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Rise of Shadows Q&A Recap

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Team 5 hosted a Q&A on Rise of Shadows on the official forums and we've gathered the most useful posts from it.

Liv Breeden, Peter Whalen, Stephen "Puffin" Chang, Chadd "Celestalon" Nervig and Hadidjah Chamberlin answered some questions and shared their thoughts on the two-week old expansion.

The most newsworthy piece of information out of this Q&A is that the team has prepared replacements for the recently Hall of Famed Basic and Classic cards, as well as the two Legendaries from the Witchwood! These replacements will go live with the patch after the upcoming single player content, before the second expansion of the Year of the Dragon.

We've started with some big posts with lots of info and we've summarised the smaller, yet juicy posts in a bullet list below.

Let's begin with Peter Whalen: he answered a question on why the team nerfs cards from the evergreen set (with Cold Blood as an example), instead of putting them in the Hall of Flame. He also clarified that they have never put a Basic card in the Hall of Flame, but they are open on doing it in the future.

Blizzard LogoPeter Whalen

A couple of things going on here. For Basic cards, we’ve always nerfed in the past. If we Hall of Fame a Basic card, we need to replace it at the same time since it’s in everyone’s collection. That’s something we might do in the future, but haven’t yet.

For Classic cards, it’s a question of whether the effect is something we want around long term in standard. There are a few of pieces to that - how well does it fit the class’ fantasy, is it a healthy effect for the game to have around always, and is it something cool and exciting that we want to preserve in Wild. For Cold Blood, it’s a healthy effect, something we want rogues to be able to do, and not so unique that we felt like Wild rogues badly needed it, so we nerfed it instead of Hall of Faming it. (source)

On Keyword philosophy:

Blizzard LogoPeter Whalen

I wrote an article about a year ago about some philosophy on keywords when we changed Enrage (https://playhearthstone.com/en-us/blog/21614307) and that’s stayed pretty consistent. At a high level, keywords do some really good things. They condense card text, they make it easier to learn a new card once you know the keyword, they can tell a good story, and they can give us mechanical hooks to make other cards that care about them.

In exchange, when we do focus tests with people that are more casual, just starting Hearthstone, or coming back to it, the single biggest thing that turns people off in card text is keywords. People have a much easier time with “Teach it 2 Shaman spells” or “Get a fantastic Treasure” than with “Lifesteal, Rush, Windfury.”

Part of our card text philosophy is that we want people to feel confident playing their cards and then understand the details once they play it. Keywords make you feel lost. If you don’t know a keyword, you just don’t get the card. In client, you can mouse over it but that creates an extra burden and a lot of people interact with cards outside of the client as well.

So there’s a tradeoff here. We want to get real value out of our keywords when we use them. We prefer not to use keywords on a one-off card. There might be exceptions in the future, but Witch’s Brew is a great example of this. “Repeatable this turn” is very understandable to experienced and new players and doesn’t take up too much text space. It does lose a bit of the story which is sad, but the clarity, especially for a card in a different year than Echo, was much more important to us.


As far as what determines card rarity is concerned, Legendaries usually have this special one-off effects. Epic cards are more complex, whereas Common ones are very easy to understand.

Blizzard LogoLiv Breeden

Legendary is easiest to decide. Mechanically, if we only want something to happen once a game (ignoring shenanigans), we’ll make it Legendary. Or if it needs to be the only copy of something. A good example is the no-duplicate cards like Reno and Kazakas. Or if there’s something that doesn’t make sense to happen twice in a game, like this scrapped card: “Battlecry: Detonate all Bombs in your opponent’s deck.” After that card, there’s no Bombs in their deck, so the second copy feels like a dud. We try and avoid that where we can. Also, if the design is top-down and can only fit one named character, we’ll make it Legendary. Ragnaros, Lightlord’s effect is directly linked to Ragnaros, so it’d be silly to make his flavor anything other than Ragnaros.

As for the others, it’s mostly a complexity thing. The more the complex a card is, the more rare it is. Shadowcaster is a complex card that can do a lot of different things, but you need context of how to use it effectively. Dirty Rat is another good example; if you just play Dirty Rat, you may not know what you’re getting in to. Other times, if the card is a weird one-off card we put it at Epic, like Void Contract or Immortal Prelate.

At the common level, we try and put the most basic and easy to understand cards for a class. Rare is somewhere between Common and Epic.

In Initial Design (first 16 weeks), we try and get it as close as possible, but it’s mostly just from most complex to least complex.

