How to play Hearthstone

Play your cards right

Do you love Hearthstone? Because we here at TechRadar Towers love us a few hands of Heroes of Warcraft. From its earliest incarnations to the many updates and overhauls, the uber-popular collectible card game (CCG) has seen as many rebirths as the MMO that inspired yet - so if can be a little intimidating for the uninitiated, or those that have been away for so long it seems like a brand new game.

But you're in luck, as TechRadar has compiled the very best tips, tricks and tactics that will help up your card-carrying game and start gaining victories like a boss. So sit back, grab a mug of ale from the inn and let us take you on a trip into the world of CCG goodness.

Pick your Starting Hand

How to play Hearthstone

When you start a match, you'll be given a three-card starting hand. This is selected at random from the deck you've chosen (if you're playing a ranked match or alone in Adventures this could be from your own customised decks) or from a premade one in the Arena so there's no real way to influence which ones you'll get.

As a result, these cards might not be to your liking (for instance, many of them might have a high mana cost, making them ineffective for a number of turns), but don't lose heart - you can actually swap any or all of them out for another set of random cards. This might sound counter-intuitive but you can choose to keep one or more of the cards, so in a way you have a better chance or scoring a stronger opening hand to play with.

Get your mana spread right

How to play Hearthstone

If you're new to the world of CCGs, all those elements on screen might seem a little overwhelming, but there's one element you need to get to grips with first: mana. Mana equals in-game resources in Hearthstone and effectively represents how many cards you can use each turn.

And while which cards you get dealt is essentially random, choosing cards that have the right 'costs' can help you play a better game regardless of what order they come in. So make sure you mostly build a deck that contains low to medium cost cards. It also pays to remember that your mana goes up by one with each new turn.

Choose cards that work well with your Hero and others

How to play Hearthstone

Much like keeping mana costs in mind, choosing cards that work well together is a key factor to consider before you even step into your first match. The buzz word here is synergy - for instance, if you're playing with a Mage, you'll notice most of your minions suck, but by selecting the right number of spells you can increase the stats of these cards. More powerful creatures such as an Archmage can also buff their own credentials and make serious waves against your opponents.

Some cards work well with others, enabling you to stack attacks together should they be dealt into your hand so start planning for future tactics. Finding the right balance of class specific cards is really important here - don't be afraid to try different combos out.

Learn to use card positions

How to play Hearthstone

Much like every other CCG out there, Hearthstone matches are all about cards being played against those of your opponent, much like forces on a battlefield. So when you play a card, your opponent will usually play a card in front of it to act as block between you and the Hero. Since the whole point of the game is reduce the health of your opponent's Hero card to zero, such blocks are the bread and butter of Hearthstone play.

A great beginner tactic is to avoid bunching your cards together and spread them out, forcing your opponent to do the same. Also use that blocking in reverse by placing them in front of cards that apply higher damage but hold weaker health.

Learn the ways of Taunt

How to play Hearthstone

If you're a new player, Taunt can be one of the best ways to get into a few matches with a little extra protection. Taunt, for the uninitiated, is a special ability that certain minions can use that effectively turns them into public enemy number one (in other words, your opponent will more than likely try to attack them outright first).

This is a great way to either direct your opponent away from cards that have only been played and will make all the difference in the next round or as a means of wasting your opponent's turn and their current mana resources.

Think like a chessmaster and plan ahead

How to play Hearthstone

Since this is a CCG, each game works in rounds where each player takes a turn, makes their moves, then ends the turn so their opponent can do the same. It's very much a reactive experience as a beginner, with each player changing tactics to suit the cards played by their foe. However, just playing that way will keep your games flat and boring. It's all about planning a turn or two ahead.

Most cards, and we mean pretty much all bar a handful, can only be used in the turn after the one that's chosen from your hand, so just because you have the mana to bring a big card into the mix doesn't mean you can play with it yet. So use cards with Taunt and your Hero Power to cover their deployment.

Hero Powers make all the difference

How to play Hearthstone

Each of the Heroes in Hearthstone come with a special, unique ability that reflects the playstyle and cards that relate to that Hero. For instance, Rogues such as Valeera can equip daggers that can be used to take out enemy minions and help readdress the state of the battlefield.

But Hero Powers aren't just for attack. Each of the nine classes of Hero in Hearthstone rely on different styles, which affects the kind of Hero Power they possess. Take Malfurian - this Druid character offers an experience that's more geared towards defence so his ability offers additional protection. So try out each of the nine Hero types and see which one works for you - that's the basis from which you start building decks.

Building your first deck

How to play Hearthstone

Building your deck is the lifeblood of Hearthstone, and it will influence how you fare in both Adventures and the Arena, but for a new player the idea of choosing the right set of cards can be the most intimidating prospect. However, it's actually one of the most fun and uplifting tasks you can undertake in your road to Hearthstone glory.

First choose your Hero, then start picking low level cards that don't cost a lot of dust to create (dust is related to crafting, but we'll get to that in the intermediate section). Be smart and use a mixture of class cards (which only work with certain classes) and neutral cards (which work with any). And don't worry - every player started here, and the more you play through Adventures you'll unlock more cards.

Unlock more cards in solo play

How to play Hearthstone

Watch a Twitch steam of a Hearthstone match or catch a few videos on YouTube and it's easy to assume Blizzard's CCG is all about taking matches online with competitive play. Okay, it's mostly about that, but did you know Hearthstone comes with its own ever-changing set of solo adventures?

Adventures are good for two things - a) learning the ways of the game by testing your mettle and your deck against an AI opponent, and b) earning new cards to bolster said deck. A number of the Adventures that were available in the early days of Hearthstone have been patched out (much like World of Warcraft itself), but there's still plenty to try out including Curse of Naxxramas, Blackrock Mountain, League of Explorers and One Night in Karazhan.

Learn from the masters

How to play Hearthstone

There's a reason Hearthstone is consistently in the top five most watched games on Twitch - it makes for some of the best viewing. Not only do most, if not all, of the best professional players tend to stream daily or a few times a week (giving you an insight into how a player plans and executes strategies at that high a level), but so do most of the players in the community.

It's here you can do some homework and watch a game that entertains you. So take the time to browse the streams and start picking out plays and little tricks other players use. What cards do they use? How do they use a poor hand? When do they use their Hero Powers? Some things won't work for you, but seeing how the best and the brightest turn the tide of a match with only a few cards is a brilliant way to get inspired to raise your own game.