Hello everyone! About a month ago I wrote about the most common mistakes new players need to avoid. Thanks for everyone who read it. I hope it was useful for some of you. I’m pretty sure, however, that you already knew that stuff. Our readers (you!) are mostly intermediate and experienced players, so I hope this article and the next one will be more helpful.
By intermediate players I mean those playing the game for about few months. They have hundreds of games played already. They understand what the meta is and play solid decks already. They check the reddit or sites (like HSP!) looking for ways to learn new stuff. They usually finish the seasons between rank 15 and 5, they struggle to get past the rank 5 wall even if they hit it. This is probably the biggest part of our readers.
So, I want to list the 5 common mistakes I see those players are making. If you catch yourself doing one of those things, try to avoid them! I’ll try my best to explain why.
1. Being Overconcerned With Board Control
Sometimes trading out all of your minions isn’t the best play.
If you remember my first article on the common mistakes new players make, I was writing the opposite thing. That you shouldn’t be overconcerned with face damage. And now you shouldn’t be overconcerned with board control. So which one is right? Both of them, actually. What you need to do is to find the right, “sweet spot”. Going 100% into face is not a valid tactic, but so is clearing every minions on the opponent’s board. You need to adjust. Every game. With every deck.
Board control is important, especially if you play the slower decks. But even when playing Aggro decks you want to take good trades in order to protect the rest of your board. If you completely ignore opponent’s board and let him do the trades, you’re most likely going to lose.
Going for value trades all the time, however, reduces your tempo a lot. For example, clearing every 1/1 Paladin plays. If you have a solid way to do so (e.g. a 1/5 minion or a Hero Power that can ping), yeah, go for it. But using 4+ damage to kill that 1/1 often isn’t worth it. Yes, it plays around Blessing of Kings or Equality, but it draws out the game. If the game gets drawn out, enemy has actually bigger chance to draw into something like Equality + Consecration to make a come back. If you’re ahead on the board, doing face damage is very strong. Putting the enemy into lethal range is also very strong.
Let me put that from another perspective. Priest’s Hero Power heals him for 2. Mage’s Hero Power deals 1 damage to a minion. Now, if you hit every Silver Hand Recruit Paladin makes with 4 damage minion, you “heal” enemy for 4 and you deal 1 damage to your own minion. Suddenly, a rather weak Hero Power becomes incredibly strong. But if you’d go for the face instead, the Hero Power would be just a delayed ping a lot of the time.
Another common situation is someone playing a slower deck vs an Aggro deck. Let’s say you play a Midrange Druid against Face Hunter. A lot of players assume that the way to win this matchup is to clear every minion opponent plays. Which isn’t true. You’re rarely going to win the match by going 100% defensive. Hunter is doing about 4 damage per turn which you often can’t stop. Clearing a minion after it already charged your face is cool, but the damage is already done. Instead of using that 5 damage to clear a 2/1, you might need to deal 5 damage into Hunter’s face and start racing him. Set up a 2 turn lethal with let’s say Savage Roar, Swipe Hunter’s face, Charge that Druid of the Claw instead of Taunting it if you suspect enemy has an Ironbeak Owl anyway. While you need to be really defensive for the first few turns, if you are oveconcerned with the board control in the late game and clear every 1/1, it’s a bad play (unless those 1/1’s put you into lethal range on the board). I’ve seen Midrange Druids wasting about 10 damage to clear the 1/1’s from Haunted Creeper. If they pushed that damage into the face instead, they’d set up lethal for the next turn. They got rid of 2 damage, but gave Hunter another turn – 2 guaranteed damage + 1 more draw. You can play the 100% board control game against the Aggro only if you can outheal the damage they do. So for example, if you play Warrior or Priest with Justicar Trueheart or you play the Reno Jackson deck and can get back to full health after you take the board.
Talking about Reno. Now with the introduction of Reno Jackson, board control has became slightly more important. If you play against the Reno deck (you can usually tell that by weird card choices that weren’t used in the standard decklist, using a lot of tech cards and not playing more than one copy of each card) you want to control the board a lot more. Since Reno punishes going into face, it’s best to just have solid 10+ damage board and instead of rushing the face and putting enemy below 10 health, just clearing the board and slowly chopping the health off. This way enemy will be forced to play Reno at around half health, while you still have the board control, thus he won’t get such a big swing in his favor. After Reno, you can focus on face damage once more.
