Welcome to Entrath, the home of Spiders, Undead, Humans, Dwarves and Dinosaurs who can actually survive a meteor impact!
It is also the home of Hex: Shards of Fate, a trading card game unlike anything which has come before it in terms of using the benefits of the digital space to perform actions and tracking changes to cards which simply would not be possible with a physical card game.
If you’ve read the review and are ready to start playing the game but are not sure how to get going, this beginner’s guide should get you started! So let’s jump right in…
Hex: Shards of Fate has just begun its third year of life and has, after a rather long incubation period by modern standards, begun to blossom into the game which was originally planned during its Kickstarter campaign.
There are now three PvP (Player versus Player) expansion sets, Shards of Fate, Shattered Destiny and the recently released Armies of Myth along with a PvE (Player versus Environment) mode, the Frost Arena. Campaigns and Dungeons are on the horizon before the end of the year.
It is an exciting time to be a Hex player so my aim with this article is to give anyone who is interested in the game a potential platform to spring off into the world of Entrath.
Getting Started – Gold and Platinum
The Hex economy operates on two currencies, Gold and Platinum. Knowing what they are for and how to use them wisely is very important.
Gold is the PvE currency, which currently is only able to be earned from the Frost Arena. Platinum is the PvP currency which is bought with cold, hard cash from the in-game store.
However, the two currencies are mixed in the Auction House which means that, given enough time, you can earn enough gold to buy PvP items such as booster packs or even single cards off the Auction House using your PvE currency and play PvP without even depositing any real money into the game. A happy sentiment, but not one that I currently would subscribe to.
As with every free-to-play game, you are exchanging time for money. The initial grind, if you’re unwilling to put any cash into the game, can be rather prohibitive. Once you’re able to speed-run Frost Arena with a powerful deck, you’ll be able to grind at approximately $1 per hour at the current Platinum-to-Gold exchange, a very fair rate, however it will take some time to get there.
My personal recommendation, if you want to go the PvE route, is to make a small investment into a cheap deck which will run through the Frost Arena quickly and then play the free-to-play elements of the game, eventually working your way up to PvP Draft, Sealed play, and finally, Constructed.
Of course you do not have to try and free-to-play the game, or may only be interested in PvP, and should you have the spare money lying around you’ll be happy to know that Hex: Shards of Fate provides some of the best value in any Trading Card Game currently. Your collection of cards in Hex has value and thus any money you sink into the game should be seen as an investment rather than a cost.
However, for the sake of this article, I’m going to go front-to-back in the way I feel new players should try and get into Hex. My recommendation is to take the starter deck you get for a new account (Dwarves or Orcs being my personal choices), run through the start trials to get some new cards and gold behind you and then jump into the Frost Arena to get a good feel for the game before finally landing in PvP. My emphasis is going to be on strategies and tactics to use to beat the various challenges on the way and what you can expect to face when you take the plunge.
The Frost Arena
It’s rather chilly in here! Don’t worry, the action will soon heat up. Meet Hoggarth the Keeper of the Frost Ring — overall, not a very nice guy. He will guide you through up to 20 encounters, 4 of them bosses, one for each Tier, in your quest to complete the Frost Arena and add several thousand gold to your burgeoning money pile. By “guide” I generally mean “attempt to throw you under a bus through the careful use of challenges”.
You will have help, however, as the PvE side of the game allows your character to wear equipment which power up cards in your deck, and you can also use unique PvE cards which are unavailable for the PvP side of the game.
For Example, take a look at this guy, Brutal Commander. He’s certainly okay, but nothing special in that form. However, let’s look at him when he’s been equipped with his 2 in-game equipment and is now loaded for a fight.
These are some pretty big additions to the card after equipment is attached, and now Brutal Commander really lives up to his name. Now you see why he is one of the main reasons Orcs is a deck of choice for taking on the Frost Arena!
The enemies in Frost Arena are all A.I. controlled and, for the most part, they’re fairly weak. In the first tier all your foes, save the final Eternal Guardian Boss, are weakened to 15 life rather than the starting 20 and their A.I. appears to be severely handicapped even to the point they miss dealing out lethal damage which is something an A.I. should never do, but for the easy tier it is appreciated.
