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Introduction to Hearthstone and FAQ

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Alongside the vein-specific threads available to discuss the finer points of higher-level gameplay (deck building, drafting, etc.), this thread will serve as a catch-all location to introduce newer players to the game and explain Hearthstone's mechanics in its own terms (that is to say, as opposed to the established vocabulary from preceding physical or digital TCG/CCG alternatives).

If you have suggestions or recommendations on how to improve this introductory guide, please PM me directly. If you have a core mechanical question about the game or how to play that isn't already addressed, feel free to post it. Non-obvious mechanics and concepts will be amended into the FAQ segment.

Updates will be made as the game progresses through beta and eventually goes live.

1. Introduction

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is Blizzard's new free to play digital strategy card game. In Hearthstone, two players - each playing as one of the core character classes from the World of Warcraft franchise - use decks of cards representing spells, weapons, or creatures to do battle against one another.

2. The Basics

2. a. The Characters

In Hearthstone, each player selects one of nine famous characters from the Warcraft franchise's history, each representing one of the core character classes from World of Warcraft. Those characters are:

Druid - Malfurion Stormrage

Hunter - Rexxar

Mage - Jaina Proudmoore

Paladin - Uther Lightbringer

Priest - Anduin Wrynn

Rogue - Valeera Sanguinar

Shaman - Thrall

Warlock - Gul'dan

Warrior - Garrosh Hellscream

Each hero has a signature ability, unique to their class, that they can use up to once per round, in lieu of or in addition to playing a card.

2. b. The Cards

Cards can effectively be divided into three (3) categories: Minions, Weapons, and Spells/Abilities. Each player starts with a deck of 30 cards, either predetermined by the default cards for their class, or based on a customized deck designed by the player.

2. c. Gameplay Mechanics

Hearthstone relies on three core mechanics to understand gameplay - health, damage, and mana. Icons for each of these appear on almost every card.

Health refers to the amount of damage it requires to eliminate a card from play or defeat a hero. Each player starts with 30 health on their hero, and minion cards have amounts of health listed on them as well. Health is represented by the numerical value over the blood droplet. Some abilities can increase a hero or minion's maximum hit points, but healing effects cannot raise a target's health above its starting or current (if improved) maximum health.

Damage refers to the amount of health a minion, weapon (equipped by your hero), or spell can remove from an opponent's hero or minion. Damage is represented by the numerical value over the sword icon.

Mana identifies the cost of playing any card - summoning a minion, equipping a weapon, or casting a spell. Mana is also required to use the hero's signature ability. In essence, playing any new card or using any ability has a mana cost associated with it. Mana costs are shown over the blue hexagon symbol.

In addition to the three core mechanics, there are two secondary mechanics that bear mentioning - armor and durability.

Armor is conferred by a limited number of hero powers and certain class-specific cards, and stacks infinitely on top of your hero's existing health pool. Any damage taken up to the amount of armor your hero has is absorbed by the armor, and the remaining damage (if any) is dealt to your health pool. At this time, no abilities or spells ignore armor. Armor persists until destroyed.

Durability is, in effect, the number of uses that a weapon that can be equipped by a hero has. A weapon that is listed as 4/2 would deal 4 damage, and has 2 durability - meaning that after its second use, it would be destroyed.

3. Playing The Game

3. a. General Gameplay

A game of Hearthstone lasts until either player's hero is brought to zero (or fewer) hit points. To defeat your opponent, you will need to make strategic decisions about what cards to include in your deck, what cards to play, and what targets to select for your attacks.

The game will start with each player being dealt three cards at random from their deck, and a coin being flipped to determine which player goes first. The player who plays second will be dealt an additional card, as well as receiving The Coin (a card that allows that player to increase their mana, even above their current mana maximum, by one [1]). Each player has the option to select any, all, or none of their cards to return to their deck and draw replacement cards before play begins.

On the first turn, each player has one (1) mana point to spend. On subsequent turns, this number will increase by one (1) point per turn, up to a maximum of 10 points. Any mana gained above the 10 mana point limit (for example, by playing a Druid's Wild Growth, which typically grants an additional empty mana gem) will grant the player Excess Mana, allowing the player to draw an additional card per Excess Mana.

If the game continues after either player has exhausted their 30 card deck, each subsequent turn will inflict Fatigue damage on the player(s) who have run out of cards. Fatigue starts out dealing one (1) damage on the first turn, and increases by one (1) point per attempt to draw a card until either player's hero is brought to zero (or fewer) hit points and the game is over.

3. b. The Turn

A standard turn is resolved as follows:

- Draw a new card from your deck. If you have no cards to draw, you take Fatigue damage.

- Combat phase. You can choose to do one, many, or none of the following: Use your hero's signature ability, play a card, use the minions you have in play to attack.

- When you are finished taking the actions during the combat phase you wish to take, press 'End Turn'.

