A few days ago, Blizzard Entertainment released Hearthstone for iPad. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a free-to-play digital collectible card game (CCG) similar to Magic: the Gathering. In late January, the game entered open beta for Windows and Mac platforms. After rolling out the iPad version for players in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, Hearthstone for iPad is finally available to players worldwide.
Hearthstone is a full online game. Every game is operated and tracked through Blizzard’s Battle.net. You will need to have a Battle.net account in order to play the game. You can also create this free account from the iPad app.
How to Play
Hearthstone is a 1-on-1 turn-based card game. Each player brings a 30-card deck that is custom-fit to the Hero’s class. A Hero starts the game with 30 health points. To win the game, you need to reduce your opposing Hero’s health points to zero.
In total, there are nine playable Heroes -- one for each class. In the iPad version, you start your journey as Jaina Proudmoore, a Mage class Hero. You can unlock the other Heroes as you defeat them in Practice game modes.
To reduce your opposing Hero’s health points, you can play Minion cards and have them attack the opposing Hero. You can also play direct damage spells or equip your Hero with a weapon to attack the opposing Hero directly.
To play a card from your hand, you need to pay its mana cost. You have access to one mana on your first turn, two mana on your second turn, and so on. Once you reach the 10th turn, you will only get a maximum of 10 mana per turn. All mana spent this turn will be replenished on the next turn, unless they’re used to play Overload cards. Overload reduces the amount of mana for your next turn.
If you’re playing first, you will get three cards in your starting hand. Otherwise, you will get four cards and The Coin card. The Coin is a 0-mana card that you can use to gain 1 mana for that turn. If you don’t like your starting hand, you may return any number of them to your deck and draw the replacement cards.
You draw a card at the beginning of your turn. If you fail to draw a card, you lose the game. You have a maximum of 10 cards in your hand. And, you can only have a maximum of seven minions in play at the same time.
Spell cards are different from minion cards. They can only be used once, whereas minions stay in play. Minions can’t attack on the same turn they come into play. Only Minions with Charge ability can attack immediately after they come into play. When you attack, you may choose to attack opposing minions or Hero. But, if your opponent has a minion with Taunt ability, your minions can’t attack the opposing Hero directly.
Card Types and Rarities
In addition to minions and spells, you can also play with Weapons and Secrets. When you equip your Hero with a weapon, your Hero will have an Attack stat and he/she can attack any opposing character: minions or Hero. When your Hero attacks, he/she will also take damage from the opposing Attack stat. Each weapon has a limited Durability count. When it reaches zero, it breaks down automatically.
You play Secret cards on your Hero. Its ability will remain hidden to your opponent until a certain trigger happens. When it does, the card is revealed and its effect is active immediately. For example, Ice Barrier is a Mage-class Secret card that will trigger as soon as your Hero is attacked. When it does, your Hero will gain an 8-point Armor.
Each Hero has its own class-specific cards. Leveling up a Hero will unlock the basic cards belonging to that Hero’s class. In addition to the basic sets, you can also play with cards from the Expert, Reward, and Promo sets. You gain Reward and Promo cards during special periods and/or events, such as being involved in the early closed beta testing.
You unlock the Expert cards from the Expert packs. You can purchase Expert packs for 100 gold coins or via in-app purchases. You can collect gold coins by completing daily quests. Some of the early quests can even earn you an Expert pack.
Expert pack has at least one rare-or-better card. In total, you get five cards per pack. You can tell the rarities of the Expert cards by the gem color on the center of the card. Other than common and rare cards, you can also find Epic and Legendary cards in the Expert packs.
Deck Building and Card Crafting
Each time you unlock new cards, you can customize your deck. Once you have unlocked a Hero, you can create a custom deck surrounding that Hero’s class. Each deck must consist of 30 cards with a maximum of two copies of any card and one copy of any Legendary cards.
Hearthstone also allows you to craft your own cards. You start by disenchanting some of your extra cards in your collection to receive arcane dust. Then, you can use these arcane dusts to craft any card from the game’s complete collection. A card with a higher level in rarity will cost more. As a rule of thumb, the crafting cost of a card is usually equal to eight times its disenchanting yield.
Constructed Play: Casual Play and Ranked Play
Hearthstone supports two types of online constructed play: Casual Play and Ranked Play. In both modes, you will be matched against a worthy opponent with comparable level and win/lose ratio. In Casual Play, you’re just playing to unlock daily quests without being tracked in global ranking; whereas in Ranked Play, you will be playing to increase your global ranking too.
You can also unlock special reward if you reach a certain global rank in a season. For example, if you reach rank #20 at the end of the season, you will unlock a special card back. In total, there are 25 ranks that you can earn, and a special Legend rank above all these ranks. Once you hit the Legend rank, it cannot be lost until the season ends.
In Ranked Play, each win will earn you a star. You need to acquire enough stars to increase your rank. Each time you win two games in a row, you will earn two stars instead of one. But, you can no longer benefit from the Win streak bonus after you reach Rank #5. Starting from Rank #20, every loss will also cause the loss of a star.
Similar to constructed play in other CCGs, Ranked Play allows you to test your deck building and metagame skills. For example, at the time of this writing, the #1 ranked player in North America region uses this Hunter-class deck. If enough players are using similar decks, you can win most of your online games by creating a deck to consistently beat the top deck archetype.
Limited Play: The Arena
Hearthstone also supports limited play environment, similar to drafting in other CCGs. This feature is called Arena. The Arena is locked until you have unlocked all nine Heroes.
In the Arena, you create your deck by picking your Hero and cards from a series of 1-in-3 choices. Start by picking your favorite Hero from three randomly selected Heroes. Then, you pick one card from another set of three randomly selected cards that match the selected Hero’s class. Repeat this process until you have 30 cards in your deck.
Then, you can play randomly matched games with worthy opponents until you have your third loss. The more wins you can accumulate before you get kicked out of the Arena, the more prizes you will get. The prizes can be in the form of gold coins and/or Expert packs.
To play in the Arena, you have to pay the admission fee of $1.99 via in-app purchase or 150 gold coins. You don’t have to finish all your Arena games in one session. Each time you play a game, Hearthstone will match you against a worthy opponent based on your current win/lose ratio.
Similar to other popular CCGs, Hearthstone also has a live community of players. Blizzard also supports official events called Fireside Gatherings. It’s a local event where you can play with other players in the same network. If you do, you will get a special Fireside Friends card back.
To add your Battle.net friends, you need to have their gamer tags. Then, you can tap the small person icon on the bottom left corner of the screen to add their accounts.
If you want to play competitively, you can participate in online tournaments. If you’re an active Reddit user, you can also participate in the Hearthstone sub-reddit. Finally, if you’re looking for community websites with in-depth strategy discussions, you can visit iHearthU website.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is available for iPad.
Get it on the App Store: iPad
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