Everyone's favourite Hearthstone Dad, Dean "Iksar" Ayala has brought us another Q&A! As usual, here's our recap of all the important points and a full transcript of the event.

  • 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.

Limited Time Systems Changes

  • The team has a couple of ideas for limited-time systems changes - probably 2-4 weeks long.
  • One idea is to let players ban a class on the ladder.
  • This would require changes to UI and server-side which involves multiple teams.
  • The impact of such a change is very complex. Its possible that we could find out the game is more fun with it.
  • None of this is currently in development but it is "very likely to happen".

United in Stormwind

It should be noted that through datamining, we know that we should be visiting Westfall in the mini-set through our adventure to the Deadmines. This dungeon is the equivalent to Wailing Caverns.

  • The expansion was originally set in Westfall. (The zone west of Elwynn Forest of which Stormwind exists)
  • The reason we went to Stormwind instead is because the Westfall fantasy was too close to The Barrens.
  • Westfall has another problem - character variance. There is not as much diversity in the Alliance starting zones when compared to The Barrens.


  • There is talk of adding in a damage cap of 15 damage before players die. The cap would be removed when 7 players remain in the lobby.
  • Battlegrounds Perks will remain around long-term.
  • Battlegrounds is being considered for a Bronze/Silver/Gold bracket system based on your MMR.
  • They are still working on letting you show off your Battlegrounds rating on your friends list.

Card Design

  • Every card is now created so there is an audience for it. No more Worgen Greaser or Chillwind Yeti.
  • The cards in the mini-sets get started around 10-12 weeks after the expansion's cards get started.

Death Knights

  • Arthas would probably be the Death Knight hero if we it becomes a playable class.

User Interface

  • Opening up the options menu is something the team would consider more now since the card game genre is more understood now.
  • Before anything about the options menu happens though, we'd be getting a collection manager update since its probably first in the list. 

Dean's Dreamland

If given an unlimited budget and it didn't take away from normal development...

  • Dean would maybe see if making cards tradeable has a design that would work.
  • Or, an art overhaul that would maybe make cards all 3D models of the characters - it could open the audience up.
  • More realistically though, more social features for the game. Playing together and ways to organize groups like guilds.

Full Transcript of Iksar's Q&A #25

Quote From Dean Ayala

Hearthstone AMA #25 6:00PM - 7:00PM PST Ask me a question about Hearthstone! Or Design! (or anime…) https://t.co/UrSA5lKWU4 (Source)

@IksarHS What changed in Hearthstone design philosophy that allows cards these days to be so much more complicated and interesting? Let’s just compare from boomsday to now and the designs seem so much more inspired and interesting!

@Impact_onfire One of the things we don't do anymore is make Worgen Greasers or Chillwind Yetis. Basically every card is made with the idea there should be an audience for it. That probably has the greatest impact. (Source)

@IksarHS How big would a vanilla raw stats guy have to be to actually see play you’d think?

@Impact_onfire Depends on the mana cost obviously, the priest 1/4 sees play. At 2, you'd probably have to be a 2/4 or a 3/3, those might not even be good enough. (Source)

@IksarHS Quick one: Is it better to please de majority of casual players or to focus on the most skilled and involved ones? Are their interest always opposite?

@TDFJulian The goal is to create a fun game for the players playing it. We skew towards decisions for the masses rather than decisions for the few. We still do things for niche audiences, but we try to spend the majority of our time on things that impact everyone. (Source)

@IksarHS You've been given the keys to hearthstone, with an unlimited budget, no meetings about it, and no dependency on time. The catch: you can only make one "thing" happen. What do you do?

@TheInfinitePez Well, let's assume whatever this 'thing' is doesn't take away from normal development and is just extra. Maybe making cards tradeable and seeing if there is a design that could make that work. (Source)

@TheInfinitePez Or possibly art overhaul. CCG market is really niche, if we could figure out a way to do Hearthstone with 3D models or characters instead of cards it could open up the audience significantly. (Source)

@TheInfinitePez A more realistic answer? Social. Meaning both ways to play together and ways to organize groups of people like guilds/clans. (Source)

@IksarHS Do you plan to add more Options (Graphics, Sound, etc)? It's still a little basic and didn't change much since launch. Would love to be able to change Voice Volume independently from Master and Music, etc. HS have the less freedom for Settings compared to other Blizz titles.

