Guide to Hearthstone

30 May

I know I’m late to the party as far as writing a guide goes since the game has been live for a while now and was in beta for several months as well, but I felt like writing a guide and I didn’t think it would take too long to write one for Hearthstone, so I decided to give it a shot anyway. I started playing Hearthstone about 8 months or so before launch, and have been playing with varying degrees of interest since then. Right now it’s pretty much the only game I’m playing on a regular basis.

This guide is intended to cover all of the basics of the game, including a beginners’ guide on how to get started with a solid deck as soon as you finish the tutorial and which achievements to strive for first to get yourself a nice set of starter gold for either buying packs of cards or heading into the arena.

Let’s talk “Investments”
How much money does it cost to play Hearthstone?
Nothing! Nada! ZILCH!!!

The only cost associated with Hearthstone is the time it takes to install the game. You can download it for free, and play it for free as long as you’d like. Installation time isn’t all that long, either.

You do have the option of spending money on the game if you’d like, in the form of either paying a real money entrance fee to an Arena match (details below) or purchasing packs of cards to extend your collection. Both the Arena and purchasing card packs can also be done strictly through playing the game to earn the in-game currency, “Gold”, which means that there is no requirement of actual money to play. Spending money does speed up the process of unlocking all of the cards for you to make stronger decks, but it’s up to you whether you place more value on your time or your money.

I’ll talk about card prices in another section below about obtaining cards, and the Arena fee will be listed in the Arena section.

The Nax expansion they’re talking about releasing will also have some options that you can choose to pay for with either in-game gold or real money, but we have no details yet.

How long does it take to play a game?
Typical games take anywhere from 5-15 minutes. Some games go by faster than that, and some games can take closer to 20-30 minutes if one (or both) players are really milking the clock.

The tutorial matches that you have to play before you actually get to start playing the game will take varying amounts of time based on your familiarity and skill with card games in general. The tutorials take time by design to show you all of the basics of playing the game, so you’re looking at 30 minutes or so from the time you launch the game until you’re able to play against actual people, or with a deck that you make yourself rather than the one provided to you.

About the Cards
This section will discuss the basics of the cards themselves. I’ll talk about things like rarity and card types here, while specific abilities and effects will be discussed in the Terminology section.

Rarity: Common, Rare, Epic, Legendary

Each of these rarities is indicated by a colored jewel in the center of the card, between the picture and the card’s text. The colors are White for Common, Blue for Rare, Purple of Epic, and Orange for Legendary. It’s the same color scheme that you find in World of Warcraft, except that the Green Uncommons do not exist in Hearthstone.

Rarity does have some relation to the power or versatility of the card, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. You’ll see Basic and Common cards in virtually every deck, including the top players around the world. Just because a card is Basic or Common doesn’t mean it sucks, and just because a card is Epic or Legendary doesn’t mean that it’s good.

The only thing that rarity really indicates, is how (un)likely you are to get that card from a pack or as a random reward from the arena, and how much dust it costs to create the card. (I’ll talk more about creation and disenchanting of cards in another section below.)

Basic vs. Elite Cards
Basic cards (sometimes referred to as “free” cards) are the ones that the game gives you for free. Each class has 10 Basic cards in their set which are earned by you leveling that class up to level 10, and there are 43 basic cards in the Neutral set which are not tied to any class. All of the Neutral Basics are given to you as soon as you complete the tutorial. Basic cards cannot be disenchanted or created. They don’t have a rarity, really, but since they don’t have the colored jewel indicator, I’ve included it here. You’ll notice Basic cards by their lack of a colored jewel as mentioned in the Rarity section up above. Basic cards have no jewel at all.

Elite cards are all of the other cards that do have a rarity. If there’s a jewel in the center of the card, between the picture and the text, then that card is considered “Elite”. The only real difference between Elite and Basic is that Elite card are either earned through gameplay, rewarded for promotions such as BlizzCon, rewarded from achievements or quests, or purchased with either in-game or real-world currency via randomized packs of cards.

There is also an alternate version of all cards which are called “Gold/Golden” cards. These cards are functionally exactly like their normal versions; they have the exact same text, stats, and cost. There are only two differences between Gold cards and regular cards. First is that the artwork is somewhat animated in Gold cards where it is static for normal versions, and second is Gold cards cost twice as much Arcane Dust to craft (but also can be disenchanted for significantly more than normal).

How Many Cards Are There?
Every class has 10 Basic cards that are unlocked by leveling that class to level 10, plus another 15 Elite cards that you get from opening card packs or as random rewards from playing in the arena. So 25 unique cards for each of the 9 classes.

In addition to those, there are 43 Basic Neutral cards that you get as soon as you finish the tutorial, and another 110 Elite Neutral cards that come from packs. Neutral cards are those that can go into any deck, regardless of the class. So 153 unique Neutral cards that are available to all classes.

That gives us a grand total of 378 unique cards in the game as of May 2014.

How Many Decks Can I Have?
You can currently have a maximum of 9 decks. You don’t have to have one deck for each class, you can have 9 different Rogue decks if you want to. There is a slot for a tenth deck in the interface right now, but you cannot use it. I would be pretty surprised if Blizzard doesn’t allow us to have more than 9 decks at some point, but there’s not telling when that might happen.

