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Hearthstone Study


Game Design, Design Philosophy, Systems, Balancing, Monetization, and Art.


To me Hearthstone is the embodiment of design and balance. It manages to be a clean and beautiful card game while also implementing enormous amounts of design elements and complexity. Its expandable nature and fluid skill testing gameplay make it a great game.

Hearthstone played a vital role in my decision to pursue game design as a career.
 I've learned a lot about design through Hearthstone as I watched it grow and evolve through the years. I've made over 2,000+ custom Hearthstone cards so far and have designed over 20 years worth of custom expansions, mechanics, classes, and game modes. Below I will go through what I've learned over my 9 years of playing and designing custom Hearthstone content.




Deck Building Strategy Card Game


PC and Mobile


Any of the trademarks, service marks, collective marks, design rights, personality rights, or similar rights that are mentioned, used, or cited in my Hearthstone Study are the property of their respective owners. Custom content I created for this study was developed using with art sourced from the Custom Hearthstone Subreddit Discord art gallery. 

©Blizzard Entertainment

©Blizzard Entertainment

Design Philosophy

What Makes a Good Design?

Design in Hearthstone is a very complex system of balance. Cards must be made with a purpose and fall within the power level of the game at the time. There have been many approaches to game and card design in Hearthstone over its many years of development. However, there are stand out points that show what good design looks like. 

My definition of good design in Hearthstone is when a card fits the theme, flavor, effect, art, stats, and balance of the game. Each of these aspects of good design change every single expansion, mini-set, or event. This makes card design and balance a challenge in Hearthstone. However, I see it as an opportunity. Each addition to the game brings new mechanics, effects, and ways to change the game for the better. This allows for huge amounts of design space and plenty of design puzzles to solve. 


Drakonid Operative.webp

©Blizzard Entertainment

Setting Bounds in Design Space

To make a well designed Hearthstone card there are many core game aspects to look at. What I call Design Ranges are crucial to well designed cards. Design Ranges are sets of boundaries put in place by designers to set baselines in order to estimate values of effects and mechanics in the game. This allows for faster ideation and the ability to visually look at how a card design fits into the game.

For example, in the past Hearthstone has commonly used
 a 2/1 or 1/2 stat distribution when designing minions for mana costs where 1 mana in cost equates to +1/+2 or +2/+1 in attack and heath. This creates a natural range across all mana costs which helps create a mana to stat baseline. This was very prevalent in the Core and Classic sets of Hearthstone. 

By assigning effects and stat values mana costs, it allows for easier translation in card design. Drawing a card is commonly worth 1.5 mana. Therefore, drawing 2 cards is worth 3 mana. This is also exactly the mage spell Arcane Intellect.


©Blizzard Entertainment

Breaking Bounds in Design Space

Breaking boundaries in design space is just as important as setting them. Design is always changing and design philosophy changes with it. Hearthstone has gone through numerous changes from a design standpoint over the years. However, this isn't a bad thing. Changing design philosophy can create fresh new experiences by expanding Design Ranges, un-vaulting old concepts, and trying new methods of card design.

These shifts in design philosophy happen naturally throughout game development. However, large shifts occur during times of leadership change. Ben Brode for instance, was the game director of Hearthstone from launch up until 2018 when Ben Lee took over the role. This shift in design philosophy was one of the largest I have ever seen. It resulted in one of the most underpowered expansions of all time (The Witchwood), but it also laid the foundation of Hearthstone moving forward. Since then Hearthstone has made a 10th class, dual class cards, locations, and much more. Expanding design space is always a risk balance wise. I saw it happen first hand with Shudderwock and the launch of Demon Hunter. However, these designs illuminate the design space of Hearthstone and are necessary for its' bright future.


©Blizzard Entertainment

Designing for the Future

Making sure Hearthstone extends far into the future is always something designers like myself design for. Looking back at Hearthstone's history its easy to see how more recent expansions start to have mechanics and themes that lead into one another. There has also been a trend of year long themes like the League of E.V.I.L and the Mercenaries. This method of design packages the content in a year and helps stretch out themes longer due to having them reoccur. 

