Yingdi’s Interview with Iksar – Another Balance Update Planned Before Next Expansion, Some Hints at Possible Changes

Chinese website Yingdi has just posted an interview with Senior Game Designer Dean “Iksar” Ayala, asking a few questions about . The original interview is in Chinese, but luckily for us Chua “czihong” Zhihong was able to provide an English transcript.

The questions were sent in right after Twin Slice nerf, and the answers were received some time last week. You can read the entire interview below, but here are the few most important points:

  • Another balance patch is planned before next expansion, but it will mostly contain small tweaks and make sure that the next expansion is more fun.
  • Instead of pushing one or two big balance patches every expansion, their goal is to make smaller changes that don’t “kill” a deck. Iksar agrees that they could have nerfed Demon Hunter more right away, though.
  • If Highlander decks continue to be top tier going into next expansion, they will consider making some power level changes to them (probably nerfs to Zephrys the Great or Dragonqueen Alexstrasza).
  • Tools that create other cards (“Created by”) are important to make the games more varied, but the amount of them we see right now is as high as it’s ever going to be. He expects upcoming expansions to have less generated resources, especially in classes that don’t specialize in that (e.g. Priest, Mage).
  • Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron is, by itself, at an appropriate power level, but the problem is when it comes out too early with Dragoncaster. They plan to address that in the upcoming patch. (Dragoncaster nerf?)
  • Discounting cards to 0 mana (or the Highlander swing cards mentioned earlier) is usually a way to reward players for building a deck in a certain way that they might not have done otherwise, but it can lead to some problems. In particular they’ve been looking at Rogue (Galakrond, the Nightmare). They’ve been talking about making the cards drawn from him cost 1 instead of 0, so you couldn’t play them on the same turn and get a massive swing.


And here’s the full interview:

Q: First I wanna go back to the 3rd wave of changes in 17.2.1. That was one of the biggest balance patches in HS history, and it did change a lot of decks’ power level significantly (zoo, rogue’s power) — but at the same time, there are also a lot of decks/classes that haven’t changed too much. DH and warrior are still at the top even after the nerfs, pally and shaman are still at the bottom even after the buffs, etc. Were you expecting a bigger impact on the meta from the changes? Or was the goal to simply bringing things a bit closer, like how it turned out?

A: Our stance on balance has changed over time. We used to make large changes and only when absolutely necessary and now we tend to make more frequent smaller changes. Our goal with making these changes is to change power level enough to give new decks room to breathe, but without nerfing a card or deck so much that players who enjoyed it must find something else to enjoy. In retrospect, we would have made a wider amount of changes to Demon Hunter right away but I would say for the most part the balance changes met their goals.

Q: Now for the nerf on twin slice, I already saw a lot of people believing that it will make a huge difference for DH even if it’s only a one-card nerf, but there’re probably more people wishing for more changes to other classes. So I wonder which one is more accurate, whether the “butterfly effect” of DH being nerfed would affect the whole meta more than we think, or was it more like the Devs feel everything else was already in a reasonable place?

A: Twinslice was the most powerful Demon Hunter card, but Demon Hunter has a variety of powerful tools so no one change was going to take them from being a top class to anything much less than that. I would expect the next expansion is going to be the next thing that truly shakes things up. We’ll do another balance patch before the next expansion, but it will mostly be targeted at more small tweaks and making sure we set up the next expansion to be the most fun it can be.

(The context for the next 3 questions plays off players’ twitter sentiment after/during Masters Tour Jönköping, with issues mostly regarding “design” instead of “balance”. Here, the interviewer lists the 3 main issues he sees the most complaints about.)

Q: Deck archetypes that amplify draw RNG, including highlander decks, Galakrond decks(rogue in particular), and also druids to some extent. They all have too much of their power concentrated in only a few cards, such as Zephrys/DQA, Rogue Galakrond/Togwaggle, and it all comes down to drawing these cards, making these decks feel too inconsistent, highrolly, and less skill-rewarding.

A: This is a downside to making cards that require you to build a very specific deck. If we ask you to build an interesting deck you wouldn’t otherwise build, you need to have a reason to do that. In the no duplicates decks you get a few high power cards, and in Galakrond decks you get a late-game payoff. There is major upside in having these things because there are a wide variety of decks in the meta. The downside is that when those decks draw the build-around cards at the right time, it can feel like the only reason you won or lost is when you get the right card. We’ll always make build-around cards that result in power spikes, but those shouldn’t be the only decks that see play. In metas where no duplicates decks are powerful this issue tends to crop up more often. I think if some of the Zeph/Alex decks continue to be top tier going into the next expansion it’s likely we’ll make some power level changes to those decks to make room for new strategies.

Q: The “created by meta”. There’re too many cards that discover or generate resources in some fashion (dragon lackey being a typical example), and with the random/discover pools get too wide, they become impossible to play around and less skill-rewarding.

A: Randomness and generation are tools that get used in order to make experiences more varied and different game to game. Mechanics like Discover are a core part of Hearthstone that I think separates us from other similar games in the space. That said, I think the tools players have to create new resources is about as high as its ever going to get. When all classes start generating resources outside their deck it makes the classes that specialize in resource generation like Priest or Mage feel less special. Part of what leads to so many random resources is that the cards that generate these resources have been some of the most powerful in the last few expansions. I would expect the expansions later in the year and especially next year to have less randomly generated resources, especially in classes that don’t specialize in that sort of thing.

Q: The mage and the box (probably an issue of its own).

A: Puzzlebox is probably the appropriate power level on its own but with Dragoncaster it’s coming out a little earlier than we’d like in highly competitive decks. We’ll likely look to address that in an upcoming patch.

