The Hearthstone Beta has ended. The game officially launched on March 11, 2014. The game does not require a subscription fee. Everyone who is interested can now start playing Hearthstone for free.

Right now, there is a “special offer” going on. You can get a free Hearthsteed mount in World of Warcraft if you play Hearthstone and win three games against other players. After seeing dozens of Tweets from people who got their mount yesterday, I was ready to go get mine.

Time to fire up Hearthstone, for the first time since the beta ended, and see if anything changed.

My first quest was: The Duelist: Play 3 Games in Play Mode.

Well, that was convenient!  I just so happened to need to play – and win – 3 games in Play mode in order to get the Hearthsteed.

The Quest Log showed me something I’d been hoping to see.  All of the decks that I unlocked in the Hearthstone Beta were still unlocked.  I hadn’t lost any progress at all.  That was a relief!  It was such a struggle to unlock the Priest Deck and I absolutely did not want to have to do that all over again.

My goal today was to play Hearthstone long enough to win 3 times in Play Mode (against real players) so I would earn the new, cool, Hearthsteed Mount in WoW.  How many attempts would this take?  I selected the Mage Deck (personified by Jaina Proudmore) because it is the deck that I am most familiar with.  It is also my highest level deck.

The first game was against a player who was also using the Mage Deck.  The default deck that new players start with is the Mage Deck.  There was no way to know if I was playing against a “newbie” or against a person who also played the Hearthstone Beta and who took the time to build up that deck.

My first game against another player in Play Mode ended in Defeat! It was a close game, so I didn’t mind.

 

For the second game, I was matched against a player who was using the Shaman Deck.  That deck is personified by Thrall.  This was the first time I had seen this deck.  It was one I still needed to unlock.  This match ended in victory, and gave me my first of the 3 wins needed to get the Hearthsteed.

Winning this match was how I unlocked the Shaman Deck.  I had no idea you could unlock decks by playing against another player who was using a deck you had not yet unlocked!  That was a nice surprise.

Things were going well!  I was ready to play a third match against a real player in Play Mode.  This time, I ended up with a player who was using the Mage Deck.  I have a feeling we are going to see a lot of Mage Decks for a while!  The game was pretty close, but I did not win.

So far, I had one 1 win and 2 losses.  I needed 3 wins in order to earn the Hearthsteed Mount, so I was going to have to keep playing.  I wasn’t sure if you had to have 3 wins against other players in one “session” (before you log off) or if it would keep track of the number of wins and start me there the next time I played Hearthstone.  I didn’t want to lose progress, so I decided that I’d just power through it and play until I got enough wins.

The three games I’d just finished playing were worth it.  They all counted towards the completion of The Duelist Achievement.  It turns out you just have to play 3 games in Play Mode.  You don’t have to win any of those matches!

In other words, it is possible to make some progress in Hearthstone even when you are losing more games than you are winning. Of course, winning games unlocks more stuff, and makes your progress go faster.

I completed one of three “daily” quests.  The second quest was Beat Down: Deal 100 damage to enemy heroes.

See the “fine print” under the quest?  Most Quests can only be completed in Play mode or the Arena. This means that players cannot complete quests by playing in Practice Mode.  You have to compete against real people if you want to finish a quest.  For me, this is provides motivation for getting out of Practice Mode.

Just for the sake of clarity, here is a screenshot of the decks that I have unlocked so far. The Shaman Deck is among them!

I still needed 2 more wins, against real players (not the AI), in order to earn the Hearthsteed.  The next match put me against a player who was using the Priest Deck (which is personified by Anduin Wrynn).  I fully expected to lose, and that is exactly what happened.  Total: 1 win, 3 losses.

It turns out that you don’t have to win a match in order for your progress to count for the Beat Down Achievement.  The game tracked the amount of damage I did against the player who used the Priest Deck.  I lost, but the damage counted!

Next, I decided to play a match in Practice Mode.  I wanted to see if you could still unlock decks that way.  When you play in Practice Mode, you are allowed to choose which Deck you want to play against.  I selected the Druid Deck (which is personified by Malfurion Stormrage).  If you play in Practice Mode, your opponent will always be The Innkeeper.

I managed to win that match, and it was a lot easier than I expected it to be.  Total: 1 win in Play Mode, (1 win in Practice Mode that doesn’t count), 3 losses.  Unfortunately, this win did not count because it wasn’t in Play Mode.  Even so, it is always nice to win a game!

The other cool thing about this match is that it enabled me to unlock the Druid Deck.  So, the answer to my question is yes, you can still unlock decks in Practice Mode.

It also turns out that the Beat Down Achievement will include the damage you do to enemy players in the Practice Mode!

Back to Play Mode!  The next player was using the Warlock Deck, which is personified by Gul’dan. This was the shortest match I’d ever played.  The other guy “rage quit” as soon as it was possible for him to do so.  I have absolutely no idea why he did that.  Maybe he was really tired of playing against the Mage Deck?

That’s not the most fun way to win – but I’ll take it!  Total: 2 wins (and 1 more that doesn’t count), 3 losses.

After this, I had a series of losses.  I stopped keeping track of how many because it was getting discouraging.  The only good thing about it was that the damage I caused the other players was counting toward the Beat Down Achievement.

My Mage Deck reached Level 15!  This is the card I got as a reward for hitting Level 15.

I managed to do enough damage that match to get very close to completing the Beat Down Achievement.

I won the next game I played.  This gave me the 3 wins in Play Mode that I needed in order to get the Hearthsteed Mount.

Just in case a player doesn’t figure that out, this pops up to make it clear.

The next time I play World of Warcraft, I will need to go to a mailbox and pick up my Hearthsteed.  I am looking forward to it!  The mount can then be used by all of my WoW characters.

In that last Hearthstone game, I managed to do just enough damage to the other player to complete the Beat Down Achievement.

But wait, there’s more!  I also got a gold reward for winning 3 games in Play Mode.

This seemed like a really good place to stop.  I got exactly what I wanted out of the game today. The next thing I need to do is log into World of Warcraft and get my Hearthsteed.  Details about that will appear in another blog.  I had a lot of fun playing Hearthstone today.  It was super cool of Blizzard to give players the opportunity to win a new WoW Mount.

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