When you’ve completed Tier 1 once, you can skip it for the remainder of your attempts at the Frost Arena and I would recommend doing this. The rewards for Tier 1 are poor for the time invested once you can regularly finish the Arena.
As an overall strategy in Frost Arena I would look to go for a fast aggressive deck. Historically A.I. has been weak at thinking and making decisions in Trading Card Games and thus has had to make up for it with cards and abilities which are more powerful than the ones the human opponents have available in order to provide a challenge. So the best counter-strategy here is to simply kill them before they have time to bring their powerful effects online. This has the added bonus of getting more currency quicker.
There are two main strategies for this which are currently favored, which is why I recommended the Dwarf and Orc starter decks.
Here are a couple of example deck lists which will have you flying through the Frost Arena, with equipment in brackets beside the card name:
Champion: Bertram Cragraven
- 4 x Charge Bot
- 4 x Electroid
- 4 x War Machinist (Tinkerer’s Robes)
- 4 x Gearsmith
- 4 x Pterobot
- 3 x VB1131
- 1 x Construction Guild Underboss (Prefabrication Boots)
- 4 x Construct Foreman
- 4 x Construction Plans: War Hulk (Hulk Helm)
- 4 x Construction Plans: Hornet Bot
- 4 x Burn (Conflagration Handguards)
This is your standard total rush deck — your aim is to be attacking your opponent for double digits on turn 3-4 and not letting him get online. Before the Armies of Myth expansion was released, War Machinist and Tinkerer’s Robes was the most powerful thing you could do in the Frost Arena as Tinkerer’s Robes allowed you to deal 1 damage to your opponent and everything he controlled for each artifact you played that turn. It has since been nerfed (modified to reduce its power level) but it still very powerful. Another option is to go for the Exoskeleton Prototype for the Construction Plans: Hornet Bot which reduces its cost to 0 and allows you to put up to 6 power in play on Turn 1 which is, obviously, incredibly unfair.
The added bonus is that this deck is incredibly cheap to put together, $10 will suffice and, in even better news, this deck is a base for a Constructed deck, however the recent Armies of Myth expansion may have put a dampener on that fire. If you’re feeling flush you could even add Reese the Crustcrawler or Tectonic Megahulk to the deck, although I feel the latter is better in the Frost Arena whereas Reese feels a bit too slow sometimes and out of turn with what this deck wants to do.
Champion: Sir Giles Rowan
- 4 x Quash Ridge Tusker
- 4 x Ridge Raider (Infiltrator’s Hood)
- 4 x Fierce Warlord
- 4 x Psychotic Anarchist (Combat Trailblazers)
- 4 x Brutal Commander (Zealot’s Skill and Bracers of Brutality)
- 3 x Veteran Gladiator
- 4 x Arena Regular
- 2 x Xocoy, High Cleric (Socketed with Ferocity and Destruction)
(Xocoy’s Axe, Armour of the High Cleric)
This is a speedrun deck through and through. Unfortunately it will set you back a bit more than the Dwarf deck, around $60 for the whole deck, however it’s possible to go budget and replace the Quash Ridge Tuskers with Savage Raiders, saving $25, and the Crackling Vortexes with Ruby Shards, saving another $15 or so, and the deck will function at most of its capability still.
There are multiple different variations of this deck, including versions which have 15-0’d the Frost Arena in under 30 minutes, my personal record being 32:20, however this was when Xocoy, High Cleric was a lot more powerful than he currently is (his ability triggered on any damage so he was pretty much an auto-kill with Brutal Commander). You can substitute Lionel Flynn or even Urgnock if you want to go the Arena Regular pathway. There’s a lot of play in this deck but there’s one constant. Turn 2 Brutal Commander. Everything else is flexible.
