Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft's long beta is now over. The game has officially launched with a new patch that adds multiple in-game rewards.
While playing Hearthstone, you can now earn alternate backs for your cards. The criteria varies for each card back. For example, one requires you to hit Legendary in Ranked mode while another is given out to anyone who simply plays in a given season. These backs will change with each season to give you added incentive to keep playing.
Very devoted Hearthstone players can also pursue Golden Heroes. After you win 500 ranked matches with a given hero character, their artwork will have a new golden border as well as special animations. You won't get credit for wins you racked up before today's patch went live, sadly. If you get all of the Golden Cards and you go second in a match, your bonus Coin will be gold as well.
If you're a World of Warcraft player, you'll be pleased to know that you can now earn a new mount through Hearthstone. The Hearthsteed is a Pegasus-like steed with a blue glow for Alliance players and a red glow for Horde players. In order to unlock the Hearthsteed for WoW, all you need to do is to win three games in Hearthstone's Play or Arena mode.
The new patch makes several big tweaks to Hearthstone's gameplay. For starters, players can now connect to regions other than the one specified on your Battle.net account. If you're disconnected from a match, you'll have 60 seconds to rejoin. Expert bots should now present more of a challenge. You can read the full patch notes at the Hearthstone website.
Hearthstone allows you to build decks of ability, weapon and character cards and face off against A.I. and human opponents. The game's closed beta began in August and transitioned to an open beta in January. It's free to download and play. Players have the option of spending real-world money on booster packs and Arena mode passes, but both things can also be purchased with gold earned through gameplay. You can find out more about the gameplay by checking out my beta preview.
Blizzard has also revealed a cross-promotion between Hearthstone and Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls. Gamers who buy Reaper will get a bonus card pack for Hearthstone. They'll get two if they spring for the Collector's Edition. Card packs are pretty cheap so it's not worthwhile to buy Reaper just for the bonus but still, it's a nice freebie for someone who plays both games.
Hearthstone is also in development for iOS, Android, and Windows tablets. Those versions are currently undated. However, Blizzard recently showed off the iPad edition at a press event so that version's probably not far off.