My name is Aidan#1630, I'm on NA and I am an avid Hearthstone player. I've been playing since release, and here I have a guide directed towards newer, more casual players looking to learn some competitive aspects of the game!
Why did I write this guide? Whether it’s my friends, people in Facebook groups, Twitch chat or people on Reddit,everyone has questions. I’m trying to answer them.
This guide is directed towards the players who want to learn and become more competitive at Hearthstone! I will include articles, stream links and tips as well as core concepts, good habits and general tips for self-improvement.
This guide is split into six sections.
1. Core Concepts
2. Deck Archetypes
4. Getting into the Game
This is a long read. Getting a snack before you start would help, or maybe a Dr. Pepper or something.
Now without further ado, let’s begin!
Core Concepts of Hearthstone
Hearthstone has many interesting concepts to master, but here I will only focus on four which I feel all players should know.
Value is getting the most out of your cards. Simple as that. Value can be gained through a spell, buff, good trades orcard synergy/combos.
Card advantage can be gained in two forms. One way is by drawing more cards than your opponent, with cards such as Gnomish Inventor or using Warlock’s Life Tap. Card advantage is also gained when you can answer a threat more efficiently than it was put out, and vice-versa. I will give an example situation of a match where both players at different points of the game gain card advantage.
I am playing Druid vs. Hunter. The Hunter plays nothing turn one. I respond with an Innervate and a Piloted Shredder. The Hunter then responds with a Freezing Trap. The Hunter has not only gained card advantage, but stopped the Druid's tempo as well (explained below).
Later in the game, I play Ancient of Lore and opt to draw two cards. I now have card advantage over my opponent, as I now have possibly more threats or more efficient answers to his threats.
I would like to note, that while card advantage is an advantage it may not win you as many games as you expect it to.
Tempo in its essence is putting a player on the reactive, while the player gaining tempo is on the proactive. You gain tempo in a variety of situations, such as forcing your opponent to deal with your threats inefficiently, gettingvalue, or by putting lots of pressure on your opponent. As Reinhardt told me: You’re asking the questions, while your opponent provides the answer.
Some cards can grant you some serious tempo, such as the aforementioned Innervate, Rogue’s Sap, Mage’sFlamewaker, the Warlock’s Void Terror and, in most situations, Sylvanas Windrunner as well. All these cards swing the board instantly to your favor, instantly putting your opponent on the reactive.
On a side note, tempo usually means you end up sacrificing card advantage for board advantage
A win condition is achieved when the state of the game is at the point to grant you victory. This can mean a number of things. For Aggro, it can mean having enough out on the board to finish off your opponent in the next turn or two. For Control, it can mean outlasting your opponent and being able to finish your opponent off with your late-game. Win conditions can be different for each deck, so it’s good to know yours.
For further learning on core and class-specific concepts, I would like to refer you to Trump’s Teachings series!
Types of Decks
Hearthstone has five major deck archetypes, all with their own playstyles and respective preferred card choices:Aggro, Tempo, Midrange, Control and Combo.
Short for aggressive, aggro decks are well-known for their early-game focus on board control and their mid to lategame focus on the opponent’s face. Aggro decks aim to close out the game early with their fast-paced gameplay, cheap cards and raw efficiency. Aggro is a popular playstyle, as they are low-dust decks that can be seen anywhere between Rank 25 and the top Legend ranks.
Popular aggro decks include:
- Face Hunter and it’s slower version, Hybrid Hunter
- Aggro Paladin
- Murloc Warlock
- Mech Shaman
To reiterate, tempo aims for board presence and to dictate the pace of the game. These decks can be fast or slow-paced. A tricky style to master, as some of the best players of tempo decks know how to regulate board presence and other valuable advantages (such as card value) almost perfectly. This isn’t a playstyle specifically meant for these decks, but a main focus of the below decks is gaining tempo, so they deserve their own category.
Popular tempo decks include:
- Flamewaker Mage
- Tempo Rogue
- Ramp Druid
- Midrange Hunter (Ironic, I know.)
The most fluid deck archetype in Hearthstone. Midrange decks can incorporate many or all of the game concepts explained above, while mainly being known to be a “Jack of All Trades” playstyle, having cards to deal with aggro and put pressure on control decks. Midrange decks are slower than aggro, and can be slower than tempo. Since Midrange is such a broad archetype, decklists differ in pace, causing some weird matchup dynamics.
Popular Midrange decks include:
- Fast Druid
- Midrange/Quartermaster Paladin
- Zoo Warlock
- Midrange/Value Shaman
The slowest playstyle of them all. This archetype rewards good resource management against faster decks with an unstoppable late game of big drops and flashy Legendaries. What are these resources you ask? This depends on the deck in question. It can be your life pool, removal spells/minions, weapons, or a mix of them all! These decks prioritize card advantage, board control and card value. Control decks have some of the most interesting card interactions, as they usually sport a large mixture of Epic and Legendary cards.
