Hearthstone in a nutshell
If you’ve played the card game called Magic the Gathering, that’s basically what Hearthstone is apart from a few subtle differences. If not, here’s a basic overview of what Hearthstone: A 1v1 board game where you and your opponent begins with 30 life points each and a deck of 30 cards containing a combinations of spells and minions which are used to reduce your opponent’s life points to 0 or less. We’ve used the word board game instead of card game for a reason because the primary focus of Hearthstone is about controlling what’s on the board. We’ll elaborate further on this later in this article.
When you first run the game of Hearthstone, you will face off against a series of tutorial bosses that were designed to help you learn the game’s interface as well. You will work through interactions that can occur between you, your opponent and the board. Sure, it shows you how you’re supposed to play the game but just as a basic overview. Later in this guide you’ll learn how to optimise card selection and how to play the game to the best of your ability. For now you will understand the AI’s playstyle, it is a “very flowchart” and by no means should you use it as a reference for your own improvement.
Modes of play
Play mode is the mode you should spend most of your time in as a beginner as it matches you with real players of similar skill (hopefully). Within Play mode, you can chose to do Casual matches or Ranked matches, which allows you to compete and be ranked against with billions of other players. Both of these types of matches will yield you 10 units of gold (currency used in Hearthstone) for every 3 wins. It’s smart to use casual matches to test new decks that I’ve built.
If you really want to improve your skills as a player, Ranked matches are one of the two ways to go. Solo Adventure mode is where you can either practice against the AI or unlock specific key cards that are extremely useful in deckbuilding later on as you become more adept as a player.
Arena mode is where you are given a set of random cards with which you use to build decks to compete with other players. This is the mode that tests your deckbuilding skills as well as your fundamentals in ‘playing on curve’ and ‘board control’. Tavern Brawl mode is a weekly challenge which imposes a different set of rules for each week. This is definitely worth spending your time on because you get a free pack of cards if you win at least once. I mean, who doesn’t like free stuff?!
Hearthstone features 9 character classes: Mage, Warrior, Hunter, Shaman, Druid, Rogue, Priest, Paladin and Warlock. Mage is the class you will use against the tutorial bosses, the class you should try to master first. Why? Because Mage embodies all the Hearthstone fundamentals that includes; board control, tempo, efficient trades etc., which I will explain in more detail later on in this article. Once you get comfortable with Mage, your next classes you should try are Druid or Rogue. This is because, like Mage, these 2 classes have the ability to deal 1 point of damage to any target with their hero power. Thus, their interactions with the board are somewhat similar but with subtle differences which, I’ll leave to you to discover on your own. Hero power should also be something you are familiar with if you have defeated all the tutorial bosses so I will not elaborate on that in this article. The point I’m trying to make here is that the order in which classes should be learnt is largely dependent on the hero power of that class. For example, Warrior and Warlock should be the last classes to learn because their hero power is largely passive and lacks board interactions aside from a few spells and minions that benefits from the use of this hero power.
To summarise, here’s a list of the order of which classes you should recommend you learn:
2.Druid or Rogue (either one before the other)
How to get better at the game
Life Points vs Board control
Many beginners make this mistake contrary to what some like to believe, your life points generally don’t matter much in the first few turns. Like the cards in your hand and in your deck and your mana, your life points are a resource that is expendable in order to achieve victory. Board control or the concept of ‘having the ability to deal with your opponent’s threats immediately in addition to already having active threats of your own’ is of much higher significance.
The simplest way to obtain board control is to play minions and have them survive long enough to either deal with your opponent’s threats or to deal direct damage to your opponent. Your minions provide you with a very efficient source of damage since you do not have to spend additional resources (mana) for them to do damage again on a following turn. Spells, however, require mana for each use. Thus, you should first learn to play your spells in a way that remove one or more of your opponent’s minions in order to keep your own minions (your primary source of damage) alive to continue fighting.
There are times when your spells aren’t enough to remove all your opponent’s threats at once. In such circumstances, you may want to trade off some of your minions’ health in order to achieve/maintain an advantageous board state. However, you want to do it in such a way that you either keep your minion alive or suicide your low attack power minion to kill your opponent’s high attack minion. For example, your opponent has a 2/3 (2 attack and 3 health) and a 1/1. You have a 3/2 and a 3/3. The best way to trade is to run the 3/3 into the 2/3 and the 3/2 into the 1/1. That way, you kill both of your opponent’s minions and both of yours stays alive. Another example, your opponent has a 6/4 on board. You have a 4/2 and a 4/4. In this case, the best play is to suicide the 4/2 into the 6/4 while keeping your 4/4 to deal with subsequent threats as it can withstand more damage than your 4/2.
