In this Hearthstone beginner’s guide, we will showcase the basic mechanics and modes of playing the game. Hearthstone is a card game that has some similarities with other types of card games like Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Legends of Runterra. The best way to describe it is that Blizzard tried to make a game that is less convoluted and complicated than Magic: The Gathering, and also less “messy” than Yi-Gi-Oh!.
It strikes a perfect balance of complexity, fun, and gameplay time. Usually, the abilities of cards are simple to understand but hard to play optimally, which is something we think is a good thing. Also, all Hearthstone modes are very engaging and above all else, fun. That said, let’s start with the basic mechanics to fully get a grasp of the Hearthstone gameplay.
So let’s start with the obvious things. You and your opponent have Health, which is lost by taking damage from various sources like Minions attacking, Spells, Abilities, etc. They can also be regained by Lifesteal, Heals, Spells, etc. Additionally, there is Armor, which basically acts the same as Health, but some cards have abilities that work with Armor. For example, “Deal damage to a minion equal to the Armor you have”.
Mana is something that is needed in order to play your cards. You start the game with 1 Mana Crystal, gain 1 more, and refresh them each turn. Usually, this is pretty straightforward, but there are some Spells and Abilities that can destroy or create more Mana Crystals. Each card has a dedicated Mana cost at the top left corner. You can play as many cards as you want in one turn, if you have Mana to do so.
Minions are a fundamental aspect of the game. Each minion has an Attack and Defense, as well as a Mana cost for summoning. Moreover, they usually have an Ability or a Keyword (more on this below). You can see that on the right, there are explanations for the card’s Keywords. In addition to Keywords, Minions usually also have an ability shown as text.
Minion Examples: Arcsplitter, Thassarian, Ragnaros the Firelord
You can think of Hero Powers as a “static” spell that you can play once per turn, every turn. They have their Mana cost and special effects, depending on the Hero you play. There are a lot of different Hero Powers and they are usually less powerful than real cards, but more efficient since you can use them indefinitely.
Hero Power Examples: Druid, Mage, Warlock
Spells/Locations/Weapons are all in a separate category from each other and are one of the core aspects of the game. While it may seem simple at first sight, there are nuances and complex interactions that can take place. The diversity in the effects of cards is what makes Hearthstone so replayable and fun.
They are a core part of almost every deck and have a bit of different ways of being played. The “3” broken shield icon you see in the picture above means that you can use it 3 times before the card destroys itself. The same goes for weapons. Nevertheless, in the end, they can all do almost anything; dealing damage, finding cards, healing characters, summoning additional minions, and so on.
Examples: Frostwyrm’s Fury (Spell), Forge of Wills (Location), Frostmourne (Weapon)
Keywords are what your cards have in addition to their actual abilities. These Keywords will appear a lot and always have the same fixed effect. Examples of some of the keywords are:
- Reborn – Resummons your minion (with base attack and 1 HP) after it dies.
- Lifesteal – When your minion deals damage, you heal for that amount.
- Deathrattle – Does something when the card is destroyed.
- Divine Shield – Absorbs the first impact of damage, then removes the shield.
These are just some of the Keywords you can encounter (there are A LOT of them). Cards can have multiple Keywords and can become very powerful with certain combinations. In the example above, the “Taunt” Keyword means that your opponent can attack anything other than Dirty Rat, while the “Battlecry” Keyword means that the following effect will take place once the card is played from your hand (For example, if it’s “Summoned”, it won’t trigger the ability).
Different Modes, Different Gameplay
Now that we got the basic stuff out of the way, what you need to realize is that Hearthstone has a lot of modes of playing the game. We suggest you stick to trying 4 most popular ones in the beginning:
- Standard – This is the original Hearthstone experience where you build a deck from the cards that you have in the Collection.
- Battlegrounds (our favorite) – Arguably a mod that is as popular if not more than Standard. It’s an “auto-battler” that you play against 7 other players.
