I thought I might write an article about Hearthstone from the perspective of a long time Magic player just dipping his toes in the game. I’ve been playing for a month now. After years of resistance to this online card game I finally caved (thanks Brandon) and downloaded the client on my barely used blizzard account. I always used the excuse of “I hear there is too much rng” or “Magic is a better game”, but it was time I form an opinion for myself.
After opening the client and going through the first few tutorials, I could clearly see the parallels between this and magic. Playing formats like Standard, Modern, and Legacy competitively in Magic made these tutorials feel like a toddler riding with training wheels. “Charge, that sounds an awful lot like haste? Summoning sickness? Mana? Is Wizards really okay with this?” While there were several similarities, there were clearly some differences. Combat, which is one of the most instrumental and unique parts of Magic the Gathering is completely different in hearthstone, and took a bit to get used to. It wasn’t intuitive to know when to go face or at a minion, but as I played more, my plays felt more natural.
The client is beautiful. The animations and seamless layout make it so easy to get into games. This client puts Magic Online to shame. With the next game being one quick button away, it was really hard to put the laptop/ phone down and go to bed.
The first week of playing, I leveled up all my classes and played Arena. Arena was honestly a blast, and I loved being able to walk away from the computer for a day and come back using the same Arena deck (unlike drafting in Magic). The first time getting 12 wins was so satisfying and getting rewarded for it felt great. Leveling up the classes was also cool too, I liked the ‘achievement-esque’ nature of the client, and hope they do more achievement based options for hearthstone. This was also a great way to get familiar with all the different cards in hearthstone, even if some weren’t played competitively. There are so many tactics in magic that ported over to hearthstone such as tempo, card advantage, board advantage, mana efficiency etc. that I felt like I had a leg up on other new players. Arena on top of daily quests was the most efficient way to start building a collection, but I soon realized that at this rate it would be months before I could put a top tier constructed deck together.
After a week of playing, I gave in to the genius business model blizzard set up. Freemium is definitely the future for online games. I went ahead and bought myself both the Adventure packs as well as 60 packs of both Goblins vs Gnomes and The Grand tournament. Just like that, my bank account was down $200. One week later I finished my initial investment with 60 more packs of the base set. I’ve spent more on a single magic card (Underground Sea), so it wasn’t much relatively speaking. After having my fill of Arena and watching Hotform’s stream, I put my first constructed deck together: Tempo Mage. r2GrwwD.png (Caption: Tempo Mage Decklist)
At first I was just playing casual, but once I played my first ranked game halfway through the month I realized it wasn’t all that scary and good experience. Tempo mage was good, and suited my playstyle. I had been playing a lot of Delver tempo decks in Magic so it felt more natural than anything else. I’m typically a control player but most the control decks require too many legend cards. I soon climbed to rank 10 with ease, learning the format along the way. I’d only run into Swipe, or cast my Emperor into an opponent’s Mirror Entity so many times before my natural human adaptation started honing in. Luckily I started playing right during a new set release so the format was fresh and people were still learning right along with me.
After hitting rank 7, I hit a stall. I was losing to too many Paladin and Patron Warrior decks, and just felt like they were doing something more powerful. I knew I was clearly making mistakes, but the deck was unforgiving. I would get brutally savaged by a Mysterious Challenger, or just get out classed by a Priest Dragon deck quickly.
I opened a Tirion Fordring in one of my packs, and realized I could play Midrange Paladin Secrets with a couple quick crafts. I threw the deck together and started grinding away. After hanging out in the rank 7 to 9 range while getting used to the deck, I learned the ins and outs of the deck, mulligan decisions, and matchups. I even made a couple adjustments to the list I found online adding an Ironbeak Owl and a second Blessing for the metagame. I then started advancing to rank 6, rank 5. My friend was honestly shocked how well I was doing my first week and a half at ranked. At some point, I realized that Legend was totally possible, even at my level.
I made it to Rank 1 on September 29th, and honestly wasn’t playing that much (maybe I was just having fun so it didn’t feel like much). I just had a fun Magic pre-release weekend of Battle for Zendikar (I highly recommend everyone draft this set on release day. It’s going to be a blast). I had work the next day at 8 AM, and knew it was the last day of the season. “How cool would it be if I made legend my first season downloading the client?”.
I decided I’d go into work tired the next day and stayed up to 4AM until I finally made Legend . It was pretty cool. My total wins with Paladin when I hit Legend from Rank 9 was somewhere between 80 and 90 (anyone who wants to do the math on how many games I played from a somewhat decent win rate (60%?) can go right ahead).
While Hearthstone turned out to be pretty fun and surprisingly addicting, it will never replace Magic. If anything, I hope Wizards learns from this awesome client and applies it to Magic Online (which I also play). If you are a magic player on the fence about playing this game, give it a go. I guarantee you’ll be surprised and you’ll definitely be a pretty good player. With only one constructed format and a super simplified version of Drafting, Arena, things might get stagnant a little quicker than magic ever did, but the game is young.
Part of me is sad that Hearthstone, which has only been around for a couple years and is an easier game, gets streamed more than Magic. However, this just speaks to the quality of the client and flow of the game. I could talk more about mechanics, but it would just be easier if you go and play it for yourself. For those who have an irrational fear of playing more than one card game (like I did), don’t worry, this and magic can definitely be played coherently, and magic will NEVER be replaced. Good luck, have fun, and get card slinging.
Article written by Spencer Argenna