More Hearthstone Thoughts

So I got a Hearthstone beta key the other week and, while I haven’t been playing it as much as I would have liked to, I’m quite enjoying it.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, Hearthstone is properly known as Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and it’s a digital CCG (collectible card game) that Blizzard is working on. It’s currently in closed beta. It is, in a word, fun.

There are nine decks, one for each of the original World of Warcraft classes, each represented by a different “hero” of that class.

Druid: Malfurion Stormrage
Hunter: Rexxar
Mage: Jaina Proudmoore
Paladin: Uther (the) Lightbringer
Priest: Anduin Wrynn
Rogue: Valeera Sanguinar
Shaman: Thrall
Warlock: Gul’dan
Warrior: Garrosh Hellscream (post-5.4 spoilers, perhaps!)

What’s interesting about this is that, basically, the decks don’t need a hero associated with them, but having them there means that you can use all kinds of lore and story affiliated with those characters. There’s a hunter card, for example, that will summon a random beast companion, and these beasts are well-known pets of Rexxar’s. It gives great flavour (and fun) to play as/against these “heroes”. (Although, let me just say that perhaps Garrosh wasn’t a great choice, given that the 5.4 raid is the Siege of Orgrimmar… But who else? Cairne or Baine Bloodhoof? Saurfang? Grom Hellscream? Lothar? VARIAN? Meh.)

So you have a deck of 30 cards and, using these cards, your goal is to bring down the opposing hero from 30 health to 0. In these decks, you have various cards that will do various things. You can basically break them down into two types of cards:

1) The ability card. This type of card will generally not leave a minion on the board. A prime example is the hunter’s Multi-Shot card. All this does is three damage to two random enemy minions.

2) The minion card. While minion cards will often also have an additional effect, this is the kind of card that just drops a minion on to the board for you to play (typically the next turn). Here’s an example of a plain, basic card.

Your job is to make sure your deck of 30 cards will be appropriately balanced between abilities and minions to get you to kill the opposing hero. What’s awesome is that how you go about doing this depends largely on your class.

For example (and this is my experience, so I could be very wrong), I find that Rogue decks are very much tuned for direct damage and they also have a lot of great defensive moves. By that, I mean that it feels as though they have a ton of ability cards. You could build an entire deck around just abilities, though it might not be very successful. There are 17 ability cards in a Rogue deck and you can have two of each in your 30-card deck. Among them are cards like Assassinate, Sap and Vanish.

By contrast, Hunter decks (again, my experience) seem to be a decks that work very well with lots of minions, specifically Beasts (which only makes sense), and there’s a lot of synergy with the hunter-specific cards. The Starving Buzzard lets you draw a card when you summon a beast, the Scavenging Hyena gains attack and health when a beast dies, while the Houndmaster gives a friendly Beast extra attack and health AND a taunt.

So one of the things I like best about the game is that each deck really feels like the class they’re named for. I feel like Rogues are a bit squishy, but can do great crowd control and fantastic damage. I feel like Hunters are at their best when taking advantage of all the synergy with various bonuses for beasts. I also feel as though the Paladins are slow to start, but have great staying power and will eventually overwhelm you.

It all just feels very “right”, if that makes sense.

So, as I said, your goal is to take a 30-card deck and kill the opposing hero. Each hero starts with 30 health and no one can have more than 30 health (although some characters have shielding abilities which means you’ll be required to hit them for more than 30 total damage for them to die).

The other part of the game that I very much enjoy is that it’s like a chess game. There are good times and bad times to use certain cards and a long-term strategy is likely required when you’re planning out your deck. However, that strategy isn’t always available and you will end up changing ideas as you progress through a match because your awesome opening cards could be at the very bottom of your deck! Every time you pick a card, things can drastically change. Every time your opponent plays a card, things can drastically change.

Then there are Taunt cards to deal with, Charge cards, cards that spawn MORE minions, Deathrattles and more mechanics, all of which can completely screw up your plan. So it’s a chess game, but with a few separate elements of surprise thrown in.

Here’s one of my earliest matches:

And you can find more on my YouTube channel (here’s the direct link to my Hearthstone Playlist!). Occasionally, I may also stream over at Twitch, so you can mock me. ;)

Next time I write about Hearthstone, I’m going to talk about going first, going second and The Coin, including some really interesting information about how it helps even the playing field, posted by one of the devs.