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Hearthstone's new mode is an Arena-style deckbuilder called Duels that is out today

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Blizzard has unveiled a new game mode coming to Hearthstone (opens in new tab), an early access version of which is live now (provided you've pre-order the mega bundle for the next expansion). The mode, which will release in beta on 17 November, is called Duels— and if you're thinking to yourself that that's basically a description of Hearthstone overall, well, yes. But this is different! Duels is built around PvP-style Arena competition, but blends it with the more wacky on-the-fly deckbuilding of the Dungeon Run solo adventures.

Duels will run on a seasonal system, with each season featuring a unique theme and new heroes, hero powers, and treasures. To get things started, players in the first season will select one of ten Legendary characters from the Scholomance Academy expansion:

  • Archwitch Willow (Warlock)
  • Forest Warden Omu (Druid)
  • Infiltrator Lilian (Rogue)
  • Instructor Fireheart (Shaman)
  • Mindrender Illucia (Priest)
  • Mozaki, Master Duelist (Mage—he seems like he'd be a good choice, he's got "Duel" right in his name)
  • Professor Slate (Hunter)
  • Rattlegore (Warrior)
  • Star Student Stelina (Demon Hunter)
  • Turalyon, the Tenured (Paladin)

Each season will also have a new pool of cards, based on current and previous expansions, which players will use to build their starting decks of 15 cards. That means those players who held onto their old Wild cards are somewhat advantaged, and those who don't have as complete collections are incentivised to sink more money into old sets, which no doubt suits Blizzard. 

Season 1 will include the Scholomance Academy, Curse of Naxxramas, One Night in Karazhan, and the Classic and Basic sets. Like Arena, players will square off against other human deckbuilders, with the ultimate goal of achieving 12 wins before suffering three losses.

Hearthstone Battlegrounds has been a major hit—it might even already be a bigger deal than the main game itself in terms of playtime—and so the promise of another new mode is definitely exciting. Duels' obviously similarity to the less-than-loved Arena might take a little air out of the announcement, but the inclusion of deck-building is a pretty big twist, so hopefully they'll come together in a strong package.

We'll be able to judge for ourselves soon enough: All players will have access to the mode becoming on November 12, ahead of the launch of the official Duels beta on November 17. "Casual" Duels mode is free, while a Heroic Duels mode, which will go live with the start of the beta, will cost 150 gold or a $2 Tavern ticket to enter, with special rewards available at the end of a successful run. Tavern Tickets will be replacing Arena Tickets, and grant entry to Arena or Heroic Duels.

Players who don't want to wait until November can get early access to the casual mode, from October 22—that's today!—to November 11, by pre-purchasing a Madness at the Darkmoon Faire bundle. Full details on the new mode are available at playhearthstone.com (opens in new tab), and we've also got a look at the new Madness at Darkmoon Faire expansion (opens in new tab)

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.