LOTI 120 : Mean Streets with Matt Place

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Discussion with Matt Place

See transcript below (rough transcript of the conversation)

  1. How did the three family concept come about?
  2. How did the multi-class cards concept come about?
  3. Are there plans to continue with the multi-class cards in future expansions or will this likely be limited to this one.
  4. Are there any game mechanics with this expansion that you would like to talk about that isn’t being talked about?  (i.e. Buffing minions in your hand)
  5. With the release of Mean Streets, will we see Priest getting stronger?
  6. Have you put more thought into how a player can interact with their opponent when it’s not their turn, such as Counterspell or Loetheb?
  7. Will the Heroic Tavern Brawl be a one-time thing? Repeating every so often? A permanent fixture?
  8. Are there plans to add more cards with the mechanic like Kazakus, that create custom minions or spells?
  9. Tell us how it went down when the idea for creating custom cards came about. Did everyone react super excited or were they shaking their heads?
  10. What is the timeline from idea to play testing? When you get the card to where it’s balanced and likely to remain in its form?
  11. What cards or mechanics are you hoping players will be most excited about?
  12. What is your favorite way to have fun in Hearthstone?

Hints and Tips

Reviews and Emails


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Vastidious: My biggest question that has come from this whole expansion is, How did this whole 3 family concept come about in the first place. This is totally unique and different from anything you’ve done in the past.

Matt Place: It was a big challenge because we were creating so much new content with these families, a lot of new legendary characters, we took Gadgetzan and revamped the setting and turned it from a small little town from the MMO to this bustling city full of crime. which was a ton of fun but also a lot of work. A lot of our focus was figuring out, what does it mean to the player. It kind of came from a mechanical and story angle on both of them to land on these three families.  We initially started this like, wouldn’t it be cool to do a cops and robbers set? Then we more focused on the robbers.  How many groups how many factions, how many crime families do we have? Maybe it’s 4? And then we realized that hey 3, divides perfectly into 9 classes. Then we can divide the turf for each family perfectly and now players when they choose their class, are able to sign up for one of the families.  So that all worked out perfectly and it was a ton of fun to figure out.  Ok what is distinct about each of these families?  How do we make sure once we landed on the Kabal, ok they’re cloth casters, let’s make them visually and mechanically distinct from the other two families.  And that was a lot of fun figuring that out.  The whole team kind of came together with the art team and so many cool concept art and character creation.  And made something that I love like when I am opening packs or browsing my collection. So many fun characters. Yeah, I think it was a home run when it came to the story. Then mechanically, we’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback. So hopefully everybody is having fun with these distinct mechanics for the families. Which play differently depending on the class. Even though it’s the same general direction for all the Jade Lotus classes, they play differently based on the class you play. a lot of fun bringing it altogether and making it all make sense in the end and go yeah, this was a good idea. We did it good. which is important right, because we’re about to ship. Hooray!

Espo: When you guys finally debuted the third family and their mechanic of the Jade Golems, it was the day I was actually making the show notes as you guys debuted it. I texted Vastidious and said, I’m doing the show notes today. I know what we’re doing. I went crazy and that night when we recorded it was all about the 3 families and their mechanics and how excited we were about it. Once we saw that third family we were like this is so cool. Each family has their distinct mechanics. Each family has their distinct look and their way of coming at you. So much excitement with these three families.

Vastidious: The other big thing was the multi-class cards.  That was another unique twist. How did that end up coming about?

Matt Place: So yeah, once we had this structure that we were talking about, ok it’s three families, we wanted to make sure that when you were choosing one of those families you felt like it’s not just your class. You are not just playing Druid with a few new mechanics or a few new cards. We actually talked about the tri-class cards as family cards. These are Jade Lotus cards. These are Kabal cards. And we wanted them to mechanically serve a role as the glue that brings those three classes together.  The commons are great examples of this, the base mechanic being there. Ok I see where this mechanic is going then in each class once you get the class specific cards, you can take it in different directions. So, mechanically it served a great role there and story-wise it was also perfect. Especially for the bosses.  Who embodies the class.  Who is the leader of the class? And of course they need to be available to all three of these classes, so that family leader being a tri-class card was also a perfect way to glue them together. So yeah it made a lot of sense as we explored it. And it seems like people are having a lot of fun with it both mechanically and vibe wise. I think they’ve been pretty successful.

