Hearthstone is a gaming juggernaut. And at this point, you’d hard-pressed to find someone that thinks otherwise. Released on March 11, 2014, the turn-based online collectible card game from Blizzard Entertainment captured gamers’ hearts with its playful art style and polished gameplay. It gained success on a variety of platforms, so you can build Hearthstone decks on Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.
In this review, we’ll cover the game’s basics and give you some insight into what makes Hearthstone esports so compelling. Without further ado, let’s get to it!
When Blizzard Entertainment decided to make Hearthstone, they didn’t intend to create anything other than a simple collectible card game. The initial game was fairly straightforward, and some would even argue it didn’t have much depth compared to an established title like Magic: The Gathering. But it’s exactly the fact that Hearthstone cards so to understand that turned the game into a global phenomenon.
Gamers loved its intuitive gameplay. Plus, Hearthstone took place in the universally acclaimed Warcraft universe, which was the cherry on the metaphorical cake. Finally, the title was free-to-play, so everyone could download Hearthstone and get in on the action. As the years went by, Blizzard released a number of expansion packs. Each of them introduced new cards, decks, and mechanics, gradually adding more depth to the game while preserving its core identity.
They were wildly successful. As more and more fans subscribed to the Hearthstone Reddit (which currently has close to 700,000 subscribers), the game kept evolving. And yet, it remained swift and simple. Nowadays, there’s a plethora of Hearthstone decks and modes at players’ disposal. Everyone is almost guaranteed to find something to their liking, and this is a huge part of the game’s appeal.
Cards, Decks, and Classes
Before you start playing Hearthstone, you have to select one of nine hero classes: Druid, Hunter, Mage, Paladin, Priest, Rogue, Shaman, Warlock, or Warrior. Each class has a hero power—a powerful effect that you can cast every turn without spending any cards. For example, Priest’s hero power allows him to heal someone for 2 health while Warlock can sacrifice 2 health to draw an extra card.
Moreover, every hero gains access to unique class cards that define their playstyle. For instance, Hunters are all about bringing their opponents down as fast as possible while Mages prefer to drag the game out to get an opportunity to cast their powerful spells. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from playing a slower game as a Hunter or overwhelming your opponent with aggression as a Mage. It all comes down to the way you build your Hearthstone deck.
Regardless of the class you choose, you’ll need to pick 30 cards to fill out your deck. Every Hearthstone card represents a unique effect that either summons a creature, casts a spell, forges a weapon, or even replaces your hero with a completely different entity (and a different hero power). You’ll find cards of different quality: common (white), rare (blue), epic (purple), and legendary (orange). Common cards are as simple as it gets while legendary cards often have game-changing effects. Rares and epics fall somewhere in between.
This might sound complicated but think of your Hearthstone deck as a toolkit holding a wide range of instruments. And it’s your job to decide when—and how—to use them. Creating a strong deck is a must if you want to be good at the game. New players don’t have a lot to choose from, so they might have to buy card packs or complete quests and adventures to get more options.
Once you have a decent amount of cards, you can look for Hearthstone top decks online or try to come up with your own set of cards. Once again, these are very important. So much so that there’s a service called Hearthstone Deck Tracker that allows you to track the cards left in your deck and account for the cards that your opponent has already played.
Now, we can finally get to the actual Hearthstone gameplay! Every match is a one on one battle between human and/or computer opponents. In the beginning, you draw a number of Hearthstone cards from your deck. Playing them costs mana. Each player starts the game with 1 mana, and every passing turn grants them an additional point of mana and an extra card.
The amount of mana limits your options, so you can’t play your best cards at the start of the game. In fact, if your deck only has high-mana spells and creatures, you will struggle against decks that include hordes of cheap minions. Thus, you’ll need to include weaker—and cheaper—cards to survive the onslaught. As the game progresses, you’ll keep drawing cards until you go through your entire deck, but the maximum amount of mana is capped at 10. So there are only so many things you can do in a single turn.
Mana isn’t the only resource to consider. Every player starts with 30 health. Over the course of the match, players use their spells, creatures, weapons, and hero powers to chip away at the opponent’s health pool. The one to drop to 0 health first loses, and the other becomes the victor.
Of course, anyone that that keeps up with Hearthstone news knows that the best players don’t always attack each other’s health from the get-go. Instead, they seek to swarm the board with allied minions while efficiently dismantling enemy creatures. And once you control the board, it’s much easier to set up the killing blow.
The rules of Hearthstone can change, depending on the game mode you pick. The most popular one is play mode that pits you against other similarly skilled human opponents. Here, you can play Casual matches for fun, or you can climb the ladder by competing in Ranked games.
Play mode comes in two formats: Wild and Standard. The former puts no restrictions on the way you build your deck, and players can make use of every Hearthstone card to ever exist. The latter only allows you to play cards from a handful of latest expansions. Out of the two, Wild is regarded as a fun mode since it has far too many cards in need of Hearthstone nerfs. Meanwhile, Standard is much more balanced, and it’s the go-to format for pros and competitive players.
You can also try your luck at the Arena. Here, you can pay a small entrance fee to craft a new Hearthstone deck from randomly selected cards and take it to battle against other players. You play until you score 12 wins or 3 losses, and at the end, you get a treasure chest with cards and in-game currency. The more wins you get, the bigger your reward.
On a similar note, the Brawl offers weekly card packs to its participants. However, it also sets unique gameplay rules, and players have to think outside of the box while creating their decks… or they can simply wait a few days and look up a Hearthstone deck list on Reddit.
Finally, you can play a bunch of PvE modes. These include Hearthstone dungeon runs, adventures, and practice matches against AI. The first two options are the most interesting ones, as they challenge you with unique bosses and in-game scenarios. And there’s always a nice reward for passing them.
Hearthstone Esports, and Tournaments
In spite of its high degree of randomness, Hearthstone has a thriving esports scene. Perhaps the biggest reason behind it is that Blizzard Entertainment didn’t plan to create a competitive experience. Instead, they made a good game. Hearthstone quickly acquired a large and passionate following, so it was only a matter of time before the best players started to host their own competitions.
In short, Hearthstone esports hit a home run. The 2018 World Championship was held in Amsterdam and featured a massive $1 million prize pool. The viewer experience was captivating, as fans got to watch their favorite players adapt to the constantly shifting state of the game. With that, it’s no wonder that Hearthstone is always at the top of Twitch TV.
Hearthstone is a fun casual card game that inexplicably turned it into an esports titan. And the most surprising thing is that it doesn’t owe the majority of its success to Blizzard Entertainment. Instead, Hearthstone owes it to the fans. And as long as its community remains passionate, the game will keep growing.
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