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Introduction to Hearthstone

Last updated on Jan 09, 2018 at 09:11 by Aleco 11 comments

Table of Contents

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a collectible card game (CCG) developed by Blizzard Entertainment and is set in the Warcraft universe. The game was released in March of 2014.

Hearthstone is available on Windows and OS X operating system, and can also be played on iOS and Android devices (such as smartphones and tablets).

This guide will not go into specific details about gameplay or game mechanics, but will aim to provide a general overview of the game itself. If you are looking for an introduction to the mechanics of the game, please refer to our article about the mechanics of Hearthstone.

1. Free-to-Play

Hearthstone is a free-to-play game. You are able to download, install, and play the game without having to pay any money. It is possible to acquire nearly every card in the game without having to pay real money, but it would require many hours of gameplay to do so.

Hearthstone utilizes a micro-transaction payment model, meaning that players can spend real money to acquire new cards and aesthetic improvements. However, any and all gameplay-affecting improvements which could be obtained through micro-transactions can also be obtained with in-game currency, though there are several aesthetic improvements which can only be obtained through micro-transactions. Though the only true advantage to spending real money on Hearthstone is to reduce the amount of time it takes to acquire new cards, this advantage is a significant one. Players who pay real money to buy cards are able to create strong decks significantly faster than players who don't invest real money into the game.

2. Objective of the Game

Hearthstone is a turned-based strategy game which requires no micro skills (fine motor skills) or precise timing to play. It is played exclusively as a head to head game (one player against one player), meaning that there are no team-based or cooperative game modes.

When playing Hearthstone, each player is represented in-game by an avatar called a hero. Heroes always begin the game with 30 health in multiplayer games (some single player adventures will modify this number). Victory at Hearthstone is achieved by being the first player to reduce the enemy's health down to zero. It is possible for both heroes to be destroyed at the same time (for example, by a card that deals damage to both heroes), in which case the game ends in a draw.

3. Heroes and Classes

There are 9 classes in Hearthstone, each one represented by a named default hero. Several classes have alternative heroes which can be obtained through in-game quests and real money, but these alternative heroes are purely aesthetic changes and do not alter gameplay. Each class offers a drastically different gameplay experience, granting players access to a number of class-specific cards (in addition to all the cards that are available to every class) and to a class-specific Hero Power, or ability which can be used once per turn. The 9 default heroes are listed in the table below:

Hero Class
Malfurion StormrageDruid
Rexxar (Alternative: Alleria Windrunner)Hunter
Jaina Proudmoore (Alternatives: Medivh, Khadgar)Mage
Uther Lightbringer (Alternatives: Lady Liadrin, Prince Arthas)Paladin
Anduin Wrynn (Alternative: Tyrande Whisperwind)Priest
Valeera Sanguinar (Alternative: Maiev Shadowsong)Rogue
Thrall (Alternative: Morgl the Oracle)Shaman
Gul'dan (Alternative: Nemsy Necrofizzle)Warlock
Garrosh Hellscream (Alternative: Magni Bronzebeard)Warrior

4. Cards

Each Hearthstone game is played with a 30-card deck, made up entirely of cards that have been unlocked in the player's collection. During a game, random cards from this deck will be put into your hand, where they can be played onto game board. The same, of course, applies to your opponent. Hearthstone is turn-based, which means that you and your opponent will take turns playing cards, and that players will not be able to take actions on their opponent's turns.

Mana is the primary resource for playing cards in Hearthstone. Every card in the game has a Mana cost, and a card can only be played if a player has enough Mana to cover the card's Mana cost. Players begin each turn with an amount of Mana equal to the turn number (for example, players begin turn 6 with 6 Mana), up to maximum of 10. The most powerful cards have the highest mana cost, which means that as the game progresses, players will be able to play increasingly powerful cards.

There are two main types of cards in Hearthstone minions and spells:

4.1. Minion Cards

Minion cards are creatures that can be placed on the game board. Each minion has an attack value and a health value. For example, Murloc Raider has 2 attack and 1 health. Once played, the minion will remain on the board until it is killed (in the case of the Murloc Raider, until it takes 1 damage), or until a card or ability returns it to the player's hand or deck.

Once played, minions remain inactive until your next turn (unless they have a specific ability called Charge), and will not be able to attack the opponent unless they survive to your next turn. When it is your turn to play again, you can direct your minions to attack either your opponent's minions or their hero directly. When one minion attacks another minion, they each deal their attack values to one another's health. For example, if a Murloc Raider attacks another Murloc Raider, each one will do 2 damage to the other one, causing both of them to die. Alternatively, if a Murloc Raider attacks a Chillwind Yeti (which has 4 attack and 5 health), the Murloc Raider will die (taking 4 damage from the Yeti's attack), while the Yeti's health will be reduced to 3. Each minion can only attack once per turn (with the exception of the Windfury ability).

4.2. Spell Cards

Spell cards can have any number of powerful effects on the game. They can deal damage (Fireball), spawn Minions (Lost in the Jungle), draw cards (Arcane Intellect), and more! Generally speaking, most decks tend to contain a core of minions which are supplemented by synergistic spells.

4.3. Card Rarity

Cards are divided into 5 qualities, or rarity categories. Basic cards are cards that you are guaranteed to receive, either for finishing the tutorial or for leveling up classes. The other four rarities of cards correspond to the likelihood that the card will be opened up in a pack. Common cards are the most likely to appear in a pack, followed by Rare cards, then Epic cards, then Legendary cards. As cards increase in rarity, they tend to have more narrow or unique effects on the game. Though there are powerful and highly playable cards of all rarities, on average, high rarity cards tend to be more powerful than low rarity cards.

