The new expansion has been out for a little while now - are you all enjoying the Lunacy? In spite of the rise of Spell Mage and Secret Paladin, I have been enjoying tinkering with other, less successful decks. It's actually got me thinking about what kinds of cards these decks might need to be able to push through the current top decks to relevance, so y'know, every cloud.
Conversation this time looks at something I didn't see coming, though they did tell me to watch out for them.
We begin by congratulating the winner of the latest WCDC - grumpymonk and their Path to Riches!
Look forward to their theme for a future competition!
Something that I want to talk about - and which fits very well with our current WCDC competition - is the Watch Post cards from the new expansion. They're very interesting designs, but they also show off how difficult it can be to evaluate brand new effects, something every custom card designer should be aware of. They also warn us of the inherent challenge of evaluating cards in relation to a shift in the meta, something that creators designing custom expansions might want to think on.
Currently, the two lower cost Watch Posts sit at a little over a 3/5 overall rating based on our community here, and Crossroads lags behind a bit at 2.5/5 - the scores of middling cards that may push themselves into the occasional deck, but probably won't make a big splash overall. There were certainly those that saw their potential, but overall we missed that they'd be as good as they are.
Ah, the benefits of hindsight, letting me write this and look like I wasn't of the exact same opinion.
There are a number of reasons that the Watch Posts are succeeding, many of them things we've seen before to varying amounts of playability. They're ever-so-slightly overstatted minions which can't attack, a Hearthstone staple since Ancient Watcher. They have effects that hinder your opponent's gameplan passively, something we've seen in many different forms but perhaps most well remembered in the case of Burly Rockjaw Trogg and its much memed daddy, Troggzor the Earthinator. The combination of these two things isn't even something new, and is actually historically a very powerful pairing - isn't that right, Ragnaros the Firelord?
Looking at these existing examples, it's pretty easy to see why the Watch Posts might have been dismissed by many players. Thanks to their additional passive effects, they don't get afforded as many stats as other minions which can't attack, meaning they're easier to remove. Two of them have passive effects reminiscent of a previously overhyped Legendary, which likely caused some hesitance to declare them good for fear of being burned again. Speaking of burns, it's hard to look at low-cost cards with such small effects and compare them to the incredible existing example, one so good it was rotated out of the old Classic Set to force decks to use other cards.
When put together, though, these deficiencies balance each other out. Their low cost allows them to come down early and start accruing value; their marginally larger than normal bodies allow them to stick around for a few turns, unlike the much maligned (and rightfully so) Caravans from the same set; their effects cover all bases, slowing the game and forcing the opponent to play into them and guarantee value where Troggzor failed to.
Importantly, they also pitched up with a failsafe mechanism for those who play them all - an actual finisher. Kargal Battlescar is part of the glue that ensures that these cards are as good as they are. Sure, Far Watch Post is a very strong tool to slow the game on its own - and may even see a nerf next week - but having something to help close out the game after you've controlled it at the start helps push things into place.
How does examining this help us become better custom card creators? I think the biggest lesson to take away from the Watch Posts is how many axes there are to tweak a card on, especially if you're designing a whole set rather than an individual piece. A design that might at first seem lackluster could in context be the linchpin of an archetype or card package - equally, you can quite easily overtune a design if you don't take into consideration what cards it might be able to interact with.
The Watch Posts also show us that twists on old designs that didn't quite work - or haven't seen relevance in a long time - can produce amazing results. Not everything has to be a wholly unique concept to be worth exploring, and going back and iterating on something from Hearthstone's past can be a fun challenge. Go ahead, try and fix up Inspire or Overkill, I dare you!
As a final note, while I focused on thinking about these cards in terms of previous designs as reasons they might have been misevaluated, I do want to acknowledge that anyone trying to predict the usefulness of Forged in the Barrens cards was going to have a very challenging task ahead of them, thanks to the massive upheaval of the brand new Core Set replacing the old Classic and Basic set. The community here definitely managed to pick out some cards correctly - Refreshing Spring Water, Scabbs Cutterbutter, Outrider's Axe - but I'd wager that most people were blindly guessing which archetypes would be on top post-rotation. Sword of the Fallen didn't even make the top ten.
We're getting into architecture this week in the WCDC! Click the banner to learn how to submit a building that's up to code.