I think it’s fair to say that after seeing the first-ever Mercenaries gameplay showcase, many people have come out with more questions than they had before. Even for me, who is familiar with similar games and have followed every piece of Mercenaries news, it was simply too much to handle. That’s why I’ve decided to process everything and create this guide to help you all do the same thing.
This guide summarizes all of the Mercenaries systems we’ve learned about – village, managing your Mercenaries, taking on bounties and most importantly – how the game actually plays like. Since A LOT of information was dropped at once, if I missed anything or have made a mistake somewhere, please correct me in the comments! Anyway, let’s proceed to the guide.
- Mercenaries is a completely new way to play Hearthstone, so much that it looks like a different GAME and not just a new game mode.
- The mode borrows heavily from roguelike genre – it shares similarities with games like Darkest Dungeon or Slay the Spire.
- It has a separate progression from the regular game (you don’t use your normal collection), although it shares some resources (Gold).
- The new game mode will be free to play, but with optional real money purchases. Unlike in Battlegrounds, those real money purchases can actually buy you progress – more Mercenaries, more resources to upgrade them etc. At this point, it’s impossible to tell how F2P friendly the game mode will be.
- Mercenaries launches on October 12.
Village – Building and Upgrading
- Village is your main hub, where you manage your Mercenaries and everything between actual gameplay happens. It’s kind of like “main menu” of the format, just in a visual form.
- There are multiple structures you can build and then upgrade. All of that is done with Gold.
- Workshop is your first building – from here, you can build other structures and upgrade them.
- Tavern is your Mercenaries collection manager. You will find a full list of Mercenaries you own and manage them – upgrade their abilities, select equipment, skins etc.
- Travel Point / Bounty Board is where you take on the PvE missions – bounties. There are multiple zones you can visit, each with a higher level requirement. More about bounties below.
- Fighting Pit is where the PvP happens. More about PvP below.
- Campfire / Task Board is your Mercenaries Quest log (it will be separate from your regular Heartsthone Quest log). Every day, you will get new “visitors” offering you Quests. Completing them will give you Mercenaries-related rewards, such as Coins, Packs or Equipment.
- Merchant Cart is an in-game shop for Mercenaries. Clicking on it will give you a look at all the Mercenaries things you can purchase (both with in-game and real life currencies).
- Mailbox is where you will receive all of the Mercenaries news, information about events, offers etc.
- Upgrading buildings gives you access to new features or expands their use (e.g. upgrading Campfire means that you get more daily Quests, upgrading Travel Point gives you access to higher difficulties etc).
Managing Your Mercenaries – Coins, Abilities, Equipment
- There will be over 50 different Mercenaries at launch – each with a different skillset and rarity. You can find a full list and manage them through Tavern.
- After completing the prologue, you get eight Mercenaries for free. That will be your starting roster. You can obtain more Mercenaries from Packs, through Crafting or real money purchases.
- If you want to learn more about Mercenaries pack drop rates, items, rarities, pre-purchases etc. – check out a separate article.
- Crafting Mercenaries will cost you Mercenaries Coins. Each Mercenary has its own, unique Coin, which can only be used for purchases related to this particular Mercenary. Coins seem to be the most common rewards – you get them from Packs, Quests, PvP rewards, and by finishing Bounties (PvE missions).
- Mercenaries you get can be Rare, Epic, or Legendary. We don’t know whether higher rarity Mercenaries are also stronger or only harder to obtain (I suspect that it might be similar to regular Hearthstone – they come with more complex/unique abilities, but they aren’t necessarily stronger).
- When you get a new mercenary, it starts at Level 1 with only a single ability. At level 5 it gets its second ability, with third obtained at level 15. To level up your Mercenaries, simply take them on bounties – they get XP for each fight you beat.
- Each ability has 5 different ranks, getting stronger at each rank. You can upgrade them by using Mercenaries Coins. E.g. to upgrade Illidan’s abilities, you need Illidan Coins.
