Hearthstone - beginner's guide, classes, Hero Powers, card types, game modes

Everything you need to know about getting started with Hearthstone, choosing a class, and unlocking more precious cards for your collection.

Hearthstone is a two-player competitive card guide based very loosely around the characters and combat of World of Warcraft. Players create a 30-strong deck from a pool of class-specific and neutral cards, then take it in turns to play cards against each other. Each player begins with 30 health points, and the first player to reduce their opponent's health to zero wins the match.

Each card in the game has an associated mana cost. Players begin each match with just a single mana point per turn, but acquire an additional mana with each successive round. In practice, this means that players can only make use of very weak cards at the start of a game, while increasingly complex plays - often involving multiple cards - become possible as the game develops. Whoever is randomly selected to start second in each match receives a card called The Coin which they can spend for free to get a one-off, extra mana point.

Hearthstone Mulligan guide

Before the game itself begins each player is presented with their starting cards, but at this point you can choose to keep or throw away as many of these cards as you wish, and have new cards replace those you discard. This "Mulliganing" process ensures you have at least some degree of control over how you begin each game.

With experience you'll learn which cards are best to keep against specific classes, but as a general rule it's important to make sure you have plenty of low cost minions and spells to begin each game with. It might feel nice to have that beefy turn six minion securely in your hand, but it's no good if you've lost control of the board entirely by the time you can play it.

To succeed with the majority of the free decks we've included in this guide, it's essential that you Mulligan aggressively, and prioritise playing those low-cost minions which also draw an extra card for you when they hit the board. The tools at your disposal are weak compared to opponents with bigger card libraries, so you need to draw as many options as you can while maintaining some kind of presence on the board.

Hearthstone Hero class guide

There are nine Hero classes in Hearthstone. As well as having its own unique 2-mana Hero Power, each Hero class has access to a collection of cards that can only be used by that particular Hero. Most decks in Hearthstone typically contain a blend of minions and spells selected from this character-specific pool of cards, and those from the neutral set of cards that all Heroes can make use of.

HeroClassHero Power
Malfurion Stormrage Druid +1 Attack this turn. +1 Armor
Rexxar Hunter Deal 2 damage to the enemy hero
Jaina Proudmoore Mage Deal 1 damage
Uther Lightbringer Paladin Summon a 1/1 Silver Hand Recruit
Anduin Wyrm Priest Restore 2 health
Valeera Sanguinar Rogue Equip a 1/2 dagger
Thrall Shaman Summon a random totem
Gul'dan Warlock Draw a card and take 2 damage
Garrosh Hellscream Warrior Gain 2 Armor
hearthstone-rules

You at the bottom, your opponent at the top, total mayhem in the middle. Enjoy.

Hearthstone card guide

Hearthstone's cards are split into a series of tiers. The basic free cards can be unlocked by all players very quickly, while the Common, Rare, Epic, and Legendary cards need to be crafted or discovered in packs purchased from the game store. The more powerful the card, the more expensive it is to craft.

While there are many flavours of cards within each group, they can all broadly be split into three different categories: minion cards, spell cards and weapon cards.

Minion

Minion cards allow you to place combat characters on your side of the game board. The number on the left-hand side of the card represents the amount of damage the minion can do each turn, while the number on the right represents its health. Unlike other card games, each minion's health is not restored at the end of each turn, and the minion is destroyed for good once its health reaches zero.

Unless the card description states that the minion has Charge, you also can't make use of the creature until your next turn. If the minion has something called Taunt, it will act as a defensive barrier that your opponent's minions will have to bust through before they can attack your Hero. If the minion has a Battlecry, the effect described on the card occurs as soon as you play it onto the board.

Spell

Spell cards come in a number of flavours but the most common are area-of-effect (AOE), removal, direct damage and buffs. AOE spells deliver a typically small amount of damage to multiple enemies, removal spells eliminate or drastically weaken a single minion, and direct damage spells deliver a big dollop of damage to a single target. Buff spells allow you to increase the health or attack of a friendly minion, or severely weaken an opponent's.

