New Mechanics That Could Make Hearthstone Better
After the last article about Most Interesting Custom Cards I’ve started wondering. In order to keep the old player base and attract fresh blood, Hearthstone needs to Evolve. That’s for sure. And we see a good trend, the game gets new mechanics, new keywords and gets overall more diverse as the time goes by. It’s still far away from the long-running Magic: The Gathering it’s often compared to, but it might get there eventually.
And so I was thinking. Thinking about new mechanics, new things that would keep the game fresh and actually make it better. I came up with few things I’d love to see in the game in the future. I think that some of them have a serious chance of being implemented, others will probably never be in the game. But well, one can dream, right?
Most of the ideas aren’t mine. They’re borrowed from the other games (at least partially) or they’ve been circulating in the community for a while. I just picked the ones I like most.
This one is borrowed from MTG, but I’ve seen other games making use of it too. And it’s really simple. Basically, as long as the Enchantment stays on the board, its effect is active. But it can’t be interacted with like minions can, you can’t “kill it” without effects that specifically target Enchantments.
In Hearthstone, enchantments could target your side of the board, opponent’s side of the board or the whole thing. They would be less powerful or cost more than buff cards, but they would be harder to remove and proactive (they would affect everything that came after it was already placed). Here are a few examples of the Enchantments that could work in Hearthstone:
- 3 mana: At the start of your turn, summon a 1/1 Silver Hand Recruit. Lasts 6 turns.
- 4 mana: Every time you summon a minion, give it +1/+1. Lasts 3 turns.
- 4 mana: All Murlocs gain +1/+1. Lasts 4 turns.
- 3 mana: Only 2 minions can attack each turn. Lasts 3 turns.
- 5 mana: Enemy minions lose their Battlecries. Lasts 3 turns.
Enchantments like that would be the most basic ones. Clear, easy to understand, but also not overly powerful. They would be a negative tempo plays at first, but would provide a huge value gain over time. I like the timer on them, because it wouldn’t force people to tech against them – if you’d face a deck with Enchantments without a proper way to remove them it’d feel really bad if they were permanent.
Then, on top of the Enchantments, we would of course need to see some cards that interact with them. Here are some examples of the ones I came up with:
- 5 mana, Legendary Minion, 4/5. Add 1 turn timer to all your enchantments. Remove 1 turn timer from all the enemy enchantments.
- 3 mana, Minion, 3/3. Target Enchantment’s effect doubles next turn only.
- 4 mana, Spell. Destroy target Enchantment.
- 5 mana, Minion, 5/5. At the end of your turn, remove 1 turn timer from a random enemy Enchantment.
Of course, it would be impossible to release tons of those in a single expansion. But if this became a thing, they could just spread and release a few more Enchantments per expansion. Some of them could be Neutral, fitting multiple decks (like a more generic one) and some could be class-specific. For example, limiting the maximum number of minions attacking might be Priest thing. Everything would, obviously, require a lot of balancing, but with enough counter play it would be relatively easy to balance everything.
Flavor-wise, since Hearthstone boards are “pieces of art” by themselves, each enchantment could have an actual effect on the board. For example, spawn rain over it, or maybe turn the “day” into “night” (make everything darker). Those would be nice finishing touches.
The biggest problem when it comes to Enchantments, and probably the reason why they will never be in Hearthstone, is the UI limitations. While it wouldn’t be bad on PC, there is still A LOT of space on the screen (e.g. left side of the board), A LOT of Hearthstone design decisions are about making it playable on mobile too. The game did a great job with the mobile port, besides a few bugs it’s not clunky and very intuitive, but – sadly – full. It would be very hard to fit more stuff on the screen without forcing players to scroll one way or the other all the time. That’s why I doubt that such things will ever get into the game.
I mean, a way around that would be to make those Enchantments a minions. Minions that are immune to damage and non-targetable. They would still have X turns timer and do X, but they would take a board space. It’s a way worse design for PC, but it wouldn’t force the UI changes and would fit the mobile too. But well, if such a thing ever gets into the game, I’ll leave the implementation part to the Team 5.
Equipment is another feature I’d like to see in Hearthstone. The game puts a lot of emphasis on minion vs minion combat and I think that equipment would fit perfectly. Right now, the closest thing we have to the equipment is a Hunter’s spell – Explorer's Hat. And it could be remade into a piece of equipment, let me show you how.
