From Beginner to Beyond – A Hearthstone Journey

WANTED: Avid Hearthstone players with no previous experience Is Hearthstone the first game in this genre (TCG’s) you’ve ever played? I had no idea card games were this fun! Are you having a blast and want to get better? More better = more funner! Have you taken the next step and are reading guides and articles to up your […]

WANTED: Avid Hearthstone players with no previous experience

Is Hearthstone the first game in this genre (TCG’s) you’ve ever played? I had no idea card games were this fun!

Are you having a blast and want to get better? More better = more funner!

Have you taken the next step and are reading guides and articles to up your game?  Read?  No way man!  Wait..  crap!

Does it feel like everyone and their mom previously played Magic the Gathering and you’re on the short bus playing catch up?  Those players need to be nerfed! 

This is a guide for those of us with no previous experience in the TCG genre climb to higher, and higher ranks.  Even reach Legend.  There are many articles written about reaching Legend (HSP has an excellent library so take full advantage), however they mostly seem to be written by those with previous TCG experience (AKA Magic the Gathering).

What I craved was an answer to a very basic need at each stage of my Hearthstone education:

“What should I expect?”.

Hearthstone B.C.

I’ve been a fan a Blizzard games since Deckard Cain implored me to defeat Diablo and “zug zug” was frequently uttered while I obsessively played the new RTS genre breakthrough, Warcraft.  I subsequently developed unique obsessions with the complete Warcraft and Starcraft series’, Diablo franchise and the cause of more arguments with my wife than any other subject in the cosmos, World of Warcraft.  I had grown to more than appreciate the quality of Blizzard games to say the least, so when Hearthstone came out in beta I was excited to play, even though I had no previous experience with card games.

A Noob Climbing the Ranks

I will attempt to bring you on my journey by sharing some key fundamentals I learned at each “stage” in my development, along with game-play experiences I had that will hopefully serve to encourage you.

The Stages

Rank 25 to 20

I’d played through all the class quests and was feeling pretty good about myself.  I’d tackled the concept of the game and was faring well in casual play. Armed with lethal tutorial knowledge I built up the courage to make the jump from casual to ranked play.  After playing a few matches I was hooked.  I wobbled my way to rank 20 where upon I discovered with sheer delight that further losses would not drop me in rank (it’s a good thing too)!

I realized I needed to do some research if I was to succeed further. 

Rank 16

Upon investigation I found a few websites that offered articles on how to play and what ‘decks’ they were playing, at which point I discovered Hearthstone Players and quickly subscribed wanting to feast off of the insider knowledge.  Up to this point I was just learning off of how people were crushing me (I’d notice certain card synergies people were playing and adapt my decks to incorporate these new innovations).  Now I had discovered actual published decks that I could copy or “net-deck”.

TIP: Sheng’s Budget decks are an excellent resource to get you going.

I honestly felt like I was ruining some of the fun by not figuring out my own decks (which I still love to do) and beating people according to my own ingenuity.  Having never played a TCG before I didn’t know about tier 1 archetypes/decks let alone the experience that goes into optimizing a deck.

After reading many guides it became clear that I just didn’t know nearly enough to properly build decks, I first needed to lean on the knowledge of others and learn how to play well established decks.

Rank 12

The next leap in rank I can attribute to two things that are oddly in opposition to each other, but critical in me attaining more consistency.

  1. Variety – Crafting a large variety of decks using all the heroes and playing them all.
  2. Familiarity – The 2nd was picking a deck/archetype and get really comfortable playing it.


The only way to really learn how to play against other decks is to play them yourself.  I had a lot of fun (still do) playing different decks.  There’s a unique excitement to seeing a brand new win condition(s) and trying to pull it off!  Dropping down 0 mana molten giant‘s  for the first time incites a squeal of excitement that only the n00b can experience.  bloodlusting a rack of puny totems or dicing up your foe with a well tinker’s sharpsword oil‘ed assassin’s blade to the face and subsequently clearing their board + lethal with blade flurry. You also get to experience the crushing disappointment of slowly counting lethal when the wick starts burning and you soon realize the animation alone will take at least a minute for you to pull off the combo!  *cough* Miracle Rogue *hack* Patron Warrior.

Enjoying the huge variety of Hearthstone is rewarding in and of itself, but the experience you gain understanding how each class/deck plays is invaluable.  How much better will you play knowing that turn 7 the opposing mage can decimate your well developed board with aflamestrike or your proudly buffed void terror is easily “de-balled” by Druid’s always in hand keeper of the grove or expecting to get healed by the Priest’s foolishly played Zombie chow only to get your face melted instead because Auchinai was on board?  Get used to playing each class and at least one of their main archetypes.


With a decent understanding of what my opponents could do I didn’t have what I considered a “Main” (from my WoW days) and was suffering from not being comfortable with one particular deck.  To remedy this I chose to get really good at Zoolock.  Zoo can vary greatly in how you build it.  Here is a version of mine that helps fend off the early season aggro meta.  