Espo: The first three cards I crafted were Aya, Don Han’Cho and of course Kazakas. Because those, you have Legendary’s for nine classes now.

Matt Place: Good value

Right? I don’t see a bad… it’s all about value. So it was really cool how you guys did that and we were able to get 9 Legendarys out of three and 9 different decks that were similar in three ways but like you said, each class has their own way of playing with that mechanic and it just, … spot on.

Vastidious: I’ve been playing a Warlock deck today because of quests and I kind of threw together the deck using the new cards and what made sense to add to it. Having the ability to play that card in in the Warlock deck that gives the option to choose between the Mage, Warlock and Priest cards. It’s so cool to be able to pull a Priest card as a Warlock, especially to heal myself. So that’s always fun to have that option.

Matt Place: And I love that example, because it’s a weakness sometimes of the Warlock. How can you shore up the healing when you are tapping turn after turn. And it’s also fun to, the variety of play, oh I haven’t been in this situation whee I’ve had this specific Mage card in my Priest deck. So just those new combinations, new synergies are also a lot of why we were excited to make the rare tri-class cards.

Vastidious: Are there plans to continue with the multi-class cards in future expansions or will this likely be limited to this one.

Matt Place: The reason that it’s in, for all the reasons that it’s perfect for Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, is why we have it here. We won’t close any doors, but currently we are not announcing any plans to use them.
Vastidious: Speaking of game mechanics, are there any game mechanics in this expansion that you would like to talk about that isn’t being talked about?  For example, like buffing minions in your hand?
Matt Place: I’ve had a ton of fun with that. What I love and I think I’m a bit like Espo in this way. I love trying to find combinations that are kind of kooky. Like I’ve had some terrible versions of this.  But what if I could combine Reno with Jade Druid. Does that make any sense? I know that I don’t get access to Kazakas but could that work. It turns out, No, it’s terrible.  But I love exploring and it’s fun.  How could I get value, I’m really greedy and I love Reno. Hearing about what people are buffing, the different angles. Don’t jkust buff the little guys in Paladin. What if you had the obviously someone like the Dopplegangster.  What else is there that’s cool to buff that may not be obvious, is a lot of fun for me to explore. I don’t if you had similar stories, Espo?
Espo: All I’ve done since the cards were released, is experiment. I just love putting together like you just said, these crazy decks. Vastidious’ favorite card is that little dwarf guy named Brann Bronzebeard.  So I love getting him out and then dropping the Dopplegangster after I’ve buffed him up with a bunch of Goons, so getting 5, 9 9’s is not a bad thing.
Matt Place: Jade Golems might not be that big by then. You could overrun Jade Golems with these combos and it’s super fun.
Espo: It’s so cool finding these neat little combinations and just cool stuff. I feel like I keep saying good job.
Vastidious: One of my first decks I built, thanks to Disguised Toast, he was playing around with combinations and doing crazy stuff. And one of the first combos that he built, the first day when I was watching from work opening packs, was what he called the KunKunCthun deck. And it’s a Druid deck with Kun, Cthun and Aviana. That is isane if you can pull that combo off. I had one that I did 42 points of damage. I had one game where I had 110 points of damage ready to go.
Matt Place: Does he run Brewmasters in there? I love it when all your minions cost one you can keep chaining with the Kun and the Cthun, oh it’s so fun.
Vastidious: 2 Brewmasters and Brann of course. When Cthun comes out it’s like fireworks, it’s crazy.  Someone in chat asked what is your favorite card in the set, if you had to pick one.
Matt Place: It’s definitely Kazakas. The day that it was conceived, was a beautiful day. IT was a good day for Mean Streets. It wasn’t me, but fellow designers.  And one designer asked, what if players, could make their own Hearthstone card?  And it’s fun becuase that question is easy to answer with “Bah humbug, that can’t be done, that’s impossible, what does that even mean?” Peter Whalen actually started answering it with actual ways we could implement it and test. And it turned out to be insanely fun. Part of why I love it is just, what am I going to get? I don’t know but I know that it’s going to be insanely powerful. And I also love running Reno, so that’s been my favorite.  How about you guys?
Vastidious: Did you have some people shaking their heads when the idea was thrown out there, saying this is absolutely crazy, what do you think you are doing?
Matt Place: I think it was more like, can that be real? And explaining it to people was generally, verbally people were like, What? Huh? Cool! And then doing the play test with it, it got immense love by the whole team.

