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10 card games like Hearthstone to deck around with

Games like Hearthstone - trailer
(Image credit: Blizzard)

Hearthstone reinvigorated the collectible card game when it was released in 2014, and since then a wave of games like Hearthstone have attempted to replicate the success. 

Hearthstone has World of Warcraft lore to lean on and its free-to-play business model makes it hard to beat, but there are plenty of new decks to master if you can free yourself from its addicting grip. We've rounded up some of the best alternatives that reward strategy, cunning, and don't rely too much on RNG for their thrills. These ten games like Hearthstone will expand your card battler skills and offer you new challenges, whether you're in it for the collecting or the crushing of opponents. 

10. Magic: The Gathering Arena 

(Image credit: Wizards of the Coast)

If Hearthstone feels a bit too whimsical, why not go with the godfather of trading card games? Magic: The Gathering has dominated the real-world card game scene for over 20 years, and MTG Arena acts as the perfect gateway for virtual deck builders to make the jump to physical play or vice versa. Your cards in Arena look like, well, cards on a table, but certain creatures are literally summoned onto the board in an impressively flashy fashion. Magic is a somewhat slower game compared to Hearthstone - with mana sources taking up space in your deck - so sometimes you'll get some pretty unexciting draws when you get flooded with lands. But there are endless deck-building possibilities thanks to the many ways you can combine the five basic mana colors - each with their own distinct attributes and playstyle - and tons of Hearthstone pros on Twitch have taken a shine to the ways of MTG Arena.     

9. Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales 

Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales is, without question, the best single-player card-gaming experience currently available. This full-fledged RPG (lasting 30+ hours) takes the game of Gwent and makes it the basis of a sweeping story, following the determined Queen Meve as she fights back Nilfgaardian invaders who are rampaging through her kingdom. Though most battles play out as a strategic deployment of resources just like Gwent multiplayer, there's also a host of ingenious puzzles woven throughout the isometric overworld, and no two play alike as you decipher the correct solution and revel in your own brilliance. When you're not playing cards, you'll be invested in Meve's journey and her relationship with her traveling companions, who have the same diversity and lovable banter as Geralt's motley crew. It all comes together thanks to an outstanding performance by an eloquent narrator, making Thronebreaker an amazing example of how much you can do with solo card gaming.

8. Legends of Runeterra

(Image credit: Riot Games)

From Riot Games, the people that brought you League of Legends, comes the free-to-play Legends of Runeterra. It's a tense, aggressive take on the collectible card game, but also an accessible one for those that might find games like Magic: The Gathering Arena a little intimidating. The one-on-one games start with both players holding a hand of four cards, and each round you can draw a new card from your deck. An attack token lets you know when it's your turn to go on the offensive or defend, and claiming victory means wiping out all of your opponent's 20 health points before they can do the same to you. What makes the game so popular, apart from the swift and surprising battles, is the generous rewards system that gifts players weekly chests and free battle passes that translate to crafting materials, cards, and Wildcards, which you can swap for a card of your choice as long as it has the same rarity value. 

7. Eternal 

Eternal is effectively a hybrid of Hearthstone's polished presentation with Magic's fundamentals, from a design team full of pro Magic players (including beloved Hearthstone caster Brian Kibler). As in Magic, the mana you use to cast spells comes in different colors and takes up space in your deck (called Sigils here instead of Lands). Eternal's in-game aesthetics are similar to Hearthstone, with card art featuring crisp, colorful portraits inhabiting a detailed game board. But there's no limit to how many combatants you can summon on your side, so you can go wild with a Magic-esque army of tokens if you so choose. Eternal also borrows a brilliant page from the Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers playbook by including clever puzzle scenarios, which help you master basic mechanics and train you to look for the kind of tricky card combinations that win matches.

