One of the most popular online collectible card games (CCG) right now is Hearthstone by developer Blizzard. The game launched in 2014 and has undergone constant innovation with several expansions throughout the year. Here is everything a new player needs to dive right into the game.
What Is Hearthstone?
At its core, Hearthstone is a free-to-play card game available on PC, Android, and iOS devices set within the universe of World of Warcraft. In the first years following its launch, expansions were serious in theme and modeled after major storyline events from the MMORPG. Over the last two years or so, the mood has shifted drastically toward light-hearted stories that introduce new characters.
The objective of a match is to bring an opponent's health to or below zero. Both the player and their opponent begin with 30 points of life. Much of the art is borrowed from World of Warcraft Trading Card Game, and the game borrows some of the themes as well. However, one should not confuse the two games, for they are entirely different.
A Class For Everyone
A player chooses one of nine classes from World of Warcraft. For example, Uther Lightbringer represents the Paladin Class, Anduin represents the Priest and so on. From there, players can construct their decks with a mix of neutral cards available to all classes, as well as class-specific ones limited to each of the nine classes. Paladins favor weapons and blessings, whereas Priests favor healing and resurrection.
The classes are symbolic of the original classes in World of Warcraft: Classic. None of that game's new classes have been added and, based on comments by the design team over the years, there is virtually no chance of seeing Death Knights, Monks, or Demon Hunters added to Hearthstone.
How To Play
A player creates a deck with a total of 30 cards. Players may have two copies of any card, but only one copy of cards with a rarity of Legendary, indicated by an orange gem. The deck may seem small when compared to Magic: The Gathering, for example, but that is because players do not need to worry about including Land cards or anything else for mana.
Instead, when a game begins, players draw three cards and have the option to mulligan their entire hand if they choose, and then each acquire a mana crystal each turn. This simple design choice ensures that a player will never lose a game because they do not have the resources to play their cards. Certain mechanics and class identities can hasten the accumulation of mana crystals through ramp, or destroy them to gain a benefit or punish an opponent. Mana crystals max out at ten and there are few ways to cheat more mana in a turn.
There are four types of cards in Hearthstone: Minion, Spell, Weapon and Hero cards. Minions are permanent creatures that enter and occupy the center of the battlefield and from there can be played to the left or right of existing Minions. The board can only hold seven Minions preside. After that, no additional Minion cards can be played.
Each Minion card has its mana cost listed in the upper left corner, its attack value in the lower left, and its health total in the lower right. Unlike other CCGs, Minion damage is permanent and carries over each turn until destroyed, transformed or healed.
Spell cards trigger a one-time effect or ability that is described in the text of a card. These cards expire immediately after use. Spell cards can be countered through the use of a Mage Secret known as “Counterspell.” Secrets are a type of spell played on a player’s turn but only activated on the opponents turn if they trigger a condition, which they do not know the details of, and hence why they are called "secrets." Counterspell, as the name implies, cancels a single spell cast by an opponent.
Weapons are cards that are then equipped by the character hero and have an attack and durability value. Players should be careful because attacking a Minion with a Weapon will deal its attack damage back to the hero.
Finally, Hero cards are Legendary in rarity and replace the hero with another character entirely. The Warlock Gul’Dan, for instance, can play the card Lord Jaraxxus, which takes over the portrait, changes the life total, and provides a new Hero power and weapon.
The hero power is the button next to a hero portrait and unique to each class. It provides a class-specific effect for two mana and ensures that one has an action to take most rounds, especially with leftover mana crystals.
Learning To Play
Blizzard has revamped the new player experience several times over the years, and now is a great time to dive in. New players begin at rank 50 and slowly climb to rank 25, facing only other new players along the way. By completing in-game quests and climbing ranks, the game awards card packs the Classic set to allow the player to begin building a collection. At rank 25, it is impossible to drop down again, and players will only face those of similar rank until they rise to rank 20. This is a buffer period meant to make the first games feel even.
Hearthstone is not friendly for free-to-play users, but then again, there is no CCG in existence that truly is viable at a competitive level without spending money. New players will be fine with their initial cards and resources to craft additional cards, but with three expansions per year and a yearly rotation that removes cards from the pool that one can use for Standard play, it becomes clear that one needs to spend money or focus on playing only a single class.
Watch The Best!
There are many Hearthstone streamers that can help new players take their game from beginner to master. Jeffrey “Trump” Shih is a great example of a streamer who is constantly making content. He also produces a number of educational resources to improve at Hearthstone. His website offers up-to-date options for budget decks, which are perfect for new players.