Returning to Hearthstone After 1 Year – I’m Staying! (For Now)
December 13, 2021 Andrew Cheng

Last week, Hearthstone’s latest expansion, Fractured in Alterac Valley, went live. I was a long-time Hearthstone player, but shortly after the new Demon Hunter class was introduced, I completely stopped playing the game – the meta at the time (and other factors) just didn’t feel fun to me anymore.

But after being away from Hearthstone for over a year, I’m happy to be back! While there are some aspects of the digital card game that still need some work, I’m really liking the revamped reward system and other changes. If you’ve been away from the game for a while now, I highly recommending jumping back in to experience the new mechanics.

Free Decks for New & Returning Players Are Strong (Most of Them)

This is an amazing new change to Hearthstone. Whether you’re a new or returning player – those who have not logged into the game for 120 days/four months – you can claim a free deck that is quite competitive, especially after some tweaks here and there.

On top of that, these free decks are also updated whenever an expansion is released, so they won’t be outdated once the meta shifts with every new update (to an extent). When I got back to Hearthstone, I claimed the “Complete the Ritual” Warlock deck, which takes advantage of the powerful The Demon Seed Questline card.

Now, it’s no exaggeration to say that this free Warlock deck is quite close to the “true” meta deck (Hand Warlock) it is based on. While it’s missing the Tamsin Roame Legendary card, it’s still a potent deck that can easily help you climb up the ranking system. In fact, I’ve gotten to the Platinum league (two leagues before Legend) with this deck alone.

However, do note that not all of the free decks are made equal. The “Sorcerer’s Gambit” Mage deck, for example, isn’t exactly a leading meta deck right now after the Questline card was nerfed. Granted, its playstyle may still be very fun to some folks, but don’t expect it to perform remarkably well once you’ve climbed the rank ladder high enough.

But if you don’t like the free deck anymore, you can just disenchant the cards in the deck for dust. You can then use said dust to craft another deck that’s to your liking. Really, I absolutely love this free deck system for new and returning players.

Much Better Reward System

Introduced in November 2020 alongside the Madness at the Darkmoon Faire expansion, the new Rewards Track system replaces the old daily quest mechanism. With the new system, daily (and weekly) quests now reward XP to level up the…well, Rewards Track.

Basically, it’s a battle pass system of sorts. The more you progress through the Rewards Track, the more rewards you get, and they’re generous. After playing a few games every other day, I already got a couple of packs, gold, and even a free random Legendary from the latest expansion – all without grinding for hours on end or purchasing the Tavern Pass.

It’s also neat that I can get a free hero skin if I manage to hit level 100; I’m confident I can reach this without committing too much time. After all, the Rewards Track only resets when the next expansion is released – that’s about four months’ time.

More Content to Experience

I was pleasantly surprised by the new modes that were introduced in Hearthstone – Mercenaries and Duels – since I stopped playing the digital card game, which can serve as a nice break in-between ladder climbs. Out of the two new additions, I played quite a bit of Mercenaries: a turn-based RPG-like game mode.

While I’m not too keen with the gameplay of Mercenaries, it does provide more content for players beyond the “regular” Hearthstone experience of going against other players with a constructed deck in ranked or casual mode. There’s also a new Solo Adventures mission (Book of Mercenaries) that I have yet to play through.

But It Needs a Visual Upgrade & Faster Animations

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a long-time Hearthstone player since the game was released, and yet, the interface and visuals of the game still remain largely the same. Compared to other digital card games like Legends of Runeterra, Hearthstone looks decidedly…well, archaic.

Beyond its ageing interface, one of the reasons I stopped playing Hearthstone was due to long animation times. Waiting for effects to resolve, for one, can take much too long. As a result, games feel unnecessarily lengthy, not to mention having less time to make decisions.

This is especially an issue on mobile, which is where I spent the most time on for the sake of convenience.

Nonetheless, I’m having an absolute ball in Hearthstone after being away from the game for so long. The best part is, I haven’t spent any of my accumulated dust or gold yet to craft a proper meta deck to climb the ladder, thanks to the free Warlock deck I claimed as a returning player.

Sure, I’m not a fan of Hearthstone’s archaic user interface, and it still feels a little frustrating waiting for lengthy animations to finish, but I am having fun in the game right now, which is all that matters…for now.