Hello and welcome to the first edition of the Weekly Custom Design Spotlight, where we discuss and analyze subjects that are related to custom Hearthstone design. Each article will have themes, although this first one will be based on some of the best cards I've seen throughout the times. Each article will also include a card I've made at the bottom, to show the thoughts that go into designing a card, alongside my own approach to the specific theme.
The Good, The Bad and The Lore-correct
Made by nobravery – Winner of the 5.15 competition on HearthPwn
An aspect that used to be very important for legendaries in Hearthstone used to be the connection between the lore of the characters, and their effects. Certain characters are bound with certain classes, and Ner’zhul holds this aspect highly. The card is what is called a “stitched” card, that is playable in each of two different classes, which in this specific circumstance is Shaman and Warlock, which also happened to be the only two classes with uncertain basic Hero Powers.
The flavor of the card fits perfectly for Ner’zhul as a character, as he is known as one of the most famous shamans of all time, along being the one who convinced the orcish clans on Draenor that the benevolent Draenei race was dangerous. This was caused directly by the manipulation of the eredar demon Kil’jaeden, which explains the Warlock nature of the card.
The effect similarly fits perfectly with the character, as Ner’zhul’s action were often carried out by the counseling of former orcish ancestors. They acted as advisors for what he was supposed to do in the future, and in a way helped him “see” the future.
Mechanically the effect is very interesting as well, as it a rare card with a valuable effect that does not provide Tempo nor Value in any shape or form. The effect exclusively gives information about what using your Hero Power will give you in return, which helps planning out one's turn. This greatly rewards careful decision-making and greatly increases consistency.
A Burst of Flavor!
Made by /u/Frostivus
Too Many Cooks is arguably one of the best flavor cards I’ve seen in my time creating custom-made cards. It perfectly resembles the common saying “Too many cooks spoil the broth”.
Both dealing 4 damage and gaining a Mana Crystal are perfectly acceptable and powerful effects for a three-mana card, but the real game-changer comes in the form of the combined effect of gambling on choosing all the effects, sacrificing card advantage for a major tempo advantage. The card would be practically playable in every single druid deck and would feel good to play at any point in the game.
A minor concern with the card could be how it’s probably a bit too strong. Three of the four effects are perfectly acceptable and playable effects on their own, without the ability to choose one of the other effects. The added flexibility, however, makes it a card that is useful and powerful in practically every single situation, as it provides burst, removal, tempo, ramp…. You get the point.
Choose One or All is definitely a mechanic that I would love to see in a future Hearthstone expansion, as the agency the mechanic would diminish the disadvantages of drawing poorly.
Also, if you haven’t seen any of Frostivus’ custom created full sets, then I highly recommend giving their most recent set “Around the World in 80 Meals” a watch.
References. References Everywhere!
Made by Linkblade91
Zelfrax, Stone Predator is a card type that is commonly associated with the weeping angels from Doctor Who, which are beings are extremely deadly, move very fast, but they’re incapable of moving, while anyone is looking directly at them. This card perfectly captures that theme, with it being fast (Charge) while no one is looking, while being incapable of moving while someone is looking.
The card uses the dormant mechanic, which is one of my all-time favorite mechanics in Hearthstone. Neither you nor your opponent will ever be able to have it face minion combat, which means it will never give any form of card-based value.
Regarding the balance of the card seems reasonable as well, if not a bit underpowered. Aggro decks usually want to fight for the board, which this rewards, while not being able to trade on its own. For that reason, it will usually require the help of other friendly minions, to keep punching the enemy in the face.
The card can be compared to Kor'kron Elite, where both provide a healthy body for their cost while giving reach. The biggest difference, however, is that Kor'kron Elite can be used as a reactive card, to remove a threat, while Zelfrax only can be used as a proactive card.
Made by CheeseETC – Winning card of the 9.01 competition on HearthPwn
For such a simple effect, Spirit Cleanser actually provides a surprisingly high amount of complexity in its use, as the Battlecry can prove useful in a large variety of instances. First of all, the Battlecry can be used as a pseudo-silence, to remove buffs from enemy minions. Secondly, it can restore a friendly minion to full health, so it becomes more durable for upcoming turns. Lastly, it also refreshes Rush and Charge, making it useful as burst and removal.
With this sort of flexibility, it is possible for the player to include it in a large variety of decks, depending on what the deck could use the effect for. A control deck might use it for it’s silencing effect, and for the ability to restore a lot of health to a friendly minion, while a combo deck can use it in combination with Leeroy Jenkins, to deal some significant damage over a single turn.
An obvious comparison to the card would be Reincarnate, which in a sense does some of the same things as this, while not providing a body. It should be noted, however, that Reincarnate was mostly used for its ability to interact mechanics that trigger off of minion death. Where this card shines, is in the remaining cases, where the 2/1 body can make a significant difference.
All in all a simple, flexible and all around amazingly designed custom card.
That One Good Card I Made
If you've played the Monster Hunt PvE content from the Witchwood, then Gnarlroot is probably a familiar face. His Hero Power was "Take 2 damage and summon a 2/2 Treant" which I tried to capture when designing him as a Legendary for the Witchwood expansion.
This is a card that was designed to be mechanically pleasing and not specifically visually pleasing. It does make sense for Gnarlroot to give you Treants, but it’s not commonly considered a card that whose flavor is the main attraction point for the card. There is no clever wording, saying or pun. It is a great example of a card that fulfills the minimum requirement that a card should have for flavor. It makes sense.
The main attraction point for the card is the unique effect, that utilizes design space, for a restriction that the game rarely has taken advantage of. The current hand limit in Hearthstone is 10 cards, and this allows you to gain a tempo advantage for being near the hand limit, in the form of 2/2 Treants. The effect was made with the thought in mind, that I wouldn’t want it to ever feel overpowering for your opponent. In the right circumstance it provides a high amount of tempo, but at 7 mana, there should be a reasonable chance your opponent can deal with it. On the other hand, I didn’t want the card to ever feel poor to play. Regardless of the situation, Gnarlroot will provide five 2/2 Treant bodies, that if the game stretches far enough, will be played.
The potential for this card is still unknown, but it would likely at least help push Hand and Treant Druid into something that resembles relevance.
Who am I? I'm commonly known as Tox, one of the most fanatic card creators out there. I'm a Fan Creations moderator here on HearthStation and an active member of the CustomHearthstone subreddit, where I was voted the best designer of 2018.