, so I increased contrast and saturation on many of those. 

I even completely shifted some color palettes, extended backgrounds and warped card art. Take for example Fraudulent Auctioneer. I’ve seen this card art used on at least a dozen custom cards but it never fits the oval correctly. I extended the sky above the goblins head to allow the goblin and his ledger to fit in the frame better. Take a look at Felfire Rager, Voidlord Dimensius and Possessed Summoner, try to guess what i did to the art.

I think these little changes, though they go unnoticed, help the set feel more believable."

What design philosophies do you have? What advice do you wish to spread to future creators?

Zardoz: "Read up everything you can on card and game design (The GDC has lots of great talks on its youtube page, check out the ones on Magic the Gathering). Play lots of different games. Try designing for other games you enjoy, like tabletop rpgs or board games. Mod an old video game you love. Add a new piece to your next chess match. Strip everything away from a game and understand its core loops and design principles. We all have our tastes and preferences, if a game seriously turns you off but others love it, try to understand why before you dismiss it. Be critical, but not stubborn.

And try to finish things when you can. I have way too many unfinished projects! This set, Invasions of the Legion, got interrupted by the winter holidays and travelling. I think I’m short like a dozen neutral commons and rares. I’m glad it's as complete as it is, because there isn’t much point in working on it anymore after Ashes of Outland!"

Do you have anything else you wish to share?

Zardoz: "I made a campaign setting called Beneath the Red Sun for the tabletop rpg Shadow of the Demon Lord. The core game has a fantasy horror setting, my guide changes it to a sword and sandals, pulp fantasy setting. Think Conan the Barbarian instead of Diablo. I’ve been running games for my friends in that universe for a couple years now and this is the second version of the guidebook. Looking forward to making a 3rd version after my current campaign finishes up this summer.

My best post over on reddit’s custom card forum is Weird Dog, but I made that card over here at OutofCards, in the “Here’s some Art, Make a Card” thread. This is my favorite Hearthstone card I’ve ever created, because its so stupid looking and so stupidly simple. It makes me laugh and made a lot of other people chuckle too. I think it's a good example of my design philosophy: try new stuff. I’d never have made that card if I hadn’t stumbled into a thread and if another user (shout out to Hordaki) hadn’t supplied the art."