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Author Topic: Creature type based card design  (Read 1796 times)

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popsofctown

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Creature type based card design
« on: December 01, 2014, 10:11:09 am »
+5

Creature type themes aren't new, they've been around since Magic.  In both Magic and Hearthstone, I love them, and enjoy them, but I think they're bad design that dumbs down the game (wait, what?)

Creature type based decks are way too easy to tune and tweak, and in that way they remove a lot of deckbuilding skill from the game.  Creatures are simply "tagged" for whether they will work in your deck and accept bonuses from your creature type enablers or not (in Magic they are sometimes colloquially called lords, in Hearthstone maybe we should call dudes that reward you for playing a creature type warleaders).

As an example, when players entered Managrind in October 2013 the game was nothing but mirrors, which makes for a good abstract example.  Demonfire wasn't good at the moment so there was basically no creature types matters at all.  There were tons of zoo decks, but one clever guy, Kistafer, cut a couple cards (probably Dark Iron Dwarf) to put Blood Knights in and snatch Squire shields in the mirror and he won.  Most players didn't come up with that, or they made their own tweak that wasn't quite as good, like they might have tried Ironbeak Owl or MC tech instead.  Every minion was a possible deck tweak.  (This was the event where Blood Knight zoo was pretty much invented for the first time in public knowledge, so he wasn't copying anything)

If that same tournament was full of mech mirrors, Kistafer wouldn't be able to cut Piloted Shredder for Blood Knight because Piloted Shredder is a mech and Blood Knight isn't and that will usually outweigh anything a offtype creature brings.  The players that think Ironbeak Owl has a little merit will also realize that Owl simply isn't a mech.  So when Kistafer plays a mirror against this guy he doesn't get to show that he has a better perception of the game.  What few unused mechs might exist will be exhaustively tested for merit easily.  So it goes like 50/50.


Murlocs are really cool in Hearthstone because there aren't enough of them.  Murloc decks have to run lots of nonMurloc slots because not enough differently named Murlocs exist.  So those other slots show off player deckbuilding/tuning skill, and the murlocs are there to provide a unique mechanic, and everyone is happy.

I'm also somewhat placated by designs where all the creatures in a creature type are really weak on their own (murlocs are like this too, actually) but have unusually powerful lords available to make you want to play them.  The deck is still really easy to tune, but at least the deck is doing something unique that you do that easily without the creature type based design. 

So I'm kind of worried about mechs in the next set.  So many of them are neutral so there's some amount of chance they permeate everything.  Mechs are pretty much designed to stand on their own in power level (Harvest Golem is a mech!) so the creature type mechanics won't be adding the novelty I referred to in the previous paragraph, just restrictions on tuning for mech decks.  I think a Tinkertown Technician that gains one health and draws a spare part if you control any other minion would be better for the game.  I don't think having 4/4 Tinkertown Technician in my life will outweigh playing a meta where decks build themselves because so many choices are restricted by mechs-matter.

Players tend to really enjoy creature types matter.  Easy deckbuilding is nice sometimes, especially in the short term.  It's also flavorful, although mechs are nonliving so they picked like the worst creature type ever imo.


As a potent example of how creature type matters can lead to really canned decks, I have the kithkin story.  Virtually all kithkin are only in the Lorwyn set where lots of powerful Kithkin lords are also available for the aggressively costed creatures.  It was a pretty powerful deck to build in Standard, where only the most recent two sets are allowed.

There was a legacy tournament , where all the sets were allowed.  Kithkin isn't considered strong enough for legacy, and generally it isn't but the point is that one guy entered a very big tournament and made fourth, and didn't modify the standard kithkin deck he had at all even though all sets the game had to offer were legal.  He only put 3 Wraths of God in his sideboard, everything else was also standard legal and pretty much Lorwyn.  Any other white creature he put in simply wouldn't be a kithkin.

Merfolk and Goblins are two other Legacy decks that don't change a lot between iterations, although they benefit from a large number of creatures printed in various sets to get some more variety, and Merfolk has some interesting choices in the spell department.

Anyway, I'm hoping this new set doesn't have 3 more mechwarpers and a harvest golem.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2014, 01:10:59 pm by popsofctown »
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markusin

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Re: Creature type based card design
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2014, 10:45:52 am »
+1

Interesting analysis.

There are supposedly 40 or so Mechs to be introduced in the set, plus some non-mech support cards.