6. The Elder Scrolls: Legends 

The Elder Scrolls: Legends development has been put on hold, but the game is still playable and absolutely worth checking out. It's the perfect card game for anyone who's spent hundreds of hours roaming the worlds of Skyrim, Oblivion, and Morrowind. Its defining feature is the way it divides the board into two separate lanes, so the way you place your forces is crucial. Do you go all-in on one side and hope the enemy can't establish proper defenses in time, or do you play the odds and fortify both sides of the battlefield? There's also the unique mechanic of runes: automatic card draws that trigger, when you're reduced to certain life totals, which can potentially result in free casting costs, should you pick up a card with the Prophecy keyword. If you're partial to the thrills and upsets inherent to that kind of RNG, Elder Scrolls: Legends offers a lot of interesting card synergies to build around and a solid single-player story. 

Duel Links is a pleasantly contemporary take that's built to foster a free-to-play community. Your favorite characters from the classic anime are here, including the Blue-Eyes White Dragon-obsessed Seto Kaiba, complete with lovably earnest and/or over-the-top voice lines. Yu-Gi-Oh has always been a game of incredibly swingy plays and fast matches, with the 'Gotcha!' moments inherent to trap cards and plenty of decks built around one-turn-kill (OTK) combos. You just might bear witness to the five-card summoning of the almighty Exodia (an iconic win condition that gave Hearthstone's Exodia Mage deck its name).

4. Shadowverse 

If you love the Japanese high fantasy stylings of popular mobile games like Rage of Bahamut and Mabinogi Duel, you should definitely check out Shadowverse. With monsters and waifus as far as the eye can see, this is essentially an anime spin on Hearthstone. Shadowverse's defining twist is the ability to evolve your minions (called Followers here) as you enter the later stages of a match, buffing them up with increased stats or powerful new effects. It's also a great opportunity to appreciate a pleasing visual flourish that's popular in Japanese card games: tweaking the art's color palette and/or costuming to give evolved Followers a completely different feel. Like Yu-Gi-Oh, Shadowverse has some shockingly powerful card combos, so expect quicker matches than you might otherwise be used to.

3. Faeria 

Positioning is important in Faeria as your cards turn into units on a map - but there's even more complexity to consider here. Before you can summon your creatures onto the hexagonal tiles of the game board, you need to build out the actual terrain that'll bridge the rift between you and your opponent. The layout and type of terrain you choose will ultimately shape your plan of attack, creating an interesting push and pull as both players jockey for board control across an ever-shifting battlefield. Of all the card games on this list, Faeria feels the most like a living board game as well - and it boasts some lovely visuals and tons of single-player content to conquer. Faeria recently switched from a free-to-play model to a $25 upfront cost with cosmetic microtransactions beyond that, but the core game is still the same.

2. Card City Nights 2 

Card City Nights 2, is a thoroughly charming cardventure set aboard a space station full of delightful oddballs to duel. The bright colors and cute character designs evoke Steven Universe and OK K.O., and the soundtrack is smooth like butter with its soothing synths and ambient beats. CCN2 is all about positioning your cards on a simple gridded board so you can trigger the links between your own cards while denying them from your opponent. It's the only game you'll find here without a free-to-play option, but the cheap price tag is well worth it for all the pack-opening and deck-building you'll be doing across the expansive, humorous single-player campaign.

1. Gwent

Games like Hearthstone - Gwent

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

The Witcher 3 mini-game so good it got a standalone release. The presentation in Gwent is unparalleled, with gorgeous card art that looks alive thanks to silky smooth animation, complemented by a clean, easy-to-parse UI. Gwent's gameplay is distinct in that each side's cards are played across two separate rows (down from the original minigame's three) representing their range of attack, and each match is a best-of-three, so you always need to keep strategies for the long game in the back of your mind. The theming is all pitch-perfect Witcher, with five factions to choose from when building your deck, and the game makes the most of its incredible source material with every illustration.

Rachel Weber

Between Official PlayStation Magazine, GamesIndustry.biz and Rolling Stone I've picked up a wide range of experience, from how to handle the madness of E3 to making easy conversation with CEOs and executives of game companies over seafood buffets. At GamesRadar+ I'm proud of the impact I've had on the way we write news, and now - as managing editor in the US - the huge traffic successes we're seeing. Most of all I'm proud of my team, who have continued to kick ass through the uncertainty of 2020 and into 2021, and are what makes GamesRadar+ so special.