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.
In Part 1, I went over what a Magic: The Gathering player can expect coming over to Hex. In this part, I’ll be discussing what a Hearthstone player will encounter, and boy, is it ever going to be different.
Ok, the first, and most glaring of changes you’ll need to get used to is that you can and are at many times expected to play cards and activate abilities on your opponent’s turn. In Hearthstone this is limited to playing Secrets on your own turn and having them automatically do something when triggered on your opponent’s turn. In Hex, there are precious few cards that act like that. You will be expected to reserve some resources (mana) in order to play Quick Actions and pay for abilities to activate on your opponent’s turn.
This also means that players will need to pass Priority from player to player during both players’ turns. This can be incredibly frustrating to a Hearthstone player not used to this, but there are some shortcuts. If you want to skip everything to the Combat phase, you can hit F5. This will allow you to perform combat and then have a Second Main phase to play troops. If you want to skip to the End Phase, you can hit F8, and if you want to skip all priorities until the next turn, F10 is your friend. (If you ever find yourself accidentally skipping, hit F1 to stop any current priority passing.)
In Hearthstone resources are simple, you gain 1 per turn until you reach 10. You can sometimes accelerate this but at the end of the day this is one of the most reliable things to occur in Hearthstone. In Hex you need to seed your deck with Shards which you can play 1 per turn to give you your resources needed to play cards. Typical decks have just over one-third of the deck devoted to Shards. A Hearthstone deck is 40 cards. In Hex it's usually 60 cards with 24-25 of those being Shards.
Now this can lead to situations that Hearthstone players are unfamiliar with, resource flooding and resource screw, that is getting too many shards (and not getting cards you need to win) or getting too few (and missing drops because of it). Coming from Hearthstone, players tend to want the constant resource increase. It’s reliable, consistent, while at the same time can be unexciting. Hex’s resource system involves a level of randomness that can turn around games in ways Hearthstone is simply incapable of.
While the level of unpredictability in resources turns off a lot of Hearthstone players, I really urge you to look at the Hex cards themselves. You'll notice major difference between the two games is that there are far fewer cards with random effects in Hex. Hex cards have the reliability of doing exactly what you want when you want it. Hearthstone cards have lots of random effects on the more powerful ones. So basically Hearthstone puts the random in the cards, Hex puts the random in the shards.
Attacking and Blocking
Hearthstone allows you to choose which targets to attack with your minions. This is because of that whole ‘not doing anything when it's not your turn.’ Since your opponent gets to react to your attacks, you don't get to choose the target, every attack is directed at your opponent’s champion. Your opponent then has a chance to block your attacks however he sees fit. Now some troops have some sort of evasion, like Flight. Troops with Flight can only be blocked by other flyers or troops with Skyguard.
Just like Hearthstone when troops fight they (usually) inflict their Attack value upon each other's Defense value simultaneously. Unlike Hearthstone damage inflicted is fully healed when the turn ends. This is another one of those differences that's going to take a little bit of getting used to.
In Hearthstone you’re limited to two of any given card in your deck, and 30 cards. Hex requires 60 card deck so you can put up to four cards of the same name in. (PVE has a whole other deck building regiment that's explained in-game). You'll want to be paying attention to the thresholds on the cards you are putting into the deck you build, and make sure that you have the proper shards in your deck to fuel your chosen cards.
Hearthstone uses their soft currency to enter the gauntlet, where you build a deck based on choosing cards one at a time. Hex has more traditional TCG tournaments in the form of constructed, sealed, and draft. These cost Platinum, which is the hard (real-money) currency in Hex, to enter. This is part of the reason why the PVP portion of Hex is not touted as Free-to-Play.
Constructed tournaments are the cheapest to enter because you need to supply your own deck, and you play round after round against other people and their own decks made from their collections. Starting players should avoid this format as they will have an extremely limited collection of cards compared to most of the people playing this format.
Sealed format involves buying or bringing 6 unopened packs of cards from which you build a fourth card deck. You'll be playing this format versus other people who made decks with the same restrictions, but they of course have their own random pool of cards to build their deck from. This format involves a good knowledge of card combos and what cards are generally better than others, but it's a great way to build up your collection as you keep all the cards you open (unlike Hearthstone) and you can win packs of cards as prizes.
Finally the Draft format involves eight players each bringing three packs of cards to the tournament. They sit at a virtual table and each open the first pack. The players then choose a single card out of that pack and pass the rest of the cards to the left and receive cards from the player to their right. This helps you build a more focused deck as you generally will be picking cards that fit in your deck. After the first pack, the second pack goes around the opposite direction, so you shouldn’t be completely cut off from a shard you might be trying to force. The third pack passes to the left again, and in the end you will have drafted 51 cards (17 card packs times three). Again you will be making a 40 card deck, so you’re really just looking to get 22 to 24 “playable” cards and the rest of your deck being shards to fuel them. Like Sealed you keep every card you draft and can win packs as prizes for the tournament.
Stuff Not Covered
There is a LOT of mechanics here that I don’t cover, but these are explained very well in the game’s tutorial, so I won’t go over them here. I urge Hearthstone players to really sink their teeth into the tutorial to get a feel for the mechanical differences and then re-read this once they have played a few games if they have any lingering questions. Of course, you can always ask in-game in the chat questions you might have. Hex has a very friendly community that is happy to help out new players with extra cards and tips.
I hope these two articles help people coming to Hex from Magic or Hearthstone. If you see me in game (my name is DeckOfManyThings) feel free to say hi, or you can stop by the website Fiveshards.com where I write a monthly article alongside many pro Hex players with tips and strategies for deckbuilding and playing. See you in Entrath!