Now, competitive constructed Hearthstone is pretty cutthroat. You can't go half-aggro or half-mech or something and expect to win reliably. My worry is that the only viable Mech decks will be the ones where pretty much every card is a Mech. My issue with that is, well what if I don't like some of the mechs. Man, maybe I don't care for snow chugger or something, but what do I have to include it anyway if I'm building a Mage deck with a few Mech "lords"?

If Mech-synergy decks become strong, then I worry things will be become stale because there are actually not that many mechs to choose from, at least in the early game. There are some cool class specific Mech cards that can shake things up a bit (particularly that Felcannon, but it's risky if you don't run mostly Mechs), but it looks like each class will only get 2-4 of them.

One other concern about the Mech decks is perhaps that the "Mech" theme doesn't appear all that focused gameplay wise. Murlocs are all rush oriented, so a deck full of Murlocs has an early game focus. Demons, well they're Warlock cards (except Imp Master imps I think). Mechs? What do Snow Chugger, Clockwork Gnome, Explosive Sheep, Spider Tank, and the Pilot Mechs have in common other than being mechs? And then the Mech legendaries cost 8+ Mana, while a lot of the other Mechs are early game based.

So like, I wonder how strong Mech decks will actually be, because the Mechs themselves are so disjoint. But then the Mech lords are so good that they'll be strong anyway. Tinkertown, Mechwarper, Screwjank are all pretty crazy.

Nice of my phone to auto-capitalize "Mech".
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Donald X.

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Re: Creature type based card design
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2014, 10:57:57 am »
+5

Creature type themes aren't new, they've been around since Magic.  In both Magic and Hearthstone, I love them, and enjoy them, but I think they're bad design that dumbs down the game (wait, what?)
Well I don't know anything about Hearthstone but I have strong opinions on "tribal" in Magic (the theme not the failed card type).

Caring about creature types is great because some players really like it. So that's why you do it and all that's left is making sure you do it well. I will use Goblins for my examples but I just mean whatever.

The first key pitfall is having creatures that reward their own type. This leads to building a Goblin deck where every card is a Goblin that helps Goblins. It completely removes the joy of the mechanic and leaves you feeling like the deck was built for you. For the most part, the solution is to make cards that reward Goblins be non-Goblins. Then you can't just build a deck out of them; instead maybe you play half Goblins and half Goblin-boosters, and you get to pick what to use for those halves. Prior to Onslaught, a Goblin deck was cool; you'd have say the Mercenary that fetched Goblins, and Goblin King which was a Lord and not a Goblin even though that bothered people, and Goblin Grenades which are a Sorcery and not a Goblin. And then you know, some Goblins. With Onslaught, Goblins sucked. There were nonstop Goblins that boost Goblins; it's hard for any other cards to compete for deck slots. I had zero fun with those tribes.

Another solution is to make your pro-Goblins cards be anti-combos with each other. It's counter-productive to put them all in one deck, so you pick the one you like best and build that deck. Maybe there is one general purpose one that every Goblin deck has, because there is such a strong desire to have a Goblin that boosts Goblins and just gives them a basic useful bonus like +1/+1. But you know, just do one of those, live with that one card being automatic in Goblin decks, and don't do another one. You can have a Giant that gives a general bonus to Goblins or a Goblin that gives a narrow bonus to Goblins. You can see this approach in Innistrad. There's an enchantment that lets you play Zombies for free, which makes you want expensive Zombies; there's an enchantment that makes half as many zombies as you have zombies every turn, which makes you want lots of cheap zombies or zombie tokens; there's a zombie that makes zombies mill instead of dealing damage, which is something you only want in a milling deck; there's a zombie that counts your zombies in play and in your graveyard, which makes you want non-token zombie cards so they can be in your graveyard, and makes you want to mill yourself. There's a common zombie that gets a zombie back from your graveyard, and that will just slot into any of these decks, but mainly the cards send you in different directions. In Onslaught block it would have been, here are my zombie theme cards, they all go in the same deck leaving no space for other cards, oh boy.

Finally there is theme. You want your tribe to have some kind of cohesion; it's part of the beauty of doing a tribe. They did Beast in Onslaught, that's pretty meaningless. They did Goblins, but didn't just make them all cheap small dudes, they had gigantic Goblins and whatever random abilities, making that meaningless too. Well Onslaught was tribal but not top-down. In Innistrad they had zombies that felt like zombies, vampires that felt like vampires, werewolves that felt like werewolves.

