I didn’t mean to play Hearthstone. Really I didn’t. I never even signed up for a closed beta key. I only started playing a couple of days ago, once open beta hit, and I can’t… stop… thinking about it.

That isn’t the same as saying I can’t stop playing. I do still play other games and do other stuff. But the other night, as I lay in bed, I thought about my hunter deck and how I could maybe improve the mana curve… and what tomorrow’s daily would be… and hey, shaman looks like fun, maybe I’ll put a deck together for that…

No! Stop! Bad Jason! Write article!

I’ve maintained from the start that Hearthstone isn’t a revolutionary game. It’s Magic: The Gathering with a few extra wrinkles and a World of Warcraft skin. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s what pretty much every modern CCG has to do to be successful – mimic Magic and apply a recognizable IP – and there have been some major successes that followed that exact formula, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Cryptozoic Entertainment’s World of Warcraft TCG being obvious examples.

What Hearthstone has going for it is the same thing World of Warcraft had going for it, the primary factor that escalated it to heights previously deemed unthinkable: accessibility.

First, there’s the game itself, which is a simple take on the creatures-and-spells gameplay pioneered by Magic. Cards have relatively little text – mostly keywords – and there’s no real resource management, akin to Magic’s lands. After watching a few streams, I knew pretty much everything I needed to play, and I’d imagine even someone without extensive background in CCGs could pick up the concepts quickly.

Then there’s the interface and client itself. The tutorial is engaging and entertaining and gets you used to how the game works from a software standpoint. Building and modifying decks is a snap, and finding an opponent requires just a couple mouse clicks of big, shiny buttons.

Oh, and it’s free-to-play, which makes anything more accessible.

I haven’t played a CCG with any regularity since I left my last CCG-related job six and a half years ago. I consider myself pretty much done with the genre. But Hearthstone is luring me back in, despite my misgivings. Maybe it’s the daily quests and achievements. Maybe it’s the gloss and shine. Maybe it’s because I don’t have to talk to my opponent, who might be a jerk in real life. Maybe it’s the matching system, which pits me against people of my own skill and collection level so I don’t feel outplayed by the proverbial “Mr. Suitcase.”

That last point was always a big deal for me. After its first couple of years, Magic did a better job than some of the other hundred-odd CCGs I played at limiting the power of rare cards, but it was still depressing getting curbstomped by a deck that was worth more than the monthly rent on my apartment. CCGs are the original pay-to-win PvP games.

Now, though? The matching system seems fair, and even if I do get torn to shreds someday by a rare-heavy deck, it’s easy to just click Play again and move on. Hearthstone makes it easy to forget about the last game. I care about progress in the sense that I like that I get gold and free packs every now and then, but I don’t feel that intense need to buy new cards and radically change my deck to keep up with the latest metagame.

I don’t think I’ll get into Hearthstone on the level I did back in my heavy CCG-playing days, but I’ll keep it on my desktop pretty much forever and, even after the initial thrill has worn away, will probably load it up for an odd hour every now and then.

What about you? Is Hearthstone an obsession for you or just your latest side game?

By Jason Winter

27 Readers Commented

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  1. Irish on July 19, 2014

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  2. chefmadness on January 30, 2014

    So I ben playing & I don’t get why they just didn’t they make the WarCraft card game for PC. Hearthstone is basically the same thing just named different. 30 cards is not enough for a deck. Also I would like to point out it is fun for like 5 hours then it gets lame. Magic the gathering is way better!!! & hearthstone is totally pay to win!!!! No way you can move up with F2P.

    • extasist on January 31, 2014

      all card games are p2w, in f2p game module its your choice to pay or not to, at least in hearthstone you don’t need to rush things to get packs and such. played magic most boring card game i ever played.

  3. Bud on January 30, 2014

    Crap game for asshole people.

  4. Roderick on January 27, 2014

    I play Rise of Mythos and its pure pay to win, and even knowing that i prefer it than play hearthstone.. didn’t like it too much :/

  5. Hikitsu Sama on January 27, 2014

    I don’t like Hearthstone, It emphases too much on “Chance” than “Skill”.

    • Random Guy on January 27, 2014

      Yeah, starting to realize that the more I play.

  6. Bloom on January 26, 2014

    After watching Kripp and Trump stream for months, and to no avail obtaining a beta key. I was so happy when I woke up and got online to find out the game had gone into open beta. Ever since I have been playing every day doing my quests…opening packs. My first arena I went 3-3 (lol) and I sucked but I do better in regular ranked. As my first TCG, I am glad to say I play Hearthstone. AND I thank Blizzard for not making it pay to play.

    • ChrisHateZ on January 26, 2014

      First off this is CCG (Collectible Card Game) not a TCG (Tradable Card Game).

      Don’t thank Blizzard just yet, keep on playing. At first the game feels great and not pay-to-win but pretty soon you’ll realize that it actually is pay-to-win.

      Once you start getting matches against people who spent a lot of money buying card packs and that have bunch of epic and legendary cards you’ll realize it pretty much is pay-to-win, at least in ranked.

