My board is far from threatening. I’ve got a 2/3 Mana Wyrm, a Wand Thief, and my opponent has just cleared my Firebrand. Until this point I was quietly regretting that I’d picked Book of Wonders as my treasure. In any other game mode, stuffing 10 cast-when-drawn spells into your deck is a recipe of disaster. But this is the new Duels mode, and here it’s kinda the point.
I proceed to draw three Scroll of Wonders in a row, buffing my minions with Power of the Wild, clearing two enemy minions with Cleave, and gaining two extra Mana Crystals with Lightning Bloom. Thanks to the extra Mana, I slam down Archmage Antonidas and generate a couple of Fireballs to burn my way out.
The key mistake the other player made was going for a relatively sensible Mage build, with a passive spell damage buff thanks to the Robe of the Apprentice treasure, plus multiple Frostbolts and Arcane Missiles. Whereas I have put my faith in the roulette wheel.
The Duels mode launched in Early Access a couple of weeks ago, and it strikes a good balance between creative Dungeon Run-style deck-building and RNG in its current form. It’s only possible to play casually at the moment. Heroic Duels, with similar awards to the Arena mode, will arrive alongside the Madness at the Darkmoon Faire expansion on November 17. The lack of stakes right now makes questionable deck choices all the more exciting to experiment with.
If you’re yet to give it a whirl—probably because entry currently requires pre-ordering Darkmoon’s mega bundle—here’s how it works. Initially you pick one of four Heroes from Hearthstone’s 10 classes. You then pick one of three possible hero powers (although only one per class is unlocked right now), a starting treasure, and then use your collection to construct a 15-card starter deck.
Similar to the Dungeon Run PvE formula introduced with Kobolds and Catacombs, the further you go, the more cards and treasures you add to your build. Although this time you’ll be testing out your skills versus other players, rather than AI opponents.
The thing that I love about Duels so far is that it encourages me to be creative, without asking me to build the perfect deck from the get-go. There’s only room for 15 cards initially, so it forces me to weigh up what kind of deck I actually want to play. However, unlike other modes, it feels like there’s more room to try entirely different builds each time without getting super-punished for it.
I’m sorely lacking the Kripparrian-level skills needed to create a solid Arena deck, and at this point in the Hearthstone expansion cycle, viable constructed archetypes have mostly been solved. I’ll be honest, the only time I feel confident enough to construct decks entirely from scratch is during the first few days of a new expansion, when everything feels new and I can get away with running unrefined builds in Ranked.
While there are already