Greetings! If you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in trying out, or are just now getting your feet wet with, the Hex Trading Card Game. Welcome to what is, in my opinion, the best Digital TCG in existence.
This article is focused on the Magic player who is coming into the Hex world, and is designed to provide the comparisons and contrasts with Magic: the Gathering and Hex in order to quickly get you into the Battlegrounds with as much knowledge as possible. Let’s get started!
The Anatomy of a Hex Card
Below is a Hex card, highlighted with key areas to take note of:
Let’s take a look at some of the main areas, along with as close a comparison to a Magic card as possible:
The cost of a Hex card is fairly straightforward. This is the amount of resources you need to play a card. You gain resources by playing Resource cards. Think of Resources as Land cards in Magic, as there are five different basic Resource cards: Diamond, Sapphire, Blood, Ruby, and Wild.
Unlike lands, however, Resource cards do not remain on the battlefield. Once played, a Resource card increases your total resources by one. Resources can be “fast” or “slow” – fast Resources, when played, provide you an available Resource immediately, while slow Resources become available during your next turn; think of these as untapped and tapped lands, in a sense. In the image below, you’ll see an example of a Resource card; the “1/1” annotation denotes a fast Resource, while a Resource that shows “0/1” would denote a slow Resource.
Along with resource additions, Resource cards typically add Shards to your total Threshold. Thresholds consist of the minimum required type and number of Shards played in order to play a Hex card. In our example card above, Crimson Slayer requires 1 Ruby Threshold. That means that throughout the course of the game, you must have played, at minimum, one Resource that produced a Ruby threshold. Once that requirement is met, you simply need to have available the number of resources required (two, in this case), to play the card.
Additionally, Thresholds are not depleted on a card-by-card basis. Say, for instance, I have 5 resources available, and my total Threshold is:
2 Blood, 1 Wild, 1 Diamond, 1 Ruby
I could play any combination of these cards during the same turn:
A Hex card can have zero or one faction. There are two types of factions: Ardent (Yellow) and Underworld (Red). Some cards in Hex require the presence of a certain number of faction-based troops:
Other cards give benefits to you based on the number of factioned troops currently in play:
Traits of a Hex card are usually given to troops. A strong comparison to Dungeons and Dragons can be considered here; Hex troops will typically have zero or one Race, and 0 or more Classes. Like factions, some cards and abilities in Hex rely on the presence of various Races and/or Classes of Troops:
Card Types and Restrictions
There are several different card types in Hex. Below is a quick comparison between Hex card types and their Magic counterparts – I’ve also included Uniqueness here as, while not a card type, it is a key characteristic of a Hex card:
|Hex Card Type/Restriction||Magic Card Type/Supertype|
|Action||Sorcery / Instant|
|Unique (Restriction)||Legendary (Supertype)|
Quick vs. Basic
With all Actions, and some other Hex cards, you will see an identifier of either Basic or Quick. Think of these as Sorcery speed or Instant speed. Basic cards can be played on your turn, when you have priority, and Quick cards can be played anytime you have priority.
Like Magic, Hex has differing card rarities. The rarer the card, the more powerful it typically is. Additionally, the set symbol is included in the same area as the card rarity. Much like the card types comparison above, we can roughly map the rarities in Hex to Magic counterparts:
|Hex Rarity||Magic Rarity|
|Common (White)||Common (Black)|
|Uncommon (Green)||Uncommon (Silver)|
|Rare (Blue)||Rare (Gold)|
|Legendary (Red)||Mythic (Orange-Red)|
Certain cards in Hex are also Promos. These are usually cards with a different art than their non-Promo counterparts, and are given as prizes or come as part of theme decks.
Many Hex cards contain keyword abilities that modify how that card behaves. I’ll start with a comparison below between common abilities between Hex and Magic, and then explain some of the more nuanced abilities in Hex. The following is a non-exhaustive comparison of abilities in Hex that act in roughly the same as a similar ability in Magic:
|Hex Ability||Magic Ability|
Now, for a few different noteworthy abilities in Hex:
Fateweave – Fateweave is a newer mechanic (as of the time of this writing) in Hex that is a great example of the added benefits of a digital-only atmosphere. The closest example to Magic would be the Scry mechanic. A card with Fateweave allows the controller to choose whether the next card in their deck will be a Resource card or non-Resource card. Once chosen, a random card in the deck meeting the chosen qualification will be placed on top of the deck.
Rage X – a card with Rage X modifies the attack power of a troop. For instance, if a troop has 0 Attack and 1 Defense, a Troop with Rage 1 would gain 1 Attack power when it attacks. Unless specified on a card, the added Attack gained is permanent and does not only last until the end of turn – the troop in our example (see below) would become a 1/1, then a 2/1, and so on.