@Arkentass Hearthstone UI design favors simplicity over optionality. There is a tradeoff there, especially when it comes to the depth of systems we create. It's a tradeoff we felt was important for a genre of game CCG that has so much built in complexity. (Source)

@Arkentass That said, 7 years in we are a lot looser on those rules. CCGs are more understood as a genre than they were 7 years ago and most of our players are long-time users or returning users. People open to more complexity/optionality. (Source)

@Arkentass Expanded options menu is something in the space we'd consider now, it's just not on any calendar to get done. Collection manager is probably the first thing to reorganize and add optionality to before moving elsewhere. (Source)

@IksarHS Have you ever considered adding a class ban option to the ladder to increase diversity of deck viability? Like you won't match against selected class. Competitive HS feels more balanced when watching as they can ban the opponent's decks that counter their own selected decks.

@grizzlebees Yes, and I'd actually like to try it for a limited time. There is significant meta impact at the high level with something like this, though. Many decks have only 1-2 counters so the best overall deck probably isn't the best deck in a ban format. (Source)

@grizzlebees We have a couple ideas for limited-time system changes. This is one of them. Will probably try for a 2 week or month long time period. It's possible that we'll find out the game is just more fun this way. (Source)

@grizzlebees But like I said, the impact is quite complex. Not something currently in dev but I'd put it on the list of very likely to happen. Need UI and server side matchmaking changes, both teams are booked pretty solid with work atm. (Source)

@IksarHS It might not be the place, but it drives me crazy. The text layout of some cards is Horrible (here in French) https://t.co/KPbtFyVbOh

@Hosmolte I honestly don't know what our process is for text templating in other locales. Will look into it, thank you. (Source)

@IksarHS What do you think about a constructed mode somewhere between standard and wild ? (like arena card pool rotation with like 4-8 set available)

@balanira_ This comes up all the time, but I think if we were to create another constructed mode, it wouldn't be one that invalidates your decks on a regular cadence. (Source)

@IksarHS Any plans to modify the damage taken or the duration of the Battleground games by slowing them down? Also the power level between heroes feels very uneven any buff for weaker heroes in the near future?

@ERE1192 We've talked about so many potential solutions for this, the thing in test right now is damage cap of 15 before someone in the lobby dies. Damage cap removed when there are 7 players left. (Source)

@IksarHS Has the team ever thought about adding a feature (like other certain card games) where we can see an opponents cards if we know what they are, for example a Pen Flinger or something bounced from Youthful Brewmaster?

@victorabaxter An interesting question, I'll bring it up with the team. At first glance, it sounds like it reduces gameplay complexity which I like! I know we've talked about this before I just can't remember the answer as I think we discussed it 5+ years ago now. (Source)

@IksarHS Being that the Leeroy OTK of the past is often memed nowadays, can you give the team’s philosophy for when it comes to combos? Clearly the group is ok with them, but it’d be nice to hear what the current mindset/thought process is for what is good vs bad with combos and OTKs.

@Fleeeeetwood It's not an exact science. There are a bunch of factors we weigh against each other. Population, power, ability to play around, damage dealt, etc. (Source)

@Fleeeeetwood Dying before turn 7 from an opponent with no board? Consistently? To a deck that is 20+% population in the format? And that deck is 52+% win rate? That's probably the extreme end and something I'd consider not ok. (Source)

@Fleeeeetwood Dying on turn 25 to an opponent with no board? Deck is 0.7% play rate? 41% win rate? Not something we're going to change. If someone really wants to play the combo from @MarkMcKz 's latest video, that has to be ok. Our goal isn't to eliminate all decks that aren't normal. (Source)

@IksarHS Why the horde expansion was in the barrens, the starter zone for the horde players, and the alliance expansion is in STORMWIND, the capital of the alliance? I mean, barrens≠stormwind, it's not the same level of Lore. I'm sorry, my english is so bad, i Hope you can understand

@Minico_20 Originally the brainstorm had the Alliance expansion in Westfall. The fantasy, even though it was from the opposite side, was just too close to the Barrens. (Source)

@Minico_20 Also the characters/monsters in the Alliance starting zones aren't as diverse as they are in the Barrens. Westfall is awesome, but it doesn't have very many different styles of settings. (Source)

