Blizzard recently announced that Hearthstone will adopt the traditional CCG mechanic of banning older cards and sets in order to more easily maintain game balance. Though the Wild format allows use of every card (and is essentially the same game you’ve been playing for years), Standard will become the “official” format (used in tournaments), and will ban cards older than a couple of years. If it eats at your soul that cards you’ve worked hard to collect will no longer be viable in the “official” format and you’re looking for a Hearthstone alternative, Counterplay Games’ Duelyst might be your way out of Blizzard’s grasp.Duelyst, which doubled its Kickstarter funding goal back in April of 2014, has a design team filled with industry pedigree, which includes former lead producer of Diablo III Keith Lee and Rogue Legacy lead artist Glauber Kotaki, among others. So far, only in open beta and a little over halfway to version number 1.0, both Duelyst’s industry pedigree and Hearthstone influence is quite apparent.Like most CCGs, the game is easy enough to explain: two players duke it out using a range of units and spells, except unlike Hearthstone or Magic: the Gathering, the units are summoned onto a grid and unit spacing and movement come into play. The game draws a lot of inspiration from Hearthstone, and certain aspects are so similar that “inspiration” might be too soft a word. Thanks to the gorgeous pixel art and grid movement, Duelyst both looks and plays differently from Hearthstone, but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that the game replicates much of what makes Blizzard’s CCG so easily accessible and successful.AdChoices广告The very clever tactic of naming your decks after the legendary cards in them.The card collection interface (seen above), for instance, is strikingly similar to Hearthstone‘s, as is the way Duelyst allows you to craft cards using Spirit, the game’s crafting material and Hearthstone’s Dust analog. The game approaches win conditions the way Blizzard does, too — by using General units (Hearthstone’s heroes), rather than the Magic route of using a disembodied pool of health, and each General has its own set of class-specific cards. Even the booster pack pricing structure and draft mode entry fee are the same as Blizzard’s juggernaut.The game’s meta (for the uninitiated, a term used to describe the game’s balance of power) is even abstractly similar to Hearthstone’s, as the cards’ powers and stats are all pretty similar, though adapted for Duelyst’s grid movement and spacing system. If you overheard two players discussing the game aloud and were half-paying attention, it’d be difficult to tell which game they were talking about: “a two-two for two that draws on card on death.”Despite the games’ similarities, Duelyst doesn’t really feel like Hearthstone unless you think about it. Like, check this out:The detailed, gorgeous pixel art and animations juxtaposed on the slick game board goes a long way to setting the game apart from competitors, and the SRPG-like gameplay makes your brain work in different ways when you’re playing — even if you’re summoning a five-five for five with provoke (Duelyst’s version of Hearthstone’s Taunt).All of the digital CCG staples are there: a draft mode (called Gauntlet), a ranked and unranked (coming soon) ladder, earning in-game currency without spending money in order to grab some free packs, and so on. Duelyst does implement puzzles, though, something that Hearthstone players only get in the form of player-created scenarios that pop up on out-of-game communities like the subreddit. So far, each puzzle involves a pre-made unit, deck, and hand configuration and tasks players with defeating the enemy in a single turn. They’re all pretty fun, and you earn a bit of in-game currency for completing each puzzle, which is a great way to get some packs to start your collection.Perhaps this is because it’s currently a beta, but Duelyst is far more generous doling out in-game currency and crafting materials (and it either takes less materials to craft or you get more back when you disenchant), and it sure has better card rarity rates within packs. You have the standard “one pack will have at least one rare or better” promise, but those “at least” and “or better” delineations trigger pretty frequently. Right now, a legendary seems to drop every four or five packs, compared to Hearthstone’s one-in-20. This doesn’t mean you’ll complete the collection and have nothing to strive toward, though, as Duelyst currently allows three instances of any card in a 40-card deck. That means you can load a deck with three of the same legendaries, and so far, it seems pretty balanced.After playing for a few weeks, matchmaking has never taken more than a few seconds (even though the matchmaking screen consistently and incorrectly estimates it to take over a minute) in any format, so the community seems pretty active. You can also pour over detailed charts of your personal stats:At the time of writing, Duelyst is sitting at version 0.57.4, and there’s much more the developers have said is just over the horizon, such as expansions and a potential mobile port. There’s also a “secret” client that runs in a Chrome tab, which makes it pretty easy to sneak some matches in while you’re at work.So far, the game is shaping up nicely, and totally scratches that CCG itch. Its similarities to Hearthstone are by no means a detraction, but rather will help you feel comfortable with what is new — namely, the movement and spacing system, and getting distracted by staring and the gorgeously animated units and spells.Give Duelyst a try. It’s free, and the best Hearthstone alternative on the market.