Not only should you be efficient in trading with your minions but also in the way you spend your mana each turn. Why is that the case? In many card games (go fish, solitaire, big two etc.), the person who plays the most cards generally wins. Hearthstone is no exception. In order to play more cards, you have to learn how to avoid wasting any mana given to you each turn (at least for the first few turns). Excluding the coin that you’re provided each turn, you are given 1 mana crystal each turn. So in turn one, you play a 1 mana cost card. In turn 2, you have two mana crystals so you play a 2 mana cost card if you have one. Because draws are randomized, you can’t always expect to have a card that corresponds exactly to a specific turn, so you have to find a way to use up all the mana crystals with what you have in your hand. For example, say you have 4 mana crystals in a given turn. You have no 4 mana cost cards but you have a 3 mana cost card, two 2 mana cost cards, and a 5 mana cost card. Since you only have 4 mana crystals, you cannot play the 5 mana cost card, however, if you just play your 3 mana cost card, you are in fact spending your mana inefficiently.
This can be perceived as bad in most cases because if your 5 mana cost card is a minion, you’ll most likely play that the next turn instead of the two 2 mana cost cards which, could have been played last turn. Plus, if the 2 mana cost cards and the 3 mana cost card are minions, then you’ve just played 1 minion instead of 2 that turn. To make things worse, since you made such an efficient use of your mana, the two cards that you could have played could potentially be stuck in your hand and not played until it’s too late.
Another thing I want to point out is the way to mulligan before a game starts. Generally, you should toss out anything that you can’t play in the first 3 turns (get rid of anything higher than 3 mana cost) unless you have the coin (in which case, you can keep a 4 mana cost card if you want). Why would I want a 3 mana cost card if I can’t immediately play it even when having the coin? Generally, nothing much really happens in terms of threats in the first two turns. If your opponent plays a one mana cost minion, you can easily deal with most 1 mana cost minions when the turn passes over to you with your 2 mana cost hero power (if you’re a Mage, Druid or Rogue) with or without the coin. So in a sense, you have a 2 mana cost ability by default. So what happens when the turn passes over to you again and you have 3 mana crystals? Ideally, you want to have a 3 mana cost minion right? You don’t want to play a 2 mana cost minion because if your opponent played a 2 mana cost minion on board and your hero power was not enough to remove it, your opponent can deal with your 2 mana cost minion straight away once their minion becomes active after you pass the turn. Even if they have to suicide their minion to kill yours, they still have the intuitive in playing additional minions that deal with your threats faster than you can play them. If you instead played a 3 mana cost minion instead, because most 3 mana cost minions are stronger than 2 mana cost minions, your opponent may have to spend additional resources to remove your 3 mana cost minion, rendering them unable to play another minion of their own that turn.
To summarize, spending your mana efficiently can have significant impact on the outcome of a game. Not spending your mana efficiently can lead to your opponent having board advantage over you and the last thing you want to do is play from behind.
Card advantage and knowing when to go for the face
Another thing that requires a certain level of efficiency is the way you utilise the cards you have in hand. You should always try to avoid spending more than 1 card to deal with a single threat. In fact, we should always strive to use a single card to deal with multiple threats. Why? Because each card in your hand represents an option you can make to impact the game. So fewer cards in hand means less options which in turn mean less ways to win you the game.
In the example I explained earlier where I had the 3/2 run into a 1/1. Since the 3/2 survived the encounter, it can deal with an additional threat before it dies. Even if your opponent has to cast a spell to finish it off, that’s still costing your opponent 2 cards to deal with one of your cards.
In a specific circumstance where you’ve done everything right from the beginning but you still find yourself having far less cards than your opponent, card efficiency should no longer take priority. In fact, trying to preserve your cards will lead you quicker to your downfall. In this case, the only way you’re going to win the game is to direct all possible damage to your opponent rather than spend further resources trying to establish a better board. The only exception to this rule is if you have an AoE (area of effect) spell in hand that deals massive damage to many minions at once.
Another situation where you should ignore card efficiency is when you have lethal damage (enough damage on your board plus the spell damage in your hand combined to reduce your opponent’s life points to zero or less). This is one of the most common ways that players (both new and experienced) lose games that they could’ve won. Always remember to count the amount of damage you can deal directly to your opponent. Because chances are, you may not want to drag the game any longer than you need to.
Building your first decks
Before you can apply any of the fundamentals explained above, you’ll probably need a deck of your own. I’ve been noticing quite a number of beginner plays engage in the act of net-decking which refers to ‘finding a good deck online and do whatever’s necessary to get all the cards for it’. I assure you, this isn’t the best way to go. In the most general sense, you do not need good cards to win. Most of what you really need is fundamentals and strategy. Net-decking in itself discourages the use of important fundamentals and hinders the correct execution of strategies that are imbued in those decks. Why? Beginner players tend to spend far more time familiarising with these non-basic cards rather than thinking out the best way to play out each turn. Beginner plays should instead focus on mastering the use of basic cards in order to develop a strong foundation of the game.
Casting cost refers to the amount of mana required to play a specific minion or spell. Ideally, you should have a good mix of cards of different mana cost in your 30 card deck.