Later on in Final Design, once designs are mostly locked in, we may shuffle them to make the class feel better. Like, if all the commons for a class are minions, or if an entire deck archetype is at rare. (source)

Most hero cards are out of Standard after the yearly rotation, but some still remain and they are powerful. Here's what Peter Whalen had to say about them:

Blizzard LogoPeter Whalen

We’ve learned a lot about hero cards since we launched the Death Knights. In general, we like them to either have a fair amount of variance in their gameplay or to have their hero powers be at a power level more in line with Justicar Trueheart than, say, Bloodreaver Gul’dan. Zul’jin is a good example of this. There’s some wiggle room here, but the core idea is that we don’t want the hero power to drown out the rest of the cards that you’re playing.

With each expansion, we’re going to continue to make powerful cards – a card being powerful isn’t necessarily a reason for us to change something. The most important thing here is that the game doesn’t feel hopeless or inevitable. I think the variance in Dr. Boom’s and Hagatha’s hero powers helps a lot there. You could get lucky, your opponent might get unlucky, and there’s still a lot of gameplay back and forth between you after those are played. It’s meaningfully different from some of the very powerful and more repetitive hero powers we’ve seen in the past.

For the other question, will we change them, that’s more a question of how things shake out in the metagame. Things have been changing rapidly over the last couple weeks. Just looking at hsreplay, Warrior is around the fourth best class right now (and Shaman is fifth), so let’s see how things evolve. We don’t think that Dr. Boom feels inherently bad to play against and it doesn’t seem like a huge balance outlier right now, so we’re going to let things develop before we make a call on card changes. (source)

Known player and YouTuber CzechCloud made a lengthy post on both Standard and Wild metagame. In regard to Standard, the team is keeping an eye on Rogue and Archivist Elysiana, but thinks Zilliax is fine. In Wild, they are taking a look at Barnes and Darkest Hour decks (more on that in the next post).

Blizzard LogoStephen Chang

We learned a lot about Hero cards after we introduced the Death Knights and applied that knowledge to the Hero Cards in the Year of the Raven. The type of value that cards like Dr. Boom, Mad Genius and Hagatha the Witch provide are less reliable than those found on some of the Death Knights. We’re continuing to learn from these Hero Cards as well and will continue to monitor their use in the current meta. Dr. Boom, Mad Genius saw a lot of play at the start of Rise of Shadows, but his use is starting to taper off as the meta evolves and players are playing decks that counter Warrior. It’s unlikely that we’ll rotate these to the Hall of Fame early and if we felt a change were needed to any of these Hero cards that we would nerf them instead.

In general, we like it when players find the answer themselves by playing decks that can counter the decks they find to be dominating the meta. That said, we’ll continue to monitor the play rate and win rate of Rogues to ensure it doesn’t get out of hand and if it does, we’ll step in as we have in the past.

We know that players have concerns regarding Elysiana, particularly in the competitive scene. We’ll get a lot more information on her with the upcoming World Championship and we’ll continue to monitor her overall use and will step in to make a change if we think it’s needed.

We like the way Zilliax is being used. As such a flexible card (due to having so many keywords) Zilliax naturally finds his way into a variety of decks for different reasons, and we like this. Some decks really value the Lifesteal, some value the Mech minion type, some use him to synergize with Rush or Taunt cards. Often how he interacts in each game or deck feels different and less repetitive. In general, Zilliax just feels great to play and doesn’t feel awful to play against so we’re pretty happy where he is right now.

One of the things we enjoy most with each new expansion is the additional tools players have available to modify their existing decks and to create new ones. In Wild, there are interactions that simply aren’t available in Standard that players are able to explore, which is very exciting and can shake up the Wild meta. We do see this evolution with each expansion and experimentation that takes place.

In general, we’re more comfortable with really powerful strategies in Wild than we are in Standard. That said, we have stepped in in the past, Aviana and Naga Sea Witch for example, when certain decks are too unfun to play against and have strategies that seem unreasonable to contend with. We’ve talked about potential changes to Barnes and Darkest Hour decks and will continue to look at the impact of the other decks you mention. We’re happy with Wild being a place where players can explore very strong synergies and decks, but will step in to make changes if we think the game will be better for it. (source)

Misc #1: They have no plans on extending the no duplicates rule to Epic cards. As far as Wild is concerned, they've discussed nerfing Barnes and Bloodbloom but the meta hasn't completely settled yet after the release of Rise of Shadows. Standard seems fine for now.

Blizzard LogoStephen Chang

  • Don´t you think the epics should have the same rule as legendary cards? (Can´t open duplicates.)

We’re happy with the no duplicates rules for Legendary cards, but have no plans to extend it to epic cards.

  • Are you pleeeeeeease going to do something about wild soon?

