Hex: Shards of Fate has recently left its beta status behind and launched a major feature update. Garnering a lot of press in the meantime has led to a lot of new players coming over from Hearthstone and Magic: the Gathering to see what this “new” kid on the block has to offer. I say “new” in quotes because Hex is over two and a half years old since the Kickstarter, but slow going, and a lawsuit from Wizards of the Coast have slowed things down.
The lawsuit is over, and with it came a license from WotC for Hex to use many of Magic’s mechanics. Of Hearthstone and Magic, Hex is closer to MtG than the former in terms of turn structure and how cards and players interact with one another, so I’ll cover coming to Hex from MtG first, with Hearthstone coming in a later article.
In Magic, players can play a single land in a turn, and that land is (usually) used to generate a color of mana that is then used to cast spells. Hex works slightly similarly, but also radically differently and if you don’t know the differences a lot of things will be very confusing for you for a while. In Hex you play Shards, which (again, usually) carry with them three things: Temporary and Permanent Resources, a Threshold, and a Charge. Coming from Magic, assume the Resources are just like colorless mana. Temp Resources are used to cast (actually play) any card from your hand or pay for abilities and you gain Temp Resources equal to the amount of Permanent Resources you have at the start of your turn.
Instead of colors, Hex has thresholds. There are five of these (Blood, Diamond, Ruby, Sapphire and Wild). Cards have a play cost as a number, and that’s how many resources they cost to bring in, and (usually) a threshold as well, which is how many of a threshold you will have needed to achieved before you can play that card. Playing cards do not “spend” threshold. This is the biggest switcheroo from Magic.
Example: In Magic if you have 3 cards that cost 1 black mana, and you currently have in play two mountains and play 1 swamp that turn, you can only cast ONE of the three cards in your hand. In Hex, if you have 3 cards that cost 1 and require 1 Blood threshold, and you currently have [2/2] resources and two Ruby threshold and play a Blood shard, you will gain [1/1] resources and 1 Blood threshold, which is enough to play all three cards in your hand, since the Blood doesn’t go away after you play the first card!
You’ll notice that I neglected to talk about the third thing a Shard provides: charges. Charges fuel Champion powers, which are abilities you choose when you choose your champion, basically the character you are dueling with in Hex. In PVP there is a list of standard champions you can pick from, and you must choose one to make a deck. In PVE your champion is based on your Class and influenced by your Race. Champions have varying starting health totals, anywhere from 14 to 26, and well as varying starting hand-size in PVE.
The Champion power is a power you can use in either of your Main Phases and not on a chain (or stack in Magic terminology). You will also have to meet the threshold requirement for your Champion power, so all decks usually center around champions that are synced with the shards they are including in their deck. Champion powers run the gamut of game effects, from giving all your in-play troops (what Hex calls creatures) +1/+1 for the rest of the game, to giving a specific troop -1/-1, to drawing a card, to putting all your opponent’s troops back into their hand (on your turn)! Each one costs a different amount of charges and you can get a tooltip of your opponent’s champion power just by hovering over their button.
In Magic, you can play many cards only on your Main phases and not on the chain. In Hex this is called “Basic speed”, and finds its way onto abilities as well. This allows them to balance powerful cards and abilities by preventing you from reacting with them after your opponent does something, or by ever playing them on your opponent’s turn. Champion powers all run at Basic speed, and actions (akin to Magic’s spells) are either Basic Actions or Quick Actions. Quick cards being allowed to be played at any time, including in reaction to things already on the chain.
Changes are Permanent for the Game
Unless a change to a card says “until...” then whatever it’s doing is going to be permanent to the card for the rest of the game. There are no Enchantments attached to creatures giving stat boosts. The troops just get the stat boost right on their card, and it stays with them no matter what game zone then end up in: the crypt (graveyard), back in your hand, back in your deck, or the void (out of play). If an effect takes a troop’s Defense to 0 or below, he’s killed off, just like in Magic, but if that change was permanent, then if you bring them out of the crypt and replay them, they will instantly die again, as their Defense is still 0.