Hello everybody and welcome to another Fan Community Spotlight. Remember about a month ago when I looked at a Core Set rework from Cydonianknight? Today I've got another Core set to look at, from CheeseEtc (or just "Cheese" as is displayed on this website). You may remember that a little over a year ago, I looked at a different Core Set rework from Cheese only covering Priest. This time around, I'm looking at a Core Set of his that covers EVERY class and the Neutrals, something I previously did with Neoguli's Core Set over 6 installments. This one however I'm covering all in one installment as per Cheese's suggestion, and perhaps it wouldn't be that fun for you guys to read another 6 articles for the same project.
Do note that this Core Set has been in development for a really long time. Thus, it still uses the Basic/Classic formula as well as the lack of any spell schools which have quickly proven to be a bit of a nuisance to many designers in the community. This is as expected, a huge project. The entire Core Set can be found here. But now it's time to take it to Cheese to talk about the development of this project.
This wouldn't be an FCS without a few of your own cards (and there are a lot of them). What was your thought process behind each of them?
Cheese: "There are 55 entirely custom cards in my set.
When I started my Core Sets revamp more than a year ago, I only wanted to do minimal changes because I wanted to preserve the spirit of the original sets. Over time however I figured out that a complete overhaul was necessary. This evolution is visible in my classes: the classes I did first (Priest, Druid, Mage) have very few custom cards while the classes I did last (Paladin, Warrior, Rogue, as well as the neutrals) have a lot more.
Here are some of my favorites :
- BLADESTORM: While the flavor of Brawl is on point, its effect doesn't fit Warrior at all. Warrior doesn't like "pure" destroy effect (that's a Priest thing!) however it needs a board clear in order to keep its control identity. Bladestorm fills this role. It's a very efficient board clear that can also double down as a trigger for Warrior's damage effect. Yes I'm aware there's already a card called Bladestorm in the game but I made mine before it was released!
- VOID DEVOURER: It's strange that Warlock lacks so much card draw synergies when it's part of its class identity. With Void Devourer, you now have an incentive to draw a shitton of cards. It's useful in both Zoolock and Handlock. It also synergizes with discard because why not?
- ADRENALINE RUSH: This card is in fact only pseudo-custom because it was present in the game's alpha as a 1-mana card! I don't know why they scrapped it instead of just nerfing it to 2 since Rogue would much rather have this than Sprint which is clunky even at 6 mana.
- SHURIKEN TOSS: I removed Moonfire from Druid because the way it comboes with OG Malygos (who is still in my set) doesn't fit Druid at all. However it does fit Rogue very well! I don't see this combo as particularily problematic because no Malygos deck was ever cancer. It also doubles down as a very early removal that replaces Backstab as well as as a combo trigger.
- RELOAD: Intended as a replacement to Tracking. Hunter is supposed to be bad at card draw, but as Blizzard noticed, each class needs a minimal amount of card draw to work. Reload reconciles those two aspects, it can draw up to 3 cards but doesn't allow the Hunter to hoard them.
- FIREBEARD HERALD: Yet another card that was in the alpha (as a 1/3) but was then removed. Freeze mage is a famously uninteractive deck that needs some counter in the Core set. Living Dragonbreath is too expensive to fill this role.
- NIGHTWATCHER: Same logic. Right now there is no way to effectively deal with Stealth minions. There should be tech cards against them.
- MOLTEN RAGER: Buffed version of Magma Rager. Probably still not viable, however a 3-mana minion with 7 attack can have some use and isn't totally useless. It can trade with a Flamewreathed Faceless played on curve!"
What new identities are you trying to push with this new Core set? What did you take out and what are you trying to specifically focus on?
Cheese: "The specific class identities are explained in my thread so I won't paraphrase. But I can explain how I established those identities.
I already made two custom classes in the past (Chef and Alchemist), I tried to apply the same design philosophy I used for them to existing classes. I asked myself those questions:
- What are this class primary mechanics? There should be at least 2 or 3. Primary mechanics are unique to the class and featured prominently. Most cards from the class should feature at least 1 primary mechanic.
