We're in for another Q&A from everyone's favourite Cool Hearthstone Dad, Dean "Iksar" Ayala. This is the fifth week in a row we've had the pleasure of covering his knowledge so let's jump into it!

  • All previous Q&As from Dean can be found under our "Iksar's Community Q&A" topic.
  • Anything covered in the previous Q&As will not be covered in the recap but will appear in the transcript below.
  • We may cover old topics here to reinforce how stuff works in the new Free Core Set and associated announcements.

Core Set

  • No spoilers! (Though Dean does mention some of his favourite cards are in it)
  • Dean is a bit nervous about doing such a large change.
  • The leveling experience giving you more cohesive Hearthstone decks is going to make the game feel less dated.


  • Dean feels that communication from the team has been going "pretty well". Thanks, Dean!
  • Dean wants to open up more dialog on the design team, especially for stuff like Battlegrounds where secrecy isn't as important.


  • They will consider a Classic Arena rotation for "maybe 20.4 or 20.6".


  • They are going to try a solution in an upcoming patch for the disconnect exploit.
  • If needed, they will temporarily remove minions from Battlegrounds that incentivize the disconnects.


  • They are looking into allowing players to upgrade normal cards to golden.
  • Part of the goal for duels was to make your collection matter outside of constructed. They acknowledge it may be a negative for some players.
  • They'd prefer to keep cards the same in Standard and Wild; Cards should be the same across the game outside of Classic Mode.


  • The chances of getting a Tauren hero are very high.


  • Class identities still matter. They don't want all the classes to feel the same. Priests have changed a bit.
  • They'd like more ways for players to get into a fun deck without having to be a deckbuilder or use a source out of client.
  • They are not looking to making changes for The Coin.
  • They've wondered what Titan (WoW Lore) minions might look like in Hearthstone - the opposites of the Old Gods.
  • Dean has played with the idea that Titans could cost more than 10 mana and you have to spend that mana over many turns.
  • Dean could see them better showing off card backs but space is at a premium on the board.
  • No plans to nerf Pain Warlock and Secret Mage.


  • His doggos are wonderful.
  • A chair was purchased that he didn't particularly like but then the dogs started using it so now it's a favourite.
  • He has been watching "The Americans" show recently and will be doing so tonight.

Full Transcript of February 10 Q&A

Quote From Dean Ayala

has there ever been a deck/class that was the meta breaker that didn't get discovered before a balance patch or new expansion came out?

Not really. In order for something to be a 'metabreaker' we'd have to see that backed up in data. In order for it to be backed up in data it has to have been played a reasonable amount. If it's been played a reasonable amount…. well…. it's been discovered. (Source)

The closest thing is the same ol' boring answer. If players would have just played Even Paladin at higher than 10% population it would have busted the meta. There were never really any great counters even after nerfs. (Source)

But it never became very popular after we changed some of the cards so we just left it alone. I don't know off the top of my head if this is true, but if I had to guess Even paladin spent the longest time in standard as the #1 deck in data of all-time. (Source)

No question just want to thank you guys for doing such a great job lately. Super excited for the core set, classic mode, and the open communication has been phenomenal.

I've felt like the communication side has gone pretty well, trying to be more active in non-english speaking regions as well but the language barrier makes it a bit more complicated. (Source)

I'd like to have a more open dialogue on the design side with what we're up to. Especially for things like battlegrounds where the updates we're working on aren't that important to be in-secret. (Source)

What are you most excited about design-wise with the switch to Core Sets? What do you think is going to be the most challenging part of this switch? Btw very excited for this change!

Always a bit nervous for large-scale change. Core set was always going to be viewed as a good thing to the engaged audience. The thing I'm most excited about is that after you are done with the class leveling experience (to 10) you have something that represents Hearthstone. (Source)

Meaning, the decks you end up with after that flow now are a bit outdated. No real win conditions, synergies, just basic strategy. I think ending your leveling experience and having rockbiter, al'akir, doomhammer, etc. That feels like a real deck. (Source)

Do class identities still matter? And will Rogue get better deathrattles in future? I always felt Anka the buried was great idea but at the time most Rogue deathrattles were weapons so it just had bad timing.

