Blizzard deliberately makes new players use terrible Hearthstone cards. Ben Brode, senior game designer on Hearthstone, discusses some of the strategy behind basic card design in the above video. In the presentation, Brode argues that the really awful cards given to new players in the basic set serve to educate. In response to the common accusation that Blizzard handicaps the basic deck to motivate people to pay for the expansion sets, Brode argues that the real imbalance comes from the gap in skill. The expansion decks have weak cards as well, but a more knowledgeable player will know to either avoid using them, or they can turn a card’s weakness into a strength by using it with another card’s special power. The newer player will struggle with the underpowered cards until they learn more about the game through play. Beyond that, Brode argues that the basic deck has very powerful, competitive cards as well.
We give new players Truesilver Champion, Fireball, Frostbolt, Flamestrike, Consecrate. That’s definitely intentional. We want new players to have some great cards. We want high level decks to include basic cards also. Just because there are bad cards in the basic set, it doesn’t mean we’re trying to make sure we give players really bad cards to start out with. That’s not our intention, but we do also want them to feel a feeling of progression and to learn what cards to put in the deck. Some good choices, some bad choices.