2. Using The Coin Incorrectly
We’re gonna be rich!
Coin is the most used card in the game. You’ve most likely played it more than any other card. This means that using it properly is really, really important, as it affects 50% of your games. Yet, a lot of players use it incorrectly.
Getting Coin + an extra card is a way to offset the disadvantage player going second has. That disadvantage is the fact that he well, moves second. He reacts. He’s behind in the tempo for the whole game. Coin allows to make one tempo swing back in the second’s player favor, so it’s really important to know when to do that.
Probably the most common mistake is to coin out a 2-drop without the follow-up. This often forces the player to Hero Power on turn 2. Let’s say your starting hand is a 2-drop, two 4-drops and a 6-drop. So, if you coin out a 2-drop, what was the coin used for? To gain the tempo advantage on turn 1, but instantly lose it on turn 2. Not to mention that without turn 3 play, you’re relying on topdecking something good. Most of the time it’s better to just pass and play that 2-drop on turn 2. Coin can be used later to fix up the curve by let’s say playing a 4-drop on turn 3 (if you don’t draw into a solid 3-drop).
Another common mistake is to keep the Coin for too long. Coin’s value goes down and down with each turn. One extra mana in the early and mid game can be huge, but one extra mana on turn 10 is suddenly not that good, unless you need it for some specific combos. Sometimes it happens that you don’t really get a good opportunity to use the Coin. Then even using it on an extra Hero Power is fine. If you were to float 1 mana (end the turn still having 1 mana), you can instead use the Coin and the Hero Power. While Hero Powers aren’t really that impactful, you basically trade the Coin for Hero Power. So you trade Coin for a 1/1 as Paladin, Coin for 2 damage as Hunter etc. While it’s not the best trade ever, you probably won’t get better in the late game. Other uses are something like playing 2x 4-drop on turn 7 etc. Generally you should take the first good opportunity when it gets at least some value and use it.
So, the first and most important use of the Coin is fixing your curve. Being forced to just Hero Power on turn 2 or 3 sucks, but with Coin you can make that up. The second use is making a tempo play – but do that only if your curve is alright or if that play fixes your curve at the same time. There are also more niche use of the Coin in certain decks. Like, Rogue wants to keep it as a way to activate Combo cards. Coin also has good synergy with cards that do something when you cast a spell – Flamewaker, Violet Teacher or even Archmage Antonidas. But those are deck-specific things and you don’t have to worry about them if you don’t play a deck that contains one of those cards.
3. Overvaluing The Battlecries
The ultimate dilemma. It’s turn 1 and your only 1-drop is Abusive Sergeant. Do you use it?
The answer to this question is much more complicated than you’d think and depends on TONS of stuff. But I know some people who would never do that. “You’re completely wasting the Battlecry!” they say. Right, that’s true, you’re wasting it. But instead you’re gaining tempo. You have a 2/1 minion on the board which you wouldn’t have otherwise. Battlecry here is a nice addition, true, but especially when playing a fast deck (or against fast deck), tempo is your #1 concern.
There are a lot of strong Battlecries in the game, but some people tend to forget that after all, minions aren’t played ONLY for their battlecries (that’s how spells work), they also leave a body behind. In a lot of cases, especially if we talk about the situational battlecries, dropping a body on the board might be much more important.
Another common example are situational Battlecries like Mind Control Tech or Blood Knight. A lot of people don’t even consider dropping those on turn 3, just for the body. Yet, that’s a right play a lot of time. There are tons of games where you won’t even get value out of those. Enemy might not ever have more than 3 minions on the board or a minion with Divine Shield. If you Hero Power on turn 3 instead of playing those, you’re probably going to lose more games, because you’ve given up the board and it’s going to be much harder to come back then. Yes, if you’re almost sure those are going to get value AND you’re not under any pressure, you might keep them. I’m not saying that droppnig them on turn 3 is you have nothing else to do is a way to go. I’m just giving you guys a thing to consider. Wasting a Battlecry (value) in favor of the body on the board (tempo).
It’s also the case with new LoE card – Reno Jackson. While you’d like to squeeze as much as you can from the healing part, the card also has a rather solid 4/6 body. You might even value the body over the healing, especially in the slower matchups. If Reno is your only solid minion and you’re going to heal for 10, go for it, why not? Losing the tempo and giving up the board is often more scary, because in the long run killing 2 or 3 small minions with Reno is worth more than healing for 10 more.