@IksarHS There's a vocal crowd that is frustrated with the combo/aggro meta and want changes [see kiblers video]. However the popularity of combo decks is evident.. even with shoddy win rates. What is your thoughts on this polarizing view of the ladder environment

@Herodreamer79 I agree with both sides but I don't think there is a fundamental problem. Just that combo decks are pulling off their thing at a rate that is a tad too fast. (Source)

@Herodreamer79 This is pretty normal, though. We monitor post-launch play and sentiment pretty closely, this sort of reaction is the norm. Some audiences very happy, some audiences sad the style of deck they like is not in power. (Source)

@IksarHS A question on card design/redesign, *if* Death Knight was to be made into a class, do you think the team would let the Lich King & Arfus continue to give "Lich King" cards, or is converting them to "Grand Crusader" for the new class more likely (for consistency).

@AJz77x Oh interesting, I think they'd continue to give the same cards from the pool they do now. We might change the wording. (Source)

@IksarHS Hiya! Are you now the longest tenured Team 5 member? Who are 3 current longest tenured Hearthstone employees? Thanks for all your years of making Hearthstone! 😀 https://t.co/EdsQ17b48b

@ben_heathstone There are 4 people that have been on dev longer than I have. Possible I'm forgetting someone, but I think that's it. Andy Brock (sound), Jon Bankard (business), Chris Yim (engineer), and Jason McCalister (engineer). (Source)

@IksarHS Lately, mobile play has been getting worse and worse (the app started freezing a lot since the last updates). Do Devs play on mobile regularly to get an insight of how to improve the experience?

@oEltinho I play on Ipad almost exclusively, but yes we do. Truth is making mobile games that run smoothly on thousands of different devices is just a big task. Especially for a game 8 years old and continuing to build on itself over time. (Source)

@oEltinho We have a team of folks dedicated to improving the experience, and we make strides all the time. No one would say we have an optimal mobile experience game, but team is aware of the problems and hard at work on fixing all the time. (Source)

@IksarHS Overall we’re y’all happy with the week (or so?) of all the unnerfed cards in standard. It was pretty fun! Was wondering if it is possibly to become an annual thing, where all the cards getting unnerfed get reverted for the last week of rotation? (:

@JaredPullet I'll bring it up with team, I generally don't make that kind of decision these days but I agree it was a fun week. @GW_Alec (Source)

@IksarHS Regarding Duels: as expansions are created and added and the card pool approaches that of Wild, what alternatives are being considered to keep them fresh? (Like motif sets such as Tournament + Rastakhan, and inviting the troll champions of Rastakan as Heroes while we’re at it).

@Rod_Minn Unfortunately I don't work at all on Duels so I can't comment on decisions around that mode. If you ever have questions I'd point them at @Tabayrak (Source)

@IksarHS @Rod_Minn I am super excited with the future of duels. And you kind of hit the nail on the head of what motifs are possible in duels. As far as currently as Barrens and Stormwind have a heavy narrative across them I wanted to reflect that within the duels card pool. https://t.co/7k9dqOWvtD (Source)

@IksarHS I'm afraid you are not designing the cards as past, but I've been wanted to ask. Minions as the reward for the last quest, their stats are 5/7/7 except for Guff. He even has a taunt. I just feel strangeness in that why they don't unify their stats and gave him special ability.

@Puntom_HS good question for initial designers like @MyntyPhresh @JohnEvMcIntyre @Songbird_HS. I'm not sure if there was an intentional reason or not. (Source)

@IksarHS @Puntom_HS @MyntyPhresh @JohnEvMcIntyre Because Guff is Buff. Nah I don't know. I'll ask Liv on Monday if my goldfish brain remembers. (Source)

@IksarHS What's going to happen to a lot of the core set-only cards once next years standard rotation introduces new core set cards? Will cards like Talen and Overlord Runthak be deleted from the game, or still playable in other modes like wild and arena?

@PMBoutin @Chakki_HS @RealzDev and @GW_Alec made rules for this that I don't want to butcher. One of them likely has the answer. (Source)

@IksarHS Have you seen Tatami Galaxy? It's defo for fans of Odd Taxi. Just rewatched it and it's amazing.

