A standard deck is 30 cards, and you can pick each and every card that goes into your deck. If that seems a little daunting at first, Hearthstone will also give you recommendations to make sure your deck is balanced with both low- and high-level cards. I found that the more I played, the more I wanted to pick each card. As I became accustomed to how to play a specific class, certain cards became crucial to my overall strategy, and knowing they were in my deck gave me something to look out for.
It's also important to note that Hearthstone is a free-to-play game, with in-app purchases for extra card packs. If you want to get tons of cards right away, you can do that by buying card packs with real money, but you also have the option to slowly earn cards, making Hearthstone's freemium model surprisingly tolerable.
Perfecting your game
Each class plays differently, with specific strengths and weaknesses. The only way to learn how to play a class is by either practicing against AI opponents, or playing against real players. But it does you no good to simply play cards as soon as they are available. Hearthstone is as much about attacking as it is about saving specific cards for just the right situation.
As an example, there is one card for the Mage that deals four damage to all enemy minions. While you could play it as soon as it becomes available to you, it's better to wait until the enemy has several minions on the board to use the full potential of the card.
There is also math to be considered. Part of what makes Hearthstone so fun is figuring out what combination of cards to play -- and when -- in order to maximize your damage while defending your hero. For example, you could play a minion with a 2/2 (two damage and two defense), but you might have another card that gives a minion +2 to attack. This would mean your 2/2 now becomes a 4/2 possibly giving you the attack power to take out a pesky x/4 minion from your opponent. In other words, it pays to look at all your available cards to see if there is a combination that will work to your advantage.
Not for every iOS device
Hearthstone is iPad-only, and once you play, you'll understand why. The cards would simply be impossible to read on the smaller iPhone screen. But it's also memory intensive. I tried the game on the iPad Air and an iPad 2.
On the iPad 2 there is quite a bit of lag and the actions of touching and dragging a card don't seem to work every time. It's almost as if sometimes your touch just doesn't register. It's playable, but it's not ideal. But even on the iPad Air, during particularly intense battles with several cards, I noticed significant choppiness in the frame rate. To be fair, it's only when the action gets particularly intense, but it's something to look out for.
Hearthstone is a game that is easy to pick up and play, but is actually deep with tons of things to consider with every move. The tutorial will give you everything you need to start playing, but it's only when you start delving into the idiosyncrasies of each class that you start to realize just how much thought went into balancing the classes.
As a result, the game is enormously addictive, with tons of replay value. But while the game feels right at home on the iPad's touchscreen, it will push your device to its limits and starts to suffer on older iPads.
Still, even if you're put off by the idea of strategy card games, Hearthstone has an enormous amount of polish and is definitely worthy of being part of Blizzard's legacy of hit games.