Gameplay in Hearthstone features everything from the cunning construction of indomitable decks to the cut and thrust of glorious battle! This page offers a beginner-friendly guide on how to play Hearthstone, teaching the basics of gameplay rules, cards, heroes, game modes, game formats, and much more! This article is most useful for new players learning how to play Hearthstone.
- 1 Rules
- 2 Hearthstone features
- 3 Matchmaking
- 4 Social
- 5 Meta
- 6 Trivia
- 7 Game terms
- 8 Patch changes
- 9 References
Rules in Hearthstone are designed in mind to be simple for new players, and more complex for experienced players.
- A short summary of the game of Hearthstone is found below: Summary.
- General gameplay rules can be found in the section: Order of play.
- Detailed info on all card effects can be found on the page: Ability.
- For extensive analysis of card effects and card interactions, see the page: Advanced rulebook.
- For major updates to Hearthstone's game mechanics, see the page: Game Mechanics Updates.
Each Hearthstone match is a 1vs1 battle between two opponents. Gameplay in Hearthstone is turn-based, with players taking turns to play cards from their hand to cast powerful spells, equip mighty weapons, or summon vicious minions to do battle on their behalf. The game may be played between two human players, or one human and an AI computer opponent.
Each player is represented by their chosen 'hero', an important character from Warcraft lore. Each hero is associated with a particular class, which determines the special cards and unique hero power available to them. Each hero has 30 Health, and if their Health is reduced to zero, the hero is destroyed and the controlling player loses the game.
At the start of each turn, the player draws a new card from their deck - a collection of 30 cards selected before battle. Players can choose to play using one of several pre-assembled 'basic' decks, or one of their own custom-made decks. While most cards are available to heroes of any class (neutral cards), a substantial portion of them are limited to a specific class, giving each hero their own strengths and unique abilities.
During their turn, each player can choose to play any of their cards, use their Hero Power, command their minions to attack targets, or even have their hero attack directly if they have a weapon equipped. However, most actions require the player to spend mana, and this limitation forces players to strategically plan out their moves. Each player starts the game with 1 Mana Crystal, and gains one more at the start of each turn until they reach the maximum of 10 Mana Crystals. All of a player's mana regenerates at the beginning of their turn (all their Mana Crystals become 'filled'). Unspent mana remaining at the end of the turn does not carry over to the next. The larger mana pools in later rounds allow players to play increasingly expensive cards, opening the game up to more impressive moves and powerful abilities.
In theory the objective of a game of Hearthstone is simple: reduce the enemy hero's health to zero before they can do so to you. However, the game features multiple strategic elements which require mastery before one can be successful at competitive levels of play. The control of minions, the assignment of strategic importance to various targets, complex card synergies and interactions, as well as the unpredictability of the randomly selected cards drawn each round, combine to create a complex game where the best plays are not always obvious.
Order of play
- Start of game
At the start of each match, a coin is tossed to decide which player will go first.
Each player is then shown 3 random cards from their own deck (4 cards for the player going second) which they can either keep in their starting hand or select to replace individually. For the cards that the player selected to replace, random cards from the player's deck will be chosen to replace these cards, and the cards which were replaced are reshuffled back into the deck. This is known as the mulligan phase, whereby each player's initial starting hand is determined.
The player that goes second also receives a special card on their first turn called "The Coin" that can be used at any time to grant the player one extra full Mana Crystal until the end of the turn it is played on.
- During each turn
Hearthstone cards cost a resource called "mana" to use. Each player starts with one Mana Crystal on their first turn. Every turn afterwards, the player gains an additional Mana Crystal, up to a maximum of 10.
At the start of each turn, a card is drawn and added to a player's hand. Players can have a maximum of 10 cards in their hand; attempting to draw a card with a full 10-card hand will cause this new card to be revealed to both players and be immediately destroyed, or milled.