Designing cards with future and past sets in mind isn't easy to do and balance. A lot of cards and effects are designed for the standard 2 year format so that cool effects can exist for a short amount of time and then rotate out. When designing cards for new expansions limiting design space is a major topic to think about. The expansion a card is released in can directly impact a lot about how other sets function. Expansion order also dictates what strategies can reign when they are released. All this has to be thought about in addition to the normal card design processes. Wild format also has to be taken into account since some cards completely dominate the mode such as the Warlock's Questline which was eventually banned.

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©Blizzard Entertainment

Exploring The Future

Designing Expansions

Expansion design has always been one of my favorite parts about Hearthstone. It expands the game in new and interesting ways while also bringing fun new themes to the game. Set mechanics and keywords are always my favorite part of upcoming expansions. These mechanics create new areas in design space that were previously not there and allow for new ways to play the game. 

When ideating and designing new expansions, mechanics, theme, design space, and accessibility all need to be accounted for to in order to produce quality content. Voyage to the Sunken City is a great example of this. This expansion introduced us to the Naga minion type that lives in the Sunken City. It gave us
Colossal minions in the depths of the ocean. Lastly, the Dredge keyword was introduced which digs through the bottom of your deck in search of cards. All the mechanics fit the set theming, expand the design space, and are accessible and easy to learn. In my opinion this set hit all the marks and therefore is one of my favorite sets.

Each expansion has to have something for every class and also have it fit a theme the team wants. Some themes don't work at certain times, or should be saved for later. The Witchwood for example was originally Murder on the Gilnean Express with clues and mystery solving. This idea was benched for a couple years until recently with the expansion Murder at Castle Nathria. Timing is very important in expansion release and waiting longer to perfect a theme and mechanics is well worth the wait. This is also most likely why the team is holding off on a pandaren expansion, so they can introduce the Monk class with it.


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©Blizzard Entertainment

Creating New Mechanics

Creating new mechanics and keywords in Hearthstone takes a lot of thought and testing. Some expansion keywords and mechanics become well loved such as the Discover keyword and the Quest card type. However, some have fallen flat before in expansions such as the Overkill keyword and the Questline card type. 

Over the years Hearthstone has had many expansions, adventures, and mini-sets that have impacted the game in huge ways at the time and still to this day. The
Discover keyword has probably been the most impactful keyword to date given how many cards were made using it after its inception in the League of Explorers Adventure. When a player plays a card with Discover it displays 3 cards to the player and prompts them to choose one. This has so many uses in design and is most likely why it was made evergreen in Hearthstone. Rush from the Witchwood expansion is another keyword that has become evergreen somewhat recently. It to has changed the game in large ways with minion and removal design. The Rush keyword allows minions to attack other minions right when they are played unlike normal where players must wait a turn in order to attack with a minion.

New mechanics have to be meticulously planned out due to their long term impact on the game as whole. For example, when the dragon minion type was greatly expanded in the Blackrock Mountain Adventure the Hearthstone team made it a point that the minion type cared about dragons being in your hand. The team could have easily not added this feature to the dragon minion type, but by doing so it gave dragons identity and impacted their future design as a minion type.


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©Blizzard Entertainment

Modes and Improvements

Modes and formats in Hearthstone have changed a lot over the years. Up until the Whispers of the Old Gods Expansion there were no Standard or Wild formats. There was also only Tavern Brawl, Arena, and Solo Adventures as alternative game modes. Only very recently other modes have started to be added to Hearthstone. The first new mode being Battlegrounds which is Hearthstone's own take on an auto-battler. The next mode following soon after was the Duels mode where players build small decks and slowly add cards throughout a run fighting other players. Then lastly came Mercenaries which is Hearthstone's take on a roguelike dungeon crawl. 

All modes have their audiences and are impacted by expansions as they are released. Modes like Arena, Tavern Brawl, Solo Adventures, and Duels all have their card pools directly impacted by the Standard format. This is another factor designers have to take into account when designing effects and mechanics for cards. Battlegrounds and Mercenaries however are not effected by expansion cards. Instead, they have their own cards made for their modes using different design rules and philosophies. 