- What are the class secondary mechanics? These mechanics are less prominent and generally "cross-class" (eg. healing for Priest and Paladin)
- What is the class good and bat at? Removal? Direct damage? Board clears? Card draw? Survivability? Big minions? Big boards?
- What are the class keyword synergies and tribal synergies?
Once I establised a viable identity for each class (based on existing identites of course), I allocated "slots" for specific cards types. For example: A removal that features one of the class' primary mechanic, a spell that features a secondary mechanic, etc. while also paying attention to the curve of my sets.
Starting from there, I listed ALL the collectible cards from the class + some uncollectible cards as well (battlegrounds, arena specific, etc) + a few custom ideas I had. Then I established shortlists of cards (both existing and custom) that fit the class mechanics and are versatile enough to be evergreen. Broadly speaking, the shortlisting went through 4 steps:
1. Removal of cards with expansion-specific keywords or mechanics. That step is easy.
2. Removal of cards that are blatantly overpowered or underpowered, that are too situational to the point of uselessness, that are too complicated for either the Basic or Classic set, or that are "dangerous" to have as evergreen cards due to combo potential.
3. Removal of cards that obviously don't fit the identity I established for the class (unless those cards are iconic or simple enough to be basic). After this step I only have cards that could legit all be evergreen, but that's still way more than 25 per class.
4. Removal of "duplicates", cards with a cost and an effect that are too similar to each other (eg Cloning Device vs Psionic Probe). Flamestrike vs Arcane Explosion doesn't count because the cards have very different costs and therefore different functions (I kept both).
5. After this point, the choices become really difficult. It's fine-tuning based on mana curve, "slots" I established for each mechanic, "slots" for each gameplay aspect (card draw, removal, etc), and more or less arbitrary choices. A way around all of this is to make a custom card that combine two mechanics from shortlisted cards so that I only keep one slot. For instance, Wyrmrest Guardian in Warrior combines a big taunt minion, the "recruit" mechanic, and a Dragon tag.
Do you have anything behind the scenes you want to share?
Cheese: "These graphs represent the mana curve of the first version of my neutral set (I didn't update it when I revised my neutral set later on, but it didn't change much) versus the mana curve of the old sets. I really tried to have a curve that's as smooth as possible and tops at the 2 and 3 mana slots, as it should be. As you can see, the mana curve of the old sets was REALLY weird.
This is the table tracking the origins of the cards I rotated in. There are several interesting things to see:
- Unsurprisingly, the majority of the cards I kept come from the original Basic and Classic set.
- The Grand Tournament, The Witchwood, Rastakhan's Rumble, were the 3 expansions that contributed the most cards to my core sets. This is also unsurprising because these sets were known for the relatively low power level.
- Karazhan contribued the most cards to my core sets relatively to its size. It is a coincidence? Perhaps it's because the adventure doesn't have any really unique mechanics that wouldn't fit a core set. Perhaps it's personal bias. Karazhan is my favorite WoW raid.
- On the other hand, Blackrock Mountain is the only set that didn't contribute at all to my core sets. Probably just a coincidence. Perhaps personal bias as well (I'm fed up with the endless HoJ/SGC runs in WoW Classic).
These are all the custom cards I made but scrapped."
Do you have anything else you wish to share?
Cheese: "I know that comparing my custom Basic and Classic sets to Blizzard's 2021 Core set is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. Because Blizzard's Core sets rotate each year, they can include cards that should never be evergreen like Baron Rivendare or Swashburglar. Nevertheless I observed that, out of the 60 expansion cards that were rotated in in Blizzard's 2021 Core Set, 9 are also in my sets, and a further 13 are in the shortlists in my thread. A good match considering how many expansion cards there is out there.
I made several art changes to existing cards. These were criticized in my thread. However there are several reasons that can justify an art change on old cards:
- The art is ugly (eg SKill Command)
- The art doesn't fit Hearthstone art style and/or the Warcraft universe (eg Consecration)
- The art doesn't fit the card (eg Novice Engineer, Kobold Geomancer)"
We've reached the very end of this interview, but there's still so much more to look at. This set has a grand total of 350 cards! If you want to see the entire Core Set, then click the banner below and let us know what you think in the comments.