Card Types: Spell, Minion, Weapon
Spells: These cards have an effect when you play them, according to the text on the card. Effects vary widely from one card to another, so I won’t get into details here, but you’ll see things like dealing damage, drawing cards, destroying minions, healing minions or players, and so on. Spells also benefit from a minion ability known as Spell Damage, which increases Damage (not healing) of any spell by the listed amount.

There is also a sub-set of spells known as Secrets which are played without your opponent being able to see them, and that stay in play until a specific event triggers them to be activated. In typical gameplay, you cannot take any actions of any kind during your opponent’s turn. Secrets don’t give you control of their targets, but they are the only way to have something happen during your opponent’s turn. Secrets can now only be triggered on your opponent’s turn, so you cannot force them to be triggered any longer. Most secrets trigger off of minions attacking or being played, though some are triggered by spells or other actions. Each secret specifically states both its trigger and its triggered effect in the text.

Currently, spells are class-specific, meaning that there are no Neutral spells that you can put into your deck. Neutral spells do technically exist, but those spells are generated by Neutral minions on the battlefield, and cannot be played otherwise.

Minions: These cards create creatures on the battlefield, of which you can have a total of seven at one time. If you have seven minions already on the board, you cannot summon any others, and any abilities you have that trigger minions to be created are simply wasted. Minions have a variety of abilities as well, which will be discussed in more detail in another section. Minions are the primary source of damage, thus victory, in Hearthstone for most decks. Minions have their own attack and health values, and there are various ways to increase or decrease both scores for either your or your opponent’s minions. When a minion’s health reaches 0, it dies.

Most minions are Neutral, but every class has minions of its own as well.

Weapons: These cards effectively turn your hero into a minion during your turn. Each weapon has an attack value on the bottom-left corner, and a durability value in the bottom-right corner. Normally, your hero has no way to deal damage themselves, beyond their hero ability. Weapons change that by giving your hero an attack value, which allows you to attack with your hero just like you would a minion. It works exactly the same way, meaning that you deal your attack damage to the hero or minion that you choose to attack, and they do the same to you. Every time you attack with the weapon, regardless of your target, the weapon loses one durability point. When a weapon reaches zero durability, the weapon is destroyed.

Some weapons have special rules that override typical weapon rules, making them more useful for various things. For example, one of the Warrior’s weapon cards has only 1 durability, but if you hit a minion with it instead of a hero, it loses 1 point of its attack value instead of its durability.

During your opponent’s turn, your weapon becomes inactive, meaning that your hero no longer has an attack rating, so minions that attack you will not take damage from your weapon. Minions and spells can both impact weapons, ranging from increasing or decreasing the attack and/or durability of either your or your opponent’s weapon, destroying your opponent’s weapon outright, or giving you a new weapon.

You can only have one weapon at a time, and any new weapon destroys and replaces the existing one (even if the existing weapon is better).

Currently, all weapons are class-specific cards, meaning that you have to play that class/hero if you want to use the weapon(s) in your deck. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible to obtain some of those weapons during play without being that class, but you can’t put the cards into your deck.

The classes that are available for play in Hearthstone are the same nine classes you find in vanilla World of Warcraft: Druid, Hunter, Mage, Paladin, Priest, Rogue, Shaman, Warlock, Warrior.

Each class is represented by a different Hero, and each hero has a special ability referred to as the “Hero Ability”. You can use your hero ability once per turn, and the cost is always 2 mana crystals. Some hero abilities are similar to others, and some are unique. Some classes also have cards that change your hero and their hero ability, such as Lord Jaraxxus in the picture above, but they will not be covered in this guide.

Shapeshift (Druid): Gives your hero +1 Attack and +1 Armor this turn.

Steady Shot (Hunter): Deal 2 damage to the enemy hero.

Fireblast (Mage): Deal 1 damage.

Reinforce (Paladin): Summon a 1/1 Silver Hand Recruit.

Lesser Heal (Priest): Restore 2 Health.

Dagger Mastery (Rogue): Equip a 1/2 Dagger.

Totemic Call (Shaman): Summon 1 of 4 random totems. You cannot summon an existing totem, so if you have all 4 of the random totems on your sideof the board this ability cannot be used. [Healing Totem (0/2 that heals 1 damage to all friendly minions at the end of your turn), Searing Totem (1/1 no abilities), Stoneclaw Totem (0/2 with Taunt) and Wrath of Air Totem (0/2 Spell Damage +1)]

Life Tap (Warlock): Draw a card and take 2 damage. (Yes, you can kill yourself with this.)

Armor Up! (Warrior): Gain 2 Armor. (Armor stacks indefinitely.)

So which class is the best one?
There’s not really a best and worst for classes. With each class having unique strengths and weaknesses and you having no control over which class your opponent will be using, your best bet is to just get used to playing all of the classes and figuring out which ones you like the best.