Making new and different modes for Hearthstone is a tough challenge since it is still a card game at heart. However, there are options and the team has explored modes like Tournament mode before. 

Moving forward I would refine the collection menu to display player's cards useable in each mode. This would mean that there could be sections for Standard cards, Wild cards, Mercenary cards, Battlegrounds cards you select to see in the tavern, Duels treasures you can acquire, and more. This way players can directly keep track of their collection in each mode and it would help tie modes together more.

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©Blizzard Entertainment

Monetization and Card Acquisition

Monetization in Hearthstone has stayed relatively consistent throughout its timeline. However, bundles, battlepasses, and the game's move toward a more cosmetic sale front over the years has shifted it a bit. Each expansion's cards can be gained for free, but the game opts more for the pay to acquire faster model since free card acquisition is slow. This does however raise the entry level to the game and dissuades newer players from trying the game. 

There have been strides that improve the pack opening system of the game to combat the pricy entry cost such as duplicate protection. However, it still costs around $180 to acquire most of an expansion's cards outright without including the $25 mini-set. 

From my experience with the game and community. I'd propose creating a ticket system within packs, so players have a chance to acquire different rarities of tickets which they can trade in for any card of its rarity. This helps newer players form collections and helps boost pack sales.

My other idea is to create quests that give specific cards as rewards every week. This helps players catch up and can be used for fun events. Making cards accessible in a card game inherently makes players want to keep playing; especially if they believe what they are getting is a good deal.

In recent years Hearthstone has opted to make more archetype packages in classes to better uti
lize class card slots in expansions and make deck building more accessible to casual players. Before this classes commonly used tribes or keywords to create synergy in decks. These packages allow for designers to create short term fun and powerful card groups that don't directly power up already existing archetypes. This is a smart move from a design stand point. However, it does cut down deck diversity and can lead to players feeling bad after the expansion when their card package is now seen as obsolete. 


©Blizzard Entertainment

Creating A Game State

Creating Class Identity

Hearthstone's full title is, "Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft." Naturally, this means that everything in Hearthstone has tie-ins and relations to the World of Warcraft game. This greatly helps keep Hearthstone on track design wise and helps a lot when creating cards as well as expansions. By having a huge and well known intellectual property such as World of Warcraft as their world setting, it gives designers a foundation to design from. 

Hearthstone classes are based off of the classes found in World of Warcraft. A lot of their abilities, weapons, creatures they ally with, spells, and so on were designed into the Hearthstone classes we see today. That being said, translating MMO style classes to that of a CCG was no easy task. A lot of core ideas of WoW classes stayed the same as they were made in Hearthstone. However, minions, spells, and so on were tweaked and reimagined to better suit Hearthstone's gameplay loop. 

Each Hearthstone class has a set of cards unique to them and a Hero Power they can use once every turn at a mana cost. Since launch Hearthstone has expanded greatly in each class and has explored many different playstyles and archetypes while keeping the core class themes consistent. Warrior, for example, has always been themed around gaining armor and damaging minions. This can be seen in World of Warcraft in some respect and multiple times over Hearthstone's history.

Creating iconic themes and making a real identity for a class is very hard to do over long periods of time. In early Hearthstone, classes only had two or so set playstyles. For example, warlock had a very aggressive "Zoolock" playstyle and a very controlling "Handlock" playstyle. Since then the designers have really expanded each class from their original playstyles and archetypes. This made it so multiple classes could have similar game plans, but achieve them in different ways. This led class identity to falter a bit. However, by expanding the range a class could play, it greatly increased design space in them as a whole.

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©Blizzard Entertainment

Readability is Accessibility

Having cards and effects be readable is very important to the success of Hearthstone. Collectable card games such as Magic the Gathering and others are known for their very large strings of text describing effects. Hearthstone however, makes it very clear that by reading a small piece of text on a card the player should know exactly what the card does. 

