When you first start playing Hearthstone, you will be forced to play through a number of tutorials before you can play in standard format. These tutorials are quite straightforward and will help you learn the basics of the game very quickly.
But if you haven’t played the tutorials, this post will cover all the basics about gameplay in Hearthstone. I will also add in some additional information that are not covered in those tutorials, but are really important to know.
To put it simply, the win condition of Hearthstone is to reduce your opponent’s health from 30 to 0. You remove health from the opponent’s hero by using minions, spells and weapons from your deck of 30 cards.
The screenshot below clearly labels the important features of the game board in Hearthstone. You might need to keep referring back to it throughout this post.
There are 9 different classes in Hearthstone, but each class has more than one hero. In the above screenshot, I am playing the hero Valeera from the Rogue class. Playing a different hero does not give you any advantages, they are just there for cosmetic reasons.
Each class has a unique hero power which costs 2 mana to use. The Rogue’s hero power equips a dagger that can be used to hit any enemy I want. Normally, heroes are not able to deal damage unless they have a weapon equipped. I will talk more about weapons later on.
The health total is clearly denoted at the bottom right corner of the hero’s portrait. Once it reaches 0, the game is over.
At the start of the game, each player starts with one mana crystal and gains one crystal every turn. Mana will cap out at 10 crystals on turn 10. Both players will always start on 10 mana crystals from turn 11 onwards.
Almost all cards in Hearthstone cost mana to play from your hand. For instance, you would need to wait until turn 5—where you have 5 mana crystals—before you can play a 5-mana card.
So does that mean that the player going second is always at a disadvantage? After all, the player going first can play a minion on turn 1 and thus, be the first to establish board presence. The answer is, thankfully, no.
The player that goes second will have the card called “The Coin” in his starting hand. The card description says it all.
The player that goes second can use this card at any point in the game to make a play that he wouldn’t be able to do without extra mana.
Your hand displays the cards that were drawn from your deck. The mana cost for each card is clearly displayed at the top left-hand corner of the card.
At the beginning of each game, the player going first starts with 4 cards on turn 1. The player going second has 6 cards (including “The Coin”) on turn 1.
Each player draws one card every turn. You can only have a maximum of 10 cards in your hand. Any card that is drawn while you have 10 cards in hand will be milled, which means it is lost permanently.
In general, you are in trouble if your hand size is much lower compared to your opponent’s. This is because the less cards you have in your hand, the less answers you have for dealing with the opponent’s threats.
Do note that there are spells and minions in Hearthstone that can draw more cards or summon other minions from your hand or deck.
So we know that each player starts with a deck of 30 cards, and you keep drawing from your deck until the game ends. But what happens when you run out of cards?
Fatigue is a game mechanic that prevents games from dragging on forever. If your deck is empty, you will take one damage in the next turn. Fatigue damage will keep increasing in increments of one damage for every turn you continue to draw from the empty deck.
There are cards in Hearthstone that shuffle additional cards into the deck, which will temporarily halt the fatigue damage taken in subsequent turns. But be aware that the fatigue counter DOES NOT reset back to one damage the next time your deck is empty again.
Minions are the bread-and-butter of Hearthstone. You need to develop your minions on the board, otherwise you have little chance of beating your opponent. However, you can only have a maximum of 7 minions on the board at the same time.
When you play a minion from hand, they are NOT able to attack immediately (unless they have the keyword Rush or Charge). This game mechanic is called summoning sickness. Minions have to wait till the next turn before they can attack.
The attack value of a minion is displayed at the bottom left corner of its portrait, while its health value is at the bottom right corner. Minions can only attack once per turn (unless they have the keyword Windfury).
Minion trading is done by using a minion to attack the opponent’s minion. When that happens, both minions deal their respective damage to each other.
For instance, if you send your 3-attack 2-health (3/2) minion to attack a 2-attack 1-health (2/1) minion, both minions will end up dying.
Ultimately, you play to gain board control. You should aim to have more minions on your side of the board than your opponent. If you can keep your minions alive, they can then be used to repetitively deal damage to the opponent’s hero—commonly referred to as hitting face.
Certain classes have access to weapon cards—where the hero can equip a weapon and attack the opponent’s minion or hero. But don’t forget that when your hero attacks a minion, your hero also takes damage equal to that minion’s attack value.
The main use of weapons is to trade some of your hero’s health to remove an opponent’s minion. This ensures that you don’t need to use your minions to do this—which helps keep them alive for longer. Another common way to kill minions is by using damage-dealing spell cards, but I won’t cover about spells in this post.
The weapon’s attack value is displayed at the bottom left corner, while its durability is at the bottom right corner. Durability refers to the number of times the weapon can be used. Once it reaches zero, the weapon is destroyed. Equipping another weapon when you already have one equipped will destroy the existing weapon, and that is obviously wasteful.