Right now the card is a 2 mana spell that gives a minion +1/+1 and Deathrattle which makes the Hat come back to the Hunter’s hand. However, there are few things that don’t make it a proper equipment yet. First – it’s just a buff spell, it doesn’t have any unique tags or other ways to interact with it. Second – There is no UI indication that a minion has something equipped. Third – The equipment is treated like a Deathrattle, so it can be Silenced and interacted with through the cards like Baron Rivendare. Fourth – You can’t “re-equip” the Hat while it’s still on the minion, you have to wait until it’s dead. Close, but no cigar.
The equipment I’d like to see would need another category. Right now we have minions, spells and weapons (for Heroes). We’d need a fourth one – minion equipment. It would work close to a buff, but instead of being permanent and “tied” to a single minion, it would go back to your hand when the minion dies (or maybe through the other effects) and you could pay the mana cost again to re-equip it into another minion. Some equipment could be for the friendly minions only and others might target the opponent minions too (with a negative effect).
Equipments would basically be more expensive than the buffs, but they could be used multiple times and would be more flexible, as you could equip it on whatever you want right now. Let’s say that for the sake of clarity, one minion could hold only a single piece of equipment at the time (let’s say that you wouldn’t be able to place another equipment on a minion that already has one). Once the minion has something equipped, it’s affected by the equipment’s text all the time. Owner of the equipment (the player who used it) can always re-equip it on something else by paying the mana cost again. When the minion dies, or the equipment is “bounced back to the hand” through any other means, it gets back to the owner’s hand – not necessarily to the player who owns the minion. And how would it look, exactly? Here are few examples:
- 3 mana, Equip on friendly minions. Give this minion +2 Health and Taunt. It could be a Druid’s equipment. Basically, a Druid could play a tempo buff – Mark of the Wild and have better effect for only 2 mana. Or he could play this equipment and be able to use it as many times he wants to. So he could turn each minion into a Taunt minion, but at a high price.
- 4 mana, Equip on all minions. Whenever this minion takes damage, draw a card. Basically a portable Acolyte of Pain effect. You have to pay full 4 mana every time you use it and you wouldn’t get the 1/3 body, but it would be reusable and you could pick the right opportunity or a place it on a big minion. It would be “equip on all minions” to add a little niche use – playing it on opponent minions and forcing him to draw. Of course, that would be a very, very expensive way to mill, but it might come handy in certain rare situations.
- 2 mana, Equip on enemy minions. This minion’s Deathrattle effect doesn’t proc. It’s like a Silence that only works for Deathrattles and only as long as it’s equipped, but it has multiple uses. It could be a great tech against Deathrattle decks (like N’Zoth decks) but at the same time it might be dead against other stuff.
Card texts would need to be polished, because right now they might be a bit clunky, but that not a problem. However, adding equipment without a way to interact with it would be kinda a poor idea. Luckily for us, we already have some candidates for that function. Besides creating completely new cards to interact with equipment, we could also implement that function into already existing ones like . But, destroying the equipment completely would be a little too powerful on that guy. What if he, besides removing 1 Durability from a weapon, could return a target equipment to the owner’s hand? That would be a nice tempo gain and it would make the card more useful, because of the flexibility – right now it’s clearly worse than Acidic Swamp Ooze and it might make sense to run it after the change. Besides that, there could be other cards that interact with equipment:
- 6 mana, Spell. Steal target equipment and equip it if possible. That would be like an ultimate Counter to equipment if such decks ever became too strong. The card would basically counter every equipment completely – you’d steal it from the opponent and re-equip it immediately on one of your minions. If you don’t have any minions, it’d just go back to your hand. Stealing an equipment would also change the owner of it
- 4 mana, Minion, 4/4. Destroy target equipment. Now, that would be a tech card similar to the current Ooze. You’d have to run a very weak minion (vanilla 4/4 for 4 in that case) to counter equipments. Against decks with no equipments, it would be a bad card, but not unplayable – you’d still get that 4/4 minion when you’d need to. And it would be a nice counter to equipment cards.
- 2 mana, Legendary Minion, 2/2. Steal target equipment and equip it on this minion. It doesn’t change the owner. That would be a nice little piece of diversion. You could steal any equipment AND equip it immediately for as little as 2 mana. But it would be only a one-time thing. A quick swing in the tempo, but the long-term value would get back to its owner. And once again, just like with other tech cards, it would be obviously powerful when playing against equipment-focused deck, but it would be bad against decks that don’t run it at all.
And those are just some examples. If equipment cards got into the game, we’d obviously have to get a few more “counter cards”. What I like about equipment is that it would add another layer of strategy into the game. Since minion vs minion combat is promoted, the game would put more emphasis on exactly that. There might be equipment that only works when you hit another minion. You’d have to plan your turns ahead and think about what equipment your opponent might use to make his trade better. Then with a few equipment pieces in the game already, you’d also have to build your strategy around them. Let’s say that your opponent has the equipment that adds the card draw to any of his minions, now you might be more incentivized to clear whatever he plays so that piece will be useless. I think it would be really interesting to see something like that in the game.
