Hearthstone‘s next expansion, Rastakhan’s Rumble, is storming into the arena on December 4. Blizzard is slowly showing off the full set of cards, and once again GameSpot has its own to reveal. This time, thanks to the synergy between them, we have not one but two new Priest cards to show.
The first is Sand Drudge, a nasty troll who summons zombies with Taunt each and every time you cast a spell. The Priest class already has a number of cheap spells, as well as methods of generating more. Cards like Lyra the Sunshard and Radiant Elemental are already used to make long chains of spells, and Sand Drudge will add a defensive element to the combo. While a row of 1/1 Zombies are weak to area-of-effect removal, the card creates one more obstacle before your opponent can take down your other minions.
But that’s not all. Blizzard is also adding Regenerate, a new 0-Mana spell card that restores 3 Health. It’s a simple effect with a lot of versatility, from activating your Northshire Cleric, to pairing with Prophet Velen, to serving as a cheap offensive option with Auchenai Soulpriest. Naturally it also pairs well with Sand Drudge, letting you one-two combo a healing effect while also protecting yourself behind a Taunt.
GameSpot spoke with Dean Ayala and Liv Breeden of the final and initial design teams for more insights on the ideas that sparked the two new Priest cards. In this case, Sand Drudge came from augmenting an existing Priest arch-type, which stacks the deck with lots of spells.
“It lets you cast a bunch of spells and have your engine for that hide behind a wall of Taunts,” Breeden said. “They’re not particularly aggressive or powerful but they do get in the way.”
Since it fits so comfortably into Priest, the card was nearly ready-made from the start. Ayala noted that it may have once been a 3/2, but otherwise its design was essentially finished from the early design phase. He said the team likes to make cards that have a tension inherent in their decision-making.
“Sometimes you don’t really want to play Sorcerer’s Apprentice on [turn] two because you maybe you have a bunch of spells and you want to wait until you can get a huge effect from it,” he said. “Whereas Sand Drudge, maybe you use it on turn three because you have a read on your opponent and they’re not going to be able to get rid of it. Or maybe you have a bunch of spells in hand and you want to wait until turn six or seven. It plays a lot like Lyra does in that you don’t just want to play it blank but if you do it’s a risk you might take.”
Meanwhile, Breeden noted, it gives your opponent more to do. “It’s cool to have a bunch of minions on the board because if you’re playing a heavy spell Priest, your opponent doesn’t have a lot to interact with,” she said. “This gives your opponent something to do besides hit you in the face. It creates interesting choices. Do you go for the Sand Drudge, do you go after zombies, do you ignore that and go face?”
And while the dream of any card like Sand Drudge is to become nigh-invincible, the likelihood is more that it will force your opponent to make sub-optimal plays. The zombies are vulnerable enough that they can be removed with most area-of-effect spells, but as Ayala noted, that means your opponent had to spend AOE on essentially dealing with a single card.
Meanwhile Regenerate adds a totally different kind of threat. Mana is one of the sharpest tools Hearthstone’s designers have to balance a card, and 0-Mana cards remove that factor entirely. The only price is the opportunity cost of including it in your deck over another card. While Ayala says he likes the simplicity, it can make for tricky balancing.
“Anytime you’re doing something for 0 Mana you’re asking for trouble, because Mana is the restriction that you have,” he said. “It’s complicated because you have to think of all the different ways you can use a 0-Mana card and make sure that it’s so absurdly broken that it’s the only deck anyone plays.
“We knew we wanted to have a card that said restore X health, we knew we didn’t want that number to be large, and I think when you have something that restores three or four [health] having it at 1 Mana cost just doesn’t align with what the power level should be. It was just a matter of figuring out if there was any way to use this card that was so aggressive that it would restrict what else we could do.”
And both cards fit into the flavor of Rastakhan’s Rumble, albeit in different and sometimes counter-intuitive ways. Regenerate makes sense as a card in the troll-themed expansion, Breeden says, because trolls in World of Warcraft are known for growing back limbs. The creepy zombie mechanic may seem odd for an expansion loosely themed around professional wrestling, but Breeden made the case for it as well.
“We wanted the teams to feel unique and special,” she said. “The Warriors are very much about smashing and trashing, going to the brawl. But the zombies are a little bit spooky. Not every wrestler is straightforward, some of them are the undead sort of vibe. They have weird stories, right? We wanted to play into different stories for different teams.”
These are just two of the 135 new cards being added in Rastakhan’s Rumble, so check out our gallery of all the cards revealed so far. Pre-purchases are now on sale in two tiers: $20 for 17 packs and a special card back, or $50 for 50 packs, the card back, and the Rastakhan Shaman skin.