As Blizzard makes changes for balance frequently, certain classes get weaker or stronger on a fairly consistent basis. As I’m writing this article for example, Priests are considered slightly weaker and Hunters slightly stronger, but that could change tomorrow.

Collecting All of the Cards
One thing to keep in mind is that Hearthstone is a Collectable Card Game (CCG), not a trading card game (TCG), which means that you can collect all of the cards, but you cannot trade cards with other players.

It is entirely possible for you to collect every card in the game without spending any real money on it. It would take you quite a long time to do so, but it’s still possible.

You would do this by earning Gold through gameplay, quests, and achievements, and then using that gold to either buy packs of cards for 100g each, or by taking your chances in the Arena which has a 150g fee. The arena will always reward you with a pack of cards plus an additional reward based on how well you do in the arena. Whether you’re better off getting packs or doing arena will depend on how good you are at playing in the arena (more on the Arena in another section below). Personally, I prefer to use the arena over buying individual packs.

Earning Gold
Gold can be earned in a few ways: Quests, Achievements, and Arena.

Every day you receive a random “Daily Quest” to accomplish some kind of goal. Usually it’s to win a certain number of games with certain classes, summon a certain number of minions that either have low costs or high costs, deal a certain amount of damage to your opponents, or kill a certain number of enemy minions. These quests reward you with 40, 60, or 100 gold, based on the quest.

The Daily Quests do not go away until you complete them, and you can have up to 3 Daily Quests at one time. Any progress you’ve made on a quest is saved until it’s completed. Once per day you also have the option of abandoning one of your current quests, which will cause another quest to be randomly generated in its place. If you find that a quest is too hard, you think it would take you too long to complete, or it requires you to play classes that you hate playing with then you should abandon the quest and try for another that sounds more appealing (or gives better rewards).

Also, every day you can earn up to 100g by winning multiple matches. For every 3 games that you win (doesn’t have to be in a row) you get 10g up to the max of 100g.

Achievement are a one-time event that rewards you with gold, arcane dust, or card packs. Achievements are your best bet for getting some decent starting gold, because they give pretty decent rewards due to being done only once. You can either use the gold to chain some Arenas, buy some packs and hope to get lucky that way, or a combination of the two.

You’ll find a full list of known achievements below. Note that not all of them are quick and easy to do, some of them will likely take months:

Gold Rewards Gold Amount Difficulty
Unlock every Hero. 100 Easy
Defeat every Expert AI Hero. 100 Moderate
Collect every card in the Basic Set. 100 Easy
Collect every card in the Expert Set. 100 Hard
Play 3 games in Play mode. 100 Easy
Win 100 games in any mode. 300 Moderate
Win 1000 games in any mode. 300 Hard
Dust Rewards Dust Amount Difficulty
Disenchant any card. 95 Easy
Card Pack Rewards Amount Difficulty
Complete a game in Play mode. 1 Easy
Get any class to level 10. 1 Easy
Play a game on the iPad. 1 Easy
Alternative Card Backs Card Difficulty
Play at least 3 matches with 2 other people in the same local network. 1 Easy
Reach Rank 20 in Play mode this season. 1 Hard
Specific Card Rewards Card Difficulty
Purchase any number of packs from the store. Gelbin Mekkatorque (Golden) x1 Easy
Acquire every Pirate. Captain’s Parrot x1 Moderate
Acquire every Golden Pirate. Captain’s Parrot (Golden) x1 Hard
Acquire every Murloc. Old Murk-Eye x1 Moderate
Acquire every Golden Murloc. Old Murk-Eye (Golden) x1 Hard
“Other” Rewards Reward Difficulty
Win 3 Matches in Play/Arena Mode Hearthsteed (WoW Mount) Easy
BlizzCon Rewards Reward Difficulty
BlizzCon 2013 Elite Tauren Chieftain (Golden) N/A
Golden Hero Versions Class Difficulty
Win 500 Ranked games with Garrosh Hellscream. Warrior Hard
Win 500 Ranked games with Rexxar. Hunter Hard
Win 500 Ranked games with Thrall. Shaman Hard
Win 500 Ranked games with Uther Lightbringer. Paladin Hard
Win 500 Ranked games with Valeera Sanguinar. Rogue Hard
Win 500 Ranked games with Anduin Wrynn. Priest Hard
Win 500 Ranked games with Gul’dan. Warlock Hard
Win 500 Ranked games with Jaina Proudmoore. Mage Hard
Win 500 Ranked games with Malfurion Stormrage. Druid Hard

In regards to the achievements that reward you with specific cards, note that you can craft every non-basic card in the game, including the ones that you otherwise have to obtain through some other means. So even though you might have missed BlizzCon 2013, you can still craft the Elite Tauren Chieftain card using Arcane Dust.

Hearthstone Terminology
There are a few terms that are new to Hearthstone in comparison to other CCG/TCG’s or that you just need to be aware of, so I will go over those here.

Arcane Dust: The second in-game currency. Arcane Dust, often referred to simply as “dust”, is obtained by Disenchanting (see below) cards that you already have.