Popular Control decks include:
- Control Warrior (a.k.a Wallet Warrior)
- Lightbomb Priest
Last but not least, one of the hardest deck archetypes in Hearthstone to learn. These decks revolve around a specific combo or card synergy, running plenty of cycle and/or having a card draw engine to reliably draw into your game-winning combo. These decks also have many defensive options to fend off aggro and midrange decks to buy time for their finishing blow(s). It is also important to note that these decks usually have alternate win conditions as well.
Popular Combo decks include:
- Oil Rogue
- Patron Warrior
- Freeze Mage
- Malygos Warlock
This concludes the five major deck archetypes in Hearthstone!
Strapped for dust? Here is a collection of budget decklists posted on the CompetitiveHS subreddit!
Now since you know the fundamentals of Hearthstone and it’s five major deck archtypes, you are now ready to build a deck! “But, Aidan!” you cry in agony, “I don’t own Dr. Boom!!!”
Have no fear!
A good deck isn’t made by one card, it’s how that one card compliments your other 29! Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean every card has to work together like a well-oiled machine, but if your deck can utilize a strength, while covering it’s weaknesses, then you have a well-balanced deck.
Before you get into deckbuilding, have an idea in mind. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What class will I use?
- What archetype am I aiming for?
When you’ve made up your mind, make sure to remember the core concepts of the five archetypes. If you’re not sure how to proceed from there, netdecking or using a meta deck as a template is fine as well.
The Four Perspectives
There are four different ways to approach the construction of a deck. Top -> Down, Bottom -> Up, Back -> Front and Front -> Back. What do these all mean? Read "The Four Perspectives
To briefly summarize:
Top-Down: What strength of a certain card or hero can I exploit?
Bottom-Up: This is for all you perfectionists out there. Details, details, details. What’s strong against what I’m facing? What’s strong right now?
The other two approaches help you learn, analyze and improve your deck:
Back-Front: How can one win a specific matchup?
Front-Back: Is this deck working out as well as I thought?
A good habit in deckbuilding is establishing a core. What is a core? A core of a deck is the main cards the deck revolves around. For example, you will never see a strong Control Warrior build without double Acolyte of Pain in the list. Why? Acolyte of Pain is the core of Control Warrior’s card draw, which helps the Control Warrior find their removal and late game drops.
Always identify your core. The core of your deck embodies the archetype your deck represents. Make sure your core and it's supporting cards are consistent, synergistic and effective.
Always remember to revise your deck, using both the Back-Front and Front-Back approaches. Make sure to evaluate your card choices too. Is this card necessary? Is this card good in my deck? Is this card good most times I play it?
Make sure the cards in your deck do something. Is Dust Devil or Zombie Chow a better 1-drop?
Evaluate the pros and cons of each card.
Dust DevilZombie Chow
3/1 with Windfury2/3 with Deathrattle: Restore 5 Health to your Opponent
Locks out your turn 2 with OverloadDoes not prevent a turn 2 play
Dies to Mage, Rogue, Druid andPaladin's Hero Powers.Does not die for free to Hero Powers.
Trades evenly with one of your opponent’s early game creatures.Can trade evenly or favorably with one, two or even three of your opponent’s early game creatures.
As you can see, Zombie Chow’s pros severely outweigh its cons.
For more on deckbuilding and identifying your win condition, I suggest you read this guide from IcyVeins
Is deckbuilding too intimidating right now? That’s fine! There’s no shame in netdecking, as long as you are learning from it! Here are just a few things you obtain to benefit from netdecking:
- The ability to know what the top decks in the meta are
- Reliable decklists, with solid stats to accompany them
- A foresight on what you may face on the ladder
Make sure to question the decklist at well. You won't find success in a list if you don't understand it. Here are a few questions I use:
1. Why is this a top deck right now?
2. Does this deck define the meta? Or does it go against it?
3. What can I change in this list to better suit my local metagame?
Another good habit is to pick apart netdecks to learn from them. What is the core of this deck? What here is put in to cover the deck’s weak matchups? These questions go on, and if you ever have the chance, ask the creator of the deck, your friends or a streamer. Value different inputs and approaches, as they’re all valuable to your learning experience.
Being on top of the metagame is a valuable asset for every player!
Getting into the Game!
So far, we’ve established core concepts in Hearthstone, the five major deck archetypes and different ways to approach, build and tweak a decklist! Now we’re ready to get into game. I will not try and tell you how to get Legend. This guidewill though!
As you would expect, playing the game is harder than the prep you put into it. There are two concepts I’d like to cover when it comes to gameplay, steam and tilt.
Also known as fuel, gas) is when you can effectively continue to put pressure on your opponent. Running out of steam is a term usually fit for when a deck runs out of threats or is having to rely on topdecks to stay in the game. This is a good thing to spot in your opponent when you’re on the defensive.
This is a concept related to player psychology. Tilt is when a player cannot play to their fullest, usually caused by an outside source. This could range to anywhere from a loss-streak to getting frustrated over bad RNG or bad draws, or even if you’re tired or angry prior to queuing up.
So, you’ve queued up...
And you already have questions!
- What do I mulligan?
- And if going second... How do I use the coin?
