Hearthstone is a free to play card game developed by Blizzard Entertainment, the brains behind World of Warcraft (WoW). Hearthstone takes its characters from WoW but that does not mean you have to play one to get the other. I have never played a single minute of WoW and love playing Hearthstone almost every day. In Hearthstone, you create or get given a deck of 30 cards to play against an opponent or a computer. There are 4 types of game modes available to play in Hearthstone and in 3 of these modes you will need to put together a deck of cards to defeat your opponent. With over 1500 cards and counting, it's hard to filter through it all to find what you need for the perfect Hearthstone deck. So whats the best way to start wrapping your head around this mammoth task? Watching and learning of course!
Hearthstone 101; Watching the Pros.
Reading 1500 cards and trying to understand what they do and how they work together is a bit ridiculous, considering you will probably never use a lot of them. Luckily a lot of people have already memorised all of the cards. These people have then decided to make a career out of playing the game and are streaming it for free! If you head over to the Hearthstone Twitch channel, you can constantly see pro players trying their new Hearthstone deck. A lot of pro players will also share the code to copy their deck which you can take to Hearthstone and let it make the deck for you. Assuming you have the right cards, this allows you to play the decks that the pros are winning with. A couple of streamers I would recommend are DisguisedToast, Day9, and Kripparian.
Using Hearthstone to make a deck.
Now that you have watched the pros play and are starting to understand what cards are being played, it's time to get in to making your own deck. Hearthstone has a few deck recipes available for each class which are great for beginners. You will need to either have the cards already or craft them in the game. This might not be a viable idea in some instances, as it usually costs money to get the cards you need. Another option is free to play decks. These Hearthstone decks are made up of cards you can gain by just playing through the tutorial and leveling up each class. While not very powerful, they can help you win a few games, earning you more in game gold to get more cards. You can design and trial these decks yourself or you can get someone else to do it for you.
The Greatest Hearthstone tool.
If you're like me and can't wrap your head around all the different combination of cards available, Hearthpwn is for you. This website is everything Hearthstone in one convenient place. It contains a database of every card, a card pack opening simulator, information on every expansion, and an ever growing list of every Hearthstone deck you could imagine. If you really want to get in to Hearthstone, this is the place to be. At Hearthpwn you can search their deck list for the right Hearthstone deck for you. Search by card, cost to craft a deck, or by rating. Hearthpwn has the right Hearthstone deck for every user. But how can you know if you have the right cards for the deck you want? Don't wade through your whole collection! Use Innkeeper instead.
The Second Greatest Hearthstone tool.
Innkeeper is a program that searches through your Hearthstone card collection. Once you run this and run Hearthstone, Innkeeper connects with a Hearthpwn account so you can see what decks you can make from their database. As well as connecting with Hearthpwn, Innkeeper is a great Hearthstone deck tracker. When you play a game with the application running, you will get a list of what cards are in your deck on your screen. No more umming and ahhing about what is left for you to draw and save you. This can be very helpful in Arena mode when you can not remember the random cards you picked to make your deck. After downloading Hearthstone and getting through the tutorial, Innkeeper should be the next program on your PC.
Time to play the game.
Now we have a grasp on the most important part of the game, it's time to start playing each game mode. The 4 modes are wildly different but are fun in their own respects. Each one has a different rule set so lets go through them.
Tavern Brawl is a weekly event with changing rules and goals. Each week you will be given a different way to play Hearthstone. Sometimes you will be given a deck to play against an opponent or AI. Other weeks you will have to craft your own to work best with the new rules. No matter what you do, Tavern Brawl is always a fun mode to play. The best part is, each week you get a classic card pack for winning your first Tavern Brawl game. The next best part is you can complete quests in the Tavern Brawl mode. This is great when you have a quest you can't get done and they give you a deck to play.
Some of the earlier expansions were released as adventures, a collection of bosses that you would have to defeat using your own deck. This gets even more difficult as some bosses were given abilities that made the battle seem impossible (looking at you Lich King). When tackling these difficult boss fights, Hearthpwn is your greatest ally. Users have submitted many varied Hearthstone deck recipes to defeat any boss you just can't quite beat. The newest solo adventure expansions don't require deck building skills but are still great fun and challenging.
Arena is where your deck building skills are truly put to the test. You are given a choice of 3 heroes to play as to start. You then must choose 1 out of 3 cards to put in your deck and continue until you have a completed deck. While I find this quite a daunting task, others excel in this mode and are able to create great decks. If you are like me but want to try out this mode, check out Hearth Arena. It allows you to put in each decision you must make and let's you know what is the best choice. While helpful, it's definitely not the be all and end all. Playing through Arena takes a lot to master to aim for the coveted 12 wins.
The standard mode where your deck building skills are utilised most. Here you can play either a ranked or practice game in the two formats, Standard and Wild. As new expansions are released, old expansions are considered not part of the standard set any more. This pushes players towards buying the new sets of cards so they can achieve a better rank in the Standard format. If you aren't sure about your new deck though, you can check it out in the practice mode without fear of going down in rank. Wild mode uses every card released in the game. It still has the two ways to play but you can use any card released since the beginning of the game.
Creating the Best Hearthstone Deck.
...is an impossible task. Cards are constantly being added, changed or taken away in Hearthstone. This constant altering of cards means that there is no definitive best deck. Each expansion adds new ways to play as well as making older ways to play obsolete. All of this is called the meta; the current state of the game and the way it is played. Although you can't create the best Hearthstone deck ever, understanding the meta means you can create a great deck at all times. By understanding the Hearthstone meta you will be able to see what cards or strategy is being played the most and either start playing that way or play against it to win. Check out the Hearthstone subreddit to get a day to day view on what's going on in the community and to better understand the game.
So should I play Hearthstone?
That is very much down to each gamer and their personality. You can still enjoy Hearthstone without spending money. While you might not become the next big streamer, you will still have fun and get to see what this game has to offer. You don't have to pay to get the cards you want but it is a much faster way of growing your collection. Some people are very turned off by this pay to win idea. High cost decks are often seen at the higher ranks. However low cost or free to play decks can still get you a lot of wins. Building decks and growing your collection are helpful to winning, but understanding the game is key. Although others might not, I would definitely recommend at least giving Hearthstone a try.