There are other ways to attack the Frost Arena and not all of them have to do with speed, but these are just a couple of examples of standard thinking. However Armies of Myth has given us some new toys to play with and I’ve been having some success with the following:
- 3 x Archmage Wrenlocke (Wrenlocke’s Chestplate/Gloves of the Archmage)
- 3 x Zakiir
- 4 x Psychotic Anarchist (Combat Trailblazers)
- 4 x Arena Regular (Gladiator Helm)
- 2 x Indigo Dreamwalker
Now this is a bit more expensive again, around $90, and it’s definitely rough around the edges but it’s simply a demonstration of how you can use multiple strategies (including just burning your opponent out by making resources) to get ahead in the Frost Arena. This deck is capable of doing some serious damage!
Personally I’ve have a lot of fun with Frost Arena, from beating the toughest regular boss Xarlox (trust me, you’ll HATE this guy) with his own cards to doing crazy things with Chimes of the Zodiac, there a great deal of fun and flexibility to be had and it’ll certainly keep you busy whilst grinding for some gold.
Good luck, and keep the heat up while playing in the Frost Arena!
Playing PvP Limited
If you’re playing Hex: Shards of Fate for any length of time, eventually you’re going to want to enter the PvP arena. The unfortunate side of PvP is that the Constructed meta-game (the wider picture of which decks are strong and the most popular at any given time) is often rather expensive to break into without a solid collection.
Fortunately, Hex has you covered with the two limited formats, Draft and Sealed. In these formats you will open random booster packs and build decks out of what you open, and as a bonus you get to keep any cards you open and add them to your collection alongside any prizes you may win.
I will start with the mechanics involved in the two limited formats and then look a little more intently at building decks in them.
Sealed Deck vs Draft
In any limited format you are looking for synergy within your deck, as you want your cards to work well with each other and your Champion in order to come up with an overall powerful strategy.
This is a lot easier in Draft than it is in Sealed as, while you open twice as many cards in Sealed, over half of them will be useless to you because they’re in the wrong shard combinations for your 40-card deck, while in Draft you can focus your strategy entirely on the shard combination and deck type you are in, focusing on the cards you have to choose from much easier.
Consequently I tend to err towards “power” strategies in Sealed and go for synergy a great deal more in a Draft. Can you get synergy in Sealed? Of course you can, but you need a very specific set of cards in order to get it.
An example I can give from a recent Sealed event: I opened Phenteo the Blood Priest and an Exarch of the Egg. This lead to spider-based euphoria until I discovered that I’d opened virtually no other good Vennen cards so I would probably have to not play the Exarch at all and just use Phenteo as a “good card”.
If I’d have first picked either of these two in a Draft, and yes they’re both first pick material, I’d have hatefully cut off anything to do with Spiders and build myself a seriously powerful Vennen deck, or at least that would be the aim. However in Sealed that avenue was cut off and I was left a bit hanging.
One of the major areas I look for in Sealed are if a shard has a lot of good commons which I can build decks around. In that manner Sapphire and to a lesser extent Blood both suffer in Armies of Myth as they tend to need more synergy to capitalize on how powerful they can be, something often lacking in Sealed, whereas Ruby, Wild and Diamond all have nice and deep card pools, and are where you’re likely to see more things happening.
My best success in the Sealed format has come with Wild/Ruby big troops and it’s what I default to due to the sheer power of its common and uncommon cards. Since this is my first article, I might as well be controversial right away: I believe Cressida is overpowered, certainly in Sealed.
One of the fundamental rules of resource-based card games is that you can only play 1 resource per turn. If you want to increase the amount of resources you play in a turn there is a cost involved, such as with Chlorophyllia or Howling Brave in Hex: Shards of Fate.
Cressida breaks this rule with a sickening crack. Not only do you get to vault ahead in resources for a turn but you don’t even have to invest a card, never mind resources, to make it happen. Also the removal in Armies of Myth, certainly for Sealed, is so lacking that often a Turn 3 or 4 play of a 5-drop followed by another one the next turn is often enough to just win on the spot.
