“What Deck Should I Play?” – A Beginners’ Compendium

Are you a beginner and want a fast-track into Hearthstone? Read this comprehensive guide on finding the right deck for you!

A Little About Me

Hello guys, Giordy here!

I am a three-time legend ranked player who enjoys building decks and finding new interactions between cards. Last season I made legend with my Handlock build, which is pretty standard but very effective. After getting my golden Gul’dan (Warlock), I am now trying to get a golden Malfurion (Druid), Jaina (Mage) and Rexxar (Hunter). In my previous article I analyzed my own Mid-Range Mech Mage build. Be sure to check it out!

Introduction

This article is directed towards players who are new to the game, or who have just begun to play and are trying to get acquainted. When you start playing a game like Hearthstone, things look easy during the tutorial. Fighting the Innkeeper is a breeze too. Yet, when you start playing games in ranked, you suddenly notice how much harder things get for you. Why is that?

For starters, you are playing against real people and not against the A.I. Some players, even at low ranks, know more than you do about the game. In order to be successful at Hearthstone, you need knowledge, intelligence, and experience. When combined, these three factors decide the better player. Let me tell you a story. One day I decided to try and play ranked on the Asian server (where I had no cards at all). To my surprise, although I was able to build decent decks even with the basic cards of the game, I noticed that many players in the lowest ranks of the ladder already used competitive ‘meta’ decks. Fortunately for me, they didn’t know how to play them right. I beat most of them, but after a while, I found I struggled against the well-built decks.

So, the question that beginners may ask is: am I just going to lose if I don’t have a decent card collection? My answer is not necessarily. While having a big card collection gives you plenty of options to work with, even a small collection can provide you with the tools for being successful on ladder.

In the past, some of the cheapest decks to craft made it to legend rank. I am talking about decks such as the classic Zoolock, or Face Hunter. Right now, Mech Mage appears to be a deck which is both cheap and incredibly powerful. You don’t necessarily need a huge collection of cards or a wide array of legendary minions in order to win; you only need to play the right deck for you.

There are a lot of free-to-play players that make it to legend, and you certainly can be one of them. That being said, if you’re just starting out, I suggest that you buy Hearthstone’s first adventure – Curse of Naxxramas. Many of the cards from Curse of Naxxramas have become staples in the game, and it’s highly recommended that you have them. Many have argued that this adventure discourages free-to-play users while encouraging people to spend money on the game. Twenty-five dollars for the guaranteed set is worth the money in my opinion. I recommend you check out take.eacy‘s article on “How to Efficiently Start A New F2P Hearthstone Account”. He is a free-to-play player and can provide you with good answers on how to be free-to-play.

A question many people ask me is: what deck should I play? As simple as the question can seem, the answer isn’t as easy. It depends on many factors:

1) How big of a card collection do you have?

2) How long have you been playing the game for?

3) How familiar are you with card games?

4) How patient are you?

Let’s discuss the whole matter thoroughly.

Basic Decks

Many people like netdecking – the act of replicating popular decks off the internet. Unfortunately, most people don’t have all the cards at their disposal to create said decks. Legend-ranked players are more likely to prefer control archetypes that use of a wide array of epic and legendary cards that most beginners don’t have. So, what do you do if you are just getting acquainted with the game and want a deck to start playing with?

Fortunately, our fellow writer Sheng has provided us with a solution. He’s written a series of basic deck articles in which he builds good and cheap decks for beginners to use. Not only that, he has written a series of articles regarding both basic decks and decks that include the Naxxramas expansion. I highly recommend you to check it out:

If you are low on dust and want to pull off some victories, these decks can help you climb the ladder successfully, at least through the lower ranks. All of these decks share a common aspect: they make use of the best available basic cards for each class. When you are new to the game, it’s hard to know what cards are good and what cards are bad. I can assure though, there are better cards out there, and a lot of them are basic class cards. These generally “better” cards can be found both in the basic set and in the Naxxramas set. Most importantly, they can all be crafted more or less for free. Most of the “better cards” out there, are cards that you will need to craft eventually, so it’s important that you know which ones have priority.

