HS Journal #1: In Medias Res

A weekly journal chronicling one certain Hearthstone player's quest to climb the ladder, survive the Arena, and maybe have some fun in the process.

Introduction

Hey, guys! I’m Chriseroi, a relatively new player who started in June of 2015 and has been playing and enjoying Hearthstone ever since. While I play a healthy dose of both arena and constructed, I’m a little different from most others here in that I’m actually a high school student! Don’t write me off just yet, though; I love Hearthstone just as much as you guys and have been working my way up ever since I started. Thus, the full title isn’t actually “Hearthstone Journal,” but rather, “High School Journal.” While I heavily enjoy reading a lot of these guides on Hearthstone from various parts of the community, from free-to-play to infinite Arena players, each of these guys seem to play for at least two hours per day; something that would be a crazy amount of time for someone like me to spend every day playing video games. I wanted to contribute to the community by giving you my own little amusing journey of myself trying to advance further in my Hearthstone experience, whether it’s me building up my collection, climbing up the ladder, or even just getting better at Arena. I really hope you enjoy reading these little journals every week as much as I enjoyed writing them!

Collection Status

First, I think it would be nice for all of us if I could place my Hearthstone collection in perspective, in terms of cards, adventures, and money. I have a relatively good amount of Classic cards (most commons, some rares, few epics, a couple legendaries), but not enough to make most viable decks in today’s meta. I also have a pretty good amount of Goblins vs Gnomes cards (almost all commons, most rares, a couple epics, one legendary), and as you can guess, Dr. Boom is that one legendary. I’m probably most embarrassed by my The Grand Tournament collection, which is incredibly poor (some commons, a couple rares, one epic), and if I had to choose to buy packs willingly, it would probably be from TGT. As for legendaries, I’ve gotten King Mukla, Prophet Velen, and Onyxia, although I’ve disenchanted all three and almost all my golden cards in order to craft Dr. Boom and Sylvanas Windrunner.

There’s nothing better than a Brann Bronzebeard + Dr. Boom combo on Turn 10 to fill an empty board.

I’m actually sitting on 1000 dust, and I’m saving up for Archmage Antonidas in order to improve my Mage deck. Speaking of classes, I mainly play Mage and Warlock while occasionally picking up Priest or Paladin for a spin, but while I can certainly play the other five classes, these four are my best – relatively speaking, anyways.

Funnily enough, I’m still missing a great number of essential core commons and rares: these include Sorcerers-Apprentice, Explosive Trap, Unstable Portal, Shadowflame, Equality, and Defender of Argus, among many more staples that are sorely missing. I’ve opened so many copies of Shadowstep and Conceal in the past couple months (six copies and eight copies respectively) that I could probably create a really good Rogue deck twice if I really wanted to, but the class itself is difficult to play and is one of my least favorite classes. Oh, such cruel irony…

The cards that I really want at the moment are Sorcerers-Apprentice and Unstable Portal, in order to build an effective midrange Tempo Mage deck once I have enough dust to craft Archmage Antonidas, since Mage is the class I’m most comfortable with. Until I get at least a Sorcerers-Apprentice, though, I’m most likely not going to be playing Mage in Constructed anytime soon, because my current deck is rather spell heavy.

“But Chriseroi! Why not just craft those cards if you really need them?”

Right, I forgot to mention my policy on disenchanting and crafting cards! Well, I tend to not disenchant any commons, rares, or epics, in the interest of a fuller collection should the meta shift to utilize those cards in the future. The exception are golden cards and unnecessary legendaries, as they tend to just take up space in my collection if I’m not using them. As for crafting, I only craft legendaries – I’m a math person, so statistically, the chance of unpacking a legendary is significantly lower than unpacking commons, rares, or epics. I know that once I craft one card that seems to never appear in my packs, it’ll show up in the next five packs after I do so (I swear, this will happen!), so I’d rather play it safe than sorry.

As a side note, I usually receive about 400 dust a month on average, so I should be able to craft a legendary every four months provided I never open golden epics or any legendaries that are disenchanting fodder.

