Shadowverse and Hearthstone are two versions of the same game; if you like one, then you will probably enjoy the other. So which should you play? Below I summarize the main differences between Shadowverse and Hearthstone, with an emphasis on the quantitative pros and cons. As a reference, I have casually played Hearthstone since August 2014 (where I once reached rank 3) and Shadowverse since December 2016 (where I am currently rank A2). I think both games are great, with different advantages and disadvantages. This article is not meant to endorse one game over the other—you can definitely enjoy them both!
The cost of cards has recently become an issue within the Hearthstone community for two separate reasons. First, for the 2017 “Year of the Mammoth” format, there will be no Adventures. Instead, there are going to be three Expansions, each of which are expected to contain more than 130 cards. As demonstrated here, the change will both (a) increase the number of cards per year and (b) effectively increase the price of those cards by removing Adventures. At worst, this would lead to a 23.5% increase in prices, meaning that it could cost $670 to get 90% of the 2017 Hearthstone cards. Second, Blizzard plans to increase the price of card packs outside of the United States; more info for your specific region can be found here. Depending on your play style and location, these changes may have little effect on your personal spending—however, it is undoubtedly becoming more difficult to obtain Hearthstone cards (i.e., more grinding).
Despite being the newer game, Shadowverse has very similar card cost issues! Shadowverse never offered an “Adventure” equivalent, and promises to introduce a new expansion every 3 months, each containing approximately 105 new cards. Using the same math as cited above—where there are now 8 cards per pack—it could cost $800 to get 90% of the 2017 Shadowverse cards; likely more, depending on the rarity distributions. Plus, Cygames recently increased the price of card pack in the UK, Turkey, and India. On the other hand, Cygames is well known for their generosity, and has included extensive gifts, achievements, score rewards, missions, arena tokens, and even daily rewards. Based on my experiences, I personally agree with the following comments (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), which point out how easily new Shadowverse players obtain card packs.
tl;dr — Both games can cost similar amounts. Perhaps Shadowverse is less expensive in the short-run, but Hearthstone is likely cheaper in the long-run.
Hearthstone has a much larger community than Shadowverse. Hearthstone exceeded 50 million downloads as of April 2016, and SuperData Research has found that Hearthstone earned Blizzard $395 million over the course of 2016. By comparison, Shadowverse just surpassed 8 million downloads in March 2017, and earned $100 million in the second half of 2016. Although Hearthstone and Shadowverse were the #1 and #2 overall earners for 2016 digital CCGs, there is clearly a significant gap between the games.
One tangible side-effect of Hearthstone’s popularity is the quantity and quality of its Twitch streamers. Kripp, Trump, Reynad, Amaz, etc. all provide entertaining live feeds of their games, which can be educational for newer players. Shadowverse lacks these sort of personalities—at least for English speakers—although I do think RoaringSnow does a good job of demonstrating different decks. Hearthstone also parlays its popularity into huge tournaments! The Hearthstone World Championships at Blizzcon had a $1 million prize pool in 2016, and I’ve seen the Hearthstone Championship Tour covered on ESPN in 2017. One resource available exclusively to the Shadowverse community, however, is gameplay data. Using shadowlog or gamepress, players can follow exactly how certain classes and decks are performing against others. Although perhaps less covered in the West, Shadowverse tournaments (such as the JCG Open) should also not be overlooked due to their impact on the meta.
tl;dr — Hearthstone generally has a larger, more diverse, and educational community
Randomness and chance are inherent in every card game, but the pervasive amount of RNG has long been a complaint for Hearthstone (RNGstone) players. Perhaps the most high-profile examples of crazy RNG occurred at the 2016 Hearthstone World Championship, leading Pavel to some unlikely victories. Professional player Lifecoach recently retired from competitive Hearthstone because of RNG issues; within an interview explaining his decision, Lifecoach argued that Hearthstone has essentially become a “coin-flip,” and that playing strategically or correctly is not sufficiently rewarded by the game. Fortunately, Shadowverse has so far avoided cards with built-in RNG, and thus game outcomes are more frequently determined by the players and their decks.
It should additionally be noted that Hearthstone and Shadowverse have different multiplayer systems. Hearthstone restarts the ladder each month, while Shadowverse only resets its rewards and master scores, but not the player ranking. Climbing in Shadowverse is therefore more forgiving and gradual than the Hearthstone ladder. This difference may have a psychological effect on gameplay—within Hearthstone, a certain number of games must be played each month to try and reach legend, whereas Shadowverse doesn’t punish players from taking a hiatus while climbing. In extreme cases, I’ve see a few posts about addiction to Hearthstone, largely from players attempting to reach legend.
tl;dr — Shadowverse currently has less RNG cards and a more forgiving ladder
Shadowverse vs. Hearthstone
Shadowverse and Hearthstone are great games, with their own relative strengths and weaknesses. Both can be expensive; Shadowverse is perhaps cheaper for new players, and Hearthstone is probably cheaper for veteran players. Shadowverse arguably has less RNG, and maintains a forgiving/gradual ladder system. Hearthstone offers a much larger community with entertaining personalities, runs high-profile tournaments, and restarts the ladder each month. To see what decks or strategies are currently popular, and find out more about either game, check out gamepress or tempostorm!