Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft Features

I suspect that if you grew up with Indiana Jones and the Goonies, with Tintin and Fighting Fantasy paperbacks, the merest combination of words like "Dungeon Run" is likely to trigger a Pavlovian response. Luckily, Blizzard's take on Dungeon Run, employed as the wriggly, twitching spine of Hearthstone's recent Kobolds and Catacombs expansion, has much more going for it than the simple pulp poetry of its name.

FeatureLetter from the meta: This week's top Hearthstone decks

Along with all the latest news from Metabomb.

A note from the editor: Metabomb is Gamer Network's specialist competitive gaming site with a particular emphasis on Hearthstone. Each week we're inviting the team to bring you a round-up of all the biggest news and events they've been covering.

FeatureLetter from the meta: This week's top Hearthstone decks

And all the latest news from Metabomb.

A note from the editor: Metabomb is Gamer Network's specialist competitive gaming site with a particular emphasis on Hearthstone. Each week we're inviting the team to bring you a round-up of all the biggest news and events they've been covering.

Sin City is the global capital of gambling. Casinos with colourful chips, well-postured croupiers and automaton pensioners plugged into slot machines. At first glance it might not seem sinister, but strip back the glamour and Las Vegas paints a sad picture - its denizens cogs in a billion-dollar machine fuelled by potentially addictive gaming. The novelty of the place can hide its true intentions.

FeatureA fireside chat with Hearthstone's biggest bosses

Brode and Chu talk adventures, cross-platform play and consoles.

I've been playing Hearthstone now for more than four years, since the days of its closed beta, but I can still remember every update to the game and how well it stuck with me, and how, generally, it was received by the game's talkative community. This time last year, I was put off by Mean Streets of Gadgetzan's influx of new cards, and surprised when, this spring, Blizzard promised three more big card dumps over the course of this year.

For someone who hasn't played Hearthstone, I know more than I should about it. Nothing useful like what cards to use for an easy win, of course, but I do know my fair share of Warcraft lore. I know what Rusty Horn sounds like, too, and I know that Trump is the unfortunately named but soothingly voiced king of How to Twitch streams.

Hearthstone is no stranger to change. Between its official launch two years ago and the latest milestone of 50m players, it has been regularly refreshed by drops of new cards. But this week's arrivals of the game's Standard play mode, where only the past two years of cards can be used, and the Whispers of the Old Gods expansion, have uprooted the game in two completely new ways. They have seen Blizzard remove cards from typical play for the first time, but also give a new, all-powerful card away to each and every player. Visit the game's firelit tavern now and you'll find the experience vastly changed from just days ago.

As Hearthstone's latest expansion - Whispers of the Old Gods - looms large on the horizon, time is ticking for some of the card game's most iconic decks. When the expansion becomes available sometime between the end of April and the beginning of May, Blizzard's solution to keeping competitive play under control - despite an ever-expanding card pool - will come into effect.

Hearthstone always finds it greatest moments when it drinks deeply from its thematic inspiration. For The League of Explorers, that means a dusty trawl through the ancient echoing catacombs of WoW's more adventurous desert dungeons. Not only are the encounters tremendous fun, but this third Adventure for Hearthstone - going by this first of four drip-fed wings at least - is shaping up to be the high point of the game's tentative journeys into single-player content.

It's hard to imagine two more polarised moments in snooker's history. Back in 1997, Ronnie O'Sullivan - arguably the most talented player of all time, and alongside Jimmy White and Alex Higgins certainly one of the most popular - completes a maximum break of 147 in an unprecedented five minutes and 20 seconds.

FeatureIs it too late to start playing Hearthstone?

Busy night... but there's always room for another!

Until the 10th of August 2015, I had never played a game of Hearthstone. I'd made a point of never going anywhere near it, in fact - not because I wasn't interested, but because I feel like I can only commit to one card-based metagame at a time.

FeatureHearthstone at Gamescom: a fireside chat with Blizzard

On adding new deck slots and in-game tournaments, helping new players, and why nine Heroes is enough.

Blizzard's going big at Gamescom this year. First, there was yesterday's media briefing which revealed a sprinkling of the publisher's plans for games like Heroes of the Storm and StarCraft 2. Later on tonight though, we'll be getting our first look at the next World of Warcraft expansion at the publisher's second special event.

FeatureGames of 2014: Hearthstone

The box of delights.

What is it about Blizzard's games that command such obsession and commitment from those of us who play them? There's the emergent complexity that springs up from root simplicity - easy to learn, hard to master if you prefer - but there's something more to the magic of the time you spend in these worlds, something that transcends the fundamental nuts and bolts of tightly-tuned gameplay.

