Hearthstone Beginner Guide Section 2: The Gameplay and Understanding Yourself

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If you missed out on the previous guide, you can look it up here Hearthstone Beginner Guide: Section 1.

THE GAMEPLAY

After reading Hearthstone Beginner Guide Section 1, you should have quite a firm grasp of how to evaluate cards individually and how to build simple decks given the limited card pool you currently own, that is to put minions into the Vanilla Test and evaluating the card synergy with other cards. In this section, we will focus on the gameplay, starting from the mulligan (card replacement) stage to the end of a match as well as discovering what type of deck that suits your gameplay, game plan or interest.

 

Step 1: The Mulligan Stage

The mulligan stage may seem quite insignificant to newer players due to the fact that the game ‘has not started’ yet until turn 1. Do not be deceived because at this very stage, it will determine whether you win or not. Firstly, if you are the player going first, you will not be possessing a coin while the player that goes second will have it.

When going first, you might see yourself disadvantaged because your opponent has The Coin and more cards in hand. Statistically, the player without the coin has a higher win percentage because going first means you have the initiative in playing your minions from turn 1 and also putting your opponent on the reactive rather than the active. Okay, enough about the coin since there are more complications to it in more advanced plays. Ideally, you will always want a smooth curve to play your cards from turn 1 or turn 2 onwards. Smooth curve means you are able to play a card each turn without having to miss out on spending mana. In other words, to make a play each turn by spending all your mana. This also helps with what many players call ‘Mana Efficiency’. An example of a smooth curve is shown below.

Hearthstone Basic Gameplay

There is a turn 1, 2 and 3 play. This starting hand will most likely pressure your opponent enough and putting yourself at an advantage even before turn 1 starts. An example of a bad starting hand is as follows.

The only good keep here is the 2 mana card while the others should be replaced with lower mana cards such as 1, 2 or 3 mana cost cards. Classes like Druid and Shaman should consider their curve in other ways in some cases. If as a Druid you have Innervate in hand, you might choose to keep your 3 or 4 mana cost cards in order to play them on turn 1 or 2 respectively. As for Shaman, the overload mechanic means that you cannot ‘curve’ out normally like other classes but you must also maintain mana efficiency to ensure that you do not let any mana go to waste.

 

Step 2: Making Favourable Trades

This step may seem really similar to the one in section 1, but we will recap a little more over here. Likewise in section 1, it is mentioned that there is significance of making value trades or ‘Trading Up’ to put yourself ahead on board and to devalue the opponent’s minions. If a single minion is able to take down 2 or more minions, that minion is making favourable trades and having to use 1 card taking down 2 resource from your opponent is definitely out valuing your opponent. Therefore, if you can prioritise summoning a minion with relatively high health, you should almost always consider to do so to make more trades. Minions with Divine Shield or Heal effects can also make favourable trades. For example, Argent Squire, although it has a stat line of 1/1, it can trade with two 1-Health minions. Furthermore, if you are able to increase the stat line of Argent Squire along the way, especially its attack, you could take down stronger minions and thus, a favourable trade. Earthen Ring Farseer is one powerful card. If your minion took 2 to 3 damage from making a trade but is still on board, Earthen Ring Farseer is able to heal that minion back up, and allowing your targeted minion to make more trades in future turns. On top of that, you are also pressuring your opponent even more because you are placing a 3/3 body on board on top of allowing your other minion to stick on board.

Minions with Stealth allows you to make favourable trades. The Stealth effect allows you to wait for your opponent to play a minion and allowing you to make a trade without having to worry about your Stealth minion getting removed. Cards like Shaku The Collector and Worgen Infiltrator can make trades that are to your favour.