Couple this to some very respectable 5-drops such as Emberleaf Wardancer, Tempestuous Blademaster, Caribaur Healer and Sandstone Rumbler along with the ramp available on turn 1 or 2 such as Ashwood Soloist or Lithe Lyricist and the 5-drop synergy spells such as Stirring Oration or Fiery Indignation and you have a very powerful deck which isn’t even in need of rares or legendaries. If you do manage to open a Heart of the Wrathwood or a Cerberus to go along with this package you’ll end up doing well for yourself. Personally my favorite run was a 5-win gauntlet where my only spell in the deck was a Playing With Fire. It’s a very forgiving archetype, just watch your resource curve that you have enough early game.
There are other archetypes to explore though. Ruby comes to the forefront again as it has some very efficient small creatures which can put your opponent on the back foot quickly, especially when combined with combat tricks such as Lunge or, should you go Diamond, Invigorating Breeze or the always brutal Mesa Lookout.
The Shift mechanic (where you pay a cost and the card loses a specific ability and gives it to another card of your choice) cannot be overlooked in this format with Deathmask Assailant being one of my personal favorites. However even the innocuous ones like Deadeye Slicer can make life very difficult for your opponent and combined with Patriarch Ozin, for example, make Revert (returning a card to its original state) a mechanic which may be worth looking into as, certainly in Diamond/Blood, it’s possible to set up a wall of Lethal Swiftstrike Troops and not even Wild/Ruby’s fat Troops can overpower that.
One final trick to look at is Ethereal Caller. A rather innocuous troop but makes revert all the more powerful. 3 Resources for a 1/2 and a 1/1 with Flight doesn’t sound like a world-beater but if you revert the 1/1 Phantom it will turn back into whatever it was while it was in your graveyard. There’s some real potential value to be had there.
If you are going to go Diamond/Blood I would seriously consider Madame Anana as your Champion as well, as she can provide a swell of card advantage by making sure you’re always going to have Troops on the board. Even 1/1 fliers add up over time, and especially if you’re shifting, giving Lethal to them and combat tricking with them, it really limits how far your opponent’s resources can go while maximizing your own.
The final piece of the puzzle is the Vennen tribe. Before Armies of Myth came out there was much demented bleating that the Spiders were overpowered and were going to run over everything. The reality is that most of the cards with the “egg-laying” ability are simply bad versions of already-existing cards. Certainly in Sealed, when your opponent is dropping a turn 3 fatty boom boom, you don’t want your response to be a 3 mana 2/4 which may be good later, a later which won’t come if the guy who’s about to kick your head in has anything to say about it.
I personally think to get the most out of the Vennen tribe you will need one or two of the good rares in tribe. The aforementioned Exarch of the Egg is one, and Brood Baron is another. I wouldn’t be looking into this tribe without them in Sealed as their common pool is so weak in comparison to the other things which can be done, so I’d be looking elsewhere.
In Draft, however, it’s a different animal if you can get hold of the cards you need early and you won’t have to do much in the way of compromise. Just be sure you know what type of deck you’re playing. It’s slow control. That means you need cards like Throwback to help keep you alive in the early game and muscle towards the finish line covered in unblock-able Spiders.
Additionally I’d look very seriously at Patriarch Ozin as your Champion over the traditional Zorzym of Korru. Although you get the free eggs off Zorzym, Ozim starts ploughing quickly through your opponent’s deck and is a big time snowball effect once you start chaining spiders. Which Champion you choose will depend on your number of egg-layers.
Limited Modes: Final Thoughts
Limited is a fantastic way to build your collection and gain some value from the time and/or money you’ve put into the game. It’s also the most rewarding way to play the game from an intellectual perspective, as you have to learn how to construct decks on the fly with what you’ve got available to you.
Furthermore, personally I’m a huge fan of the new Sealed Gauntlet as this lets you power through packs and play at your own pace. It’s a bit like Hearthstone‘s Arena, if you’re familiar with that. It’s something Hex: Shards of Fate has needed for a very long time and I’m incredibly excited for newer players getting to experience the fast-paced and fully flexible tournament type.
Constructed is where the most powerful things in Hex: Shards of Fate happen. It is no-holds-barred 60-card warfare, and the place where anyone who plays PvP wants to be.