Espo: I remember talking to Yong a little bit about it and asking him because we got to sit next to Yong during the Hearthstone panel.  What in the world? He was like, when they first said, let’s let the players make their own spells, and it took him like 20 seconds to think about it and then he’s like, let’s try that. So positive with a little bit of confusion. Are we bending reality?

Matt Place: The different roles that different team members play. Like myself, get to play the role of “I’m excited about anything, lets do it!” Some people need to be more realistic. But this one was realistic. It was the full dream and it was, as you can see, it shipped.  It is reality.

Vastidious: Do you think there will be any possibility of seeing that mechanic on a different card later on or maybe someday it does something different like creating custom minions or spells?

Matt Place: I think when we find something that is super fun and is beloved, and explores new space, new types of fun, certain the discover mechanic is a great example of this, Reno is another great example this. And of course Mean Streets explored that too with four more cards. Mechanics like this that we find that are super fun, we’re definately thinking about them. How else can we explore this type of fun, when would it make sense,etc. When we find something like this that is a home run, it’s possible that some cousin cards could appear.

Vastidious: Ahh.. cousins. That’s a hint right there. That’s a hint right?

Matt Place: We’ll see. I don’t know.  Haha.

Espo: So Vastidious you missed Matt’s question for us. What our favorite Legendarys are. I’m up in the air. Of course Kazakas because of his mechanic, because of what he, like we’ve been talking about, because he bends the reality of the game, I mean you are making your own card as you play. He has to be one of my favorites, but I played with Kun during the demo at BlizzCon and I want to break him in half all the time. I want to try so many different combinations with him. I think we’re just scratching the surface with a lot of these Legendary’s. It’s going to be so awesome. But I have to jump on with Kazakas because of the bending of reality.

Vastidious: My choice would be Brann Bronzebeard because he works with so many cards from the expansion. But if I had to choose one right now, I would have to choose Kun. That combo with Kun if you can pull it off, which I’ve been able to pull off more than I thought I would be able to. To do so much damage in a single turn is just absolutely insane and I giggle with glee when I get it pulled off. I think Kazakas is another awesome one.

Espo: Speaking of Legendarys, I have to say Rezz’s favorite is Krull the unshackled.  I have to ask you.  Is that Lifecoach on that card?

Matt Place: Funny. No actually, the story there is that it’s a demon who broke the shackles and enslaved his Warlock. It wasn’t anybody in the real world.

Espo: But he has the beard and … anyway.

Vastidious: Leading up to the whole release of Mean Streets, there were a lot of people bellyaching about the Priest class and about concerns where it stood and questions were out there asking, is it going to get stronger? Is it going to get better?  Obviously we are on the other side of the release so we can look back and say, I think yes. Maybe you can talk about the Priest and the strengthening of that or how you guys looked at that as you were going through it.

Matt Place: It was definitely a focus to give potent cards to Priest and specifically give you different options. The Drakonid Operatives are great example of wow, this is really good when I go Dragon. Of course Kazakas and Raza are super powerful when I go Reno with no duplicates in my deck. I love that the final design team did, giving great cards but not all in one dimension. You don’t necessarily run all of these and certainly if you are going no duplicates you can’t pack them all in your decks. So I love what they did where they gave potent cards but really it’s choices which path you want to go. Then do you combine them? We talked about it earlier. I love the combining of these, trying to run dragons with Kazakas is a ton of fun. Apparently quite good, some people have been successful with it. I love all the diferent choices are getting for Priest. And obviously were seeing Priest do quite well, so I think that’s a victory.

Vastidious: I have to say, everytime I saw another card revealed that said Dragon or something related to it, I was excited. Because I was playing Dragon Priest right before. And I haven’t actually played any since the release because I’ve been playing that Warlock and Druid deck. Mostly it’s been quests have been guiding my choice of decks this last week.