Prophecy – Another mechanic that shows off the digital card space, Prophecy modifies certain cards in a Hex deck. Take, for example, this card:
Lanupaw’s Sight modifies the first action, resource and troop currently in the deck, and adds card text to each. In the case of Lanupaw’s Sight, each of these cards would gain the text “Draw a Card” to them. Prophecy is an inherently powerful ability that a paper TCG simply cannot achieve.
Gameplay Similarities and Differences
Deck Size and Game Length
Deck sizes for Hex are identical to that in Magic – you must have a 60-card minimum deck with a maximum of 15 cards in your “reserves” (sideboard). Players are allowed to enter reserves between games during a Hex match. Matches are best 2-out-of-3 games, and players have a chess-style clock to enforce time limits; players have 25 minutes each to play a match.
Champions may be new to those of you who only play Magic. Many current digital TCGs (Hex, Hearthstone, Eternal, Shadowverse, etc.) employ Champions as a way to enhance a player’s deck. Hex has a large variety of champions to diversify the way a deck can be played. Some have Threshold requirements, while others do not. Let’s take a look at a champion in Hex:
Champions grant players the ability to perform an action, once per turn, at Basic speed, as long as you have an appropriate number of “charges” to use the action. Charges, unlike resources, are depleted when used and must be regained over time, usually by playing resources. Some actions and abilities also increase the number of charges you have. Use champion abilities carefully!
Champions also define your starting life total. While in Magic, your starting life total is always 20 for one-versus-one constructed play, champions will alter your starting life total from the get-go. For instance, Angus the Arsonist, a champion that is best used in an aggressive Ruby deck comes at the cost of making your starting life total 17, as your game plan aims to end the game quickly; however, a champion designed for more control heavy decks like Dreaming Fox typically gives you a higher starting life total, since they are designed to be used in longer, more grindy games. Life totals range from 17 to 25, depending on the champion selected.
Socketing and Gems
Something that will be completely new to Magic players is the concept of socketing. Hex cards will sometime have the ability to be socketed; this is denoted by a bronze (Major Socket) and/or silver (Minor Socket) circle on the right side of a Hex Card, and will also include the phrases “SOCKETABLE MAJOR” and/or “SOCKETABLE MINOR” in the card text. This allows a deckbuilder to further customize what an individual card can do beyond the base card’s abilities. These types of cards are socketed with major and minor gems, and have Threshold requirements in order to be played. Major sockets can use major and minor gems, while minor sockets can only use minor gems. As of Frostheart, Hex’s seventh set, the current Gems available for use in Standard constructed play are:
Similar to the 4-of restriction for cards in a deck in both Hex and Magic, a deck may contain no more than 4 of the same gem. Also, players are allowed to socket different copies of the same card with different gems, and are allowed to change gems during reserving, allowing for even greater flexibility of gems in different types of matchups!
The Chain vs. The Stack
The Chain is quite similar to Magic’s Stack in that one ability/card resolves at a time, and, in most cases, can be responded to. Cards and abilities on the Chain resolve from right to left, similar to abilities on the Stack resolving from top to bottom.
Combat in Hex is very similar to combat in Magic; there are steps that occur before attackers are declared, before blockers are declared, and before damage is dealt (both Swiftstrike and regular damage). The same rules for Magic’s “Summoning Sickness” apply in Hex.
Unlike Magic, most modifiers that affect a card (i.e., Rage abilities, other attack/defense changes, card text changes, etc.) are permanent! Unless specified, most modifiers last beyond the end of turn.
Hex currently has two major constructed formats: Standard and Immortal. Think of Immortal as the Legacy format in Magic; cards and gems do not rotate in Immortal. However, in the Standard format, rotations occur on a rolling basis, as follows:
- New gems are introduced with every ODD-numbered set. When this occurs, the oldest set of major and minor gems are rotated out of Standard.
- The oldest two sets of cards are rotated in Standard with every EVEN-numbered set.
At the time of this writing, sets 3-7 are legal for play in Standard. New sets are released roughly every 4 months. The next rotation will occur with set 8’s release (name TBD), currently planned for late October or November. At that time, sets 3 and 4 (Armies of Myth and Primal Dawn) will rotate out of Standard.
Hex’s card sets, by number, are as follows:
|Hex Set Number||Hex Set Name|
|1 (NOT LEGAL IN STANDARD)||Shards of Fate|
|2 (NOT LEGAL IN STANDARD)||Shattered Destiny|
|3||Armies of Myth|
|6||Scars of War|
HexSets is a fantastic resource to see, on the fly, which sets and gems are currently in Standard. If you’re ever confused, check it out!
How to Get Cards
Auction House In-Game
The two core currencies within Hex are gold and platinum. Either can be used to acquire cards in the in-game Auction House, though platinum is usually the more sought-after currency. The conversion rate between gold and platinum varies, though a usual benchmark is around 200 gold : 1 platinum. Players are always looking for both in the in-game chat client.
