It's going to be a little over a week before we get any more Descent of Dragons cards, so let's fill that void with fan-made cards from the community! This particular installment of Fan Community Spotlight is a bit different - we actually have 3 people to interview instead of just 1.
Over on the /r/customhearthstone Discord server, there was a contest where members would collectively make cards of up to 3 class-rarity combinations per round (separated by rarities), and the winner of each would have that card added to the set in that category; That set was based on the Grizzly Hills zone in World of Warcraft (reddit thread, Imgur album).
Our top three for the competition (out of 18 people that got at least 1 point) are Vee, True, and Pircival (who previously made the Archaeologist class which ended up winning him a class competition). Let's ask them some questions!
Walk me through each of your winning cards. What was your thought process while designing them?
Vee: "Personally, I find myself doing top-down designs a lot of the time, often getting inspired by art (and, in this case, the location). When going into the designs following the first round (in which I managed to get 0 points), I wanted to make cards that worked, at least to some degree, with those that had won the previous rounds.
For Honeypot Bear, I just started ideating on 5+ Cost minions. The first design I was favouring was completely different, focusing on Choose One synergy, but I decided to scrap that as I wanted something a little more standalone and didn't want to further restrict where the Druid set was heading (although it turns out would have fit quite well the the Epic and Legendary). I found the bear art by chance while looking through old custom cards and felt it could have a solid connection to the Grizzly Hills theme and I liked the idea of minion call-back to 'BEEEES!!!'. Initially, the trigger was 'Whenever this takes damage from a minion', however that didn't last long as I didn't like that the card would be polarising, depending on whether the opponent's deck was heavy or light on minions, and it also didn't feel like a 'clean' design execution. I wanted something more proactive and also more steady in its power level and so landed on the 'Whenever this attacks' trigger. I felt the effect didn't really suit a high-cost minion while summoning only two bees and I didn't want it summon too many tokens (so it woudn't be overly reliant on getting an attack off) and so I landed on a fairly safe and durable 5 mana 4/6 statline.
During the common round, I noticed few people seemed to be making cards based around Bloodmoon Isle and its resident Worgen cult and the cult seemed like a perfect fit for Warlock. Bloodmoon Cultist was focused on Lifesteal from the start in its Common iteration, originally granting Lifesteal to other minions, however this direction failed to get any votes in the Common round. I still thought the base idea had merit so I revisited it for the Rare round. As more complexity was allowed this round, I put the Lifesteal on the minion itself and started looking at mechanics that would complement it. I knew I wanted to be 'fast' in some way and I also didn't want to cost very much. I settled on the theme of self-damage, as it seemed fitting for a sacrificing, bloodthirsty wolf cult. For the damage dealt, two damage felt ideal, as it would heal back the damage of a single hero power used to activate it as well as generally feeling like it didn't heal too much or too little. The 2/2 statline followed, fitting nicely with the 2 damage aesthetically.
Magistrix Haelenai actually came together fairly quickly. Fairly early on in the final round I decided I wanted to make a Mage Legendary based around the same idea of spell-synergy that previous round winners had. This particular design was bottom-up, as I could of just thought of the mechanic as is while ideating and immediately liked it. To me, it fairly obviously belonged on mid-game minion, as I didn't want to be easily abusable or overly awkward. I also didn't want the minion itself to be threatening. I used Lyra as a reference point and the 5 mana 3/5 statline felt good for the goals I had set for the card. The flavour is fairly simple; Haelenai is one of the few notable NPC mages in the region and I happened to already have art that fit the character.
Gryan Stoutmantle started off in the same vein as Haelenai, going fairly quickly and easily, but in reverse. Even in earlier rounds, I knew that I wanted to make the character into one of my Legendary submissions due to his iconic status going way back to vanilla WoW. In Grizzly Hills, Gryan is the leader of the Westfall Brigade, so I wanted to reflect that by having him interact with Silver Hand Recruits. In WoW lore, Gryan has always been a 'champion of the people' and I also wanted his effect to show the connection. I felt, then, that the best direction was for him the buff or bolster Silver Hand Recruits in some way, leading to the first iteration of the current effect. He orginally set your Silver Hand Recruits' attack equal to his but that had some awkward interactions when there were mutltiple copies of him with different attack values, so I went with 'gain attack' in order to synergise with the set's Paladin epic."
