Less WoW, more WOW: Hearthstone 101 - a beginner's guide
In the latest of our crash-course series, find out all you need to know about the card game that’s taking over the world – with no chips involved
Hearthstone, perhaps the fastest growing of the new eSports, is a nice change of pace from the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) and shooter genres that largely dominate the top tournaments.
Instead, we have a colourful and addictive turn-based trading card game based loosely around the World of Warcraft universe, complete with ever-expanding rosters and appeal.
Released in March 2014, the free-to-play title has well over 35m registered players and is the very definition of ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’.
So we thought we’d walk you through the basics to get you started…
Length of game: 1/5
Global reach: 3/5
Betting choice: 4/5
A two-player game, you and your opponent both start with 30 health points and the first to reduce their opponent to zero is the victor.
You do this by playing cards against each other from a deck of 30, all with different attributes.
To start, you pick one of nine heroes – essentially a class system as seen in countless other games – which also specifically resembles characters from World of Warcraft.
All the usual fantasy tropes are present and correct - mages, hunters, priests and so on.
As well as having a specific power in-play, whatever hero you choose will have access to certain unique cards – and it could be these that make the difference during the game.
The game all comes down to how your use your deck, as well as the cards in it of course – with a healthy slice of luck required as to how your deck organises.
To start, a virtual coin is tossed with the winner going first and the loser getting an extra card in their hand.
Once in the arena, take a good look at your hand.
You will start with three cards - four if you lost the coin toss - and will automatically get an extra card each time you take a turn.
You will also start with one mana crystal and get another each turn as well. Mana crystals are essentially energy – which power everything you do from summoning creatures to attacking your opponent.
The best plan of attack is usually to get your minions in play as soon as you can, as they will be the creatures attacking both the opponent’s health points the most as well as any minions that they may have out.
You summon minions depending on how many mana crystals you have built up, with stronger characters clearly needing more mana to summon.
These creatures then have their own strength of attack and health indicators, which you can balance against your opponent’s characters to determine whether you attack or not.
The only exception is your hero, who can attack the opposing hero directly at the cost of mana.
Spells are cards with specific abilities that activate the second they are played.
There are tons of different spells – ranging from direct damage to extra mana crystals to drawing extra cards.
The possibilities are endless and, as mentioned, you can get specific unique spells depending on what class of hero you picked.
Weapons cost mana like everything else, but stay on the board just like minions – allowing heroes to attack your opponent’s creatures instead of just the opponent directly.
Just be aware of durability, the number on the shield on the bottom right of the card.
Once you have attacked using the weapon the assigned number of times, it disappears for good.
Have you ever seen or played Yu-Gi-Oh? Well, these are a little bit like face-down trap cards.
They stay on the board like weapons and minions, but your opponent cannot see what they are – hence the name.
The card is activated when something specific occurs on the board – whether it is your opponent’s minion attacking, drawing a card, whatever.
Played right, they can change the whole nature of the game.
Because the games are so fast-paced, there are only a few popular markets to bet on Hearthstone.
‘Match winner’ betting means picking who is going to win the match outright, whether it is a best of three, five or seven game.
Since these best-of games are played with separate decks which can each be used only once, you can also bet on the ‘correct score’ – how many games you think each player will win within the match.
‘Tournament winner’ is even simpler in deciding player or team will win a certain tournament.
There are often several strong contenders in the mix, but recent form and tactical ability have a lot of influence, and the odds tend to reward those willing to pick their winner early.
Now you’re up to speed, you should have all the knowledge you need to watch and bet on all the Hearthstone out there.
The only question is - which match will you pick first?