An introduction to Hearthstone
Most of the games I play are fairly classical games, so it’s time for something a bit different. Hearthstone is a collectable card game that is only played online (to my knowledge), I’ve been playing on and off for a few years now. It’s an interesting time to be playing at the moment as a new expansion has just come out and there are some new cards out that people are experimenting with.
Hearthstone is based on World of Warcraft, which is a so called MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) where you control a character, level it up and interact with other player across the world. It’s a game I played many years ago and really enjoyed, however I gave it up as it was incredibly time consuming. I’d heard some good things about Hearthstone some time after though and decided to give it a go.
If you’re an existing Hearthstone player you can probably skip a lot of this, although I will leave some tips at the end which will hopefully prove helpful. Otherwise, feel free to keep reading!
Hearthstone is a one on one game where the object of the game is to reduce your opponent’s hero to zero health. This is done by playing cards which can have various different effects. Many cards are minions, which you place on the board and can then use to attack the enemy hero or their minions. Most other cards are spells, there are a wide variety of them but most of them either deal damage to the enemy or have a beneficial effect to your minions. There are also weapons that some heroes can use and there are also some rare Quest cards that have just been released with the new expansion.
The screenshot above shows the early stages of a game, my hero is at the bottom along with the cards I currently have. The 30 is the amount of health I have, which is the amount you start with. I’ve also played a minion which is the small purple thing above, it has 2 attack and 3 health. This means that whenever it attacks, it will reduce its target’s health by 2, however if its health drops to 0 it will die. My opponent is at the top of the screen and also has 30 health. I can’t see his cards but can see that he has 5 of them. He also has a minion with 1 attack and 4 health.
The mechanics of the game are as follows. Before the game you select your hero (there are 9 different ones) and a deck of 30 cards from which you will draw from. It is then decided at random who will go first, whoever is selected draws 3 cards from their deck at random. The second player draws 4 cards and is also given a fifth card known as a coin.
At the start of each turn the player draws a card from their deck at random and is then allowed to play some cards. Each card costs a certain amount of mana, the amount of mana you can spend on the first turn is 1 and increases by 1 each turn (but is capped at 10). Therefore during the early stages of the game the players will only be able to play fairly weak cards (if any), however the cards played will get more powerful over time. The coin gives you an extra mana for one turn only, this along with the extra card is compensation for going second which otherwise would be a significant disadvantage.
Also during your turn you are allowed to attack with any minions that you’ve placed. Most minions can’t attack on the same turn that they’ve been played and must wait until the next turn, although there are some minions with a Charge ability who can attack right away. You may either attack the enemy hero or an enemy minion, dealing damage equal to your attack. If you attack a minion though, they will attack you at the same time. This is known as trading as it’s not uncommon for both minions to die during an attack.
Once you’ve played your cards and attacked, you end your turn and your opponent starts theirs. From move 2 it is possible to use your hero power, this is a special ability that can be used multiple times throughout the game, but usually only once a turn. It costs 2 mana and is generally quite a weak ability, however it is useful if you are short of cards or don’t have anything useful to play that turn. The actual ability depends on which of the 9 heroes you are playing, they include dealing damage, healing damage, summoning minions, drawing a card and equipping a basic weapon.
That’s about it really, although there are a huge range of cards available and I won’t go into all the details here. Although there is quite a bit of skill during the game (although a healthy dose of luck too), the real skill is to choose an initial 30 cards that work well together. Although the latest expansion has only been released a few days ago there are already certain decks that are looking very popular.
One problem I have is that I’m not an especially active player and I’m certainly not prepared to spend any money on the game. Therefore there are a number of very powerful cards that I don’t own and can’t add to my decks. It is possible to earn cards for free, mainly using gold from daily quests, however it’s quite a slow process. However there is another form of playing called the Arena which evens things out, as it doesn’t depend on what cards you own and you probably won’t run into other players with 30 beautifully coordinated cards. It costs gold (or money if you prefer?!) but you are guaranteed some sort of reward, including a deck of 5 cards for your collection.
Here’s how it works. First of all, you are presented with 3 different heroes and must select one. You are then presented with a choice of 3 cards and must pick one for your deck. You are then shown 3 more and must pick another. This carries on until you have 30 cards, you are then matched up against another player who has selected their deck in the same manner. You play a series of games against different players until you lose 3 games. I believe you can only win up to 12 games, although my best ever run is 8 wins so I’ve yet to see this. Once you’ve finished you receive a reward which rises in value with each win.
Okay, as promised some time ago here are some tips.
Constructing a deck
- Pick a theme and select plenty of cards that contribute to that theme. For example, one of my new decks is a “Beast” Hunter, it includes plenty of beasts and plenty of other cards that make those beasts more powerful.
- Apart from certain specific types of deck, make sure you pick several cards for each mana cost. This should ensure you’ve got a choice of cards to play each turn. There are exceptions though, for example there are certain aggressive decks with a lot of low valued cards which aim to win the game quickly.