During your turn you can play any of your cards, such as summoning minions, casting spells, and equipping weapons, provided you have enough mana. Playing a card will consume the amount of mana stated in the top-left corner of the card. You are also able to command your minions to attack, use your hero's Hero Power, or even use your hero to attack targets directly if your hero has an Attack value this turn (usually granted by having a weapon equipped). Any cards, your Hero Power, or minions that you are able to play or command, are illuminated with a bright green aura.
Players can mouse over any card or hero power at any time to read its description and view any related enchantments. Mousing over something will highlight it in red on your opponent's screen, and vice versa. Observant players can use this feature to make educated guesses about what their opponent plans to do next with their cards, and/or what they might have in their hand.
Once the player has taken all the actions they want, they can end their turn by clicking the End Turn button on the right side of the battlefield. If a player has taken every action possible that round, the End Turn button will become illuminated with a bright green aura.
- Turn timer
A turn timer keeps the game moving at a brisk pace for each player.
Each turn lasts a maximum of 75 seconds, plus some non-playable "slush time" at the end to account for animations. When the player reaches around the last 20 seconds of a turn, a fuse will appear across the board and start burning down, depicting the remaining time. If the fuse's burning animation reaches the right side of the field, the turn will automatically end for the current player and it will be the next player's turn.
If a player takes no actions during their turn and the time limit expires, that player's next turn will begin with an even faster burning fuse, giving them around 7 seconds to play. However, as soon as the player takes any action, the fuse will disappear, and the player's turn time will be extended to the usual 75 seconds.
- Running out of cards
Running out of cards to draw does not cause the player to lose. However, once a player has drawn all of their cards, later attempts to draw an additional card from their empty deck will cause them to suffer damage from Fatigue. Fatigue initially deals 1 damage to the player, but this amount increases by 1 each time. Players can mouse over their own deck or their opponent's deck to display how many cards are remaining in each.
- Conclusion of match
The match will go on until one of the following goals is achieved:
- One of the players' heroes reaches zero Health (or below) and is destroyed. The remaining player wins.
- Uther of the Ebon Blade can summon The Four Horsemen (Hero Power) minions, four of which destroy the opponent, ending the game.
- Mecha'thun, if its Deathrattle is triggered correctly, will destroy the enemy hero.
- A player concedes (see below) or leaves the game. The remaining player wins.
- Both heroes' health reaches zero at the same time. This causes a draw, although both players will see the Defeat screen. Neither player will win or lose a star in Ranked play, and neither player will be awarded a win or loss in Arena mode. If you were on a winning streak, it will end your streak.
- At the beginning of the 90th turn (round 44.5), the game will end in a draw although both players will see the Defeat screen. This means that Player 1 has 45 complete turns (turn 1, 3, 5... 87, 89), while Player 2 has 44 complete turns (turn 2, 4, 6... 86, 88). Player 2 does not start turn 90, will not draw a card, and any start of turn triggers will not happen. This bypasses Immune.
Players often choose to concede or forfeit the match once they realize they cannot avoid defeat, and can do so at any time through the Game Menu, accessed through the cog-wheel icon in the bottom-right corner of the screen. Conceding can save time spent playing out the final inevitable events of the match, or be used at a far earlier stage in order to avoid wasting time in a match the player feels they cannot win. In some cases, players will concede due to having made a critical error, following which they cannot bring themselves to continue the match. Conceding may affect progress towards daily quests, particularly early in the match when a player has a high amount of health remaining.
- Main article: Advanced rulebook
While most rules in Hearthstone are fairly easy to ascertain, when several effects, each with their own behaviours, are brought into conflict, things can get a little more complicated. The unofficial Advanced rulebook offers a comprehensive explanation of the game's underlying processes, complete with examples and video references. The Advanced Rulebook aims to explain the behavior of cards and card interactions in their entirety.
Game Mechanics Updates
- Main article: Game Mechanics Updates
Game Mechanics Updates are large updates to the game mechanics in Hearthstone. On October 12, 2017, some of Hearthstone's advanced game mechanics were discussed in an official blog post alongside an official video titled "Hearthside Chat: Game Mechanics Updates". The discussion revealed that one of Hearthstone's game mechanics, the resolution of "whenever" vs "after" effects, was to be changed in a later patch to be more intuitive.
