Ranked. A way to see how you stand among other players in your region. You’re looking for a way to reach that elusive Legend rank so you can play with the best of the best, “the elite” as Blizzard calls them. Maybe you want to prove to yourself that you have what it takes to be a Legend, maybe you want to show off to your friends how much better you are at Hearthstone than them, or maybe you just want that shiny, new card back.
Either way, you want to hit Legend and you’re looking for any help or advice that will get you there. Hi there, I’m Azure (previously xXAzureXx up until the start of season 3) and I’m here to help you get that Legendary rank by giving you a few tips that I’ve managed to pick up as I hit Top 100 Legend in Season 1 and Season 2.
Where to Start
After you’ve finished the tutorial, you may have an urge to immediately start playing ranked in order to climb to Legend as quickly as possible. While this may seem like the most logical choice at first, you’ll quickly realize that many players have access to cards your beginner deck just does not stand a chance against. You may be asking yourself, “So what now? If I have a really weak deck, should I just spend a bunch of money and open packs?” The answer here would be no. Even if you have the best “meta” decks at your disposal, having access to them, and knowing how to play with them (and against them) are two very different things. This is where Arena comes in. Arena is a very good place to learn more about Hearthstone (Class-specific cards, tempo, value, etc) while expanding your collection at the same time. Blizzard even gives you a free pass to help you start!
After you feel that you’ve got a solid understanding of the game (this varies a lot for different people) and are averaging at least 6 wins per run, feel free to jump into ranked if you have (or are willing to buy enough packs for) the cards you need to build your deck(s) of choice.
When in the Season to Start
Trying to climb on the first day of a brand new season can be a nightmare. With everyone being reset back to lower ranks, the chances of being paired against skilled players that have already reached legend in previous seasons are very high. To avoid this, starting the climb on day 2 or 3 ends up being much easier than starting on day 1 since by this point most of the previously higher ranked players will have moved on to higher ranks.
Which Deck to Play (Rank 25 to Rank 5)
From rank 25 to 5, playing a rush deck can help you gain those ranks very quickly since it allows for quick games, allowing you to hit those win streaks faster and more consistently than if you played a deck that needs to get to the late game in order to win. A good example would be a Warlock Zoo deck (featured to the right). Once you get to rank 5, there are no more streaks and the true climb begins.
However, even though this is the quickest way to climb, the benefit to playing a slower deck is that you will understand it better when playing rush is no longer an option. Ultimately, it is your decision to make, and both choices are equally viable.
Which Deck to Play (Rank 5 and Onward)
Once you reach rank 5, a rush deck may not cut it because more experienced players will know how to play against it and you may only be achieving a 50% or lower win rate, with no streak bonuses that will help you climb. This is when you need to start playing slower and more consistent decks, even if the games tend to take longer. A great choice at the moment can be anything from Control Shaman to Miracle Rogue.
Learn What You Play
Whichever deck you decide to play ranked with, it is a good idea to make sure you know what the deck is capable of. This means knowing everything from what cards are in the deck, to its good and bad matchups, to its win conditions.
Know the Deck
Going into ranked with a deck list that you are not familiar with is a great way to lose some games and drop in ranking. This is because the correct play to make will not always be clear and you will not know which cards in your deck can get you out of a bad spot (or if there are even any outs left!). A good idea is to play with a list of your deck that is easily accessible until you familiarize yourself with it. This way, you’ll know whether the best option is to try to draw into an answer or make the play that leaves you in the best position possible.
No deck has a good match-up against every other deck. Every deck has good and bad match-ups and knowing how to capitalize on this knowledge is how some players become Legendary much quicker than others.
On the ranked ladder, there are times when there is one deck that everyone is playing, and a deck that counters it, along with a few others that you will occasionally encounter. If this is the case, the best choice is to play the counter deck since it will give you the highest win rate.
As an example, up until Unleash the Hounds was nerfed, Hunter decks were running rampant and seemed to be unstoppable. This was until players realized that Miracle Rogue hard countered the deck (since it played few creatures at a time and usually ended the game with spells and burst damage with Leeroy Jenkins). At the time, if you were playing Hunter, you would have a 50% win rate vs other Hunters and a below 50% win rate vs Miracle Rogues. Whereas if you were playing Miracle Rogue, you would have an above 50% win rate vs Hunters and a 50% win rate vs other Miracle Rogues. What this means is that the counter deck will win more times in the long run, and in a similar situation this is the deck you should be playing in order to gain ranks.
