Well, the wait is finally over! Today, I share with you the project I’ve been working on for the last couple months, my next fan set, The Halls of Valor!
Thanks to all of you who have been patiently waiting since my little teaser a few weeks ago and thank you all for indulging me with a fan set in the middle of reveal season for Hearthstone’s next real set! I’m very excited to see what Madness at the Darkmoon Faire has to offer.
As you may know, I wanted to get this set out before reveal season, but this year’s accelerated schedule beat me to that. Then, since I couldn’t beat the announcement in its entirety, I figured I might as well take a bit more time to work on stuff instead of rushing it out right away. There actually ended up being some fairly big revisions made after what I thought was going to be the last second, and I’m looking forward to telling you guys about that in my next post. But, I’ve put in the extra time and now I feel pretty good about where the set ended up, so I’m ready to show it. I want to do it now because I anticipate that the next couple weeks will be absolutely swamped with content leading up to and immediately following the launch of the expansion, and then leading into Worlds.
Finally, a few quick reminders: 1) this set is intended to be my take on the third set of the current Hearthstone year–it was (mostly) designed before seeing any of the Darkmoon Faire cards and is specifically supposed to be a hypothetical alternative to that set, not an addition to it; 2) my goal has been (and still is) to work on Hearthstone’s initial design team, not final design–plus, of course, I have no way to test my designs even if I wanted to be on final design–so while I tried to balance my cards to the best of my ability, that wasn’t my primary concern, and feedback on that point isn’t as helpful as feedback on other aspects; 3) the purpose of this post is to just introduce the cards and basic concepts/ideas behind them–last time I designed a set, I wrote a lot about the process, and I plan to do that again this time as well, but I will be doing that in a later post–after the Madness at the Darkmoon Faire launch and initial hype; and 4) like with real Hearthstone, I both drew from existing Warcraft lore and tweaked stuff/ made up my own stuff, based on what I thought worked best–and, while I’m admittedly no loremaster, I did spend a lot of time researching this, so if you notice something isn’t canon, that was most likely on purpose and doesn’t make for the best feedback to point that out (hopefully you like it, though!). Alright, time’s up, let’s do this!
All card images made with Hearthcards.net, using images I believe to be owned by Blizzard–there wasn’t always an image that exactly matched what I envisioned, but I tried to find the best I could. As with last time, you can check out my design doc if you want more notes on what I was thinking about individual cards, the occasional flavor text/art description, or just want to check out the cards in text form instead of in image form.
To understand the cards you’re about to see, you need to know that Halls of Valor includes a new keyword, Ephemeral. After a minion with Ephemeral attacks or is attacked, the minion dies, regardless of if it took lethal damage (or any damage at all!).
Halls of Valor also includes an entirely new card type: Relics! Relics take up a slot on the Battlefield, like minions do, but can’t attack or be attacked, and don’t have any health. Some Relics have activated abilities that are like hero powers that can be used multiple times per turn; others have passive or triggered abilities that happen automatically. There’s a Legendary cycle of Relics in Halls of Valor, including one for each class and one neutral. The Relics are represented by the cool larger-art frame, which was a creation of Hearthcards, but is actually pretty close to what I had in mind for them before I even saw that Hearthcards had this secret capability.
Anyway, enough chit-chat, here are some cards and some brief explanations of what each class is doing and any individual cards that need some context:
Demon Hunters are in league with Helya, the fallen val’kyr queen of Helheim. She’s about as far away from the Halls of Valor as one can get. She and her underworld wretches play with themes of ephemeral, minions dying, and some big demon energy. Let’s take a look (you can click on the images throughout this post to expand):
Reminder: Demon Hunters get some extra cards each set this year.
Druids revolve around Freya, the keeper tasked with creating life on Azeroth. And life springs forth! Druid’s toolkit in this set involves ramp, big minions, and minion swarms. There’s also a little bit of life-gain synergy in there, to both go with the theme and potentially give the life-gain Druid archetype one last chance at relevance before it rotates.
Hunters are one of the classes vying for spots in the Halls of Valor–where the Fields of the Eternal Hunt lie. The big beasts from the Fields of the Eternal Hunt populate Hunter’s card pool, with the Deathrattle theme evoking that “eternal” flavor. Hunter also has a “heal is cheat” theme, because Hunters believe that valorous combat doesn’t include nonsense like healing all your health to undo all the work they did.
Mage was one of the classes that got a pretty big rework from the initial version, but one thing that was there from pretty much the beginning was the self-freeze theme (the “Friendly Frosts” are a 0-mana spell that just Freezes a friendly character). The theme taps into the core viking/vrykul resonance of freezing cold, but doesn’t add too much to the already high amount of freeze-your-enemy effects available to Mage. So the flavor here is that the Sons of Hodir are locked in the Winterskorn War with Thorim’s Hyldnir supporters (in Shaman), but Mage has a Secret weapon. Literally.
Paladin is another class that is fighting with valor to earn their spots in the Halls of Valor. To Paladins, fighting with valor means revealing secrets so you can fight fair. The fact that the Paladins also have their own secrets is something you can read into if you’d like. Paladins also have an Ephemeral subtheme, which creates interesting tension with their hand- and board-buff themes and effects.
Priests are the Valarjar, Odyn’s valorous ascended vrykul. Some of them are the Val’kyr, tasked with ferrying the valorous from the land of the living to the Halls of Valor, so Deathrattle, Ephemeral, and reanimation themes abound. There is also a silence subtheme to go with the Ephemeral theme, or to pair with existing cards that benefit from it.
