Max McCall on Keywords in Standard Format

Max McCall on Keywords in Standard Format

Max McCall was out on the forums recently and talked about Keywords in the Standard format. Specifically, he mentions:

  • Too many keywords would be overwhelming.
  • Keywords aren't needed to give people new strategic options and to make for interesting deckbuilding.
  • Less keywords means more support for those mechanics through special interactions.

Check out his full post below. What are your thoughts on keywords in Hearthstone? Are there any that you'd like to see more of?

Quote from Max McCall

Having too many keywords in Hearthstone would be overwhelming. Most of our sets have a new keyword, and some of them have more than one. If, in addition to a set’s new mechanics, we also kept around Spare Parts and Inspire and so on, we’d quickly reach Peak Keyword. Every set is someone’s first set, and learning Hearthstone is tough enough without a bevy of cards with words you don’t understand.

The marginal benefit of the twentieth keyword in the same Standard environment is small. We don’t need many keywords to make deckbuilding interesting and give people new strategic options. So, we do most of our keywords on a set-by-set basis, and they naturally sunset when Standard rotates. Because we have fewer keywords, we can support those mechanics more; having a theme is more fun than having a card or two with Inspire. Instead, we can layer cards like Maiden of the Lake and Garrison Commander on top of Inspire to give the mechanic more depth. We wouldn’t be able to do that if we had more keywords, because we don’t have enough cards in each set to do so.

Couldn't this be relatively easily rectified by simply adding some sort of appendix or something the website that lists all the in-game words as well as what effects those words apply? Screen shots for a visual aid could help a lot as well.

Far be it from me to question your design philosophy, but it just seems like a non-problem that could be easily fixed with a new player section on your website that provides useful information pertaining to the game as well as a list of key words.

New players rarely use resources like these. It's a lot to ask for someone who may have only played the game for a couple of hours to hop out of the game, go to a website, and look up relevant information. It's even worse if you're playing on your phone and you need the information immediately.

I get the impression that some people think that reducing the number of keywords in Standard is catering to new players at the expense of experienced ones. It's not. It does reduce comprehension complexity, but it doesn't reduce the space for strategic decision-making. Consider if every card in a set had its text replaced with a keyword: the set would be no more or less complex strategically. It would just be harder to understand. Indeed, doing fewer mechanics and devoting more cards to them gives people more options for deck construction.


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