Constructed is in a new and exciting place in Hex as, before Armies of Myth and the Gauntlet were released, the Constructed meta-game moved about as quickly as I usually do at 6:00 AM on a Monday. Decks dominated for months on end, usually backed up by one of the “Big 3” Legends, Reese, Angel of Dawn and Vampire King which led many to forsake Constructed except for community run events.
Now things are changing. As card pools expand, so do possibilities. Strategies which may have been one or two cards off from being competitive can now come roaring back and be contenders again. So, what of the new cards from Armies of Myth? How do they change things?
I could write entire articles about the decks involved in Constructed, and probably will in the future, however just for starters I feel an overview would be a good thing.
The Old Guard
Mono Sapphire Control/Mid-Range
This deck has had many evolutions, starting off as more of a control/combo deck which got to turn 5 and then starting chaining Menacing Gralk and Mastery of Time together and ‘nickel and dime’-ing you down.
When Reese and Verdict of the Ancient Kings were printed with Shattered Destiny, the deck begun to take on a new form, more of a mid-range disruption deck with its most powerful plays now revolve around protecting a game-winning threat, which now costs nothing the turn it enters play. It also helps that Cerulean Mirror Knight and Storm Cloud are a very powerful combo and the fact the deck is Mono-Shard also allows it to maximize the power of Storm Cloud by playing Crackling Vortex.
For a long time this resulted in a rather degenerate meta-game where most of the top decks were iterations of Mono-Sapphire trying to gain an edge in the mirror match and the occasional “all in” aggro deck trying to beat them before their control came online.
Mono-Sapphire was the end boss deck of the last expansion and while more tools are around to deal with it now it’s still a powerhouse of a strategy which you will need to be ready for.
Here’s an example deck list to show you what I’m talking about.
Champion: Bertram Cragraven
- 4 x Buccaneer
- 3 x Reese the Crustcrawler
- 4 x Cerulean Mirror-Knight
- 4 x Storm Cloud
- 4 x Eldritch Dreamer (Mind)
The deck did not get a large buff from Armies of Myth, although I’d make a strong case for Indigo Dreamwalker and Arcane Focus to make it into this deck, but it’s still going to be a big contender and as powerful as always.
These decks are based mainly around one card, Extinction. They were dominant in the early meta-game of Hex due to the sheer power level of the cards involved but as the card pool has gotten deeper many new decks can go toe-to-toe with Blood–based decks, and counter strategies do exist.
Blood happens to be the best shard to attack Sapphire with. Vampire King, Vampire Princess and the plethora of hand attack spells available to Blood means that it can keep Sapphire off balance, unable to sit on its spells, while simultaneously being able to kill a meddlesome Reese and if you can keep all that under control then the Mono-Sapphire deck struggles. You have to keep it under pressure otherwise you’ll simply be buried in card advantage.
- 4 x Vampire King
- 4 x Vampire Princess
- 4 x Giant Corpse Fly
- 3 x Zealous Excruciator
- 2 x The Killipede
- 24 x Blood Shard
Pretty hostile isn’t it? The Killipede and Vampire King have had periods in the meta-game where they’ve been held back by the prevalence of Xentoth’s Inquisitor, however those times are over as Inquisitor is terrible against Reese and thus cannot really be a massive part of the meta-game. Should Reese drop out of contention for any reason then we may see Inquisitor come back but not at the moment.
You’ll notice a number of Armies of Myth cards in this deck. Vampire Princess is a gimme, due to how much she utterly ruins decks that want to play a reactive game. Rot Cast is my own addition for dealing with both hyper aggro decks, stopping ramp decks from doing nasty things to me on turn 3 (Thanks Cressida) and for killing Mirror-Knights before they do any damage because that little Knight needs a good stomping.
You can configure this deck any way you would like. Uruunaz could definitely see some play with this much discard, Subtle Striker I’ve seen as an option if you’re REALLY scared of Cressida, and Pact of Pain wouldn’t go amiss for sure because you’ve got a few dead card draws so it would help to draw more cards, especially with life gain available. Personally I play this in my build.