But, once again, UI problems. How would you display the equipment to not make it too clunky? I thought about one thing. Each minion that has something equipped could have a little “armor” icon above it (or let’s say in the upper right corner above the card). When you click it, the game displays the info about what is equipped on that minion, how much mana does it cost and who is the owner. If you’re the owner, you could drag it and then it would visually “drag the equipment card” through the screen so you can re-equip it to something else. That’s just something I came up with after a minute, so the idea would obviously need some polishing. But I think that there would be clear ways to adjust the UI in order to make equipment feel natural on both PC and Mobile.
On top of those two “big” ideas, there are also tons of smaller ones I’d like to see in the game. Those, unlike the last 2, are much more likely, because they’re simply new keywords. Like you know, the ones they’re adding in most of the expansions. Things like Discover or the Un’Goro’s Adapt. Those have a much smaller impact on the game, but if they’re well-made and powerful enough, they can become a really cool mechanic. Discover is one of the examples – it’s a mechanic that’s much more balanced than getting a “random card”, because you can control the RNG to some extent. It’s really one of my favorite mechanics and I just love cards like Dark Peddler or Kabal Courier, because they let you play around with cards you’d never put in your deck.
But, what are the other keywords/mechanics like that I’d like to see in the game? Here are the few examples:
Meditate would be a mechanic that procs when you DON’T attack with a minion when you could. It means that the effect doesn’t proc right away after you play the minion (because you couldn’t attack yet). It would, however, proc if the minion had Charge and you didn’t attack. It also wouldn’t proc if the minion was unable to attack, like let’s say it was Frozen.
Meditate effects would give you an alternative to attacking. One of the most simple examples is a minion that heals your Hero on meditate. Let’s say a 5 mana 5/5 that restores 4 health to your Hero when you meditate. Now you would have two options. Next turn after playing that minion you could either attack with it normally, but then it would be just a vanilla 5/5 minion. But if you would need healing or your wouldn’t have anything good to attack anyway, you could decide to skip the attack and you’d get healed for 4 instead. Each turn the minion stays on the board you’d get to choose between an attack and getting the extra effect.
Another idea I have, this time for a Legendary minion, is to have a interesting combination: 6 mana, Druid Legendary Minion, 4/10. Charge. Meditate: Give this minion Taunt this turn only. Can’t attack Heroes. See? Now, you’d have a huge minion for 6 mana. It has Charge, which lets you kill something immediately if you need to. And at the same time, if you skip the Attack, you end up with a 4/9 Taunt. The downside? Similarly to Icehowl, it can’t attack Heroes. Which means that on the one hand, it’s very powerful, because it gives you a huge Taunt and a flexibility to run into something right away, but let’s say Ancient of War is also a big threat, because it can hit for 5 every turn. With this minion, if you want to have a Taunt, you can’t attack with it. If you attack, Meditate doesn’t proc and the minion ends up without a Taunt.
There are a lot of fun things you can do with meditate. You can make a mini-Ragnaros that deals damage on meditate, you could have a minion that draws a card when you meditate, one that gets extra stats when you meditate etc. I have dozens of ideas already and this keyword has tons of potential.
Scry is a mechanic taken straight from MtG and I think that it would fit really well into Hearthstone by reducing the draw RNG a bit. Basically, Scry is a mechanic that allows you to look at top X cards of your library (deck), then put them back in any order (or put them on the bottom of your library). This allows player to manipulate the order of their deck a bit, making sure that they don’t draw dead cards for a few turns. In Hearthstone, it would help when you’re looking for a specific card, like a combo piece. It would also help the decks that are built around 1-2 cards to get those cards more consistently – e.g. Reno decks that don’t get Reno or Kazakus are simply the much worse versions of their non-highlander counterparts.
To make the mechanic more clear, I’d make the Hearthstone Scry just looking at the top X cards from one player’s the deck without any other actions. The action you can make would be stated in the card itself. To make it more familiar, I’ll edit one card that’s probably closest thing we have to Scry in Hearthstone – Tracking. Imagine the card saying “Scry 3. Draw one card and discard the other two.” – pretty simple, right?