Card text and card names have sets of hidden rules to make cards easier to read and understand at a glance. One of my favorite examples of this is the card Nerub'ar Weblord. Its card text is "Minions with
Battlecry cost (2) more." The card could have easily said "Battlecry minions cost (2) more." However, due to how battlecry cards are written, it makes the card read like it's effect is a battlecry when it is not. The way the Hearthstone team wrote Nerub'ar Weblord is a brilliant example of readability in Hearthstone.

Effects that take a lot of words to explain and are seen as common use in Hearthstone are written as keywords. These keywords are bolded and given a name to makes the effect easy to recognize. Instead of saying "Enemy characters must attack this minion before your other characters" Hearthstone shortens this into the keyword
Taunt. This one word gets the point across and makes room for plenty of other text on a card. Little things like this add up a lot and make Hearthstone such a great game from a design standpoint.

There have been changes in Hearthstone since its launch to make it a more accessible game. One core example is the implementation of cards in hand glowing yellow when their effects are active. This small addition made it so players get feedback directly from the game. Another addition was the ability for players to mouse over hands and decks to see how many cards there are. This seems like a miniscule change. However, it's very intuitive and greatly improves quality of life. Instead of manually counting cards and trying to remember deck size, the game presents the information clearly and allows for players to spend their turns on more of the core gameplay.

Nerub'ar Weblord.webp

©Blizzard Entertainment

Keywords, Tribes, and Card Types

Hearthstone has many types of cards. There are minions, spells, weapons, quests, questlines, hero cards, locations, and more. These card types promote different types of gameplay and are ways for designers to branch out and try new mechanics as Hearthstone evolves. Each type of card allows for players to interact with the game in a different way. The most common card types are minion, spell, and weapon. Weapons for example, commonly give your hero an attack value and the ability to use your health as a resource in order to attack characters directly.

Tribes in Hearthstone which are now known as minion types, are the way Hearthstone denotes races or species in the game. Many tribes have an overlying theme such as dragons wanting dragons to be held in hand to gain an effect, or elementals wanting elementals to be played the previous turn. Tribes promote more deck building strategies and ways cards can be used to work with minion types. Murlocs for example, commonly want to buff other murlocs. Minion types add a lot of flavor and style to the game which makes expansions feel a lot more alive. Recently more minion types have been added to the game such Quilboar and Naga. Both provide a lot of fun, flavor, and expand the design space even further.

Keywords are commonly more complex mechanics that are abbreviated into one bolded word. In every expansion there is at least 1 new keyword, but after a set rotates out of standard format it usually isn't used again. However, some keywords become evergreen; meaning that they are able to be used in future card design from that point on.
Lifesteal is a great example of this. The keyword originally came out in the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion and has since become evergreen. Its' ability to provide sustain and health to many classes without healing added a lot to the game, and it has been a great addition to the design team's arsenal.


©Blizzard Entertainment

Card Quality and Balance

In Hearthstone you normally have 30 cards to put into a deck, and you can have 2 of any non-legendary cards. Making cards impactful enough to include in a deck while not having them be an auto-include in every deck is a hard balance to strike.

Over time cards have naturally become more impactful. However, design has also changed over the years as well. There have been eras where stats mattered a lot, and some where board presence was abysmal. The same can be said with the presence of a lot of design elements over the years. Card draw, card generation, life gain, combo potential, and more fluctuate throughout the years and drive the impact of cards. Some cards might be designed well and fit the game, but the meta at the time might make them unplayable.

There is a lot to balance on a single card let alone how it might work with numerous other cards. There is the card's impact stat wise, ability wise, archetype wise, card type wise, and more. From what I have witnessed designing cards and playing in the various metas over the years there are 3 main questions to ask yourself when determining the quality of a card. 

-How much do you get from your mana investment?

-What purpose does this card serve in your deck?

-How would you feel if your opponent played it against you?

These questions are extremely helpful when looking at what cards to include in a deck, what cards to change or balance, and what cards to design or re-design as a whole. Making cards matter is about looking at the design space in the game and seeing where cards fall on a scale. If a meta is leaning too far in one direction and needs correction, looking at card quality is the key.