 

Step 3: Going for Lethal

Usually in the mid to late game, you should consider whether you have the right amount of damage to kill your opponent. Novice players tend to concentrate on the board too much to the point where they unknowingly neglected the sure win. Such negligence can cause you to lose the game or put yourself into unnecessary stress. You should count the damage in your hand and on the board, total them up and check whether you are close to killing your opponent or you can already kill him. If you are close to taking down your opponent, you might want to consider pushing your opponent closer to lethal range or continue fighting for board presence. Bear in mind that cards like Tunnel Trogg and Mana Wyrm get stronger if you play certain cards, so you should also include the post stats that these minions will have after playing your cards.

There are cards like Azure Drake and Evolved Kobold that increases the spell damage of relevant cards. If possible, hover your courser over damage spells to ensure that you do not miss out a few points of damage that could make a huge difference to whether you take your opponent down or not.

Besides going for lethal, you should also consider the opponent having lethal. Against a Mage for example, if you noticed that your opponent has not played a Fireball yet by late game, you should include that 6 damage in your opponent’s total lethal damage inclusive of your opponent’s board state. To prevent any negligence of opponent’s lethal, you should also count the damage that your opponent potentially have. By doing so, you could save yourself if you have a Taunt or Heal in hand.

 

Step 4: Knowing your opponent’s deck or cards

Knowing roughly what deck your opponent plays/played can help with the way you play out your turns. Third party applications can help improve yourself as a player but also keep in mind that you should not solely be very dependent on it. You can search for ‘Hearthstone Deck Tracker’ on any search webs and download the application. Hearthstone Deck Tracker can track the cards you have played and drawn as well as the cards that your opponent played. So for example, if you have seen your warrior opponent use 2 Brawls, you should almost always start flooding the board to the point that they cannot clear your minions efficiently. Other tricks you could have is also to know your opponent’s outs. For instance, if the opponent have already played a single Brawl, you might consider to start flooding the board again immediately before he draws into his second Brawl. Such plays could also potentially win you games. In other words, high risk high reward plays. As an amateur player, being on the active side is better. The active player ‘asks the questions’ and the reactive player ‘answers the questions’. Therefore if you were to flood the board right after a Brawl, you are kind of asking your opponent ‘Do you have another Brawl? If not, you are going to have a bad time’. If the answer is no, then the high risk that you took to play your minions is highly rewarded.

Key cards in all classes should always be in your consideration. Examples are like Druid’s Swipe, Mage’s Flamestrike and Volcanic Potion, Warrior’s Brawl and Shield Slam and Paladin’s Consecration. Usually, the cards you always play around with are board clears or many term it is AoE (Area of Effect) spells. Making favourable trades that put your opponent in an awkward spot where they cannot entirely remove your board is almost game winning plays.

 

Step 5: To Trade or not to Trade (Face)?

This is a very very very important step, I cannot stress this enough. This question sometimes defines a good and a better player. Good players make the most obvious current turn plays, better plays think about future turns that affect their current dilemma. There are a few rules to follow when asking yourself ‘To Trade or not to Trade’. Take note that these rules should be followed but not always true, depending on the current situation you are facing.

Trade

Face

If your opponent threatens lethal If you have lethal
If you can make favourable trades If you can’t make favourable trades
If you currently have no answers in hand If you have answers in hand
If you know that your opponent will choose to go face If you know that your opponent will do the trading

 

Some of these rules go together for a given situation, some stand alone. It is not possible as a new player to have these rules always in your mind because there are just too many factors to consider. However, as time progresses, you should be able to get a hang of it and subconsciously answer this question.

 

UNDERSTANDING YOURSELF

This section will cover what type of a player you are that defines the type of deck you should choose to create and play in constructed. A rather short sub section in the article but hopefully you would be able to understand yourself better to increase your chances of winning. As of now, there are currently a few Deck Archetypes that exist in Hearthstone. Namely Aggro, Control, Combo and Midrange. These archetypes are not always exclusive. Some decks that players create and innovate are combining the archetypes together to possibly form a stronger deck. I will explain the win conditions and game plans of course. There is no real definition to the archetypes but you will understand them through the explanations given below. For now, the best recommendation for the type of decks beginners should practice with are aggro and midrange decks. I will not dwell too much into control and combo decks in order to suit the more dire need of assisting the novices.