Pretty much every deck runs some Battlecry minions. Knowing when you need to keep them and when you can drop them just for the body is important.
4. Losing The Tempo Battle
Going for the highest tempo play is usually the way to play in the fast matchups. In this case it’s the Preparation + Fan of Knives + Piloted Shredder. Even though you negate the card advantage Fan of Knives would give you, you develop a strong minion on the board instead.
This point actually connects to all the previous ones in one way or another. In Hearthstone, there are two main things you have to consider when doing a certain play – tempo and value. Value is easy to explain. Value plays generally let you gain a card advantage over the enemy in the long run. Drawing cards is a value play, because you gain the card advantage. Getting “2 for 1” is a value play. For example, when you play Azure Drake and kill something with the 4/4 body, you’ve got 2 for 1. You drew a card (so cycled the Drake) and still got rid of one opponent’s card. Using your Hero Power is also a value play, because you gain something for “free” – without using a card.
On the other hand, tempo plays could be explained as the fastest plays. You want to squeeze maximum strength out of every play. Try to do as much as you can each turn. The plays aren’t necessarily most efficient, so it means that over the long run you’re going to lose the card advantage game. But by doing tempo plays you’re usually ahead on the board and you’re able to pressure enemy.
I’ll give a basic example. You’re Rogue and it’s turn 2. Enemy has a 2/1 minion on the board, while you have Backstab + 2-drop in your hand. The value play would be using your Hero Power and killing the 2/1 for “free” (at the expense of your life and tempo). The tempo play would be playing a 2-drop and Backstabbing the 2/1. This way you’ve used 1 additional card, but you have a 2-drop on the board as opposed to just the 1/1 weapon. It’s impossible to tell which play is better without the context, but it just illustrates what is the difference between playing for value and for tempo.
Different decks focus on different aspects. Generally the faster the deck, the more tempo-focused it is. Meaning Aggro decks are the decks that want high tempo, while Control decks want more value.
But in reality, no matter what decks you play, you can’t go 100% into value. If you try, you’re just going to lose. Playing too slow is one of the most common mistakes. Even though it often feels like a right thing to do, that’s not true. ESPECIALLY against fast decks you need to go for as much tempo as you can. For example, it’s turn 3 and you play as Druid against the Hunter. He has 2/1 on the board and you have to choose between playing Shade of Naxxramas and Hero Powering. Clearing the 2/1 and leaving him with empty board might seem sweet, but in reality it won’t work that well. You don’t do anything else, meaning Hunter can just play one or two minions again and Hero Power you. Aggro decks generally WANT you to Hero Power. They don’t care about the card advantage, they’re not winning the value game anyway. And each Hero Power you play is a small tempo loss, even if you kill something.
Killing 1-drop with a ping Hero Power can seem great, but you’re losing 1 mana of tempo and the 1-drop probably has done something already (Abusive Sergeant) or will do even if you just kill it (Leper Gnome). That’s how fast decks operate and you can’t play into it. Yes, if you have some free mana, it’s a solid play to ping a 2/1. But if you have to choose between developing the board and pinging, the first case will often be better.
But let’s ignore Aggro decks for a moment. It works the same in Midrange vs Midrange. For example, Midrange Druid mirror is usually driven by the tempo. If one player gets tempo advantage and keeps it, he might win the match, even though his hand is almost empty and enemy still has 5 cards. Second player needs to use all his resources to regain the tempo. For example, instead of playing Ancient of Lore on turn 7 to draw 2 cards, playing Piloted Shredder + Shade of Naxxramas is a higher tempo play. Not only it gives more power on the board, but it’s much harder for enemy to remove them completely. If Druid is already behind on the board, going for the first play will most likely result in a loss. With the second one he still might be able to catch up.
The only matchups where you really, REALLY want to go for the maximum value are slow, Control ones. Something like Control Warrior mirror usually goes to the fatigue. It means that rushing things and making tempo plays will rarely win you the game. Going for the slow, value turns has a bigger chance of winning the game in the long run. But if you play a faster deck or if you play against a faster deck, tempo is incredibly important.