Tips on Crafting

In this regard, there are good guides to crafting that can make your life easier, so that you don’t make foolish mistakes. Considering that disenchanting a card nets you a fourth of the card worth, you need to be careful when you decide to disenchant or craft a certain card. Hector‘s “Beginner’s Guide to Crafting” introduces you to the crafting world of Hearthstone. Since that guide is a little old though, you should ignore the section on legendary minions to craft and only follow the advice for basic, common, rare and epic cards. As for the cards from the new expansion, Goblins versus Gnomes, I would craft piloted-shredder first, and piloted-sky-golem second. There are many good cards which have been introduced with the new expansion, but the most valuable neutral ones are the two Mechs mentioned above. As for other good GvG cards, I invite you to check out my GvG Arena: Tips on Drafting with the New Cards article. It focuses on Arena picks, but most of the cards mentioned in the article are also good for competitive play.

As for Legendary minions, be sure to check out Katy‘s “Hearthstone 101: Beginners’ Legendary Card Crafting Guide“. This guide gives you a nice overview of the current legendary cards and gives you tips on which ones have priority over others. My personal suggestion is that you craft neutral legendaries before class legendaries, and more specifically dr-boom, sylvanas-windrunner, the-black-knight and ragnaros-the-firelord before others (in that order). cairne-bloodhoof used to be a staple legendary, but with the rise of Mechs, this Tauren warrior has been replaced by piloted-sky-golem.

Competitive Cheap Decks

For those of you who are familiar with the basics of the game and want to play an efficient, cheap deck on the ladder, there are a couple of decks that are always efficient and can be always taken to legend – Zoolock and Face Hunter. These two decks are very cheap to craft and perform very well on the ladder. I will also show you a cheap Mech Mage list and a budget Priest deck that brought famous legend-ranked player Tides of Time to rank #8.

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As you might notice, most of the efficient budget decks are aggro decks. In both Hearthstone and Magic: the Gathering, aggro decks are a lot cheaper than control decks. Anyways, if you use one of the decks shown above on the ladder, you’ll do more than fine!

Now, for those of you who are not on a budget and want to choose a good deck to rank up with, it’s important that you choose a deck with which you are comfortable. There are some players who like aggressive decks and just can’t seem to get the hang of control decks; some other players like control decks and they can’t master aggressive decks. A third category of players prefer a more balanced or mid-range play-style. A fourth category likes cards synergy and finding all available combos among cards. So, if you are gathering the dust necessary to craft one good deck, you need to figure out what kind of play-style you like.

Choose Your Archetype

There are  four different archetypes in the game: Aggro, Mid-Range, Control and Combo.

  1. Aggro: the aggro deck’s goal is to do as much damage with numerous small minions. The goal of an aggro deck is to come hard and win fast, blowing out your opponent.
  2. Mid-Range: the mid-range deck tries to win the game through value minions in the mid game. It has survival tools in the early game and starts applying pressure by putting down larger and larger threats. The goal is to play control against aggro decks and as the beatdown player against control decks.
  3. Control: the control deck focuses on long games and aims to win the war of attrition. The goal of this deck is to delay the game, allowing you to execute stronger cards and combos than your opponent.
  4. Combo: the combo deck aims to win the game using a relatively small number of cards that instantly or very quickly win the game when combined (hence the name “combo”). Because of this win strategy, a common motif among combo decks is an emphasis on the ability to find specific cards quickly and win as fast as possible.

Each one of these can have sub-archetypes and many times it is hard to categorize a certain deck and make it fall under one banner. Rush decks usually fall into the Aggro category, but they are slightly different from aggro decks. Unlike most aggro decks, they ignore trading completely and try to burn their opponents down by directly aiming at their face. Face Hunter is  a typical Rush or Burn deck.

