Hello everybody and welcome to the first Fan Community Spotlight after the end of our fifth season of WCDC. The season may be over, but every voice matters, so if you still need to tell us anything that we need to know about improving it, then be sure to tell us in our WCDC Season 5 Feedback Thread.
But that isn't the main focus of this article. We're here to talk about the art. Specifically, card making which is a form of art in itself. I mention this because Art is the person we've brought to the center stage to talk about a custom expansion titled Trouble in Thunder Bluff. In Warcraft, Thunder Bluff is a capital city for Tauren under the rulership of Baine Bloodhoof. Tauren in general have been represented in Hearthstone quite a fair amount, but they're one of several races/species in the game without their own tribal mechanic. Until now that is. Trouble in Thunder Bluff introduces the Tauren as a new minion type, and their signature mechanic is synergy with locations.
But because this is Hearthstone where we like to get a little bit wacky at times, Thunder Bluff isn't merely just a city of Tauren in this set. Instead, it's the base of Toki's role-playing game and she's playing her Thunder Bluff campaign with some familiar faces. Classes will get some cards that refer to various aspects of playing role-playing games. Check out Defeat the Boss as an example.
In the set is also the new Ability (X) mechanic. Minions with an Ability will add a card to your hand with the Ability effect. They are cast like spells, however they are not strictly spells as they do not benefit from Spell Damage or trigger any spell synergies. If the minion they belong to dies before you play the Ability card, then you lose it. The number in the purple circle at the bottom-right of the card represents the Health of the minion it belongs to, which can be quite useful if you have multiple of the same Ability minion on the board at once.
Let's bring the center of attention over to Art to tell us how this set came to be how it is.
What exactly is this set about? What is the inspiration for the set theme?
Art: "This is a set about Toki, who plays with well-known Azeroth characters at her favorite rpg (role-playing game) campaign, Trouble in Thunder Bluff (which is the name of the set). The set used to be just a Thunder Bluff set, then I added the Venture Company twist. But there was something missing, and I remembered a game I played this year, Tiny Tina's Wonderland, which is a spin-off of the Borderlands serie in which the characters are playing at an rpg. It was perfect to justify the whole scenario. For the game master, I immediately thought of Toki.
She's a fun character, and her time travel ability is perfect for a game master."
What are the inspirations behind the Ability mechanic and to introduce a new tribe?
Art: "The ability mechanic is probably the thing that came at the whole end, and forced my to redesign a lot of things in the set.
It wasn't originally supposed to be this keyword, but valiance, which triggered an effect if the right-most card in your hand costs less than the card you're playing. Then i thought about that old keyword that I created a while ago, and it was really nice-fitting.
The abilities are an important part of rpgs, they define the characters, represents what they can and can't do.
For the new type of minion, the taurens, it was originally just a small shaman set that I've created a year ago (without even the tauren tribe), after i finished my previous set, Memories of Ashenvale, which was supposed to introduced the locations. When the locations were introduced in hearthstone in murder at castle Nathria, i immediately took those old designs and adapted them to the new system of locations. As well as pirates usually upgrades weapons, i thought that locations needed a type of minions that work with them, and the story and culture of the taurens fits perfectly that type of card."
What part of the set was the most fun to design?
Art: "I think the part that i liked the most was the legendary players creation. There is one in each class, and i wanted them to be as unique as possible
With each player comes a role-playing spell, that refers to a specific action of role playing games. For example, one my favorite spells is character creation, in warlock it brings a new mechanic for warlock, the bog monsters. It's like Kazakus, Golem Shaper, but you always select a 5-drop. You can choose its stats, and to it a passive effect, and a battlecry or deathrattle
All of these spells support their respective player, that's why Nemsy, the warlock legendary, as well as creating a bog monster sets the cost of your bog monsters to 1!
First you select an Origin, then a Signature spell, and finally a statline.
Another part of the set that i liked are the rites. In the tauren culture, the young taurens have to perform the Rites of the Earthmother to become braves. In the set, there are 5 of them, each rite grants a bonus to a friendly minion and the minion at the top of your deck. Cycles are a great way to introduce the tauren culture through this set."
Are there any other cards you wish to showcase for any reason?
Art: "Yeah! Here are my favorite cards in the set:
-First, the Venture Company package. It was hard to find the right balance, because we all know how rogue can become a monster with 0 cost cards. It's a mix between a synergy of coins and the si:7 deck. The more coins you play, the better your cards get.
-For hunter, i wanted to try some new synergies, and Brann is by far one of those cards that are hard to balance. Inspired by Magtheridon, the goal of this deck is to fill your opponent's board with 1/1 spiders, and to come back with a huge board swing thanks to spider's nest and Brann, Fearless Adventurer. I think it would be extremely fun to play this deck, we never had that in the game.
-In mage, there is a whole alchemical spell package. The main synergy there is the alchemist's creation, that revives itself with permanent +1/+1 each time you cast an alchemical spell
And with Apothecary Mal'Vax that summons two of these, your can come up with a strong late game!
-As a huge fan of Mechs decks, i have to speak about Mech warrior. I was searching a new identiy to mech warrior, which was never good outside of Dr Boom.
And i found it, it relies on buffing your mechs with cards that upgrades after each buff. My favorite one is thunder spear, it's weak at sart, but it fastly becomes a pile of stats to give to your mechs. With all that package you can have a strong finish by giving +4/+4 or even +5/+5 to your mechs in a single turn!
-And, finally, Toki. She perfectly represents what's the spirit of this set, an adventure with a lot of choices! All the 4 quests can be completed in most of decks, without a specific deckbuilding, but some decks will be able to complete them faster than the others. It's definitely a card that rewards good players."
Interviewer's note: Toki is given to all players as a free Legendary.
Do you have anything behind the scenes that you wish to share?
Art: "Yes, I've already shared some things, but I have a few more anecdotes. First of all, the Toki quests represent each of my previous 4 sets.
The names of the quests and their effects are mostly references to mechanics present in those sets.
The priest was a pain to design, it was the last class I finished because I had no idea what to do with the tauren in that class.
I think Tahu Sagewind is the thing that ties everything together, and it's a great way to stabilize a deck, without always having the same starting hand.
And finally, Jevan Grimtotem was supposed to be a neutral card for the mini-set, but ended up being a legendary shaman, replacing Magatha, which will also be in the mini-set."
How long have you been making your own cards? What design philosophies do you have that you wish to share and spread to new creators?
Art: "I've been making my Hearthstone cards for 4 years, but I've been making cards since I was a kid. I've designed a few games on my own and it's a cool way to get creative and bring worlds to life.
Some of my Hearthstone cards are inspired by cards I designed for other games!
Most of the time, the best idea is the craziest one, because no one thought of it. Who would have thought of a set depicting Toki playing with 10 famous characters in an rpg campaign about the taurens attacked by the venture company?
And I think that's why Hearthstone is surprising with its expansions, because nobody thought that Dr. Boom would build a whole lab in Netherstorm.
In terms of card design, I think the best cards are the ones that create the situations, more than the ones that follow them.
For example, a great card in my deck would be Monstrosity Torn by War. After playing this card, the next few turns will be completely different, and your opponent will have to change their game plans to avoid your threat."
Do you have anything else you wish to share?
Art: "I don't have a lot of time to make Hearthstone cards now, but this was definitely one of my best sets. I still have to release the mini-set now, but it'll come very soon. Maybe it's already out while people are reading this, who knows?"
We have now reached the end of the article, but our adventures in Thunder Bluff as part of Toki's little game are far from over. In fact, they're just beginning, and you can continue by clicking the banner down below.