Designer Insights with Ben Brode: Basic Cards

Greetings! My name is Ben Brode
and I have a topic I wanted to discuss because I did a video recently on the new player experience
and power creep. I read a lot of the comments
on that video and noticed… …first of all some great suggestions… for ways we can approach
this problem which I super appreciate. But also, a comment that
I saw again and again, which was -You talk a good talk, Brode but then you go ahead
and print Ice Rager and Evil Heckler and Dr. Boom and those are stricly better than cards
that already exist in the game. That’s like
direct power creep and you did not have to do that. So, what is going on? I think that is a good point. and I wanted to discuss
why we do that and what we were thinking And in order to do that
the first thing I want to note about all three of those comparisons is that all of them are
cards in expansions that are better than a basic card. That is an important distinction
because for us basic cards are in a really weird space. They are very different
than any other card in the game because they have a lot more roles
than any other card in the game. Basic cards are what we give you
when you first start playing Hearthstone it is our introductory
welcome to Hearthstone here is what card games are like. A lot of the people who
come to play Hearthstone they have never played a card game before and it is somewhat daunting. And we have to ease in
those players and then layer complexity
and things like secrets and windfury and triggered powers
and things like that. We layers those things on
in expansion content in the classic set
and in other sets beyond that but if you read through
the basic set cards they are incredibly simple cards like “Deal 6 damage.”
or “Taunt” it’s what we call a vanilla minion
when it has no card text. We keep those cards incredibly simple
to be that very slow learning curve for new players. We have that very big
burden of complexity for the basic set. For brand new players. When you think about
those new players if you imagine the perfect
new player experience What do you want players to feel like? How do you want to layer
all the different nuances of Hearthstone to them over time. One of the things that
hooks players the most and we see players
playing the game and they’re like – Uh! This seems really fun
I think I will play more. The moments when they feel
some form of progession The second that a player
finishes the tutorial plays a practice game
and then sees the “xp” bar filled they’re like:
-Oh, you can level up? It draws you into the game there’s goals all of a sudden.
You start feeling more powerful as you earn new cards… That feeling of incresing in power
is really compelling So if we start you off and your
very first deck contains cards like Magma Rager
which for a while had the distinct honor of being the very worst card of the game and then you open up a new card a better card in an expansion -Oh, I will take out Magma Rager
and I will put in this better card I feel more powerful
I feel like I have increased in power and I will do better! And that feeling
that emotional response to progression is super powerful
and makes the game really fun. Eventually there is not as much
of a feeling of progression as far as power. You progress
through levels and earn golden cards once you have gotten a card to
build a deck that you are excited about you are just opening more options
to build different kinds of decks and that is cool but at the very beginning
of your Hearthstone experience that feeling of progression
is pretty important. We want some of the basic cards
to be really bad… really bad to help make that feeling of progression
even stronger. But some people pointed out
that those cards are actually making it
unfair for new players New players are losing because of that. New players are losing
for more reasons than just that. They just don’t have the skill. There is a lot of things you have to learn
about Hearthstone before building a deck. The concepts of tempo
and card advantage, value… There is a lot of pieces
to becoming good at Hearthstone. Understanding the meta
what your opponent might do next turn The cards in your deck are not
the biggest reason why new players are not
winning all the games. There is lots of basic cards
that we give you we should not be playing Magma Rager
even if we did give it to you. Even if we gave you Ice Rager
or something you probably should not be playing it
even as your first deck that you are building. We do give new players
incredible cards We give new players Truesilver Champion Fireball, Frostbolt
Flamestrike… Consecrate and that is definitely intentional. We want players to have some great cards and we want high-level decks
to include basic cards also Just because there are bad cards
in the basic set it does not mean that
we are trying to make sure that we give players
really bad cards to start out with. That is not our intention. But we do also want
them to feel a feeling of progression and to learn: -What card should I
put in my deck and there is some good choices
some bad choices some of them are obvious actually
at the beginning of the new player’s experience. And that is important
to have some obvious choices because deck building is certainly
not obvious to new players. When they get into the deck builder
there is a lot of cards and deciding which 30 go into your deck a lot of people do
really badly. In fact, when we did some analytics New players who built their own decks did worse than if they just said
-Build me a random deck. and let it do it for them
they would end up winning more. It’s something that new players
really struggle with we want to have some ways
where you can learn how to do that better. Just hidden in the cards
when you are looking through your deck and trying to figure out
what to add to it. How this all relate to power creep is that when you see cards
like Magma Rager and then Ice Rager it looks like we just made
a card that is strictly better it’s more powerful
is not that power creep? To me, is not necessarily
power creep. To me, you can tell if power creep
is occurring if the decks that people are playing
if the meta gets more powerful.
That is the output of power creep. Is that people are playing
more powerful decks. Just because we made a card
that is more powerful if it does not get played
in any decks in the meta it has no effect on the overall
power level of the game. And so, I don’t believe
that cards like Ice Rager do represent any actual
power creep. Dr. Boom is better than War Golem and Dr. Boom does
represent power creep he is being played a lot
in high-level decks. His existence has increased
the power level of the game but it has nothing to do with War Golem War Golem could not exist and
he would still get played in high-level decks. War Golem is bad because it’s bad. It has nothing to do with Dr. Boom They should not necessarily be looked at
through a lens together. Dr. Boom does not represent
power creep because War Golem exists. War Golem is just bad, it was never played and it was not like people
took out War Golem for Dr. Boom. If you think about it if we have a cool idea for a card it’s a three mana, 5 one
and it has got some benefit like stealth or
some other cool thing. The question is:
-Should we be allowed to make that card? And I think the answer is yes. We should be able to explore
new versions of basic cards because they are so bad
there is lots of room here to explore lots of other designs
with those stats… with some upside. So just because we made Ice Rager
or Evil Heckler it does not actually mean that
we are power creeping the game. Those new cards do not get played anyway. It is just that we are
exploring new space. We are trying new
card designs out and it is ok that they are
better than basic cards. Basic cards have a very specific role they are really working at
building the simplicity and progression feeling
for new players. So anyway, I hope that gives you
a little bit of insight into basic cards as to how we percieve basic cards the role that
we imagine they play for new players
for Hearthstone. And how, even though, we make
strictly better versions of those in expansions it does not really necessarily
represent power creep. I hope this is a good insight
into the way we think about cards, and basic cards
and powe creep and I am going to do
some more videos soon to cover even crazier topics
than basic cards. Thanks for watching.
I appreciate it.