Creature decks, are also known as swarm or minion decks. They clearly fall into the aggro category. The point of these decks is to fill the board with as many minions as possible, in as short amount of time as possible, and buff them to increase damage and health. Synergy is a large part of creating an effective creature deck. Unlike Rush decks, Creature decks make favorable trades and hit face when convenient or when close to lethal. Zoolock is a classic example of a Creature deck.

Turtle decks are very similar in nature and purpose to control decks.  If you enjoy slowly taunting your opponent, then the Turtle deck may be for you.  Your chances of survival, and ultimately winning the game increase dramatically the longer the game continues.  The Turtle deck is built around the concept of survivability and can generally withstand the damaging abilities and creatures that other deck types might throw at it.  As the game moves into later rounds, and you have a higher mana pool, the deck allows you to bring out the big guns. An example of a Turtle deck is this Taunt Druid.

Spells decks are hard to put into one fixed category. In Hearthstone history, the most popular spell-focused deck was Miracle Rogue – a Combo deck. The deck uses a huge array of spells, along with some minions, to hurt the enemy hero. The real advantage of this deck is that the spell damage can bypass Taunts and, if those spells are buffed by malygos, it’s game over!

Secrets decks might fall either in the Mid-Range, Control, or Combo category. Only three classes have secrets: Hunter, Mage, and Paladin. Some have made decks using every secret as the main source of control. This is especially effective for Mage, less so for Hunter, and least effective with Paladin. Nonetheless, given the right cards to support these builds, you can succeed. It’s a fun type of build; but you have to realize, when you use a secret, that you’re not in control of when that secret goes off. This means it’s not exactly control, but more of a consequence deck. Many players have made legend with secrets decks – Saturos, for example.

Weapons decks make use of weapon damage efficiency. They usually equip powerful weapons and buff them up for maximum damage against the opponent. They likely fall into the Combo category, although they have some control and aggressive variations. The most recent Oil Rogue deck lists are perfect examples of weapons decks.

Personally, I am a Mid-Range player. I like to have decent starts and decent drops throughout the game with no particular weakness, but no ridiculous combos either. On the right side of this article, you will find my current post-nerf Mid-Range Hunter deck list, with which I have been climbing the ladder since the start of Season 11. As you can see, this deck has a good mana curve, starting from turn 1 until turn 7, and it performs well against most decks out there. If you play several basic decks you can quickly figure out which play style you are most comfortable with, so that you can choose which archetype to focus on. Once it’s clear to you which kind of play style you want to adopt, you may proceed to the next step – choosing your hero.

Choose your Hero

There are currently 9 different heroes in Hearthstone, and each one of them has a unique hero power. The hero power has a huge influence on the kind of decks you can build around a certain hero. For example, the Priest’s hero power clearly favors slow, control play rather than aggressive play. Because of this, most Priest deck lists are control lists rather than aggro lists. Similarly, most Hunter’s lists are aggressive, because Rexxar’s hero power favors that kind of play-style. From time to time, you see some aggressive Priests or control Hunters, but those decks aren’t usually consistent enough to see competitive play or large diffusion.

If we were to assign each hero to the play style that their hero power favors, they would be categorized as follows:

  1. Offensive heroes (Aggro): Rexxar (Hunter), Valeera (Rogue), Gul’dan (Warlock)
  2. Versatile heroes (Mid-Range): Malfurion (Druid), Jaina (Mage), Uther (Paladin)
  3. Defensive heroes (Control): Garrosh (Warrior), Thrall (Shaman), Anduin (Priest)

This categorization does not mean that each hero performs best when following that particular play style. There are many players who have successfully brought their decks to legend playing an “unfavored” archetype with their hero. These include Deathrattle Priest, Aggro Warrior and Mech Shaman. Warlock is the exception to the rule, since Handlock has become a staple control deck in Hearthstone.

