Published on March 28th, 2014 | by Gregg Miller3
This is not a Hearthstone Beta Key
Gregg Explains: “Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft”
Hearthstone has finally taken the “Beta” sign off their door, and now the game is live! The game is played like many collectable card games, Magic: The Gathering being the most similar game it is most similar to and many mechanics translate over.
Decks contain only 30 cards and players start with 30 health. Players start with either a hand of three cards, or five, depending on who’s first and second respectively. Going second gives that player an extra card from their deck, plus an additional thirty-first card, The Coin. At the start of every player’s turn, you will draw a card and gain a mana crystal if you don’t have ten already. Mana crystals are the resource “housing” for mana, which is used for playing cards, or using Hero Power. This distinction is important with Warlock, Druid, and certain cards from the Neutral collection.
The meat of the game is playing spells, allies (and in the case of Shaman, Warrior, and Rogue), weapons. Managing your momentum, card advantage, and efficiently using your cards and Hero Power are also key. While a Hero can not have over thirty health, if they are a Druid, Warrior, or Mage, they can gain Armor that lets them achieve an effective health above thirty.
The current heroes are signature characters from the Warcraft setting. Malfurion Stormrage, Rexxar, Jaina Proudmoore, Uther the Lightbringer, Anduin Wrynn, Valeera Sanguinar, Thrall, Gul’dan, and Garrosh Hellscream are the current roster for the nine classes. Each class has a Hero Power that will cost two mana, and then generate an effect. Druids will give the Hero one Armor, and then for the turn gains one attack. Hunters can inflict two damage to the enemy Hero. Mages can inflict one damage to any Hero or Ally. Paladins can bring in a 1/1 token Ally. Priests can heal up to two damage on one Hero or Ally. Rogues can make a 1/2 weapon to equip. Shamans can summon a random totem, from a list of four, but if one of the four already exists on your board, it’s removed from the list of possible results. Warlocks lose two health, and draw a card. Warriors gain two armor.
Each Hero has a level, based on how often you play using that class. Winning gives more experience points than losing, but you get some progress regardless. There are fifty total levels, and the first ten unlock basic core cards that can only be in that class’ deck. At certain intervals after, you unlock gold versions of those basic cards, which effectively behave as “foil” versions of the cards, but with slightly animated images, instead of static art.
There is speculation of additional Heroes for the current classes, but so far it doesn’t look like a new character will give a new Hero Power. Just a re-skin of the Hero portrait, and different voiced emotes. Deathknight and Monk are to be added in the future as classes, and there’s speculation on just which characters will represent these two classes.
Modes of Play
There are quite a few modes of play. When you start, there’s a tutorial that teaches resource management, card trading (using one or two cards to remove one or two cards from your opponent’s side of the board), and board clearing. All players start with a default Mage deck. Once the tutorial is out of the way, you can try your hand at some practice matches against computer opponents, or dive into the game.
My best advice is to not touch player vs. player games, until you’ve leveled your Hero to at least level ten. Any time you defeat a Hero you have not already unlocked, you will unlock the starter deck of that Hero, and the ability to make decks with that class. If you want to play against actual players, you can choose to go into ranked play, or practice. Ranked play has a ladder progression from rank 25 to rank 1, or “Legendary”. After reaching rank 1, you will now enter a separate tier of rankings within rank 1, based on how many people have also achieved this rank.
The other major play method is the Arena. This is the answer to a booster draft style of play, without having to deal with some of the issues the developers found that tacks on an additional time commitment to such a play style. First, the player is offered a choice of three of the classes. After that, the game will give the player a series of thirty similar choices, but it’s a set of three different cards of the same rarity. Normal deck building rules are ignored, allowing players to have over their normal limit of two copies of any card. However, this is only the case with common (white) or basic cards.
At certain intervals, you will be given the option to choose from a set of rare (blue), epic (purple), or legendary (orange), but this tends to be about three of the thirty total draft selections. After the deck is built, you will play with the deck until you have lost three times, or have reached the win cap of twelve wins. After the end, depending on how many wins you earn, you will be given a prize of a minimum of one booster pack, and gold, arcane dust, or additional card packs.
Arcane dust is used for crafting. Since you can not trade any of your cards with any other players, you have to expand your card collection with booster packs, or crafting. For 100 gold, you can buy a booster pack that contains a minimum of one rare or better card, and four other cards of any other rarity. Your collection can only hold two copies of any given card, with the exception of legendary cards, which you can only have one copy of. Normal and gold quality cards are counted separately, meaning you could have four total copies of Angry Chicken, but still only have two copies in a constructed deck.
Any excess, or undesired non-basic cards can be disenchanted, meaning the card is removed from your collection, and an amount of arcane dust is given in return. Gold cards yield larger amounts of arcane dust, compared to their normal versions. With your dust, you can craft copies of cards you don’t have, meaning eventually you can get every card, and for the super collectors, gold versions of every card.
Hearthstone is a free-to-play game, but like any CCG/TCG, there is a cost for expanding your collection. By playing the game and winning, or competing Daily Quests (a daily task where you play the game a certain way) you can gain gold. Gold can be used to buy into Arena matches, or buy booster packs. Alternatively you can pay actual money to buy large collections of booster packs, or an entry into Arena play. The largest bundle is 40 packs for $50 ($1.25 each), or you can buy 2 packs for $3.
Already there are people moving into professional play. There are live streams of top ranked players, celebrity players, and more on various sites. Tournaments have been popping up with cash prizes. At the previous BlizzCon, there was an invitational tournament that took many popular live streamers to play in a best-of-three decks elimination style tournament. There’s even a podcast called Angry Chicken that’s hosted by three players who have various backgrounds with other card games, World of Warcraft, and competitive ladder play in Starcraft 2. The game feels alive and sleek, and there’s a form of enjoyable play for all kinds of competitive card game players.