A hero is a character in the Warcraft universe representing the player. In Hearthstone, this concept is expressed in three interrelated but distinct ways:
- Heroes are gameplay characters representing players or bosses within a match. Heroes have attributes like Health, take damage, and can sometimes even attack, just as minions do. If a player's hero dies, they lose that game. This meaning of "hero" pertains specifically to game mechanics within a battle.
- A hero is a collectible individual from Warcraft lore, with its own portrait, personality and style. Each hero represents a class, and can be used in any games played with a deck of that type, making each hero a "skin" for its class. One classic hero of each class is available to new players, while alternate heroes are obtainable through purchase or awards. Golden heroes are versions of the classic heroes with gold UI elements, similar to golden cards. This meaning of "hero" is mostly cosmetic, with no gameplay difference between two heroes of the same class.
- Hero is a synonym for one of the ten Hearthstone classes within a player's account. These "heroes" earn experience after each game, gaining access to cards and other rewards. However, all rewards are earned based on the class played rather than the specific individual hero. Similarly, it is the class chosen for a deck rather than the specific hero which determines the class cards and Hero Power in games with that deck.
Characters in battle
- See also: Character
All player heroes have 30 Health at the beginning of a game, and take damage when attacked by minions or hit by spells and effects. When a hero is killed, almost always by having its Health reduced to 0 or below, the corresponding player loses the game. Heroes by default do not have an Attack value, but can use various means to gain Attack such as equipping weapons. Heroes with an Attack value can attack other targets, similarly to minions, and will take damage from targets they attack accordingly.
In addition to having Attack and Health attributes, participating in combat, and taking damage, heroes can be affected by some of the same conditions or abilities that minions are, namely Destroy, Freeze, and Immune effects. On the other hand, they differ in several ways too. Heroes do not have mana costs, although some cards that create replacement heroes do. Heroes can gain Armor and equip weapons, which minions cannot. Heroes cannot be targeted by spells or effects that specify "minion" rather than "character", and some effects can only affect heroes, not minions. Heroes are also capable of attacking on their first turns, unlike most minions.
When dealing damage to a hero, the hero is often referred to as "the face", as in "dealing 10 damage to the face", in contrast to attacking other targets. "Going for the face" is used to describe directing attacks straight at the enemy hero.
While much of the game involves trading minions and making wise use of cards to gain control of the board, almost all Hearthstone battles are ultimately resolved through dealing damage to the enemy hero. Despite this, because of the opportunity for repeated damage presented by control of minions, it is generally more important to address the ongoing threat of enemy minions than to simply deal damage to the enemy hero. However, once the enemy hero's Health has reached a certain level, it becomes most important to simply direct all attacks at the enemy hero, regardless of the state of the board. The assessment of target priority is an ongoing strategic challenge of Hearthstone.
When the player is capable of dealing fatal damage to an enemy hero that turn (known as "having lethal"), it is always best to do so that turn. At these times, taking normally prudent actions such as removing threatening minions, rather than simply attacking the enemy hero, can in fact directly cause the player to lose the game.
Aggro decks tend to focus on dealing damage to the enemy hero as quickly as possible and sacrifice late game potential in order to provide greater power and capabilities during the earlier game. Focused on defeating the enemy before they have the chance to retaliate, these decks often ignore board control in favour of directing all attacks at the enemy hero itself.
All players begin the game with Jaina Proudmoore (mage) and can quickly unlock the other classic heroes by defeating them in Play mode or Practice mode, or, in the demon hunter's case, completing their introduction prologue. Alternate heroes must be purchased or unlocked before they can be used, featuring special effects and animations. Heroes can also sometimes be replaced mid-match by special replacement heroes not otherwise choosable, while others can be played or fought during special encounters.
For a comparison and overview of the hero classes, and the strengths and abilities of each one, see class.
Classic heroes are available to all players for free, although each must first be defeated by the player before they are unlocked. Jaina and Illidan are the exceptions - Jaina is available to all players from the tutorial onward, and Illidan is unlocked by completing the Ashes of Outland Prologue.
- Main article: Alternate hero
Alternate heroes can be purchased or occasionally earned, acting as alternate "skins" for existing classes. These heroes have special art, emotes, animations, and in some cases card backs, and are always animated, even if you haven't unlocked the golden hero for that class. The differences are purely cosmetic; each uses the same Hero Power and class cards as the classic hero of the same class. Even if you have not unlocked the golden version of a hero, you will still get an animated character and Hero Power, but the minions/weapons that are produced by your Hero Power will not be golden.
Honored heroes are alternate portraits of the Classic heroes that are unlocked by having 1,000 wins as that class in Ranked or Arena mode. They are functionally identical to regular alternate portraits, but do not provide a new voice set. Like other alternate heroes, they are always animated.
Replacement heroes cannot be selected for play prior to a match, but can be brought into play through specific cards, replacing the player's current hero.
Playing the warlock card Lord Jaraxxus or allowing the neutral minion Majordomo Executus to die will "destroy" the player's original hero and replace them with the Lord Jaraxxus or Ragnaros hero, respectively. The loss of the original hero does not cause them to lose the game; instead, the new hero remains under the control of the player, but has its own portrait, emotes, and Hero Power. The replacement heroes cannot be selected as regular heroes, and can only be accessed using the corresponding cards.
