Hearthstone's Chadd "Celestalon" Nervig provided some insight onto the popular topic of the much desired Elusive keyword in Hearthstone.

For those not in the know, Elusive is an unofficial keyword that has been proposed since the early days of Hearthstone and is used as an unofficial keyword. Elusive is meant to replace the effect text "Can't be targeted by Spells or Hero Powers", which can be found on cards such as Faerie Dragon and Winged Guardian.

Faerie Dragon Card Image Winged Guardian Card Image

Back in a developer AMA in 2014, Ben Brode mentioned that Shroud (the same word used in Magic the Gathering for a similar effect), Untargetable, and Ethereal were all discussed as being potential "Elusive" keywords and it was a case of being on "the razor's edge" when they decided not to give the effect a unique word. Mike Donais was the next developer to go into detail on the keyword a little more than a year ago in the 2019 August AMA. With that being ancient history at this point though, Elusive always being a popular topic in the community, and there being some good content, here's the latest from the team and what Chadd had to say.

Quote From Chadd Nervig

Let’s talk about why we do, and don’t turn some effects into keywords! It’s much more than just “do multiple cards use it”. The downsides of keywording are usually small. It’s not that it's “too confusing”; our players are smart. But it is something that players need to learn. That’s not a big downside, but it’s not zero.

The upsides vary dramatically between potential keywords.

  • It saves card text space and reading space. Now, importantly, saving text space isn’t much of an upside on its own; to capitalize on that space, we need to have some designs that we want to do that make use of that space.
  • It also lets us interact with it from other cards. We can make effects that draw cards with that keyword, or buff cards with that keyword, etc.
  • There’s also a vague sort of “weight” that is implicitly given to a keyword, which can be good, if it’s fitting for the set.

Consider these upsides/downsides for Outcast. We’ll put it on a ton of cards. Lots of cards will have Outcast along with a bunch more text. We want to make cards that interact with it (“Draw an Outcast card.”). It also matches the expansion flavor (or class flavor in this case), and delivers on that in a meaty way. Small downside, huge upsides.

Compare that to something like Cleave. All of the fun designs involving Cleave that we’ve found are already doable in the card text space we have, and none interact with it from other cards. Same thing with Elusive. It’s only a small downside, but the upsides just aren’t there, at least not yet. We certainly might find those designs in the future, or feature them heavily in a fitting new expansion, and then it’ll be Cleave’s time (or Elusive’s). We’ll see!