Armor: Armor is a form of protection available primarily to the Warrior and Druid heroes, which causes damage taken by the hero to be removed from their pool of existing Armor before it is applied to the hero’s Health. While Health cannot exceed 30 points, Armor can stack indefinitely. The Warrior’s Hero Ability adds 2 Armor each time it is used, and they have access to both spells and minions that add additional armor as well. The Druid’s Hero Ability adds 1 Armor each time it is used, and they have some spells that can add additional armor as well.

Battlecry: Currently a minion-only ability, this refers to a specific effect that happens only when the card is played from your hand. Most Battlecry abilities allow you to select a target for the effect, while others are completely random, or automatic. When you copy this minion from other minions or from spells, even though the minion technically just came into play, the Battlecry does not happen because it was not played from your hand.

Charge: Another minion-only ability, this one allowing the minion to attack immediately when it comes into play. Normally, minions cannot attack until the turn after they come into play.

Combo: Currently a Rogue-specific ability, Combo means that if you have already played any other card from your hand this turn, this card with a Combo effect will become more powerful. For example, a spell might deal 2 damage if you cast it normally, but if you Combo it then it deals 4 damage instead, giving you incentive to cast multiple cards at once, or to hold cards in your hand until you’re able to get more benefit via the Combo effect. Some cards may also have no effect at all when not played as a combo.

Deathrattle: Currently a minion-only, but not for long. Deathrattle means that an effect will be triggered when the card is destroyed. Most commonly, if the minion with this ability dies, the owner gets to draw a card.

Disenchanting: In order to obtain Arcane Dust you have to “disenchant” cards from your collection. Disenchanting a card destroys it, and grants an amount of Arcane Dust in its place.

Divine Shield: Currently minion-only, this ability means that the first time the minion takes damage, regardless of how much damage, all of that damage is ignored. Once the minion takes damage, the shield goes away and will not return unless some other spell or effect grants the minion Divine Shield. While there are Neutral minions have have Divine Shield, the ability to grant Divine Shield is currently available only to Paladins (or Priests who steal those cards from your deck). Note, giving a minion Divine Shield when it already has no effect.

Enrage: This minion ability is triggered by the minion having fewer than its maximum health, typically granting bonus attack damage while it’s enraged. If an Enraged minion is healed back to full health, it loses the benefits of being Enraged until it receives damage again. While Neutral minions have Enrage abilities, the class most closely associated with Enrage is the Warrior.

Freeze: This ability causes the target to be unable to attack for 1 turn. Both minions and heroes can be frozen, but it only prevents attacking. Minions that are frozen but have other abilities will still have their abilities active, and frozen heroes can still cast spells and use their hero powers. Currently, Freeze is specific to the Mage class, save for one Neutral minion with a Freeze Battlecry. Note, Freezing a target that is already frozen has no effect.

Gold: Gold can refer to two different things. First, Gold is the primary in-game currency for Hearthstone, used to buy packages of cards as well as paying the entrance fee into the Arena. Second, Gold Cards (or Golden Cards) refers to an alternative style of card art in which the Golden version of the card has some animation to the artwork as well as a golden, flashier look to the card’s border. Golden Cards are valued significantly higher than normal version of the card in terms of Arcane Dust value, but in terms of game play they are exactly the same as the normal version.

Graveyard: This is an “area” of the battlefield where all of your used cards and dead minions go to be removed from play. You cannot see the graveyard, but any time you see text referring to it, just be aware that this is where all of the cards go to be removed from play.

Hero Ability: This is the special ability that each hero has, costing 2 mana. The ability is found to the right of your character’s portrait on the battlefield, and can be used once per turn for the 2 mana cost. The hero ability is specific to each class, and Blizzard has stated that while they may allow additional heroes to be chosen to represent the existing classes, they intend to keep the hero abilities the same when and if they do so. Every class has a (mostly) unique hero ability, but many of them do share some similarities to other classes. Classes with similar hero abilities include Rogue-Druid, Druid-Warrior, Warrior-Priest, Paladin-Shaman, Mage-Hunter. Note that while those classes may have similarities in their hero abilities, none of them is exactly alike, and they all have ways to take advantage of their hero power that other classes cannot, or cannot do as well.

Mana Crystals: Mana is the resource that you use to cast spells, summon minions, and use your hero ability. The player who goes first starts with 1 mana crystal and the player who goes second starts with zero. Each turn, you gain 1 mana crystal until you reach the maximum of 10. Some spells and minions cause you to gain additional crystals, grant your opponent additional crystals, or destroy some of your own crystals. If you cast a spell that generates additional crystals and you already have 10 crystals, then for each crystal you should have gained you will receive an extra card in your hand that costs 0 mana and allows you to draw an additional card.

Overload: This Shaman-specific mechanic causes a certain number of your mana crystals to be locked out, unable to be used, on the following turn. The benefit of Overload is generally that the spell, weapon, or minion that has Overload is generally overpowered when compared to its cost, so you get more power this turn in exchange for less casting power on the following turn. Overload is always followed by a number on the cards that have it, indicating how many mana crystals will be locked out due to the overload.

