Round one: fight!

Hearthstone vs. MTGA – Part 1: Gameplay

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War of a Multiverse versus a Tavern. (Image credit: Wizards of the Coast)

MTGA and Hearthstone are the two mighty giants towering over the digital card game genre. One comes with the massive legacy of the world’s most popular trading card game, and the other is a perfectly polished digital experience that changed the way we think about card games. So, here comes the question: which one is better? Let’s examine the core gameplay and find out!

It’s no small secret that MTGA and Hearthstone share a lot. Besides the technicalities (they are of the same genre, developed on the same game engine, etc.) they have had multiple exchanges of concepts and ideas throughout the years.

For starters, Hearthstone was heavily inspired by paper Magic and was its digital answer of sorts. A few years later (and a lot of money earned selling digital packs), Wizards of the Coast established a team to make a new, flashy and snappy official digital Magic game targeting Hearthstone players. Thus the battle began. In this first installment, we’ll compare the gameplay experience of the two and see which game is superior.

Mana

Both games use the concept of mana – a magical resource used to cast spells and summon creatures. However, they have two very different approaches. In Magic, you get mana from special cards that take slots in your deck. In Hearthstone, you’re just given a shard of mana every turn until you get 10, making sure you always have mana to use.

Hearthstone’s approach is definitely more “modern” in terms of design, but Magic, though a bit antiquated, presents a very interesting dimension to the game that really affects the way people think about the cards. That being said, lands could be clunky, depend on luck, and sometimes can fetch abused prices, making them a hard sell.

Winner: Hearthstone

Depth of strategy

Again, the two use similar concepts, core philosophies, and even archetypes. Both games have fast decks that are all about direct attacks, slower control-oriented and interesting combo decks relying on very specific strategies to win.

That being said, Magic has more rules, more interaction and certainly more cards (the numbers are not even remotely close!), making sure it’s definitely the deeper game.

Winner: Magic

Casual play

Magic has bot matches, friendly drafts, and constructed play. They also often have special events giving players the opportunities to learn new things and try out decks for free.

Hearthstone, on the other hand, has the equivalent of all of these, but in a much more dynamic fashion with the weekly Tavern Brawl format, flipping the game rules on their head and always experimenting. Tavern Brawls are also free to play, so casual players looking for some fun have an incentive to log in every week and get some cool games going.

Winner: Hearthstone

Competitive play

That’s the big one. Literally! Both games are huge esports sporting sizable prize pools spread across events all over the world. Both games have pro players who play full-time and make a living and killing off them.

That being said, Blizzard is definitely the more flexible company in terms of prizes, tournaments and formats, which is not always a good thing if your livelihood depends on those tournaments.

Blizzard knows how to make entertaining esports, though (Video credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Magic has a decade-old tournament system with Hall of Fame and, while also changing quite a bit, is the more respectable series, just because it’s been running for so long.

Winner: Magic

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Whoa, looks like we’ve got a tie! Tune in next time when we’ll compare deck-building and talk metage!

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