      Arena is the only part of the game that’s not pay-to-win at all because everyone makes a new deck out of random cards, so their pre-constructed decks don’t matter. However sadly the arena is very expensive gold wise and you’ll need to spend real money if you want to play it more often. Of course if you’re very good at arena you can get your money back or make even more then you paid for, but arena is about luck just as much it is about the skill so…

      • Bloom on January 27, 2014

        Oh well, my bad. I mean CCG. Sorry first time playing a card game really. I think if I keep doing quests and win regular games I can buy more packs, or just pay for some. No big deal to me! I’m…HORRIBAD in arena, lol. Everyone has nicer cards so I’ll just wait on that until later. I’m just happy to be able to play.

        • ChrisHateZ on January 27, 2014

          You should google “hearthstone arena guide”. There’s numerous guides by good players that tell you the tactics used in that mode. Some of them even go into detail about what to expect from each class, how to deal with each class and everything you ever need to know.

          However that doesn’t help you when you get crappy cards and get matched against some lucky guy who got epics and legenderies as his picks (which sadly happens often, at least to me). I entered arena today again, got no epics or legendaries so my deck is mostly made from basics and rares and I get to fight guys with epic and legendary cards. Arena is unfair so you shouldn’t feel bad about getting your ass owned there.

    • bud on January 30, 2014

      Nobody cares what you play, game is shit, so is your life.

  7. ioulios on January 26, 2014

    this game feels so bad if u have played Duels of Champions….thats the real game cant even compare to this

  8. Name (Required) on January 25, 2014

    laughing at all the arena bads. it’s not hard to go 7+ wins and perpetually make gold, dust, and packs. even when i get no epics or legendaries I still manage to do well because arena is a whole different beast than constructed. cards you think would suck are MVPs in arena. you just gotta know how to think outside the box (something many of you lack judging from the above comments).

    if you can’t think for yourself and make your own decks in constructed, then you deserve to lose. netdecking all the FOTMs is what makes the game bad. being innovative and thoughtful is what will put you ahead of everyone else.

    stop complaining and learn how to play the damn game ffs. you god damn entitlement generation make me sick.

    • EloBoostedNeurons on January 25, 2014

      @For the one above: Your neurons often complain about being boosted. They can’t keep up.

    • Bic Boi on January 26, 2014

      Lol calm down nerd. You mad?

    • gimzy on January 28, 2014

      who said it was hard? It’s pure shitty luck in Arena, know what cards beat what in value and pick those cards, there is no innovating in Arena get over yourself.

  9. ChrisHateZ on January 25, 2014

    It’s a very fun game, love the mechanics. It’s quite simple and yet it requires you to think about every move you make and to try and predict every move enemy will make.

    Matchmaking could be improved however. In casual and ranked I either get matched with bad players and newbies which I beat with such an ease it’s not even fun or I get matched against a guy with rares and overpowered legendaries and then I have no chance at all.

    Fighting against a rares-filled deck isn’t even such a big deal, and I still win against decent amount of those players. But when you get to fight an enemy that has few legendaries in his deck you’re doomed.

    Arena seems awesome in theory but it’s too random and feels a bit unfair. You’ll often get bad cards to pick from, and in some cases you might get good ones but in that case they wont have almost any synergy and it’ll be a mess. I’d rather have a deck of average cards with good synergy then a deck of good cards with no synergy at all, and in arena it’s really all about luck.

    Paying 150 gold or real money to enter arena just to lose if enemy had more luck getting a better deck kinda sucks.

  10. qwe on January 24, 2014

    no not every tcg or ccg is a copy of magic except for hex

    • Duskbot on January 26, 2014

      Oh yeah cause Magic isnt one of the best card games on the planet and Yu-gi-oh is a complete rip almost with the tweak of instead of the magic cards being put into different types we got spells and traps.

  11. removalmitt on January 24, 2014

    I concur, although it may pay be due to the fact I’m waiting for a decent ftp mmorpg to play

    • removalmitt on January 27, 2014

      meh, novelty wore off, bored of the game now

  12. Gimzy on January 24, 2014

    It started off as an obsession, but after playing for a couple of months, it’s now just a matter of who has better draws and guessing your opponents hand. Once you know what all the cards do and have enough legendary cards to compete in higher ranks, all it really is, is luck. Everyone plays the same legendary cards so you just have to bait them or play yours smarter. Turns into a snooze fest seeing the same decks over and over and over again.

    • WTFDOOD on January 24, 2014

      You talk like this game only have ez mode aka “constructed” , grow some balls and go play arena .

      • Trenix on January 25, 2014

        Honestly, constructed requires way more strategy than arena, being that you’re in charge of your deck entirely without any randomness. I’ve been told I was lucky in constructed numerous of times, when most of the time that wasn’t the case, I just selected the right amount of cards for each mana requirement. Arena on the other hand, is very random which pretty much kills my experience.

        I kind of avoid Hearthstone Heroes because no matter what I do, I feel like the game plays against me. If I play constructed I deal with pay to win elements. If I play arena, I feel like I’m playing a game of poker, which wasn’t what I was looking forward to with a trading card game.

      • Gimzy on January 25, 2014

        Arena is a joke, they need to remove legendary cards from Arena, 2 card maximum of a specific card, 4 swipes? yeah, that’s pure luck. Arena is just a matter of knowing values, knowing how to trade and always maintaining board control with minion spam. There’s no strategy involved and it feels impersonal. Like the dude before me said, Arena is way too random and you have to pray the RNG gods are on your side EVEN more so in Arena.

  13. sponki on January 24, 2014