Players have watched Hearthstone slowly evolve—sometimes glacially so—since it launched in 2014. We've had endless expansions, new modes like Battlegrounds and Tavern Brawl, and most recently a whole new class. We've also received very gradual quality of life improvements. It infamously took years for Blizzard to have more deck slots (didn't have the technology, too confusing for players…) and then more time to be able to copy and share deck codes.
As of this year, we can finally reorder decks—a small adjustment, but one that alleviates the need many of us feel to line the hero portraits up neatly. Overall, progress is slow and steady, but six years into the life of the game it baffles me that we still don't have in-game deck tracking.
The function of a deck tracker is to, well, track your deck. Letting you know what cards remain and what your opponent has played so far, as well as all sorts of additional info captured from the client. Some might argue that the mental gymnastery of having to remember everything youself is part of the game's skill, but those people clearly never alt+tab out to catch up on their YouTube backlog while an opponent is using the rope to decide whether to play a one-drop on turn one.
@Darkyshor any app that duplicates what you can do with a pencil and paper already is fine.September 14, 2014
What's puzzling is that Blizzard isn't against players tracking cards, as was made clear early in Hearthstone's life. Six months after release, game director Ben Brode replied to a tweet (above) to reassure players that "any app that duplicates what you can do with a pencil and paper already is fine". Even players competing in the Grandmasters tournament are using deck trackers, as they're participating from their home setups. If these add-ons are acceptable at tournament-level then it's strange to see no sign of them becoming an official feature.
It looked as though things were ripe for change in 2018, which saw the launch of an official deck tracking app for PC that could also record and share replays. Unfortunately, the Official Companion App is not actually made by Blizzard and is only available on Hearthstone's China servers. This means that players on the remaining three servers have had to find other means of tracking their matches.
My go-to deck tracker is the HSReplay.net Companion App. It has a simple overlay that I can adjust to display which cards have been played in the match so far, when cards were drawn, and which secrets I may have to play around. I can also dig into my win rates for specific decks and arena run stats. Open a Hearthstone Twitch stream and you'll see the top streamers using similar software. Seemingly everyone agrees that deck trackers are a helpful addition, yet the community has to download an add-on to solve the problem.
The natural downside of a Blizzard-made deck tracker is that it could put these websites in a spot of trouble. Data collected through HSReplay's companion app fuels their website with valuable data on the current meta and trending decks. The introduction of official support would likely push third parties that have built their entire business models off this omission out of the picture.
While deck trackers are fine to use in Hearthstone, they can suck the fun out of some of the modes if you get too bogged down in their features. For example, in Hearthstone's Battlegrounds mode, stats outlining the odds of you winning or losing versus each opponent can feel like they remove the fun. I'm not much of a Battlegrounds player myself, but community responses to deck tracker overlays in this mode have been very positive, overall. Notable additions let you see your opponent's last known board, and display a full list of the minions in each tavern tier to help you make selections that synergise well with your build.
Hearthstone would benefit from official deck tracker support now more than ever due to the contents of its Standard sets. Rogue's Shadowjeweler Hanar adds secrets from four different classes into a match. That's 22 secrets in the pool, with a 'Christmas tree' of up to five active at a time. Highlander decks also feature 30 different cards, making it tricky to remember what's still lurking in the latter half of your deck, particularly during marathon sessions.
If both the community and the developer are already in agreement that deck trackers are just the digital equivalent of scribbling down match progress on a piece of paper, why are we still waiting for official support? Even Android phones feature third-party deck tracker apps, so we know it's possible to implement on the mobile version without it having a negative effect on the experience. There's an established list of changes that Hearthstone players continue to push for, but official deck tracker support is at the top of mine.
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As PC Gamer's guides writer, Emma is usually juggling several games at once. She loves competitive first-person shooters like CS:GO and Call of Duty, but she always has time for a few rounds of Hearthstone. She's happiest when she's rescuing pugs in Spelunky 2.