Q: I also feel that a lot of the designs in these discussions involve mana reduction (usually to 0), including DH’s Skull & Altruis, many druid spells, rogue’s gala/wand, warlock’s quest reward, DQA, and even mage’s Dragoncaster into box — even twin slice was also a 0 mana card. Knowing that 0 mana is such a dangerous design space for such a long time, are we pushing this limit a bit too much in this rotation?

A: Usually, when we make a card cost (0) it’s a reward for building your deck in a particular fashion. We like to make those cards powerful so players are actually motivated to build their decks differently. In the case of Dragoncaster you end up including high mana spells that you might not have otherwise.

For Rogue’s Galakrond, you get (0) mana cards but only because you put a large number of the other Galakrond cards in your deck. One issue that comes from having (0) mana cards is that they can result in really big unexpected swing turns. Rogue is probably the biggest offender of that right now when it plays a fully invoked Galakrond.

If the cards you drew off Galakrond cost (1), the card would obviously be less powerful but it would also result in a pause between the turn you play Galakrond and the turn you play all the cheap cards from your hand. This is a change we’ve been talking about making lately so that players have a turn to prepare rather than having to deal with so many resources all at once.

For Skull, I think those cards being reduced to (0) is less of a problem because Skull itself isn’t also a tempo card. After your opponent plays a skull, they either play the cards that turn or hold them in hand to have a big swing turn later. In the case where they hold the cards, their opponent has some time to prepare which we think is healthy gameplay.


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


  1. Lanakias
    July 6, 2020 at 3:03 pm

    So wait. They are playing to nerf the unplayable “Mage”? . This team 5 is hilarious. So stupid.

    • Stonekeep - Site Admin
      July 7, 2020 at 1:59 am

      What unplayable Mage? Highlander Mage is one of the better decks in the meta according to the stats (not as good as Tempo DH or Enrage Warrior, but still great).

      And nerfs aren’t always about the current power level. Turn 6 Box is just not fun to play against no matter how strong the Mage is.

      • Lanakias
        July 7, 2020 at 3:21 am

        Blizzard perhaps reads this kind of messages and that is why they refuse to make “Mage” playable again. I have over 2000 wins with Mage and the last two months have been the most difficult climb on the ladder.With few words is imposible to go legend with “High Lader mage” WHEN the class lost against 2 milions DH and unbalance Warriors (that blizzard refuse to nerf warrior harder). So how good can be Mage when you log in one day to playing some games and you have 1 win out of 15 games? Also it lose at high precent against Priests and Hunters. The only “good” matchup is with “Rogue” that few people right now play rogue.
        So how good is “Mage”? It has only “one ‘playable’ deck” and blizzard “think to nerf “Zephrys, Alex” and “Dragon caster ” that was some of the few hopes of mage “with the power of creations and the “RGN” box”. So stop writing nonsense. If you dont like “Mage” is ok but that isnt the fact that you try to prove: “Mage” is ok..

        • HakanBeal
          July 7, 2020 at 4:18 am

          even there is a possibility to see hunter gets worse with nerfed highlander cards.
          are we going into priest – warrior type of meta?
          good job blizzard!

          every single card could have 4 month of life. no more than that.

        • Stonekeep - Site Admin
          July 7, 2020 at 5:31 am

          Sorry, but I didn’t understand some parts of your comment.

          I don’t have class preference, I play whatever is fun and/or good at the moment.

          Demon Hunter and Warrior are both better than Mage right now and I’m not denying that. I’m just saying that Highlander Mage is a good deck (here are the stats if you don’t believe my words: https://www.vicioussyndicate.com/vs-data-reaper-report-167/). I’m not saying that it’s too strong, only that Puzzle Box on Turn 6 is not fun.

        • TardisGreen
          July 9, 2020 at 7:11 am

          I have over 3000 wins as Mage, and can assure you that it it quite playable.\

          Suggestion: learn to play instead of baby raging.

  2. Adrian091
    July 6, 2020 at 12:36 am

    I’m glad that they think about a rogue nerf tbh

  3. Nephilim99
    July 4, 2020 at 11:51 am

    We’ll make current card less good so people buy the new broken card in the next expansion. We’ll nerf again when sales drop.

    insert guy tapping forehead meme

    • HakanBeal
      July 4, 2020 at 12:13 pm

      it is a FACT!

    • PitLord
      July 5, 2020 at 2:59 am

      I agree they are becoming really annoyng with this multiple nerfs. I mean the crafting guide of this site what is it for?
      Personally i hate with all my hearth RNG mage, but if they nerf dragoncaster and let’s say the reno deck win rate crumble down, i don’t think blizzard refund me of all legendary needed for that deck.

  4. Darksmilefrost
    July 4, 2020 at 5:07 am

    I think changing the cost of cards drawn by galakrond to one (1) is not necessary because most of the time you play galakrond even if it’s not fully invoked just to have that swing turn

    • HakanBeal
      July 4, 2020 at 5:31 am

      they do not care how we use it?
      they just want to leave old cards unplayable.
      preorders for new expansion needs that badly!
      they do not care us but money.

  5. Nihaoma
    July 3, 2020 at 7:02 am

    I am now super curious about what they plan to do with DH next expansion since they promised big changes now. DH shouldn’t be nerfed to oblivion but it should have variety and feel fair to other classes at least to some extent, I hope.

  6. Z3ro
    July 3, 2020 at 6:31 am

    it sounds like they still have no clue how to balance demonhunter

  7. HakanBeal
    July 3, 2020 at 5:50 am

    it is so simple they can not make better cards than the ones we have got recent in standard. I mean there is always better cards but it is impossible in a balanced environment… so if you can not put in better cards for customer to buy them, make the old cards worse. their logic.