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Hearthstone's Ranked play is back, but here are some better CCGs

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A bug with Hearthstone‘s ranked play recently brought the mode crashing to its CC-knees, but it’s now back on its feet again thanks to a hotfix from Blizzard. When the new competitive season rolled round on March 1st, something awry with the tweaks to the progression system meant that players rank stopped updating altogether. Blizzard disabled the mode while they worked on the problem, and they didn’t get everything back up and running until 12pm today.

So, the joys of the Hearthstone ladder are once again available to all. Before you log back in though, why not keep reading for a minute or two more. I’m not saying you should stop playing Hearthstone. I’m just saying your life might be better if you tried one of these superior CCGs instead.

Ok, let me dial that back a bit: Hearthstone is still pretty neat. I just played a couple of matches for the first time in over a year, and was surprised at how satisfying it felt to play my cards in the right order. At the same time, therein lies the reason why I’ve moved on to other games. I had some input, sure, but it still felt like my deck was playing itself. The degree to which that’s true obviously changes depending on your deck, and it’s also true that as you climb the ranks subtle mistakes become more important. Knowledge of strategies and deck types and whatnot comes into play. Still, the decisions you make won’t be nearly as interesting as the ones you could be making in, say…

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Duelyst! Duelyst takes Hearthstone’s hero v hero format and slaps it onto a board, where units move around and smart positioning is vital. That puts a fresh spin on systems you’ll already be comfortable with, like ‘provoke’ minions that need to be attacked first – but that only applies to units that are stood next to them. It also opens up entirely new ideas for card abilities, like minions that attack everything in a line or do more damage from behind. I also adore how you can swap out one card from your hand each turn, which gives you greater control of your deck without sacrificing the RNG that makes deck builders work.

Duelyst pulls some smart tricks, but it still sort of boils down to Hearthstone but with more *ahem* depth. If you’re after something that shakes things up in a different way, you might want to try…

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Gwent! The key thing about Gwent is that each match is played over three rounds. You only need to win two of them, and you keep all your cards between each round – so an important part of the game is about baiting out powerful cards early on, then ending a round early with a laughing emote. That’s an important part of my strategy, anyway. Cards are scarce and a couple of extra points can make all the difference, which means every play feels meaningful. With that said, when I tried it last year I kept getting matched against people with far superior decks to mine, and the crawl towards certain ‘required’ cards felt far too slow. It doesn’t sound like much has changed, so let’s move swiftly on to…

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Android: Netrunner! Right, this is actually a physical card game, but hear me out: you can play it bootlegged online using Jinteki.net, which Brendy and I recently tried out. It’s an asymmetrical game where one player is a corporation attempting to advance their naughty agenda, while the other player tries to hack into their servers and steal their cool robot designs. It’s about controlling information using bluffing and misdirection, and about reading your opponent as they read you. Crafting a good deck is important, but – more so than with other CCGs – your wins and losses turn on the decisions you make.

It’s by far the best card game I’ve played, and while you could try learning it via Jinteki.net I’d recommend trying the physical version first. Netrunner is a mighty complex beast that’s hard enough to pick up without the complexities added in by a makeshift digital interface, and the psychology side of it just isn’t the same when you can’t see your opponent sweating in front of you.

If none of that is enough to tempt you out of your Hearthstone ways, then… fair enough. Like I said, it’s still pretty good. Here’s some of what’s in store in the upcoming Year of the Raven.

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Matt Cox

Staff Writer

Matt is the founding member of RPS's youth contingent. He's played more games of Dota than you've had hot dinners.

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