- "Game mechanics updates" blog post - Describes events, triggers, zones, and sequences in Hearthstone.
- "Game mechanics updates" video - Describes two situations in-game where old game mechanics produced non-intuitive effects, and how they were addressed and resolved in a following game mechanics update. Changes to the resolution of "whenever" and "after" triggers are discussed.
Further game mechanics updates are found on the page: Game Mechanics Updates.
Cards are the main source of fun in Hearthstone and every card is unique and powerful in their own way. Many cards have their own abilities, providing for some interesting effects when played. Each card also comes with their own artwork, voice, and animations, designed meticulously by the Hearthstone development team. Multiple cards can be combined together for powerful effects and wacky combinations, allowing the player to experiment with cards and decks to their heart's content.
New cards can be earned in many ways: through increasing the level of heroes, purchasing them from the store (using either real money or gold, an in-game currency), earning ranks in Ranked play, completing single-player adventures, or winning them as prizes in the Arena. Cards may be gained individually or in packs of 5.
Players can browse all their cards and create custom decks to play with in the collection screen. Players can also disenchant unwanted cards to acquire Arcane Dust, a resource which can be used to craft powerful new cards.
Each card also comes in a golden form. Golden cards offer no gameplay advantage over non-golden cards, but feature special graphics and animations, bringing each card's art to life. Golden cards serve as prestige items, and are more expensive to craft than other cards.
Players can construct a variety of decks of different deck archetypes using the cards in their collection, normally consisting of 30 cards each. Once a player has constructed a deck, they can use it to do battle against other players in Play mode, the main game mode of Hearthstone. Players can also draft decks in the Arena, which is a card drafting tournament-style game mode, in which players draft cards one by one until they have a 30-card deck to do battle against other players.
Deck construction makes up a substantial part of the strategic play in Hearthstone, with each deck's 30-card limit forcing players to make tough decisions in order to hone in their decks to do well in the meta.
Decks used in Ranked and Casual mode can be shared via Deck Sharing, which is a feature in Hearthstone that allows decks to be easily copied and shared with other players by copying and pasting encoded deck strings.
During a game, each player is represented by a hero, a character found in Warcraft lore; for example, the mage Jaina Proudmoore and the demon hunter Illidan Stormrage. Each hero is associated with their particular class, which determines a special subset of cards only available to that class, alongside a unique class hero power. Hero powers are special abilities that a hero can use throughout the course of a game; for example, Jaina's Fireblast, or Illidan's Demon Claws.
Each hero has 30 Health, and the ultimate objective in a game of Hearthstone is to bring the opponent's Health down to zero, thus winning the game for the player.
- Main article: Game modes
Game modes are ways in which players can play and experience Hearthstone.
- Tutorial mode includes the first several introductory missions that new players will encounter upon opening Hearthstone for the first time. These feature an introductory and non-repeatable starting experience designed to introduce new players to Hearthstone.
- In Practice mode, players can play against a selection of computer opponents. Players can learn the basics of the game battling against 'basic' opponents, or can put their skills to the test against improved 'expert' opponents.
- Play mode matches players against other human players of similar skill, in random matches. 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.
- The Arena offers a unique challenge, with players forging a new deck from a random selection of cards before using it to do battle in a series of games. Doing well in Arena can grant substantial rewards consisting of gold, dust, cards and card packs, but each admission costs 150 gold or real money.
- Tavern Brawl is a weekly game mode, with a new Tavern Brawl available each 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 pre-made decks, adding random cards or minions, or changing the very rules of ability activation or mana use.
- Solo Adventures consist of a variety of single-player game modes in which the player does battle against the computer. In addition to containing Practice mode, Solo Adventures are also made up of Adventures and Missions. Adventures feature boss battles in which the player battles against bosses wielding unique hero powers and special cards. Beating these bosses rewards the player with unique Adventure cards and card backs. Missions further feature a large variety of single-player content with their own unique twists, such as Dungeon Run, Puzzle Lab, The Dalaran Heist, and Tombs of Terror.