Side note: my personal spending philosophy is quite simple. I’ve only spent $50 on the first two adventures, and with that unlocked, I’ve firmly made sure that I spend no more money on Hearthstone. This includes the League of Explorers (which I purchased with gold), card packs, or even promotions (such as the very tempting Winter Veil promotion last month). I might love this game a lot, but I really can’t afford to spare any more money towards this game (I’m a broke high school student), so the rest of my journey will be as much a free-to-play as it could possibly be.

Constructed

Ah, now on to constructed, my favorite game mode! Ever since the inclusion of ranked rewards, I’ve been really motivated to climb the ladder every season, although I don’t get very far. My best season was definitely this past November when I reached Rank 10, almost exclusively with my Midrange Mage deck. However, I didn’t have the same luck this past December season as I was only able to reach Rank 13 with the same deck. This, along with my matchups being a much tougher challenge last season, has led me to believe that my Mage deck just currently isn’t viable anymore in the current meta without some changes, so until I improve my collection, I’m going to take a break from Mage for a while.

While I love this deck to death, as I’ve played it for the past four seasons, it’s become inconsistent: with the right curve and hand, it turns into more of a tempo deck, while with a different hand, it turns into more of a midrange deck. Unfortunately, the multitude of Reno Jackson decks out there right now are simply able to survive against my midrange version far too easily, and my tempo version is far too unreliable to depend on without a deck built around that purpose.

Recently, after playtesting various Paladin and Warlock decks, I’ve settled on using a modified RenoLock deck to climb the ladder this season. While I have most of the cards to make a standard RenoLock deck, I’m missing Darkbomb, Shadowflame, Siphon Soul, Sunfury Protector, Defender of Argus, and most noticeably, Lord Jaraxxus. However, I’m confident that the substitutions I’ve made in my current deck so far are good enough to at least carry me to Rank 15 as is, and that’s my goal for the week. As I start opening more packs, I’ll pray that at least one of these cards lie somewhere in them.

In any case, allow me to explain why I’m really fond of RenoLock, with an explanation of the key cards in this deck.

At its core, RenoLock is essentially a twist on the Handlock archetype, placing a great emphasis on Life Tap in order to cycle through the deck to draw threats, spells, and most importantly, heal. There’s a fantastic amount of early game yet just enough big threats in the mid-game and late game to make it difficult for someone to run out of steam, thus making it a viable choice against most match-ups in the ladder right now. Of course, the part where it suffers is my lack of AoE spells, which weakens the deck considerably. Any deck that floods the board are very likely to overwhelm me easily if I don’t have Hellfire or Demonwrath in my hand, so this version has just under a 60% win rate. It’s still good enough to get me to Rank 15, though.

My 1-drops and 2-drops are essential to me getting a good start; while I don’t draw into them all the time, having Flame Imp, Voidwalker, and Knife Juggler with an Imp-losion in hand by the end of turn three has certainly sealed the game for me multiple times.

Wrathguard, in particular, is an interesting choice, but after seeing Trump run it during one of his streams, I tested it out and realized that it was fantastic at trading up to 3-mana and even 4-mana minions on occasion, making it an excellent early game minion.

Big Game Hunter is self-explanatory, but Mind Control Tech is surprisingly very effective, as I’ve been able to activate it in almost all my games thanks to the increase of anti-aggro decks this time of the season.

Brann Bronzebeard makes Antique Healbot a mini Reno Jackson for 16 health (!!!), but I sometimes use him on turn 10 with Dr. Boom to completely flood the board with four Boom Bots, completely turning the tide in some cases.

Feugen and Stalagg are surprisingly durable, and unless one of them is hit by Polymorph, I’ve been able to summon Thaddius on more than one occasion, which resulted in an automatic concede by the opponent if they didn’t have the resources to remove it.

Arch-Thief Rafaam serves as my own replacement for Lord Jaraxxus; although I might not gain the weapon and amazing hero power that Jaraxxus provides, I can pick an artifact to help me out depending on the situation; the +10/+10 artifact is my personal favorite, as it can give out a whopping 19 damage when used on Rafaam.

Of course, that still leaves me with a devastatingly small amount of AoE spells. Three, to be precise: Demonwrath, Hellfire, and a certain artifact from Rafaam (which isn’t even reliable because the damage is random!). I really need a Shadowflame in my next pack. Fingers crossed!