Being able to successfully pilot a deck to legend is all about being comfortable with that particular archetype, that particular hero and that specific deck.

Build your Deck

Once you have picked the archetype and hero you are most comfortable with, it’s time to build a consistent deck. What does “consistent” mean exactly? It means that the deck can perform well against a wide array of opponents. If you want to know more about consistency in Hearthstone, be sure to check out Modded‘s “Consistency in Hearthstone: The Why and How,” and “Consistency in Hearthstone: GvG Legendary Analysis.”

How do you build a consistent deck? There are basically two ways of choosing a consistent deck:

  1. Build your own deck and test it thoroughly on the ladder;
  2. Net-deck it.

While there are many advantages to building your own deck, net-decking consistent builds is a better first step. While a deck that you build yourself can be more familiar and easier to use, if you are not experienced, the deck consistency could be lacking. Many people think that it’s sad to copy/paste deck lists, but in order to learn, you have to start with something that you know works. So, don’t be afraid to browse through others’ deck lists and find the ones that suit you the most!

I Want to Play Arena

Not everybody likes to play constructed (ranked ladder). Many players are casuals who play constructed from time to time, and improve their card collection by playing Arena. Sometimes, even the best constructed players like to play Arena for a change of perspective. You should know though, that constructed and arena are two different worlds and should be taken as such. I personally prefer constructed over Arena, but if you are trying to expand your card collection or you just like playing it, then you can take it to the next level and become a so-called “infinite arena player.” Infinite arena players are players who score an average of 7+ wins per run. If you become good enough, you can expand your card collection just by playing arena.

I suggest you take a look at Vivafringe’s Guide to Arena : it might be a little outdated, but its theory is still perfectly valid. Be sure to also check out Jimmy’s Top Ten Tips to Becoming a Better Hearthstone Arena Player . If you are even more serious about getting good at it, our friend Sheng wrote several guides for Arena beginners:

Since all those guides are pre-GvG, I will now link you my own guide on card picks for Goblin versus Gnomes: GvG Arena: Tips on Drafting with the New Cards .

You now have all the tools you need to become an excellent Arena player!

A Dive into the Current Meta-game

For those of you who have a wide collection of cards at your disposal and a bit of experience, you may be looking for a deck which performs particularly well in the current meta-game (for the definition of meta-game, look here). There are several popular decks at the moment, and our fellow writer Chinchillord has written a remarkable compendium of archetypes and current decks in this fine article. Be sure to check it out!

If you don’t have time to read Chinchillord’s article, here’s a list of the best decks on ladder today:

The decks are not listed in order of success, each one of them can be better or worse depending on the player who is using them and the matchup. You just need to find one that works for you.

Conclusion

Whether you are new to Hearthstone or not, there is still a lot to learn from this fantastic game. Keep in mind that while the right deck is important, the right attitude can make a difference! It is important to stay positive when playing the game, and it is also important to be well rested if you seek success. Every time I made legend it was in the morning, after a good night’s sleep. Every time I play when tired or sleepy, I end up losing many games. If you want to dominate your mind when playing the game (and not be dominated by it) be sure to read Katy‘s Into The Hearthstone Mind: The Four Stages of Competence.

Hearthstoneplayers.com is a great source of Hearthstone knowledge. For plenty more free guides on Hearthstone fundamentals, concepts, theories, deckbuilding strategies, and ladder guides, feel free to browse Jimmy‘s “Basic / Starter Decks & Legend Guides.”

If you want to see me in action, check out this intriguing duel starring me and the deck-builder spectacular Spark: HearthstonePlayers Contributor Showdown: Giordy vs Spark.

As always, if you have any suggestions, tips, or questions, feel free to write in the comments section below.

You can also contact me any time in-game (I mostly play on EU but also occasionally on NA). My Battletag is Giordy#2566.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Peace out!