Tens of millions of people have played Hearthstone. Lots of those players have played card games before—but plenty haven’t. They might be players coming over from World of Warcraft or other Blizzard games, or just people catching on to a popular game.
At any rate, getting to grips with the game can be daunting if you don’t know where to start. There are nine classes, hundreds of cards, and an infinite number of possible decks. There are concepts to be learned, key words to be interpreted, and unique quirks to be understood.
Fundamentally the best way to learn is by doing. That principle is a big part of Hearthstone—indeed there are some cards that a player can only learn what they do by playing them. But here are some quick tips and broad ideas to help a new player get started in the game.
The basic decks
When you first sign up and install the game, only the basic Mage deck is available. Defeat the other basic decks in matches against the AI to unlock each class as you go. There are ten basic class cards for each class—five available as soon as you unlock the class, and five more unlocked as you level up each class to level ten.
By definition, the basic decks are relatively simple. They revolve around those core class cards with a set of neutral basic cards that generally follow a stable mana curve. That’s a good principle to follow when building your first decks—stick to a mana curve that allows you to have minions of appropriate power levels to play in the early, mid, and late game. To start with, try building on the basic decks with the first few cards you are able to unlock or get from early packs. Figure out what ones are good or not either by playing, or if you can by trying to look at how they interact with your deck.
The mulligan phase at the start of each game is where players are presented with their opening hand.
If you’re going first, you’re offered three cards. Players going second get four cards and the coin, a card which offers you an extra mana crystal in a single turn. Going first is a significant advantage in Hearthstone as it allows you to take the initiative and force your opponent to respond.
In general, throw away cards you can’t play in the first couple of turns. You’ll have plenty of chance to draw them before you need them. If you’re playing an aggressive deck, mulligan for cheap cards that can affect the game early. If you’re playing a more defensive deck, mulligan for the tools you need to deal with your opponent’s advances.
Hearthstone is a board-centric card game. That means that, as a general rule, the player that controls the board has the best chance to win the game.
Unless you’re playing a deck with a very specialized strategy, you’ll want to have minions to play on curve throughout the game. That means a decent amount of early drops, some mid game threats, and a few big minions to try and close things out.
As you play minions onto the board, don’t overextend—that means playing too many minions when you don’t have to. Using as much of your mana as possible is efficient, but you could run into problems if your opponent has spells that clear the board. Those are known as area of effect, or AOE spells. If you play all the minions you have in your hand and your opponent kills them all, you could find yourself behind.
Board control leads on to understand trading. As your opponent also tries to control the board with their own minions, you have to know how to beat them back. Again these are all general rules, and situations will obviously dictate different lines of play.
When trading, you should always look for the most efficient way to kill your opponent’s minions. The best situation is where your opponent’s minion dies, but yours doesn’t. Another favorable scenario is using a cheaper minion to kill a more expensive minion, or a couple of cheaper minions to kill a bigger one. Trades where more mana is taken off your opponent’s side than yours.
When trading, you must again be mindful of AOE. As an example, if you suspect your opponent will be playing Flamestrike it would be wise not to trade your minions to the point where they all have four or less health.
Sequencing and positioning
While playing our your cards every turn, always think about what you’re going before you do it. Try and plan out your whole turn before executing it.
When planning a turn, think about the order in which you should play your cards. Card draw should almost always come first—what you draw could change the course you’ve selected for this turn. You might draw something that works better than what you had planned. Then think about the best order for playing out your remaining cards. For example, if you have a Knife Juggler and another minion to play this turn, play the Knife Juggler first.
Positioning is also an important consideration. Cards like Flametongue Totem have effects related to their placement on the board, so make sure to put them in the right place.
How to learn
Once you’ve mastered the basics of playing the game, how do you go about learning more in depth?
The best way to do it is play. Play lots. Build decks, or find decks online, and play them until you understand how everything in it works. Read the cards carefully, particularly the more complicated ones—though the Basic and Classic sets are generally more simple.
You can also learn by watching experienced players. Twitch and YouTube are incredible resources for videos of tournaments, deck guides from the top players in the world, and tutorials on how to master more advanced game mechanics.