Unable to watch today's Q&A session with Ben Brode and Mike Donais? Check out our liveblog!

Game Director Ben Brode and Principal Game Designer Mike Donais are hosting a Q&A session where they'll be answering your questions about Journey to Un’Goro and the upcoming balance changes. At work? On the bus? Not able to watch it yourself? No problem, we've got your covered. Check back here for updates. Remember to refresh occasionally for the latest.

Blizzard announced this special event after it was revealed that The Caverns Below was being nerfed. We certainly expect to hear about that today as well as the overall health of Hearthstone.

There's also a chance we might get a small reference or two to next week's reveal of the second Hearthstone expansion of the year.

Want to watch it for yourself? Head on over to the PlayHearthstone Twitch channel.

Key Points

  • Quest Rogue is being nerfed because it pushes Control decks out of the meta.

  • Blizzard is keeping an eye on Jade Druid because it can do exactly that.

  • The Caverns Below could have also had its mana cost increased or minion buff nerfed, but neither felt appropriate.

  • Blizzard would still rather support underperforming cards in new sets rather than buff them.

  • Primordial Glyph isn't a problem card. Extra copies of the cards it generates can be really frustrating though.

  • It sounds like Freeze Mage's days in Standard might be limited.

  • Vicious Fledgling will show up 50% less in Arena drafts with Patch 8.4.

  • More Arena balance changes coming.

  • Ranked ladder rework is coming along. Should help with lower ranks feeling stagnant and the grind that high-level players experience.

  • The Classic legendaries have a special place in Hearthstone.

  • Blizzard did experiment with having different amounts of health based on who went first.

  • It's going to be crazy. It's going to be totally nuts," says Brode on the new expansion announcement.

Liveblog

Note: The updates below may not be exactly what is said on stream. 

Brode says there will be no announcements. They will be talking about concerns, questions, and the sharing of philosophies.

If Quest Rogue isn't that oppressive, why nerf it?

Donais: There are lots of reasons. If it's oppressive, not fun to play against, or significantly changing the meta.

Quest Rogue is pushing control decks out of the meta and Blizzard isn't a fan of that.

 

What does Team 5 look at when considering nerfs?

Donais: We have a lot of data to see the most powerful cards. For example, Blizzard has been keeping an eye on Jade Druid because it can also push control decks completely out of the meta. However, Jade Druid hasn't been as popular.

Brode:  We can also nerf cards because of how they're behaving in the tournament meta. [Ed. Note: Yogg-Saron, Hope's End]

 

Jade Druid feels as oppressive as Quest Rogue to Control decks, will Jade Idol get a change?

Donais: It's a good question. But Jade Idol is only fantastic in the late game. We're watching it.

New sets are also coming out. Who knows what's going to happen over the next couple of months?

 

What was the reason for increasing the number of minions for Caverns Below? Why not increase the mana cost?

Donais: A lot of these changes would have accomplished our goals. We could have nerfed the mana cost, the buff, or the number of minions.

In our way, the numbers line up nicely. Even if we nerfed the minions to 4/4s it still might be too fast.

 

Why don't you do more frequent balance changes?

Brode: Buffing cards takes away future design space. Purify is an example of this. Blizzard would rather create new cards to support these cards rather than buff them.

Donais: The Quests in Un'Goro are a good example of that. There's going to be five more expansions before those leave so there's plenty of time for the underperforming ones to become better.

Brode: We have been nerfing at a semi-frequent pace. But it's important to let a meta evolve over time. 

 

Are you satisfied with the Quests?

Donais: We had trouble guessing how good the Quests would be. We put them at a level where a couple of them would be played and then with future expansions more would become relevant.

 

What was the biggest surprise from the Un'Goro meta?

Donais: How balanced it was. We've seen a new deck every week or two and lots of variations. Really awesome to see.

 

Is Primordial Glyph a problem card? Does it limit design space?

Donais: We hear a lot about this.

Brode: A lot of people think about these cards as skill versus randomness, but that's not how the two interact. They aren't on a continuum like that. We think the Discover mechanic has some randomness, but also a lot of skill.

I'm not sure it limits Mage spell design space, but it can highlight certain cards that can be really frustrating with extra copies of them.

Those are scary cards to me.

 

Are you satisfied with the current state of Freeze Mage?

Donais: Freeze Mage has been around for a long time. It will be around forever unless we make some kind of change to it. 

Will this deck be fun three to four years into Hearthstone? Let us know.

Brode: Freeze Mage is the dream of Wild. Relevant forever. [Ed. note: Sounds like they're open to rotating some of those cards to Wild]

 

What are your thoughts on the Discard design? More support?

Donais:  We're going to keep trying it out, slowly put out more support. We don't want it to be the only thing Warlock does though.

Brode: We've been experimenting with a lot of things for Warlocks. There are other ways to explore this.

 

What about Vicious Fledgling in Arena?