@Hyyyyl I haven't but I'll check it out. Anime recs from these AMAs have been pretty solid so far. (Source)

@IksarHS Have you watched sk8

@TheLyns I haven't, I think it's only on funimation which I haven't actually bought yet but I am soon. (Source)

@IksarHS I just want to touch on something I saw you discussing about future big projects;I dream of a Hearthstone either third person or first person where you cast spells and summon minions via portals. I understand you'd need a bigger Dev team for this. I'd love to apply/help if/when💜

@IksarHS Like on a battlefield and turn based like in Pokémon games. You could even try multi battles that s way. And it could drastically increase the player base, especially since this could open up the possibility of a console port for 'Hearthstone 2' 🤩

@Ultimatecheeseb I think this is less unreasonable than you might think. I doubt we'd just skin hearthstone completely but taking HS core gameplay and adjusting it for a 3D format? Definitely not crazy and something we've spent some time dreaming about. (Source)

@IksarHS Is every card in the core set designed to have a niche use in some deck? If so why were cards such as River Crocolisk and Chillwind Yeti added, is there intention that some deck might actually want them? Thanks as always Dean ^^

@Tacticalian Core set has different goals than expansion sets. One of the goals of the core set is to do a good job of teaching new players about the game as they level up and unlock cards. Cards like croc and yeti do a good job of letting players focus on game rules first. (Source)

@IksarHS Last season 20 new accounts created by high legend players finished on the Wild NA leaderboards. Every account was playing a certain list of odd paladin that reached 84% on hsreplay at one point. My question is, was it noticed at all by the team?

@ottersHS Definitely did not notice that. Odd paladin population is probably too high for a pool of 20 players to affect our data very much. (Source)

@IksarHS Do you worry at all about the power creep vs the static value of 30HP for heroes? It feels like we are hitting that point where our life total balanced around classic hearthstone might need to be updated. I know it isn't as simple, especially seeing how warlock uses HP. Curious.

@HarmoniousGray I get your point, but I think we'd just use rotation as a moment to power down the standard format before we'd increase health. Wild is destined to be a high synergy format, which normally means pushing faster over time. (Source)

@IksarHS Will the mini set have anything to counter some of these combo quests in check? Curious how you guys feel about the current meta and games ending before turn 8 often.

@CrunchTime4L Games ending quickly isn't a bad thing. Games ending quickly without feeling like your deck had any agency in it to beat the thing you lost to is less good. I think there is probably less of problem 2 than player's would, but it's still something to keep watch over. (Source)

@IksarHS On a scale from 1-10, how satisfied are you with how the current expansion turned out. And what might be still underrated looking at balance changes or mini expansion. (You gave a hint for shaman once here)

@SippShip 8.75 and Rush Warrior is probably just good even though a shockingly low amount of players play it. (Source)

@IksarHS Hello! I applied for a position recently in Hearthstone Analytics, and didn’t know if there was a way for me to follow up? Thank you!

@adavids18 Recruiting has been pretty slammed lately. I think once someone reaches out to you there should be open email communication after. Unless it's been over 3 weeks or so I'd just sit tight. (Source)

@IksarHS How would you suggest getting into a game design career? As a current university student I’m super interested but have no idea what experience or certifications I need that’ll make me stand out.

@TooFly418 Simple answer is to make games. Tons of resources out there for it. All your competitors in the design space are making games in some capacity. That could mean making something in a tutorial, shipping something on steam, or just doing paper design like making a Hearthstone set. (Source)

@IksarHS Are the mini-sets designed entirely concurrently with their expansion, or is the expansion more or less set in stone before real progress begins on the mini-set?

@MrAceofKings Expansion gets about 10-12 weeks then miniset starts. So most mechanics and keywords are already outlined. (Source)

@IksarHS If a death knight class comes, which character would be the main hero?

@FroggyHSxD A few to choose from, but probably Arthas. He's such a huge fan favorite and has such an amazing story that we'd have to have a really good reason to not use him. (Source)

@IksarHS When looking at adjustments for the current meta, how much of it is based on pure winrate metrics vs player complaints of non interactive play/frustration?

@tessmissing Well, decisions are made purely based on perceived player sentiment. We make the game for players, so our decisions are 100% formed around what we think would make the whole of the audience happier. (Source)

@tessmissing Population data tells us what players are actually experiencing vs what we read players are experiencing. Win rate data tell us how likely something is to crop up (not being played but high win rate) vs something is to die out (being played but low win rate). (Source)

@tessmissing If there was a forum that every single hearthstone user posted on equally we'd probably use that as one of the key metrics to make decisions around. Unfortunately, that isn't a reality. Places like social media and reddit tend to be echo chambers. (Source)

@tessmissing The info we gain from those places can be useful to learn different perspectives, but not that useful to make decisions around. (Source)

@IksarHS @Celestalon Not HS or Anime related, but is your username based off the lizard-y race from Norrath? 🤔 If yes, what class?