100 thoughts on “Designer Insights with Ben Brode: Basic Cards

  1. "And we do give new players incredible cards" names mage and paladin cards only
    Obvious he won't list a few per class but the fact that the first "good cards" to come to mind are limited is the issue.

  2. Again, thank you for your honesty! I for one really appreciate your approach when it comes to addressing player's concerns. I also happen to agree with your vision for the Basic cards and how better stat cards don't necessarily mean power creep. Good video!

  3. Tavern Brawl idea:
    Kel'Thuzad VS Arch Thief Rafam
    Kel'Thuzad hero power; summon ice rager then after armor destroyed, hero power becomes summon an ice rager and freeze your opponent
    can't think of anything for Rafam hero power though…

  4. Probably could have nerfed warsong commander still by instead giving it

    Battlecry: Your adjacent minions with 3 (or even 4) attack or less are granted charge this turn. Reword it in such a way that it only gives it to a maximum of those two minions.

  5. hearthstone is a pay to win if it wasnt it would be 100% better than today because it would be based on strategy not on how much u pay

  6. I think what is most upsetting about cards like Dr. Boom is that they're strictly better than any other 7 drop in the game.. particularly the legendaries.
    Almost every single deck archetype can get away with running Dr Balanced. Control gains more board control, aggro gains more threat. If you're losing he can help you clear the board and rubber band back into the game. If you're winning he can be a nail in the coffin. So many other legendaries are simply UNPLAYABLE because they simply don't do enough. Even if countered by big game hunter, you still get two boom bots… I dont know if he needs to be nerfed, but he stands out SO FAR comparatively because by not running him, you're at a huge disadvantage. He's single handedly the best 7 drop.