I thought they had figured this stuff out, as of Innistrad, but they just blew it in Theros. They had minotaurs as a tribe, and the minotaur-boosters all went in the same deck, and the basic idea of minotaurs was, they're usually 2/3 and often have haste. Somehow that does not make me think "that must be a minotaur."
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blueblimp

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Re: Creature type based card design
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2014, 12:40:29 pm »
0

Playing devil's advocate (to OP): don't class cards have the same downside? If I'm building a Rogue deck, I don't get to consider whether to swap out Eviscerate for Frostbolt. That restricts deck-building options even more strictly than having creature types. From this point of view, creature types are just another dimension that specifies a deck, along with class.

I'm not personally fond of the way that a creature type is extra data on a card that only does one thing, which is to specify interactions with other cards. The Beast on a River Croc is irrelevant except for Beast synergy. Compare with examples like spells, where being a spell has mechanical significance on its own, and then cards like Wild Pyromancer and Gadgetzan Auctioneer add additional richness instead of being required to justify having the spell type in the first place. Even more elegant are  interactions that don't require a type at all, such as Mountain Giant and Twilight Drake, which tend to live in the same decks, and Doomguard, which tends to be mutually exclusive with them.

One thing I like about Dominion is that all the data on a card has mechanical significance on its own. Then this data is used by other cards to add additional interest. For example, Action means something, and then the existence of a card like Vineyards is just a bonus.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2014, 12:41:59 pm by blueblimp »
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popsofctown

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Re: Creature type based card design
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2014, 01:08:19 pm »
+1

I'm not sure it's good for the game that Rogue can't use frostbolt instead of Eviscerate, honestly.  In magic only one color gets to use burn like that, and Mage and Rogue are to some extent the same class lumped together in red and that makes red harder to play optimally than Mage or Rogue.  Restricting types of effects to certain colors ensures that you get some rock-paper-scissors style variety in your metagame, but 9 colors is way excessive and gives Hearthstone half the variety of Magic.  You could probably pull off 3, but 5 is cool for a couple reasons, and you want an odd number of options for a couple reasons.  The ability to go multicolor in magic makes the 5 feel more 3ish.

It's also neat when class restrictions give you something that wouldn't work without class restrictions, like how Sorcerer's Apprentice could have issues as a neutral card but is fine as a class card.

It so happens that many people agree, and Ben Brode has hinted, that Warlock is the most interesting class that adds the most variety and breeds the most fans.  That very well could be because Warlock is the class that isn't a class, they get the strongest hero power and weakest class specific cards aside from autoinclude soulfires, and because of that their deckbuilding is funneled the least and the most free and open.

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HiveMindEmulator

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Re: Creature type based card design
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2014, 03:22:26 pm »
+2

Not super important, but I think Demonfire was a thing back in late 2013, since it's pre Blood Imp nerf, and you were running 6 demons anyway.

Also, there are enough Murlocs to make a deck of just Murlocs, but you don't do it because they are not good enough. The better Murloc decks only had 1/3-1/2 of the deck as Murlocs and then other stuff. Of course, they're still not good so whatever.

Mechs are going to be much better since they don't take as much of a stat hit as Murlocs. The Murloc theme was super heavy on synergy. They were all really weak but buffed each other. So they are more like Beasts. People run semi-Beast decks with Kill Command and Houndmaster depending on Beasts, and they're fine.

A few months ago, when Beast decks were by far the best kind of deck, they were still fine from the perspective of having interesting decisions to make when building your deck. There wasn't a consensus on how many Timberwolves, Crocs, Dire Wolves, Snapjaws, Kodos, and Tigers to run. And some people even ran Panthers or Rhinos or Raptors. Plus you had to make decisions about traps and removal cards. Yes your creature choices were somewhat limited by the Beast tag, but not more so than they are by the Deathrattle tag for Undertaker decks.
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markusin

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Re: Creature type based card design
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2014, 04:28:20 pm »
0

Maybe it's a balance issue that changed all of that. Deathrattle decks are so strong right now, and even do decently in less favourable matchups. There is just no room to mess around with somewhat-good decks.

It seems like deathrattle decks are the strongest aggro deck available for most classes. Besides that, you have the Control decks. The control decks are pretty varied between the classes, but are quite expensive dust-wise. Poor me can't compete too well with them with my few legendaries and epics. At least my Priest deck can Mind control a Ysera or something and get lucky with Thoughtsteal.