P.S. Switching to all-in tempo is a solid play a lot of time once you know that you’re not going to win the value game. For example, enemy has a lot more cards than you do or he’s playing a slower deck, it’s already late game and you know that you won’t win in the long run, you can go for the maximum tempo as a last-ditch effort. While it’s risky and easy to play into opponent’s removals, sometimes it might work if enemy didn’t drew the right cards yet. Going for the long game in this case will most likely be a slow, painful death, so why not try rushing things down and taking a small chance to win in 2 or 3 turns?
5. Failing To Identify The Deck’s Win Conditions
Force of Nature + Savage Roar combo is the main Midrange Druid’s win condition.
No matter whether someone netdecks or creates their own stuff, every deck needs to have some sort of win condition. For example, Midrange Druid’s win condition is keeping the board control, slowly chopping enemy’s health down and finishing him with Force of Nature + Savage Roar combo. Freeze Mage’s win condition is stalling the game until Alexstrasza, then playing it and burning enemy down from 15. Face Hunter’s win condition is rushing enemy down with small drops, weapons and charge minions and then finishing him with Steady Shot every turn and burn spells. Every deck has some sort of plan it follows. Identifying it is basic part of playing the deck. While a lot of time those win conditions are really visible and hard to miss, there are a lot of more subtle things people need to think about. And the truth is – they often don’t.
If you want to master the deck, you need to know your win conditions in each matchup. While it mostly comes with the experience, it’s an incredibly important thing. Using the card in a wrong way or not using them when you’re supposed to might just make you unable to win the game. Let’s go back to the Freeze Mage’s example to illustrate that. You play against Control Warrior. It’s a very tough matchup, probably the hardest one. The ONLY way to win this matchup is to get a good Emperor Thaurissan turn. You want the mana discounts on your cheap spells (Frostbolt, Ice Lance) and then play Archmage Antonidas + spam those nearly free spells (and possibly a Coin too) to get 4-5 free copies of Fireball. This is your win condition. Otherwise you’re going to lack the burn needed to finish off the Warrior. So for example, if someone plays Emperor Thaurissan without any cheap spells in his hand or plays Antonidas just to get 1 or 2 Fireballs, his game plan just failed and he has no way to win the game anymore. That’s failing to realize the way you can win in certain matchup.
Other example is playing the Midrange Druid. Enemy is at 12 health with a few cards in his hand (it’s not an Aggro deck, it can be Midrange, it can be Control, it doesn’t really matter here), you have only one card in your hand – the last copy of Force of Nature. Now your game plan is to draw into Savage Roar. That’s the way you’re winning this match. The other play is to use Force of Nature now and clear their 5/5 minion. It allows you to survive one or two turns longer, that’s true, but you just got rid of your win condition. Now enemy just plays more minions. He’s going to keep the board control for the rest of the game. Because of his card advantage, you’re not going to catch up on the value game. With just one minion per turn (sometimes even 0 if you draw into a spell that you can’t cycle) you have no way to outtempo him and basically just lost the game. By understanding your win condition here, you’d just hope to draw the Savage Roar. Even if it’s just a 10% or 20% chance, it’s better to take it than to just surrender your win condition.
Sometimes missing your win condition doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve already lost the game. That’s why most of the decks have more than a single win condition. Still, when you start playing the deck, first thing you need to learn is how you win with it. That’s especially true when you play some sort of combo decks, but knowing your deck’s capabilities is always important. Like, if you play a low curve deck and you know that you can’t win the game that goes for too long, you can try face rushing the enemy. I’ve already mentioned it while talking about the tempo. While it might backfire completely, enemy might AoE your board etc. – it’s still not a wrong thing to do. If you run out of steam and start topdecking, a slower deck will certainly defeat you, so often your only chance to win is face rushing. It’s a really hard decision a lot of time, because if you start going full tempo too early you might run out of steam and if you start going too late, there is a bigger chance that enemy already drew his answers. But making such decision based on the given situation shows that you know how your deck wins the games and tries to go for the maximum chance to succeed.
That’s it folks. I hope that some of you have learned from this article. While it’s easy to point out the mistakes, it’s much harder to explain WHY they are mistakes and tell how to do things right. How to do things right mostly comes with experience, so if you find struggling with some of the stuff above, don’t worry, you’ll definitely get better with time. This list is based solely on my experience and observations, so if you’d like to see some other mistakes instead, put the suggestions in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.
Next time I’ll write about common mistakes experienced players make. Explaining those will be pretty hard. The better you get at Hearthstone, the more subtle your mistakes become. Stay tuned!