The tricky class is home to the trickster, Loken. Loken uses illusions–represented by Ephemeral copies of minions–to fight (as to card for Loken himself, the copies are secretly “shuffled,” so it’s not always the middle one that is the “real” Loken). His goal is to rewrite the Archive of the Ages to cover up his mischief. Rewriting the Archive is a lot of work, but once it’s completely rewritten, you win the game! Very tricky.
The god of thunder, Thorim, is in a rage, calling down lightning from the heavens. Krolmir, his trusty weapon, reads: “After your hero attacks, call lightning down on your enemies.” This is similar to Runespear in that it lets you discover a lightning-themed spell (you choose between those in evergreen and those in this set) to then automatically cast with random enemy targets. Some of these lightning-themed cards overlap with Shaman’s Overload Control mechanics. The fearsome Hyldnir support Thorim in the Winterskorn War against Hodir’s followers, represented by the return of the ever popular (lol) Freeze Shaman archetype! Maybe this time it’s a bit… cooler.
Some classes aren’t so interested in valor, and one of those is Warlock. The up-and-coming Jarl Skovald doesn’t have time for meaningless trials and rituals, he just wants power, whatever the cost. In his first upgrade, he gains Rush and +3/+3; in his second upgrade, he has that plus Lifesteal and another +2/+2; and if you’ve managed to deal 30 damage to yourself and live, his final form is God-King Skovald, where he gains Immune and another +5/+5. 5-mana Rushing, Lifesteal, Immune, 15/15, anyone?! Jarl is the leader of the Felskorn, and is in league with the Bonespeakers. The Felskorn support him in his self-damage quest, whereas the Bonespeakers focus in Discard synergies.
Warriors represent both the living warriors who seek to die in valorous combat and Helgar, the smith in the Halls of Valor who forges magical Stormforged weapons and armor for them. The Taunt-Toggle Banner switches between adding and removing Taunt from all minions, so you can turn it on for a buff, turn it off to attack your opponent’s face, and then turn it back on for defense on their turn. Or, with Helgar on your side, you can just keep equipping weapons and smacking your opponent’s minions.
Alright, that’s all for the class cards. On to the neutrals! Since there are so many neutrals, I think it makes sense to split them up by rarity. They also, of course, don’t really have specific unifying themes like the class cards do, so much as they try to support all the classes. So I’ll discuss more specific cards in the bunches instead of the themes of the groups as a whole.
The Legendaries have to include the all-father himself, of course! Odyn was in my little teaser and I made you all wait until now to find out that a “Valorous copy” means that you get a golden copy of the minion with +2/+2, Divine Shield, and “Can’t be Ephemeral.”
Grrvrrgull is the murloc leader of the Tideskorn (in my twist on things), a group of murlocs who wear viking hats and… well, what more do you need to know other than “murloc with a viking hat.”
E.T.C.’s booking in the Hall of Fame wasn’t good enough for him, so he was chosen to be the rocking minstrel for the Hall of Valor. This V.T.C. (he’s Valorous now) is an update to the original. Now, you get to choose which spell he offers, and all the spells are actually good–your opponent then gets a smaller, but still powerful, version of the same spell. The choices are:
1) Valorous Death–2 mana, “Destroy a minion. Its owner gains life equal to its stats.” which gives your opponent, … valoooor!–1 mana, “Deal 3 damage to a minion. Its owner gains 3 life.”;
2) Odyn’s Glory–4 mana, “Give a minion +4/+4, Lifesteal, Divine Shield, and ‘Can’t be Ephemeral.'” which gives your opponent, … for O-dyn!–2 mana, “Give a minion +2/+2 and Divine Shield.”; and
3) A Hero Emerges–6 mana, “Summon a copy of the highest-cost minion in your hand.” which gives your opponent, Herooo!–3 mana, “Summon a 1/1 copy of a random minion in your hand.”
The Twin Titanforges created most life on Azeroth, but are also the “reset” button in case something goes wrong (or right, depending on your plan).
And, finally, Gni’Kiv is a little nod to Blizzard’s classic game, The Lost Vikings. The three lost vrykul are Erik the Swift, Baleog the Fierce, and Olaf the Stout. Each of them are 2-cost 3/3s with a special effect. Erik has Rush and Poisonous; Baleog equips a 2/8 bow that makes you Immune while attacking; and Olaf has Taunt, Divine Shield, and “at the end of each turn, gain Divine Shield.” You get some sort of cute little prize if you control all 3, but that’s not part of the gameplay, just a little Easter Egg–like KT’s Cat.
Neutral Epics and Rares
Treasure Diver is like a suped-up version of Gadgetzan Auctioneer, but she can only hold her breath for so long, so don’t get greedy. Vrykul Flarerunner is “spell taunt,” which is like having a continuous Spellbender up. Searching Godcaller, Iconoclast, and Vrykul Preservationist are the types of support/interaction cards that I like to have in a set that focuses on a specific type of card or mechanic like this set does.
And finally, the commons. Neutral cards are great for filling out flavor and mechanical themes in the set. Here we see a lot of that, as well as a couple stand-out cards. We got another Rager, where the Ephemeral keyword makes it pretty on-par with the original, but with a twist! Fleeting Pain does nothing… or does it? Yeti of the Hidden Depths is mostly just a Yeti in most circumstances, but the hidden depths are unlocked when considering Evolve, Conjurer’s Calling, and other similar effects. And that last one is just a placeholder image because otherwise the gallery is formatted oddly.
Conclusion, Things to Come
And that’s it! Like I said at the top, I plan to work on a deeper article talking about my process, design philosophies, etc. in the coming weeks. Since I’m splitting that into a separate article this time around, I can also ruminate and possibly comment on any feedback you guys might have to give. But, for now, that’s all for me. Thanks for reading and sharing, and I hope you enjoyed my creations!