Game modes are the various ways in which players can do battle and enjoy the game of Hearthstone. Game modes come in two forms: single-player solo experiences and multiplayer matchmaking modes. Each game mode follows the basic rules of play.
- Main article: Tutorial
The tutorial is the initial experience designed to introduce players to Hearthstone. It is composed of six 'missions' — battles against special computer heroes — and must be completed before the player can play any other game mode offered in Hearthstone. The gameplay during the tutorials is heavily directed and limited, featuring special dialogue and instructions for the player.
The tutorial is considered a minor game mode, as it can only be played once.
The Solo Adventures screen provides access to the entire single-player experience provided by Hearthstone, consisting of the three game modes: Practice mode, Adventures, and Missions. In these modes, players do battle against computer-controlled opponents.
- Main article: Practice mode
The first game mode encountered by new players following the tutorial is Practice mode. Practice mode allows players to do battle against a selection of nine computer opponents, representing the nine regular playable classes.
Players can choose one of two difficulty settings to play against opponents: Basic and Expert.
- Basic opponents offer players a chance to learn the basics of the game and to explore a new class.
- Expert opponents offer a stiffer challenge, giving players the chance to try their hand against decks featuring higher rarity cards and synergistic plays.
Each opponent's difficulty setting features its own unique deck, so there are in total 18 unique possible decks to face off against. Practice mode is the place for new players to unlock basic cards, and the perfect place to level up heroes and to practice battling in, until they are ready for Play mode and Arena matches. Players are also rewarded 100 gold for defeating all expert heroes.
- Main article: Adventure
There are a total of five non-free adventures: Template:List of Adventures
Adventures are single-player experiences in which the player does battle against special computer-controlled bosses, featuring unique hero powers and special cards. Any adventure that was in Standard format was available for purchase with either in-game gold or real money.
Players must unlock wings of the adventure to discover new bosses and tackle Class Challenges using specially-prepared decks. Adventures can be played in two difficulty modes, in either Normal or Heroic mode.
Adventures offer rewards in the form of unique cards not obtainable through other types of play. Additionally, defeating all bosses within an adventure in Heroic mode will award a unique card back.
In early 2017, Blizzard announced that Adventure card sets would be discontinued with the upcoming Year of the Mammoth, and that future expansions, beginning with the second expansion of 2017, would instead feature free, optional, single-player Missions to help develop an expansion's lore and narrative.
- Main article: Mission
Missions refer to the mostly free single-player adventure game modes released following the announcement of the change from non-free adventure content to free single-player content. Missions were officially released following the debut of Knights of the Frozen Throne in August 2017.
- Lich King missions — August 10, 2017 — Knights of the Frozen Throne — Free
- Dungeon Run — December 7, 2017 — Kobolds & Catacombs — Free
- Monster Hunt — April 26, 2018 — The Witchwood — Free
- Puzzle Lab — August 21, 2018 — The Boomsday Project — Free
- Rumble Run — December 13, 2018 — Rastakhan's Rumble — Free
- The Dalaran Heist — May 16, 2019 — Rise of Shadows
- Tombs of Terror — September 17, 2019 — Saviors of Uldum
- Demon Hunter Prologue — April 2, 2020 — Ashes of Outland — Free
- Trial by Felfire — June 17, 2020 — Ashes of Outland — Free
- Book of Heroes — September 15, 2020 — Scholomance Academy (First release) — Free
- Book of Mercenaries — April 6, 2021 — Forged in the Barrens (First release) — Free
Missions are similar to Adventures in that they feature heroes, cards, art, and music that are in keeping with a specific theme and identity. Missions initially were intended to not have different difficulty modes and just be challenging overall, but this was changed later on.
Missions do not reward unique cards, but rather card packs from their respective expansions, as well as special card backs, excluding the Ashes of Outland Prologue which give demon hunter class cards.
- Main article: Play mode
Play mode matches players against other human players of similar skill level. Players can choose to play Casual 'friendly' games, or take part in Ranked play, earning ranks and special rewards to reflect their skill and standing within the community.
Play mode represents the most typical mode of Hearthstone play, with no cost to enter. Matches revolve around a consistent set of playable cards and effects in Standard and Wild format, offering rewards in the completion of daily quests, as well as rewarding players with 10 gold for every 3 victories. Participation in Ranked play also rewards special Ranked rewards, card backs, and golden heroes.
- Main article: Arena
Upon entering the Arena the player is given a random selection of 3 classes to choose one. Once a class has been chosen, the player is provided with 30 selections, each of 3 possible cards. The player chooses a single card from each selection to slowly build a full deck. Unlike decks in Play Mode, which are limited to 2 of each card, decks made in Arena may feature any number of the same card.