- Mercenaries start with no equipment – you can get it from different sources like Quests and Bounty rewards. Each Mercenary has a total of three pieces of equipment, which are unique to that Mercenary.
- Equipment improves the abilities or stats of your Mercenaries. For example – it can make them more durable, reduce the cooldown of abilities or increase the damage they deal. You can only have a single item equipped at the time.
- Just like abilities, Equipment can be upgraded using Mercenaries Coins.
- Each Mercenary comes with alternative skins/portraits and borders (regular, Golden, Diamond), but they seem to be purely cosmetic (cooler look, better animations etc.). You can open them in Packs.
- You can build up different parties of six Mercenaries and save them like decks in regular Hearthstone. Then, when you embark on a bounty or play PvP, you select one of the saved parties you want to use.
Roles, Types & Synergies
- Mercenaries game mode seems to be very synergistic. When building your team, you need to take all kinds of synergies into account.
- There are three roles in the mode – Protectors (red), Fighters (green) and Casters (blue). Each Mercenary you have falls under one of those three roles. Some random encounters might include enemies without any roles, though (they are grey).
- Protectors are your tanks – they usually have a lot of health and come with abilities like Taunt or buffs to other allies.
- Fighters are your main damage dealers – they are mostly focused on dishing out damage.
- Casters usually have lower attack and health, making them easier targets, but they can use powerful abilities – dealing damage, buffing/healing allies etc.
- In a rock-paper-scissors way, each role “beats” one and gets beaten by the other. Protectors deal double damage to Fighters. Fighters deal double damage to Casters. Casters deal double damage to Protectors. So which Mercenaries you use for battles should depend on the roles of enemies you face.
- On top of roles, Mercenaries have different types. For example, we have Murlocs, Beasts or Humans. Types usually come with extra synergies – for example, one of your Mercenaries might have ability that buffs all Murlocs, so it’s beneficial to have a team full of Murlocs.
- There’s a third kind of synergies – abilities have their own spell schools, which synergize with each other. Those synergies include Combos, which activate if another of your characters cast spell from a given school earlier that turn during combat (e.g. Fire Combo will trigger an extra effect if you already used a Fire spell before it).
- It will be a key to build the right, synergistic teams. Of course, you won’t be able to go for ALL synergies, but it should be easy to chase a couple of them, trying to cover all the bases.
- Once you upgrade your Travel Point (Bounty Board), you will get access to Heroic difficulty. Those bounties are scaled up to a higher level, but also have a longer, more difficult map with better rewards. A third difficulty – Legendary – will be added in a content update at a later date.
Bounties, Encounters, Treasures & Rewards
- Bounties are your main PvE gameplay of the mode. You build a team of six Mercenaries and send them on a mission.
- When selecting a bounty, you see the recommended level and the final boss. However, the entire map will be procedurally generated, randomized each time.
- When picking your route through the map, you will see all kinds of encounters. You can move only one node at the time and only to the nodes that are connected to the one you’re currently on.
- Fights make up for most of the encounters. There are two kinds of fights – basic and elite. Basic should be easy for parties of the right level, but elite encounters can prove to be challenging (with a promise of bigger reward).
- Other encounters include Spirit Healer (allowing you to revive a random dead party member), global buffs (e.g. encounter that will make all Fighters stronger until the end of this bounty) as well as different random events that can help or hurt you.
- After each fight you win, all of your party members will gain XP – no matter if they’re alive, dead or didn’t even participate in a given fight. Harder fights give more XP.
- On top of XP, each fight will give you one treasure for a random Mercenary in your party. They can improve the character’s stats, abilities etc. Treasures are temporary, they only last until the end of that bounty run.
- HP of your Mercenaries regenerates between fights. However, if one of them dies, they are incapable of fighting during this bounty – unless you manage to revive them at the Spirit Healer.