 

Aggro Decks (Recommended for new players)

Aggro decks tend to have relatively lower costing cards in the whole deck. Ideally, most of the cards in an aggro decks consists of no more than 4 mana. The reason for this is that any cards that cost higher would put you at a position where you are not able to play more than 1 card a turn or you draw them really early in the game, introducing friction to your aggressiveness.

Aggro decks tend to finish games before the mid to late game, like turns 6 to 7 or even before that. The aggression starts as early as turn 1 and could potentially snowball out of control until they win in the next few turns. These decks are mostly playing actively rather than reactively. If an aggro deck is forced to play reactively, their chances of winning will be lower as the resource they are expending are not towards the opponent’s face.

Examples of Aggro Decks in the current meta game is as follows. Note that these decks can be tweaked and are not always entirely followed (as well as the other decks shown later on).

 

Control Decks

Control decks are reactive most of the time. The mana cost of their cards actually varies and does not have a predictable curve like Aggro Decks. Control decks consist of many prime removals such as Entomb and Execute. They also consist of a lot of board clears such as Flamestrike and Holy Nova. Basically, if you are able to survive throughout the whole game, no matter what the opponent plays, the control player wins the game.

Control decks are patient and reactive (although some have certain active win conditions like Murloc Paladin). Unlike other decks, Control decks are limited by their removals. Therefore, a control player should always assess whether they can hold back their removals or they are forced to play it. Getting every amount of value they can squeeze out of each removal cards is what they always try to do. If you like playing slower games and like giving your opponent a hard time to kill you, this should be the deck for you.

 

Combo Decks

 Combo decks are quite fun to play where you collect combo pieces and play them all in 1 turn to pressure your opponent or lethal your opponent. The main in-built combo system in Hearthstone is only given to Rogue as many of their card texts consist of the mechanic ‘Combo’.

Combo decks usually play a midrange to control style. These 2 methods of play help the player to reach into the middle or later stages of the game to expend their combo pieces in a single turn.

Unfortunately, cards that encourage combo decks to shine were nerfed so cards like Warsong Commander and Arcane Golem do not see play anymore due to the new effects that they are given. Some combo decks still exist today and if you appreciate the directions that combo decks opt for, this should be a sweet archetype for you.

 

Midrange Decks (Recommended for new players)

And finally, midrange decks. Midrange decks lie between aggro and control. They are like a Jack of all Trades but a Master of None. They have prime removals, board clears as well as low curves to put some aggression and late game minions to assert late game pressure. These type of decks are one of the strongest in Hearthstone due to the fact that they are an all-rounder and does well from the turn 1 onwards. They can play both reactive and active sides as well as maintain a good hand size.

It is hard to pin point the weakness of certain midrange decks therefore, they can fall off easily without a decent curve in the early game and this disadvantage can accumulate all the way to the late game. But if you are looking for a powerful deck that isn’t the most difficult to play in Hearthstone, midrange decks are definitely recommended since it encompasses a lot of the game mechanics that Hearthstone has to offer.

 

Conclusion

After reading and understanding this article, I hope that you have a firmer grasp of the mechanics of Hearthstone. To win a game, the significance starts at the mulligan stage. From there, you should make winning plays from trades to knowing your opponent’s cards. Before all of these, you should know what type of a player you are whether you want games to end fast, or slow or whether you like the in-between. Make sure you are comfortable with what you choose to play with in order to master a certain deck. Move on to another archetype to understand everything that way you will know what counter plays to make. Until next time…


Image credits: Blizzard

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Laurence, or otherwise known as 'Mechanics' by some of his in-game peers is currently a student in NUS. He loves playing Hearthstone during his free time and believes that while studying hard, playing hard is important as well.

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