Hello everyone and welcome back to another Fan Community Spotlight. I hope you've been studying in science class because today we're looking at the core of the cards. The structure of cards is just like the structure of the Earth. The inner core is made up of spaghetti strands of coding, the outer core is the artwork, the mantle is the card border and coloring, and the crust is the textbox and the stats.

But today we're talking about more than just the core of a single card, but the core of an entire Hearthstone year. We're looking at a custom Core set made by a friend and colleague of mine over my time of being in the custom card community, GunspireGunnerKass. We've looked at some custom Core sets before on this series, but none quite like this one. Whereas the other custom Core sets I've showcased (and most of them in general for that matter) are designed solely with themselves in mind, but not this one. This Core set is instead designed in anticipation of an entire custom year, the Year of the Bear. As such, cards in this Core set contain a bear paw watermark to signify this.

This Core set notably changes a lot of contemporary design choices made with most Core sets. Namely, this Core set changes the rarity adjudication of cards per class, as well as giving each class a second Legendary card for their Core set lists allowing for extra breathing room in design, increases the number of Neutral Epics from 5 to 10, but the biggest change of all in this Core set is the addition of multi-targeting. An area that is experimented with a lot in custom cards and is often challenged by many people. You can check out the Core set here. But now it's time to move onto the interview.

How long have you been making your own cards?

Kass: "Ah, Hearthstone. The vessel we all have chosen to board despite the several holes that have been put in it by mutiny and cannonfire alike. I was dragged, kicking and screaming for my dear life, into this hell of an obsession in an odd.. sweetspot. I joined the game very late into Kobolds and Catacombs, which, as I'm writing this (Post-Wailing Caverns), is considered both early enough in the life of HS for me to be considered a relative newbie by those who've been here for longer, but also considered late enough in HS at this point that I've seen several new waves of people join the fandom (to the point that, to them, I'd be considered an old-timer like the others who joined in, say, Naxx or something). It's kinda funny, honestly.

As for when I started making my own cards... about a week after I first installed Hearthstone, truth be told. I've always had a knack for jumping into the custom side of communities pretty quick. Fun Fact, I was such a dingus when I first joined the custom community that I often confused Warlock and Shaman, and I considered Phantom Militia to be game-breakingly good when it was revealed. I've only gotten more cringe since."

As with all Core set reworks, a number of your own cards are also featured here. Which ones in particular are most notable to you?

Kass: "I could point to so many cards I designed for this core set, since I admittedly went pretty overboard with making fresh and new cards for the set as a whole. Several times I had to remind myself that I have a whole YEAR of sets to spread out ideas on, and even with that in mind I know I went a little too far.

Mak'gora is a solid and flavorful piece of removal that (of the cards in this core set) best justifies my decision to defy God and allow multi-targetting.

Cordana Felsong is Demon Hunter's Whatley (down to the statline being reversed) but the card feels like a compact and pretty package.

Shoutout to Drywallow Daggermaw for being very poggers hunter removal.

A few cards, I will admit, are "repurposed" from old Fullas and Versart videos. Two of them here, one of which is Twisted Ogremancer.

There are 6 new Neutral Legendaries in this set. Putting Finley aside for now, the other 5 were determined through a vote I held amongst friends. I had made 10 custom legendaries and had the boys vote on them... only to realize several of them were too similar to eachother. So the five here are some of the actual winners and some of the would-be winners I ended up picking anyway. Among them is Lord Darion Mograine, the other "repurposed" Fullas card.

Sir Finley the Ambassador might be my standout favorite from this set's custom additions. The more I think about the card the more I realize it's sneakilly pretty intricate and fun. The main idea is that it's a meme card that, unlike Nozdormu the Eternal, always goes off because the effect is in practice unimpactful but otherwise very fun."

What new identities or aspects are you trying to focus on with this new Core set?

Kass: "Establishing new class identities and ideas should be the expansions' job, but I made sure that each classes' set here has enough to provide a backbone for new ideas. To provide a few examples: I'll be exploring effects that deal with/scale with Health and Shot spell synergy in expansions for the year, which is why High Priest Amet and Shot Barrage are in the set. They aren't examples of the theme, they provide support for it. There are a few cards that actually introduce new ideas here, namely Illidari Scout introducing "on your turn" effects in Demon Hunter, and Power Word: Empower introducing the idea of cards changing in-hand due to certan triggers, both of which I plan to explore further.