Donais: We're going to reduce the drop rate of it in Arena by 50%.

There are a lot of little changes we're making in the Arena. I'd like to write up a post and put it up at some time.

 

Any comments on the current Arena balance? Have you considered a different rotation schedule?

Donais: We made a few small changes in 8.2. In the next patch (8.4), we're hoping to bring the classes a little closer together.

We made a very small decrease in the best Mage cards, a very small increase in the best Warrior cards. We've done some complex math, but it's going to be impossible to know until these changes go live.

Brode: The switch to Standard Arena has had big upsides for us. We don't want to say "this is the official Arena format."

Our philosophy is "this is a fun way to play the Arena," but we're also talking about other takes on Arena. We'll probably start getting into that later this year.

 

Will there ever be a separate Arena format for Wild games?

Donais: I think it's more fun if we make changes to the Arena every few months whether that's small changes or big changes.

 

How is the process coming along for reworking ranked ladder?

Brode: It's coming along pretty well. We've got a design we're excited about. We're in the process of talking to our engineers and figuring out where it fits in.

There isn't very much progression for players at the bottom. Most active players are from Rank 20 to Rank 18 and those players are having a worse experience.

At the top end, Ranked is a huge grind.

I think we're going to be able to hit a few of them with this update. A few things like new player matchmaking might not be fixed with the first update.

 

Will there be fewer pack fillers in upcoming sets?

Brode: This is pretty interesting. I was looking at all the vanilla cards in the last few sets and one of the most iconic cards that represents these is Pompous Thespian. And yet Fierce Monkey was great for Warriors.

The balance on these cards is razor thin. One point of Attack of Health is a huge difference.

We're never really trying to fill packs.

 

What does a healthy combo deck look like?

Donais: We've seen a lot of these that are fun to play. Miracle Rogue used to rely on just a few cards (Leeroy + Shadowstep) wasn't great.

Mage decks that take a phenomenal amount of work are a good example.

Brode: I think one of the best combo decks was Patron Warrior after the nerf.

 

How do you come up with your ideas?

Brode: We sit in a room together with a whiteboard and do a brainstorming session. We come up with crazy ideas, narrow it down, refine ideas, and see what would be possible. 

 

What is your favorite or wackiest non-approved idea?

Donais: In the Karazhan we posted the video with the Murloc, Beast, and Reno Jackson in a hot tub and people thought Reno must be the Dragon. 

Brode: Lich King versus battle pets. Warcraft babies, like Muppet babies, but Warcraft characters. That'll probably never happen though.

 

Will there be adventure like content in expansions?

Donais: Yes, there will be.

Brode: We really wanted to make the meta change a lot more so we switched to expansions all year, but we felt the loss of single player content to help explain the story of the characters. So we combined these concepts. Every expansion will have free mission content associated with it from now on.

 

Would you ever look at redesigning Classic legendaries?

Brode: We've been doing this with Deathwing, Dragonlord and Ragnaros, Lightlord. In a sense, the Classic legendaries represent Hearthstone. Those cards have a special place in Hearthstone.

 

Can you talk about the state of Hunter and Warlock?

Donais: As new expansions come out we're always trying to release cards to make people go back to classes that people haven't played in a while. Warlock was super popular for a long time so we're okay with it not being the most competitive right now.

Brode: This happened to us with Shaman. We can't just make cards that are generally good.

In the case of Warlock, we have a lot of room. 

 

How often does the standardized 30 Health restrict card design? Have you ever thought about changing the amount of Health players get?

Brode: We actually have considered that and have experimented with it two times in our history. We did that in our Alpha when the first player had a huge advantage. We gave Player Two a second card. We tried giving them extra Health, an extra 1/1, and the Coin. 

The first time was very early on when the heroes all had different health values, but it was a downside because it made balance a little more tricky.

 

When you designed Stonehill Defender did you expect it to have the power it does with Paladins?

Donais: It became obvious fairly quickly that it was powerful. It played out pretty much how we expected it.

Brode: I think that's good for a neutral card. 

 

Are there any cards from Un'Goro that you're surprised do or don't see play?

Donais: Humongous Razorleaf is being played a bit more than we expected. 

Brode: At first I was surprised Pyros wasn't seeing more play, but it's seeing more action now.

 

Will we ever see a 2v2 game mode?

Brode: I think the concept of that is awesome. We have some big dreams for Fireside Gatherings. Taverns as a concept are things we're supporting more.

We've introduced the concept of a Fireside Brawl which is only available at a Gathering and when we imagine players physically together there are lots of things that come to mind.

 

How do you decide the rarity of a card?

Donais: There are a lot of factors. Commons are pretty simple to read and convey some of the base mechanics of a set. Rares and Epics can do more complicated things and have more words on them. Legendaries are another ballpark. We want to excite people and blow people away with things that might not normally be on a Hearthstone card.