Welcome back to another Fan Community Spotlight. We've got an interesting one for you today. Today, I've got ShadowsOfSense, the Hearthstone Community manager of the site, long time staff member and fan content curator. Yeah, that guy. The guy who always has some kind of turtle as his avatar. What I'm going to be showcasing here is his custom core Priest set, consisting of several actual cards (a first for this series) and new cards.
Blizzard employees have admitted in the past that Priest's core set may end up needing a complete overhaul rather than simply a few card changes. Ever since Standard rotation existed in the game with Whispers of the Old Gods, Priest's core set problems have become apparent and under discussion in the community.
Let's see how Shadows decides to handle Anduin's evergreen set.
A lot of cards ended up being cut. What happened here?
Shadows: "Of the 25 cards in the Basic and Classic set, I cut just over half of them. I started from a simple position; look at all the cards and remove the very worst of them. The whole goal of this was to improve the Priest’s Basic and Classic set, so it made sense to look for the worst cards they had and just drop them.
There are certainly ways that I could have tried to buff the cards, but I didn’t want to tweak cards too much – I can understand that some people may want to play with these cards in the future, no matter how bad, and some of them would require so much balancing that they might not resemble what they once were anymore. The cards I deemed ‘too bad’ were Radiance, Mind Vision, Holy Nova, Shadowform and Mindgames. As much as I like some of these effects – Shadowform especially – they just aren’t good cards, and require too much support to be worth keeping.
Next to go were the ‘too good’ cards. This is a very nebulous area – a lot of the reason these cards might be too good involves the direction I wanted to take the class, and so in theory some of them could have been kept in a different reimagining. Not for mine, though. Both Inner Fire and Divine Spirit got the axe, because Priest needs to learn how to win games without it, and Northshire Cleric took a hit as well. Cleric I went back and forth on, but eventually decided that if it stayed it was going to get hit like Mana Wyrm and so many others before it, and I didn’t want Wild players to lose that.
The final five cards I removed were all in the vein of shaping Priest in a different direction. Prophet Velen and Holy Smite bit the ‘please do something other than combo’ bullet; Lightspawn and Lightwell already lost a lot of their synergy and were on the weaker side, so got removed to make room for better, more on-point cards; Auchenai Soulpriest is just a card I personally dislike, and it ends up being quite anti-synergistic with the direction I was pushing, so it got rotated out too."
It wouldn't be an FCS without some of your own cards, so let's see them. What were your goals for each of them?
Shadows: "Several of the cards I created were intended to fulfil similar roles to some of the removed cards, but tweaked enough that just altering the original card would feel like straying too far from its original idea. Holy Alignment takes the place of Holy Smite – no longer able to hit face directly, something I wanted to avoid (following the example of the rotation of Mind Blast) but with the compensation of a small healing option. Meeting of Minds replaces Mind Vision – a more powerful effect, but on a much more expensive card, meaning the effect can still be played around with and beefed up in expansion cards. Prosper in Peace plays the role of Northshire Cleric – card draw for being healthy, but less abusable by being one-and-done.
Barrier Priest and Power Word: Barrier give Priest access to a new tool – the Animated Armor effect of reducing all damage to 1. I’m very pleased how well this works in terms of relating to the actual WoW skill, and I like that it opens up more options for what Priest can do to protect its minions as opposed to just healing or gaining Health.
Battle Medic and Soul Survivor show off what Priest can be allowed to do when Divine Spirit and Inner Fire are no longer a consideration. Instead of relying on combo pieces to give them strong minions, Priest can just… have beefy minions. Soul Survivor is even a little understatted, but as a Basic minion I’m okay with that. I imagine that going forward with this set you’d see expansion cards of a similar quality across all mana costs."
What identity were you going for?
Shadows: "The Priest I envision is the king of the board. I want them to play minions that stick, and then heal them up while they remove their opponent’s minions, either through their traditional kill spells like the Shadow Words, by stealing them, or by just straight up outliving them in fights.
Their win condition is no longer finding their Velen and the right burst spells, or assembling some out-of-nowhere Ex-boar-dia. Now they deal with the board efficiently and whittle their opponent down over time with their newly allowed stronger minions."
A few cards from future expansions are rotated into the set. Did these cards just happen to fit in perfectly with what you were trying to do?
Shadows: "For the seven Classic cards that I removed, the first thing I did was look to existing sets to see what was already available to me. Work smarter, not harder, right? There’s no point in spending time trying to design a card to fit a role if one already exists. I didn’t do the same for the Basics because I didn’t want to change any rarities where possible – I also didn’t want to even begin to think about what kind of compensation players might be owed for stuff like that.
