Home Editorial From Magic to Hearthstone: 5 Differences You Should Know

Hearthstone is Blizzard’s new electronic card game a la DotP and it’s fun. It’s really fun. As in I can’t stop playing it. It’s remarkably similar to DotP with some slight but important differences so here’s a crash course list of stuff to remember.

Mana droughts don’t exist

Instead of Lands, you have Mana Crystals. At the start of every turn, you gain a new Mana Crystal and they all refill to be used again. Hearthstone has succeeded here where many nations have failed by providing sustainable, renewable energy (to a cap of 10 Mana Crystals).

Total Freedom… to punch things

We all know the drill with MTG combat. You send creatures to attack, your opponent will allocate blockers, rinse and repeat until they have no more creatures and you can punch them in the face. In Hearthstone, you can punch them or any of their minions in the face at any time*. This is easily what will catch out many players of MTG as we’re so used to needing a clean board before whittling away our opponent’s health and it’s a common mistake I’ve seen in the game so far (not least, of course, from myself).

Deciding whether or not it’s better to kill their minions or face-punch them into oblivion isn’t always easy, though. If you ignore your opponent’s three “ok but not great” dudes due to face mutilation and they throw down a 7/7 which gives all of their dudes +1/+1 promoting them to “oh shit, they can wipe me out now” then you’re going to get really annoyed with yourself and probably regret it for the rest of your natural life.

‘Tis but a Scratch!

All your minions have a set health value and any damage they take carries over to subsequent turns. Sounds simple right? Good, that means that you’ll at no point forget this and lose your 10/10 big bad to a 2/1 Murloc and be thoroughly confused as to what in the actual fuck just happened. Thankfully, there are ways and means of healing your minions back up.

I need a Hero

All of the playable Heroes in Hearthstone have an ability to help them out in a fight ranging from hurling a fire ball to summoning minions or even equipping your Hero with a weapon. For the love of everything you hold dear, don’t forget about your Hero Ability. The number of times that my Hero Ability has saved my ass is innumerable.

Just keep in mind that if you attack a minion with your Hero then the same rules of minion combat apply; you both deal damage to each other at the same time which caused one of my opponents to kill themselves for me. It was a nice gesture but the whole thing felt a little hollow.

There’s a Log

There’s a log of all cards played and action taken on the left hand side. This doesn’t make the transfer from MTG to Hearthstone difficult or anything like that, it’s just an awesome feature that should be highlighted.


Have I missed anything? Want to know more about Hearthstone? Let us know in the comments below!


*There are, of course, certain things that make this impossible. Most notably, the Taunt ability which forces you to only attack that minion.

25 replies to this post
  1. Do the creatures have a summoning sickness when you play them or do they all have haste if you get what I mean?

    • Yes, they have summoning sickness unless they have Charge (Hearthstone’s version of Haste). I’m glad that’s a similarity the games share or I’d forget to attack with my new guys!

  2. I haven’t played the Hearthstone, but I’ve seen it played on YouTube a number of times. It seems like a simpler version of MTG. I don’t like the Mana Crystal aspect, because building a deck and making sure you have the right level of land to spells is an aspect of MTG that I like. Also, I like the added difficulty of crafting multicolor decks.

    • When playing tabletop MTG, I always found the lands to mostly be a pain in the arse due to floods/droughts.

      Rather than saying that Hearthstone is a simpler version, I’d say it’s just less complex in the mechanics. It always bugged me in MTG that I couldn’t attack a creature directly or whittle a big card down over time. I’d play one game of MTG and feel exhausted due to the length of time it took but the only thing on my mind when I finish a game of Hearthstone is that I want to play more.

    • How to build multicolour in MTG:
      If 2 colours: Just don’t include any triple cost cards, you’ll be fine.
      If 3 colours: Include green. Done. If impossible, use Darksteel Ingot.
      If 4 or 5 colours: You’re a maniac.

      Speaking as someone with a fair bit of casual MTG experience, I’d definitely trade lands for mana crystals. Certainly you can minimise the odds of land screw or flood, but it’s always there. If you’ve played twenty matches of MTG, you lost at least one of them thanks to mana problems. Hearthstone merely sets the probability of that happening from small to zero.

      It is simpler (as in less complex to get into, try reading the comprehensive rule book of MTG), but not shallower. I feel like Blizzard doesn’t yet have the cold, faultless grid of formulations that Wizards has accumulated over the past years. Then again, it’s a PC only game, so it’s not as important.

    • I’ve always found the land/mana mechanic of MtG utterly stupid and infuriating, it’s the sole reason I’ve never been able to take the game seriously. Is it there just to give noobs a chance to win some games?

      Ok, thinking about it now, I guess the point of it is to allow weaker decks to get some wins, which facilitates the whole random card drug-dealing system without alienating people too badly. Fiendishly clever I guess, but fuck those guys.

      • No King, that’s not correct.