There are multiple other possibilities with this mechanic. Both interactions with your own deck and with your opponent’s deck. Here are some other examples of the effects that could utilize Scry mechanic:
- Scry enemy (2). Choose a card and shuffle it back to your opponent’s deck. That effect would basically a) give you information about top 2 cards from your opponent’s deck and b) allow you to pick one of them and shuffle it back to his deck. It would most likely mean delaying the draw. The effect is very powerful, but not always beneficial – you’d be forced to pick one of the cards. If 2 top cards from your opponent’s deck are bad in the matchup, you’re still forced to pick one and shuffle it. Now you’ve played a card and paid mana and instead of screwing your opponent, you’ve helped him.
- Scry (3). Choose a card and put it at the top of your deck, shuffle the other two into your deck. Now, this effect isn’t that powerful and can also potentially be bad for you, but it gives you a power to control the draws just a little bit. You’d pick one card that you would draw next and you could also potentially shuffle a card you don’t want to draw right now deeper into your deck.
- Scry (3). Choose a card and deal damage equal to its cost to a minion and shuffle it into your deck. This effect would be insanely powerful in the right deck. Not only you’d get the info about top 2 cards from your deck (because one would be shuffled back) but you’d also get a pretty powerful removal at the same time. Of course, it would still be have a little bit of RNG involved, because you could draw 3 cheap cards, but it would be much more consistent than let’s say Holy Wrath (and that’s why you could only target minions). At the same time, picking something expensive would come with a cost – you’d have to shuffle the card back, meaning it would delay that draw.
It’s another mechanic with many, many possibilities. And while I think that it could fit right into Hearthstone, I feel like the devs might disagree with me. It’s obvious that the mechanic is a little bit more complicated than what we already have in the game. Interacting with your library and more importantly your opponent’s library might be something we’ll never see in the game on a bigger scale. But I’ll be happy if I’m wrong about this one.
It’s the mechanic I took from this recent reddit post, but I’ve modified it a bit. Hibernate would basically give a card X turns timer after it comes to the play. The card can’t attack or proc its effects until its hibernation wears off. At the same time, the card could normally be attacked or targeted by spells (including removals, obviously). Which would create an interesting scenario. One player would have to pay some mana in advance without getting anything right away. The opponent would know exactly what and when will activate, so it wouldn’t be a surprise. However, for that initial tempo loss and extra knowledge from the opponent, the player with Hibernated minion would now get a nice swing after the minion wakes up, if the opponent doesn’t counter it before of course.
Hibernate could range from really short timers that just give you some extra stats. E.g. a 2 mana 3/4 with Hibernate (2). It would mean that it takes 2 turns for the minion to be able to attack, as opposing to the usual 1 turn. So when playing this on turn 2, the player could attack with it on turn 4. Longer hibernates could come with more powerful effects. For example, “4 mana 4/5, Hibernate (3). When this minion wakes up, deal 3 damage to all enemy minions.” – On the one hand, 3 turns of hibernation would mean that the card played on turn 4 couldn’t attack until turn 7 and that’s when the effect would proc. Of course, if the card would survive. The effect is very powerful – 3 damage AoE on top of a 4/5 body, but it can be countered by killing the minion AND it has to be played in advance, so it could be played around in a different way if the first plan didn’t work out (e.g. not playing any small minions into it).
Then, I would imagine even more powerful effects with even longer hibernate. Something like a 8 mana 5/7 minion with “Hibernate (4). When this minion wakes up, you win the game.” Powerful? Right. But at the same time, very, very hard to pull off. The minion itself costs 8 mana + 4 turns of hibernation = turn 12 “win” in the best case scenario (assuming no mana manipulation), which makes it already very weak against Aggro (at this point the game is already decided). And against slow decks, it’s also incredibly hard to keep it alive for that long, given how many removals those decks have.
Then, there would be one more obvious counter to Hibernate – Silence. If you’d Silence a card with Hibernate, it would just act like it was a vanilla minion. So, for example, Silencing the last guy would turn it into a vanilla 5/7 that can attack like any other minion. So, as you can see, it wouldn’t be that hard to counter.
Hibernate could make for the interesting deck building and game play decisions. I like the fact that both players would know what is hibernated and how long it will take to wake it up, so one player could try to get the most out of hibernated card and the other would try to counter it the best he can.
So, that’s all folks. I think hope that I’ve explained those 5 mechanics well enough and that you like them as much as I do. Hearthstone is a game that has tons of potential when it comes to development. While I’m sure that new things will be added, I just hope that adjusting the game for mobile or making it won’t take the priority over introducing many cool and interesting effects. With the right amount of resources and time, pretty much everything can be polished enough to fit into mobile and not be too complicated (not to mention that a little bit of complexity won’t hurt the game at all, it might help it if anything).
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Good luck on the ladder and until next time!