The other side of this archetype is Blood/Diamond control fitting in Angel of Dawn, Living Totem, Soul Marble and some of Diamond’s better removal into the Blood shell. I personally believe Mono-Blood to be a little stronger but there are many different splashes you can make with this archetype.
Often hated but never forgotten. The old-fashioned “kill you in one shot” Gore Feast deck. From its beginnings with Stormcall and Menacing Gralk to its current build as essentially an Inspire deck with a one-hit kill, no deck has generated as much discussion and outright hatred as Gore Feast.
Champion: Poca the Conflagrator
- 4 x Cerulean Mirror-Knight
- 4 x Storm Cloud
- 3 x Cerulean Mentalist
- 2 x Lord Alexander, the Courageous
- 3 x Royal Falconer
- 4 x Buccaneer
- 1 x Reese, The Crustcrawler
- 3 x Eldritch Dreamer (Destruction)
This deck draws cards like no other and seeks eventually to overwhelm its opponent. It can kill as quickly as turn 4, but it rarely needs to due to the control it can muster, as well as devastating reserves. Gore Knight isn’t as popular as it once was, but you have to respect the power this deck, and specifically that 4-resource action, can bring.
On a different note, I have already discussed Robots earlier in the article as a potential sleeper aggro deck so I will not go through it again, however be aware of it as it may be a “gateway” deck for many newer players.
It’d be remiss of me not to mention what is to come. While the meta-game hasn’t fully developed since Armies of Myth descended there is one deck to keep an “eye” out for…
In the old days Eye of Creation was used as a way to cheat vast quantities of very large troops onto the field for very little cost. The deck was excellent against the ponderous mid-range decks of the time, however it fell into disuse once players figured out Countermagic and Verdict of the Ancient Kings were a thing.
However with the new ability to ramp to 5 mana, a new card was thrown into the limelight from Armies of Myth, and that card was Titania’s Majesty.
First, a deck list:
- 4 x Howling Brave
- 4 x Walking Calamity
- 4 x Arborean Rootfather (Ferocity/Empowerment)
- 4 x Ozawa, Cosmic Elder
- 4 x Crocosaur
- 4 x Lithe Lyricist (Puck, Dream Bringer also fine)
So if you haven’t figured it out yet, here’s how it works.
Get to 5 mana on turn 3 and cast Titania’s Majesty. There are then several possibilities for a turn 3 kill.
2) Hit Walking Calamity, punch your opponent in the face for 10 and then attack for 10 since he has Speed.
If that fails, well you’ve still got enough ramp to be casting Rootfathers and Crocosaurs as your mid-game and finishing everything off with Eye of Creation. The possibilities for this deck are absolutely brutal and right now there are only a few cards I can think of which can keep this in check. Therefore I would not be surprised if we see a ban in the near future as turn 3 combo kills, especially stable turn 3 kills (Majesty is about a 75% chance to hit when cast) are not healthy for any meta-game.
Of course, sometimes you just have to go all in and that’s where our final contender comes in:
Mono Ruby Suicide Burn
We finish with the simplest deck in the format. Kill your opponent as fast as possible and don’t slow down.
Champion – Urgnock
- 4 x Deadeye Ripper
- 4 x Savage Raider
- 4 x Unmerciful Tormentor
- 4 x Ridge Raider
- 4 x Psychotic Anarchist
- 4 x Fierce Warlord
- 20 x Ruby Shard
If you’ve got places to be and stuff to do, here’s your deck. Nothing fancy, no massive strategy, just kill your opponent dead and onto the next match. Anything that stumbles even slightly will fall before this deck and turn 3 or 4 kills are the aim.
Of course it would be possible to destroy this deck with a little reserve action but there’s a slight problem. Gauntlet is best of one. No reserves. Are you feeling lucky?
So hopefully I’ve given you a small insight as to what Hex: Shards of Fate is and where you can begin. If you’re still with me after this 5,000 word monstrosity, then congratulations! Reward yourself with a Frost Arena run or something, and until next time, I’ll see you on Entrath. Just avoid those volcanoes.
Any questions? Or perhaps tips and tricks of your own to share? Let us know in the comments below!
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