Yes, they do. Not caring about class identities is a pretty fast way for everything to feel the same. When everything feels the same it's hard for anything to feel special. (Source)

Stuff like DR is hard in Rogue because they generally don't get much healing or taunt. DR tends to be slow and synergize well with drawn out games. Hard to pull off that version in rogue or hunter so the DR stuff has to be more tempo based. (Source)

Ben Brode did a game design talk where he discussed “time to fun”. Hearthstone typically requires a lot of faffing about to create decks and choose modes etc, what do you see as being the best ways moving forward to trim down the time to fun?

Battlegrounds is a good example of that, just press a button and get in there. Ideally more experience are like that. One of my biggest learnings on Hearthstone is that I don't actually think deckbuilding should be a core part of the experience. (Source)

I think it should be there are available if you are into it, but not a dealbreaker if you aren't. We'd like to find more ways for you to get to fun deck without having to be a deckbuilder or go out of client. (Source)

hope you don't mind a repeat from last week.. What was the design process for the structure of Duels like? I love it but wonder if it was ever planned to have, say, random deck like Heist/a draft (like bucket-style draft) which might be appealing to newbies or alternatives to MMR

Part of the goal for duels was to have the cards you own matter. In battlegrounds they don't, in arena they don't, and the more modes we make where your collection doesn't matter it's easy to stop caring about the things you collect. (Source)

Ideally when you open a pack the cards that come it in are exciting for a variety of reasons, and not just exciting for one mode that you might play or not play. There are some negative side effects to this (for some players) but that was the goal. (Source)

does the design team think about changing how the mechanic of the coin works? like it stop counting as a spell for example, or even not being a card in hand..just examples, not that I support those changes

We've talked about it, but never seriously. I think the most intuitive thing is that it's a spell that counts as a card. In terms of balance, going second is pretty bad. Ironically, this is probably the best time in the history of Hearthstone to go second because of Ramp Pal. (Source)

But normally that isn't the case. We definitely aren't looking to weaken going second. (Source)

Ever thought about cards at exceed 10 mana Crystal's or limit both players to less than 10 permanently?

Giants are a version of this, but yeah. 'Titans' in the warcraft universe are the opposite side of Old Gods and we've often thought about what a 'Titanic' minion in Hearthstone would be. (Source)

I've personally played with the idea of a card that costs more than 10 mana and you have to spend mana over the course of many turns in order to actually use it. (Source)

In terms of limiting both players, we try not to do things that make your stuff un-useable. On board or in hand. So I don't like the idea of forcing someone to look at a 10 mana card in a game where they'd never get 10 mana. (Source)

We also think about reducing attack in the same light. Like, we'd probably not do a card that reduced attack of your opponent's stuff permanently so you fill their board with 0 attack stuff they can never do anything with. (Source)

Tickatus is an example of making your opponent's stuff un-useable but the psychology of having it happen in a moment then go away is a little different than the feeling of staring at things you can never use. (Source)

Anyway, it's not a black and white answer. These are just the things I would think about when having permanent mana reduction as a design goal. I'm sure there is a design that would be cool enough to do it anyway. (Source)

How are Reno and Misha? Cute? Happy?

they are wonderful, I bought a chair I put in Molly's office that I didn't like very much but then they started using it to sit in and now it's my favorite thing I've ever bought. (Source)

What are you going to watch tonight?!

Been watching the Americans. First season was … ok to good. Second season was very spicy, third season even higher rated so I'm feeling good about it. (Source)

Tell us more about the core set for next year! What cards are you excited to see in standard?

Very sneaky. I don't want to spoil any cards! All of them will be released in due time. Some of them are my favorite ever cards, though. (Source)

Did the Hearthstone team reach out to pro players, streamers, or content creators for cards they want/don't want to be apart of the Core Set?