Secret: These spells are current found in the Mage, Paladin, and Hunter decks. Normally, players can only take actions during their own turns. Secrets sort of allow you to break this rule. Sort of. When you play a secret, your opponent is notified that you cast a secret, but they get no other details. That secret remains in play until it is triggered (the trigger is noted on the Secret). Secrets will remain in play until an event triggers them, at which time the effect happens and the spell goes to your graveyard. Most Secrets are triggered by minions or spells being played, or by you being attacked, and they disrupt your opponent’s actions in some form or fashion, according to the secret.

Silence: Silence removes all effects from the target minion, both beneficial and harmful, including any abilities that the creature normally has such as Taunt, Divine Shield, Enrage, and so on.

Spell: A spell is any card that you cast from your hand that is not a Weapon or Minion. This is important to know for certain cards that have effects that are triggered when someone “casts a spell”. For example there’s a minion that allows you to draw a card every time you cast a spell, so you need to be aware that minions and weapons will not trigger that, nor will your hero ability.

Spell Damage: Occasionally referred to as Spellpower, this ability causes damage (but not healing) specifically from spells to be increased by the specified amount. Secrets count as spells for the purpose of Spell Damage. Weapons, minions, and hero abilities all receive no benefit from Spell Damage.

Stealth: Stealth is a minion ability that prevents that creature from being targeted or attacked by your opponent. Stealth is mostly found in the Rogue deck, but multiple Neutral minions have Stealth as well. Once the minion attacks, it looses Stealth. Stealth does not allow your minions to bypass minions with Taunt, but if you have a Taunt minion who also has Stealth, your opponent still cannot attack or target the minion, allowing him to bypass your Stealth minion even though it has Taunt.

Taunt: Taunt is a minion ability that prevents your hero from being attacked as long as it’s alive. Your hero can still be the target of spells and effects, but you cannot be attacked (unless your Taunt minion also has Stealth). Taunt provides a fair amount of protection against being killed, provided your opponent has a hard time killing those Taunt minions, and that they don’t have enough direct damage to simply bypass your Taunters.

Windfury: Windfury is primarily a minion ability, allowing the creature to attack twice each turn instead of only once (assume that it survives the first attack, of course). While there are Neutral minions that have Windfury, only the Shaman class is currently able to grant Windfury to minions that do not have it. Note, giving a minion Windfury when it already has it provides no benefit.

Deck Details
Without going into specific decks, there’s not a whole lot to talk about, but here is a little information regarding decks specifically.

Deck Size: Decks are made up of exactly 30 cards, regardless of which mode you’re playing in.

Copies of Cards: In Constructed mode, you can have up to 2 copies of any given card in the deck, except for Legendary cards which you can only have 1 of.

In Arena mode, there is no limit to how many copies of the same card you have in the deck, so if you happen to draft 15 Fireball cards, then you can use them all. If you get 3 copies of the same Legendary card, you can use all of them as well.

Naming Decks: You can also name your deck by selecting it in the My Collections area and then going to the top-right corner of the screen where you see the hero’s picture and current name of the deck, clicking on it, and then typing a new name. The name isn’t visible to anyone but yourself, so don’t worry about revealing anything to your opponents by what you name it. Just use the names to tell yourself what deck it is in case you’re making multiple decks for the same class since “Custom Priest” doesn’t tell you a whole lot about the cards that are in it.

Naming your deck doesn’t “do” anything, except help you keep track of which one is which (and it makes sharing your screenshots more interesting).

Crafting and Disenchanting Cards
Since you cannot trade cards with other players to complete your collection, there needs to be some other way for you to get the cards that you want without having to rely entirely on luck, right? That’s where the crafting system comes into play. We’ll start off with some terminology.

Arcane Dust: The second in-game currency. Arcane Dust, often referred to simply as “dust”, is obtained by Disenchanting (see below) cards that you already have.

Disenchanting: In order to obtain Arcane Dust you have to “disenchant” cards from your collection. Disenchanting a card destroys it, and grants an amount of Arcane Dust in its place. There is an Undo button that you can click while you’re still on the Crafting screen for that specific card, but as soon as you leave that card and return to your collection the undo option is no longer available. Disenchanting is most often used to get rid of extra copies of cards. Since Hearthstone decks can only have 2 copies of a single card, and you can use those 2 copies in as many decks as you want, any number of cards over 2 do you no good. You can also use it to get rid of cards that you don’t want or don’t see yourself using, even though you don’t have any extra copies of it, in order to get the dust needed to craft other cards you’d rather have.

Crafting: Crafting is done by entering Crafting Mode and then scrolling through your collection to find the cards that you’re missing or the cards that you already have 1 of but would like another. Once you find the card, you click on it and then confirm whether or not you want to craft it. If you don’t have the amount of dust required, then you cannot craft that specific card so the crafting option will be disabled, but you can still look at the card if you don’t know what it does.

The Details: If you’re going to get into crafting, then you probably need to know how it all works. The first thing you need to know about crafting is that every card has two values associated with it. First, is the amount of dust required to create it, and second is the amount of dust that you get for disenchanting it. You need to know those two things about every card in order to know how much dust you need for what you want, and how to go about getting it.