3. c. Combat

Combat rules can be affected by a number of spells and abilities, but generally, you may use your hero (if capable of a physical attack -weapon equipped, etc.) or a minion who is able to act to attack your opponent's hero or one of their minions. When this attack is a physical attack (as opposed to a spell/ability), both involved parties take the amount of damage the opposing one deals - for example, if a Murloc with 2 attack and 1 health is used against a Voidwalker with 1 attack and 3 health, the Murloc will deal 2 points of damage to the Voidwalker, leaving it with 1 health, but the Voidwalker will deal 1 point of damage to the Murloc, killing it.

Knowing which targets to attack with your various spells and minions (and what order to use those spells and minions in) is key to your strategy.

3. d. Minions

Minion cards represent humanoids (humans, orcs, trolls, gnomes, etc.) or monsters (beasts, dragons, etc.) from the Warcraft universe. Every minion has a mana cost and health value, and most minions will also have a damage value. You can have a maximum of seven (7) minions in play simultaneously.

When played from your hand, minions cannot act on their first round on the board (the round in which they were played). They will get their first opportunity to act in your next turn.

Minion cards will typically explain any special features they might have, such as granting bonus attack or health value to other allied minions. Most minions with special features will show one of the following properties:

- Battlecry. Battlecry effects occur when the minion card is played.

- Charge. A minion with Charge does not wait one round to act - it may be used in combat in the same round it is played in.

- Taunt. If an opposing minion has Taunt, that minion must be targeted by any physical attacks made with your hero or minions (does not affect spells).

- Deathrattle. A Deathrattle effect is triggered when the minion with that effect is destroyed.

Additional minion features can include:

- Windfury. Allows the minion to attack twice per round.

- Enrage. The minion gets whatever its Enrage benefit is while damaged.

- Divine Shield. Minions take no damage from the first attack that hits them, which removes the shield.

- Stealth. The minion cannot be targeted (including by spells) until it has acted.

3. e. Spell Effects

There are numerous spells that you can cast in Hearthstone that have effects on players or minions other than damage or healing. These effects include:

- Frozen. A Frozen character/minion cannot act.

- Silenced. Being silenced removes all special effects from a minion, including their basic features (e.g. Taunt, etc.), as well as anything that has been cast on them. If a minion had an Enrage effect, the benefits of that are lost.

There are also a category of spells that are Secret; these spells are 'equipped', and are revealed/deal their effect when the listed trigger occurs.

4. Game Modes

4. a Practice

When you first get Hearthstone, you will start out playing Practice mode, with only one hero unlocked. You will need to beat each of the other heroes (played by the AI) to unlock them, and will have access to a prefabricated starter deck for that hero once you've unlocked it. As you use a hero, it will gain levels (up to a maximum of 10), unlocking additional basic cards for that class.

Practice mode is a good way to learn which class features you like, as well as learn the mechanics of the game. There are two levels of AI - regular and expert - for you to defeat. Beating every hero on both difficulties is a good way to familiarize yourself with the game, classes, and cards.

4. b. Play

Play mode is the standard mode for you to play against a random human opponent. Before entering play mode, most players will visit their card collection to design custom decks of cards, rather than using the default prefabricated decks. This will give you access to a wide range of cards available to all classes (most minions are not class-specific), as well as the additional cards that you will unlock as you earn or purchase decks of cards over time (including powerful minions and additional class abilities).

4. c. Arena

The Arena is Hearthstone's 'drafting' game mode. In Arena play, you will be given three (3) random heroes to choose from, and then given 30 consecutive sets of three cards from which you must choose in order to design a deck based on limited, random options.

Once you have completed your Arena deck, you will be matched against other players in the Arena, and may continue to use that deck until you have lost a total of three (3) games. Based on your results, you will receive a reward package containing a pack of new cards, as well as some gold (which can be used to buy card packs, enter the Arena again, etc.) or other rewards.

5. Heroes

5. a. Signature Abilities

Each hero has a signature ability, which can be used at a cost of two (2) mana points as part of your turn. These abilities, in addition to the hero-specific cards, create the distinction between the classes.

The signature abilities are as follows:

Druid - Shapeshift - +1 Attack power this turn. +1 Armor.

Hunter - Steady Shot - Deal 2 damage to the enemy hero.

Mage - Fireblast - Deal 1 damage.

Paladin - Reinforce - Summon a 1/1 Silver Hand Recruit.

Priest - Lesser Heal - Restore 2 Health.

Rogue - Dagger Mastery - Equip a 1/2 Dagger; or Give your weapon +1 Attack this turn.

Shaman - Totemic Call - Summon a random Totem.

Warlock - Life Tap - Draw a card and take 2 damage.

Warrior - Armor Up! - Gain 2 Armor.

5. b. Hero Playstyles

More information regarding general strategies for each hero will be added here in a future revision.

6. Terminology


7. FAQ

Notes / To Do

- Develop terminology list

- Add basic class strategies

- Include images where appropriate

- Update FAQ

Last updated 30/08/2013 - Secret cards.

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I've added revisions and updates based on feedback from the first several readers. If you have any further recommendations or wish to discuss what could/should be included for general game and/or class strategies, that would be great and I would appreciate it.

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