Comparing Hearthstone to Magic: The Gathering Is Unfair

Magic: The Gathering has a twenty year head start. Of course Hearthstone is not going to be as complex.

It gets my goat when people start aggressively comparing Hearthstone to Magic. Most of their complaints focus on comparing the complexity of the two games. What annoys me further is that a lot of these complaints come from people who haven't even played their heroes to level ten; they're judging the complexity and depth of Hearthstone when they do not even have a complete basic set of cards for a single hero.

First of all, Magic has a twenty year head start on Hearthstone. 1993. That was the year that Magic was first released.

Secondly, back in 1993 when it had only a single set of cards under its belt, Magic wasn't the complex and deep game it is today.

Today, Magic has 10000 cards. It has a 200 page errata sheet detailing a plethora of interactions between different cards. At this moment, Hearthstone has 381 cards, and it has no errata. Magic has history. Hearthstone is a newborn; it will grow in size and complexity, but that will be a function of time and success.

I strongly believe the disparagements of Hearthstone's depth are unfounded, mostly made by people who have written off the game before they have even tried to build a collection of cards with which to experiment.

Take the Priest hero, for instance. I have three Priest decks, and each of them play very differently from each other.

I have a defensive deck, meant to keep hero and minions healed, as well as keeping the opposing minions cleared. It's my slow and steady wins the race deck.

I have an offensive deck, revolving around Shadowform. It's a race to the finish line. I call it my Vin Diesel deck. It's fast and furious.

And then there is my specialty deck. This deck has one purpose. To pull cards into my hand as often as possible, so that I have the tools when I need them to perform a massive killing blow. When things work out, and they often do, this deck can do 30+ damage in one turn.

Although I use the Priest as an example, every class has similar versatility, multiple strategies on which to construct decks. That is depth of gameplay; and this game is only an infant. Its potential is there for anyone who has spent time with the game. You look at the game now, but Hearthstone will be so much more a year from now, or three years from now.

They're both fun games to play. Magic has the social aspect going for it. Hearthstone has speed of gameplay. One has matured over two decades. The other has a promising future.

Comparisons are inevitable. If you are going to compare the two games, make sure you've spent the time to get a couple Hearthstone heroes to level 20 (or higher.) Spend time constructing multiple decks for a single hero. You can't play Hearthstone for three hours and then expect to have any idea what variety the game offers to those who've been exploring the game for many weeks.

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Just a dude who likes to write about games, comic books, television, and film.

Published Nov. 4th 2013
  • lolteron
    Sorry but it does not matter if MTG has a headstart or not. Hearthstone is competing with MTG NOW, not MTG 20+ years ago.

    Same With MMOs and WOW. New MMOs compete vs current WOW, not against WOW from 2004/5

    HS IS shallow. That's a fact.
  • wortwelt
    I play M:tG since 1996, and at least have a Hearthstone Character on lvl 21, and I do agree with your basic thesis. I like both games, and the points you make in favor of eacht game are good points.
    I wouldn't say that the comprehensive rules you linked to are an "errata sheet". They're just the exact rules for a 20 year old game with printed cards that can't be changed by patches. Naturally, over the course of the years, the rules were streamlined and updated, but that's not "errata". There were once functional errata of some overpowered cards, but those have since been reverted.

    Comparison is fine, but evaluation on whatever standard is not. If people judge Hearthstone to be strategically shallow in comparison to M:tG, they value strategical depth very highly. Fair enough. But that doesn't make Hearthstone a bad game, 1. because of M:tG's 20 year history (It's like saying a 20 year old is more skilled at things compared to a 1 year old), and because 2. strategic depth doesn't by itself make a game good or enjoyable. I really don't know where that comes from.

    I have a lot of fun playing Hearthstone, and I don't see it boring me anytime soon.
  • Poetic Stanziel
    Featured Contributor
    Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I'm not trying to disparage Magic. It's a great game. But when Magic people disparage Hearthstone, after so obviously not giving it a shot, that just bugs the heck out of me.

    After giving it a fair shake if they still don't like it, then fine. At least at that point they've developed an experience with the game that they can truly judge.
  • Ashley Shankle
    Associate Editor
    I have to second this, being a long-time M:tG player. Hearthstone may not be as deep as Magic (and I don't think it will ever be with the lack of counter-play options such as Secrets for all classes), but its overall simplicity does the game justice.

    Let's face it, the average Blizzard fan isn't looking for something like M:tG to take up their time. They want something fast, fun, and a bit tactical. Hearthstone is just that, and it is very good at what it does. The depth found in M:tG is not for everyone, and that is totally okay.

    My qualms with Hearthstone lie elsewhere, but the core gameplay is extremely solid.

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