The Art of Netdecking

The Art of Netdecking - Taking Deck Lists from others and learning and becoming a better Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft player!

Someone just posted their deck they used to hit legendary, you craft it, head over to the ladder and go 1-6. How did anyone hit legendary with this? This week [DKMR]Varranis is here from Don’t Kick my Robot to discuss netdecking. First, we should probably define netdecking, as the term is unique to card games and likely foreign to those coming from other media. Most definitions you find online will be some variation of the following:

[quote]“The general practice of copying another player’s deck card for card.”[/quote]

The term “netdecking” was popularized sometime after it was common practice to post tournament winning decklists on the internet, thus enabling a player to copy a deck from the “net.” The term is often used in a derogatory manner to imply a lack of creativity or innovation. Many of you are likely unfamiliar with the stigmas of netdecking, but for those who’ve been embroiled in the debate before, let’s get one thing straight.


There’s Nothing Wrong With Netdecking

In fact, netdecking is an incredibly healthy strategy for learning the meta and improving your play. The negative stigma associated with netdecking likely stems from the sense of ownership players have for their decks. Most people not only want to be recognized for the ideas they have, but actively want to create new ideas to be recognized for. Unfortunately, this can cause players to become very defensive when they feel someone has encroached upon their ideas. It can also cause players to be narrow-minded and ignore the relevancy of specific cards or strategies they deem too popular. The reality is that it’s very easy for millions of players to come up with the same idea, especially with how limited the current card pool is. It’s not hard to identify Warlock as the best shell for an aggressive deck. Neither is it difficult to conclude that Backstab and SI:7 Agent should be included in your Rogue deck.

It’s difficult to label these conclusions as the innovation of any one particular player since they are so general. You’ll find people who will want to drag you into a debate over which idea was whose. Sometimes it’s easy to identify who innovated a certain deck, other times the “innovation” under discussion appears to be common knowledge and could be credited to nearly anyone. It’s also important to distinguish between netdecking and claiming a deck as your own. It is clearly inappropriate to claim that you created a deck when in fact you did not. Using others’ decks, however, is key to developing your knowledge of the game.

A discussion of netdecking often starts debate. Our recommendation to you is to avoid these debates. I don’t know about you, but I’m here to win, and the “who” is often irrelevant to winning. While it’s cool to be recognized for creating a deck, it’s much cooler to win, and netdecking is a great way to start winning.


Why You Should Netdeck

Great players have spent a significant amount of time crafting and testing the popular decks you see them play on the ladder. These players generally have more time and a higher skill level than your average player, and the decks they create typically reflect this. Not only will you be up on the competition by using a more powerful deck when you netdeck, but you will likely learn a lot. Do you understand why Reynad plays Shieldbearer in his Warlock Aggro deck? It’s not an intuitive choice, and can be difficult to make sense of at first glance. Play the deck and you’ll likely understand. Do you understand why I play Ironbeak Owl instead of Equality in Paladin Aggro? Play the deck and it’ll probably make sense. Not only will playing popular decks teach you how to play them, it will open your eyes to different cards or concepts you hadn’t previously considered.

The concept of tempo in an aggressive deck can be a difficult one to grasp. Playing Shieldbearer in Warlock Aggro will help you understand the concept and allow you to implement it when necessary in future play. Similarly, you’ll understand when it is correct to use Shieldbearer in future decks. Not only are you gaining an understanding of a specific deck, but the game in general and how cards can be used in decks you make yourself in the future.

Gaining this specific knowledge of popular decks also allows you to be better prepared for the meta. There’s no better way to learn a deck’s weaknesses than to play the deck yourself. Are you running into StrifeCro Druid a lot on the ladder? Try playing it yourself. By playing the deck you’ll learn exactly what it loses to and what you can play in your other decks to combat it. We also find netdecking to be one of the primary paths toward innovation. When we make a new deck, we rarely start from scratch. Typically a new deck evolves from a standard one. After enough iterations of evolution, the deck becomes something entirely different and gains a life all its own.

How To Netdeck

Netdecking generally isn’t difficult, but there are certain things to watch out for. The first thing you should do is find a reputable site which gathers successful decklists (hint: you’re on one now!).

Next, you should ensure the decklists you are looking at are for the format you wish to play. If you want a good deck for the ladder, look for decks well known players made Legend with. If you’re looking for a tournament deck, look at the decks that have been winning tournaments like the one you wish to enter. Many tournaments have different formats. Some are best of one until a certain round at which they become best of three or five. Some allow you to change classes win or lose between games or have very liberal sideboarding rules. Others require you to use a certain deck in a match until you lose with it. While the details matter, the key things to note are whether you’ll be playing best of ones and what the sideboarding rules are.

If a tournament allows you to make any changes you want between games or is a best of one format, then a deck that’s good on the ladder should be reasonably suited for the tournament as long as you account for the meta you expect in that specific tournament. If you must preregister your decks and use them in a best of three or five format, you’ll likely want to consider some unique card choices to counter certain decks you expect.

If you look at decks that have won ESGN Fight Night, King of the Hill, or other similar events you’ll probably notice some very particular cards you wouldn’t notice in ladder decks. For example, Acidic Swamp Ooze and Big Game Hunter tend to be much more common in tournament decks than ladder decks. The reason for this is that you have more control over what deck you’re playing them against. Say you’re playing Druid Midrange as your opener in a best of five because it has reasonable match-ups across the board. If you lose with it, you expect to lose to Warlock Giants since it is a poor match-up and a fairly popular deck. Thus, you’ve put Big Game Hunter in your Hunter Aggro deck to ensure you beat the Warlock Giants deck after losing to it with Druid. Essentially this is a form of pre-meditated sideboarding. It can backfire if you don’t play against the decks you expect to, but it is also a means to ensure a win overall by covering the weaknesses of each of your decks. Be careful of this when looking for decks to use on the ladder. A lot of tournament decks may run a single Acidic Swamp Ooze to combat Hunter or Warrior. While that may work well in the tournament, Acidic Swamp Ooze is generally poor on the ladder.

We also highly recommend playing a deck you netdeck exactly as is for several games before making any changes (if possible). Sometimes it really is just one or two cards that push a deck over the top, and they’re usually the ones you’re most inclined to change at first glance. If a high quality player says Shieldbearer is what makes the Warlock Aggro deck as good as it is, it’s probably worth confirming even if you doubt it. If you change the deck immediately, you could miss out on learning an important lesson that could improve your future play and deckbuilding.

[DKMR]Varranis streams every Sunday from 10 AM – 4 PM EST at You can find all of DKMR’s streamers on their website with times and the days they stream!

Written by [DKMR]Varranis

Discussions about this topic brought to you by Team [DKMR] 

Decks To Watch Out For

Warlocks everywhere! I almost feel bad putting more Warlock Aggro decks here, but that’s what’s been dominating the ladder recently. Reynad’s Warlock Aggro deck is still everywhere. Puffins’ Murloc deck is representative of some of the other Warlock Aggro variants you’ll see on the ladder. Warlock Giants is also very popular on the ladder, and I would expect this particular variant to be the one you run into most frequently. I took the DKMR Paladin deck for a spin this past weekend to good success. I’ve included my current build of the deck.



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