        Magic at a competitive level is largely about deck design, and a lot of the time the design of a deck is most importantly what’s called its “mana base”.

        It’s often obvious what the best spells in a given colour in a given format are. But how to get those out on time, consistently, depends on your land/mana sources, the mana base of your deck.

        Designing your mana base well is a complex excercise in risk/reward probability and intimately knowing how the deck will be played.

        Look at some of these tournament decklists from Modern:

        See the “Land” section? It’s not just a matter of “throw in x islands and plains and hope you draw them”.

        They are complex plots of odds ratios and necessity of say, weighing the importance of casting a certain double colour spell on turn 2 against the odds of drawing too many useless lands late game. So there are utility lands that don’t produce coloured mana, lands that reduce your life for the right colours, lands that produce mana only under certain conditions…

        Suffice to say it’s not a way for ‘noobs to win’ sometimes so much as it is another avenue for the better deck designers to get a huge edge over their competitors.

  3. One major difference that this article didn’t mention is there is no instant speed spells or creature ability that your opponent can use during your turn. It means your turn is truly your Turn unless the opponent have secrets (think yugioh’s trap cards).
    What does this mean? It means Buffs (enchants) is great! And you at least get 1 swing using that buffed creature without summoning sickness before your opponent can remove it!

  4. I can’t reply directly to messages, because I can’t log it. (WordPress hates me.)

    With good planning, you can minimize land problems. If you have a few landfall cards out, then having too much land isn’t a problem. Having too few is less of an issue, if you include enough smaller cards or cards that allow you to get land out of your deck. That said, bad luck can always hit you. You could start with nothing but 5+ mana cards in Hearthstone, even after your redraw, and then once you hit late game, get nothing but weak guys when it is too late.

    Being able to attack creatures, or your opponent, directly means EVERY creature has to be a combat creature, because it is far too easy to kill a creature in Hearthstone. Special abilities are far less important that basic stats. It again simplifies the game too much.

    Also, Gathering of the stones is right. The lack of instant speed spells means you can’t react to your opponent. This takes away another layer of strategy that MTG has.

    • Sitting there waiting for turn 10 to pass because no one wants to make a move, as is the case in the Izzet mirror that makes up 98% of DotP14’s duels? Are you really missing that?

      Where Hearthstone eliminates the possible BS from lands (let’s face it, you just build your deck hoping that you get the right amount each game), it adds other layers of strategy through the attacking mechanic. Sure you can kill what your opponent puts down, but doing so will put permanent damage onto your minions. Also, there’s things like Taunt and Stealth for a reason. The strategy is there, just not in the same ways.

      Ultimately, neither Hearthstone nor Magic are better or worse in any regards; They are DIFFERENT, which is great since no one would want a carbon copy of Magic with a tiny pool of Warcraft-related cards.

    • I think the difficulty of killing a creature in Hearthstone is dependent on so many factors that to say it’s outright easy to do is a tad overboard. Buffs, abilities, cleaver use of taunt and bad luck can all get in the way of taking something down. I was in a game where my opponent buffed a minion to have 16 health. I wasn’t running a deck that had sufficient removal to get rid of it so that was the end for me right there. I’d say that it’s easier to kill creatures in Hearthstone than it is in MTG but I wouldn’t say that’s an inherently bad thing.

  5. Toraka, Hearthstone doesn’t have the variety of cards that MTG has. There’s no arguing against that fact. You have creatures, sorcery spells, and “trap” cards. That’s it. There are no artifacts. No instants. No enchantments. No auras. And yes, I do think that is a major deficiency in the game. It removes a major level of strategy from the game.

    There is also no “graveyard” in Hearthstone, as every card is effectively exiled when played. Once a card is played, it’s gone for good. On the other hand, in Magic, there are entire decks build around recycling cards from your graveyard.

    Every creature in Hearthstone effectively has Vigilance. If your opponent doesn’t have a weapon and there’s no creature with Taunt, there is no reason not to attack, unlike in Magic where there are times when it is better not to attack, because you need the defense. Yet another level of strategy stripped from the game.

    There’s a limit to the number of minions you have on the board at a time, and it is a rather low limit.

    • Different games. Besides, how about this analogy?
      Let’s say that all of the pro Magic players live in Washington, complaining about how they don’t get etb untapped rainbow lands without a drawback, but the option to discard cards and/or sacrifice permanents when they feel like it. From there, they rule the land and do their do.

      Likewise, the casual Magic players live in Texas. Sure what goes on in Washington does concern them, but in the end, whether a pro has invented a deck which runs on 14 instead of 15 lands interests them about as much as what colour of tie Obama is wearing today.
      Am I getting my point across? Don’t feel like it… Anyhow, Hearthstone has less complexity depth AS OF NOW. That’s true. However, it’s made as a casual, easy to understand game. Like the Portal series of Magic, except less terrible.

