With the reveal season for the upcoming March of the Lich King expansion being put on hold due to the Death Knight Preview Showmatch (which, by the way, did not really stop previously unknown cards from randomly showing up both across Day 1 and Day 2), Hearthstone Game Designer Chadd "Celestalon" Nervig took some time to share more dedicated insights regarding the new set - including Team 5's goals with certain classes and how the new cards work or actually came to be.

This new series - dubbed "Behind the Cards" and teased as a possibility a little while ago - was partially featured on the official Hearthstone Twitter, and might even become a staple going forward. Following that particular inspiration, in this article we've collected all of Celestalon's recent insights (plus some bonus commentary by another designer, Leo Robles) on Paladin, a class whose main focus in March of the Lich King will be on Blood Elves and Dragons. We expect more of these "behind the scenes" thoughts to follow in the near future! 

If you'd like to read more of such Dev Insights, we've also created a new relevant content tag, which can be accessed by clicking the banner below - whenever we'll publish other articles like this one, they will appear there as well! Including some of our coverage from the past. 

Paladin - Design Goals and Themes

Starting with some flavor, Paladin's set for March of the Lich King was designed in order to showcase the Blood Knights, the Paladin equivalent of the Blood Elves. This order of knights was led by none other than Lady Liadrin, appearing in this expansion as a class Legendary together with her "Blood Matriarch" title.

Blood Matriarch Liadrin Card Image

However, Blood Knights are not your ordinary Paladins! First of all, their relationship with the Light is vastly different, as they used to wield it in a rather unorthodox way. To be specific, Blood Knights would siphon their powers directly from M'uru, a captive Naaru kept imprisoned beneath Silvermoon.

While this method was effective in the way that it didn't require one to have faith in the Light, it was generally deemed to be unethical and was rather testing, if not straight up painful, for those invoking their power this way. Pain for gain, we might say: something that a portion of the new Paladin cards depicts very well.

Sanguine Soldier Card Image Seal of Blood Card Image Blood Crusader Card Image

Quote From Celestalon

A big goal for us with Paladin in this set was to highlight the Blood Knights, the Paladins of the Blood Elves (not to be confused with Blood Death Knights, unrelated).

They approach swinging the light in a very different way, and don’t ascribe to the altruism of other Paladins. We wanted to reflect that by pushing outside the norm of what style of mechanics Paladin usually gets, with things like self-damage, health costs, etc.

Anachronos - Clarifications on the Card’s Functionality

Among the revealed Paladin cards, one stood out for the quite unconventional text box: we're talking about the new Legendary Dragon Anachronos! In this article section we're going to cover how this minion came to life, as well as how its Battlecry works.

Anachronos Card Image

Starting from the beginning, Hearthstone Game Designer Leo Robles explained that Anachronos' design came to life thanks to a group effort: in fact, Leo couldn't come up with a Legendary Dragon for Paladin by himself, so Celestalon and Rahul Nagarkar (Software Engineer at Blizzard working on Hearthstone) stepped in and... the rest is history!

Quote From Leo Robles

Fun fact: this design came about because i could not for the life of me think of a cool Legendary Paladin Dragon, so i went to bug Celestalon IN PERSON!!! (this was during the start of RTO [Return To Office], so it was a big deal), then Rahul Nagarkar [Software Engineer at Blizzard working on Hearthstone] came over and pitched basically this as an idea

I was like "oooo that sounds neat. but what does that mean" and Rahul shrugged LOL. We figured out what it means (they disappear, then reappear 2 turns later) and it turns out its a preeeetty sweet card! This was iirc the first in-person-candid-brainstorm design I was a part of :D

With this special tidbit committed to memory, how does Anachronos' Battlecry actually work? Tough question, but here's a summary of interactions you should be aware of, coming directly from Celestalon and Leo Robles.

  • Anachronos' Battlecry works life The Amazing Reno's, except it lasts only for two turns.
    • Minions will disappear during the turn you play Anachronos, during your opponent's turn, during your next turn and during your opponent's next turn.
  • Minions will reappear at the start of your second turn since you played Anachronos.
  • When they return, they will count as being summoned, so they won't be able to attack right away, unless they have Rush or Charge.
  • If the board got crowded in the meantime, any minions that can't fit won't return in play.
    • They won't die, so nor Deathrattles neither death related effects will be triggered.
    • They'll just keep drifting in the flow of endless time!
  • Removed minions will reappear following the order in which they appeared on the board.

Quote From Celestalon

In all of our research testing, this always polled as the most exciting individual textbox in the set. I love when we can put words on a textbox that people would never think to imagine.

What does this card's effect actually do?

All other minions disappear, then reappear 2 turns later.

Ooooohm nice one. And if board is full in 2 turns, they're destroyed, right? ( Not 'poof' gone like Reno, the Nathria mage spell, etc )

Disappearing is a poof, they're just gone. If the board is full when they come back, they just don't come back.

Quote From Celestalon

When do minions return? Start of the paladin's turn? End? Can they attack immediately?

Start. They do count as being summoned, so cannot attack immediately.

Thanks. 1 last question (hopefully). Does the turn counter count your opponent's turn, so that they resummon the paladin's very next turn?

No, 2 of your turns.

Quote From Leo Robles and Celestalon

Leo Robles - think of Reno *poof*, EXCEPT that they get un-poofed in 2 turns

But if there’s no space they die and run Deathrattle?

Celestalon - No death/deathrattle if they can't fit. They're just lost in time.

Quote From Celestalon

Are there any visual indicators for the disappeared cards? And is the order random?

There is a pretty visual when they disappear, and when they reappear. There's no 'placeholder' or anything. Order is in order of play.

Dragons Are Shapeshifters, Ya Know?

Finally, a note regarding more the cosmetic side of things rather than their balance: as Celestalon confirmed on Twitter, Timewarden received a last-minute card change. 

Timewarden Card Image

Quote From Celestalon

Slight correction on one of today's reveals: You may notice different art on Timewarden between the reveal video and the card library website. The website is correct.

Late in development, we swapped the art between Timewarden and the token summoned by Flight of the Bronze, in order to make Timewarden vs Daring Drake more visually distinct.

Almost Made It, But Not Quite

Speaking of Paladin, Celestalon pointed out that there's a certain Neutral card which was initially planned to go into the Paladin set, but it ultimately didn't make the cut: we're talking about Amber Whelp!

Amber Whelp Card Image

The reason behind this choice is simple: although Amber Whelp is thematically associated with the Bronze Dragons, which do appear in Paladin's set, Team 5 wanted to give every class some Dragon support in the form of a Neutral for potential archetypes that may need it in the future.

For this reason, it is very likely we may see Amber Whelp being played alongside Anachronos, but at the same time there's a chance some other classes will use it!

Quote From Celestalon

(1/2) This started in Paladin during development, but we moved it to Neutral. #BehindTheCards

(2/2) It’s still thematically associated with the Bronze Dragons in Paladin from this set, and will likely see play there. But putting it in Neutral plants a seed for other potential Dragon archetypes in future expansions.

Did you like these insights? Are you excited for the new expansion? Let us know in the comments below!