When we release a new expansion, we’re always excited to see players try out new cards and discover synergies and decks that will shape the meta. We’ve seen this with Rise of Shadows and have been monitoring the ebbs and flows as decks rise in prominence and get countered by other decks. With the Wild meta in particular, we tend to see crazier interactions and stronger decks and this is something we’re generally happy with. In certain cases when decks seem out of line with what we’re comfortable with, we have stepped in, like in the case for Naga Sea Witch and Aviana. We’ve discussed the possibility of nerfing cards, such as Barnes and Bloodbloom, but the meta is still settling down and we’d like to continue to gather more data before making any decisions. We’ll continue to monitor the meta closely to make sure nothing gets too out of hand.

  • There are few problems in standard right now too

We’ve been watching closely as the meta has adjusted day to day and week to week since Rise of Shadows has been released. We’ve seen a variety of different decks be “the best deck” so far and are happy with how players are adjusting and countering what they’re seeing as the most prevalent decks on the ladder. (source)

Misc #2: Celestalon talked about Tribes, what makes a specific type of minions worthy of a Tribe name and how they try not to mix Tribes with one another (apart from the special one-off amalgams). Same cards available to different classes, like the tri-class cards in Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, are something the team considers, especially since this year we have the League of E.V.I.L. vs the Defenders of Dalaran. Mana ramp cards will return in Druid.

Blizzard LogoChadd Nervig

Tribes, or ‘minion types’, exist for a few reasons. Mechanically, they link a wide variety of disparate cards, so that they can be referred to and interacted with (“Whenever you summon a Beast…”, “If you played an Elemental last turn…”, etc.). They also help add flavor to a card. We have a variety of minion types right now, and are open to the idea of adding more in the future. However, each minion type we add does add a bit of complication, so we look at what the upside of each one is.

Take Treants for example: We’ve designed Treants to be consistently 2/2 tokens, with “Treant” in their name. So, if we add a Treant tribe, what do we gain? Treants are already quite recognizable, and searchable. It would allow us to print cards that are Treants, but not named “Treant”… but that would conflict with the goals of Treants to be 2/2 tokens, so we aren’t particularly inclined to do that right now.

Lackeys are similar; they keyword and consistent name already fill the role of the minion type, so an additional minion type there doesn’t really gain us much.

Undead is another minion type that we see brought up. What would a build-around theme for Undead look like? Is there a clear delineation between what counts as Undead or not? Since minions currently only have 1 type (apart from the special one-off amalgams), minion types tend to work best when they’re exclusive. Pirate is one where that gets complicated; in order to keep things clear, we tend to not make Murloc Pirates, or Beast Pirates, etc. Undead would be even more problematic in that regard; we’d basically have to go to a world of multiple types per minion, since dozens of cards look Undead along with an existing type already. It’s not out of the question, but we’d have to have a very good reason to cross that big bridge of complication.

Tri-class cards were pretty cool, yeah! I wonder if, in a world where the classes are divided between good and E.V.I.L., there would be a place for multi-class cards in the future? Hmmmmm… It’s definitely something we’d consider!

Mana ramp is indeed part of the core identity of Druids in Hearthstone, and we do intend to maintain that going forward. While they may not currently be as extreme at that as they once were, that leaves us room to add more/stronger mana ramp cards in the future. I think it’s safe to say that you’ll see mana ramp cards in Druid again.

A few reasons! First, we generally try to sprinkle some flavorful cards into each set. It helps set the tone of the set, helps it feel like you’re in Dalaran. Second, mechanically, it helps lay the groundwork for future build-arounds. As mentioned above, minion types are important for mechanical interactions, and we recognized that numerous Elementals were rotating out of Standard at this time, so we could use some replacements. Just as Dire Mole saw play merely for being a 1/3 Beast (heck, even sometimes just a 1/3), there’s potential for a 2/3 Elemental to see play, with the right supporting cards. (source)

We've summarised some shorter answers:

  • They have replacements for the cards from the evergreen set that recently got HoFed. They will be released after the upcoming solo player content, but before the next expansion (source). There will also be replacements for the two Witchwood Legendaries that were HoFed! (source)
  • Still no news on new game modes (source) or rewards after the 500 wins milestone (source).
  • They are working on delivering ways to obtain Tyrande and Khadgar alternate heroes by the end of 2019. (source)
  • They are considering printing Legendary spells and weapons again. (source)
  • Team 5 mentioned that the burglar effect would change to “from another class” instead of your opponents class going forward. Pilfer, though, still has that effect and it's a Classic card. The team hasn't decided yet if they will change Pilfer or not. (source)
  • Dr. Boom's Scheme was a card that seemed weak from the moment it was revealed and doesn't fit with the bomb theme that Warrior has in Rise of Shadows. Liv Breeden responded that the team wanted to give more defensive tools to Warrior. (source)
  • No plans on printing more cards with the "Teaching" mechanic that Swampqueen Hagatha has in the near future, but this mechanic may return at some point. (source)
  • Classes with weaker removal options will have to opt for Neutral class that do just that, even if they are not as powerful as class cards. This is part of making class identities and differences more apparent. (source)
  • All 5 devs had a different interpretation of what the "E.V.I.L" in the League of E.V.I.L stands for, so the mystery remains!
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The explanation on Boom's scheme seems really halfhearted.

