Magic: The Gathering helped introduce the concept of collectible card games more than twenty years ago, and since then it’s seen many different adaptations into the digital world. As it’s a physical card game, which is still actively played quite a bit, but it always has had issues being translated to an online version.
There are currently two main online versions of Magic, Magic Online and Duels of the Planeswalkers, and while Magic Online is a pretty much 1:1 conversion of the game to the online space, there was a hunger for something even better. As someone who has played Magic since the beta release, I was one of those people.
Enter Blizzard with their online CCG Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. After an extensive beta, the game has finally been officially released and it’s the best online CCG out there. Here are five reasons why:
It Was Designed as an Online Game
Unlike Magic, Hearthstone was designed from the ground up as an online game based around concepts and art from the World of Warcraft TCG. That means (also unlike Magic) the game is streamlined to play quickly between two people at their computers, which lets the games be relatively quick while not slowing things down and dealing with “timing stacks” from things like instants and interrupts in Magic. Hearthstone does have mechanics similar to those (the Secrets), but the fact that it was designed digitally first gives it an advantage to any online conversion of the Magic: TG rules.
Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master
Hearthstone fits Blizzard’s philosophy of making their games easy to learn but difficult to master. The online CCG is deceptively simple to get into, while high level play features incredible depth and strategy with the same sort of deck building you’d find in high-level M:TG play.
It Won’t Break the Bank
While you don’t really have to buy many cards in Duels of the Planeswalkers (just expansions and foils), Magic Online works just like Magic in the real world by completely draining your bank account to fill up your online collection. While you can pay money for packs of cards in Hearthstone, you don’t really have to. By completing quests and winning matches you can earn gold that can then be used to buy packs. It can feel like a grind, but you don’t really have to spend a penny to enjoy Hearthstone.
Constructed, Draft, Expansions – It’s All Here
Hearthstone’s Play mode is the same constructed environment you’d find with Magic, while the Arena (costing $1.50 or 150 gold per entry) is the Booster Draft side of the game where you’re randomly assigned a deck and have to draft cards to it. They’re even planning an expansion set around a raid theme (like the WoW TCG did with its raid decks) where parts of the expansion can be unlocked via gold or with cash.
It’s Even Great on a Tablet
Just this week Blizzard released Hearthstone for the iPad, with iPhone and Android versions coming at a later date. The great thing about the tablet version, is that it’s the exact same game you can play on the PC/Mac. Some may even argue that the touch controls on the tablet make it even better than playing with a mouse. So now you can take Hearthstone wherever you have an internet connection.