Arena

Arena has recently become my primary way of improving my collection ever since I finished purchasing all the adventures. I try to do two or three arenas per week, and currently have a gold reserve of 800 gold. I average about four wins consistently, and while it isn’t awful, it could be a lot better. My best run was a 6-3 Paladin run I did in August, and I haven’t been able to top that yet, with my following runs being somewhere between 2-5 so far. When I draft, I tend to pick Mage, Paladin, or Warlock if available, and I use HearthArena as a guide to picking my cards – that doesn’t mean I brainlessly pick what it says, though! What I do – and what I recommend other inexperienced Arena players do, as well – is pick my own choice out of the three cards offered before looking at HearthArena. If they picked differently, I reevaluate. Heck, my best run was when I went against HearthArena thrice, so contrary to popular belief, it’s not as smart as some make it out to be.

During the week, I drafted three Arenas. For the first one, as I drafted my Mage deck, I was amazed at every card choice offered to me, and for good reason: by the end of the draft, I had seven 2-drops, one Azure Drake, one Sludge Belcher, one Etheral Conjuerer, one Arcane Explosion, one Frostbolt, one Flamecannon, one Forgotten Torch, two copies of Polymorph, and one Flamestrike. This was, by far, the best deck I’ve ever drafted, and rightfully so, as it ended in a 7-3: my first seven-win Arena ever. I was heavily ecstatic as I opened my rewards to reveal 180 gold and a TGT card pack. “Nothing could top this Arena!” I thought as I started another draft.

Unfortunately, that turned out to be true for the next one. With a decent draft for Paladin (one Equality, two copies of Keeper of Uldaman, but no Consecration), I barely edged out 2-3 before opening my rewards to reveal 40 dust and a TGT card pack. I have to admit, though, the draft itself was pretty good! Decent to at least go four wins. But something messed me up the second game… Story time!

I was 1-0, and I faced off against a Paladin the second game. It was in the mid-game, around Turn 5. I had just ended my own turn, and as I waited anxiously for my opponent to make his move, it was suddenly my turn again. “That was a mistake,” my opponent emoted. I was stunned. He continued to click the “oops” emote again, clearly desperate. He was asking for another chance.

I didn’t know what to do. My conscience was telling me to end my turn and give him a fair turn, but my friends, who I were with at the time, told me to punish him for it.

“It’s arena! You have to be brutal to get those wins!”

“Don’t be so nice. He messed up, so take advantage!”

With such peer pressure surrounding me, I did what I thought I had to do. “I am sorry,” I said as I cleared his board and went for face.

He conceded after I did that.

I was stricken with grief. I tried to friend him right after that in order to apologize, but he declined my request. I didn’t know what to do, and this grief carried over into my next match when I played Equality after putting my minions on the board, allowing my opponent to consecrate and win the match. I lost the next match due to more grief, and the third loss was practically a guarantee after that.

If you guys take anything from this whole thing, let it be this: Hearthstone is already “unfair” enough with all its RNG and crazy luck. Don’t let yourself make it even more unfair, because sometimes, a win isn’t as important as just having fun, and occasionally, we forget that.

Okay, whew, sorry for being so philosophical. Moving on to the third arena run, which turned out to be quite the tease. After two consecutive losses, leaving me at 2-2, I was getting ready to settle for a loss when suddenly I won the next five games in a row before losing the sixth one, leaving me at another 7-3 and 185 gold, plus a TGT card pack. I’m not sure if this had any influence on my wins, but I did play three of those matches early in the morning before I went to school, something I never typically do, so I was surprised when I won all three. Does the time of day influence the kinds of people that play? I’m not 100% sure, but it’s certainly worth keeping notice of.

In any case, these three Arena runs have concluded with a 5.33 average for the week, increasing my average from the usual four wins. That’s amazing for me, honestly, and I was really surprised to get even one 7-3 run, let alone two of them in the same week. Is it such a coincidence that this also happens to be the week I start writing for Hearthstone Players, too…?

Tavern Brawl

This week’s Tavern Brawl was brand new and quite a refreshing change of pace, at that. While it was a “make-your-own-deck” kind of brawl, which I usually hate, everything else made up for it because you could choose one of four permanent effects at the beginning of the brawl that lasted for the rest of the match:

Spell Bonus: Whenever you play a spell, gain 3 armor.