Luckily, the math is pretty simple because the values are based on rarity. The only cards that cannot be crafted or disenchanted are the basic cards for each class, which are obtained by leveling that class to level 10.

Rarity Dust Cost Dust Value
Common (Normal) 40 5
Rare (Normal) 100 20
Epic (Normal) 400 100
Legendary (Normal) 1600 400
Common (Gold) 400 50
Rare (Gold) 800 100
Epic (Gold) 1600 400
Legendary (Gold) 3200 1600

This table lays things out pretty well, but what does that data really mean? Let’s look at it another way.

Disenchanting 1 Legendary = 1 Epic or 4 Rares or 40 Commons
Disenchanting 1 Epic = 1 Rare or 10 Commons
Disenchanting 1 Rare = 0.5 Commons

Trading Down (Normal):
Trading Down is when you take something of a high value and trade it in for something of lesser value, knowing that you’re going to take a loss in terms of actual (dust) value. Why would you ever do that? Because rarity does not always translate to power or “game” value even though it’s “worth” more dust, and that Legendary might not fit within any of your decks, but you could really benefit from a Neutral Epic in several of your decks.

So we know right away that if you have a crappy Legendary, you can disenchant it to make any Epic card that you want, and if you have a crappy Epic you can disenchant it for any Rare that you want, but if you have a crappy Rare it’s only worth 1/2 of a Common. Trading down is easy. The only problem is, you’re getting a terrible deal in terms of dust. The more you trade down, the less dust you have available for trading back up since at best you’re losing 75% of the dust value every time you trade down.

That changes, of course, if we’re talking about disenchanting extra copies beyond the constructed maximum of 2 cards per deck (1 for Legendaries). In that case, the extra cards are already worthless, so the dust is bonus. Sure, you got a duplicate Legendary that does you no good instead of another Legendary that you may have wanted, but with trading down that essentially means that instead of a random Legendary you get to pick any Epic that you want. If you’re one for looking on the bright side, there’s your bright side.

Trading Across (Normal):
What about when you get a card of a certain rarity that you didn’t need and really wished that you could trade it in for a different card of that same rarity?

For Legendary and Epic cards you only get back 25% of the amount of dust that it takes to create, while Rares give you 20%, and Commons give you 12.5%. Or to flip that around, you have to destroy 8 Commons to make 1 Common, 5 Rares for 1 Rare, and 4 Epics/Legendaries to make 1 of the same.

Trading Up (Normal):
What about if you’ve had horrible luck and you really, really need to get your hands on that one, magical legendary card that would really make your decks shine?

20 Commons = 1 Rare -while- 80 Commons = 1 Epic -while- 320 Commons = 1 Legendary
20 Rares = 1 Epic -while- 80 Rares = 1 Legendary
16 Epics = 1 Legendary

Trading up is expensive, plain and simple. In terms of normal (non-golden) cards, your best bet is generally to either trade across or do a combination of trading across and trading up. You’re still losing out on a great deal of dust value when doing that, but in the number of actual cards that you’re losing, this is your best bet.

What About Golden Cards?
When you add Golden cards into the mix, things get a little bit better. If you’re looking at trading up/down/across to other Golden cards, then you’re looking at close the same numbers as you see in the normal section. However, if you’re looking at trading golden cards in for normal cards, that’s where things start to look a lot better (even though they’re technically worse).

In terms of actual dust value, trading a Golden card for a non-golden card is a huge value loss because golden cards are basically worth 200% – 1000% more than their normal counterparts. However, in terms of rarity you’re now about to trade across at a 1:1 ratio, like so:

1 Gold Legendary = 1 Normal Legendary || 4 Normal Epics || 16 Normal Rares || 40 Normal Commons
1 Gold Epic = 1 Normal Epic || 4 Normal Rares || 10 Normal Commons
1 Gold Rare = 1 Normal Rare || 2.5 Normal Commons
1 Gold Common = 1 Normal Common plus 10 Dust

From that you can see that Trading Down looks pretty good now because a Golden card is worth at least as much as a normal card of the same rarity. In terms of dust value, it’s a horrible, horrible trade. However, Golden cards are exactly the same as Normal cards in terms of gameplay, the only difference is that the artwork is somewhat animated on Golden cards where it’s static artwork on the normal versions.

Trading Across gives you equal value in terms of rarity, but again you’re taking a huge hit on the dust value. Because a Golden card disenchants to at least the cost of crafting a Normal card of that rarity, getting a Golden card is basically the same thing as getting any Normal card of that rarity you want in its place. Got a Gold Legendary card that you’ll never use? Trade it any for any Normal Legendary that you want, or trade it for 2-4 Normal Epics and possibly have some dust left over!

Trading Up is easier than with just normal cards, but it’s still not exactly easy. Golden Epics are worth 4 Normal Epics in terms of dust, which is 25% of a Normal Legendary.

The Different Modes of Gameplay
Now that we’ve covered just about everything else under the sun, how about we actually talk about how to play the game?

The first thing you need for playing Hearthstone, besides the game itself, is a deck to play with. If you’ve gone through the tutorial, then you already have a deck and you’re ready to jump right in. There are three different modes of playing Hearthstone: Play, Practice, Arena.