Good Value Minions
Each minion has a certain number of stats in relation to the amount of mana you pay for them. Stats refer to the combined attack and health points of a minion. For example, a typical 2 mana cost 3/2 minion has 5 points of stats. Ideally you should put good value minions in your deck (ones that have the good stats as well as a good attack and health ratio). A 2 mana cost 3/2 can be considered a good value minion because of its ability to kill off some 3 mana cost minions that have 3 points of health. A 2 mana cost 1/1 is a bad value minion because not only are you paying 2 mana for only 2 points of stats, but it dies to almost every other collectable minion it clashes against. So for starters, look for minions in your available collection that has the best bargain in terms of stats and proportion for the mana cost you pay and put those in your deck.
Spells are cards that you should generally use to assist your minions in doing their job in controlling the board and dealing damage to your opponent. In that sense, more than half your deck should be filled with minions while the rest of your deck is filled with spells.
Mana curve is a complex phenomenon to explain. In basic terms mana curve refers to the distribution of the different mana cost of cards in your deck. It has a large influence on the consistency of cards that you draw from your deck during the course of a game. When playing a deck with a good mana curve, you will consistently draw cards with mana cost that corresponds to the number of mana crystals you have available for each turn. For example, you have 1 mana cost, 2 mana cost and 3 mana cost cards in your starting hand that you can play in the first 3 turns. A deck with a bad curve will consistently force you to wait several turns before you can put anything on the board.
I recommend that you should have 8 of a combination of 1 mana cost and 2 mana cost cards in your deck. Don’t ask why, because I don’t intend to go through all that statistical stuff which will bore the crap out of everyone. Next, one way to proceed is to put in some 3 mana cost cards (maybe 5 or 6). Then work your way down with 4, 5 and 6 mana cost cards (having less for each additional mana cost required). Another way to proceed is to have equal numbers of 3,4,5,6, etc. mana cost cards. Whichever build you choose, make sure you have 8 of a combination of 1 mana cost and 2 mana cost cards at least in your first deck.
Hearthstone decks are divided into 3 basic categories:
Contains many low to cost minions and spells. The primary objective is to reduce the opponent’s health points as quickly as possible. Aggro players generally ignore all threats thrown at them by their opponent.
The focus of a control player is to survive the early aggression by their opponent until they’re able to establish a board (usually by having an army of big minions) that is no longer penetrable. In a general sense, control players take damage until they don’t take damage anymore.
Mid-range decks contains a mixture of both aggro and control strategies. Beginner players should focus primarily on this type of deck so they can’t get a feel of both control and aggressive play styles before choosing to focus on one particular style.
Spending and managing your resources
Hearthstone is a free to play game. You don’t have to buy it beforehand and you don’t really need to pay for cards unless you want to get them faster. Below are a few tips that can help you save a lot of money and stress when it comes to getting new content for Hearthstone.
Hearthstone Currency: Gold/Dust
Gold and Dust are the two types of currencies used in Hearthstone. The former is used to purchase packs of cards while the latter is used to craft cards. Gold is obtained through doing daily quests, arena and through wins on Play mode. Dust is obtained through arena as well as from disenchanting non-basic cards. These two currencies are the only things that you ever need to spend. Why sacrifice your hard earned money when you can do the same with gold/dust obtained used your skills alone. I made a free to play account on another region where I don’t spend any real money on content and so far, I’m doing great on it.
Crafting and disenchanting
I recommend only disenchanting cards that you have more than 2 copies of as well as ones that you’re never going to use. As for crafting, I only do that for cards that I absolutely need.
Making and spending gold
The most reliable way to farm for gold is by doing your dailies quests. Once your skills become good enough to get a high number of wins in arena, then you may want to do your dailies in conjunction with arena.
In terms of priority with spending gold, one would tend to favour spending it on the adventure expansions such as ‘Naxramas’, ‘Blackrock Mountain’, as well as the recent ‘League of Explorers’ over buying 100g packs. The reason is that the expansions contain specific key cards that help immensely in deckbuilding such as Sludge Belcher from ‘Naxramas’ and ‘Emperor Thaurissan’ from ‘Blackrock Mountain’. If you become skilled enough, even arena is better value for your gold because it gives you a pack regardless of how good you did. If I were to ever spend gold on packs, I would accumulate it until I have enough gold to get at least 10 packs in order to get better odds in the cards I get. For beginners, I recommend you focus on the regular set and maybe ‘Goblins vs Gnomes’.
The Hearthstone community is vast and there a plenty of people out there near you that are willing to give you a helping hand in your road in becoming a better player. Below are a few ways to get involved in the Hearthstone scene:
Follow a streamer/s
There are plenty of professional players that are also live streamers that interact with their viewers. However, not all streamers are catered towards beginner plays. Below is a list of streamers that applies an educational approach to their broadcasting:
Trump HS – should also check out his youtube channel series ‘Trump Teachings’
Kripparian HS – also check out his youtube channel as he does make videos explaining the basic principles of playing Hearthstone
Join a society
There are communities hosted on social media like Facebook and Reddit where people posts questions about certain aspects of the game.
Hearthstone online and offline tournaments (the later are usually known as ‘fireside gatherings’) are a great way to test and improve your skills. I’ve being to ‘fireside gatherings’ where absolute beginnings would take part in. If they’re not afraid to take on more experienced players like me, you shouldn’t either.