Battlecry Bonus: Your Battlecry minions have +1/+1.

Murloc Bonus: You get a 1/1 Murloc at the end of your turn.

Deathrattle Bonus: Your Deathrattle minions have +1/+1.

I can’t even begin to imagine the possibilities of decks that can be used for this: Murloc Paladin, Murloc Shaman, Deathrattle Rogue, Tempo Mage, etc. While Murloc Paladin would probably be the fastest one to use, I settled on a Deathrattle Rogue deck, but only because I had a “Druid or Rogue Dominance” quest to finish.

It only took me one try to get my card pack, but that win can be attributed to luck since my opponent was using a Face Hunter, which quickly ran out of steam as I made more value plays and trades thanks to the +1/+1 buff each of my minions had.

The deck I used is shown here, but since I only used it for one game, I can’t vouch for how effective it is now that people have surely found much better ways to play this brawl.

Definitely going to play this a lot more times over the course of the week, though, as it’s undoubtedly one of my newest favorite Tavern Brawls and one that I will be sad to see leave next Monday.

Busting Open Card Packs!!

My weekly ritual always ends with me opening all the packs I’ve saved over the past week right after I win my first Tavern Brawl. Typically, I get around four packs to open a week, but this week ended with a whopping eight brand new packs to open! Here’re the new cards that I got this week:

Classic: 5 Packs   |   TGT: 3 Packs   |   Total: 8 Packs

20 out of 40 cards were useful. (Any cards that I don’t have two copies of are considered useful.)

[spoiler]

1x Living Roots, 1x Wildwalker

1x Bestial Wrath, 2x Explosive Trap

1x Eye for an Eye

1x Spawn of Shadows

1x Burgle, 1x SI:7 Agent

1x Lava Burst, 1x Tuskarr Totemic

1x Felguard, 1x Fist of Jaraxxus

1x Slam

1x Gadgetzan Jouster, 1x Boneguard Lieutenant, 1x mogushan-warden, 1x Captured Jormungar, 1x Ancient Mage, 1x Azure Drake

[/spoiler]

Well, look at that! Despite the disappointing epic, this was a really solid haul. The cards that I’m most excited about are Azure Drake, SI:7 Agent, and Explosive Trap, which I’ve desperately wanted a pair of since I’ve started playing (and now I do for all three!), so this is undoubtedly one of my best pack opening sessions to date. The other great cards such as Living Roots, Burgle, and Tuskarr Totemic are a nice bonus as well.

What’s Next?

For some people, seven wins is an everyday occurrence. For me? It’s a dream come true.

So, let’s recap: I have about 1000 dust sitting around, but I probably won’t have enough dust to craft Archmage Antonidas until next season, so I’m going to stick with my RenoLock to get me through this season. In order to expand my collection, I’m going to play Arena (about two or three, depending on time constraints), and considering my personal victory this week of a 7-3 run, I think that it’s safe to say Arena has become more profitable for me than it was before, which is exciting, to say the least.

Next week, I hope to have gotten to Rank 15 at the very least, in terms of Constructed, and I want to improve my Arena average and hopefully hit another 7-3 run by next week as well (that’s all I need to make me feel like I’m improving!) I’m hoping for some good cards to come out of next week’s card opening session in order to improve my RenoLock, but who knows what will happen, right?

Closing

Well, this was a really long one, huh? I don’t mean for the typical journal to be this long in the future, but this was a special case as I wanted to make sure I introduced everything properly so you guys can understand where I’m coming from. If you guys even read this far, thank you so much for reading! I really hope you enjoyed reading my first journal, and this will be the first of many to come, hopefully!

If you found this journal to be interesting in the least, I highly recommend thundyr’s FTP Journeyman Guide, which chronicles his own journey from the beginning as a free-to-play player. Each part is wonderfully written, and it actually played a major role in inspiring me to start writing for Hearthstone Players! You can find the first part of his series here.

If you guys want to ask questions, give constructive criticism, or even yell at me for any of the things I said here, feel free to comment below! And if you want to add me, my Battletag is Chriseroi#1902. I hope to see you all in a game of Hearthstone sometime soon!