Play Mode:
Play mode means that you’re going to face off against other people who have also constructed their own decks (or had one constructed for them via the tutorial). Play mode also has two different settings, which are Casual and Ranked. Also worth noting, most of the Daily Quests require you to be in “play mode” to get credit towards the quest, which in this case refers to playing against another actual person as you do in Play mode or Arena mode.

Play – Ranked: Ranked play tracks your wins and losses and groups you into a “rank” which starts at 25 and goes up to rank 1 before becoming Legendary. When you click to find an opponent for ranked play, it looks at all of the other players who are looking for opponents that have a rank close to yours, and it does it’s best to match you up with someone of equal rank, so that players face off against opponents of similar skill.

Play – Casual: Casual play works exactly the same as Ranked play, except that the rankings are done away with, meaning that you could be brand new to the game but you could be matched up with last season’s best player if they are also set to Casual instead of Ranked. Casual play doesn’t care how good the players are, it just looks for any two people that are looking to play some Hearthstone, and sticks you together. Generally, the better players tend to stick to ranked play because they want their efforts to be shown off to the other players out there via the ladder, but you should be aware that casual play has the chance of pairing you up with people of all skill levels.

Practice Mode:
Practice Mode is where you face off against the game’s AI, which generally sucks. You use the decks that you’ve constructed just like you would in Play mode. Practice is good for testing out oddball deck concepts and to get a general idea of how your deck plays. Practice is usually the best place for you to spend the time leveling each of the hero classes up to level 10, unlocking all of their basic cards and giving yourself some nice gold rewards from associated achievements.

When you’re unlocking decks, the current UI is easiest to beat if you set it to using the Shaman deck. The AI is at least somewhat decent for all of the other classes, but it generally sucks when playing Shaman. You might not beat it every single time, but if you’re looking for fairly quick wins for leveling all of your heroes to level 10, facing the Shaman is your safest bet. Shaman has been the weakest AI since I first got into the beta, and it’s still true today.

Practice mode almost never counts towards Daily Quest completion. The only quest that I can think of that counts Practice games is one that specifically states “Win 7 games in any mode.” As far as I know, no other quest looks at Practice Mode.

Arena Mode:
Arena mode is pretty similar to what most card game players know as a “booster draft” as far as how it’s done. The first time you go into the Arena, it will be free as a part of finishing the tutorial. Every other time you go in it will either cost you 150g or you can pay real money if you would rather do that. I believe the cost is $1.50 here in the U.S. but I’ve never paid cash for the arena (and never will) so I don’t really pay attention.

After you’ve paid your fee of real cash or gold, you’re given the choice of three random heroes. The one that you select is the hero that you will play in the Arena until you either reach 12 wins, 3 losses, or you choose to Retire early.

After choosing your hero, there are 30 rounds of card picks. Each round you pick 1 card out of 3 for your deck, and the other two just disappear. One very important thing to keep in mind about these arena matches is that these cards that you pick are not added to your collection. They will exist in your arena deck until your run in the arena is over, and then they go away.

One very distinct difference between Arena and the other two modes of play, is that you are no longer restricted to having only 2 copies of a card in your deck. If you manage to find several copies of a card while making your arena deck, you can use however many you find. My current record, I believe, is 6 copies of the same card.

Once your deck is complete, you are matched up against other players in the arena, chosen at random. You will continue to battle other players with their arena decks until you either win 12 matches or lose 3, whichever comes first. You can also retire early from the arena at any time, receiving rewards based on whatever your record is at the time you retire.

Arena rewards are somewhat random, but you will always receive at least a single pack of cards plus either gold or dust. The more matches you win, the better your rewards are in general. In addition to card packs, gold, and dust, you also have a chance to win random cards. Both times that I’ve gotten a card, they were Golden and from the hero that I was playing at the time, but I think the cards being from my arena hero’s deck was coincidence rather than a rule. I’m pretty sure the card is always golden if you get it, but I could be wrong on that part.

Basics of Gameplay
Most of the information in this section you will learn during the tutorial, but since there may be people reading this guide before they ever decide to play Hearthstone, I wanted to include it here for them and for reference as needed.

Step 1: Coin Toss
Once you’ve selected your play mode, selected/created your deck, and found your random opponent your match will begin. Each player draws three cards, and then the coin is flipped to see who goes first and second. The player who goes second gets a 4th card in their opening hand. Then it’s time to Mulligan.

Step 2: Mulligan
During this step, each player can choice any number of the cards from their opening hand to “mulligan”, or shuffle back into their deck and draw an equal number of cards to replace them. With only 30 cards in the deck, don’t be surprised if you get the exact same card(s) back as replacements, though.

After the mulligan is complete, the player who goes second also gets a special card placed in their hand called “The Coin”. This spell costs 0 mana to cast, and gives you 1 additional mana crystal for a single turn. The Coin is given to help the second player “catch up” due to going second, but the power of The Coin has caused a great deal of controversy since it was introduced, as some people feel it gives too much of an advantage. Personally, I like the coin as it is.