Zoo is a very aggressive deck that I regularly got spanked by and I wanted to be the one doing the spanking!  Plus, there was the added bonus that games ended really fast so losses weren’t as devastating and win streaks were more plentiful.  This was also during Zoo’s golden era pre-undertaker and soulfire nerfs that could really snowball early and gain massive tempo.

I read a few guides on Zoo (Nuba’s guide is really good) to learn how to play the deck (it’s agressive but dominates by efficient trades and board control) and I played it almost exclusively.  I enjoyed my first long win streaks and got a golden Warlock to boot!  For the first time, I felt confident in every play I was making because I felt so comfortable with my deck (it also helped I was playing an uncomplicated archetype in Zoo).

Rank 10

My gameplay was getting much better, but I still hadn’t learned the fundamentals.  By that I mean even if my “game” incorporated some fundamentals it was intuitive and not pre-determined.  If I was doing something right I couldn’t identify it and I certainly didn’t know what I was doing wrong.  HSP really started pumping out some solid gameplay articles that really opened my eyes to some principles long learned by veteran TCG players.

Key fundamentals

These are vital fundamentals to understand if you are new to TCG’s.  After finally being aware of these principles I could then begin to start weighing my options more intelligently each turn.  It wasn’t enough to be just comfortable with my own deck anymore, I had to understand what were my optimum plays with each choice presented to me per turn.  As a Zoo player for instance, which 2 drop do I play first?  By beginning to notice optimal plays based on key fundamentals I was able to reach Top 10 with my eyes greedily focused on Top 5.

TIP: Watch top players on Twitch and pay attention to their commentary each turn.  If a term or concept is mentioned that you don’t understand make sure to look it up because I guarantee it’s important!

Rank 5

This section of the ladder is a whole new ballgame.  This season I had every intention of making Legend and quite frankly it certainly could have happened.  However, I learned a very valuable lesson whilst grinding through this lovely morass of ranks… losing sucks major balls!  OK, that’s not the lesson, but the feeling lead to the lesson.

You’re going to “yo-yo” like a “mo-fo”.  Without the wonderful win-streak mechanic of the previous ranks you’re not going to traverse many rungs of the ladder with any sort of speed (most likely) so be prepared to lose a lot.


I began using an aggro druid deck that put me on a straight up tear from rank 8 to rank 4.  I had an 82% win-rate ripping through the meta.

My constant winning stopped but I was still regularly making progress.  I didn’t drop a rank one time!  Then there was a shift.  Not sure if there was a solar flare or what but I lost like 10 straight games.  I go TILT.  Friggin tilt.  Mashing my mouse like I was trying to kill a spider every turn.  I’m a strong 40-year-old man and I’m not ashamed to say I felt like crying!  Needless to say I wasn’t playing very well.

I put the game aside for the evening and returned the next day with a fresh mindset and a different deck.  The meta was secret Pally heavy and wasn’t punishing full boards with too many brawls, flamestrikes, or lightbombs so I elected to return to Mech Mage.  I quickly was deep into rank 4 and streaked easily all the way to rank 2!  I was feeling great.  This was amazing!  I thought I would hit Legend that night (early morning to be more precise).  Then it happened again… I started to lose.  This time I was a little more emotionally prepared which kept me from going nuclear-tilt again, however I made a mistake that I believe cost me Legend.  I responded to the normal ebb and flow of winning and losing by changing decks.

TIP: At this point in the ladder you aren’t going to progress as far as you’d like unless you concentrate.  I have the regular habit of playing on my phone (I’ve got 3 kids what else can I do?) which has cost me countless games.  Get on your PC, put some headphones on and pay attention to what the other player is doing as well as your own strategy.  We are offered insight to what the opponent might do by where their mouse is hovering over or what they almost did by the big red arrow that shows their target.  If you don’t use that knowledge you can bet your opponent is :).

Make sure you read The Grind series about reaching Legend for much more insight.


If Hearthstone is your first experience with TCG’s understand that it will take some time, practice, and knowledge to rank up, but enjoy it!  I wrote this in hopes that it would take some of the self-doubt out of your game by encouraging you that what you’re going through is normal (or point out how much better you are than me!).  Know that if you find yourself stalling out at some point in the ladder or even arena that it is not only typical it’s a learning opportunity!  Don’t get discouraged.  If you commit yourself to learning about the game (reading articles, watching Twitch, getting a coach, playing seriously) I promise you will get better (and thank goodness so will I).

I am going to take what I learned last season and make a push to surpass rank 2 onto Legend!  I’ll be sure to write about the experience too 🙂  See you there and thank you for walking through this journey with me.

Please, I encourage you to leave feedback and ask questions. I would enjoy hearing some of your stories as well.