True: "actually, my winning card in the first round, Set Up Camp, kicked off a long-running joke about “sleep paladin.” really, i’d intended for it to be a cute one-off inspired by Sunstruck Henchman from the (at the time) latest expansion, but the other competitors really took to the strange mechanic much to my surprise.
Pack Tactics and Bonfire Apparition are less eventful; i came up with both of them via top-down design. Bonfire Apparition in particular uses a kind-of-odd wording that i’d been meaning to use for a while; i’m happy with how it turned out."
Pircival: "Hi Demonxz95, pleasure to be here.
My first card that (somehow) got in was Surge Wyrm. My thought process for this was that I wanted to repurpose a card from my Archaeologist class, because I'm lazy. I chose Avifauna, and made it a 3/3/4. Avifauna played well in playtesting, so I knew this would work out well. My second card that got in was Valley Lurker. I designed a Bog Beast because one of the judges said he would vote for a Bog Beast. I think it got in because I pandered to him. Because I went with a flavor idea (a bog beast) before a mechanical idea, it was top-down. I like miracle decks, so I made a card that would support that. The card after that is Hulking Howler, which is my personal favorite out of the cards I made, but everybody else's least favorite. It has two different ideas which work together, and I thought of the mechanics before the flavor, so it's bottom-up. This card was also a modified version of another card that I submitted for a weekly competition, so I just took the idea of sacrificing your wide board for a tall one. My final card is Arcturis, Spirit Guide. This card was inspired by a mechanic that I or maysick (a moderator on r/hearthstone) made, which had "Your Battlecries are 'Deal 2 damage.'" I just changed it so it was like Lucentbark or Dreadsteed, a card I think about a lot because it is birb's (a guy on customhearthstone) favorite card. Lucentbark is cool because it changes the course of the game, and so does any 'goes dormant' card. So I went with that, using a tool in my toolkit of guaranteed neat design ideas."
How much experience do you have with making Hearthstone cards?
Vee: "I have been on and off the CustomHearthstone subreddit since 2016. Since last year I've been trying to be more involved in the community, joining the discord, signing up for more competitions past just the weekly subreddit one. I also participated here and there in comps on Hearthpwn."
True: "a bit. i’ve been making cards for somewhere over a year now, but this was my first real ‘competition’. i used to spend considerably more time writing about card design than i did designing cards, so i found it refreshing to delve right into it like this in a more applied sense. it also gave me a reason to actualize my on-paper ideas, which proved fulfilling to say the least."
Pircival: "I've been making Hearthstone cards for about a year or two. I've competed in a few competitions, and won some of them too."
How fierce was the competition? What are a few of your favorite cards from other competitors?
Vee: "I think the competition was very fierce, as is shown by the strength of the final set, everyone definitely brought their A-game. I think that basically every card has merit but my favourites are definitely Furbolg Soothsayer, Bonfire Apparition and Ranger's Crossbow. Soothsayer is on top for me, it has everything I like in a card."
True: "it was tough! only three of my cards actually made it into the final set. some notable entries from other competitors include zyliee’s Chinook Winds, pircival’s Valley Lurker and vee’s Magsitrix Haelenai. it was nice, also, to see everyone taking some time to help their fellow competitors with their card designs--though the competition was tough, all wanted others to succeed as themselves.
Pircival: "I agree with true, it was very tough. Many of the votes were divided between the moderators, and no card was guaranteed to get in. I really liked Oblivious Picnicker because it was drenched with flavor. The picnicker was ambushed by a bear! True's Set Up Camp was also great because true apologized for making it the entire competition, and it used a new 'term', synergizing with sleeping minions, which I'm a big fan of."
What did you like or dislike about the competition?
Vee: "I just generally liked the format overall; having a comp based around a location and its flavour, rather than the more traditional comps that focus on more specific game mechanics. I personally also like more solo comps, although I perhaps would have liked more incentive to interact or consult other people rather than going dark until submission time."