- Main article: Hero card
Hero cards are a card type that replace the player's current hero, give them a small amount of Armor and replace their Hero Power with a new one. However, the player's current and maximum Health remains the same.
Adventures or Tavern Brawls sometimes allow players to take control of special heroes, specific to games within one encounter. Similar to bosses, these heroes may start with vastly inflated Health and Armor, and have access to special Hero Powers.
Throughout the initial development of Hearthstone, a number of additional heroes were experimented with but ultimately excluded from the final release of the game. Heroes that have been seen in pre-alpha concept art, screenshots, and footage for the game include Cho'gall, Garona Halforcen, Kael'thas Sunstrider, Teron Gorefiend, Tirion Fordring, Tyrande Whisperwind, Varian Wrynn, and Vol'jin - a number of whom have since been added as minion cards or, in the case of Tyrande, alternate heroes.
- Main article: Boss
Bosses are unique computer-controlled heroes encountered in adventures, the tutorial, and single-player Tavern Brawls. Bosses are not selectable by the player and are not encountered in other modes of play.
Each boss features a unique Hero Power and selection of cards. Bosses may use regular collectible cards, but also have access to unique boss cards, special and often extremely powerful cards which are not available to players. Boss battles are generally designed to offer a specific challenge, usually featuring a strong theme or style, forcing the player to find a way to defeat them. Players often must alter their decks or construct new ones in order to beat specific bosses, with each having its own strengths and weaknesses.
- The same Warcraft character might be available as both a hero and a playable minion; for example, the alternate hero Khadgar and the playable hero Hagatha the Witch are both available as minions (Khadgar and Swampqueen Hagatha). Presumably, this means classic heroes like Jaina and Thrall are potential minions in future expansions, though this has not happened as of 2019.
Hero classes and experience
- Main article: Level
Each class begins at level 1 and can gain levels by earning sufficient experience (XP). Heroes can reach a maximum of level 60. XP is gained through playing games in any game mode. Winning games against real players awards bonus XP.
Up to level 10, reaching every even level in a class will unlock a pair of new basic class cards. Above level 10, golden versions of existing class and neutral cards are granted upon reaching certain levels. Raising your first class to level 10 also completes the hidden "Level Up" quest, awarding the player one card pack. You must also have at least one level 20 class to participate in Tavern Brawls. Aside from these restrictions and rewards, experience and level do not affect gameplay in any way.
Ben Brode has stated that experience gains are based on several factors, primarily the number of cards played and the number of minions killed. Prior to this statement, one player attempting to discover the underlying formula asserted that experience earned per match was based on either the number of actions taken or the number of cards played during the course of the match. For example, losing a game where the player played no cards and took no actions will reward no XP, while winning in the same conditions will provide a small amount of XP. 
Whenever a player completes 500 wins in Ranked or Arena Play mode with a given hero, that hero will be permanently replaced with a golden version. These are similar to golden cards, with golden borders and special animations, and will automatically be used instead of the regular version in Casual and Ranked play, as well as Friendly Challenge and Arena.
Hero powers and those minions and weapons created by hero powers will also be affected, with fully animated golden versions. Specifically Searing Totem, Wrath of Air Totem, Healing Totem, Stoneclaw Totem, Wicked Knife, Poisoned Dagger, and Silver Hand Recruit summoned by golden hero powers will be golden.
An alternate portrait of each standard hero is unlocked at 1,000 ranked or arena wins; this alternate portrait is selectable from the collection. For example, at 1,000 Rogue wins, players can choose either the alternate "Cap'n Valeera" portrait, or the standard Valeera.
Players can track their wins progress with each hero on the Ranked deck selection screen, with the number of wins out of 500 listed beneath the currently selected hero's portrait. Wins from before the introduction of the golden heroes feature do not count toward golden heroes.
- Patch 22.214.171.124670 (2019-10-08): Having 1,000 wins in Ranked or Arena now unlocks an alternate portrait for that class, including wins previously earned.
- Patch 126.96.36.199349 (2019-03-14): Arena wins now count towards the 500 for earning a gold hero. (Only applies to wins after 13.4 went live; earlier Arena wins are not counted.)
- Patch 188.8.131.5206 (2017-06-01) Ranked wins for each hero will now tally beyond 500.
- Patch 184.108.40.20619 (2016-07-12): The experience bar will no longer fill up after winning a game at max level. (This change was not successfully implemented until Patch 220.127.116.1121.)
- Patch 18.104.22.16844 (2014-03-11):
- Golden Heroes have been added and now can be unlocked after winning 500 Ranked games with a Hero! Track your progress on the deck selection screen in Ranked Mode.
- Unlocking a hero now plays that Hero’s emote. Well met!
- Patch 22.214.171.12490 (2013-10-02): The maximum level is now 60, and you can earn XP in any game mode up to max level.
- Zeriyah on Twitter. (2015-06-04).
- Ben Brode on Twitter. (2014-09-15).
- Reddit (October 2013). How is experience gain caluclated in hearthstone matches?.
- HearthPwn.com - Golden Heroes Coming Soon! (2014-03-06)
- HearthPwn.com - Golden heroes coming soon (2014-03-06)]
- Facebook - Hearthstone
|1,000 wins portraits|
|Book of Heroes portraits|
|Free heroes: promotional and special events|
|Purchasable heroes: pre-orders and limited availability|