  7. Ben, please make video on Arena:
    1) Blizzard's position on arena – what does arena mean to you; what does it mean for arena to be balanced; how balanced is arena at the moment.
    2) Effect of recent releases on arena
    3) Power creep in arena (if any)
    4) Effect of RNG in arena. Also, effect of having very good and very bad cards of the same cost

  8. one of the reasons dr. boom is a bad card for new players becase it is legendary and is really hard to get. once they understand it they are very likely to want it but will be unable to get it. I'm no expert, but I think it might scare people off when so powerful cards are unavailable to them but readily available to their opponents. a good way to fix this would probably be an easy way for new players to get powerful cards without making too complicated. Dr. boom isn't actually that hard to understand once you've seen it played

  9. You make decent basic cards, but not for all classes like warlock and rogue. They can be the most complicated to play with and some of the class cards are so dumb.

  10. I feel it's just more lazy design. Ooo, we added 1 health to a magma rager and now we'll call it a ice rager, but doesn't change the fact the card still sucks.

  11. This wouldn't be as big of an issue if the matchmaking system was improved.

    Maybe give dust cost of deck and time played vs time off more weight in casual.

    letting players who haven't played in a long time (more than a month) dump all there rank would be nice as well

  12. What i thinkg about bad cards … they are needed so the rng effects such as shredder/summoning stone , portal … are not as strong , they can be but the also carry a risk so making bad cards is also a way to "nerf" rng cards which are a bit too strong . (example: murloc tinyfin is strictly better than wisp , BUT it makes murloc knight worse) . But i would love to see Boom nerfed ( i have him but it jsut feels too boring to expect and have that card in almost every deck )

  13. the cards that were power creeped weren't played anyway. who played magma rager and bbb or war golem? no one.
    all TCGs and CCGs work that way. you pay to get new cards. actually hearthstone lets you not pay at all and get good decks. for example I play since August and have mech shaman totem shaman and oil rogue. so …

  14. "Damage Control with Ben Brode" :p

    The reasoning is valid for a RPG where you forget your starting gear as soon as you find something better but I think that makes little sense here. That would mean that player will have useless cards in their collection. It would make more sense to upgrade, even in a small way, a card that has become useless so it remains viable in some decks. It just gives a penalty to new players and a useless thing for experimented ones.

  15. A ton of things to learn about hearthstone ?Hunter as a class would like a word with you Ben.Go face and ignore the rest,such a wonder class design.

  16. I honestly think you should include these cards as basic cards in order to help new players. The decks are just more powerful than before and basic cards are still just as awful. Then new players can learn that 4 ragers are just as bad as 2.

  17. I think the issue is that it increases the number of bad cards available in the game, rather than just buffing the existing card. People want the highest number of playable cards possible, to increase the number of viable decks and for the random minion pulls and arena. If instead of printing a strictly better card, the old one was buffed up, I feel that kinda works out better for everyone,because releasing a strictly better card is an admission that the exiting card was underpowered and it would be very possible (and in fact, much easier) to buff that underpowered card rather than release a new one, and make those cards a little more competitive.

    New players are still picking bad cards anyway; why not give them options that are OK and better, rather than terrible? I don't think that would have a negative effect on people's learning experiences and eliminates a bunch of cards that by your own admission are too weak to be useful in the game.

  18. I wondered about that why you don't make changes in the basic set. You REALLY don't want to put cards in that set/make some of them better ? Or you think making change on an existing set would be bad?

  19. I Love Hearthstone and play it all the time. I understand it needs to make money but I fear new f2p people can not pick it up anymore, they are just falling futher behind every expansion. I'm slowly tiring of doing f2p. I just play to do my quests and have lost the playing for aspect. If I stop the daily quest my colection will no longer be refreshed and I may fall behind the meta myself. I think if hearthstone wants to be more long term (10+ years) they need to focus on making it easier for new players to have similar power decks. I know this won't happen but wish more small steps could be taken towards this.

  20. The community appreciates to hear what you guy think Mr. Brode. Keep up with the good work, since I started college, I have little time for games, but as a blizzard fan, I must be always playing something from Blizz. Hearthstone is the game that best suits my lifestyle now, thank you, and cheers from Brazil.

  21. Dammit brode, you could have just pointed at the extra credit video and said "This is why those cards exist" but no, you go into talking about how unskilled new players are.

  22. Power never exists in a vaccuum, dr.7 is powercreep because he's strictly better than any other 7 or 8 drop neutral legendary at the time of release (and even still).

