It’s been announced that Magic will finally go F2P with a model that seems similar to Hearthstone. I’m just surprised that it took them so long to make the move and that they let Blizzard get ahead of them in the matter.

In another life, I used to play a lot of Magic: The Gathering Online. I say in another life as I got rid of all my stuff a long time ago out of frustration of not being able to catch up with the game. Then came Hearthstone that I recently picked up and I must admit this is exactly what I was hoping from Magic.

Of course it’s play-to-win

That’s the nature of the game. Even Hearthstone is like that. There are some nice decks I’d like to build but short of buying tons of packs of cards I won’t be playing them anytime soon.

In Magic I had to settle for solid extended format decks just to have a chance to win from time to time. An old school Buried Alive deck and a classic black control one. Oh I was winning yes but it meant that I would never get a chance to play with new cards and after some time of playing over and over the same decks it gets boring (and of course increasingly difficult to find opponents as the format I was playing wasn’t popular). I just didn’t want to put a lot of money to build new decks with recent cards.

Drafting tournaments

Drafting tournaments were of course a “solution” to my problem. I could get on the same playing field as everyone else and enjoy it … for very few games. The thing is I sucked at it and each time I had to pull money from my wallet to have just a few minutes of “fair fun”. Winning a few cards really didn’t help much my case and I could never get enough tickets to play again in a tournament for free.

So here comes Hearthstone fixing this problem. Playing in the Arena is my favorite way to play as I get to build new decks I would never build otherwise and it doesn’t matter if you have put $500 or $0 in the game. The best thing? So far I only paid for the Naxxramas adventures (that I have yet to complete) and haven’t put a single dime more in the game so far and have no problem playing in the Arena about once a week (sometimes more).

The daily challenges and 3-wins features giving you gold are really interesting mechanics when you only play a few minutes each week. With a basic deck I can easily complete the challenges and then go back to the Arena I so much enjoy. With this simple cycle Hearthstone fixed everything I hated with Magic.

Hearthstone will suffer the same problems as Magic … in ranked mode

And possibly casual mode too which might become a problem to get access to the Arena. As they keep adding cards it might become increasingly difficult to have a decent basic deck that does well without spending money. I don’t care about ranked mode but if the casual mode becomes an annoyance then I’ll be gone in no time.

The difference with Magic however is that Hearthstone can boost/nerf cards whenever they need to while Magic is stuck with their mistakes because of the physical cards (do people still buy those anyway?).

Another way they can fix balance issues in a reasonable way is to release additional adventures rewarding players with decent cards that can keep basic decks competitive. If they stick to release only one adventure a year it’s a reasonable price if you play Hearthstone on a regular basis without putting any other money on the game.

A great game when you don’t have anything else to play

Hearthstone really is a nice game to play when nothing else is interesting you. I mean if you’re a casual player like me you can easily never put a cent on the game and still have fun. Something you couldn’t do with Magic.

Will I go back to Magic once the F2P version is released? Oh I’ll surely try it out of curiosity but I’m just way behind with the new mechanics and I stopped caring. At some point it just gets too confusing and you have to completely rethink how you play the game. Some might enjoy that the game keeps fresh this way but I don’t.

As Hearthstone release more cards it will suffer from the same problem but for now I’m keeping up. If I ever stop playing for some time and then a bunch of new mechanics are added it’s most likely I won’t return however. What I found in Hearthstone is a fun casual experience I never really experienced while playing Magic and that’s how I like it. Let’s see if they will screw this up …