Hearthstone A Second Look

“I think I attack this one…and pray he doesn’t have a taunt minion…”

“Who are you talking to?” My brother knew I wasn’t one to think out loud. It was probably a good idea to make sure I hadn’t gone insane or had a stroke.

“I’m streaming Hearthstone. If I just make plays it’s kinda boring. Magic pros say they’re thought process all the time.”

“Yeah, but do they have to fend off people asking for beta keys?”

So before anyone asks in the comments, no we don’t have beta keys for Hearthstone. Sorry. I mean, I could go and try and seduce Ghostcrawler with my devilish good looks and gin, but I doubt that would get me very far.

I’ve spent the past week playing Hearthstone on and off and really enjoying myself. I covered Hearthstone back in March when we made the trip up to PAX East and Blizzard was so kind to give us an interview. Well now that I’ve had time to actually sit down and play for an extensive period of time I wanted to talk about things I like, and things that I don’t.

For those of you who don’t know, Hearthstone is Blizzard’s “side project” they’ve been working on for quite some time. It’s a digital CCG (Not TCG, cause you can’t trade cards) based off Warcraft. Players pick one out of the nine original classes from the World of Warcraft and build 30 card decks to play against each other. The game is F2P and has microtransactions in order to open booster packs or play in “The Arena” (drafting in traditional TCGs).

So for starters Blizzard has done a solid job with Hearthstone. The gameplay is fast, and games don’t take too long, unless your opponent likes using all of their time to consider every possible action and play. You can generally play about two games every half hour. The game is also pretty easy to learn, but has a much different tempo or pace in game play than other card games. Even magic veterans, like myself, will be thrown off at the game’s tempo and sways in board advantage. If you’re new to card games in general, don’t worry! Blizzard has you covered.

Blizzard has set up a solid tutorial as well as at any point in time you can play against AI controlled decks with various power levels. So if you’re not good at card games, or have never played them, the Practice mode is perfect. It’s also a good place to try out new decks and see how they play out.

Outside of Practice Mode players can play against other players with their own constructed decks, or pre-constructed ones that Blizzard has made. You can play just for fun with unranked matches, or attempt to climb the matching making ladder with ranked games. You can also partake in The Arena (which costs in-game currency or $1.99 per entry) which gives players a chance to build a deck from random cards play against others with whatever random cards they pooled together. Once you’ve lost three times, or if you decide to retire, you’re rewarded with prizes to help complete your collection.

Even the nine different classes with their various cards and hero powers, feel great and well tuned. No one feels stronger than the other, and all of them play into various strategies (Though I do think the Mage’s Fire Blast is probably the most dynamic). Yet despite all these great play modes and ideas, there are few problems with the game so far.

The number one problem is a card called “The Coin”. The Coin is a 0 Mana cost card that adds 1 mana crystal to your mana pool for the turn. This card is always starts off in the player who goes second’s hand. This is part of Blizzard’s solution to “Going second”. Yet going second almost seems like an advantage Hearthstone. Not only can you use this card to get ahead of your opponent (Playing something a turn earlier with no draw back, is a huge advantage), but the card also interacts with other cards and mechanics in the game. If that wasn’t enough from just getting “The Coin” players also get an additional card in their opening hand. While admittedly a noble attempt at trying to fix an age old problem in card games, “The Coin” is doing more harm than good.

The next problem is earning gold coins, the game’s in-game currency. Gold coins can only be earned four ways. The first being daily quests that are given every day to a player. They can range from “Win two games as a Warrior” to “Destroy 40 minions”. These yield 40 gold coins per day and generally can be completed in 20 minutes. The second way is via the Arena, but that either costs actual money or gold coins to start with.

The third way is by simply winning games against other players. However this method is painfully slow. You only receive gold coins after every five wins, and it only yields five gold coins. To put that in perspective it costs 100 gold coins to buy a pack of cards, and 150 gold coins to enter the arena.

The final and most practical way I’ve seen to earn gold coins is to unlock “Achievements” in the game. Each achievement you unlock grants you 100 gold coins. Yet the biggest problem with this is you can’t see what any of the achievements are. Of the five I’ve unlocked I found them out via word of mouth from forums, or by just fooling around in the game.

The final problem I have with the game is actually a minion ability that’s currently running rampant in games, Taunt. Taunt forces your opponent to attack (either with their minions or their hero) the specific taunt creature until it dies or is silenced. Now wall and stall cards aren’t something new to card games. I’d actually consider myself a pro at dealing with them. However in most card games these creatures tend to be harmless in the sense they can’t kill your other creatures or deal you damage. In Hearthstone Taunt minon generally have attack power and health equivalent with other creatures of the same mana cost. What’s that mean? It means not only is the taunt minion stopping you from attacking your opponent, it’s also probably going to kill a few of your minions, and might even do significant damage to you. I wish Wall of Frost could do that in Magic…

All and all, Hearthstone has been very enjoyable and I can’t wait to see how Blizzard changes and reshuffles the game.

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3 responses to “Hearthstone A Second Look

  1. I agree that earning gold coins is horribly tedious. I’ve been in the Hearthstone Beta since the first day and have put together a guide to help new players with tips for grinding gold, the order to unlock things, and how to get the free booster packs.

    You can check it out here:

    http://coldsgoldfactory.blogspot.com/2013/09/Hearthstone-Beta-Gold-Grinding.html

    Let’s hope that the gold per win award gets raised or that they give us a free entry into the arena once a week or something, because as it stands you have no chance as a F2P player being paired against opponents who have paid for booster packs. you simply can’t build a competitive deck without opening boosters and that requires either money or one heck of a gold grind.

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