@FrisKerderer @Celestalon I was an Iksar Necromancer. So yes, heavily influenced by the Field of Bone lizards. (Source)

@IksarHS Have you ever given up making any card because of the text is too long?

@nikeeshi_plus so many (Source)

@IksarHS What's your experience been with the new meta?

@Lime_kalko i play priest, i go face, i rank up (Source)

@IksarHS Is there any card you wish it never had released?

@Delleloper There are many cards I wish we'd have done a better job on. Most of them are cards that never saw play or weren't interesting to any user. (Source)

@IksarHS How if at all do you determine if a set has enough "bad" cards in it? is there a magic number or percentage?

@eskisisters We don't have a quota of bad cards. We have cards that we think are fun for niche audiences that wouldn't be fun if they were very high population (desert obelisk) but we don't intentionally make bad cards as filler like some other cards games do. At least not anymore. (Source)

@IksarHS are you guys really going to nerf another forty sometimes % wr deck (otk dh) or is it just gossip

@xd136916027 no comment (Source)

@IksarHS In the past, you've mentioned that control decks with no win condition is "the most boring". Isn't that A) highly subjective and B) your team's design? I just find that odd that Team 5 takes away true win conditions and then blames the playstyle for being boring.

@ScottyH_0823 I agree that design is highly subjective and our team is responsible for our team's philosophy on design. (Source)

@ScottyH_0823 I think the takeaway from my comments should be that the meta we think would be the least fun overall for the playerbase is one in which fatigue-style decks were the core of the population. (Source)

@ScottyH_0823 Are fatigue decks the most fun decks for some niche part of the audience? Yeah, definitely. For that reason we don't mind that the archetype exists so those players can play it, but don't think we'll ever be happy with subjecting the whole playerbase to a fatigue meta. (Source)

@IksarHS Hey Dean! Hoping to get a question answered on one of your AMAs at least once! What do you think about the discussion regarding cost reduction? A lot of talk about adding the "but not less than (1)" clause among players. What's your stance?

@KuriennoHS Agree we have leaned too hard on cost reduction in the past. Agree that the idea of 'but not less than (1)' as a rule is worth real thought. Skeptical that is the right solution. (Source)

@KuriennoHS There are many cases were a (0) cost card is totally fine. There have been a bunch that haven't been, but I think it's more of a fault of those designs than the rule itself. (Source)

@IksarHS With the addition of cosmetics will BG perks go away? Also any talks of beautifying Bg rating system. Gold/silver/play etc and we are no longer stuck with angry chicken icons

@Slysssa No, perks around long-term. I think the cost associated with perks is justified by the support the team gives. Cosmetics are great, but relatively low-adoption overall. And yes, we're working on it. Want players to be able to show off their bg rating in friends list at a minimum (Source)

@Slysssa we still like the number rating system as opposed to the star system for bg, but thinking about choosing bronze/silv/gold brackets based on number. So maybe 3k is bronze, 4k is silver, etc. Have to look at the distribution curve. (Source)

@IksarHS Is there any reason there is not an auto-squelch option this many years into development? Many players want it and I'm not sure I have heard a good argument against it.

@Big_AT As a general rule of thumb we try not to add UI optionality for things that will be extremely low player use unless it's for a disability inclusive reason. (Source)

@IksarHS How is megalobox going

@Diego8833 4 episodes in, I'm intrigued. (Source)

@IksarHS In your opinion, other than legendary cards for obvious reasons, what is the purpose of card rarities in hearthstone? Is it simply for the economy of harder to get = more packs bought? Or is there something more?

@lickmyhams Complexity. When a player is opening packs we want you to understand the cards at a glance. Commons are low complexity and epics/leg are usually highest complexity for that reason. When you open one you can focus on it. (Source)

@IksarHS Any anime you'd rate a 10?

@rattleclaws For me personally, a ton. Naruto is a 10/10 for me but probably 7.5/10 if I'm rating for others. What anime are 10's as I would rate them for others? Fullmetal Brotherhood Death Note Hunter X Hunter that might be it (Source)