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©Blizzard Entertainment

My Creations

My Methods of Card Design

Custom Expansions

I have been making custom Hearthstone content since Black Rock Mountain came out around 2015. My design skills and methods have changed a lot through the years to get to where I am today. I mainly use Google Drive and Sheets to design and Hearth Cards to test designs and formatting. I have changed my card making processes in Google Sheets many times and I have gone through many different formats to create the most efficient and easy to read format when I design cards today.

When I start to design cards I begin with my design sheet labeled with my custom expansion name. From there I design cards for each class and neutral by having them each be separate sheets. On each sheet I number off each card to keep track of them. Across the top columns is my main card design rubric I use to organize and explain the cards at a glance. I give myself 28 class cards an expansion and 9 for the mini-set. There are 42 Neutral cards an expansion and 16 for the mini-set. I do this because I believe Hearthstone should have a larger number of cards released each expansion. It also allows me to design more and experiment in expansion design.

On my Sheets there is a rarity called "Exotic." This rarity is one I created for special cards that are for events, main icon cards, and so on. The idea is that these cards are core legendary cards to an expansion. They are either given to all players or are acquired through quests or weekly events. The old gods, the Galakronds, and so on would be considered Exotics. 

I have numerous custom classes and some columns to plan for big future game ideas in Hearthstone. Columns such as "Mana Type" and "Special" are areas I specifically made to plan for the future. I usually plan my expansion's core themes out before I begin card designs. This allows me to think ahead and plan for some mechanics I know that I want to explore in the future. This also allows me to work smart and prepare cards to be changed at a later date once new mechanics are added such as new minion types and classes. 


I have designed over 20 years worth of expansions and mini-sets using the 3 expansion a year formula that is currently in place. I have formatted a yearly release schedule and ordered each expansion with purpose knowing the set mechanics and themes so they flow nicely into one another and account for set rotation.

When designing expansions, mini-sets, and adventures I do a lot of research into World of Warcraft to see what has been explored so far. From there I look into themes and design space to see what mechanics fit and would would be interesting to see in the game. 

In an expansion I come up with 4 or so mechanics/keywords to better explore my initial ideas. Then I make some test cards and themes for each class. I make sure each mechanic feels natural in the game and has plenty of design space. 

"Sweet Home Deepholm" is one of my custom expansions and it is the last expansion in the "Year of the Tortoise." This is a year long story following a mystery that brings characters through Deadwind pass (Ruined Karazhan), Iron Forge, and Lastly, the underground city of Deepholm. When designing a year long theme I make sure there are consistent ideas, fun new mechanics that work well with one another as well as fun and wacky things that every Hearthstone expansion loves to include.

"Sweet Home Deepholm" introduces
Equipment cards as well as the Resonate and Deep Keywords. Equipment cards have activatable effects and can be equipped by a minion or hero. Cards with Resonate gain additional effects if you are holding a card of a particular type in your hand. Cards with Deep activate effects based on the number of cards in your deck. 

Strangely enough, 2 years prior to the release of Voyage to the Sunken City I came up with a custom expansion called "Journey to the Sunken City" that also introduced the Naga minion type as well as similar mechanics. This is one of many examples where I have correctly created Hearthstone mechanics and themes years before they have been released.


The cards below are designed and created by me. All card art was found through the Custom Hearthstone Subreddit Discord Art Gallery. The rights to the artwork used in the cards below belongs to their respectful owners. 

Custom HS Art Sources

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Cards with the keyword Rot have strong effects, but can only be in hand for 3 turns before being discarded. Their time in hand can be extended by paying 1 mana.

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Cards with the keyword Resonate gain additional effects if a player is holding a card of a particular type in their hand. Burn is a keyword that causes the target to take double damage.

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Cards with the keyword Gambit flip a coin and prompt the player to guess the side facing up. If the player guesses correctly they gain the Gambit effect.

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Equipment cards can be equipped by a hero and act as a secondary Hero Power with limited uses. However, Equipment cards can also be played on minions for a different effect.

Custom Mechanics

Making Custom Mechanics is no simple task. Since I design my custom expansions in a yearly method it allows me to better understand design space at given times and plan mechanics that work well together in a balanced way. 

