Dean “Iksar” Ayala is a Lead Designer on the Hearthstone team, and he’s been doing weekly Q&A sessions on Twitter for a while now. They usually happen on Wednesdays, afternoon-evening Pacific Time (but he moves them to a different time slot or day occasionally, such as around big releases). People have been asking lots of questions about the game’s balance, design, specific cards, mechanics, and so on. Sadly, Twitter is kind of a mess when it comes to such things. Messages are short, you have to create long threads if you want to talk about something in detail, lots of comments get hidden, and it just doesn’t flow right. To make it a bit easier for all of you, just like during the previous weeks, I went through all of his replies and decided to make a summary of his most important talking points.
If you want to read the full Q&A – all the questions and answers – here’s the Tweet you should go to:
Hearthstone AMA #29
5:00PM – 6:00PM PST
Ask me a question about Hearthstone!
Or Design! (or anime…)
Some minor details for Mercs questions below ???? pic.twitter.com/tk6SWBBgpY
— August Dean Ayala ???? (@IksarHS) September 10, 2021
Below, you will find my summary. It’s still pretty long, but Iksar tends to answer the questions thoroughly and includes a lot of details. I try to ignore “fluff” answers and not repeat points that have been already discussed in his recent Q&A’s, so if you want to learn more, go back to them. And if you want to read his full replies on all topics, check out the Tweet above. Things in parentheses are my own notes/comments and not Dean’s words. Let’s start:
- “A bunch of changes” to both Constructed and Battlegrounds have already been decided on, they’re now working on a timeline to push the patch out (hopefully it will drop next week).
- The reason why they don’t do as many buffs as nerfs is that buffs don’t contribute to the change in the meta nearly as much. If a deck is dominating and it gets nerfed from 25% play rate to 9% play rate, the 16% difference is now filled with other decks, making the meta more diverse. But buffing a 2% play rate deck to 6-8% makes a much lower impact overall. It doesn’t mean that buffs don’t have a place, it just means that they aren’t a very effective balancing tool.
- The notion that designers hate control decks is very wrong – competitive control builds have existed in the past and they will exist in the future, they just happen to not be present in the current meta.
- (Answered by Ates Bayrak) A big Duels content patch is planned for later in this expansion.
- (Answered by Ates Bayrak) No plans to remove Duels sets from the rotation, the current goal is to have all the cards available eventually. They might try rotating them in the future, though.
- Recently a story about Dean using the bugged Maxima + C’Thun deck on Wild ladder has popped out. He explained it in this AMA – they can either fix it at a high cost ASAP while ignoring the rest of schedule, at a medium cost in the next hotfix or at a lower cost in the next patch. Their internal data lags a day or so behind since they need to process it, and he wanted to get a feeling of whether the deck was problematic enough to warrant an immediate fix (so he ended up playing it for a bit on the laddeR). As it turned out, it wasn’t a great deck so they could wait a bit and didn’t have to prioritize a fix over everything else. If the deck would turn out to be overpowered and ruin players’ experience, they would prioritize fixing it over everything else. Looking back at it, players will likely remember it as a fun experience that lasted for a few days.
- No plans to redesign the entire game’s UI. They are working on smaller improvements to things like shop, Battlegrounds menu, collection etc. but no major redesign.
- He’s been thinking about another format where players can use their older cards without the natural powercreep of Wild format. He thinks it might be pretty niche, but at the same time, upkeep on their side would be pretty low for such a format so it might happen.
- (Answered by Matt London) We’ll see more single player content in the future, after Book of Mercenaries is over. The team just wonders what’s the best way to deliver narratives within Hearthstone for now.
- Naxx will be added to Classic eventually, but the team isn’t in full agreement where the “Classic” Hearthstone era really ended (e.g. whether GvG and BRM should be added, or maybe they want to take it even further).
- Players shouldn’t be punished for playing minions the way they were when Spreading Plague was a card. But Dean doesn’t think that current Questline decks push it to the same extreme.
- Dean doesn’t like answering questions about his favorite cards/designs etc. because there tends to be a narrative that “he likes X so he will make it strong and nerf everything that counters is”. Still, he said that he liked Questline Druid most before Stormwind was released and still enjoys is it a lot (“bear form” fantasy of gaining attack and armor).
- If he could “go back in time”, he would like to find a different economy design that doesn’t include disenchanting or Dust – players couldn’t be able to destroy their cards and they would have different ways to get new ones.
- We’ll get more Diamond versions of older cards, but a big part of the team was and still is busy with Mercenaries until it releases.
- The time has proven that players like to have a lot of different cosmetic options, and every time they can push some monetization away from the core gameplay and into the optional cosmetics, that’s a win for everyone.
- The upside of working from home was that they learned some new skills and now they will be more open to hire people who don’t want or can’t relocate close to their office. The downside is that it’s harder to communicate and develop relationships + for Dean personally it became harder to separate work time and home time.