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Why Hearthstone is better than Magic the Gathering

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By alexander_hinkleyDate: Jan 06 2015 Views:

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Hearthstone has already made some big waves in the gaming community since it was released on multiple platforms earlier this year. According to Blizzard Entertainment, the game’s developer, Hearthstone surpassed 20 million active players back in September. That’s really impressive for a game not even a year old! Since Hearthstone utilizes a fantasy theme (it’s based on Warcraft after all), many players have compared it to Magic the Gathering. Magic is considered to be one of the most successful and popular collectible card games ever made but there are actually some solid reasons to think that Hearthstone is a better game overall. Here are several reasons Hearthstone is a better CCG than Magic the Gathering.

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Hearthstone is free to play

So let’s get the most obvious reason out of the way first. Hearthstone is free to play and that is awesome. Although you can buy packs via microtransactions at roughly $1.50 per pack of five cards, you don’t have to. You can play Hearthstone and unlock cards over time without ever spending a single penny on the game. That is a significant perk to the game because it enables more casual players to check it out without having to invest financially in a good deck.

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Magic the Gathering on the other hand is famous for being a money sink. You can’t play MtG for free unless someone gifts you some cards and you just use those with friends. Even Magic Online isn’t free. Not only do you have to spend money on cards, but also on events and tournaments. What’s legal to play in certain formats regularly changes as certain sets “rotate out” of legality thus forcing you to buy even more cards so your deck remains legal to play. The closest thing Magic has to being able to play for free is the yearly Duels of the Planeswalkers video game which costs $9.99 to download. After the initial download fee then you can play to your heart’s content.

There’s no mana screw in Hearthstone

I’ve been playing Magic the Gathering on and off for about fifteen years now and I can say without a doubt the most frustrating part of the game is being mana screwed. Sometimes you can’t draw a land to save your life and it’s simply not fun having a hand full of powerful cards that you can’t even play. Other times you get flooded where you really need to draw something useful and you just keep drawing lands over and over. One game during a Pro Tour Qualifier I literally drew eight lands in a row. Needless to say I lost. Losing when you get mana screwed makes the loss feel extremely undeserved and put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day.

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Hearthstone fixes this outdated game mechanic in a very straightforward way; each player simply generates one mana per turn up to a total of 10. So basically it is as if you drew and played a land each turn without actually having to do so. Viola! The issue of mana screw is solved.

This system of passive mana accumulation has other benefits other than just solving mana screw. Since you obviously no longer need lands, your deck is comprised of all playable cards. This means every card you draw is going to be something that you can use to do something (assuming you have the required resources at the time) and so there are many more options available to you throughout the game. For example, there will never come a time in Hearthstone when you and your opponent are both resorting to top decking late game and then you draw a land and have to pass the turn without doing anything.

You can also plan out your long-term strategy more effectively because you’ll know exactly when you will have enough mana to cast a spell and not resort to hoping to draw enough lands before that specific turn. If you have a five costing minion in your hand, you will definitely be able to play that on turn five. Or maybe you’ll want to play something costing two and something else costing three. Hearthstone isn’t just all about what you draw and when, but the actual choices you make in which cards to play and when. That is what a card game should be all about!

Opponents can’t cast things during your turn

The fact that opponents can’t cast spells or activate abilities during your turn is a point in Hearthstone’s favor because it allows you to more effectively plan out and execute different strategies. For example, in Magic the Gathering an opponent can put the kibosh on your plans with a well timed lightning bolt or kill spell. In Hearthstone, anything you plan to do during your turn is going to be carried out. This means that your opponent has to be able to predict your strategy and then respond to it accordingly during his or her turn with their own strategy.

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Hearthstone is much more tactical than Magic because of this. Magic seems to be more reliant on having certain cards in your hand at the exact moment you need them while Hearthstone is more about outsmarting and outplaying your opponent consistently throughout the match.

Because your opponent won’t be able to interrupt your strategy during your turn, you can give them literally all you’ve got. Then they have to overcome your strongest cards with their own. It’s kind of like baseball in the sense that a baseball team has to actually beat the other team; they can’t just get lucky and score one run early, then let time run out before there is no clock in baseball – you’ve gotta earn the outs.

As with any card game, of course there is some luck involved in what you draw but during your turn you will know exactly what you’re up against and can plan accordingly. I like that.

Counters aren’t a viable strategy in Hearthstone

Counters are, in my opinion, a stupid game mechanic. How is it possible that your six converted mana cost Wurmcoil Engine gets countered by a measly two mana costing spell? Or even worse, a Karn Liberated which costs seven to play getting Spell Pierced for just one mana? C’mon. That doesn’t seem to make sense and isn’t really fair if you think about it. Control decks are very popular in Magic the Gathering and you’d be hard pressed in finding a player who says they are even remotely fun to play against. They’re not.

