The First 5 Things to Look at When Playing a Game of Hearthstone

Alright guys it’s been a while since my last article but I’m back! With the new set coming out I decided it wouldn’t be relevant or helpful to anyone if I wrote something about a deck that would quickly become outdated. I did however think I could write some Hearthstone theory some of you may […]

Introduction

Alright guys it’s been a while since my last article but I’m back! With the new set coming out I decided it wouldn’t be relevant or helpful to anyone if I wrote something about a deck that would quickly become outdated. I did however think I could write some Hearthstone theory some of you may find useful about the game we love to hate. So I write this article from the experience I have from teaching people the game of Hearthstone and the common mistakes I see people making in your average game. So without further adieu, I present the 5 things every player should do when they first begin a game of Hearthstone.

Note: All examples given in this article are not analysis or strategy for a deck, they are specifically designed to be an example of Hearthstone theory and have no real game play strategy in mind.

1). Assessing Your Opening Hand and What You’re Playing Against

  • The first thing your going to do when you begin a game of Hearthstone is assess your hand. I know this may seem trivial but trust me it isn’t. Obviously we don’t live in “Rainbow Unicorn Land” where our decks are going to cooperate with us 100% of the time. Look at your hand, evaluate any vulnerabilities it has and what you need to do to correct it. The second part of assessing your hand is guessing what your playing against. Because it’s turn 1 and all information is unknown, you’re not going to know what your opponent is doing until they make their first play. Lets take for example this hand.
  • So for all intents and purposes this hand is fine. But more importantly we’re playing against Druid, and unless this guy is doing something crazy he is most likely Combo Druid or Taunt Druid. So what does that mean? Generally it means they’re a slow control/combo deck that will take quite a while to win the game. Now lets go back to my hand. It’s my turn, my opponent has passed on turn 1 so the likely hood of him being Mech Druid has gone down even more. The mistake I commonly see from people is coining a 2 drop with no play on turn 2 against these slower decks. As I said before Druid is a slower grindier deck, there is no reason for me to Coin + Armorsmith because it accomplishes nothing. All I would do is waste the coin and put an irrelevant amount of pressure on my opponents life total. Now lets flip it!
  • What if I was playing against Hunter? Hunter is a much more aggressive deck banking on pressuring my life total the entire game. If I choose to Coin + Armorsmith  on turn 1 it means I’m immediately going to contest the board while gaining life and killing his minions. Not only that, this hand also has a solid turn 2 removal spell in Slam for aggressive based strategy decks which will then curve into one of the two 3 drops I have in my hand.

2). What is Your Opponent Playing?

  • Now that you’ve assessed your opening hand the second most important thing you need to do is figure out what your opponent is playing. Boys and girls the good ol’ days of only having to guess if they’re Handlock or Zoo are long gone. Every Hero seems to have multiple strategies these days, for example….
  1. Shaman – Mech, Midrange
  2. Rogue – Aggro, Oil
  3. Paladin – Aggro, Midrange
  4. Hunter – Face, Midrange
  5. Warlock – Zoo, Handlock, Maly-Lock
  6. Warrior – Control, Patron
  7. Priest – Control, Control, Control(Bad example)
  8. Mage – Mech, Tempo, Freeze
  9. Druid – RampMidrange/Combo

So why is it important to figure out which deck your opponent is playing and why you want to find out as quickly as possible?

  • Proper resource usage.

    -If you don’t know what deck your opponent is playing you could use resources improperly. For example, lets say you’re playing Midrange Paladin and your opponent is playing Hunter. You decide to make a tempo play where you Aldor Peacekeeper his Knife Juggler for a value trade rather than a straight across trade. Well it turns out your opponent isn’t playing Face Hunter and is Midrange Hunter instead, and on turn 6 plays a Savannah Highmane. Whoops.

  • Playing around removal.

    – Take for example Patron and Control Warrior. You automatically think everyone is Patron now because of how much you have seen on streams, tournaments, and ladder. So lets say you’re playing Mech Mage and start slamming every minion you have as you think, “Patron doesn’t have any mass removal.” Well you forgot to think, what if he’s control? Whoops.

3). Knowing How You’re Going to Win the Game.

