Everything you need to know about Hearthstone’s newest game mode, Duels

Hearthstone’s next expansion is bringing a new and exciting mode.

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Hearthstone’s newest game mode, Duels, has been growing in popularity since it was revealed alongside the game’s newest expansion, Madness at the Darkmoon Faire, last month. Since its initial release in late October, it’s already received a couple of hotfix changes and will be getting a few more with tomorrow’s Patch 18.6.1.

The mode is reminiscent of Hearthstone’s past Roguelike PvE adventure modes but rebalanced to allow for matches against other players. The game is styled in an Arena format where players compete until they claim 12 wins or suffer three losses.

Here’s everything you need to know about Hearthstone’s Duels mode and its future.

How to access it

Gaining the ability to participate in early access to Duels is only available in two forms: preordering either Madness at the Darkmoon Faire bundle or getting lucky through watching Hearthstone on Twitch via drops. If you’re unable to purchase a bundle and aren’t lucky enough to be one of the 500 viewers each hour to receive a drop, Blizzard will open up early access to Duels to all players on Nov. 12.

The difference between Normal and Heroic modes

While there are two different modes to play in Duels, Normal and Heroic, only Normal is available to play at the moment. It serves as a casual mode for players to try out the mode and get acquainted with different strategies and Treasures. When Heroic mode is released, it’ll be similar to Arena where players may purchase a ticket with in-game currency, gold, or money. After purchasing a Heroic ticket, players will receive rewards based on how many wins they pick up during their Duels run.

Regardless of whichever mode players choose, both will have a rating system that’s similar to the updated Battlegrounds ranking system. This rating will allow players to compare themselves to one another when the leaderboards are released, but matchmaking in the mode will always be based on your current record and not rating.

How to play each round

Constructing your deck is distinct from both ladder and Arena. Instead of the usual 30-card deck, players must first choose between one of four classes, then one of six Treasures for that class, and one new Hero Power out of three. In Duels’ current early access state, there’s only one Treasure and one Hero Power to choose from for each of the 10 classes. As the game mode leaves early access and begins its first season, more Treasures and Hero Powers will be added.

Blizzard already teased that unlocking future Hero Powers and Treasures will be tied to doing corresponding tasks, like owning certain Legendary cards or having a specific amount of Epics from any given set. This will likely tie in with the much-anticipated achievement tracker.

After picking both a Treasure and Hero Power, players must construct a deck with 15 cards with no duplicates and from specifically predetermined sets. The current sets that players are allowed to pick cards from are as follows:

  • Basic
  • Classic
  • Curse of Naxxramas
  • One Night in Karazhan
  • Scholomance Academy

Once Duels early access becomes available to all players on Nov. 12, both Madness at the Darkmoon Faire and Whispers of the Old Gods will also be added to the rotation. After constructing your deck, you’re ready to go against other players. After each match, win or lose, you’ll add three cards to your deck from a choice of three buckets. Sometimes, you’ll be given a chance to receive an empty bucket, keeping your current deck as is. In addition, you’re allowed to pick from powerful Treasures a while after each match. The order is as follows:

  • Choosing one of three Passive Treasures (after match one and five)
  • Choosing one of three Treasures (after matches three, seven, nine, 11, 12, and 13)
  • Choosing one of three loot buckets, each consisting of three cards or none (after matches one through eight)

Due to the way in which the new mode is set up, the power level of the decks that both you and your opponents will be yielding will grow exponentially higher the more you win since you’ll usually be matched against other players with similar records.

Blizzard has shown a willingness to already ban cards from being used in constructed decks, like the Rogue’s Self-Sharpening Sword. But despite being banned from initially being included in preconstructed decks, banned cards still have a chance to arrive in the later buckets. Buckets also can include cards from all sets in Wild, including Hall of Fame cards like Ragnaros the Firelord, Sylvanas Windrunner, and Ice Block.

Powerful strategies

While new seasons may change up the cards you can construct your decks with or Treasures you can find, there will always be potent cards and combinations. Since the power level of the mode is extraordinarily high, finding spots for powerful tech cards like Loatheb and Acidic Swamp Ooze can pay dividends. Since the most agency you have over the game mode is your initial draft, figuring out a strong starting list and potent combos can always lead you to future success.

An example of a powerful combo is Band of Bees and Pen Flinger, which grants you a recurring Assassinate-like effect. But if your deck can’t synergize well with either Pen Flinger or Band of Bees, it’s not always worth it to sack the quality of your deck for just a slight chance of a high roll.

You can try out Duels’ early access now by pre-purchasing Madness at the Darkmoon Faire today, getting a Twitch drop, or waiting for its formal release on Nov. 12.