5. How A Game Is Played

At the beginning of a game of Hearthstone one player is randomly chosen to go first. That player receives 3 cards, while the other player receives 4 cards and The Coin (a free card that grants +1 Mana for one turn). Both players begin the game with 1 Mana crystal.

At the start of each turn, the active player draws a card, their Mana bar is refilled, and the amount of Mana they can use is increased by one (up to a maximum of 10 Mana). Players can then use their minions on board to attack enemies and may play any number of cards from their hand so long as they have the Mana to do so.

There are a few restrictions that apply to your hand and the game board:

  • The maximum amount of minions each player can have on the board is 7 (when at the limit, you are not allowed to place new minions);
  • The maximum amount of cards you can have in your hand is 10 (when at the limit, any new card you draw will be discarded and its effect will not take place).

The game ends when one of the players manages to destroy the other player's hero (by damaging it until its health reaches 0), or when a player concedes the game (causing their opponent to win).

6. Game Modes

There are three primary game modes in Hearthstone.

  • Play mode (or constructed) allows you to construct a deck by using the cards in your collection, then battle human opponents head to head in both Casual and Ranked mode.
  • Solo Adventures allows you to play against the AI. Here you can play simple practice games against the AI with a deck of your choice, which is useful for familiarizing yourself with the game. When you start Hearthstone for the first time, you will need to unlock all the heroes by beating them in Practice mode. After unlocking all heroes, a new difficulty (stronger AI) appears for Practice mode. Solo Adventures is also where you will find various single player games modes, including Dungeon Runs, where you can do battle against difficult AI opponents for various rewards, sometimes with decks of your construction and other times with decks you build on the fly.
  • Arena mode starts by giving players a choice from one of three classes. After choosing a class they must build a 30-card deck from scratch, selecting cards one at a time from a group of 3 random cards of the same rarity. Arena mode does not use your card collection, so all players are effectively on equal footing when playing Arena. Your Arena deck remains active until you win 12 matches or until you lose 3 matches, at which point you receive rewards based on your performance: including a pack of cards, individual cards, gold, and Arcane Dust (see next section for more information on gold and Arcane Dust). You are then free to enter the Arena again, choose a different class, and build a different deck. Note that entering the Arena can cost real money (1.99 USD, 1.49 GBP, or 1.79 EUR), but your first participation is free. You can also pay the entry fee with 150 in-game gold.
  • Tavern Brawl is a special game mode that provides players with a different, lighthearted challenge each week. It opens on Wednesday and ends on Monday of the next week, and the first win on any given week rewards the player with a Card Pack.

7. Card Collection

Each Hearthstone account is attached to a collection of cards. You can use these cards to construct your decks for Play mode (with the limitations inherent to class-specific cards, as well as other limitations such as only being able to use 2 of the same card in a deck).

Some Basic cards are given to you by default when you start playing the game, other Basic class-specific cards can be obtained by playing enough games with each hero, and the rest of the cards can be bought, crafted, or earned as a reward in the Arena. Firelands Portal is an exception, in that it is free of cost but it is obtained by defeating the first encounter of the One Night in Karazhan adventure.

7.1. Real Money

Packs of Hearthstone cards can be purchased using your local currency. Packs are cheaper when purchased in larger quantities, ranging from 2 Packs for 2.99 USD to 60 packs for 69.99 USD. Real money can also be used to purchase new heroes (alternative skins for the default heroes) and Solo Adventures (though premium Solo Adventures will no longer be added to the game after One Night in Karazan).

7.2. Gold

Gold is rewarded to players for winning games in Play mode, completing one-time achievements (such as unlocking all heroes or beating all heroes on expert difficulty in Practice mode), for completing daily quests (such as killing 40 enemy minions in any mode), or as rewards for Arena runs.

Gold can be used to purchase packs of cards (1 pack of 5 cards for 100 gold), for paying the entry fee for the Arena (150 gold), or for buying access to adventures.

7.3. Arcane Dust

Arcane Dust is the resource players use to construct cards of their choice. As Hearthstone packs contain random cards, acquiring Arcane Dust is the best way to acquire the specific cards you need for your collection. Any card in your collection can be disenchanted and turned into Arcane Dust, rewarding an amount of Arcane Dust to the player depending on the card's rarity. As each Hearthstone deck can contain a maximum of 2 copies of each card, every copy in your collection beyond the 2nd is unnecessary and should be turned into Arcane Dust. You can also disenchant any card that you do not intend to use.

Note that Basic cards cannot be disenchanted or crafted, and that Golden cards cost more dust to craft than their normal versions but reward more dust when disenchanted.

8. Conclusion

Hearthstone is an entertaining game which is fairly easy to pick up and get started with. It is free to try out, and it does not require you to invest much time into it before it starts to become quite fun. It also has the added bonus of being playable on mobile devices, so give it a try if you are curious or if you have some time to kill!

If you're interested in learning more about Hearthstone or improving at the game, we have many guides on our website which can help you grow as a player and understand some of the game's many deep and fascinating concepts.

9. ChangeLog

+ show all entries - show only 10 entries
  • 09 Jan. 2018: Updated for Aleco's guide reworks.
  • 14 Nov. 2016: Made a number of updates to the guide to account for the various changes that Hearthstone has undergone over time.
  • 24 Oct. 2015: Made various updates to account for changes to the game since its release.
  • 19 Mar. 2014: Updated for the game's live release.
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