Another question along the lines of interactions. Have yuo put anymore thought into a player can interact with their opponent when it’s not their turn. For example, Counterspell and Loatheb.

Matt Place: IT’s interesting. That space is interesting. We certainly have as we do secrets, traps and different hidden information is a great way to do this. I’ve set something up, do you know what it is, are you playing around it? A different angle, Dirty Rat is interesting in this space. I think I might have got you down to just your N’Zoth. Or maybe just a minions including N’Zoth, now is the time. Mable I do it earlier because you’re playing an aggressive deck I love those types of interaction. So yes we are looking at those and how can we get cool new interactions and dimensions all the time. Yes so we’ll see that. Secrets are a great way to do it but also maybe cards in your hand that are paying attention some way. We’ve talked about a lot of different ideas, so yes.

Espo: I have a question and I am going to ask this one because it was heavy on my heart when it came out. As you know, I’m big on the fun side of Hearthstone and getting people to have fun. And also getting, well Matt you and I talked about the beginning player experience and things like that. When you guys debuted your ideas for the heroic tavern brawl, I thought about this. Is this going to be a one time thing or will it be repeating every so often? Will it be a permanent fixture?  Will it replace the current tavern brawl?  That was a concern of mine being a casual player. I’ve always loved getting into the tavern, playing with friends and I get a new pack each week, and new players get a pack each week. So that week that we had the heroic brawl, I was a little bit disheartened that the regular brawl went away for a week even though I know it would be back. What’s going on here?

Matt Place: I totally get you. You didn’t want your awesome fun place tavern brawl to be at risk. We love tavern brawl and what it does for us. Let’s just experiment.  Do fun different things and have fun in different ways, that maybe the base game doesn’t do. Or maybe is fun for just a little while. We’ve loved that kinda playground to explore the super fun crazy ideas. Since it’s been so successful, I don’t think you have to be worried. Specifically to Heroic Tavern brawl, I think it was a great success. We were looking at it, hey this is for a certain audience that will have a lot of fun, which we saw happen. And it’s like for people like me that love watching on twitch these games that are intense. I think it was a great success there too. I think this leads to no doors are going to be closed. What that means for Heroic tavern brawl, I don’t know what were doing with it yet, but we’ll find out. I think that was a good sign for that game mode. But we’ll keep exploring tons of fun, crazy whacky fun stuff in tavern brawl.

Espo: I think you kind of answered it but I need to know. Will it replace, if you decide to keep going with Heroic, will it replace the regular brawl when it comes out.  I agree with you, Heroic brawl was a huge success. Getting the game out there and scratching that itch that a lot of competitive players had. But the people I play with are more on a casual side and we’re scared that when it comes permanently will it take place.

Matt Place: I don’t think there is any reason to be worried about that. I think that Tavern brawl changing each week, has been a success. And Heroic brawl being a success in a different way is great for that game mode. So don’t worry.

Vastidious: What is the timeline from idea to play testing? When you get the card to where it’s balanced and likely to remain in its form?

