Hello everybody and welcome to another Fan Community Spotlight. Today, I've got a set of 135 cards made by a person by the name of Ramanujoke, and it's a set which is designed specifically for Wild mode. This set uses a very unconventional structure as these aren't cards that are all part of the same expansion, but instead feature cards that are widely spread about across several different past Wild sets although all the cards would presumably be added to the game at the same time while being retroactively added to the old sets that they are part of. Therefore calling it an "expansion" by the traditional sense of the term may be incorrect to some people.
Nonetheless, I think designing a "set" of cards this way makes for a very different and perhaps less stressful creating experience. You aren't strictly limited to themes as much as you may be when designing a typical Hearthstone (I say as I still have one that's a work in progress) resulting in much more creative freedom with your designs. For as much as I am a stickler for using proper Hearthstone "continuity" in card making, the aspect of adding old cards and mechanics to sets similarly allows for some additional design space that may be fun to play with. Expect to see Demon Hunter cards from pre-Ashes of Outland sets, evergreen mechanics from sets before they were officially introduced, expansion-exclusive mechanics used outside of their expansion, and dual-class cards that use pairings besides the ones we got in Scholomance (and used in Scholomance). While these types of designs are ones I would personally not normally use when placed in a vacuum, they become much more believable and interesting when placed into the environment of an expansion that would retroactively add a huge chunk of cards to old sets.
Ramanujoke goes into detail about the thought process of every card in his Imgur album of the expansion, and also has uploaded videos to his YouTube channel talking about every card.
But now it's time that we tossed the mic over to him to talk more about the entire set as a whole. Between the Imgur album and this interview, you've got a lot of text to read if you feel inclined to try to read every single detail, so I hope you're prepared! It'll all be worth it because this set is full of some captivating ideas.
What was the inspiration behind the set idea?
Ramanujoke: "Before the Barrens mini set I started to play some Shaman and was sad by the low level of card draw I had access to... So I tried to create some custom one to try and make the cards of my dream.The first thing I did was trying to make a efficient card draw,which ended up as Fryer Elemental , and a resurection fo Wrath of Air totem which became Wicked Totem! From there I thought "what about making a miniset?" then the mini set became a full set!"
How long have you been making your own cards?
Ramanujoke: "A few years back I tried to do some on a french HS site. Actually, Baiting Whelp and Totem Empowering were cards I made back in the day. At this time powerlevel was way lover so I think Baiting Whelp was a 2/2 for 2 mana and Totem Empowering only gave +1 Attack or something... Bubbly Elemental was also one of them now that I think about it. Elementals just came out and they felt a bit too slow for what I wanted to do with them...Then I didn't make some for a long time but recently I tried to imagine what card I would have love to see printed for old archetypes so I started doing them again! It's been really fun!"
What ended up being the easiest or hardest classes to design for? How did you overcome any challenges that you were presented with?
Ramanujoke: "The hardest classes to design were certainly Mage Warlock and Druid. The common theme is that these 3 classes had one or multiple already powerful decks that could become even more oppressive if pushed further. Celestial Druid using Oaken Summon, Mages using Ice block in any kind of OTK version and of course, Darkglares.
Let's focus on Druid, I really wanted to make some powerful minions under 4 cost that could be played in Celestial to incentivize the use of another shell for Meta Druids. As an example cards like Twillight Felidae and Pandaren Prodigee were made with this intent in mind and in general, I really wanted to make good minions so that you would want to play HS for the board combat and not the OTK from hand. Warlock was also quite though because well... you know... the abundance of Tier 0 Warlock decks for more than a year now? Thus I really had to find that one fun yet forgotten/weak synergy that didn't get pushed in ages. I ended up on the token/minion sacrifice theme and Impatient Swarm was then one of the first Warlock card I made. Quickly after this I wanted to make something equine to Fiendish Servant so I made Spreader of Fear. As explained in the document, it was one of the hardest card to make because these excentric interaction don't happen very often so you have to think really hard about how to not break the game cough cough Stealer of Souls...
