Hearthstone is a great example of Blizzard creating free online games with a great monetization plan and supporting them for long periods of time. For the uninitiated, Hearthstone is a card game released in 2014 and the launch of the latest expansion – Rise of Shadows – brought me back to the game once again.
With each new Hearthstone expansion, the metagame changes a bit. This is necessary to keep experienced players engaged and provide them with a new challenge. However, for players who haven’t played Hearthstone in a while, the learning curve is steep. This is why I prefer to explore the single player part of Hearthstone expansions rather than multiplayer.
Blizzard’s strategy is to release new maps in multiplayer first and release solo later and I’ll be sure to write about Rise of Shadows singleplayer when it comes out in May. This time around, the single-player content looks exciting, as it’s said to be a story told across three expansions, giving new players a good reason to give Hearthstone a try.
However, Hearthstone’s multiplayer scene can be quite intimidating if you don’t play it regularly. I used to play Hearthstone regularly in 2014 and early 2015, but after that I stopped playing it for a while. I recently returned to Hearthstone to explore The Boomsday Project, especially for Puzzle Lab’s single-player content. Even then I felt the same as now – multiplayer has changed a lot and it’s hard to get into it again.
Hearthstone is constantly changing its card roster to keep the game fresh. It works by removing very old cards when new ones are introduced. If you missed a few expansions and returned to the game, you’ll be behind other players and that makes the entry barrier a bit steep.
Let’s get one thing straight here – you don’t really have to pay to win in Hearthstone. There are plenty of players still playing for free, but it takes a bit of work to get more new cards and compete with some of the strongest decks in the game. The real hurdle for most new players is to get used to the idea that Hearthstone requires a lot of practice before understanding the game mechanics to have fun in multiplayer.
A workaround that many players try is to copy decks others are using and try to win that way. This allows you to start playing quickly, but understanding deck balance and knowing when to play which card is the most important skill you can have in Hearthstone. It’s not something you can earn just by copying other people’s decks wholesale.
The other problem with copying decks is that new players won’t have the necessary cards because they haven’t played the game long enough to get them from card packs (which basically work like a loot box ). You can also buy card packs to speed up this process, but that’s not exactly cheap either. In Rise of Shadows, two packs of five cards each cost $2.99 (around Rs. 200) and 60 packs cost $69.99 (around Rs. 4,900).
Many of them are duplicates, so it’s best to avoid trying to buy the 130 new Rise of Shadows cards. You will eventually be able to earn them through the game. After logging into Hearthstone, I got a few messages from the devs explaining what changed but I think it’s not enough for those who have been away from the game for a long time.
The time and practice it takes to re-enter Hearthstone may be a bit too much for many people. After playing Rise of Shadows, I feel this quite strongly. I had to go online and search for decks people had built to find possible strategies, and when I did, I encountered way too many terms that I had to relearn. There is a very useful page on the Hearthstone site that shows all the cards in Rise of Shadows so you can study this and work your way to getting the cards you like.
As I mentioned before, I have been away from Hearthstone for too long and it has definitely hindered my enjoyment of playing this game. There are multiple character classes in Hearthstone and I had to check the cards available for each class to create a decent deck and try to compete. I had to spend some time solo training to get a feel for each character before settling into a few classes.
Rise of Shadows introduces some fun new mechanics and there’s immense potential here. There are certain Stratagem cards that get stronger with each turn. For example, Dr. Boom’s blueprint allows your character to gain 1 armor and for each turn you don’t play it, this increases by 1. If you get Dr. Boom’s blueprint now and play it 5 turns later , your character will gain 5 armor. and it could save you from an otherwise fatal blow. Similarly, Rafaam’s Scheme summons an imp with 1/1 health and increases the number of imps each turn. When you combine these Stratagem cards with others in your deck, you can create a devastating combo.
Another new mechanic is Twinspell, which adds a copy of the same spell card to your hand, essentially allowing you to play the spell one more time. There are Lackeys in the game which are minion cards with low attack and health but with a nice Battlecry (action performed when the card is played) like adding two more Lackeys to your hand.
These mechanics are actually quite good and led to some interesting situations while I was playing Rise of Shadows. There was a match where I didn’t play a single minion for five rounds and lost pretty badly because by then it was too late to counter the opponent’s strategy. It was due to poor deck selection where I had too many cards that cost five mana or more that couldn’t be played at first.
Once I fixed that, I had a better time playing the game, although the results weren’t too much better. I still found myself spending too much time trying to learn what different terms mean to make a decent deck. For example, I had to relearn what Lifesteal, Silence, and Secret mean because those actions are mentioned on the cards, but due to their anemic descriptions, it was hard to decipher what they would actually do in-game, which forced me to have recourse to a guide in order to understand.
The ideal strategy for getting into Hearthstone now is probably to play a lot of solo against the AI, get used to the cards, build a decent deck with basic cards, and then move on to multiplayer. I think the time this process takes is a bit too much to invest. If that sounds good to you, Hearthstone is still quite an engaging game that can keep you busy for a long time. However, I’m not, and that’s why I’ll be waiting for Rise of Shadows single-player content to appear and have fun playing it.
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