There are several thematic aspects that I pulled into focus with this set, though. Tribal synergies are ripe in the set, setting the groundwork for Beast Hunter and Dragon Warrior, among a few others. I happen to gravitate towards tribal synergy quite a bit, and with hopes to reinvigorate tribal decks going forward, I thought the core set needed some of that.

While it's hard to tap in to an all-encompasing flavor or theme in a core set, a lot of cards were added to tap into the theme of ANCIENTNESS.... er... old and primordial stuff. All 3 of my expansion ideas so far all have to do somewhat with things that are ancient, be that societies or monsters, so I had that in mind while making additions to the core set."

Unlike most other Core sets up to this point which are largely designed independently in a vacuum, this one is designed in anticipation of a whole custom year. What that said, is this Core set designed with some expansion designs for Year of the Bear in mind and how does that change the process that you build it?

Kass: "Part of this I covered up above, but I might as well explain the process. A fair number of the additions in this core set were made knowing I'd delve into them deeper in the Year of the Bear's expansions, but a majority of the cards added are the opposite. I'm essentially laying out several hooks for myself, knowing that I'll take the bait later. A lot of these 'hooks' are cards I just... like. I brought back a lot of old cards on the basis that I just like them and wished they were better while in standard, examples being Riftcleaver and Wild Bloodstinger, my beloved. On the opposite spectrum are cards that I brought back not on the basis of just vibing with them, but on the basis that they might be interesting. These are way better hooks because they more concretely lay a "hey, what if I fucked around and found out?" question in my head. Examples of this include Shadow of Death and Gemstudded Golem, among others. If you find a card in my core set you don't think quite meshes with the rest of its class, it's likely one of those "fuck around and find out" cards."

Do you have anything behind the scenes you want to share with us? Or perhaps a peek at the first set of Year of the Bear?

Kass: "I could go into a LOT here. And I will. I imagine Demonxz95 (papa bless) might cut some stuff, so if you don't read the part where I talk about ghoul piss, you know where it went.

First, cards I considered bringing back from Wild. I was considering Chameleos for a while, and then Lyra the Sunshard as the first Priest Legendary, before settling on High Priest Amet for reasons discussed above. Electra Stormsurge was considered instead of Zentimo, but I decided against it seeing as Electra will be featuring in one of my expansions in the year. Marshspawn, The Glass Knight, Halazzi, the Lynx, Savannah Highmane, Drywhisker Armorer, and Dirty Rat are some of the more noteworthy planned inclusions that didn't make the cut. Dirty Rat's lack of inclusion was one I debated with myself a LOT, as the little funny rat is fan-favorite combo-killing material, but I decided against it seeing as I had added other pieces of combo tech in the set. Mutanis' announcement solidified the decision for me.

Secondly, custom cards that didn't make the cut. The only ones worth mentioning were the 5 losers from the Legendary Vote. If you want names, then you can sleep soundly (or die angry) that Dr. Boom PHD, Grand Apothecary Putress, Chromatus, Mannoroth, and Prophet Zul didn't make the cut. Worry not, small sect of devour Putress fans who are on their way to beat me to death! Some of these will be in expansions and minisets this year! If you still wish to beat me to death, I'd recommend a sword. Guns won't work.

Thirdly, cards that were changed. Rezan, Loa of Kings originally had some wack-ass effect. Something like "Rush. If this deals excess damage to a minion, it gains +1/+1 and can attack again." but it was too clunky and weird then. Grand Magistrix Elisande originally added a 0-cost copy of the spell to your hand every time your opponent cast one. Warlord Zon'ozz used to be a 5-mana 1/3 (broken, I know). Shot Barrage used to be a Mage spell before I decided Hunter needed both some funny damage and a Shot spell. Emberscale Drake was originally a 5/5/5, as it is in-game, but then Blizzard had to go and make Shieldmaiden 5 Mana, so I had to adjust to keep the funny black dragon viable.