Many years ago I designed what I call my "Base Set Revamp" of Hearthstone. I did this prior to the Core set rotation plan that was announced in 2021. I made this revamp to even out design space in classes and add cards for a base set rotation I had planned years prior. This revamp gave each class 4 class specific keywords and classes that already had class specific keywords got fewer such as shaman with
Overload. This revamp plan also led my idea to add more cards given to each class during an expansion. The goal of the revamp was to smooth out inconsistencies in the game and expand class identity in order to open up more archetype variety in my future designs. 

Many of my class specific, neutral, and expansion keywords and mechanics have already made it into the game. For example, my class specific warrior keyword
Fury was exactly the same as the Frenzy keyword that was added during Forged in the Barrens. Avenge was a paladin specific keyword that was added as a Battlegrounds keyword with the exact same effect and name. My Neutral keyword Focus was the same as the Spellburst keyword that came out during Scholomance Academy. These are just a few of many examples of how my designs are aligning with Hearthstone's own development team.

When I design my keywords and mechanics I look a lot into theming and wording to make sure mechanics are very readable and could work well in the future if they were ever to become evergreen. I also take into account the feasibility of my designs and how they could be implemented to work both in the PC and Mobile clients for the game. 

For example, one set mechanic for my Sun Well themed custom expansion is introducing mana types and customization of the mana tray a player earns throughout a game. Another expansion's theme is slotted cards, where gems could be inserted into them in deck creation to customize effects. I have done a lot of thinking on both these effects and have drawn up multiple plans for how they would function.


Custom Classes

I held off on designing custom classes until I saw that demon hunter was announced. Seeing the Hearthstone team's approach to designing a completely new class into the game gave me lots of ideas and inspiration. Knowing that the team added demon hunter, I inferred that death knight and monk were surely in Hearthstone's future. 

I started with death knight since I thought the class would be the next one introduced into the game. I felt that death knight would fall somewhere between the playstyles of warrior, priest, and paladin. Therefore I made its Hero Power 2 mana to gain 1 Armor and
Scry and its upgraded version gain 3 Armor and Scry. Scry is a common keyword in other games and I thought it would work well in Hearthstone. It looks at the top card of your deck and you can decide to keep it there or move it to the bottom of your deck. I felt that this fit the class and was a neat mechanic. I did a lot of research into World of Warcraft and from it I got the idea for theming of a class around undead minions, gaining some armor, having weapons, and deathrattles. I gave deathknight 4 custom keywords as well in design. One of them was almost exactly the Reborn keyword that came out during the Saviors of Uldum expansion.

Monk is the class I expected the Hearthstone team to release last and I thought it fit the playstyles between druid, rogue, and shaman. I made monk's Hero Power 2 mana to heal a character for 1 health and give your hero +1 attack this turn. Its upgraded version doubled the healing and the attack similar to druid's upgraded Hero Power. From what I found in World of Warcraft, monks were all about martial arts, meditation, healing, buffs, and brews. Therefore, I wanted to translate it the best way I could into Hearthstone through its' keywords. One of monk's keywords is
Zen, it's similar to my paladin keyword Judgement where the card changes based on the game state. Zen looks at the number of friendly minions on your side of the board and depending on if it's even or odd it does a different effect.

Death knight and monk are classes I expect to see in the game one day. However, I also made many other custom classes such as Bard, Shifter, and Berserker for example. I designed them to be on the same power level, theme, and card design standards I use when designing for already existing classes. Making custom classes allows me to think outside of the box and refine my design skills even further with the puzzle of designing and implementing new classes that fit well in an existing game.

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Minions with the keyword Avenge trigger an effect after a certain number of minions die.

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Cards with the keyword Search prompt the player to pick from 2 class specific cards to add to their hand.

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Cards with the keyword Zen look at the number of friendly minions on your side of the board and depending on if it's even or odd it does a different effect.

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Cards with the keyword Empower can be dragged over a player's deck to pay mana to upgrade them.

My 365 Days of Card Design

A Card A Day

After designing 20+ years worth of Hearthstone cards and mechanics I wanted to try something to test my design skills on the fly. For this challenge I set out to make a Hearthstone card every day for a year.

