It's Halloween! And it's also Sunday which means it's time for another Fan Community Spotlight. When the two days intersect together, you've gotta have a bone-chilling set of cards to cover. In this one-day gap of card reveals for the Deadmines mini-set for United in Stormwind, I've got you covered to quench your thirst for new cards.
Today is a significant installment for the series as I will be covering a piece of Mercenaries content for the first time. Mercenaries is still extremely new to the game, and while I've dropped off the mode myself for quite a bit of time (as well as the myriad of wildfires that have been going on with the mode), lots of people are enjoying the mode and that's great. Definitely been getting better reception than the initial trailer for it. Nonetheless, as the mode is still very new, this makes it very interesting to see how early fan-made projects for the mode develop. Today I've got an old friend of mine, Zozoth, to talk about a set of Mercenaries for each of the four Old Gods.
This will be a slightly experimental installment due to simply how new Mercenaries is and it'll likely take some time to figure out the best format for future Mercenaries creations on this series, but this will still be a fun article all the same.
Walk me through these Mercenaries. How were inspired to make them in the way that you made them?
Zozoth: "I started playing Hearthstone just as The Grand Tournament came out, and began to be very active in the game when the next expansion, Whispers of the Old Gods was released. I played a lot of Old God themed decks at the time, such as C'Thun Druid and N'Zoth Paladin and quickly grew an affinity to the massively powerful eldritch terrors. It has been quite a long time since then, but I still try to make decks with them work in wild, to decent success. But when Blizzard released the Madness at the Darkmoon Faire Expansion and brought the Old Gods into the Battlegrounds game mode, I was excited at the thought that we could be seeing more of them in the alternative Hearthstone Gamemodes.
Even if it is fairly likely Blizzard will actually implement their own versions of the Old Gods into Mercenaries one day, I decided to make my own versions of them for the time being. Since, like with many of my custom cards, I design them around the mechanics and ideas that I would very much enjoy seeing in game. As far as their individual design goes, I made their abilities, equipment, and effects around their World of Warcraft raid boss encounters as well as their respective Hearthstone cards such as C'Thun building up its attack before bombarding the enemy, or N'Zoth flooding the board with minions. Of course it is not an exact transition of the mechanics, but like many of the existing Hearthstone cards, I tried my best to bring the ideas in with respect to how the gamemode plays.
I'll do a brief rundown of each Old God here, and how I imagine each of them plays:
C'Thun: As I stated above, the playstyle is centered around using its Eye of C'Thun to barrage the opponents, working similar to the ranged fighters dealing damage without attacking directly. Its other two abilities complement this, with Heart of C'Thun giving attack which scales incredibly well in an Aberration-based comp, and Maw of C'Thun working similar to Grommash Hellscream's Battlefury, a finisher ability used to also give a boost of attack. It takes a while to ramp up the attack like how the original C'Thun was, but if left unchecked or if protected properly, it can quickly grow out of control.
N'Zoth: Also mentioned above, N'Zoth takes a notes from its previous card versions and focuses on filling and buffing the board rather than being a direct damage attacker. The ability to get free Aberrations from Writhing Onslaught can be scary; especially alongside the Deathrattle buff from Warlord Zon'ozz. There is also Psychophage used to bolster its longevity if timed correctly. The main downside to N'Zoth is that its abilities are very slow, leaving the opponents time to quickly deal damage to it before it can start swarming the board.
Yogg-Saron: This was an interesting one, but for its abilities I went almost entirely off of its World of Warcraft encounter, turning it into a Shadow Damage combo caster. Though on the slower side, Lunatic Gaze is useful similar to Bru'kan's Lightning Bolt but debuffing the enemy instead of buffing Yogg. Its base damage is pretty low, but the repeated Shadow Weakness stacks can quickly add up, especially is used alongside other Shadow dmagae abilities. While dealing no initial damageBrain Link is good for setting up combos with your other characters since any amount of damage will automatically proc the effect. This is certainly powerful when considered alongside C'Thun.Influence Tentacle is a support ability that works as a pseudo Taunt, absorbing damage from your other Aberrations and buying time for their attacks. I made Yogg's weakness to be that it is mainly a combo and utility based caster, usually setting up its allies for success. I feel leaving Yogg for last is generally a good call, since isn't much it can do all alone.