That’s why I’m glad there’s no such thing as a counter deck in Hearthstone. In fact, counters pretty much don’t even exist. There’s a secret in Hearthstone called “Counterspell” but even that only counters the first spell your opponent casts during their turn and not one of your choosing so it can easily be avoided if your opponent successfully predicts that’s what your secret is.

As mentioned previously, you can’t cast spells during your opponents turn so the Counterspell secret has to be played during yours. They’ll know you have a secret on the table and might be able to deduce based on your hero and how much mana you spent on the secret as to what it is then play around it. That’s called skill and is just another example of how Hearthstone is about being able to predict what your opponent played rather than being completely surprised and blown out by something he or she does during your turn.

Damage doesn’t disappear from minions at the end of the turn

Another cool thing about Hearthstone is that when you damage a minion (aka a creature), the damage stays on that creature until it either dies or gets healed by something. In Magic, damage goes away at the end of the turn which doesn’t even really make sense from either an in-game story standpoint or a game mechanics standpoint. How would a 5/4 creature who just had its neck chomped by the jaws of a 3/3 beast suddenly be healed back to full health because you “passed the turn?”

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From a mechanics standpoint, it’s better to have damage stay on creatures as well because it allows players to make a tactical maneuver over time in order to take down a big threat. If you’re staring down an 8/8 in Hearthstone you can whittle away at it over the course of two or maybe three turns and get rid of him, keeping him at bay by summoning some creatures with Taunt in the meantime. In Magic, you can only deal with that 8/8 in a limited number of ways such as a kill spell, a bigger creature of your own, ganging up on it with a bunch of smaller creatures on the same turn, something with deathtouch, or some other spell that gets rid of it. The point is pretty much all of these things have to be done in the span of one turn. Dealing six damage to an 8/8 isn’t going to help you unless you can finish it off in that same turn. That’s silly.

Hearthstone actually rewards you for being able to deal that six damage. Damage doesn’t just disappear, it accumulates. That’s how it should be. Healing also works properly in Hearthstone. Why is a card in Magic the Gathering called “Healing Salve” if it prevents damage to a creature? Preventing damage is not healing it. That’s acting as a shield. In Hearthstone, a creature actually has to be damaged first for you to heal it.

There’s no graveyard in Hearthstone

Some veteran CCG players have complained about there being no graveyard / discard pile in Hearthstone but it’s actually a good thing. Decks that revolve around graveyard recurrence like Dredge and Unearth are simply too difficult to combat without cards specifically meant to stop them. For example, in Magic the Gathering you really need something like Tormod’s Crypt, Relic of Progenitus, or something similar. That’s why so many sideboards have a playset of at least one of those cards.

Unless you have something that can get rid of cards in graveyards then no matter what you do, stuff is just going to keep coming back. Killing your opponent’s creatures, making him discard cards, and milling him doesn’t actually hurt him. It might even help him (which is why lots of Dredge decks mill themselves). That isn’t a fair or a fun game. I shouldn’t have to build my deck a specific way just to make sure I don’t get blown out by a certain type of other deck.

While on the subject of graveyards and mill, mill is also a game mechanic thankfully not widely found in Hearthstone. Everybody hates playing mill decks. Either the deck isn’t good enough to beat you so the game is an unexciting free win or the deck is too good and mills you too fast for you to ever have a chance. Some people have tried to create mill decks in Hearthstone by combining a bunch of cards that make your opponent draw cards but obviously having your opponent draw a lot can easily backfire on you so it’s not anywhere near as strong or prevalent a strategy as in Magic. You can’t even get “decked” in Hearthstone. When you reach the end of your library you instead start taking damage that cumulatively increases each turn you would have to draw. That way even if you reach the end of your deck you still at least have a chance, like if you have vastly superior board position for example.

Hearthstone is easier to learn

Hearthstone is far easier to learn than Magic the Gathering which makes it much more inviting to new and casual players. Anybody can play Hearthstone. There are no phases of a turn that you have to learn and memorize. There’s no stack. There’s no priority. There’s no banned list. There’s not different formats with different card legalities. You don’t need to read paragraphs of rulings about certain cards online to know how they work or interact with each other.

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Even as simple as Hearthstone is, it’s still played at the highest levels of competitive play. The official Hearthstone World Championship, for example, has a first place prize of $100,000 to the winner. It’s one of those games that is easy to learn and tough to master.

Of course Hearthstone is new while Magic the Gathering is going on 22 years old so Hearthstone will inevitably become more complex as time goes on but even the base rule structure of Magic is simply off-putting and overwhelming to new players whereas Hearthstone is inviting.

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