I allowed myself to use any Hearthstone mechanics as well as my custom mechanics and classes I made previously in my designs. I wanted this challenge to have an emphasis on making fun cards across multiple rarities and card types. These cards were not designed with a particular expansion or theme in mind. I thought it would be an interesting idea since I previously did a lot of expansion first designing.

During the challenge I would browse art and look at my design notes to get an idea of what kind of card I wanted to make that day. Then I would go to and make it into a custom card. This quick and fast ideation method felt fresh. However, it did start out somewhat rough. After 10 or so cards I got a lot better at making quality designs on the fly.

I kept an ongoing folder making sure to number each card and the artwork associated with it. For my custom mechanics I made separate cards to explain keywords and concepts. I'm happy I thought of this early on and planned accordingly. It made my design process and card management much more organized especially later on through the challenge.

Designing For Now and Later

Ever since I started designing custom content for Hearthstone I held the idea that cards should be designed with the purpose of them being somewhat playable. I don't like the idea of "filler cards" and I believe that every card put into the game should both fit and add to the balance the game. 

Due to designing cards away from particular expansion themes, I mainly focused on creating unique effects in single cards rather than card packages. This pushed me to make more useful and strong cards that both fit into some previous archetypes and created some new ones.

When designing, I like to keep close to Design Ranges and balance effects and cards so that they fit within the power level of the current game and push some areas I see the game going in the future. This allows me to produce cards that feel interesting and useful, while also feeling like they could be seen in Hearthstone. 

Keeping designs clean and simple is something I pride myself on when designing custom Hearthstone content. I have seen a lot of custom cards that have numerous different effects and things going on. If these cards were ever put into the game it would create balance issues and confusion. By designing cards so that they are easy to read, understand, and play, it creates a better gameplay experience in general. This is why I always try my best to make my designs interesting while also clean, so they feel like they could be in the game one day.

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Designing For and From Art

During my challenge I wanted to do a mix of starting with card art and starting with designs. I've done a lot of design first work in the past and wanted to give the art first method a try. In developer videos I heard that the Hearthstone team does a mix of both, so what better way to improve my skills than to do it myself. 

Designing art first is a fun method I learned to enjoy throughout the challenge. Card art really gave me a sense of how cards could be minions, spells, weapons, etc. Looking at artwork and assigning a cost, stats, and effect was really interesting. Some art makes you think that it should be huge stat wise, or statted more aggressively or defensively based on how the artwork looked visually. It was a very insightful way to design. By doing this method so consistently it really helped me nail down card feel and helped me make cards that felt like real Hearthstone cards.

When designing cards with design in mind it was easier to explore ideas and not be tied down to a specific creature or visual element. It allowed me to change aspects that would have meant for major redraws of card art. This method is one I have been doing for a long time and have gotten fairly good at. I can picture the card art in my mind and really put the card together mentally to make the process a lot faster. 


What I Have Learned So Far

After designing a card everyday for 365 days I learned a lot about how I design cards and how to improve my designs as a result. Due to making cards on the fly without the restrictions of a specific expansion in mind it helped me branch out as a designer. 

Allowing myself freedom to use any Hearthstone mechanic as well as my custom mechanics and classes was really fun. It allowed me to see first hand how my designs would fit into the game and how cards could be made to counter effects and designs. It helped me not only better refine my mechanics, but also allowed me to make some really great cards.

By working through both methods of card design, I learned a lot more about the details of each approach. Designing art first helped me better theme and stat cards. However, I learned that this approach did limit design range and space due to already having the artwork. Creating cards with design first was a lot of fun and led to some really great ideas and designs. However, it made it harder to find artwork that fit the card's design and effect. All in all, I learned that both approaches have their upsides and downsides, but in the end each method taught me a lot about myself as a designer and helped me better refine my card design skills.

I really enjoyed this challenge and I learned a lot about the game and myself as a designer though the process. I feel by doing 365 days of Hearthstone, it allowed me to understand even more about the game and how it is designed. All in all, I loved every day of this challenge and I would highly recommend it to other people who would like to improve their ability to design custom Hearthstone content.


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