Once a deck is constructed, the player is placed in a series of matched games using that deck, although the games do not have to be played all at once. Once the player has won 12 games, or lost 3, the Arena run ends, and the player is offered a reward determined by their standing. Players who do well can reap handsome rewards, but failing to achieve a good run can turn the Arena into an expensive gamble.
As in any game mode, the strength of the deck constructed is a large part of achieving victory, but Arena's randomised offerings of cards during the drafting process presents a unique challenge to players in anticipating cards that will be offered. While Arena decks are less predictable than Play mode, Arena is still limited to the regular set of playable cards and effects, without any of the special rules or additions that are found in Adventures, Missions, or Tavern Brawls.
With its random selection of heroes, the Arena is locked for players until they have unlocked every class.
- Main article: Battlegrounds
Battlegrounds is a game mode where eight players face off in 1v1 rounds, with the goal to be the last player standing. Each round consists of two phases. The Recruit Phase lets players can purchase and sell minions, upgrade the tavern, use their hero power, and rearrange their minions' attack order. Combat Phase has minions automatically attacking the opponents' until one player (or both) has no minions remaining, at which point the victor attacks the loser directly.
Unlike other play modes, Battlegrounds has a set of cards totally unique to itself (although many are functionally identical to collectible cards) as well as a pool of specialized heroes. All Battlegrounds cards are available from the beginning.
Battlegrounds is significantly different from all other play modes in Hearthstone, featuring completely different mechanics from anything previously seen. There is no mana: instead, the only currency is Coins (similar to the Bartender Bob, Bartendotron, and Bazaar Bob encounters from previous Single-player adventures). All minions cost 3 coins, with the power of minions instead dictated by their Tavern Tier, taking the usual place of mana on the card interface. Minions do not attack the opponent directly - rather, surviving minions add Tavern Tier to the hero's attack once the round is over.
- Main article: Duels
Duels is a game mode where players face off against other players, attempting to claim 12 victories before they suffer 3 losses, similar to Arena. However, instead of drafting a deck, players are offered a choice between 4 of Hearthstone's 10 classes, then one of three of special class Hero Powers, followed by one of six of that class's Signature Treasures. Players then must build a 16-card deck, using 15 cards from their collection, and the treasure they selected.
At the end of each round, whether it was a win or a loss, the player gains 5 higher maximum health and chooses three cards to add to their deck from three separate choices, similar to Dungeon Run and other single-player missions. Occasionally, the player can also pick a passive or active treasure to add to their deck.
- Main article: Tavern Brawl
Tavern Brawl is a weekly game mode featuring special matches with unique rules, with new Tavern Brawls available every week.
Each Tavern Brawl presents a limited time opportunity to face other players in special matches with unique rules. These might be requiring players to use special premade decks, to build decks according to specific guidelines, or even offering buffs to certain minion types. Once the game mode is released, each week will see a new Tavern Brawl, each with its own special rules. Each Tavern Brawl is only available for a short period, after which the mode will close for at least 2 days.
An intentionally "fun" game mode, Tavern Brawls offer unique limited time experiences, with far less of a competitive focus than other game modes, and are intended to be highly accessible, even for players without extensive card collections. However, Tavern Brawls are not unlocked until the player reaches level 20 with at least one class.
- Main article: Friendly Challenge
Players can choose to issue a Friendly Challenge, inviting players on their friends list to a duel. Friendly Challenges can be regular Standard or Wild format matches, or take place in the latest Tavern Brawl.
A player can issue a Friendly Challenge to any friend not already in a match, who may choose to accept or decline the challenge. Players can choose which deck to use, although their opponent will be none the wiser until battle begins.
- Main article: Spectator mode
Spectator mode is an observational mode that allows the player to spectate a live match being undertaken by one or two other players. The spectator can see the player's cards and all minions on the battlefield, and can mouse over all interface elements as if in control of the game. However, Spectator mode is purely observational and does not allow the player to affect the match in progress, besides chatting with the person that is playing.
- Patch 126.96.36.199747 (2019-11-05): Battlegrounds added. Entered closed beta, available to Blizzcon 2019 attendees or Virtual Ticket holders.
- Patch 188.8.131.5257 (2017-08-08): First Mission added: Knights of the Frozen Throne single-player content
- Patch 184.108.40.20666 (2015-06-15): Tavern Brawl added.
- Patch 220.127.116.1134 (2014-12-04): Spectator mode added.