The answers vary depending on the situation. You can learn the answer from sheer practice, or by even reading a guide on the deck you are playing.
Furthermore, every turn you should always ask yourself: What is the best play here? Again, the answer to this question varies, but you can determine this for yourself with these follow-up questions:
- Does this play grant me any advantage over the opponent?
- Can I get more value out of this card later?*
- Does this play leave me weak to a certain card?
And my favorite...
- Will playing around a certain card or combo lose me the game?
These are all questions you should ask yourself every turn. My wonderful coach, Conor, always told me: “Don’t worry about what your opponent might play. Focus on you.” Hence why I always ask myself that final question. Playing conservatively can lose you more games than it can win. I live by this when I’m in a make-or-break situation, as should you.
Mentality and Dealing With Tilt
We’re all different, so we all go on tilt for different reasons, or go into Hearthstone with different mindsets. As much as I’d like to share my “Don’t queue into Ranked if you’re..” list, I’ll narrow it down to some general guidelines:
1. If you’re not breaking in-between games, take a break after a loss. Increase the length of this break if you continue to lose games.
2. RNG is RNG. Do not let it get to you.
3. Do not queue up into games expecting to lose or win them all.
4. If you feel like you’re on tilt, stop playing.
5. Losing sucks, I know. Blaming the deck or Blizzard accomplishes nothing for you as a player.
6. Do not only analyze your losses. Analyze the games you have won as well. Could you have won quicker through a different play? Did you only win because of a certain outcome? You can learn from your mistakes no matter what the outcome of the game ends up being.
7. Anything above 50% winrate is progress!
Metagame and the Community
If you are playing strong or popular decks, do not let community outlash get you down. You are playing what is meta and/or possibly overpowered, which is a smart move. From a competitive perspective you are more likely to win. You don’t enjoy playing the strongest deck(s) of the current meta? That’s fine. It is not fine to criticize others for playing those decks, or to criticize Blizzard for creating the core cards of those decks. If something truly is overpowered, it will be nerfed in due time. Taking your frustration out on others does not solve anything.
A healthy mentality equals a healthy winrate! Stay positive!
Hearthpwn for all your netdecking desires!
TrumpFans for you Trump fanboys out there. Trump decklists, Trump VODs, all your Trump needs!
HearthstoneTopDecks Recent tournament and Legend decklists!
IcyVeins Guides, decks and more!
LiquidHearth Famous for their Power Rankings, helping you see the meta from a bird’s eye view.
CompetitiveHS All of the above wrapped into a single subreddit! Track-O-Bot is my favorite stat-tracking program. Small, smart and effective!
Reinhardt! Favorite stream of mine, cool guy with great guides on meta decks, currently offering free coaching for viewers!
Trump! The Mayor of Value Town! Great stream, High Legend, Arena master.
Hafu is one of the best arena players out there, check out her stream!
Ratsmah is another amazing Arena player. Offers viewer coaching.
Strifecro is constantly playing different decks with extreme proficiency. Great player, great commentary.
Kripparrian is infamous for his spam-filled chat, underneath the sea of copypasta is one salty Arena God with enough Arcane Dust to make more Dr. Booms than Ladder could handle!
SimCopter1 is another great Arena streamer, known for his clear thought process which he shares with his viewers. Suggested by /u/Mrl33tastic!
Lifecoach also known as Ropecoach, is known for well... thinking until nearly the end of the turn, explaining his thought process too his stream. One of the best Handlock players out there! Suggested by /u/meinzeug.
Other notable streams:
Reckful is a funny guy, with innovative decks and gameplay.
Forsen’s chat has incepted so many memes and inside jokes, the stream itself is a meme.
Shoutout to my F O R S E N B O Y Z
Reynad! Owner of TempoStorm. Biggest 4Head in town. Plays high Ladder with interesting variations of metadecks.
Noxious is a Canadian like me, and has the best stream highlights out there. Crazy decks, crazy RNG.
Eloise is the newest addition to TempoStorm!
Mira is a multiple-legend player. Stomped Forsen and Reynad in BO5s
Kitkatz! One of the Trio of Control Warrior Gods. Really nice guy, too! Amaz Oh baby! Crazy reactions. Crazy RNG. Owner of Team Archon.
Purple a.k.a Purpledrank is Archon's ladder master, hitting #1 NA and EU multiple times mainly with Rogue and other combo decks.
Conclusion, Shoutouts and Shameless Self-Promotion
Well, well! You've finished the guide!
We have covered the very core of Hearthstone, what makes decks effective, how to analyze them and how to learn from them, player psychology and good habits. Did I cover everything? Not at all. I plan on writing more in the future!
Huge props to my friends Reinhardt, StephHawking and Dogemeister for peer-reviewing and helping me complete this guide! I'd also like to thank my coach Conorlol and the CompetitiveHS subreddit for teaching me so much about Hearthstone!
Questions, concerns, suggestions? Type them below or shoot them to me via Twitter!
Make sure to share this guide with your friends!
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I’m Aidan#1630, and this has been my Competitive Guide For Casual Players! Godspeed to you all!