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Getting Started in Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft - Blizzard's Online Strategy Card Game
Although I originally wrote this article during Hearthstone's beta (thus the invitation graphic to the right), I have since updated it since its release.
Here is what you can expect from the Hearthstone experience:
Why a Card Game?
World of Warcraft has actually had its own trading card game for years now. Many traditional WoW players are familiar with the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game because some of its special "loot" cards provide in-game items. However, unless you're already a fantasy card game player, diving in and actually playing the WoW card game can be daunting.
Thankfully, Hearthstone eliminates this hurdle.
Weapons & Hero Powers
Getting Started with Hearthstone
Hearthstone's marketing catchphrase is "Deceptively Simple. Insanely Fun." This isn't far off the mark.
Getting started is incredibly easy. You will choose a class to play (each one has a different basic starter deck) Your first few games serve as a tutorial, introducing new aspects of gameplay as you progress.
How does Hearthstone's gameplay work? Well, first you are given the opportunity to replace any or all of your starting hand, drawing new cards as needed, and then the game begins.
At its most basic level, you are trying to reduce the health of your opponent's hero to zero before he or she can do so to yours. Toward this goal, you will take actions (play cards) each turn. Which cards, as well as the number of cards you can play in a given turn, is determined by how much mana you have. You begin with 1 mana on your first turn and gain an additional mana crystal per turn (up to a maximum of ten).
The cards you play can fall into three categories: minions, spells, and weapons.
Minions are your troops. They deal damage and frequently have special abilities, the most essential of these being taunt, which forces your enemy to attack that minion instead of your hero. There are a wide variety of minion types including beast, demon, and murloc.
Spells can produce a variety of different effects such as dealing damage, drawing additional cards, buffing minions, or healing. These cards can only be used once and are then discarded.
Weapon cards, when played, equip a weapon to your hero, allowing your hero to attack. Each weapon has an attack value (how much damage it does) and a durability value (how many uses it has).
In addition to playing cards, a player can use two mana a turn to utilize his or her hero power. The hero power is different for every class. For instance,a shaman can cast a random totem, a priest can heal, and a warrior hero can buff himself with armor (which absorbs attacks).
Hearthstone's Modes of Play
Ways to Play
Hearthstone offers three play options: practice, play, and arena.
Practice mode is against a computer AI opponent. It is unranked play, but your hero can still gain experience, level up, and earn basic card rewards up to level 10.
Play mode will pit you against a human opponent of presumably similar skill. This can be played unranked or ranked, although it is unclear at this time if there are any rewards other than bragging rights for gaining in rank.
Arena mode pits you against a series of human opponents. Based upon your performance, the rewards here can be substantial.
Arena is similar to drafting. You must pay an entry fee to play (in either gold or real money). Then you begin by choosing from random cards for your deck.Once you have built your deck, you will face off against nother arena opponents. The objective is to win as many matches as you can, gaining rank, before you accumulate three loses and are ejected. When your arena match concludes, you are awarded prizes (gold, arcane dust, and packs of cards).
Disenchanting and Crafting Cards
Build a Custom Deck
A Druid Deck
Building a Deck
To build your decks, you will need to obtain cards. This can be done in a couple of different ways.
Basic cards are obtained by leveling up their associated classes.
Expert cards come in packs of five and must be purchased -- either with gold or real money. Expert cards can also be crafted with arcane dust. Arcane dust is produced when you disenchant surplus or unwanted cards in your collection.
Collecting enough arcane dust to craft quality cards can take some time, but with perseverance, it is possible to supplement your deck with a few of your wish-list cards in this way.
When building a deck, you will want to have a good number of minion cards (both offensive and defensive types) as well as a variety of spells. You can use the "Suggest a Card" button to help guide your choices.
It is also important to have cards of both high and low costs in your deck. Scrolling over your hero portrait will display a graph of the number of cards of each cost you currently have placed in your deck.
Arena's Entry Fee
Opening a Pack of Cards
"Free to Play"
Hearthstone is a "free to play" game. As with most games of this type, there are some complaints circulating in the forums that it is "free to play, but pay to win." This is primarily because the acquisition of gold is a painfully slow process at the moment.
Hearthstone offers one new daily quest each day, but you can hold onto up to three to pursue at a time. These quests are tasks such as "win two games while playing as a priest." These dailies typically award about 40 gold.
The only other way to earn gold without spending money is through play mode. 10 gold is awarded for each 3 wins you have. This is fairly slow going, especially when you consider that one pack of cards costs 100 gold and the entrance fee for admittance into the arena is 150 gold.
Hearthstone is an enjoyable strategy card game as well as an effective vehicle for adding depth and expanding the lore of the World of Warcraft story.
To whom will Hearthstone appeal? Both World of Warcraft fans and strategy card game players should really enjoy it. I am a long-time WoW player; my husband is a long-time Magic: the Gathering player. This game is absolutely ideal for us to play together.
Since I've mentioned it, what about the inevitable comparison of Hearthstone to Magic: The Gathering? Comparisons are indeed being made all over the web. I don't feel qualified to comment on this since I have only limited experience with MTG. I can, however, see some similarities to 5th Planet Games' former browser-based game app, Clash of the Dragons -- although Hearthstone is, of course, a game produced on a far grander scale.
But, while elements of other games exist within it, Hearthstone in no way feels derivative. It is its own unique game. Each class feels different to play, and although simple to dive into, there is immense depth here. The possibilities created by card combinations, compounded with use of hero powers, weapons, and secrets, makes this a rich and engaging strategy gaming experience.
The bottom line is that Hearthstone is fun and addictive to play. And it's free. Go download it now!
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© 2013 Alisha Adkins