True: "i’ven’t much experience with competitions as it is, so to take part in one at all was a pleasure. i did find it a little odd that we started with common and worked our way up--because we wanted to end up with a mildly cohesive set, the commons ended up defining the class archetypes. they were, after all, the only reference we had in terms of class themes for this set. this is atypical as usually commons are the least defining aspects of an expansion. however, it would be equally absurd for the first round to be about designing legendaries and the final round common. so, there’s no real winning either way. i can’t complain much."
Pircival: "I liked how it eventually made a set, but I didn't like how the set didn't have flavor connections through each class. This was mostly because the judges didn't care about cards fitting in flavorfully with cards from the same set. Otherwise, the competition worked perfectly (even if I didn't get as much rewards as I would've liked)."
How strong do you think the overall set ended up being, with so many competitors getting a card in?
Vee: "I think the set ended up great. The only weak point, I think, is that the Priest common, rare and epic are all kinda similar but it's not a big issue, they're all still cool designs. I think the Mage, Hunter and Druid cards turned out particularly well, all being great on their own and working together well. Having a large number of people definitely helped and we were able to create something in a few weeks that would usually take someone working on their own a lot longer."
True: "honestly? not very. see, it started off well and good--the rares typically worked well with their respective class commons. it became apparent, though, that the judges weren’t considering the previous rounds’ cards in their evaluation. and so, it wasn’t especially helpful for designers to make epics and legendaries as “synergistic”. i wouldn’t blame anyone in particular for this, since each round was judged a week after the last and everyone had their own ideas about what they intended for the set. the end product isn’t... terrible. i’ll leave it at that."
Pircival: "Mechanically? Very. Flavorfully? Not much."
Are there any cards that didn't win that you want to give some attention to?
Vee: "I think Flight Form by Zyliee and Vylia Plumeright by True deserve shoutouts, they're cool cards."
True: "i made a couple fun designs that were unfortunately overshadowed by some of my peers’. for example, Vylia, a mysterious original character of mine, wandered aimlessly through the woods, placing hexes on any who had the misfortune to encounter her. Larid, my other legendary, took advantage of the high hills and clear skies to see the stars up close and personal. though i can’t be too upset at the mage and priest victors, vee and pirc respectively--their designs are equally intriguing in their own right.
Pircival: "Painbringer i submitted this card in the common round, and it was my favorite card I submitted in the competition, but it didn't win because it wasn't basic enough. I thought Stargazing (by cheese/gobarrel) was neat too, because it let you look at your opponent's hand, it had unique gameplay, and good flavor. Search Party I made this card, and it didn't get in, but I also really liked it."
What's the most essential piece of advice you would give to people new to the fan creation community?
Vee: "Just keep making cards. Looking back, my first custom cards were not good but you just keep making them, keep getting feedback, keep learning. Also, don't be afraid to ask for feedback and don't dismiss it if it isn't what you wanted to hear. Hearing people's perspectives on designs iss super useful, esspecially when their perspective is different to yours. If you really want to dig into not just custom hearthstone cards but just general card and game design, there's tons of resources available on the subreddit, in MtG's catalogues and from Blizzard themselves that can give insight and help you get a better understanding of what goes into it."
True: "keep all of your ideas! even the worst ones! my “Set Up Camp” and “Bonfire Apparition” are both ideas i’ve played with way before the competition started--i couldn’t ever quite get them to work before then, but in the competition they just ‘clicked’. i can’t stress this enough--save your work!"
Pircival: "Most essential? Time management. Don't waste too much time making custom hearthstone cards, or really doing anything that won't advance your day-to-day needs. Also, there's a bunch of places that have really cool arts for hearthstone cards and you should look for those places (they're on the customhearthstone's subreddit resource page)."
Do you have anything behind the scenes you'd like to share?
Vee: "Not really! :L"
True: "i touched on this earlier, but before the competition i’d been in a little bit of a creative slump as they say. i couldn’t ever seem to come up with anything too great. i have to say, there’s nothing that sparks creativity quite like a hard deadline. this competition was exactly what i needed to jump-start my creative process. not only that, it was just… fun, and i met some genuinely great people through the process."
Pircival: (no answer)
That concludes this installment of Fan Community Spotlight. It was a long one, but I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless. Check out the entire 36 card set and tell us what you think. Be sure to join the r/customhearthstone Discord server if you wish, and be sure to join our own server as well.