Matt Place: It totally depends card by card. What’s cool is that we have tools that we have and idea and almost instantly be testing stuff. It depends on the card, are we in initial design with this idea, where are we at in the design process, how balanced it is?  Myself balancing may not be as good as Mike and Ryan. The time to balance is different but it’s kind of fun to see the card go through all the different groups on the Hearthstone team and how it develops. In addition to balance and the initial concept, when we are making the art descriptions, what is the concept of this card, what is the art going to be? What are the effects going to be, which are so A+, our team is amazing at this. It’s fun seeing it from beginning from end turn into this shippable awesome card in the end.
Vastidious: Lunch time must be awesome around there when someone has a crazy idea.
Matt Place: Tons of crazy ideas. You get emails with fun crazy ideas from everyone on the team.
Espo: When you guys get those crazy ideas and they actually make it into the game, I know it’s early in the set right now, but we’ve seen sets in the past. Do you guys say, I can’t believe that no one has figured this out yet. Does that happen? Your waiting a couple weeks and no one’s figured this out.
Matt Place: Yeah, or is what we thought what might be good, not that good. It’s all kind of unknown. And one of the things that is interesting, this team is super talented and take such a small balance team, it’s a lot of guys, but relative to the amount of people that are going start jamming on it once we release the set, they do such a great job of predicting. It’s a big challenge to see what a great job they do at predicting is super impressive. To have so much fun once 10,000 deck builders start jamming on it is pretty cool.  It’s cool to see decks that I think might be great. Oh and people didn’t build this deck, I love this deck.  And then nobody builds it.  And I’m like, oh cool, I’m the only one who knows about this deck! Then I play it on ladder and go 0-6 and I’m like, that’s why nobody built the deck. Now I see.
Espo: You guys have to be excited when like almost nobody in the office figures something out and then a streamer or a deck builder figures it out. Your cards that you created you didn’t see something that is happened.
Vastidious: Has that even happened?
Mark Place: Well in a lot of ways it does. You can’t predict everything. That kind of how the design team thinks to. Ok we think these decks are going to be good, we think this is where this card is going to land. They are also thinking in terms of ranges. Ok, what could this card do and maybe some deck we haven’t built yet. What is the potential of this card. Which I think takes a lot of talent. What is this deck that we haven’t built that someone else will, what is the risk. So it’s both the what have they put basically build the deck for and what do they think the potential is. They explore it in all those different ways.
They rank the cards, make their guesses, they play test and look back at it. Honestly they do a phenomenal job. To have so many different, especially right now. I love this time where I jump into the ladder and am I going to face the Jade Lotus, or a Kabal deck?  How do I need to change my deck based on what I am facing. And I have a lot of choices right now. I love that variety, super fun.
Vastidious: Are there any cards other than Kazakas, Kun, the majors, are there any cards or mechanics that you are hoping players will be most excited about with this expansion that maybe is not being talked about?
Matt Place: I think some of the fun, and I’m curious to see where people explore with this, are cards that can make new decks all on their own. They are not necessarily linking into an existing deck. Madame Goya is interesting in that way. What if my hero power is my only way I’m generating minions except for these three amazing minions and Madam Goya. I find those actually fun to see what happens with that. And that’s not necessarily playing into the Jade Lotus or Kabal.  I love seeing those decks. I built a lot of those with Barnes. Barnes is actually one of my favorite decks. What can I do that is new and unique based on this one card that is a guiding light for an entire deck. I love cards like that that can open up new doors.
Espo: And so that’s one thing I really like about the tavern brawls, is that it kinda gets people that aren’t normally comfortable building decks, to help them with ideas for building decks, like the Madam Goya idea. I could actually do this. Then the go back and build these decks to play with their friends, like we do with our versus videos.
Matt Place: It’s fun when you do that too and you discover new synergies. Hey this is really good. I love that.
Vastidious: Is there any story behind Patches other than some crazy idea?
Matt Place: He was originally all the way back in the Grand Tournament, the idea for Patches in a different incarnation.  He was a different pirate back then. He was still planned to be in the set when we made the cinematic video.  He was one of the cards with out text in the video and it was decided that he was dangerous so we had to pull him out. So a new card was put onto that art, which is kind of funny and Patches got a break. He popped up in a few sets after that, where in Mean Streets finally he got shipped. We had a great idea, what if his a beholder with lots of eyes, and a pirate and says “Aye, Aye” and this all too good so it had to ship. And he took the world by storm.
Espo: When I saw him, I was like he’s a beholder and a pirate and he shoots out like a cannon ball. You had to ship him, he’s awesome!
I have one last question and this is why I played the game. I have to ask, when your feeling salty,when you just went 0-6 with a deck you thought would be awesome on the ladder, how do you have fun in Hearthstone?
Matt Place: Well I know that I’m more focused on fun when I’m losing like you are saying and I still want to keep playing that deck. For me, I try to find immense value, like the Brewmasters, I brought them up earlier, are some of my favorite cards. Oh let’s play that again with Brann Bronzebeard in play for example. When I’m losing and I’m like yes, let’s requeue with this deck. How many times can I use my favorite card? How many times can I get Kazakas to trigger for example. Have 3 ten mana potions in my hand at one time feels very powerful, I love it. Tons of fun. Very greedy.
Espo: Matt’s favorite way to play is to bounce crazy minions back to his hand and play them again and again and again. I agree that’s so awesome.
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About Author

Vastidious is a long time gamer, father to Ariannwyn and doesn't read the text on the cards.

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