Hello everybody, and welcome to another Fan Community Spotlight. Today I've got Zozoth with me to talk about a space-themed set titled Maiden Voyage of the Exodar. If this sounds a bit too familiar, you may a different FCS two months ago on another space-themed set that I had worked on titled Liftoff. Incidentally, Zozoth and co-creator Mega-Pixel were both involved in that set as well. This set was actually being designed parallel to Liftoff, and in fact actually pre-dates Liftoff in terms of the starting development date. Liftoff started development in August of last year, whereas this expansion started development in April of last year. Consider this to almost be a sequel to the Liftoff FCS.

This expansion takes place in an alternate-universe version of Exodar, in which the Exodar has been refurbished and rebuilt into an intergalactic cruise ship complete with all the cruise ship bells and whistles. The new keyword in this set is Warped, which is present on minions and weapons. After X amount of turns, the minion or weapon with Warped is destroyed.

We're blasting off again! Let's talk to Zozoth and Mega-Pixel to understand truly how this set materialized leading to its grand launch!

What exactly is this set about?

Zozoth: "Similar Hearthstone's lighter takes on some areas in World of Warcraft such as Scholomance or Karazhan, Maiden Voyage of the Exodar takes an 'what if?' look at the Draenei's destroyed dimensional ship. Here, it has been rebuilt into a cruise ship, ready to traverse the cosmos once again. World of Warcraft has a plethora of planets that can be explored, so for this expansion we had it as if the Exodar was visiting ten of those; one for each class. Some are more well known, like Argus or Elunaria, where others like K'aresh or Karkora were selected due to their (currently) minor lore, meaning Mega-Pixel and I could more easily expand with some original characters and stories of our own.

For example, not much is known about Karkora, other than it was saved from being devoured by the naaru T'uure. Here, we have it as a vast network of tunnels, ripe for adventure. The guests on the Exodar hoping to make the most of this location are naturally treasure hunters and explorers, as seen in Temple Forager and the spell Pillaged Goods.

In contrast to the exploration vibe of Karkora, we have Shadowgore Casino. Another dark place in WoW lore we made more friendly, this is a rebuilt Shadowgore Citadel; a burning Legion Prison revamped for tourism. This can be seen in cards like Casino Dancer and Casino Golem. However, we do try to keep some of the original theme of demons by having the staff members with that minion type, showing that not all the old ways have died off. Overall, like most pleasure cruises today, we tried our best to make each location unique such that the 'guests' could have a different experience at each stop."

Where does the Warped mechanic come from?

Zozoth: "Believe it or not, the Warped mechanic was from a scrapped expansion of mine from long ago that took place within the Taverns of Time. Though that idea of mine was lost to, well time I figured the mechanic was unique enough to be reflavored into a sort of dimensional sickness while travelling through space.

I am a fan of slower, bigger cards as well as overstatted minions with a drawback since they make players weigh the pros and cons of the card before using it. Warped allowed me to make a nice combination of both; powerful cards for their mana cost, but only staying on the battlefield for a limited number of turns.

The early ideas were easy; simply an overstatted minion or one with a powerful effect that died after a turn or two turns like Planetary Warden and Celestial Aegis But as the set continued to develop, we explored other ways of implementing the mechanic, like Felfused Ambassador, Cosmic Walker, and Astral Priestess. These three were unique since their Deathrattle effects had the potential to benefit both players. Naturally, the controlling player gets a 'guaranteed' trigger with how Warped works, as it counts the turns like Dormant. But at the same time, they entice the opponent to kill them early further pushing potential mindgames and a risk-reward playstyle."

Given that this set had some development time parallel to Liftoff, do the two sets have any connection with each other besides the space theme?

Zozoth: "It was a bit strange to think that during the very early times and planning of this set that there was already another space-themed set being brewed. In a sense it helped me take a different approach to the flavor of my expansion, as two directly sci-fi custom expansions would make them individually less exciting. I was fortunate enough to get on the team for Liftoff! and after learning about what direction that expansion was going in, I shifted my expansion from planet exploration akin to how Liftoff! was going to be made to a more casual approach; a space cruise.

