Drum roll, please! Yes, everyone’s dreams of releasing their inner monster are coming true this October 11th. With the release of Aftermath: Throne of the Tides, the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game, for the first time ever, introduces Monster heroes and allies!
In today’s sneak preview, I reveal some of the new cards while giving some insight into how and why we do what we do in R&D. First, a quick introduction. My name is Matt Place, Head Designer of World of Warcraft Trading Card Game and Lead Designer for the newest set, Aftermath: Throne of the Tides. Also, I’m Cryptozoic’s holiday party bowling champion!
Which Monsters Races Will You Find in Throne of the Tides?
As many will probably guess from the name of the set, aquatic races such as Naga, Murlocs, and other sea creatures get the lion’s share. Some other races will also make an appearance, such as Ogres (don’t worry; we gave them some water wings since they aren’t strong swimmers).
What Are the New Rules for Monster Heroes and Allies?
The new rules for Monsters are fairly simple. Monster allies have no restrictions. They can be put into most decks regardless of which hero the player chooses to pilot. Decks with Monster heroes, on the other hand, cannot include Alliance or Horde cards.
Why did we allow Monster allies to go into Alliance and Horde decks? Our goal is to provide the players freedom in how they choose to build their decks. However, Monster-only decks, led by a Monster hero, get many benefits. I'll show you some of those in a bit. So, you’re free to use Monsters in any deck, but you’ll want to think about keeping your party Monster-exclusive to get those bonuses.
For example, Thrug the Hurler has the new keyword Empower. In this case, it's Empower Monster. A Monster himself, he works best with his own kind. If you play him with a Monster hero, you’ll always get the bonus. Tar'gak the Felcrazed, is another example. He can go in most any deck, but the more Monsters in your party, the earlier he joins the fight.
We wanted Monster heroes to be amongst the most exciting heroes we’ve ever created. Like the previous year in Worldbreaker Block, Monster heroes all have permanent powers on the back. And what makes them exciting is the fact that their power is permanent, and you can flip them for free. Free!
Throne contains four Monster heroes: Ogre Death Knight, Murloc Hunter, Naga Mage and Murloc Warrior. You are probably asking if the rest are coming in future sets. Well, that is a secret I will have to keep!
Ok, ok... I’ll admit I’m not good at keeping secrets. Don’t tell anyone, but the Druid, Paladin, Priest, Rogue, Shaman and Warlock Monster heroes are coming in the future sets of the Aftermath block!
Murlocs - The Cute, Cuddly Killers of the Sea
Players can now yell the rallying cry of the Murlocs— Rwlgrglrwglbrgl!!— and send their swarm into battle! And as any player of the online game knows, Murlocs are always found in groups; therefore, the mechanic we designed encourages you to build a deck with a lot of them. Each Murloc grants his own power to every other Murloc ally in play. For example, if you have four Murlocs in play, one with Protector, one with Elusive and two others have +1/+1, each Murloc you control would get +2/+2, Protector and Elusive. Add a few more Murlocs into the mix and they quickly get insane.
The power granting is just one way we went for the swarm feel for Murlocs. There is also Murloc Coastrunner, a 2/1 for 1 resource Unlimited ally (you can include any number of him in your deck). Combined with Swarmtooth, the overwhelming Murloc swarm quickly gets out of control. Should Chumly swim on over, your opponent is nothing but fish food.
New Keywords and Mechanics
Throne of the Tides is overflowing with new stuff. In addition to the Monster faction, the set has its share of new keywords and mechanics.
As you saw earlier in Thrug the Hurler, Empower gives a bonus power— in the case of Shanala, ability destruction if the player controls another Priest ally or a Priest hero. There are a couple reasons we made it work with both heroes and allies. By working with heroes, the Empower cards play a lot like class abilities. They are always “on” and are quite good when you have the matching hero, which gives players definition and feel of their class. We also wanted to give players the option of building decks that have access to powers that their class normally can’t access. For example, an Alliance Hunter deck with a lot of Priest allies can use Shanla to destroy abilities, something normally not in a Hunter’s arsenal. This is just like Arena in the online game. A melee class will buddy up with a Priest healer for support and dispels.
