The Hearthstone’s Lesson

Prologue

Hearthstone. It is a game that was invented by Blizzard Entertainment in 2014. I think we can agree that a card game depends massively on RNG (random number generator)– maybe people who don’t follow eSports recognize them better as ‘luck’. And yeah, Hearthstone is a card game. I didn’t really play any card game since like my 3rd year of college, I don’t know why. Maybe because I spent a lot of time in front of my PC/laptop to do assignments and things, such as playing Dota 2 competitively. As time flew, I began to build hatred to RNG, because there were always crazy things happening in eSports scene regarding it, such as, in Dota, when your character attacks from lower ground to upper ground, it has 25% chance to miss the target. This is really annoying because that attack could have affected the game flow so much. And since Hearthstone is a card game and you have a chance every turn to draw exactly the card you need, it is no secret that RNG matters much in this game. But, is ‘luck’ all that matters in Hearthstone?


Body

I actually really like Hearthstone’s mechanics– at least until now. It’s way better than one-deck pile card game and slightly better than the other famous TCG card games, such as Magic the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh!. I haven’t played the other games like Shadowverse, but still, I think Hearthstone is still better. Or maybe because I’m a Blizzard fanboy. The Hearthstone mechanics, in short, consist of these things:

  • Mana Crystal: Resource that you will need to use a card. Starts from 1 crystal to 10 crystals, with 1 additional crystal per turn
  • Hero Power: A character’s special power that costs 2 mana
  • Battlecry: A card plays an effect after that card is played
  • Deathrattle: A card plays an effect after that card is killed– or its durability has gone
  • Inspire: A card effect that will trigger after a player uses a Hero Power
  • Discover: A card effect that lets you choose 1 of 3 cards that aren’t from your deck
  • Taunt: A minion effect that prevents opposing minions attack the Hero. They will need to remove the minion with the Taunt effect first
  • Charge: A minion effect that allows it to immediately attack after it is played. Normally, a minion will need one turn before it can attack
  • Divine Shield: A minion effect that negates any damage as long as the shield stands. However, any damage, no matter how small, will dispel the effect, causing the minion to be vulnerable to damage again
  • Stealth: A minion effect that hides it until it attacks, but it still can take damage from area effects
  • Secret: A magic card that triggers when a certain event occurs

“Wow, these things are complex! How are they supposed to make the game less-RNG-based?”

Good question! I really think these mechanics don’t necessarily make the game harder to play. It is still simple, but sometimes, there are plays that you can’t see quickly. If you ever play a 24-card game, where you must find a way to calculate 4 random cards to 24, this game is pretty similar in that way. However, there are bad plays, optimal plays, and excellent plays. The excellent plays are usually the one that normal people, at first glance, won’t realize.

“What is the example of each plays (the bad, optimal, and excellent)?”

hearthstone-screenshot-12-21-15-20-32-54

Here’s an example. On the image above, there are two minions on the opposing side. The left one is a minion with 1 mana cost, 2 Attack and 1 Health. The right one is a minion with 3 mana cost, 2 Attack, 2 Health, Stealth, and Divine Shield. On my side, there are two minions, the left one is a minion with 3 mana cost, 3 Attack and 3 Health, and the right one is a minion from my Hero Power effect with 1 Attack and 1 Health. To make things easier to read, I will write a minion’s with this format: [Mana Attack/Health]. So, 3 3/3 means a minion costs 3 mana, has 3 attack and 3 health.

In Hearthstone, there is a rule named trading. It means, you attack an enemy’s minion with yours. A good trade is when you kill an enemy minion but yours doesn’t die. Why? Because, board presence. Between the battling two players, there is a area– Hearthstone players usually call it board. The more minions a player has in one side, the more board control he has. Why? Because with that number of minions, he can trade any minion that his opponent summons right away. A trade becomes better if your minion that kills an enemy minion, costs less. So, for example, if I attack a 2 3/2 minion with a 1 2/1 minion, I got the upper hand because my minion with one mana can kill my opponent’s minion that costs 2 mana. It is definitely an advantage.

“So that means, the more board control you have, the better? Then I should just swarm the board with mini minions!”

Not so fast! In Hearthstone, there are magic cards, too. And almost all classes has AoE (Area of Effect) spells that can wipe out your board, therefore turning the tables. At this rate, usually you don’t have a lot of cards in your hand because you used it already to summon small minions.

“It is so frustrating! How could I know whether the enemy has an AoE card or not in his hand?”

That is why this game is beautiful. We can’t predict our opponent’s hand, but we can play with it. For example, we limit our minion with just 3 minion, but we still keep the better ones in our hand. So, if our opponent doesn’t react with an AoE card, our board presence will stand strong, and if he does, we can just summon the stronger ones, because we kept them on our hand. Usually, an AoE magic card costs a lot of mana, so your opponent may not summon a minion during that turn.

“How do I know if my opponent has certain card or not?”

You can’t predict it when you just begin to play this game, but as you play an experience a lot of decks, you will learn that deck A has certain cards, deck B has certain other cards, and so on. At the end of the day, it is still sure a card game that relies on RNG, but your decision making is key here. Without good decision making, you won’t master this game.

“What makes a good deck?”

Deck objective. Deck composition. Your deck should have a “win condition”. It is something that one-deck pile card game doesn’t have, because the deck is shared and therefore, that deck doesn’t have a win condition. An example of win condition in Hearthstone is, trade every minion your opponent summons and make a snowball effect, so at one point, your board is so big that your opponent can’t handle it anymore. To reach that, you need a balanced composition. You can’t just have small minions, you must have some other minions, depends when do you want the match to be finished. For example, you want the match to finish before turn 7, because after that, a lot of strong defensive cards are online, then you might want to spread your cards with 1-6 mana cost, because if you only include cards with 1-4 mana cost, its power will diminish as the game goes longer.

“Ugh. I’m confused. Maybe next time?”

Okay, see ya!


Epilogue

Well, sure that’s only some vital things in Hearthstone. There are a lot more. What I learned from playing Hearthstone is that, plan the future carefully, think of every way possible, just like we play around AoE when swarming the board. If we are reckless and don’t have any plan B, then we will falter as will our deck if we don’t have the right composition in order to reach the deck objective.

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