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HearthstoneAug 22, 2018 10:00 am CT

Hearthstone’s single-player Puzzle Lab is packed with terrifyingly tough brain-teasers

It’s time to say hello to the Puzzle Lab, Hearthstone’s latest single-player challenge. Launched yesterday, the Puzzle Lab has over 100 different challenges — and none of them are Hearthstone as usual. Jump into one of four labs, each with four mad scientists looking for a new lab assistant to put through their paces. Each one asks you to reach a certain goal in a single turn, using only the cards in your hand and the minions on the board. You start with a different hero and a different set of cards to tackle every challenge, so you never have a chance to get complacent.

It’s a format that genuinely transforms the Hearthstone experience. Yes, it’s a game you play with cards, but it no longer feels like a card game. Each challenge is a new puzzle, and you have to put each card in just the right place to succeed. It’s all about playing your cards in the right order, and it takes a few (or more than a few) tries to get each one right. The puzzles start out simple to show you the ropes, giving you just a few cards that must be played in the right way to win the match. But once the game has given you a taste of victory, it starts handing you seemingly useful cards that are complete red herrings. Soon enough, you’ll be scratching your head and wondering how anyone beats these puzzles.

I keep losing, but somehow I’m still sitting here playing these stupid puzzles. They’re surprisingly addictive, and I think you should give them a try. Maybe you don’t need to drop what you’re doing right this second — hey! where are you going?! — but they’re definitely worth a play.

But Liz, I don’t play Hearthstone. Why should I care?

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Because, my friend, Puzzle Lab is completely free. While Hearthstone can be frustrating for new or returning players because you need a good card collection to win, you don’t need a single card to play through these puzzles. The cards you get and the classes you play are pre-determined by the challenge, so really all you have to do is show up. In fact, I think people who don’t play much Hearthstone may be better at these puzzles because they won’t start with any pre-conceived notions about how the game should play… which should make these puzzles a little easier to figure out.

If you’re a complete Hearthstone newbie, you’ll have to play through the tutorial to get in, but after that… into the labs with you!

If you like puzzle games, you’ll probably like Puzzle Lab, even if you can’t stand Hearthstone. And if it turns out you don’t like Puzzle Lab… well, there’s no harm in trying, is there?

But before you get started, it pays to be pre-armed with information. Here are the different types of challenges you’ll encounter.

Lethal challenges

  • Goal: Destroy your opponent in just one turn — that’s OTK in Hearthstone lingo.

While you can tackle these challenges in any order, Lethal is a good place to start because it’s the simplest. Your goal is to destroy your enemy, which is something every gamer is used to. Attack with minions, bombard it with spells… do whatever you can to bring its health down to zero (remembering you only have a single turn to do it in).

Mirror challenges

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  • Goal: Match your opponent’s board exactly, from the order of minions on the board to the health of every mob.

These challenges present an interesting puzzle because they’re so different from normal play. Here, you aren’t trying to kill anything (necessarily). You’re just playing minion Tetris to line the cards up so they’re an exact duplicate of one another. And I do mean exact: even the mobs’ health has to be identical for you to move on to the next challenge. Keep an eye out for challenge-only cards that rearrange your board and remember that you can cast healing spells on enemy minions and damaging spells on your own minions to make that perfect mirror.

Board Clear challenges

  • Goal: Kill every minion, so no one’s left on the battlefield.

Yours? Theirs? It doesn’t matter — the goal is to line ’em up and knock ’em down. There’s (unsurprisingly) a lot of AOE in this challenge, particularly AOE that hurts minions on both sides of the board, and timing everything right will help you win. You don’t want to waste any possible damage by killing off one of your minions too early — but you don’t want to let them stick to the board until you have no opportunity to kill them, either.

Survival challenges

  • Goal: Heal yourself to full so you can survive taking a hit that would otherwise be lethal. Owwie. This is why you should never volunteer to be a test subject for a mad scientist.

This challenge isn’t all about casting healing spells. You’ll find Deathrattle and Lifesteal cards that are crucial to winning these matches… and some Puzzle Lab only cards will help, too. You’ll see Turret Sentinel quite a bit: these 4/8 minions automatically attacks any minion you play, and when they die they refresh all of your mana crystals. That means the key is killing them just as you run out of mana so you can stay in the game.

It’s time to meet Dr. Boom

When you finish any category of challenges, Dr. Boom himself comes out to test your mettle. What a lucky lab intern you are to meet a celebrity like Dr. Boom! There’s a set of brain-bending Dr. Boom puzzles at the end of each category, and if you defeat every one of them, you get a Dr. Boom card back to impress your friends with.

Was a card back worth all of that trouble? Probably not, but it was fun fighting our way to the top to get it.

These puzzles are too hard!

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Dave Kosak says your brain will melt if you try to figure out all of these puzzles in one go, and I think you should trust Dave. Take a break — or switch to another section of the lab — and let your subconscious chip away at the challenge. Though the puzzles are pretty dang tough, they’re all doable, and I think the challenge is half the fun.

But if you really are stuck there are walkthroughs. (And I confess I referenced one when I hit a particularly annoying puzzle that I swore wasn’t beatable. I was wrong.) Hearthstone Top Decks has simple solutions to Lethal, Survival, Board Clear, Mirror, and Dr. Boom puzzles if you need a tip to get past a frustrating puzzle.

So good luck, fellow lab assistants! Hopefully we will all survive our adventure through the Puzzle Lab and see each other again.

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