- Battlegrounds is a multiplayer game mode in which eight players face off in 1v1 rounds, with the goal to be the last player standing. In Battlegrounds, players use minion synergies and positional strategies to be successful.
- Players can also choose to issue a Friendly Challenge to a player on their friends list. These unranked matches offer few rewards, save the satisfaction of crushing your friends in combat.
- Spectator mode is an observational mode that allows the player to spectate a match being undertaken by one or two other players. The spectator can see the player's cards and all minions, 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.
- Main article: Game format
Game formats are sets of rules that select or limit the types of cards that are allowed to be played in a game. Hearthstone presents three official game formats: Standard format, Wild format and Classic format. Additionally the game includes a fourth, the only unranked format, Casual.
- Standard format is the more balanced and competitive format, and the intended focus for newer players. Aiming to present a fresher and more focused experience, Standard format matches allow only cards from card sets released in the current or previous calendar year, as well as the Basic and Classic sets. Standard format is the default game mode for Play mode.
- Wild format presents an unrestricted playing experience without the deck restrictions of Standard format, allowing the use of cards from any card set. It is the default game mode for adventures and almost all Tavern Brawls. However, the format is not unlocked for Play mode until the player has obtained at least one card exclusive to Wild format.
- Classic format restricts players to the 240 cards from the original Basic and Classic sets as they appeared on the 18.104.22.16832 patch of June 2014. No card changes, removals, or additions to those sets are in effect (aside from purely cosmetic changes), letting you play the game as it was when Hearthstone first officially launched.
- Casual allows you to experience all the challenges of Play mode, without worrying about losing your hard-won rank. Casual is the perfect place for testing a new deck, or levelling a new class, and is the ideal mode in which to start playing against human opponents. Casual will always match you against an opponent using a deck from the same format as you (Standard, Wild or Classic).
- Main article: Quest
Quests are the main ways in which players can earn XP () to progress the Rewards Track. Quests are divided into daily quests, weekly quests and one-time quests. They require completing certain objectives, such as winning games with a certain class or dealing a certain amount of damage to enemy heroes, earning the player substantial rewards upon completion. Players are awarded a new daily quest each day, up to a maximum of three active quests.
- Main article: Battlefield
Each match takes place on a randomly selected battlefield, representing the board on which the game is played. There are numerous possible battlefields, each depicting a particular zone or city within the Hearthstone universe. Each battlefield features its own design and numerous interactive elements, but play is in no way affected or determined by battlefield selection. Around the battlefield are various important UI elements, such as each player's hand, deck, Mana Crystals, as well as the two heroes themselves.
Hearthstone's matchmaking process aims to ensure that players face opponents of a similar skill level.
Matches played in Play mode and Tavern Brawls use a matchmaking rating system to determine pairings, where each player has a hidden MMR based upon the player's history of games played against other players in that particular game mode. In Arena, MMR is not used and pairings are decided on similarity of win-loss performance. Also, for cooperative Tavern Brawls, matchmaking rating is not used.
For new players, beginners to Hearthstone are placed in a special pool with other new players for their first few matches in Casual Play mode and the Arena, to ease their transition into the game. They start out in a beginner's Apprentice league in Ranked play mode, which is specially made for beginners to battle other players new to Hearthstone.
Disconnection and reconnection
If a player is disconnected from Battle.net during a game of Hearthstone, the system will give the player 60 seconds to reconnect to the game, in which case they will immediately be returned to the match they were playing. However, the game will not be paused during disconnections, meaning that returning players may find their turn has expired or the state of the battle has progressed in their absence. Disconnections during the finding opponent process generally cause the queue to be suspended until both players are connected.
If the player is not able to reconnect to the game in time, the game will be concluded in favour of the remaining player. If both players end up disconnected, the game will end in a tie. Players who are unable to reconnect to the game will be informed of the outcome when they log back in.
