Hey all! Corey Burkhart here to give you the history of one of my favorite cards that went through the design and development cycle. The card is called Demented Destiny, and this time around you’ll get more of a look into the moving pieces behind making a set. You see, Demented Destiny didn’t start as a Nameless City card in the beginning, it actually started out as an actions matter’s payoff at rare. By walking you through how this card changed, you’ll get a peek at how thematics plays into the design and development process—hopefully illustrating how we ended up on the Nameless Cities’ slice of a pretty sweet cycle!
When most files begin, we’re plugging away at hundreds of designs across different rarities. Some of these are hits, some of these are misses. Most of what we’re looking for are fun and interesting cards that people will want to play with in constructed and limited. If we find that there’s something fun or interesting about a card that really shines, we sometimes look at broadening that space. For instance, we might expand it from one card to potentially many cards—the birth of a cycle.
So what does that mean exactly? Well, let’s look at some actual designs. Demented Destiny actually started as troop before we ever considered it being an action. Here was the initial design plugged into the file… and maybe something you’ll even see in the future! Here is the Spellbobble Gobbler:
As I said before, this isn’t where we usually start for a typical “History of a HEX Card” article. But, I think starting at the very beginning helps paint a complete picture of how a file is made. We had started early on in the Dead of Winter file because we aimed to nail down the archetypes we wanted to exist in limited. But, as we got into thematics and began to understand more of the story we wanted to tell through Frostheart, Dead of Winter, and the sets beyond, we knew that we needed more cards to really sell it, both stylistically and mechanically.
In Dead of Winter, you will see teams return with a vengeance. They still think winning the tournament will give them their greatest wish, and so the fight rages on. We knew that people were going to connect with and care about their favorite characters, so this was a big opportunity for us to tell important story beats and build characters up at the same time. Motivations makes things memorable, they make things happen, and without this connection a story is less powerful. While making a fun and engaging set is always our highest priority, sometimes that means that the story drives the design. In this case, we knew we needed to communicate why these teams were fighting so hard in the arena. Our team decided to work together to see what we could come up with that mechanically told the story of what the Cult of the Nameless City was after—namely, harnessing the arcane powers of the chaostouched… even if it tears the world asunder. That left us with this next design:
We knew we wanted a cycle of “Destinies” that portrayed why each team was lured to the Frost Ring Arena. Continually burying the opponent, stripping them of all hope as they journey to nothingness—this felt very chaostouched, indeed! But while this version of Demented Destiny nailed chaostouched themes, it maybe didn’t do so in the most exciting way. For a rare, simply burying four of the opponent’s cards is not the most exciting design (and consequently not the most exciting story). Also, when you’re saying this thing happens every turn, it takes it from a moment of triumph to something more regular feeling. We knew that if we made this design it would be acceptable, but it was not going to be something people would talk about or appreciate.
So, we began looking at ways to improve Demented Destiny. We decided that the core of a great wish is in a sense of triumph. How could we make a player feel like they were achieving the Cult’s goals right along with them? The key lay in looking at how the Cult played in game (mechanical accomplishments) and comparing them to their lore (story accomplishments). Chaostouched in general were always focused on burying the deck, but there are also points where the Cult specifically cared about the cards opponents play with. They have the theme of “acquiring knowledge,” even if that knowledge is forbidden. This realization helped lead us to a design that used the opponent’s cards against them:
This version of Demented Destiny was the first one that ever stuck. It saw some play in both constructed and limited testing. I was happy with how this card played, but it felt like it was missing something. Because the card didn’t explicitly bury cards from the opponent’s deck, it fell a little short for me mechanically speaking. I knew I wanted each of these Destinies to help sell the themes of the teams, and burying was such a big part of the “tear down the world” ethos of the Cult. Not having that didn’t feel quite right. Thankfully, the extra cards were going to the opponent’s crypt, so it was mechanically similar, but missing that specific “bury” wording really made us question if this was the right direction to take.
The card played reasonably well, but there were some major concerns that arose during testing. The card had the potential to completely annihilate the opponent with their own cards. The card killed an opponent after about 8 plays, and it could get played nearly every turn from 6 to 14—essentially beating the opponent with their own cards. As a result, it made deckbuilding somewhat infuriating for everyone else. Your troop-based aggressive decks didn’t want to play removal as the burying deck could take those. The control mirrors, rather than being about some spectacular combo, came down to who could find more interrupts for their opponent’s copies of Demented Destiny. It led us to believe that this 3rd version of the card, one that continually brought itself back from the crypt, wasn’t the best recipe for gameplay.
Thankfully, Ryan had recently done a complete review of all the cards in the set, and he pointed out that the Destinies didn’t line up well enough. They were a smattering of different costs, completely different designs, and other than the names, they were lacking mechanical cohesion. When designing and developing a cycle, some cycles are loose and some are very tight. This cycle wanted to be tighter to better communicate that these cards were important, that these cards were similar, and that they were telling a complementary story from different perspectives. As a result, Ryan pitched the idea of a giant action that would have its cost reduced if you were achieving the goals of the teams. R&D began pitching several designs, and as a result of this pow-pow I think we ended up in a much healthier place for the ultimate Demented Destiny, coming soon to a screen near you:
Our final Demented Destiny has one of these cost reduction powers I spoke about above. Each cost reduction in this cycle is in line with what the team is mechanically doing and also with what they are striving towards in the lore.
The output on the card is also much friendlier now. Instead of a repeated burying effect with a power that allows you to play the card over and over again, this version of Demented Destiny is much more elegant, exciting, and less infuriating to play against. The card fits exceptionally well into the theme of the Nameless City—using the power of their foes against them to overwhelm all opposition and reduce their deck to madness. It also feels much more triumphant and reflective of the Cult’s greatest desire. Finally, the power to take a card from among the top seven gives a plethora of choices that can really allow you to control the flow of the game, especially if you manage to play Demented Destiny for just two resources!
I’m excited to see what you think of Demented Destiny in both your Nameless City decks and control decks as time goes on. I also can’t wait for everyone to see the rest of the Destinies for each of their favorite teams. It’s a cycle we spent a lot of time getting to a really flavorful place given the story and the mechanics. My favorite designs are the ones where you can look at the card, know of the characters, and think to yourself: “That’s exactly what I’d expect to have happen!” I think we really hit the mark with these.
Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to check back regularly for more spoilers here at HEXTCG.com!
~HEXPureforce | Corey Burkhart
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