    • When you look at Enchants, Artifacts and Auras, their effects are all part of the Spell card group in Hearthstone. Secrets are the Hearthstone equivalent of Instants with an added aspect of (potentially) foiling their plan if you know what Secret they potentially have. Considering that those MTG classifications are all gathered under the Hearthstone classification of ‘Spell’, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that MTG has a wider variety of cards because of that. I’d certainly say it’s simplified, though. If you really think that all the different labels for those cards in MTG adds an extra layer of strategy then that’s fine but I would urge you to try Hearthstone when it goes live so you can see the games aren’t that dissimilar.

      There are cards in Hearthstone that allow you to bring back a card that has been destroyed (granted, not many at the moment but it’s still in beta with a LOT of stuff to be added) along with the Death Rattle ability which does something when that creature dies. This means that, with some cards at least, you may not want to attack them just yet or you may need to prioritize them over attacking your opponent.

      You opponent can’t use their weapon when it isn’t their turn and attacking a creature with Taunt isn’t always preferable. If you only have weak creatures, for example, you can end up completely wiping your side of the board just to get rid of the Taunt creature which isn’t a great idea if you can’t replenish your forces. Certain creatures also gain bonuses if they are damaged or other minions die so it really isn’t in your best interest to take them out in that situation.

      I’ve only hit the minion limit in Hearthstone once so far and that was playing a deck designed to overwhelm the enemy with a shit-ton (technical term) of dudes that they couldn’t get rid of. I think I was two short of the limit, went to play the next few creatures of my deck and got told that I already had enough. I have to say, though, that if you get that many minions on your side of the table, you had better hope that your opponent doesn’t have a mass damage/removal card in their hand. The game isn’t about summoning as many minions as you can, it has more strategy than that at least!

  6. Tried Hearthstone in beta:
    it’s boring, very boring, boring beyond every boring clone of MTG
    I’ve strived for a month just to obtain a beta key.. and then came to know it’s a boring game just in two hours.
    I gave it more and more tries as to understand the compulsiveness to play HS as described in this topic.. the next day, and the day after and the day after again
    well.. it’s boring!
    let’s keep playing DotP!

      • It lacks depth: every hero has a few cards and the rest are in common; just few abilities (taunt, divine shield, battlecry) compared to the thousands in magic (I know, HS is much younger, but as a matter of fact), lack of action during your opponent’s turn), lack of a campaign (or poor single player, anyway) to name few.
        Moreover, when you play your first games, DotP makes you feel a hero (sort of), where HS makes you feel dumb and lead to some amount of frustration; when you play DotP and unlock a card, you can’t wait trying it, when you play HS and win, nothing happens (some times) except if you level up or complete a winning strike
        I stopped accumulating coins when I saw that the cards I bought were mostly useless for my favorite decks (and the other two less than favorite decks).
        I omitted the usual “just my 2c”! ^^

    • Thousands of abilities for cards can go either way, really. I remember playing tabletop MTG with some friends and had to Google was some of the text meant because it wasn’t easily explained. I know that it’s different in DotP because the computer works out the abilities automatically but does DotP have all the abilities in it yet? I used to love playing an Infect deck because so few people knew how Infect worked which was a giggle among friends but isn’t a lot of fun to play against.

      I thought HS did a good job of helping new players learn the game in the tutorial. DotP had tutorials which always seemed far too easy for my liking, it never really prepared you for playing against a real opponent.

      When you win in HS, you level up your Hero to unlock their basic card set and, at much later levels, their gold basic card set. You also earn gold for every 3 victories in normal play mode and can earn cards, gold and dust in the arena. You can also earn gold through your daily quests and by completing certain challenges.

      Did you know that you can disenchant your unwanted cards into dust and then craft that dust into cards that you DO want?

      Out of curiosity, why would you want a campaign in HS? Hell, why would you want to play by yourself against AI when the entire focus of the game is multiplayer?

      • I know the things you’re telling me, and I agree (partly) about the thousands of abilities.. but I found this feature mostly a plus, after all!
        I’d like a single player campaign just for a change of pace or to unlock basic cards without much frustration (match making can do only to a certain amount: it’s hard to play against those who play mainly with legendary and epic cards!).. just to add some depth.

        thanks for the confrontation (in the positive meaning.. forgive my english, I’m not a native english speaker)

    • You can unlock the basic cards playing against the AI, you just don’t earn XP as quickly.

      Always glad to talk to readers here but ‘conversation’ is probably the better word ;P

      • I ve double checked: sorry, “confrontation” seems to have only negative acceptions (in my language it’s different).. beg ur pardon! ^^

  7. I tried it too, and i didn’t like it, Maybe i’ve been a magic player for so long (4th Edition) i can’t appreciate what other TCG can bring to the table.
    But i found it lacking in the strategic dimension. But it is a recent Blizzard Game after all, not very complex nor competitive, aimed towards a very large audience of gamers including casual gamers, or beginning gamers. But it is very well polished, yet a bit childish i would say but it’s okay, just not for me :)

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