Complete disconnection results in consequences such as experience, gold, and Ranked mode stars failing to display upon reconnection. However, although not displayed, these are correctly applied, as seen in interface elements such as the Play screen rank indicator and the Quest Log.
There is also an automatic reconnect feature which was added in an Unknown Patch. If an animation takes longer than 10 seconds, it gets tracked by the game client and if it reaches 25 seconds, the client will automatically try to reconnect you back into your game (all stuck animations should be cleared after the reconnect).
The reconnection feature was significantly improved for single-player Solo Adventures in Patch 14.2 on May 14, 2019, where players were given the ability to resume single-player matches after disconnecting from the game. Previously, single-player matches were forfeited and resulted in a loss if a player disconnected, which made disconnections annoying.
The reconnection feature was significantly improved for all Hearthstone game window environments in Patch 14.4 on June 3, 2019. Following an unfortunate disconnect, players will now reconnect back to the screen the player was previously browsing. Before this patch, players who were disconnected from Hearthstone were always redirected back to the login/launch screen following a reconnection, which could take upwards of 20 seconds of animation and loading time.
- Offline access during disconnection
- Viewing owned and unowned cards in the collection
- Creating decks
- Editing decks
- Deleting decks
- Renaming decks
- Setting favorite heroes
- Setting favorite cardbacks
- Opening a pack that was in the process of being opened
Changes made to the collection manager while offline will be saved and uploaded when the player next regains internet access.
Unlike most games, Hearthstone does not have a traditional chat-box. Rather, you can right-click on your character and select specific emotes, such as a verbal taunt, a welcome, well played, or other chat options. Players can also choose to right-click on their opponent to "squelch" them, preventing their emotes from showing. There is also a friends chat function, which allows players on RealID and BattleTag friends lists to talk, regardless of whether they are playing Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, Diablo III or StarCraft II, or simply have the Battle.net launcher open.
Blizzard have stated that their decision to restrict (non-friends list) opponent communication to simple emotes, rather than allowing a full chat function, was in order to reduce potential for harassment, making the game more accessible, and to keep the game flowing at a quicker pace since no one is stopping to type.
Each player's friends list also displays the BattleTag of the last person they played against, provided they were not a Real ID or BattleTag friend. This allows players who enjoyed their last matching to add their opponent as a friend for future play, or chat.
In addition, the Players Near Me feature allows players to see other players on the same subnet in their friends list, allowing them to challenge local players to battle. Players who are already on the player's friends list will not be shown in the Players Near Me section even if they are on the same subnet. The feature is enabled by default, but can be disabled in the Options menu.
When a player completes certain actions, such as opening a legendary card, levelling a hero or finishing an arena run, a 'toast' will be displayed to all players on their friends list announcing their achievement.
Fireside Gatherings are real-world gatherings of people to play Hearthstone. They are intended to be an opportunity for Hearthstone players to meet, mingle, and form real-life friendships, as well as enjoying playing the game face-to-face with some new opponents in either casual play or in tournaments. Fireside Brawls, implemented in October 2017, are special Tavern Brawls that players can play with each other, only available at Fireside Gatherings.
Gatherings can be of any size, and may feature multiple player pools (such as a "novice pool" and an "expert pool") or even mini-tournaments, but are intended to be open to players of all skill levels. With suggested locations of coffee shops, book stores and college dorms, Fireside Gatherings are mostly intended for users of iPads and laptops, although any computer on the same network could be considered part of the event.
Players are actively encouraged to plan and host their own gatherings. For a list of current events, and resources for hosting gatherings, see Fireside Gathering.
Hearthstone is divided into four geographical regions: Americas, Europe, Asia, and China. Each player by default uses their Battle.net account home region, but can choose to play Hearthstone in other regions if they wish. However, players from the Americas, Europe, and Asia regions are unable to select the China region for play, and vice versa.
Players can choose a region to play in through the Battle.net launcher, by selecting an option from the drop-down list above the 'Play' button, before launching the game itself. However, players' card collections and game progress are unique to each region, and it is not possible to transfer cards to other regions, meaning that players wishing to try a new region will have to start building a new collection from scratch for that region.
