I hate Warcraft. I have since I first saw my friend playing Warcraft 2 at his house back when I was a teenager. My disdain for the series continued when I tried to play Warcraft 3 and, of course, when World of Warcraft took the world by storm in 2004. Yet, here I am roughly a week into the closed beta of Hearthstone and I’m having a great time. Sure, I find myself annoyed as I’ve always been with the Warcraft style of humor. I cringe every time I hear a Murloc’s arblgarbl or “Mind if I roll need?!” whenever I play a Loot Hoarder card, but I’m still addicted to the game.
It might help that I’ve always wanted to play a CCG, but found myself far too intimidated by all the complexity. My first encounter with Magic: the Gathering was quite a long time ago. I was probably around 10 years old when a friend of mine showed me his cards back in the 90’s. I honestly had no idea what they were and I couldn’t really make sense of the thing. I just never got into those games. It wasn’t until SOE launched a digital card game tie-in for Star Wars Galaxies that I gave this whole thing a shot. I enjoyed the SWG TCG, but it wasn’t a massive hook for me, simply a fun distraction.
Hearthstone is different, though. I think Blizzard may be onto something with Hearthstone in the same way as with World of Warcraft back in 2004. Card games are super popular, but they still occupy a niche space. The World of Warcraft TCG did spectacularly for Blizzard, but I think Hearthstone will have even greater impact for the developer. Hearthstone is a lot easier to grasp for card game neophytes like myself and yet it’s incredibly easy to appreciate the nuance, depth, and complexity the game offers without feeling intimidated. It’s so well polished and intuitive that someone who can’t stand Warcraft is now finding himself losing hours each night trying to push through the game’s ranked tiers.
I’m starting to pick up the lingo now, too. I know what “weenie decks” are and what a “mana curve” is, for example. I’m even putting together my own goofy gimmick decks at this point just for kicks. I have a Warlock deck that consists almost entirely of Divine Shield cards and Blood Knights that exploit them. It rarely works out, but it’s amusing as hell when it does. If you told me I’d be talking about putting serious time into developing efficient decks in a Warcraft card game a couple of years ago, I’d have told you that you were out of your mind.
Many of my friends, who similarly have little to no experience with card games, are also engrossed with Hearthstone. Heck, we make fun of one of my friends for never sticking with a game for more than a day or two and he’s doing battle right now as I write this. Love or hate Warcraft, I feel Blizzard may be doing for card games what World of Warcraft did for MMOs in terms of crossing over to a more mainstream audience. WoW did a couple of things that irked longtime MMO fans in the process and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same is true for Hearthstone and longtime TCG players, but if Hearthstone dilutes the TCG experience any, I certainly can’t tell.
I’ll be at BlizzCon later this week, which is a weird place to be for someone that can’t stand Warcraft, yet I find myself excited to learn what Blizzard has to say (or show!) on Hearthstone. Until then, I’ll see you in game.
Is Hearthstone your first CCG? What is it about the game that has you hooked? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB