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Should you be playing Hearthstone, if you're playing WoW?

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft officially launched last week -- but players have been enjoying the game in open beta for months. A highly interactive digital version of collectible card games, Hearthstone pits you against the computer and later, other players in battles of wits that test your ability to build cunning combos and clever gambits that have your hero ultimately come out on top. Players can build custom decks of 30 cards, and earn gold by completing quests, using the gold to purchase more cards to construct even more devastating decks. Or, if you're so inclined, you can drop cash at the shop and purchase your deck that way.

That said, it's an addictive and pretty fun game, all things considered. But if you're playing World of Warcraft, is Hearthstone something you should also be playing? From a story and lore standpoint, absolutely not -- you're not missing anything at all. There's no story built around Hearthstone, just cards and careful moves. The Warcraft tie-in refers only to the heroes chosen to represent the different class decks, nothing more. Yet at the same time, it might be worth taking a peek at the game, if you're a WoW player.

The number one most obvious, immediate reason you should be picking up Hearthstone is because you can get an in-game mount for World of Warcraft out of the thing. And it's the easiest mount to get, promotions-wise -- it doesn't cost a dime. Hearthstone is absolutely free to play, and you don't need to purchase decks with your hard-earned cash to beat other players. All you have to do is download the game, play through the tutorial, and you're off and running. You can continue using the mage deck you get at the initial start of the game, or you can defeat any of the other heroes available to unlock their decks for use.

It doesn't cost a thing, either way. Does that mean it's easy to get? No -- absolutely not. You're going to have to play against other players, and the difficulty of that feat depends entirely upon the skill of the opponent you're facing. However, Hearthstone's matchmaking system does its best to pit you against people of an equal skill level. You're not apt to go up against a tournament winning player that's been flipping cards around since closed beta began.

Really, the only investment for the mount is time, and patience. You won't be slapping players down the second you step into play mode. You're probably going to gather quite a few losses under your belt before you get the three required wins. You won't be able to blindly play cards without looking at them -- you'll want to learn what the cards do, and how best to play them both against your opponent, and with each other. Certain cards buff your deck, certain cards will rip your opponent's minions apart. It's all a matter of the hand you're dealt.

So a mount is all well and good, and a strong enough reason to play, if you're into mount collecting in WoW. Once that mount is obtained, you've gotten the single thing that will affect your WoW-playing experience. The rest of the game has absolutely nothing to do with WoW at all, and you can feel free to shelve it at that point and never play it again. However ... it might be worth it to stick around a while longer, and play a few more rounds.

Hearthstone isn't WoW. It's not an MMO, it's a card game. That said, it's a pretty good card game, especially for the beginner. I went into beta absolutely blind, never having played Hearthstone's style of card-based combat before, and it was pretty easy to pick up, all things considered. But it never really felt like an irritating struggle until I was trying to get those three wins for that mount -- at which point, every loss felt incredibly frustrating, because all I wanted was that Hearthsteed.

If you take the Hearthsteed out of the equation and simply play for the sake of playing, Hearthstone is ridiculously fun. It's not WoW. It's got nothing to do with WoW, other than the characters on the cards you play. But it's a pretty fun, free, and entertaining diversion from WoW, especially now that we're all sitting on our hands waiting for the next expansion to come out. Should you play Hearthstone, if you're playing WoW? No -- you absolutely don't need to be doing so. But it's an excellent Blizzard title that won't cost you a thing to play -- and if you enjoy Blizzard's games, you might want to give this one a shot.

Filed under: Hearthstone Insider

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