Iksar’s Twitter Q&A #37 Summary – New Expansion Teaser (?), Arena Balance, Core Set 2022, Custom Mode, Temporary Class, Multiverse Expansion

Dean “Iksar” Ayala is a Lead Designer on the Hearthstone team, and he’s been doing weekly Q&A sessions on Twitter for a long time. Right now they happen more rarely, on different days and at different times, since Iksar is still on paternity leave. 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.

Check out previous Q&A’s here!

If you want to read the full Q&A – all the questions and answers – here’s the Tweet you should go to:

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:

  • Iksar is mostly back to work from paternity leave, but he’s still not at full availability, mostly attending meetings, doing some presentations for now. He should be back to creating stuff in February.


  • It might be nothing, but it sounds a bit like he’s teasing a new expansion’s theme – Nazjatar. It’s an underwater capitol of Naga race, you can read more about it here. Again, it might be nothing, but it would make for a really cool expansion theme and it’s something that will likely happen at one point (Hearthstone hasn’t really explored any “underwater” themes yet).


  • Sky Ding, former Hearthstone Data Analyst, was the person responsible for Arena microadjustments, but he’s no longer working at Blizzard (he actually moved to Ben Brode’s company called “Second Dinner”). He created a pretty complex system that required some extra manual effort to get the right outcomes and “microadjust” Arena. With him gone, the team is now wondering what to do about Arena next – they can either move the responsibility of microadjustments to devs and keep using the previous tools, or come up with another, simpler approach that doesn’t require manual input and balances things automatically and more quickly. They’re still rethinking the entire system, but for now, they will keep using what they have. One extra note is that this year’s reorganization at Team 5 made it more clear who works on Arena (previously it was people from different teams that were busy with other things like Standard expansions), which should be a good thing for the mode overall.


  • Core set will go through some big changes this year, but he wouldn’t expect it to drastically alter the way each class is played. Some powerful cards will get swapped, but they will also swap a lot of lower power, “baseline” cards that are meant to teach new players how to play the game. Additionally, the Core cards that rotate out of Standard won’t say in your collection (e.g. if Swashburglar rotates out, it will be gone from your collection UNLESS you own the original, Wild version). You will still have 235 Core cards, they will just be different set of cards.


  • Players being able to create their own things within Hearthstone, mess with base rules (something akin to “custom mode”) is a huge untapped potential, and he would like it to happen some day. But it’s a huge dev effort to create – Dean said that even he’s commonly crashing the internal client when trying out some things, so making a custom mode that’s playable would be difficult.


  • Demon Hunter was first planned to be a “temporary” class that would be in the game for a year and rotate out. Some of the “smartest designers he knows” wanted it to be temporary. He still isn’t sure whether they made the right call to keep it permanently.


  • It’s possible that we will see a “multiverse” kind of expansion/event in Hearthstone. They would definitely first go for a Blizzard IP like Diablo, Overwatch or Starcraft, before POTENTIALLY branching out to other IPs (let’s say Marvel). But the team overall has mixed feelings about doing anything outside of Warcraft universe.


  • Dean doesn’t know if we will have a new “puzzle” this expansion, because Celestalon usually puts them into the game without telling him about it. Celestalon replied to that, and it sounds like he might be planning something for this expansion too.


  • Devs don’t have an exact formula when picking the mana cost of a given card, e.g. adding the base stats + Deathrattle value + whatever effects it has. The balance decision comes mostly from playtesting and historical knowledge. But they sometimes looked back and thought that they overvalued/undervalued certain effects – like undervalued Discovers by not giving the minions enough stat penalty for them and making Discover effect seeing more play than they wanted.


  • The team can design much more disruption cards than they do now, but Dean doesn’t think that putting that many into the game would be a good idea.


  • Adding cards that trigger FROM YOUR HAND when opponent does something would be possible, but that would add another layer of interaction that players need to think about. Before playing each card, they would not only need to consider the board state etc. but also what it might trigger from your opponent’s hand. It’s not something they would want for an individual card, but they MIGHT do it as a cycle of cards in an expansion if they find a way to make that new layer of interaction fun.
Posted in Q&A


A Hearthstone player and writer from Poland, Stonekeep has been in a love-hate relationship with Hearthstone since Closed Beta. Over that time, he has achieved many high Legend climbs and infinite Arena runs. He's the current admin of Hearthstone Top Decks.

Check out Stonekeep on Twitter!

Leave a Reply