  23. For new players and how to teach them deck building. Maybe you can get some ideas from Magic Duels: MAGIC THE GATHERING it is a lot more complex game than HS. They have some things very well done yet they are not even close to HS. What i mean by that is that HS is just more fun like cards animations, funny lines, battleground that you can play around while you wait 🙂
    i have to say i love that there you don't have to craft cards, cos you never get more of the same cards then you can use in one deck. i might not mind the crafting idea in HS but it is just so so slow, cos you get so little dust and that random often gives same and some more of the same cards. Any way all the best to you. And Thank you it is fun game 🙂

  24. I think the most frustrating thing on hearthstone, is lack potential of card draws in the game, like if you are not a warlock, or you build a deck totally focused on drawing cards ( A.K.A Freeze Mage) you totally lack card draws potential, rogue for example which is my favorite class in all games even on hearthstone, despite the fact that all classic rogue cards and even rogue hero power where nerf to a point that rogue is almost out of the game because it don't have consistent cards to fight on board or powerful enough to build a solid wining strategy (is almost impossible to build an wining condition or generates resources to win since you can't protect you weapon, rogues you depends of luck to draw the right cards and you opponent the wrong ones in order to give a finishing blow in most of the cases), if you build a rogue deck you down short of 4 cards because you have to put preparation+ sprint, without that the deck lack steam to keep up the plays you are always behind you opponent and needing great draws to make comebacks, is like you lost a great and fun part of the game because it's get really hard not only to rogues but to most classes to put their strategy to work, and because that almost every late game card or late game strategy gets to be inviable to play, why do i want to have a card like Arch Thief Rafaam for exemple if a secret paladin would end the game in turn 6 with mysterious challenger, or an aggro deck without any legendaries at all ( shaman is the name of the moment) would end the game even before i can fight back, even if a have a resource in my deck that would help me to counter aggressive decks the slow card draws make a huge open to that decks win before i manage to play it, you have a low number of slots in deck, low health pool and extremely fragile one since your opponent most of the time can ignore your board and go to the face, so the missing thing to get things going it's the card draw, with that players will have their resources at hand and will be a lot more fair and fun battle of who use better his cards instead of who draws better first, and mostly we will finally have a chance to actually use our late game super powerful cards instead having then rooting on collection.

  25. What about warsong commander? It comes with a complex text, and it is a terrible card. It used to not be terrible and it really messes up the warrior basic deck which is much worse than any of the other basic decks.

  26. don't give us some bullshit excuse Ben the only thing you guys at blizzard care about is money, hearthstone does not rely on skill it relies on how much money you spent on your legend ranked decks.

  27. i feel like war golem could be a 7/8 or even a 7/9 and it still wouldnt be played. but atleast it would give the new players a better chance at winning. im fine with magma rager and ice rager. those cards dont really matter. but war golem is the biggest minion you get in basic and it almost guarantees loss in late game. making it a 7/8 or a 7/9 would make it so that if the board is equal war golem could kill dr.boom and stay alive. meaning there would be some sort of play with the boombots and other minions.

    generally this upgrade would be nice seeing war golem would probbably still get 0 play at tournaments because he usually still loses in late game but it would teach the new players about board control.

    you learn by losing. but you learn nothing by getting curve stomped.

  28. Should make basic deck play styles more different too. A lot of my friends didn't get into hearthstone because they found the game too easy and their decisions being unimpactful (due to them playing basic decks against each other). They say they WOULD be interested if the decks were more challenging to play and more than just "drop this…then drop this… Then use this cos that's you're only choice". One friend was attracted by oil rogue and managed to stay and actually farm up the deck. But most just found the game too easy, unimpactful by skill in the early gameplay and are too lazy to commit that much to farm (they are all TCG players)

  29. Why not set a certain level, maybe level 10 for each class, to play against other players who are below level 10 in that class? MANY MANY GAMES have these beginner lobbies that let you still have a chance to win since no one knows how to play. AND THEN force you to enter the majority population after, forcing them to learn. But this way the players feel rewarded and more likely to continue playing

  30. I created a basic deck for my wife to get her hearthstone hunter from 1-10. Listed the deck on hearthhead. Still get upvotes on it. It was a deck that won.

