Hearthstone has become my current obsession. I've been playing the game on a near-daily basis for the past couple months and will probably continue doing so for a long time.
It's definitely a love-hate relationship, though. Hearthstone manages to regularly piss me off. Many of the things I hate about the game are also what keep me coming back for more, though.
Short MatchesI've lost more Hearthstone matches than I could count. Matches are only 5-10 minutes long so it's a very efficient way to bruise my ego. Certain decks can wipe me out before I even scratch the enemy Hero.
Even if I do win, the joy is fleeting. Just moments after a hard-won victory, someone kills my buzz with a well-timed Unleash the Hounds or Defender of Argus.
The quick matches do make the losses hurt less, though. The time between knowing I'm screwed and then actually losing is a lot shorter than it is for, say, Dota 2. Defeat is swift and merciful, allowing me to move on to the next match. On the off-chance I run into someone who wants to prolong the match out of cruelty, there's always the "Concede" button.
I'm not going to pretend like I handle each loss like a calm, reasonable adult. If iPads were $10 apiece, I'd be breaking one over my knee every week. However, with every new losing streak, my frustration with the game has decreased. Defeats are too short and numerous to remember in detail, and it's tough to get too angry about something I forgot.
iPad VersionI played a fair amount of Hearthstone on PC during the beta but I honestly think I would've stopped playing if it wasn't for the iPad release.
PC gaming for me is always a dedicated activity. I'm putting the headphones on and play Battlefield 3 or Team Fortress 2 or whatever for the next hour. The game gets my full attention.
I rarely sit down and play a full hour of Hearthstone, though. The matches start to blend together if I spend too much time in the game. So, I play in ten-minute spurts throughout the day. Thanks to the iPad version, I can hop in and out of the game without even leaving the couch.
The tablet version of Hearthstone is in some ways a step down from the PC. The frame rate sucks at times and the touchscreen controls make certain actions more cumbersome than a mouse. The game doesn't lend itself to multi-tasking either. You have to sit through a loading screen if you bounce to another app and back.
Still, Hearthstone on iPad has a major advantage: poor competition. I've got over a hundred other games I could play on PC instead of Hearthstone. The iPad version of Hearthstone, however, is competing with Angry Birds and Facebook. That's a battle Hearthstone easily wins, time and time again.
LuckA lot of Hearthstone comes down to luck. Getting the right card at the right time can win you a match. Your success in an Arena run depends in part on what your randomized deck looks like.
There's also an element of chance with card's effects. For example, Knife Jugglers toss a knife at a random enemy every time you summon another minion. The match could turn out very differently for you if that knife takes out a weak enemy like an Elven Archer rather than the stronger Dust Devil next to it.
When I first started playing Hearthstone, I hated how much luck was involved in the game. After every loss, I cursed whatever deity presided over multiplayer card games.
The attitude changed once I started winning, though. At this point random chance helps me as often as it hurts me. I can't complain about luck when Deadly Shot comes up right after my opponent plays Deathwing.
If anything, the randomness of the game protects my ego. When I win, I act like I'm a tactical genius who won based on skill. When I lose, though, I can just chalk it up to bad card draws.
Murloc DeckEvery once in a while, I'll run into someone with a Murloc deck. A player with this deck has a very simple objective in mind: pull fish-people out of their ass until the other player quits or throws their iPad. Here's two Murlocs that charge. Now here's a Murloc that boosts their health. Now here's another one that boosts every Murlocs' health and damage. And a Murloc that summons a smaller Murloc.
Rather than discouraging this sort of deck, Blizzard actually rewards it. They give a Legendary card to any player sadistic enough to unlock every Murloc in the game. This Legendary, Old Murk-Eye, is another Murloc who gets more powerful if there are a lot of Murlocs on the board.
You might argue that there's no villain in a multiplayer game. You would be wrong. People with Murloc decks are the villain. I'm going to keep playing until I run into another player with this deck and pound them into submission. Mrghllghghllghg, you pricks.
Control DeckWhen I said I'd make a deck to beat the Murloc deck, what I actually meant was "find the Murloc deck on Google and make my own." It beat me so it's gotta be good, right?
Nope! As it turns out, the best way to find out how to beat a specific deck is to spend hours making it. Players with the strategy and cards to kick your ass will appear as though by magic.
Sure enough, as soon as I completed my murloc deck, I started running into players with decks that slice through my army of fish-dudes with ease. Take, for example, Control Druid decks. They keep my horde of low-health Murlocs at bay with taunting minions for the first few turns. After neutralizing my offense and building up their mana supply, they sic a huge Legendary minion like Ragnaros or Ysera on my ass.
You might argue that there's no villain in a multiplayer game. You would be wrong. People with control decks are the villain. It'll take a lot of card packs or arcane dust to make a Ragnaros or Ysera of my own but beating those other punks with pricy Control decks will be worth it.
ResearchHearthstone players have an absurd amount of information at their fingertips. Hundreds of deck ideas are just a Google search away. HearthstoneTopDeck and Hearthpwn let you know the latest decks devised by top players throughout the world.
This wealth of information makes it easy for newbies to jump into Hearthstone. You can become halfway competent in the span of an afternoon - without paying a cent on card packs. Plenty of sites can tell you how to assemble a deck from Basic cards and how to use it effectively in matches.
The extensive player resources are a double-edged sword, though. Sure, you can find out what the best hunter aggro deck is right now but so can everyone else. Everytime I end up making a deck modeled after one just featured on Hearthpwn, I'll end up running into players with the exact same cards. "Oh right, other people have the Internet, too." Alternately, I'll run into players who are all too familiar with the deck I'm running and know exactly how to counter it.
The situation causes me do even more research, going past the popular websites and combing player forums. I've turned into a Hearthstone hipster, trying to find a powerful deck before too many people know about it. I also find myself making twists on the usual decks solely to surprise the other player. Maybe that's as big of an advantage as having optimal cards? Maybe not, but this personal mission to stay one step ahead of the curve is enough to hold my interest.