In most circumstances, the Warcraft ambience is too bold and cheerful to allow for anything as creeping and underhand as fear. And yet Curse of Naxxramas, the new Hearthstone single-player adventure, is still a horror game to me, and the horror - the wonderful, energising horror - began when Eurogamer staff writer Tom Phillips showed me Duplicate. Duplicate's one of Naxxramas' new collectible cards, and beneath that suspiciously anodyne name stands a thing of real dread. Play Duplicate - it's a secret, which means it lurks hidden on the board until its trap is sprung by specific circumstances - and when a friendly minion dies, it will put two copies of it back into your hand.

FeatureWhat's it like going to a Hearthstone Fireside Gathering?

We went outside long enough to find out.

Hearthstone is fantastic as a quick, anonymous multiplayer game, where you can always find a never-ending line-up of worthy opponents ready to do battle, but strangely for a game set in a bustling Warcraft tavern - not to mention one of the most popular attractions on Twitch - it's not actually that social. You can't really talk to other players that much, and the system of canned emotes - conceived to limit griefing - has already been subverted by sarcasm. Take too long to act and you generally get a "Greetings!" to hurry you along, while the intent behind "Sorry" and "Thanks" is nakedly hostile.

FeatureHearthstone Curse of Naxxramas: where death is a power-up

What the 30 new cards will mean for Blizzard's card strategy game.

There is a corner of Blizzard Entertainment that is now obsessed with death. As we grow older we all start to dwell on our own mortality, of course, but this is different: the people making Hearthstone are excited about death, the process of dying and the effect death has on the ones we leave behind. I can hear it in their voices, speaking to me over the phone from thousands of miles away. They are excited about finally realising the potential of death - and particularly the potential of deathrattles.

FeatureA fireside chat on Hearthstone's past, present and future

Blizzard opens up its hand on the CCG phenomenon.

Load up a game of Hearthstone, Blizzard's exquisite collectable card battler, and you suddenly feel at home. Maybe it's the cold weather outside, the dreary January mornings or the dark winter nights. Whatever it is, there are few more welcoming sights on your PC screen than Hearthstone's warm ember-filled glow, or the sound of its genial dwarvish inn-keep welcoming you in.

FeatureThe Hearthstone you didn't get

Looking back at the way Blizzard changed card values during the closed beta.

If you only started playing Hearthstone recently when it went into open beta, then hopefully one of the things you're starting to appreciate as you become more proficient is the subtle balance that exists among the hundreds of cards available in the initial version of the game.

FeatureWings of desire: My favourite Hearthstone card

And why I'm never going to use it again.

There are already an awful lot of cards in Hearthstone, Blizzard's amazing new online collectible card game, and they cover a wide variety of play styles. Last week, though, I opened a fresh pack and found a card that's posing an unusual problem: whenever I play it, it's so powerful that I feel bad about the whole thing afterwards. Meet Onyxia, the dragon.

FeatureHearthstone: Blizzard's secret weapon

What's in the cards for Warcraft's new cousin, and the future it predicts?

Obvious as it is in more than one way, Blizzard played its cards perfectly with Hearthstone. Its World of Warcraft-themed card game, which goes into open beta next month incidentally, began as a side project. Almost immediately, it became a phenomenon. Over a million keys have been sent out during the closed beta, and still that's nowhere near enough. Sites have buckled under the stress. Howls of protest have echoed throughout the net. Quite possibly the developers of Scrolls have wept, and not without cause if so.

Job done! A weekend with the Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft beta

It's hardly a shock to hear that Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft will put you in mind of Magic: The Gathering, but perhaps more surprising is the sheer extent to which it will make you think about PopCap games, too. Blizzard's latest is virtual card battling at its most physical and also its most ingratiating.

Cards don't snap when you deploy them - they slam onto the tabletop, venting particle effects and ominous wheezes. New packs glow and then bust open when purchased from the in-game store, and enemy heroes explode in slow motion, scattering fragments across the screen when defeated. You can mess around with the 3D churches and taverns and virtual pets that sit along the edge of the board, the colour scheme is heavy with purples and deep reds and magical, electric blues, gloriously pulpy Warcraft art is emblazoned over the face of every minion or spell card, and the loading bar even says funny PopCap-type things. Bribing guards. Straightening decks.

It all makes sense, too. This is a very traditional collectible card game at heart, but, throughout the design, elements have been streamlined and complications untangled. Player choice hasn't been reined in so much as redirected - channelled into a swifter, more immediate kind of battler. The kind of battler that will fit in around a few levels of Plants vs Zombies.

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FeatureHearthstone - the collectible card game that could convert you

Blizzard's Warcraft-themed Magic rival is no Lost Vikings, but it might be the next best thing.

As a rule of thumb, I don't like cards, unless they're against humanity or possibly involve chips. I never played Magic: The Gathering or collected sports figure memorabilia, and always managed to quietly sneak out of any room where gin rummy was being played. I've also never played World of Warcraft. It's no stretch to say that I was less than enthused when Blizzard announced that its upcoming title, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, was a Warcraft-themed card game (for iPad as well as PC and Mac). And I was still holding out for a Lost Vikings reboot. Oh darn.