  31. Regarding Mr. Brode's discussioon on slowly ramping up newer players. To truly do this, basic only, classic only, etc. modes are going to be necessary. Even though the player can play against the innkeeper, the moment they want to move on, they've only encountered basic cards, with simple text. That's all they've seen, however the opponents will not be using these basic cards actually increasing the barrier of entry to multiplayer.

  32. Please allow us to have like 4 decks per character or something like that. It doesn't have to be infinite, but we should be able to have at least a few for each character.

  33. "I wanted to talk about why we do that, and what we were thinking".Money. We were thinking making more cards better than old cards would let us make more money. So.. yeah.. Money.

  34. So the cards do not matter to new players? Take 2 new players and have one spend a bunch of money and have them play a bunch of games against each other. Which do you think will win more? The player that spends the money will have way better cards and will win 90% of the games. I disagree Ben Brode. I don't think they should have made the Ice Rager and just buffed the magma rager up!

  35. Evil heckler and Ice rager are complex? I think that their is already a lot pf progression in hearthstone. You don't need to add more power creep. It's a waste of design space. You can use those images for other card texts. You are correct though. If it doesn't affect the game the card is pointless. But because it is pointless, don't limit your design space.

  36. How are you trying new designs out if the cards aren't even being played. I think Kripp has a point when he says that you guys should change unused cards.

  37. Yes yes yes, basically we need to make some bad basic cards so new players buy packs and we need filler cards for new expansions so people need to … you guessed it buy more packs.

  38. It's not power creep when you take an unused card and make it better, without making it better than everything else. Power creep it things like Piloted Shredder. It's what every other four-drop has to be compared with. Dr. Boom might be a power creep, but Evil Heckler and Ice Rager are certainly not power creeps. If you don't know anything about the "mechanics" behind balancing power in games, please don't make claims for something to be nerfed and start an outrage. I would suggest to pay a visit to the channel Extra Credits. They've got a few great videos about this topic.

  39. Just print a Rager Queen that spits out a Rager every end turn. Opinions will change. Btw, y'all doing a fine job, in my book. Room for improvements, tho. Keep at it.

  40. Even though I don't wholeheartedly agree with the game design choices, I am happy that the HS team puts the effort in to reach out to the community.

  41. i love hearing insight into the reasons things are deigned…. not only as an aspiring designer, but also as a player…. plus, i think it helps the community as a whole… lets be honest, there is a high level of complaining in the online gaming world… and videos like this can assist in quelling some of the reasons they have to complain by adding a new level of general understanding as to why things are they way they are. Very well done.

  42. I wouldn't say daunting so much as kinda annoyed while many legendaries fit very specific decks and require a lot of skill and planning to pull off some are really just ridiculously good in any situation like Dr Boom who is okay even if BGHed described as " It has the almost unique trait of being good in almost any position, able to continue pressure when you are ahead, break a board in your favour when even, or catch you up when behind." (icy veins)
    Or Tirion "Tirion Fordring is almost ever present in Constructed Paladin decks,"
    I mean if your selling Nax for $20 okay whatever I'll buy it, but buying 40 packs in hopes of getting Tirion when the marginal utility of another classic pack is mostly duplicates meh.

  43. as game keeps developing then how does new players get started with the current basic minions with more expansions, new players are gunna be left with cards that can't even compete in the common slot?

  44. "We give new players great cards as well" Names all mage and paladin cards. Hahaha. Don't care. Just funny that's what happened. Inb4 flame

  45. I think a big help to new players would be to add a deck building tutorial that gives them a rough idea of what a consistent curve looks like for aggro, mid-range and control but also make it optional. You see new players getting destroyed in arena because they have no idea how to draft a decent curve.

  46. I'm not sure that I worry too much about powerful cards in the game. I think another way to approach this is through match-making. I don't play HS a lot, I may go two months without playing a game. But when I get to level 20 and I keep coming up against people with three legendaries and I don't have a single legendary in my entire collection it makes for a bad experience. So perhaps deck power could be assigned a score and then have this taken into account when I'm matched with an opponent?