Weapon

Weapon cards equip your Hero with a weapon that can be used to directly attack minions or the opposing Hero. Instead of health, weapons have a durability number that indicates how many times it can be used before it breaks and disappears. Weapons can generally only be used once per turn and while there are many weapons in Hearthstone, individual weapons are often Hero-specific cards. Weapons can also have Battlecry effects, such as dealing damage when you equip them or restoring a small amount of health when you attack.

Hearthstone game mode guide

Beyond the Practice mode, which allows you to test out decks against rather primitive AI, there are three key Play modes in Hearthstone.

Ranked

Hearthstone's ranking system currently resets at the beginning of each month. As a new player you will be ranked at 25, after which point you earn stars for each game you win. Gain enough stars and you move up to the next rank. Once you reach Rank 19, it's possible to lose stars and gradually fall back down the rankings, although it's impossible to ever fall below Rank 20 once you've achieved it. This provides a protective buffer for new players.

At the end of each monthly season, your current ranking is recorded and you'll receive any rewards you're entitled to for your performance and for participating in that season. When the new season starts, you'll start again at a new rank somewhere just below where you finished up in the previous season.

Casual

The Casual mode of Hearthstone works in a very similar fashion to the Ranked mode, except there are no penalties or rewards for winning, beyond the 10 Gold you receive for every three matches you win (see our Hearthstone Gold guide for more on this). People typically play in Casual to finish off daily quests without affecting their season ranking, to experiment with new decks for the same reason, or simply to practice playing some tried and tested favourites from the internet.

hearthstone-arena-guide

There are juicy rewards to be had from a successful run in Hearthstone's Arena mode.

Arena

Arena's a very different beast compared to the other two modes. First, you have to choose one of three randomly selected Heroes. Once you've picked your class, you then have to build your deck by selecting one of three class-specific or neutral cards that the game randomly selects for you. After you've made your choice, a new set of three cards is presented to you. This process is repeated until you have 30 cards in your deck.

Once you're ready to go you'll be matched up with other Arena players, and gameplay proceeds as usual - although you're limited to using the deck you just created. Arena runs end when you lose your third match, and your rewards are based on how many victories you managed to get under your belt before suffering your final loss.

Regardless of how well or how badly you perform, you'll receive a pack of cards to open just for participating, as well as a chance to receive another random card from the game's collection. You'll also receive quantities of Gold and crafting dust which scale with the number of victories you achieved during your run.

You're given a free token to enter the Arena once when you start playing the game, but subsequent visits will cost you either 150 Gold or 1.49. If you can average seven wins in an Arena run, you'll likely make this Gold cost back. Even if you can't manage this kind of win ratio Arena's still a very economical way to play the game, as you're guaranteed to receive a card pack worth 100 Gold as well.

Note that you have to go through the Hero and deck selection process all over again whenever you start a new Arena run.

How to get more cards in Hearthstone

Getting each Hero in the game to level 10 takes very little time and will give you access to all of that class's basic cards. You'll also have a pool of primitive, class-neutral cards to take advantage of. To increase your collection, you have a few options.

Buying packs

You can buy packs of cards from the store for 100 Gold each, or multiple packs of cards for real money. Each pack contains five Expert level cards from the game, and you're guaranteed at least one Rare-rated card as well. Note that the contents of each pack is randomly determined, and you may well receive duplicates for your collection.

Crafting

You can destroy cards you don't want - or are duplicates - using a process called Disenchanting. You'll receive a certain amount of crafting dust for doing so, the amount of which depends on the card's value. You can then use the dust you accumulate to craft another card that's missing from your collection.

Just be aware that you typically only receive half the dust for destroying a card that you would need if you wanted to craft it again. As a result, you should think very carefully before turning a card into dust!

Looking for more of the best free Hearthstone decks? Head back to the first page of this article.

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