Y'Shaarj: I tried to do justice to the original Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound by giving it an ability that summons a copy of a Merc from your bench, turning the battle into a 4v3. I tried to design Y'Shaarj apart from the Aberration synergy of the first three and making it more of a general use Merc. Desecrate I'll admit is a bit straightforward, but can work incredibly well if its Deathblow is used properly. Heart of Y'Shaarj helps center it as a proper protector, a fast acting Taunt that can punish any low damage attacker. I feel this would be pretty powerful in PvE with proper healing support."
Mercenaries is a VERY different beast compared to anything else in Hearthstone. What new obstacles do you have to consider when you make cards for the mode?
Zozoth: "My experience with custom Hearthstone creation is either individual cards for fun or those designed for an expansion card set with a general theme connecting most of them. The Old Gods were made with a similar mindset for the latter, with me thinking on how to make their individual abilities work together as well as the minion type synergy many of the Mercenaries in the mode have; this time using the 'Aberration' or creature of the Void as they are considered in World of Warcraft. The good thing about Mercenaries as it is now is that it is a very new mode with a very small amount of existing ideas. This made it much easier to compare my ideas for ability damage and speed with those actually in the game.
Another thing to consider when making custom mercenaries is the 'interactive' factor. For me, this was basically taking my custom mercs and asking myself if I would have fun playing against them. Nowadays, traditional Hearthstone has a lot of 'unknown' factors, with the plethora of Discover and randomly generated resources. But if you go back to Hearthstone Classic, you will see that everything was much more controlled; with players only having what was initially in their decks to win. This idea is why I designed the Yogg-Saron mercenary the way I did. While initially I did want a callback to the hearthstone cards and all the randomness and madness they bring, the more I planned for it, the harder it became to implement healthily. The reason I believe the original Yogg-Saron was effective and acceptable (to a certain degree) was because Hearthstone had progressed around three years into its lifetime, with a lot of things changing since its inception. The same can be said here; since the mode is so new, the damage and speed calculations are exact, barring some 50/50 speed ties of course. The point is that both players in the PvP mode (or even just the one in PvE) choose their moves and targets with precision. For example, when you want to take out a 20 health enemy Xyrella, use a combination of attacks equal to 20 damage or more, or 10 if you have a fighter Merc with a speed that beats her own abilities'. While randomness, could be a fun addition later down the line, the mode is too young for a mercenary to have a 'random' ability style. Instead, I made Yogg's abilities almost entirely based on its World of Warcraft encounter; allowing the player more control of the outcomes."
Given that this is one, if not the first, custom sets of cards for Mercenaries, is there a desire to claim the "first" big fan-made creation of the game? Are you hoping for this to set a quality of standard for future Mercenaries creations?
Zozoth: "While it would be a fun title for me to claim if this is indeed the first fan-made "set" for Mercenaries, it was not the reason I made the set. I will admit that I did try to finish these ideas as soon as possible, because as more and more people would begin to make custom Mercenaries, it would be harder to come up with original ideas for the mercs' abilities. Another reason I wanted to complete this set early was so that on the chance that Blizzard did release playable Old Gods mercenaries, I would be able to brag that I had my version complete first and can make comparisons. As far as this set being a quality of standard, I'm a little unsure. I'll say that it will be nice for others to look to my set for inspiration to make their own sets for other existing World of Warcraft or Hearthstone groups such as the other Elemental Lords or the League of Explorers but to be seen as the quality of standard is a bit bold for someone like me, but I really do appreciate the thought if anyone considers this as such!"
Do you have anything behind the scenes that you wish to share?
Zozoth: "Nothing major this time, really. I tried to use the existing Hearthstone and World of Warcraft arts for the three portraits used by each merc, only to find out that Y'Shaarj only had two; the original Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound and the Darkmoon Faire's Y'Shaarj, the Defiler. So please Blizzard, release a new Y'Shaarj skin for Battlegrounds! I would very much appreciate it. "
Do you have anything else you wish to share?
Zozoth: "Not much, other than a little self-plug: If you did enjoy these Mercenaries and their designs, come check out the other sets I've worked on, such as Maiden Voyage of the Exodar, a complete space travel Hearthstone set I made with a friend, or Gunslingers of Westfall which I did in a collab group."
And that will conclude this particular installment. Did this inspire you to try your own designs for Mercenaries? I'll be very happy to see more of them and showcase more of them here on this series. You can check out the entire sets of everything for these Mercenaries by clicking the banner down below (even though they're all already here in the article, but the banner link is part of the tradition for this series!)