  47. you should create a mode for people who use only basic / classic cards. If they play now, the news players will fight in normal game vs people who have all the good cards. They won't win a game, and they will leave the game :/

  48. With aloth of hate comments there could be a compliment so. I really like hearthstone so tank yuo blizzard for this game

  49. Heckler and Ice Rager are very simple just like basic cards, there's nothing cool, unique or complex about them at all. If you want progression in the game stick to given players new and fun cards like Brann or Elise, I think they would much rather look forward to progressing in Hearthstone with cards like that compared to Ice Rager or Evil Heckler.

    I personally think cleave effects could be used much more than just on the 2 or so cards they are used on at the moment, what about adding Cleave as an actual mechanic/keyword that way you could do things like "cleaves to all enemy minions on the left" or "cleaves to a random adjacent enemy minion"? That could actually make a decent warrior 1 drop, a 1/3 that cleaves to a random adjacent enemy minion.

  50. Can you please look at Piloted Shredder, Dr. Boom, Mysterious Challenger in terms of balance? Shredder is in nearly ever deck. Boom is in nearly every high level deck. Challenger is just game-breakingly good. The game is great. I don't care if you take longer to come up with new expansions, but you have clearly broken cards. The statistics of decks that use them, that show up in championship decks, is pretty glaringly obvious.

  51. In my opinion the problem isn't the basic cards. Basic cards MUST be weak, or nobody would want to obtain new ones. On the other side playing some match and immediately find yourself against someone who have doctor boom isn't fair. So, for me, you should modify the matchmaking, for allowing the new players to fight against equal power decks. i play hearthstone from two weeks, and i faced a golden-portrait hero two time, with 3 or 4 legendary cards……THAT isn't fair. (And sorry for my bad english XD)

  52. So, new player have to suck even if he is much more skillful than others 😀 Going with magma rager against dr boom 😀

  53. 2 things, if new players with a random deck do better then those with their own creation you could conclude that something (don't ask me what precisely) works counter intuitively.

  54. too bad when most newbs are going to get crushed seing that ppl are playing same cost minions for more value, obvious pay to win and going to stop playing.

    i know so many people that stopped playing and came back many times. i came back and stayed, many didnt.

  55. The problem isn't "why would you print Evil Heckler?" It's "why WOULDN'T you just drop Booty Bay's cost by 1?" Doing the former hurts new players, while doing the latter helps them.

  56. A comment that really stuck out to me was "Even if we gave you Ice rager we wouldn't expect you to put him in a deck"

    So the devs know they're creating bad cards and selling them to us so that we have to purchase more packs to get the good cards.

    Thanks for being honest (Y)

  57. Evil Heckler isn't a power creep though because booty bay bodyguard is better in joust, and also it's Taunt is equal to a race tab, so it is equal to a 5|4 beast for 4 mana… Sound familiar? lol

  58. It's not power creep because nobody used the cards that got "power creeped" on so having a better card than that terrible card doesn't matter.

  59. Cool story, but the Fen Creeper (a 5 cost 3/6 Common) costs one mana more but only has one health more than Sen'jin Shieldmasta (a 4 cost 3/5 Basic). What's the deal with that? Is it because uber l33t hax0r players don't use either of them?

  60. Why can't well balanced unique cards from previous expansions not just become part of the classics set? So people who invested a lot of money in hearthstone since the start would not loose so much of their cards "playability".

  61. watching these type of videos again on a later date, i have to say what Brode says makes absolutly sense in every way. Not just this topic but the others he scratched as well and i really apprichiate the fact that he explains WHY they do these things.
    For instance, i now understand that bad cards (mostly basic cards) have more than one important role. The one he described, a new player needs to feel this sense of progression. Just go back when you started Hearthstone. If there would have been no cards you could look forward to, would you have even bothered?
    Next up, i understand that these bad cards give lots of breathing room, because there is a huge gap between these and the more powerful ones. But what is powerful? If all cards would be powerful, then suddenly nothing is powerful. To actually realize what power is, we need cards that are worse than others. True, one could argue, why not make simply better cards than the one before? Ok, yes…but thats even worse. That is the definition of powercreep and is the most unhealthy thing for a card game.

  62. If some cards are underpowered, then why dont you buff them? Every card should be viable. There's a dozen of cards out there which will never see play like Hemet, Majordomo or Millhouse. And i wonder.. Whats the reason these cards even exist?

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