Step 3: Players Take Turns
Now the game officially starts. Each turn, the player gains 1 mana crystal (starting at zero), draws a card, takes any actions they wish (and can afford), and then clicks the button in the middle of the right side of the screen to end their turn. This process repeats until one, or both, players reach 0 life.

Draw Game? If both players die on the same turn, it is considered a Draw. However, in Hearthstone, a Draw means both players are Defeated. So the game counts against both players. I have not found a reliable resource stating whether or not a draw during an arena match counts as a loss or is ignored. The notification at the end of the game says “Defeat”, but I don’t have confirmation yet for arena. I’ve found sites online that say it does count as a loss as well as sites that say it’s ignored. When I find proof, I’ll edit this part. If you have proof yourself, please share it with me! Thanks to Cold from Cold’s Gold Factory, I have confirmation that a draw game while in arena does not count against you. After the game, it will show that you were defeated, but it does not count as one of your three losses.

Getting Started
Now that we have all of the basics out of the way, I wanted to put together a guide to help you get started. What I mean by this is, I want to give you some ideas for decks that you can build right out of the gate that will give you a solid deck to use for unlocking all of the basic cards for each class as well as jumping right into some casual and ranked play.

For right now, I’ve taken this section out because I need to verify a couple of things by creating another new account before I publish it, just because I don’t want to go feeding you false information in a guide specifically designed around giving you a place to start. I was originally going to include it in this guide, but now I’m leaning towards having it in a post of its own so that it’s easier to edit and keep updated by itself rather than always editing this master guide.

I’ll let you know what I decide to do with the Getting Started guide once I’ve got it figured out, either via a comment here, or by just posting the new guide and then putting a link here.


Posted by on May 30, 2014 in Guide, Hearthstone


5 responses to “Guide to Hearthstone

  1. Dimli

    May 30, 2014 at 5:38 PM

    Great guide. A couple of small things just so people are aware. The Golden Gelbin is no longer available it was a Beta giveaway when you spent real money. Since the game has launched he is no longer available (normal version is craft-able).

    A draw will definitely show you the loss screen but you will not lose any stars (ranked) or get credited for a loss in arena.

    Just to add my opinion about your soon to be added guide section. Starting out seeing what are the “best” or strongest classes atm won’t really mean much for you since you can’t make those power decks either way. In fact I would put Priest and Mage as fairly strong classes that you can start with that are considered some of the lower tier classes at high rankings. A search for “Dr Draw Priest” will yield a very solid cheap(free?) deck to get started with. Also you can search for “Trumps free Mage” to get another good budget option. (Note the free Mage is from a high level players free alt account the deck isn’t completely free to make but very budget oriented.)

    Moving forward from there Warlock Zoo (bunches of low mana cost creatures) is probably the best budget top tier deck around.

  2. Cold

    June 2, 2014 at 7:49 PM

    Having played to a draw in arena myself (barren geddon killed us both), I can confirm that the screen shows defeat (for both players) but the match does not count as a win or a loss- it’s just a wash and u get to continue playing even if you already had 2 losses before your draw.

    One thing I would change in this article is your use of the terms “trading up” & “trading down”. In most card games, including Hearthstone, the terms trading up and trading down have nothing to do with crafting or disenchanting cards.

    Trading up/ down refers to the value you get out of the cards you use to remove your opponents threats. If you use a 1 casting cost card like a Treasure Hoarder (2/1) to remove (kill) a higher casting cost card like a (3/2) Fairie Dragon which costs 2 mana to cast, then you have made a positive trade, or Traded Up. Trading Down is the opposite, you waste a higher casting cost card to remove a cheap minion.

    You can also trade up or down in card count. As an example, just last night I had a foolish opponent play a Sunwalker, w divine spirit & inner fire then end his turn. I opened my turn with a Black Knight, this destroying his beefed up taunt minion and wasting the two buff spells. So for 1 card, I destroyed 3 of his and I still had my minion which was a huge trade up.

    Your section on trading up/ down will lead to confusion for anyone learning the true strategy of trading up for card count advantage and positive minion trades which is what trading up and down has to do with – The card trades you make during a match, not how you choose to craft or disenchant your cards.

    • Psynister

      June 6, 2014 at 11:03 AM

      Thanks for the arena draw confirmation, Cold.

      As for the rest of it, I see your point, but I disagree with removing the terms simply because they have other uses. I use the terms specifically in the section regarding crafting and define them when I do so both in meaning and point out that the value in that section is based on dust rather than card strength, mana cost, etc. Not using the terms because they relate to something else as well would be like never saying “our two guilds formed an alliance” in WoW because the word Alliance relates primarily to a faction within that game. In both cases, the words/phrases used are real world terms that people already know and understand, regardless of other uses for the term specific to the game.

      The guide on gameplay includes a section on trading cards in terms of gameplay that talks about the same things you mentioned, and an explanation that the value in gameplay relates to the strength/cost of the card since dust means nothing to gameplay. Card value is completely different than Dust value, and that’s what people need to learn from the guide. Trading up or down retains its definition regardless of what defines the value.


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