Other times, there is no “best deck”, but an assortment of different decks running around and there is no way to tell which deck you expect to play against. This is where you need to find a few decks you are comfortable and can get a positive win rate with. Three is a good number here. This allows you to rotate between multiple decks, which keeps the game fresh and exciting while still gaining ranks and making your way to Legendary.
Knowing how to mulligan is also very important. Just because Backstab is a great card against Zoo does not mean it is a good card against Ramp Druid. Knowing which cards to keep and which cards to throw back comes with experience, but once you learn them, good matchups will become even easier and poor matchups that seemed impossible to beat will become winnable.
While Arena is mostly about tempo and gaining board advantage against your opponent, Ranked is full of decks with win conditions (although tempo does still play its part). Understanding these win conditions can mean the difference between winning the game and being defeated while feeling relatively safe. This involves knowing the turn and amount of life from which a class can burst you down to 0 in one turn. Some are trickier to play around than others, but here are a few simple examples:
9 Mana = 10 Damage (grommash-hellscream + whirlwind)
10 Mana = 12 Damage (Grommash Hellscream + cruel-taskmaster)
Token and Watcher Druid
9 Mana= 14 Damage (force-of-nature + savage-roar)
9 Mana= 12 Damage (alakir-the-windlord + rockbiter-weapon)
Knowing a deck’s win condition, the best course of action is to maintain your life above the relevant damage total while making sure you can still achieve your own win condition.
Winning and Losing
The road to Legend is a long one. This is because, while hearthstone is a game of skill, there is also luck involved. Before you start playing ranked, understanding that luck is a factor is very important. No matter how skilled they are, many Legendary players reach Legend with a 60% – 70% win rate (and these are the ones that reach it quickly!), meaning that they lose about 3 or 4 out of every 10 games. Some games you lose will be out of your control and you will need to learn to accept that. If not, what comes after is a downward spiral of anger and annoyance known as going on tilt.
The Tilt is Real
In Hearthstone, as well as in many other games that have a ranked system, the desire to climb to the top of the ladder is one that every ranked player has. In order to try to become one of the best, players end up playing a high amount of games in order to reach the highest ranks (it usually goes into the hundreds in order to reach Legendary!). With this, however, comes a constant risk of going on streaks. Winning streaks are great and can lead to a boost in confidence (and even provides a bonus up to Rank 5), but along with these there are also losing streaks.
Going on a losing streak can be one of the worst feelings, can make you go on tilt, and only gets worse as you play and lose more games. This is because in order to compensate for your losses, you will make plays you normally would not in order to try to end the game faster and regain the ranking you lost. But this isn’t what happens, and instead you lose more due to poor decision-making (which is blamed on bad luck) and only leads to losing even more ranking. A good way to avoid this is to set a personal limit to the amount of consecutive losses you can take at a time. For example, if you lose 2 games in a row with a certain deck, switch to another deck. If you lose two more games, it may be time to call it a day. Come back later or the next day when you are feeling more relaxed and refreshed. It is much easier to make the correct play when you are calm than when you are frustrated.
Feeling worried about dropping in rank is common in a lot of players. After all, getting that rank 3 (or whichever rank they are at) took a lot of work, it would be a shame if it was all lost over the course of a few games. Unfortunately, this is what keeps these players that could have potentially been Legendary from achieving the Legendary rank. Learning to overcome this ladder anxiety is a very important step in becoming Legendary. Holding on to a high rank means nothing if it means sacrificing the chance to be Legendary. This is even more apparent when you realize that (at least at this point in time) the difference at the end of a season between what a rank 20 player receives and a rank 3 player receives is virtually nothing, ranks below top 100 Legendary players are not even recorded. Gaining ranks up until Legendary is really just a grind, a grind that will take less time with more experience as your frequency of misplays becomes smaller and smaller. The most important thing to keep in mind is that if you truly deserve to be a Legend, you will get there.
The experience of reaching the Legendary rank is different for everyone. For some players, it might seem quick and easy, possibly due to a lucky streak, while for others it may seem to take longer and be more difficult. Regardless, hitting Legendary is one of the most satisfying feelings that a player can experience. In the end, it is up to you to get to the highest ranks of Hearthstone players. It is up to you to become Legendary.