Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hearthstone first impressions

I know, I know. The Hearthstone beta is so two months ago. But I finally received an invite on Monday, so now I'm ready to talk about it! Kinda of. When Blizzard first announced Hearthstone, I was intrigued. I've always had a small desire to try the WoW TCG, but unfortunately don't know anyone in my area who plays. So naturally, I was eager to try out Hearthstone. And now I have. I've spent a handful of hours playing the game and roughly and hour or so poking around the interface. Here are my first impressions.

Getting Started

Liked: After firing up the game, players begin a tutorial where they are tasked with defeating five or six AI players using a basic mage deck. This is where you're taught how to actually play Hearthstone. Having never played a card game like this before---no Magic, no Yu-Gi-Oh---I felt pretty well educated after I'd bested each of the AI players, some of which required more than one attempt. The game does a nice job here of giving players glimpses of strategy and playstyle---veteran card game players are going to have an extremely easy time diving into Hearthstone. While I didn't quite feel ready to go toe-to-toe against a human after completing the tutorial, I definitely wanted to experiment with decks and check out other classes.

Didn't Like: It would be nice to have the option to repeat the tutorial---maybe you've got young ones at home or a significant other or friend who'd simply like to try the game without having to create their own account. While the point or goal of the game and how to get there is generally illustrated during the course of the trial, I'd also like to see more on this---perhaps various difficulty levels for tutorials, like a beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

UI & Design

Liked: Design is very clean and functionality is mostly intuitive. At most, you're two or three clicks away from playing a game. The art and music is clearly of the Warcraft universe, though they've been given a fresh twist. There are three game modes: Practice, which pits you against AI of standard difficulty---once you've unlocked all of the classes you are able to face expert AI; Play, which pits you against other players in either Ranked or Unranked mode; and Arena, which requires an entry fee and pits players against other players while using a random deck for a chance at special prizes.

Didn't Like: Multiple chat conversations going at once can get kind of messy, even if I do like the IM chat bubble style of it. The deck and card building interfaces confused me a little. At first, it wasn't clear to me what card building/disenchanting was all about. I was too scared to click the "Disenchant Extra Cards" button, for fear it'd destroy all but one of the duplicate expert cards I had acquired, so I went through my cards manually. Turns out clicking that button will destroy only cards left over after the max number of that type is in a deck. Apparently, this interface was updated in the most recent closed beta patch to make it more user-friendly, but I still think we'll see a new iteration or two before it goes live.


Liked: The sheer amount of fun this game can provide. While there is a large RNG factor, I felt myself becoming more situationally knowledgeable with the more games I played, even if it was just against the AI. Play moves quickly, and animations make playing cards a dynamic event. I've played a mage and a priest to level 10, which means I've unlocked each class's basic starter cards and have a decent idea about what is in their toolkits. I must say, the priest deck has been a lot of fun---late last night I did 27 points of damage during one turn in the mid-game (player heroes start with a 30 HP), though there's a rumor that priests may have been buffed a little too much in the last patch. Time will tell.

Didn't Like: The shaman deck. I haven't played all of the other classes, but the shaman's hero ability, which summons a random totem, seems extra punishing when compared to other hero abilities. Perhaps I wasn't using the right combination of cards, but it wasn't clear on how to use the shaman to the best of his ability. Granted, I am a bit partial to shamans, too. I've been playing one in World of Warcraft for quite some time now and was expecting the class to feel a bit more familiar to me. At this point, I'm hoping they revisit the shaman hero power before the game goes live. What about a Wind Shear, silencing the target? Anyone? Either way, some pointers regarding class strengths/weaknesses would be appreciated by this noob.

Acquiring Cards

Liked: It's nice for players to earn a couple of packs early on by simply making their way through the tutorial and some of the class leveling. Packs contain five cards and are guaranteed to provide at least one card of rare quality or better. I was quite lucky and received both a rare and legendary card---Al'Akir---in the first pack I opened. Actually purchasing packs using real money is scarily easy. If you have a payment method attached to your account, just a click of a button (and your password) is all that separates you from opening pack after pack of cards.

Didn't Like: The rate at which players earn in-game currency is slooooooow. In order to acquire new cards, you need to play a decent amount of Hearthstone. With the cost of a pack from the store at 100g (the in-game currency), you're looking at either two daily quests and nine wins or one daily quest and eighteen wins in order to reach it. The temptation to pop over to the store to quickly purchase a pack or two will always be there.


The game is immediately engaging and moves rather quickly.While I did get bored at one point during the tutorial, the real fun and excitement comes when facing other players. At least for me it was. I found myself speaking the mantra of "just one more match" on several nights late into the evening. Yep, it's one of those games. It's easy to pop in for a match or two before bed, or even while you're waiting for your raid to form. This is an awesome f2p effort on Blizzard's behalf and I'm looking forward to what's in store.


  1. "Didn't Like: The rate at which players earn in-game currency is slooooooow. "

    Be thankful for all of the lobbying us original testers did on the forums for the last couple months to get that gold earning rate increased. The current rate of 10 gold per 3 wins is tons better than original 5 gold per 5 wins! It was only updated with this last patch.

    Once you get more cards unlocked and get better at beating opponents in Play Mode, the gold will start to flow more quickly. The best place to get gold once you are more competent and confidant with the game is the Arena Mode though. Being that it's 150 gold for Arena and 100 to buy a booster pack, you only need to get 50+ gold per Arena Session rewards to break even and start to get more bang for your buck. And since the patch, Arena now awards XP so you can unlock your basic decks and cards within the Arena as well now, which is a great change imo.

    With the newest patch changes to the Arena awards, the gold rewards have been increased, while also decreasing the amount of dust earned. It is now much easier to get that 50 gold or more with just 4 wins in the arena. I've had an 8 win arena session award 285 gold, so once you improve your winning rates, you really can make a lot of gold within the Arena as well as earning regular (also newly added this patch) cards and golden cards.

    I did a post on grinding gold and earning packs that you may find helpful. It has been shared a lot and has helped a lot of newer Hearthstone players get started. There's also a link to a basic card sonly mage deck that works well and I've even ran into opponent's using it against me :)

    You can check out the post here:

    1. Scott-

      Solid advice, and yes, thank you and all those who lobbied to increase the gold earned rate! I dove into the arena perhaps a bit too early and went 0-3 possibly because I didn't play many matches beyond the initial tutorial and some practice leveling.

      I hadn't research much on HS up til now simply because I didn't have beta access---I wanted to taste it first, then circle back and do some reading, so thanks for sharing your article. I was a bit hesitant to spend money in the arena. That said, I did spend $30 on cards, so---I think when I'm feeling a bit more confident in my command of playing I'll head back in and see what I can do.

  2. Really and counting is still in Beta phase, if it is true that the adjustment of the amount of gold provided by each 3 wins should be revised. By my count and the experiences shared by users of other forums, on average, are typically earn about 6 items daily so add 20 gold daily. We should add that with the daily quests comprises a minimum of 40 golds so we will have about 60 gold daily. With this about every two days you could get into the sands. In Arenas always receive an envelope, stay as stay, so that "recovered" 100 golds. Of the 4 remaining prizes, if you did a show more or less acceptable in arenas, you will receive another 100 gold easily and some arcane dust. So it really unless you are very wrong in the way sand is a much more profitable to make money and letters to accumulate items ranked My mode and go buy envelopes.