- Whatever your theme is, leave room for some spells that destroy your enemies minions. One way to lose a game is simply to have no good answer to a powerful minion that your opponent has just played.
- Ask yourself the question “How am I actually going to win?” Are you planning to overwhelm your opponent with low valued minions, kill him off with some specific high value minion or aim to get a lot of mid-value minions on the board. Your answer to this question will probably help you decide whether certain cards are worth including.
- Do some research and see what decks other players are playing. I get some ideas from YouTube videos but there is plenty of stuff out there. You may not be able to replicate some of these decks perfectly (the YouTubers tend to play a lot and have all the powerful cards) but they can be a very good starting point. Also, if you lose a game it may be possible to build a deck based on how your opponent just beat you.
- If you’re going with one of the new Quest cards, you’re going to need a very specific and unnatural deck in order to get it to work. Don’t be afraid to tinker with it and try a few ideas. For example I am lucky enough to have the Mage Quest card, for this one you need to cast 6 spells that weren’t originally in your deck. The reward is a spell that lets you have one extra turn. I’m still working on this but this requires lots of cards that generate extra spells, plus cards that let me deal a lot of damage (ideally enough to win right away) to exploit those times when I do complete the quest.
- Try to spend all of your mana each turn if reasonably possible. If you spend more mana than your opponent, in general you are probably getting better quality minions on the board and casting better quality spells.
- Board control is a very important concept, this means you have minions on the board and are able to kill off your opponents minions as soon as they are played. If you can manage to keep this up, you will eventually win as you should be hitting the enemy hero for a bit of damage along the way.
- With the above 2 points in mind, try and play cards early on rather than use your hero power. 2 mana cards are generally much better than the hero power and will get you off to a better start. There are exceptions though, the Rogue and Mage hero power are both useful for killing enemy minions with 1 health while the Warlock ability of drawing cards is very useful for certain decks.
- When attacking, always consider the possibility of trading by attacking enemy minions instead of the hero. For example if you have a 1-3 minion (1 attack and 3 health) and your opponent has a couple of 1-1 minions then you should almost certainly kill a minion rather than inflict 1 damage on the hero. This is much better for board control, if you attack the hero then he might be able to play a card which kills your 1-3 minion and leaves his minions on the board for a while. Another example of a good trade would be if you have a 3-2 minion and your opponent has a 4-3 minion. Attacking the minion will kill both of them even though our opponent’s minion is the “better” one.
- When casting spells that deal damage or using weapons, these should usually be saved for minions rather than heroes. Unless the hero is close to zero health or you’re playing an aggressive deck it is much more important to kill a minion and play for board control.
- As the game progresses try and work out what sort of cards are in your opponent’s deck, in particular there are certain spells that most players with a certain hero will play. For example, a common Priest spell is a 5 cost card called Holy Nova which deals 2 damage to all enemy minions. Therefore, if you’re playing against a Priest, don’t play a load of low value minions on turn 5! Be smart and keep hold of some of them, or play a bigger minion with 3+ health instead.
- When selecting your deck, take your time. This is actually the most important part of any arena run as you’ll be stuck with this deck for at least the next 3 games. There is no time limit so be patient and make use of this.
- When selecting the first few cards, simply aim to select the best card each time regardless of its cost. A basic guide is that an average x cost minion should have about x attack and x health. Therefore a 2 cost 2-3 that has some useful ability is probably a very good card, while a 6 cost 5-6 with a similar ability is probably average at best. You will need some big cards but wait for some better opportunities and take the 2 cost card here.
- Although much more difficult than a normal deck, try and get one or two themes going and look out for cards that work well with others you’ve already picked. For example if you see a decent card early on that says “If you hold a Dragon…” then consider picking it and looking our for other Dragon cards later. Again, take your time and review the cards you’ve already chosen if needed.
- When selecting the last 5-10 cards, try and balance your deck by selecting certain cost cards that you don’t have many of, even if they don’t look particularly useful. For example, if you only have one 4 cost card in your first 20 but plenty of 2 cost cards then you should pick a mediocre 4 card ahead of a good looking 2 card. Every arena deck will have a number of “odd” cards anyway, it’s more important to have a good range of cards and some choices each turn.
- This may seem obvious but try and make sure you’ve got one or two high value cards (7+ mana). A range of cards is useful but cards like this can basically win the game right away if your opponent lacks a good response to it.
- Spells seem to be much less common in the arena than in normal play, try to make sure you have a few spells in your deck to deal with any powerful minions that might appear. Also bear in mind during the game that your opponent will have fewer spells than normal, so don’t necessarily worry about certain spells that your opponent may never have had the chance to pick.
That’s enough for now, if you play the game already or are tempted to give it a go then please feel free to add me as a friend in the game (I’m MerryHatMan). And good luck!