- The last node of each bounty is the final boss. It will be the toughest fight where you need to use all of your available resources. After beating it, the bounty is complete and you get to open a chest with rewards, like Mercenary Coins.
- Bounties can be replayed any number of times. You can inspect what kinds of loot can drop from the boss chest from the bounty menu, so replaying bounties for specific loot might be worth it.
- If your entire party dies during a run and you don’t finish the bounty, you lose all of the rewards except XP. XP you gain during combat is always kept, even if you don’t beat the final boss.
Gameplay – Combat, Order of Attacks, Cooldowns
- When you land on one of the fight nodes, you will select three of your Mercenaries to participate in combat. The other three (or however many are left alive) will be “Benched”.
- Mercenaries on the bench are usually not a part of the combat. However, if one of the fighters dies during combat, you get to replace them with one of the benched ones. There are also some abilities that let you swap between the Mercenaries in combat and on the bench.
- The first part of the combat is placing your Mercenaries. You pick the three that will participate and position them on the board. As you lock them in, the first Command Phase starts.
- Command Phase is where your decisions happen. Here you pick which ability each of your Mercenaries will use and their targets (not always, some of them target randomly or are AoE abilities). Abilities have two modifiers – Speed and Cooldown.
- Speed of the abilities determines the order of attacks. The lower the speed is, the quicker the ability will occur. Faster abilities are usually weaker, but have the advantage of being used first.
- The order of attacks is displayed above each of your Mercenaries and opponents – 1st, 2nd etc. If multiple characters use abilities of the same speed, each of them will display a question mark at the end of the order (e.g. “1st?”) and the order between them will be resolved randomly.
- Speed is very important because it lets you plan out your turn. For example – if one of the opponents is at low health, you want to use fast ability to finish them off before they can attack. However, if you have an ability that heals your party, you might actually want a slower one, because it lets your opponents attack you first, so the healing is not wasted.
- The second modifier is Cooldown. Abilities with Cooldown are not available at the start of the fight – e.g. if an ability has 2 Turn Cooldown, you have to wait for 2 turns before you can first use it, and then 2 more turns before each subsequent use.
- Abilities with Cooldown are usually stronger, so you should try to use them whenever they become available.
- After you make all the decisions, you can hit the Ready button and combat will play out. Until you hit Ready, you can still make some changes, like selecting different abilities or targets.
- The last phase is Combat Phase. After you hit Ready, combat will play itself out automatically, from the fastest abilities to the slowest ones. If a character dies before it gets to their turn, their action will be skipped. And in case the target of one of the abilities dies before that ability resolves, then another target will be randomly selected.
- Abilities include Physical Attacks, Ranged Attacks, and Spells. In case of physical attacks, characters will deal their attack to each other, just like in your regular Hearthstone matches. However, only the attacker will get double damage bonus from roles – taking damage back will not be affected by it. Ranged Attacks and Spells avoid any damage from the opponent.
- There is no “face” or “enemy health”, your goal is to destroy all the enemy characters. After they’re all dead, you win the combat and move to the next node.
- I recommend watching an example gameplay video to make more sense of what you read here.
- If you’re bored with PvE gameplay, you can take your Mercenaries and fight against other players.
- All of your PvE progress carries over to PvP. Mercenary levels, abilities, equipment etc. will all be there when you fight against other players.
- Because of that, matchmaking will be much more difficult – it will take all of the above into account on top of your rating. The game will try to match you against parties with similar power level.
- The gameplay itself is very similar – you bring a team of 6 Mercenaries, with three of them sitting on a bench. You each take turns to plan the moves and then the fight plays out. As your Mercenaries die, they will get replaced with benched ones. The goal is to destroy all enemy Mercenaries.
- However, the main difference is that there’s a player on the other side and while you can predict AI strategies, it’s much harder to know what a real person might do.
- There will be daily rewards for participating in PvP.
- Winning fights will grant you rating (similar to other modes). As you get to a higher rating, you will be able to open ranked chests with extra rewards.