I knew I wanted a strong, low-cost spell that could deal with minions early on – Penance was a perfect fit. Not too strong, but something you’d feel good about including in your deck. As I was including Lifesteal, I also took the time to throw Holy Fire a small buff and change it to have Lifesteal as well. Why not, right?
I needed a strong midgame board clear. There are a lot of options available to Priest for this, mainly because their previous board clear was so bad and they needed to keep updating it. I narrowed it down to two candidates – Lightbomb or Mass Hysteria. The other options either came too early or late, or featured mechanics that didn’t feel right to me (like Dragonfire Potion's Dragon-synergy, or Excavated Evil’s shuffling). Between Lightbomb and Mass Hysteria, I felt Mass Hysteria hit the appropriate power level for me, coming in as sort of like Brawl. I changed the art on a whim when someone suggested the current art didn’t feel super appropriate for the Classic set flavour-wise.
Embrace the Shadow is in to replace Auchenai Soulpriest. I quite like the mechanic but having it on a body is awkward when so much of what I’m trying to do revolves around trying to keep your minions alive. Making it a one-and-done works much better with the set I planned out.
Finally, Darkshire Alchemist is just… a solid card. A strong heal, and it works nicely with a lot of what I’ve introduced: it combos well with Embrace; it heals Soul Survivor a decent chunk; it itself has a fairly large body, just enough to get maximum value from a Circle of Healing. It felt like an obvious inclusion."
Do you have anything behind the scenes you want to share?
Shadows: "Talking with others when designing the set was invaluable to me. Alonsus Faol is a great example – this started out as Catrina Muerte, since I felt she was the most Classic-appropriate legendary that Priest had already. She represented the Resurrect mechanic in a good, but not overpowered or particularly abusable way. However, it was pointed out to me that in addition to not everyone liking Resurrect as much as me, Catrina Muerte was also a super weird flavour fit. Since I didn’t want to reskin her – similar to buffs/nerfs, I wouldn’t want people to ‘lose’ a card like that – I’d need to create something new.
The effect came quickly. A strong heal like this one isn’t what you’d call a traditional ‘finisher’ as Classic legendaries tend to be, but it plays well with the gameplan of the class and would allow you to overwhelm an opponent far more easily. I struggled to come up with an appropriate character for it, though, due to my very barebones knowledge of WoW lore. It was initially Queen Moira, because that was a character I was familiar with through Hearthstone. I was quickly saved and informed of the importance of Alonsus Faol – not a character that I knew, but one that others would.
I also ended up rebalancing quite a few things; my love of Ice Block shone through in the first revision of the Barrier mechanic, for example, letting it target your hero and annoyingly buy you a turn. That was almost definitely too good, especially not in an expansion. Never shy away from honest criticism; a fresh pair of eyes will spot flaws that you've managed to tune out in pursuit of a particularly good bit of flavour, or a faulty comparison to existing balance."
What design philosophies do you have? What do you wish to spread to future creators?
Shadows: "I think the most important philosophy I have when designing cards is to push the boundaries whenever you can, wherever you can.
Something like this – redesigning a Class’s Basic and Classic set – is all about pushing and prodding the edges of what you think should be allowed and reigning in what you think maybe shouldn’t. It’s an obvious example, but it carries over into every other thing I’ve ever done in custom cards.
One expansion I made a while back and would like to revisit to rebalance involved playing with giving Classes access to keywords and effects traditionally from other classes – how do you flavour Enrage (RIP) in Druid? What might a Rogue do with Overload? That challenge of making them feel appropriate in their new home was exceptionally fun, and really helps you understand why some classes can do things that others definitely shouldn’t.
Never be afraid to do something weird with your flavour, either. Some of the most interesting cards I’ve seen have come from attempts to faithfully recreate mechanics from non-WoW sources – Overwatch Heroes or Pokemon or even other card games, anything that inspires you to create is awesome!"
Do you have anything else you wish to share?
Shadows: I’ll make no claims about producing any other finished products anytime soon – I’ve fallen into that trap far too many times before – but I will say that I have at least four expansions and a class kicking about, waiting for me to find the time to come back to them. Hopefully I can share them with you all at some point, because I love everything about them so far.
Other than that, I’m excited to see what other people come up with this year! We’ve got so many mechanics now and I love seeing how people still find new areas to explore. Hell, maybe some of you can take a crack at fixing Priest up – I’d love to know how others would like the class to evolve."
Here's the final result in the end:
What do you guys think about Shadows' overhaul of the core Priest set? Let us know in the comments.