10 card games like Hearthstone you should be playing right now

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No doubt about it: Hearthstone is the dominant leader right now in the digital card game genre. If you're a fan of summoning minions and casting spells in Blizzard's wildly popular CCG, you'll be glad to know that 2018 will be an exciting time for Hearthstone. But it might also be that you're looking for a great Hearthstone alternative at the moment. Perhaps you don't care much for the Warcraft theming, or feel like the RNG is just too over the top. Maybe you adore Hearthstone and just want to expand your card game horizons for the love of deckbuilding. Whatever the case, these 10 games will scratch that same itch of strategic thinking, exciting interactions, and exceptional presentation. You know the drill by now: these games use free-to-play frameworks where real-money microtransactions are the fastest way to a full collection. Their turn-based, one-on-one battles can be enjoyed in single-player campaigns or thriving multiplayer arenas where you can test your wits against others. Whichever of the following card games you choose, you'll be well on your way to fun decks, engaging matches, and a growing card collection before you know it.

Magic Duels 

Developer: Stainless Games
Platform(s): Xbox One, PC, mobile
Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

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 Magic Duels acts as the perfect gateway for virtual deck builders to make the jump to physical play (and vice versa). There's much less flash to Magic Duels; your cards look like, well, cards on a table, sans the fanfare of unique voice clips and particularly snazzy effects. But that puts the focus squarely on the strategy, with an emphasis on synergistic tribal decks and reactive plays during the opponent's turn. Magic is a somewhat slower game compared to Hearthstone, with endless deck possibilities thanks to the many ways you can combine the five basic mana colors (each with their own distinct attributes and playstyle).     

Eternal 

Developer: Dire Wolf Digital
Platform(s): PC, mobile
Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

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.

The Elder Scrolls: Legends 

Developer: Dire Wolf Digital
Platform(s): PC, mobile
Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

The Elder Scrolls: Legends is the card game for anyone who's spent hundreds of hours roaming the worlds of Skyrim, Oblivion, and Morrowind. Its defining feature that makes it stand out from the competition 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. 

Gwent 

Developer: CD Projekt Red
Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

For some, Geralt's cross-country card-slinging in the metagame of Gwent was the best part of The Witcher 3 - so developer CD Projekt smartly broke it out into its own full-fledged title. 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 three separate rows 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 there are plans for an expansive single-player campaign featuring branching dialogue trees and many familiar faces from the Continent. If you favor bluffing and careful planning over constant card draw and minion-to-minion combat, Gwent should be right up your alley. 

Hex: Shards of Fate 

Developer: Cryptozoic Entertainment
Platform(s): PS4, PC, mobile
Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

Think of Hex as the spiritual successor to the original World of Warcraft TCG that was discontinued and subsequently buried with the release of Hearthstone. Hex comes in two flavors - Shards of Fate on PC and mobile, Card Clash on PS4 - complete with crossplay support. Unlike most digital card games, you can actually buy and sell cards with other players to build out your collection without relying on random card packs. Hex's deck construction and pace of play are similar to Magic, but with a singular Champion leading your forces. Champions act like Hearthstone's classes and their activated abilities, but there are over 90 to choose from, each with varying life totals and their own unique power that can enable new strategies and deck archetypes. You can further customize your collection by equipping gems into card slots for an additional avenue of account progression - perfect for devoted min-maxers. Oh, and anyone with a penchant for anthropomorphic animals will go gaga for the Coyotle and Shin'Hare factions.

Developer: Konami
Platform(s): PC, mobile
Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

YOUR MOVE! When it's time to d-d-d-d-dddduel, Konami's perpetually popular card game is there for you, and 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 which gave Hearthstone's Exodia Mage deck its name).

Shadowverse 

Developer: Cygames
Platform(s): PC, mobile
Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

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.

Hand of the Gods 

Developer: Hi-Rez Studios
Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

Part Hearthstone, part Fire Emblem, Hand of the Gods has you deploying your cards as moving units on a battlefield grid where good positioning is everything. A spin-off of Hi-Rez's cult-favorite third-person MOBA Smite, Hand of the Gods imagines the deities of myriad real-world religions as fearsome and/or lovable heroes that preside over each team as they rush to destroy the other player's stationary Summoning Stone. Hand of the Gods' gameplay is very similar to Duelyst (another excellent strategy card game that's well worth your time, especially if you appreciate exceptional pixel art), but with your chosen god or goddess activating special abilities rather than existing as an attackable unit on the board. Anyone who gets a kick out of seeing ancient mythologies turned into superhero-esque teams would do well to check this card game out.

Faeria 

Developer: Abrakam
Platform(s): PC, mobile
Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

As with Hand of the Gods and Duelyst, 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.

Card City Nights 2 

Developer: Ludosity
Platform(s): PC, mobile
Price: $10 (PC) / $5 (mobile)

I'd like to cap things off with a somewhat unconventional pick: Card City Nights 2, 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.