Due to the change, I had to scrap many of my sci-fi ideas in favor of more vacation oriented ones, but I was still able to 'move' them over to the Liftoff!set, where they fit thematically

Lorewise there really isn't any connection between the two sets like there was in the Year of the Dragon ones, since they were made separately and as Maiden Voyage of the Exodar takes place in an alternate Warcraft Universe like my previous set of Crusade of Light. Being a part of both sets was a wonderful experience, since I was able to fulfill my needs of a spacecraft expansion as well as those for an exploration and adventure one."

Shamans notably received a new hero card in this set, Zenas. What's her significance to the rest of the expansion?

Zozoth: "We designed the class legendaries such that there would be one denizen of the planet related to the class and one visitor. In Shaman's case, Therazane is the denizen while Zenas is the visitor.

Additional Zenas Information

Shaman's destination of choice being a past version of Azeroth full of primal elementals similar to those in the Journey to Un'Goro expansion. This was chosen to highlight the fact that the Exodar can travel through both time and space as its World of Warcraft Lore states. Zenas is original to our expansion, and we have her as a new age servant of the Old Gods similar to those found in the Madness at the Darkmoon Faire expansion, using the guise of a vacationer and the opportunity of a 'primordial safari' in order to help her masters claim the planet and take some of the elemental power for herself. Hence why her Hero Power works to tie in to the Primordial Invocations core to the Shaman set, with her twisting the 'pure' Elements in her favor. We do understand the potential difficulty in memorizing all the different combinations of her Hero Power, but in this day and age, it doesn't seem too far fetched for players to quickly memorize the results or simply have an image of all the possible outcomes next to them when they play."

Are there any other cards you wish to highlight for any particular reason?

Zozoth: "My favorite cards in the set are probably Cenarius, Forest Lord and Perilous Pilot. They really reinforce the playstyle I discussed earlier; powerful cards for their cost but this time with a downside the player can control.

For Cenarius, the player must decide each turn whether a 3/8 body is worth 'Overloading' one mana. Fortunately, Cenarius at least gives a benefit should the player choose to destroy him, drawing two cards with 3 mana and acting like a delayed Arcane Intellect. Druid's Choose One cards are an excellent part of hearthstone design-wise and I always have fun making custom cards utilizing the keyword.

Perilous Pilot is a very powerful card if played properly. +2/+2 stat buff and Rush is incredible for any Zoo/Swarm deck, but the player must be careful to never have more than three other minions (no more than four total including Perilous Pilot) when designing, I did realize that most decks wouldn't have too difficult of a time balancing minions on the board, which is why she isn't overstatted like Cenarius. It would be nice to see a card like this added to Hearthstone. Something that benefits a player's board so long as they have a certain amount of minions."

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

Zozoth: "The early ideas for this set actually started in the time before Galakrond's Awakening and Ashes of Outland. I really enjoy playing the Paladin class and attempting the 'Pure Paladin' decktype Descent of Dragons had introduced. At the time, there were only two cards that directly supported the archetype Lightforged Zealot and Lightforged Crusader. I figured the archetype wouldn't get any support with the end of Year of the Dragon, so I designed the cards of Lightforged Vigor, Lightforged Defender, and Lightforged Overseer to give it the power boost it needed at the time. Since the Paladin planet was Argus, it even worked thematically. Little did I know that with the advent of the Scholomance and Darkmoon Faire sets that the once gimmicky Paladin deck would turn into one of the most powerful decks today! I can imagine some people looking over my set won't be too happy to see more support cards for the decktype, but it is certainly interesting to see how the views on a deck can change as a Hearthstone year progresses."

Do you have anything else to share?

Zozoth: "Not much other than thanking everyone for seeing my finished expansion and you for giving me this interview. This project was a long time coming, and I really do enjoy how the final product turned out. A small teaser I will say is that Mega-Pixel and I are planning a miniset as an addition to this as well as a wrapup to my Hearthstone year. I hope people stick around for that, as it will not take nearly as long to finish that."

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