Q&A with Hearthstone’s Pat Nagle about Wizard Duels

Can you talk about the loot buckets and how they work?

So there are two types of buckets that players will see to choose cards from. There are designer made buckets, and there are what we are calling smart buckets. We use machine learning to feed you buckets that feature cards that we think you will want. So players will be offered a mix of buckets that we crafted, and buckets that are trying to figure out what you would like to add. It uses a similar logic to the smart deck complete when you are building a standard deck and you get halfway and the game asks if you want help to complete it and we will look at what decks other players are using that have similar cards in them and make recommendations based on that. We are doing the same thing with Duels. So when it goes live it will be really cool to see how smart buckets collect Duels data and basically crowd-sourcing some bucket logic to you. For the designer buckets, we look at your deck and try to match buckets that we have made with cards in your deck or cards that go with cards that are in your deck. So our hope is that the buckets that you see, you will be happy to choose.

Dungeon Runs could end very quickly due to randomness. Could Wizard Duels be too random to be competitive?

Pat: There is a certain level of randomness that we do like. This is something that we will have to keep an eye on. With the loot buckets there is a lot of randomness but there is also a lot of logic behind it. And hopefully with three buckets to choose from there is always something that you want and you can choose something that suits your deck better. So there are some mitigating factors to things just being too random. There is also some behind the scenes logic for deciding which treasures you are offered. The passive treasures are from a curated list and we are giving you treasures that will be good early in the run. But if you can get farther in, you can choose from more powerful treasures. We are very aware of the randomness and our basic philosophy is that the randomness might spread deeper on in the run, the power levels might get a little more crazy. If you get to the eighth or ninth game in a run, the treasures will start getting a little crazier.

Will there be a balance team? We saw weapon buff decks playing pretty well today.

We will make tuning changes as we need. We also plan to do a few things. We will basically evolve the meta ourselves. Right now you saw one hero power and one treasure per hero, but in beta there will be another hero power and two other treasures and that will have a pretty strong effect on the meta and the introduction of hero powers and treasures will continue over time. We are also going to rotate the card sets that are available. We hope that is going to be some powerful tools to keep the meta off balance. Having said all that, if we see things that are overpowered, we can do things like not put them in buckets or we can ban cards from deckbuilding too.

Will you be able to remove cards or stop adding cards?

After game three or four, there is a chance you will get a bucket called No More Please, which doesn’t add any cards to your deck. And that is our first step in letting people limit their deck size. You won’t always take it, but a lot of people that have a hand-crafted deck that they love might not want more cards, even if they are powerful cards. There is a strategy to keeping your deck tight. That is why we added it and we will track how many people use it. I love that idea of having that opportunity to actually remove some cards from your deck too. That is something that I will be thinking about for future updates.

Are you worried about dividing the playerbase across several modes?

That is a good question. There is more barrier to entering a Duels mode than say Battlegrounds. You have to make all those decisions and it does take cards in your collection, which I think is really awesome but it may turn away some people. We think, though, that Duels has some things going for it to help the more casual player. A 15 card deck is a lot easier and the fact you are given a Hero Power and a signature treasure to start with when building your deck can be really helpful in deciding what cards to put in. We are finding internally that those players that weren’t that into deckbuilding in Standard, it was a lot easier for them to get into deckbuilding for this. We are hoping to get more people into the deckbuilding of Hearthstone because making decks is hard but really fun. It is also free so anyone can try. Even players that don’t have a big collection can start off and we will give them treasures and buckets so they are going to have a lot of fun too. We might not be grabbing all the casual Hearthstone players day one, but we want people to try this mode.

Will the game help you build or complete a deck?

No, I am afraid it won’t. Perhaps the biggest guiding light will be to look at the Hero Power and signature treasure. We also allow you to put deck codes in, so you can go look for starter decks and go put codes in. That, for now, is the only instruction we have for deckbuilding. That is a good question, I’m going to take a mental note because I want as many people to play as possible. We want players to really like this mode and if we can help to get them into it, then that is all good.

Will we ever see the Highlander cards in the mode?

In general, we do open up the options to not allow cards in a mode. At the moment we only have the one banned card. We do want to make sure that if there is a card that breaks the mode – and Highlander cards are a good example – at the start, we force Highlander on you and after that, it would be hard to maintain Highlander at three loot buckets. If we were to allow them we want to make sure that it is a good experience. As we change the sets around, we will have to look at this. If we bring in an older card set, we will look at those cards and make sure we don’t let in cards that mess things up too much.

Will it always be related to the current set?

While we have the professors now, we might have other heroes in future, but we aren’t talking about that yet and seasons will not align with expansions.

If it has the letters RPG in it, I am there. Still battling with balancing trying to play every single game that grabs my interest, getting 100% in a JRPG, and devoting time to my second home in Azeroth.

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