Hearthstone‘s upcoming Saviors of Uldum expansion is introducing cards with enormous new effects, like our own reveal of the Mogu Cultist card. The 1-Mana 1/1 minion appears very weak on its own, but if you can gather lots of them together they summon the mega-powerful Highkeeper Ra.
The result is a build-around card with a huge effect, but how do you even make it work? We talked with game designers Peter Whalen and Alec Dawson for their thoughts on how to pull off the Cultist combo, where the concept came from, and much more surrounding the Saviors of Uldum.
“This is a card for the people who think, ‘I want to figure out how to make this crazy thing happen,’ so here’s this puzzle that’s actually pretty hard to solve,” Whalen said. “And if you do solve it, you get something truly amazing. There are players who really like that thing, so we try to make cards that appeal to them.”
The clearest way to solve the puzzle is to build a Rogue deck around copying your Mogu Cultists. The cards Togwaggle’s Scheme and Augmented Elekk can make several copies of the Cultist and put them into your deck, but that still requires you to stay alive long enough to draw all seven Cultists.
Whalen and Dawson pointed out that this could pair well with a card like the Rogue Legendary Tak Nozwhisker, which places copies of cards into your hand when you shuffle them into your deck. That could potentially give you seven copies of Mogu Cultist instantaneously, but it would require your hand to be almost empty when you pull off the combo. That would limit your survival options, making this a high-risk, high-reward strategy. If paired with a card like Baleful Banker, you could even play all seven Cultists and then add another Highkeeper Ra to your deck.
Other classes have less obvious paths to pulling off the Mogu Cultist requirements. Whalen points out that Priest could use Resurrect spells, or other classes could use neutral replicating cards like Faceless Manipulator. “It’s not easy,” he jokes, but you could pull it off.
The idea of having the player go through a lengthy ritual for a big reward was a design priority from the start, and it fits into the Indiana Jones-like flavor of the Uldum expansion as a whole.
“Highkeeper Ra is one of the [larger than life] stories we can tell here,” Dawson said. “Unobtainable and so powerful that you had to go through this whole process. … We wanted to create a ritual. It was actually in the [design] sheet pretty early, and it stuck around the entire time. It felt like you were playing a combo deck where you had something in mind the whole time.”
Whalen added that the idea is similar to another popular card, Rin the First Disciple. That Warlock Legendary card from the Kobolds & Catacombs set also had you go through a lengthy ritualistic process, ending in the huge effect of destroying your opponent’s entire deck. Highkeeper Ra actually began less overpowered, doing only 10 damage instead of 20, but the designers felt he needed a bigger impact to justify jumping through so many hoops.
The Saviors of Uldum expansion introduces or brings back a few other mechanics as well. A new Reborn keyword brings minions back to life with one health after death. We’ve seen very limited Reborn minions so far, and so far they’ve been in the small- to mid-range, but Whalen assures that the keyword will go on some big minions as well. Some new area-of-effect spells, like the new powerful Plague spells, were built to counter the new keyword.
The expansion will also bring back Quests, a mechanic that hasn’t been in Hearthstone since Journey to Un’Goro. Whereas old Quests gave you a card that could be played for a powerful effect, the new Quests will automatically trigger a new Hero Power upon completion. This isn’t necessarily the roadmap for any Quests going forward, but it does help Blizzard balance these new Quests. Some of the previous Quests had a “huge spike in power,” according to Dawson, so these new ones assure “there’s still going to be a game afterwards.”
Hearthstone’s Saviors of Uldum expansion launches on August 6. For more Hearthstone cards from the upcoming expansion, check out our full gallery of all the Saviors of Uldum cards revealed so far.