In official Blizzard tournaments, such as the Hearthstone World Championship and Hearthstone Grandmasters, countries are officially assigned to one of four tournament regions. Competitors representing that country are assigned to that region, unless otherwise noted.
- Main article: Hearthstone etiquette
In an exciting game full of surging battle, the explosive destruction of the enemy, and the jeers and cheers of the audience, it's hardly surprising that Hearthstone can bring out less than polite behavior in some players. But what exactly comprises correct or incorrect behavior, and who makes the rules? Hearthstone etiquette explains some of the basic sources of contention and debate within the Hearthstone community regarding player etiquette.
- Main article: Meta
The metagame, or meta describes the trends of deck and class choices currently seen in Hearthstone. Understanding the meta is vital to finding success playing Hearthstone competitively, or even at higher ranks. For more information, see Meta.
- The "Job's done" soundbite heard when the player is unable to take any further actions that turn is taken from Warcraft III. The soundbite is used by the Alliance Peasant unit upon completion of a task such as constructing a building, serving to remind the player to assign the Peasant a new task.
Listed below are some common game terms found in Hearthstone and in the Hearthstone community.
|Common deck types|
- Patch 22.214.171.12486 (2015-08-18):
- Patch 126.96.36.19924 (2014-07-22):
- Additional music tracks have been added.
- Players that appear in “Players Near Me” now appear more prominently within the Friends List.
- Overall organization of the Friends List has been improved.
- Patch 188.8.131.5214 (2014-05-08):
- Improved friends list sorting based on player status.
- Reconnect functionality has been enabled for Practice mode.
- Patch 184.108.40.20644 (2014-03-11):
- Secrets can now only activate on your opponent’s turn.
- You can now connect to other regions (Americas, Europe, Korea, Taiwan) of Hearthstone regardless of the region that is set on your Battle.net account. Account progress and card collections are saved separately per region. This feature will become available once the patch is live in all regions.
- The “Players Near Me” feature is now enabled by default. You can disable this feature in the Options Menu.
- If you disconnect from a game, you now have 60 seconds to try and reconnect and pick up from where you left off.
- Patch 220.127.116.1117 (2013-12-10):
- New Feature: Recently played Opponent – Your friends list now displays the last person you played against, provided they were not a Real ID or BattleTag friend. If you had a particularly great match against someone, you can now friend them for future play!
- New Feature: Players Near Me - You can now opt-in to seeing other Hearthstone players on your local network in your friends list.
- User interface:
- The chat UI has received additional improvements.
- Your player rank (icon and number) is now visible in the friends list, the versus screen and your BattleTag in-game.
- The PrintScreen key now takes a screenshot of your game and saves it to your desktop.
- Turn timer has been reduced from 90 to 70 seconds - Reddit. (2015-06-19).
- Ben Brode on Twitter. (2015-09-05).
- This appears to be around 22.5 seconds, but animation lag makes precise measurement difficult.
- Full time appears to be 10 seconds, however the remained is wasted in non-playable animation time. Playable time appears to be approximately 7.5 seconds.
- Patashu (2015-06-07). Maximum Length (in turns) of a Game (Blackrock Mountain Edition).
- Hearthstone Patch Notes 18.104.22.16844 - Battle.net. (2014-03-11).
- Tested by culinko in Patch 22.214.171.12474. (2016-05-12).
- Blizzard Entertainment (June 4, 2019). Hearthstone Update – May 14 – The Dalaran Heist. Retrieved on 2019-06-04.
- Blizzard Entertainment (June 3, 2019). Hearthstone Update – June 3 – Rise of the Mech. Retrieved on 2019-06-03.
- Hearthpwn.com: Dev Interview - Rating, Social, and Balance Issues; Innkeeper Invitational Spotlight #2. (2013-10-29).
- Global Play - Battle.net. (2016-08-01). Retrieved on 2017-04-10.