Hearthstone: An Insider’s Information Guide
by GamerFitnation on July 10, 2014 at 02:37 PM EDT

hearthstone

Magic: The Gathering is one of the most well-known cards games, and now Blizzard has jumped into the trading card genre with their latest release, known as Hearthstone, a name previously used for the iconic item in World of Warcraft that could teleport you to your home inn once per hour if needed.

What is Hearthstone?

Hearthstone

Hearthstone is a free-to-play card game that gives a unique to spin on the genre with their Warcraft theme and game mechanics.  You can spend money on the game, but fortunately it is not pay-to-win. It is more along the lines of pay-to-unlock-everything-faster.  Thanks to how it is setup, there have been several successful decks that don’t use a single rare or better card. Skill and card draw determine a lot of how the match goes.

How does it work?

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Hearthstone is a little different from card games like Magic: The Gathering (MTG) in that the mana requirement to play cards is generated every turn.  This allows you to have to put mana cards in your deck making it nearly impossible to be “mana screwed.”  It does cap at ten mana crystals, however, so late game decisions still may need to be made instead of just being able to throw cards down.  In the off chance that you draw cards that cannot be played for several turns, Blizzard has alleviated some of these problems with the hero powers anyone can use starting on the second turn.

The Cards

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The cards in Hearthstone come in three different varieties.  They are minion, spell, and weapon.  Minions are laid on the board and have attack and health values.  The attack value shows how much damage they can do and the health shows how much they can take.  They may also have an additional effect from just their attack and health values.  Spells simply create an effect that can range from drawing cards to dealing 10 damage.  Weapons are equipped by heroes and have attack and durability values.  The weapon’s durability shows how many times it can be used.  Besides the class specific cards, there is a host of neutral cards that any class can use, which helps with balancing.  There is a 30-card deck limit and only up to two of the same cards may be allowed in each deck, which again helps with balancing.

Heroes and their Powers

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In keeping with the Warcraft theme, Blizzard offers nine classes with a hero to represent each of them.   Player who have experience in World of Warcraft will instantly recognize each of them and those familiar with the lore will have further insight into the actual heroes themselves.  The different heroes have access to class specific cards and their unique hero power.  A paladin for instance can summon a 1/1 silver hand recruit.  A mage can deal one damage to anything on the board, including the opposing hero.  For the full list of each hero and the powers, this Hearthstone wiki will tell you everything you need to know.

Differences from MTG

There are a few similarities between the Magic and Hearthstone, such as the necessary mechanics that require most minions to be on the board a full turn before attack and some of the cards having similar additional abilities in to go along with their damage and point values, but it promptly ends there.  The attacking player chooses his target instead of the defending one and monsters health is permanently damaged instead of only being affected for the turn they defend.  Players start with 30 health instead of the 20 in MTG and weapons can be equipped by heroes to deal damage to opposing heroes of minions.  Deck sizes are much smaller, in large part because there is no mana requirement in any deck.  I find the pace to generally be much faster than that of MTG as well.  Think Starcraft 2 versus Age of Kings. Here is an example of a game played by two high level players in a tournament setting.

Game Modes

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In the video you saw a tournament-styled constructed deck play.  This means that two decks were pitted against each other that were completely made by the players who could choose from all the cards available to them.  This is how the ranked mode as well as the casual mode, where you neither lose nor gain ladder points, play.  The third game mode is known as arena.  Here you have a MTG draft-like choice between 3 random neutral or class cards. One is chosen.  You continue to do so until you have a full 30-card deck.  Synergy is much more difficult, but the randomness can be fun as even cards you don’t have may come up and you must then face off against opponents who have done the same.  You then play until you either have 12 wins or three loses.  The more wins you have the better rewards you get.  It currently costs 150 gold per arena play and if you win around six or seven games per arena run, then it is possibly to never have to gather any more gold than the initial price.

Gold

Gold is the in-game currency that can be earned through daily quests, winning games, or as an arena award.  Gold allows you to buy additional card packs for a chance at more and rarer cards or to play the arena game mode.  Of course you always spend your own money if your gold supply runs low.  In the new expansion coming out, gold can be used to purchase access to its content, but real money can be used to speed up the process there also.

Curse of Naxxramas

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Coming sometime this month is the new expansion for Hearthstone.  This expansion will give players new cards to play with and new adventure content through a series of five “wings.”  Each wing will have a different theme and challenges awaiting the player, along with a boss at the end.  Defeating the boss will give the players new cards that will be released.  During the first month of its release, the first wing will be entirely free to players and each additional wing will be either $6.99 or 700 gold to purchase.  Blizzard is continuing its pattern of not having to pay to get an advantage over other players, but obtaining 700 gold can take up to a week or so for non-purchasing casual players.

If this kind of game appeals to you, it is available right now for absolutely free.  The in-game tutorial does a good job of explaining how everything works if there are any lingering questions. It is currently available for PC and on the iPad.  As always, good luck and have fun.

by Kyle Swain

Edited by Avery Osborn

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