- Arena – Similar to Standard, but you build a deck from randomly drafted cards, so usually decks are less optimal and more wild, which can make the game more fun.
- Solo Adventures – Basiaclly single-player campagins. If you are tired of playing Player vs. Player, embarking on a Solo Adventure is surprisingly interesting.
There are a lot of other mods like Wild, Tavern Brawl, Duels, Mercenaries,..but we will be focusing on these four for now, as they are the most popular ones.
This is the “classic” mod of playing Hearthstone. You will get to build a deck from cards in your collection and battle with other players. There are 11 classes in total and a lot of different styles of playing the game. Also, let’s get one thing out of the way, it’s entirely possible to have the most powerful decks without having to pay for anything.
You will get one FREE deck when completing the initial phase of ranking. Moreover, you will get a lot of random cards from Chests that you can “Disenchant” (get “Dust” by destroying cards). You can then use this Dust to create a dedicated deck that seems fun or is just very powerful.
We have a completely free account with two powerful Priest decks and three Death Knight decks that have managed to get to Legend, the highest possible rank. These are the same decks the top players are playing and they are entirely possible to obtain by f2p means!
This mod is by far our favorite and played one. Even though we like a Standard game of Hearthstone, there is just something too addicting with Battlegrounds. The basic premise is that you are in an arena with 7 different players and are essentially playing a knockout battle royale. At the start of the game, you will get to choose from two randomly given Battlegrounds Heroes (almost 100 in total) that have their unique Hero Power. You then have to build your board by purchasing minions from the Tavern shop.
After that, you will battle each turn with one random player – your board vs. theirs (this will damage your Health if you lose the battle). Once the battle is done, you will get Gold again, purchase more minions, and make your board even more powerful. This goes on until one player (out of eight) remains. We won’t go too deep into Battlegrounds in this Hearthstone beginner’s guide, because we made a very detailed separate guide for that.
Visit our very detailed Battlegrounds Strategy Guide for a more in-depth understanding.
We honestly tried Arena by accident and got addicted to it. The gameplay is like Standard play, so no shenanigans and new rules. There is one big catch though, your deck is built by drafting from randomly given cards. You will have to choose from the cards and Classes you’re dealt at the start.
This means that there are no optimal and super tryhard decks from you or your opponents. That implies that there is a lot of fun in deckbuilding, and facing random opponent decks, instead of playing with the same “trendy” decks that we usually see in Standard mode. That said, there are still power differences like we described in our Hearthstone Arena Tier List.
Even though this type of card game was only meant for player vs. player gameplay, the single-player campaigns (aka. Solo Adventures) are extremely fun. We didn’t think that they were interesting until we actually tried them. There are a lot of new cool mechanics, story-driven characters, and challenging opponents. While this Hearthstone beginner’s guide focuses more on the PvP aspect, playing single-player can be relaxing.
We have to acknowledge that there are huge disparities between the Adventures, meaning some of them are very well made, and some are a bit plain and boring. Here are the 7 best Hearthstone Solo Adventures that we find to be the most enjoyable. Try the free ones first, and if you like the idea, the paid ones, Tombs of Terror & Dalaran Heist, are definitely worth the money!
In this Hearthstone beginner’s guide, we discussed some fundamental mechanics of playing the game. As you learn more by playing, you will encounter a lot of new gimmicks, and tricks that are perhaps not apparent at this first glance. Nevertheless, Hearthstone is relatively beginner-friendly, especially if you play a card game of a similar type. Also, if you want to explore all the cards, there is a detailed Hearthstone Library you can check out.
As a beginner player, we definitely suggest you try Battlegrounds first since the barrier of entry doesn’t exist (you don’t need any cards in your collection). You can then move to try Solo Adventures and Arena, and when you have enough Chests from playing these mods, you can build your first decks for Standard. Finally, use this Hearthstone beginner’s guide as an overall navigation of what Hearthstone is about and what it has to offer, rather than a specific gameplay guide.
Photo Credits: Hearthstone (Blizzard Entertainment)