Not directly. However, we have many pro-player quality players employed on the design team. The most well known ones are Chakki (Keaton), Boarcontrol (George), and Gallon (Edward). (Source)

Shadowform will be rebalanced for it's return in Standard? Or will be the same 3 mana card?

no spoilerinos (Source)

Two questions: will there ever be a Classic Arena rotation where it's just the old base set and classic cards? Secondly, what are the chances for a Tauren hero?

We thought about that. Sort of sad for Demon Hunters….

Will consider it for maybe 20.4 or maybe 20.6.

Also Tauren hero chance very high! (Source)

Thanks for doing the questions. Are you planning on adding more long term/harder grind achievement like the recently added 1k hero potrait in the near furture?

Maybe, probably for different things though. Achievement points, total reward track levels ever earned, high legend finish, etc. (Source)

Many people would like to see the "upgrade card to its golden form" button, do you think that we might finally see it this year?

No timetable but it's something actively being kicked off as a project. It's part of the same project where we plan to make card back and (some) hero skins craftable. The open questions are how it looks in the UI, should you be able to use gold if you want, some others. (Source)

Hi Dean, really appreciate these. My question is this, with all the new features and changes introduced in 2020 and more on the way soon which feature(s) was the most challenging to develop from concept to completion for you and the team?

New game modes. Battlegrounds is a very different game than Hearthstone so starting from scratch on design goals is obviously a very difficult task. We're working on another game mode now and there are just way more open questions to solve than anything else we're doing. (Source)

Uh oh, I’m late. Any thoughts on changing up the way that cards and your deck are presented on the game board. I think the cards could show more of the amazing art by changing to a more rectangular shape and the deck could be face down to show off those great card backs.

We're pretty happy with the representation of minions on board but I could see doing a better job showing off card back. UI is always tricky to solve, we utilize almost all space on the board and outside the board for something. (Source)

Do traditional hearthstone and battlegrounds have different design teams? What is that relationship like? Could there be an initiative for more competitive support in battlegrounds? Tournaments would be amazing.

tournaments are run by the esports and community teams so I can't comment on that piece of this (Source)

As for the work, card design and battlegrounds are one group of 14 people. Right now, two of those people are off on assignment for other teams within Blizzard and 1 of them is on assignment for another team within Hearthstone. (Source)

So of the 11 we have now, some are working on expansions and some are working on bg. We'll rotate people around each cycle. Also, this is just designers. There are many engineers, producers and artists that also give support. (Source)

Have you ever been recognized in public or had a cool positive interaction with someone unexpectedly because of hearthstone?

Recognized? no, unless it was at a Hearthstone event which sort of doesn't count. Positive interaction, yeah! Happens all-the-time at a blizzard level because of the fandom the company has but yeah. There is one story I thought was funny….. (Source)

About 5? 6? years ago I was at a Fireside Gathering and met a dad and his kid, we'll call him Jim. I was about to leave and Jim's dad asked me if his son could play a game against me. (Source)

I said yes, added him as a friend and was pretty surprised how good he was. I beat him 3-0 or something but he was maybe 11 (terrible with guessing ages) and clearly knew a lot about the game. (Source)

Super nice, and he messaged me later to say thanks and we chatted a little bit. Over time he reported some bugs and we talked about HS. When Overwatch came out I saw he got the game and I was checking out his profile… (Source)

He was ranked 700 rating or something, which was honestly worse than I thought you could even be. I remember laughing and thinking welp, I guess Jim is truly a card gamer. (Source)

Couple weeks went by and he was 1500 something, could more at 2500, couple more and he was diamond, which was the same as me! A few months later he was grandmaster. Damn kids…. (Source)

Jim and I still talk from time to time today, he even went to a game design camp after being inspired by the idea of making games. Someday I hope he gets into the industry and we can talk about that time I crushed him in our Hearthstone series. (Source)

How does one become a cool Hearthstone dad

become old and work on lots of hearthstone stuff (Source)

How have your perceptions of class identity evolved since the 2019 blog post? Was that a super strict guide for what is going into the new Core Set?