When a card with Eternal goes to your graveyard, you may shuffle it back into your deck. While this is a nice power in general, we specifically designed the cards with Eternal to grow in power as the game goes longer. You'll want to shuffle your Eternal cards back into your deck so you can see them again for an even bigger effect.
(Super spoiler! Eternal is going to appear on ten total class abilities throughout the block. Just the first four appear in Throne of the Tides.)
(Go ahead; make Faceless Sapper angry. You’ll like him when he’s angry!)
Enrage is a Monster-ally-only mechanic that gives bonus attack and Ferocity, but only when the player reveals another ally on top of their deck.
As you can see, Faceless Sapper is a perfect aggressive opener when its enrage works (4/2 with Ferocity for just 2 resources). And combined with the next keyword, it becomes much more certain that it will enter play enraged.
When a card with Delve is played, the player looks at the top two cards of his or her deck then chooses to put those cards back on the top or the bottom in any order, or one on top and one on bottom.
Delve is a mighty power on its own, and it gets epic with other cards in Throne of the Tides that reward you for having the right cards on top of your deck. Sorrow's End is another example of a card that reaches its full potential in a deck with a lot of Delve cards.
Monsters can be brutal. Far from civilized cities like Stormwind, Monsters grow up both in nature and battling the forces of it. It's a much more simple life out there- kill or be killed. And Ogres are probably the most barbarous of the Monster races. On the nastiest ones, you'll find Smash. Mechanically, this captures the force behind these thick-skinned (and thick-headed) Monsters. Those Ogres are not just killing the opposing ally, but stomping on its tiny head and barreling through to the opponent. It's lame to invest a bunch of resources into an ally and have it stopped by some punny 1/1 Protector. With Smash, any damage not done to the "speedbump" smashes through and hits the opponent. We want you to feel like a juggernaut when grouping with Ogres, and Smash provides that player experience well.
A Throne of the Tides Design Goal: Create the Best Limited Set We Can
This is something on which we invested much of our effort and playtesting. I’m very excited to say that we have achieved this goal. But we faced multiple challenges along the way. One challenge is how do you make Limited great with three factions: Alliance, Horde and Monsters? The issue is that fewer options means less fun for our players, and if two-thirds of your allies aren’t legal in your deck, you quickly run out of options. We solved this by letting Monster allies, as I mentioned before, go into any deck. Additionally, we have Monster abilities that can also go in any deck, but are much better in a deck with a lot of Monsters. This lets the player with a medium number of Monsters get some value, but the player with a dedicated Monster deck get maximum value. Monstrous Upheavel is a great example of this, its true power is in a Monster hero deck where it can often deal 8 or more damage for the cost of just 3 resources.
Another challenge we had to overcome is that when a player sees too many common and uncommon class abilities, players feel restricted by their card pool. The solution to this problem comes from two of our new themes, Empower and bottles. Empower cards and bottles don’t have class restrictions; instead they reward the player for having a hero or ally of the corresponding class.
As you can see, Baxtan and Bottled Life both work very well with a Mage or Druid hero. And they also have full value in a deck with allies of the corresponding classes. Not only does this make Limited more fun, but it also opens up a lot of new possibilities in Constructed.
Ok, so the Monster cards are awesome. Will the Throne of the Tides Give Love to Alliance and Horde Cards?
The answer, of course, is "absolutely." Monster, Alliance, and Horde respectively each make up roughly one-third of the allies in the set. And each will get their share of love. And to “show the love”, here are two examples.
I could not be more excited about Throne of the Tides, and I can’t wait until everyone has the set in their hands! There are many more cards I wanted to reveal, like Ozumat and other exciting Monsters, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for the full Monsters feature. So prepare yourself for two weeks Throne of the Tides preview articles and get ready to unleash your inner monster on October 11th!