The new expansion needs to introduce cards that can compete with the current meta to see play in constructed, but doing so introduces power-creep leaving the base set expert cards in an even more unplayable state.
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popsofctown

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Re: Creature type based card design
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2014, 09:07:59 pm »
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Not super important, but I think Demonfire was a thing back in late 2013, since it's pre Blood Imp nerf, and you were running 6 demons anyway.

Also, there are enough Murlocs to make a deck of just Murlocs, but you don't do it because they are not good enough. The better Murloc decks only had 1/3-1/2 of the deck as Murlocs and then other stuff. Of course, they're still not good so whatever.

Mechs are going to be much better since they don't take as much of a stat hit as Murlocs. The Murloc theme was super heavy on synergy. They were all really weak but buffed each other. So they are more like Beasts. People run semi-Beast decks with Kill Command and Houndmaster depending on Beasts, and they're fine.

A few months ago, when Beast decks were by far the best kind of deck, they were still fine from the perspective of having interesting decisions to make when building your deck. There wasn't a consensus on how many Timberwolves, Crocs, Dire Wolves, Snapjaws, Kodos, and Tigers to run. And some people even ran Panthers or Rhinos or Raptors. Plus you had to make decisions about traps and removal cards. Yes your creature choices were somewhat limited by the Beast tag, but not more so than they are by the Deathrattle tag for Undertaker decks.
There's not 15 differently named Murloc cards.  There 3 at 1 drop, 2 at 2 drop, 3 at 3 drop, and a legend at 4 drop.  You physically can't run a deck that doesn't contain anything but Murlocs even if you run the garbage.  Once you give up on sticking to the creature type in a totally pure way it gets a lot easier to give up on the weak ones in a way too, Coldlight Oracle would be a lot more attractive if you could truly guarantee both your draws would be Murlocs that would help you keep up moment against your foe's draws, etc.

I'm not really defending undertaker, he's restrictive too.  Just because I got brown card backs with undertaker doesn't mean I like him.
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Grujah

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Re: Creature type based card design
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2014, 04:12:18 pm »
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I agree.
Reminds me of Yu-Gi-Oh path, where every expansion brings new Tribal that is obviously just stronger than previous tribal and basically give you no deck choices as you have to play all tribals.
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popsofctown

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Re: Creature type based card design
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2014, 10:16:20 pm »
+2

So, as it turns out, GvG did not have 3 more Mechwarpers.  It didn't even have 1 more Mechwarper. 

It remains to be seen whether a deck that religiously restricts its minion choices to mech type with the exception of nonmech mech-buffers will be top tier, but from an initial glance that does not seem to be the case.  Lots of rewards for using mechs only require you to have at least one mech to maximize the benefit, unlike Mechwarper, so decks that run just enough mechs to consistently trigger "if you have at least one mech" flags seem like they'll do better than pure mech decks.  So deck construction should still be varied and interesting.

Hunter has a "mechs beyond the first matter" card, so it's a cantidate for possibly having a cookie cutter deck, but that cookie cutter deck might not be strong enough to be worth playing.

It seems like a good thing, to me
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markusin

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Re: Creature type based card design
« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2014, 08:30:47 am »
0

Yeah I noticed there really isn't much motivation to make a mech heavy deck. It looks like most of the cards that would enable such a deck were part of the Blizzcon initial reveal.

Each class has at most 1 class card that references the mech type in its card text. Poor Druid doesn't even have any, but instead has Druid of the Fang that wants to see beasts. Some of the class card mech boosters even look on the weak side, especially Paladin's Cobalt Guardian.

You can count on one hand all the cards that encourage a deck with almost all mechs. They are Mechwarper, Mimiron's head, Junkbot, Metaltooth Leaper, and Fel Cannon. The rest only need you to have some mechs sprinkled in the deck.

And you know what, there aren't even that many neutral mechs to even make those mechwarper style cards game breaking. Of the neutral mechs, Clockwork Gnome is the only 1-drop. There is also only four 2-drops including Mechwarper and Explosive Sheep. Only four 3-drops including Flying Machine and Demolisher. The Mech count only gets high after 4 mana, but then we're talking mid-range to late-game material.

So then an almost-pure mech deck is bound to lack cohesion and not be very viable. The result is that the design of decks using mechs is open and requires some creativity. I'm sure the good decks will have mechs as a subtheme that overlap with other themes like deathrattle and whatever else pops up after the GvG release.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2014, 08:33:08 am by markusin »
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