It's evolved some. Priest identity changed a little bit to embrace the shadow-fantasy. That was something we steered away from but are steering back. Some more examples of this but will let the core set speak for itself when it comes out. (Source)

Will you give us a hint about the new game mode?

I love the art. There are lots of epic-warcraft pieces but also many cute ones. Zerus is probaly no longer my favorite cute piece of art once it releases…. (Source)

Does the multiple-versions cards introduced by classic mode open a way for changing cards in a specific mode only? (Ex.: nerfing a card in standard, but keeping its original version in wild)

If it was necessary, yes. Generally I'd prefer to keep cards the same between modes to avoid that additional complexity but it is an option we'd have. (Source)

How much did this years upcoming expansions influence what cards to include in the core-set?

A little, but not a ton. Cards in core set are mostly role-players while cards in expansions do more archetype exploration with the idea that the role player cards can fit in most strategies. (Source)

are there any plans to expand on the point system for the achievements? Reedeem rewards based on your points or a reward threshold to get anything from them? I love the idea that completing achivements unlocks golden cards for the core set and I would love to see that expanded.

Anytime we have something to award I think the achievement system is a likely vehicle for that. It's not the goal of the system but having a vehicle to distribute rewards for accomplishment is something we'll reuse when we have things we want to give. (Source)

Trying not to tread on anything you may not be able to talk about, but what are some theoretical challenges for implementing proper co-op or 3+ player modes? Are things like UI and card balance big issues?

UI is a big part of it, though admitedly we've never actually found a gameplay design that felt right. In theory, it's a great mode for us to have. The upkeep is minimal because it piggy-backs on expansions we already do and creates an opportunity for social experiences. (Source)

Both of which sound great. I think we'll do it one day, it's just always gone to battle with other ideas we wanted to explore even more. Battlegrounds is an example of that. (Source)

You've stated that the mini-sets will likely not introduce new keywords, but instead revisit themes from previous sets. Is there a chance we could see mechanics from WILD sets in a mini-set? Especially if they don't use a keyword - eg Librams, Plagues, etc.

Maybe, though we generally just like to create new stuff rather than revisiting the old unless the old was extremely well-received. (Source)

What’s the ranking distribution for battlegrounds right now? Is it still similar to how it was in March of last year?

Similar, a little more inflated. We haven't done rating normalization in a long time so ratings just inflate a little bit the longer we go without normalization. (Source)

We'll move the rating bell-curve to be centered around 4k internal rating when we do our next big reset. (Source)

Late follow up, but do you guys plan on switching to a similar system (bronze to legend) when beta is done ?

No plans for that. I do like to have consistency between modes but it feels like what we have for BG and Duels has been positively received for the most part. (Source)

What is your favorite Murloc in Hearthstone?

a good question…. maybe rockpool hunter for nostalgia reasons (Source)

When we were creating a version of Un'Goro we thought felt different but within universe, I think [Peter Whalen] had the idea to do some murlocs that felt like they were in their pre-historic unevolved form. I look back on the creation of that mini-universe very fondly. (Source)

Tortollans, dinosaurs, Elise becoming a major character…. all really fun. (Source)

[From Kibler] With the core set coming, what should I focus my @PlayHearthstone design crusade on now!?!

Hey, you are a pretty smart guy…. maybe we can just find a way to work together on something instead. (Source)

Do you have any plans to nerf the pain warlock and secret mage?

we discuss it ever patch, .2/.4/.6. No plans for now. (Source)

Is there any fix the BG exploit coming? Can we at least report and get players temp bans?

Going to try a solution in an upcoming patch and if it's still a widespread issue we'll look to just remove minions that motivate players to disconnect until we can find a tech solution. (Source)

How firm are you about class identities at the moment? are there any that you're considering changing?

I mentioned this already, but making some adjustments to Priest. This is something that that will be reinforced by the cards we chose for core set. (Source)