Fourthly, trivia about my process. If you're scrolling desperately to find it, this is the bit where I talk about ghoul piss. I make the cards on Hearthcards (as all good degenerates do), and save them to their assinged folders on my computer, divided by class and expansion they're in. I format their names as "(Rarity) Name of Card", but after a while, typing all that gets tiring. I held myself back enough to keep the rarities in the name, but let loose on naming the files whatever I wanted otherwise. Often, these were... the name of the card but with some profanity spliced into the name. Aside from that, standouts include:

"(Legendary) You know I had to" for the Blackhowl Gunspire
"(Epic) Why is this epic" for Force of Nature
"(Epic) THIS IS SO EPIC" for Marsh Hydra
"(Rare) Legacy of the Worthless" for Blessing of Legacy
and, most importantly
"(Rare) Ghoul Piss" for Dark Possession
why? Because it looks like the gnome is pissing ghosts in the art.

Fifthly and lastly, sneak-peaks for the rest of the Year of the Bear. I might as well put most my cards on the table here. First expansion of the year is Treachery in Kul'tiras, a set I've been working on in many forms ever since Saviors of Ul'dum (previously known as Titans in Mulgore). I'll give you all a few cards as preview. Expect Pirates, giant monsters, and all sorts of mess-em-uppery at the high seas!

The second expansion is... well, I don't know other than it'll be on Pandaria. I actually have another expansion planned, but it's supposed to be the third expansion of the year, which leads us to...

The third expansion of the year, unnamed as of yet, and pretty early in development. Currently just "The Hero Expansion", it's a dual-class set focused on superhero-esque themes, as well as the return of SEVERAL old characters as heroes! For this expansion, expect a lot of art from myself! The two cards I've provided to Demonxz95 (papa bless) feature art from myself, which I plan do do for every legendary of the set!

Lastly, expect minisets, Battlegrounds content (maybe even Duels content), and exclusive content for Wild."

What design philosophies do you have that you wish to share and spread to new creators?

Kass: "I cannot stress this enough, make things that are FUN to you. Use the rule of cool! Sometimes cards you design don't aling perfectly with concerns like UI, coding, or even what makes sense for monetization, but we're custom card creators! When it comes to stuff like that, feel justifiably entitled in disregarding it in pursuit of fun and cool things.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Balance is my achile's heel, so I've found it helps amazingly to have a group of people you trust to show your broken shit to like "hey guys is this too strong? uwu". Find a community that provides that help (I'd recommend the r/customhearthstone discord, we're all epic gaymers).

Don't be afraid to explore new flavor in classes. It always feels weird when you give Demon Hunter a card that doesn't feature a purple dude with a blindfold, horns, and warglaives, but it's important to fleshing out the class's identity and flavor beyond just the base. This still applies to the other 9 classes to, where flavor can always be expanded upon.

Don't be afraid to have FUN with the process! Don't be afraid to restart, to redo things, or to recieve advice from others, remember we're all here to have fun and be creative, and don't lose sight of that."

Do you have anything else you want to share with us?

Kass: "I've definitely bitten off more than I can chew with an entire custom year in the works, and would like some help with it. I'll be asking my close custom hearthstone friends to help (Demonxz95 included), but never hesitate to hop on down to the r/customhearthstone discord and harrass me with help (you'll find me as @Gunspire Gunner Kass).

Aside from that.. eeeeerrrr...

I could plug my other social medias...? I don't know...

Nah, I'll spare you all that postamble

But I'll plug a few friend's hearthstone projects. You can find/ask about all of these in the r/customhearthstone discord.

The Friendly Enemy's Zephrymadness is an entirely new spell-combat game he's working on based on a discord april fool's event, which is fully playable and openly contributable to!

Imperial Lord Tea Drinker is working with other people (myself included) to make a half-joke set based around fanfiction Stelina would write. If you're down to clown, would recommend.

Lastly; Lockeness, Demonxz95, MasterOfHaze, and myself all often host streams in the server where we review custom sets (usually of the imbalanced slant). If you want to watch the four of us all suffer collective brainrot in-call, I suppose you can join and pressure the four of us into hosting another one?

OH! And if the bit about the ghoul piss didn't make it into the interview, DM me on discord and I'll send that bit to you.

Have fun, gamers."

That is it for this week where I think we've all studied up quite a bit on the core of the cards, but there's still a lot to experience in this Core set. Click the banner below if you want to take a look at the entire Core set made for the upcoming fan-made Year of the Bear.