One of the core facets of Hex is that it can be a completely free-to-play game. While the focus of this article is on Player-Versus-Player (PvP) constructed gameplay, a rich Player-Versus-Enemy (PvE) environment exists, and players can earn gold to acquire cards by playing through the various PvE offerings Hex has to offer. You can alternatively purchase platinum in-game in order to buy cards without having to grind through PvE quests.
While the Acution House is one way to acquire cards in Hex, the quickest and easiest way to acquire cards for constructed gameplay is to use a third-party site such as Battleshopper.com! From the perspective of a Magic player, think of BattleShopper as a site similar to StarCityGames or ChannelFireball. BattleShopper has a great selection of cards at prices comparable to or cheaper than their Auction House counterparts, and you avoid the hassle of having to first buy platinum before heading to the Auction House. Simply search for the cards you want to buy, checkout using PayPal or a Credit Card, and you’re done! The cards will be delivered through your in-game client’s mailbox – no waiting all day for a package to arrive, and you don’t need to be present for your cards to arrive – they’ll be waiting in your mailbox in-game for you with same-day delivery!
Hex has a robust laddering system available to constructed players once you acquire a deck. Best of all, the constructed ladder is 100% free to play, and players earn rewards while they climb the ranks of the Hex constructed ladder. Hex has 5 different tiers of constructed rankings: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Cosmic. The Bronze through Platinum tiers of play each have 5 sub-divisions (i.e., Bronze 5 – Bronze 1), while Cosmic has a ranking system to show the top Hex players in the world. Progressing all the way to Cosmic in a ranked season nets you 7 booster packs (15 cards/pack) of the most recent Hex set, two copies of the current ladder promo card, a plethora of gold, and a season-specific deck sleeve that you can use to share your achievement! Ranked seasons last for approximately two months.
Like constructed, Hex has a free-to-play Limited ladder as well; players need only pay for the packs used in Limited Draft gauntlets and Sealed/Evolving Sealed gauntlets.
Hex also has a variety of scheduled offerings for those that enjoy the tournament and competitive atmosphere. You can always find the most up-to-date scheduled event offerings by visiting Hex’s event calendar, accessible from the home screen in-game, or by visiting the Hex Forums.
The most popular events are as follows:
- Five Shards Weekly Series – Free to Enter (Standard)
Occurs twice weekly, and awards prizes to the top 16 players. The winner receives 10,000 platinum, and the remaining 15 players earn booster packs that scale down with rank.
- Five Shards Arcanum Vault – Free to Enter (Standard)
Occurs twice per day, weekly, on the same weekday each month. These events are always 4 rounds in length, and prizes are based on final Swiss standing. Booster packs and promos are awarded to anyone finishing 2-2 or better.
- Hex Bash – 700 Platinum (Standard)
Occurs every Saturday at 8am PST (11am EST), and is a Swiss tournament with top 8 playoff. These tournaments pay $1,000 cash and a variety of special battleboards (think playmats), deck sleeves, and promo cards. Prizes scale with attendance and are usually given to the top 32 competitors. Door prizes are also given at random to players in the event.
- Hex Clash – 1500 Platinum (Sealed)
Same style of tournament and payouts as the Hex Bash, but using a sealed deck instead of a constructed deck. This event occurs on Sundays, at the same time as the Hex Bash.
- Cosmic Crown Showdown – Free (By Invitation Only)
The Cosmic Crown Showdown (CCS) is a $5,000 tournament that brings together the top 64 players in both the Standard and Limited ranked season for a two-day event, held on an announced Saturday at 9am PST (12pm EST) after the ranked season ends. Day one is a seven-round swiss event using the Standard constructed format. After those seven rounds, the top 8 players return for a single-elimination Draft on day 2. Prizes for this event are:
- 1st: $2,000 and a special CCS animated deck sleeve
- 2nd: $1,000
- 3rd-4th: $500
- 5th-8th: $250
- 9th-16th: 25 current set booster packs
- 17th-32nd: 10 current set booster packs
- 33rd-128th: 5 current set booster packs
Data, Data, Data!
Something that will come as a very pleasant surprise to Magic players coming to Hex is the ease in which you can see deck and tournament data. Whereas Magic Online restricts which decks are visible based on arbitrary limitations set by those in charge of the software, Hex freely allows users to utilize the API for the game for multiple purposes. This allows us to easily see full tournament data, all the way down to a full listing of decks a player has encountered over the course of an event! I highly recommend HexPvPTools – any data you would ever want about every deck played on the constructed ladder, the Hex constructed meta, and specific tournament results, can be found here.
I would like to welcome each of you into the amazing Hex community, and I hope that you enjoy Hex! This primer should provide you with a great head start as you find a new kind of spark in the Hex Trading Card Game, and I wish you the best of luck in the Battlegrounds. Please provide any feedback to me via Twitter (@ProfYana_Twitch), and I sincerely thank you for reading. Cheers!