The card art too indicated that this was a card that did something else and was nerfed to unusable in late development.

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Thank you very much for the summary. Do you by any chance have source links to the different interpretations of what "E.V.I.L." means for the developers? I'm curious to read that. I wouldn't be too surprised (although disappointed) if it doesn't actually mean anything official and they are just making fun watching us try to come up with something... Well, we'll see.

About hero cards, I think they are wrong in their analysis. Their claim that Dr. Boom, Mad Genius' power is mitigated by its randomized hero power is not backed up by hsreplay's numbers. The "win rate when played" of Dr. Boom is in the top 25, at 60.6 %. By Hearthstone's standards, anything above 60 % is incredibly high. And while it makes a lot of sense for finisher cards like Pyroblast, Bloodlust or Leeroy Jenkins, and OTK combo cards like Divine Spirit or Inner Fire to be at the top of this "win rate when played" ranking, Dr. Boom is not a finisher and not part of a OTK combo. In fact, it almost always represents a loss of tempo the turn it is played. The fact that you still get an over 60 % win rate after that is revealing the amazing power of that card on the following turns and until the end of the game. I can see 3 reasons for that:

  1. Dr. Boom has "only" 5 different hero powers, and as far as I know, you can't have the same power on the next turn, it has to change. So if you hope for a specific hero power on the next turn, you have 25% chance to get it, which is much more than the probability to draw the card you need from your deck in general.
  2. The random nature of the hero power is not only a disadvantage, it is also a good thing in the sense that some of these hero powers can be very useful to play once in a while but you wouldn't want to use them at every turn. Additionally, the downside of its randomness does not apply to you only, it also applies to your opponent, who can't anticipate what you will be able to do next.
  3. Each of the possible hero powers is about 3 times as powerful as its standard equivalent. For example, Micro-Squad is 3 x Paladin's Reinforce. Zap Cannon is 3 x Mage's Fireblast. Blast shield is even 3.5 x Warrior's Armor Up! This is insane in my opinion, especially as it comes in addition to a passive effect which is already pretty strong on its own, and even combines with 2 of the 5 hero powers. There is almost no situation where you would not want to use your hero power, no matter which it is, if you have enough mana to do so.

I think they should have settled for powers which are 2 times as powerful as the basic hero powers, not 3. In addition, KABOOM! should deal damage to all minions (including your own), rather than all enemies. That would be less powerful and would fit better in the spirit of the Warrior class. Tweaked like that, it would become an acceptable card in my opinion (albeit still pretty powerful and fun to play). But not at it is now, especially when there are only 2 other hero cards left in Standard, one of which is rather weak:

  1. Zul'jin is also pretty powerful at the same 60.6 % win rate when played. But the reason is different: its battlecry can be a finisher if the deck is built around it. The hero power you get from it is powerful, but still decent in my opinion. The battlecry is too crazy for me but at least it requires building your deck right, contrary to Dr. Boom which is overpowered in about any Mech Warrior deck.
  2. Hagatha the Witch has only a 48 % win rate when played. Here the developers' explanation is correct, the random nature of its hero power makes it not as strong, despite its passive nature, and this is not compensated by its battlecry which is powerful, but also hurts your half of the board significantly.

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37 minutes ago, Smorod said:

Thank you very much for the summary. Do you by any chance have source links to the different interpretations of what "E.V.I.L." means for the developers? I'm curious to read that. I wouldn't be too surprised (although disappointed) if it doesn't actually mean anything official and they are just making fun watching us try to come up with something... Well, we'll see.

I don't have direct links, but here's what they said:

That’s a good question! I’m not sure… I’m not sure if even Rafaam is sure! Maybe “Elaborate Vision of Ideal Leaders”? - Chadd Nervig

Oh really? I heard from Rafaam himself that it was “Every Villain Imbibes Lemonade”. - Stephen Chang

Don’t listen to these guys it clearly stands for “Evil eVil evIl eviL”. - Hadidjah Chamberlin

Khadgar says they’re Extortionists. Vile. Immoral. Louts. - Liv Breeden

I heard a rumor from Dr. Boom that it’s actually “Explosive Varmints Importing Loot.” - Peter Whalen

iirc, they said on another Q&A that E.V.I.L. is just open to interpretation from the community.

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20 hours ago, Zadina said:


  • Team 5 mentioned that the burglar effect would change to “from another class” instead of your opponents class going forward. Pilfer, though, still has that effect and it's a Classic card. The team hasn't decided yet if they will change Pilfer or not. (source)


Praise the lord ?

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