Hearthstone’s latest expansion Kobolds and Catacombs launched today, featuring 135 new cards. One of them is called Violet Wurm, and as some players have noticed, it’s almost exactly like a Magic: The Gathering card that came out 17 years ago.
Here’s the tale of the tape:
- Violet Wurm is a new Hearthstone card, a minion with eight mana cost, seven power, and seven toughness. When it dies, it spawns seven 1/1 grubs.
- Symbiotic Wurm is an old Magic card with eight mana cost, seven power, and seven defence. When it dies, it spawns seven 1/1 insects.
At least the artwork is somewhat different: Violet Wurm looks more like a bug and Symbiotic Wurm looks more lizardy – which makes sense, as “wurm” is a medieval term for dragon employed in a lot of fantasy games, and not an earthworm.
In an even more intriguing twist, both cards were at least partly designed by the same person. Mike Donais, Principal Game Designer on Hearthstone and a frequent Reddit poster, actually commented on the original thread discussing the two twin cards: “Is it still copying if I designed Symbiotic Wurm for Onslaught 17 years ago and then designed it again for Hearthstone?” he wrote. “That isn’t exactly how it happened,” he added, “but I helped design both expansions and it makes a much better story.”
Donais said that he didn’t even remember the old card when working on Violet Wurm as part of the Kobolds and Catacombs expansion. That’s not necessarily surprising either. As others pointed out, cryptomnesia, in which a person recalls something they saw or heard before while thinking it’s original, isn’t unheard of. Writers and musicians occasionally suffer from it, plagiarizing their past work or others’ without even realising it.
Of course, just because it wasn’t intentional doesn’t mean it still doesn’t pose issues. The weirdest part is the spelling of “Wurm”. While Hearthstone has a number of cards with “Worm” or “Wyrm” in the title, this is the first to use the “ur” spelling. World of Warcraft‘s lore, which Hearthstone’s is based on, doesn’t really mention wurms either.
On the other hand they’re quite common in Magic such that they constitute an entire creature type, while Hearthstone‘s worms are all included alongside wild boars and other animals in the “beasts” bucket.
Donais declined to elaborate further when reached for comment by Kotaku, referring us to Blizzard PR, which has not yet responded.