  •  Alright, you’ve figured out what your opponent is playing and now you’re looking for a winning strategy. Some decks have simpler answers to this than others. If you’re Face Hunter the answer is usually go face, if you’re control Warrior the answer is usually grind them into oblivion, but what about the rest of us? Lets take for example our Druid vs Patron game from before. I as an experienced Patron player know that Druid has an almost impossible time recovering from a board full of Patrons. Lets look at this hand.
  • With 5 mana my opponent didn’t blow up my weapon, meaning he doesn’t have a way to. However, I am still multiple turns away from being able to Patron combo. If I choose to use my weapon this turn it means I will lose a Whirlwind affect and push my combo back even farther. This isn’t something I want to do, I would rather distract my opponent while contesting the board and set up my combo as quick as possible. This is my play.
  • While tempo Frothing Berserker doesn’t seem that great I know he’s not how I’m going to win the game so he has becomes a casualty of war. I will use Armorsmith to attack the Totem pumping Frothing and making it able to trade with Piloted Shredder. After turn 5 and some trading I drew an Inner Rage and the game got crazy.
  • I was able to keep my weapon, play Grim Patron, Inner Rage it, attack my opponents minion creating a Whirlwind, and then cast a Whirlwind from hand clearing the board and giving myself 6 Patron’s. And a few turns later ….

    I know this looks like a simple example and honestly it is. Patron gives the best examples on this concept which is why it’s also part of example 2.

Example 2

  • Lets flip it again. Now I’m playing Patron Vs. Control Priest. There are times when you can Yolo Patron combo and just hope they don’t have it especially if you can do it early and for a reasonable amount of resources. However, you constantly see people spending valuable resources to Patron combo and deal 12-18 damage to someones face. Why is this wrong? Priest has easy AOE, they can Lightbomb or Circle of Healing + Auchenai Soulpriest. Luckily for the world of Patron Frothing Berserker  exist. Are you going to win a control game as a Patron player with the Patron combo? Probably not. So what does that mean? Control is slow, thus giving you all the time in the world to set up massive Frothing damage, so lets take that path shall we?

4). How is Your Opponent Going to Kill You?

  • While trying to figure out how you’re going to kill your opponent you should also be thinking about how they’re are trying to kill you. Knowing this is going to let you figure out how to best use resources, how to best trade, when to go face, when to hold back, etc. Some of these are going to be easy; if your opponent is Combo Druid they’re going to try to maintain board control, get you low and combo you. If your opponent is Aggro pally they’re going to try and SMOrc your face. But it isn’t always easy. Everyone has played against Zoo a million times, and how does Zoo beat you? They try to take early board control, apply pressure, and end with some burst. But if you know their plan can you counter it? If you know Zoo, and I know Zoo, you know that they have a hard time regaining board control once its lost. You also know that Zoo contains almost zero burst besides Doomguard and Power Overwhelming and the card they have to play first can make them discard the second one. What does this mean? That if you gain board control and are at higher than 9 life it’s going to be hard to lose the game.
  • Lets take another example. We’re playing Midrange Paladin and we’re up against Freeze Mage, what’s their plan? Well, Freeze Mage is going to do Freeze Mage things. They’re going to Freeze the board, stall, set up secrets, Alexstrasza our face, then try to burn us out. So we now all this so what do we do? Attempt to create a clock, save heals, and for the love of god save Loatheb. Yes I know this matchup is awful for the Paladin but that doesn’t mean its unwinnable. The way your going to win is understanding how your opponent wants to win, because they do not want to interact with you you have no choice but to forge other paths to victory. You know their win condition, so try and counter it.

5). Know Your Role

  • In every game of Hearthstone you have to understand the role you’re playing, you may have gone in with the intention of being the aggressor but in Hearthstone nothing is certain. Lets take for example Handlock Vs. Patron. Normally the Handlock player is used to being on the back foot trying to control the game. However, in this particular matchup that isn’t true. As a handlock player you need to start dropping early game threats like Twilight Drake and Mountain Giant in order to force Patron to combo early and clear. If you don’t pressure early you give the Patron player too much time to assemble the much more complex Frothing Berserker combo which can burst an insane amount of damage. Second example; you’re a Face Hunter and you have every intention of going face. However, you qued up against Aggro Paladin. Paladin went first, had a much more aggressive draw, and has Consecrate if you choose not to trade. Now we know Face Hunter’s like to go face but you always can’t. You need to stabilize the board, stabilize your life, and draw into Unleash the Hounds or Explosive Trap to bring you back in. KNOW YOUR ROLE. This is probably the most important concept in any game of Hearthstone, often times people fall prey to “Tunnel Vision” and only learn how to pilot the deck their playing one way.

Closing

I hope this little tid bit into the game of Hearthstone was helpful for those players looking to better their game. I always look forward to hearing feedback from the community and will try to answer any questions I receive. So until next time, good luck on ladder and may the RNG gods be with you.

-RamPage