As for the easiest classes I would say Demon Hunter and Shaman. DH was a special case knowing the class has a really limited card pool so taking liberties while using old synergies in the class was needed to make it feel unique (thinking about Vengeance of C'Thun for exemple). Shaman was easier too because I played a LOT of Shaman between Wailing Cavern and Stormwind."
Are there any other cards you wish to highlight for any particular reason?
Ramanujoke: "Yes: the Dual Class legendary for Paladin and Warrior, Thadrus. I love Handbuff decks and it always baffled me that we never got Handbuff effect without using stats. I wanted to give a keyword to minions in my hand. Of course, it's very breakable but it's also a really fun design. Also, Gillidari Hunter, Arena Kingfin, Lightfin Rod and Crustacean Driver because I'm so proud of the Murlocs names in my set!
Something I did not expect to be able to do was making Dual Invoke cards. Experienced Summoner and Galakrond's Spy are two of my favourite in this set. Back when I didn't really know what classes to link together, these two ideas decided it for me! Experienced summoner was born from the capacity of both Galakronds to summon minion, and the Spy from the card generation. At the beginning I had the Spy reduce the cost of the minion generated by the Invoke by (1) but it felt bad so I made it's Dual-class theme larger by making it discover Invoke cards from other classes instead!
The Last one I want to highlight is Libram of Greatness. That's such a Paladin thing to do, yet so scary on paper! For the longest time I had a "?" on the mana-Cost because I had no idea if it would be ever balanced correctly, strong or not!"
Do you have anything behind the scenes that you wish to share?
Ramanujoke: "Making a custom set with a whole new keyword is something. Making a custom set using only old keywords and trying to branch into already existing archetypes in something entirely different. The number of hours I spent on the PlayHearthstone Wild card Library to compare old cards and see what I wanted to make is actually scary!! Making the explanation for designs was also quite hard. Everytime I made a new card, I wrote some words next to its name on this little notebook I have to rememeber some specifics that I would like to share at the end when writing the entire post."
What design philosophies do you have that you wish to share and spread to new creators?
Ramanujoke: "It's important to have fun with your design. Try and look for some cards that when they were announced you were like "Woah that's a neat design/flavor" and inspire yourself from those! There is no shame at being inspired by the work of others! If you want to make some balanced cards, trying to theorycrafts is hard but also a bit usefull. I didn't do it for every card I had but I tried to make some theorycraft decks to try and imagine if it would be too strong/slow. For example, I theorycrafted a Shuffle Rogue using mutiple new cards: Treasure Seeker, Dispersing Rifle and Famous Caratographer. I didn't want it to feel to forced in term of powerlevel...So after some tweeks, I ended up on something that was "balanced" by my own terms and it made me really confident about my design/balance capacities!
Another advice: If you want to make a whole set, I think it's important to work around packages, especially if you want to introduce a new synergy/archetype. In my case, working with Dragons in Hunter/ Warrior made me print a powerfull one (Wrathion) in combinaison with a self tutoring card (Scouting Whelp)
That was my philosophy for every class, I was first looking for the synergies I wanted to explore and what type of powerlevel I wanted for them! Example with Mage: I knew I wanted to push Elementals so I started to look for the best elementals deck I could found, then all the Elementals related cards we had and how to tie them together. I realised I wanted some good efficient draw so I made Surging Power. It's cheap cards draw that can be use multiple time and the Twinspell effect is effective with itself because the more you draw, the more elementals you can play! With a lot of different tribes it would have been busted, but Elemental was not one of them so I chose to make it as good as I could."
Do you have anything else you wish to share?
Ramanujoke: "If you ever want to use your creative mind and focus on a HS related project, making your own set is quite hobby! I think I ended up learning way more abut the game than I thought. Searching the library for ours actually makes you smarter about HS!"
And that would be the end of the interview, but it's far from the end of the set. The entire set's Imgur album can be access by clicking the banner below, which goes into greater detail about every card in the set. The amount of effort that was put into this set cannot be undersold as there is a LOT of fun and interesting details to read about every card and if you're as into card design as I am, then it'll be a very enjoyable read.