Beginner's Arena Guide: The Importance of Board Clear
Greetings, I’m Sheng, a Legend rank constructed and 7.5 win-average arena player. I run HearthstoneCoaching.com where our coaches have helped many students achieve the same.
You've gutted out an entire game. Your opponent obviously had the stronger deck, but with a combination of guile and skill you clawed back from a poor opening hand to a good position late in the game. You're both top-decking now. Thanks to Sheng's guide on Winning Games, you're on the road to victory. At least you think. You click the "End Turn" button confident in your victory.
BAM! Your opponent top-decks a Flamestrike. Your dreams are shattered and "DEFEAT" flashes onto your screen.
Maybe nothing could have prevented that scenario from happening, but truly this is all Sheng's fault. He never wrote a guide on the importance of board clear!
You, the reader, have requested that I write this guide next, on the importance of board clear. This was the top-voted request from last time, and I'm here to fulfill that wish. In this guide, I'll be going over every Class and Neutral board clear card in the game. Each card has an overview and play guide for when you're playing the card and when you're potentially facing the card.
This is some pretty heavy stuff to digest. Are you ready to dig in?
What the heck is a board clear?
Greetings, I'm Sheng, a Legend rank constructed and infinite arena player. I run HearthstoneCoaching.com where we're dedicated to helping players improve to achieve their Hearthstone goals, and today I'll be teaching you about playing and playing around board clear effectively.
Board clear cards are cards that affect the state of one or more minions on the board through damage. Generally these cards should be played when you can eliminate two or more of your enemy's minions (trading a board clear spell to eliminate one minion won't give you card advantage). When you're playing against someone who could potentially wipe your board, you need to know whether you're ahead or behind your opponent. If you're way ahead, the general plan is to play conservative. Don't get cocky, and show off all those cards you've managed to gain over your opponent just to have them wiped away by a Consecrationor a Flamestrike. Well, unless you're playing against me. I love it when my opponent floods the board right before I play Flamestrike.
In the next 9 sections of this guide, I go through each class and list the cards you'll likely face in arena that have the ability to affect the state of multiple minions at once. The cards that are displayed on their own (like Swipe, Explosive Trap, etc.) are the ones you should most look out for.
In general cards that are Basic or Common are more likely to be seen, while cards that are Rare, Epic, or Legendary are much rarer. (On average you'll draft up to 6 Rares in an arena, from personal experience.) The fact that Flamestrikeis Basic is the reason why people aren't complaining about Avenging Wrath, a card that is often better in many situations, but is seen infrequently due to its Epic rarity.
Well, enough with the boring stuff, let's look at what you'll face...
- Overview: An excellent card. Because it's Basic, it's very likely that you'll be able to draft and/or face this in arena. How far you go in arena as a Druid often depends how many of these you get offered in the draft. With two or more Swipes, start to assign more value to minions that give +1 Spell Power bonus, as they almost double Swipe's board clearing power.
- How to Play: It's generally good value to play this when you can clear a 4 health minion and one or more 1 health minions. Remember that with 2 more mana, you can use your hero power to bring a 2 health minion into range for Swipeto wipe it out.
- How to Play Around: While you'll never know how many Swipes your opponent has drafted, the threat of it wiping out your board is always there. Don't flood the board with 1 health minions. Be especially careful when your enemy has a +1 Spell Power minion on the board.
- Overview: You'll see less of this card in arena than Swipe, but it can often catch you by surprise when you're expecting a Swipe. The strength of this spell is in its versatility. It can blow up your board of 3/2 minions, or just wipe out your Chillwind Yeti.
- How to Play: Generally, you'll want to use this to clear your opponent's board of low health minions over targeting one larger minion.
- How to Play Around: You should worry less about this than Swipedue to its rarity. If you've played around Swipe, you'll generally be okay here as well.
Force of Nature
- Overview: 6 mana for 6 damage divided between 3 targets. That's pretty awesome! It's even scarier when coupled with Savage Roar, which is much less likely in arena.
- How to Play: This serves as a more expensive version of Starfallthat should be used to clear your opponent's board. The advantage of this spell is that you can choose how to divide that 6 damage.
- How to Play Around: As an Epic card, this isn't something I'd lose sleep over.
- Overview: 4 mana to deal 3 damage to two random enemy minions. A poorer version of Cleave. This card would be much better if there wasn't the strict requirement of playing this only when your opponent has two or more minions on the board.
- How to Play: Use this whenever your opponent has two minions on the board that you need to clear. When your opponent has more than two minions on the board, clear out the ones you want Multi-Shotto miss, so you can guarantee 3 damage to each of the two targets you want.
- How to Play Around: If you're ahead early in the game, you'll probably have one or more minions on the board by turn 4. If you have just one minion, avoid playing a 3 health minion (i.e. Spellbreaker) on turn 4 to play around this. You should be okay with Multi-Shotkilling one of your minions. Just avoid giving him two 3 health ones.
- Overview: At best a 2 mana Consecration. At worst an Arcane Shoton a minion that you wouldn't be able to kill this turn anyway.
- How to Play: Play this whenever your opponent has flooded the board with low health minions. You won't want your opponents to activate this when they have just a single Boulderfist Ogreon the board.
- How to Play Around: You can tell your opponent has played this if he's traded one or more minions into yours, bringing them down to exactly two health. Just remember that this trap is only triggered when you attack your opponent's face, so seek to clear his board with your 2 health minions before triggering the trap.
Unleash the Hounds
- Overview: This card used to cost 2 mana, and was much scarier. The Timber Wolf+ Unleash the Houndscombo is much less likely in arena, but you'll still want to avoid filling up the board unnecessarily.
- How to Play: It really depends on how the rest of your draft went. If you know you've drafted cards like Timber Wolf, Starving Buzzard, and Scavenging Hyena, then you'll want to save unleash until you can gain additional value from playing it. Otherwise, use it when you can clear at least two minions.
- How to Play Around: If you're ahead, don't flood the board with a bunch of low cost minions. This would play into Explosive Trapanyway.
- Overview: A better card than Multi-Shot, because there's no strict requirement of having at least 2 minions on your opponent's board.
- How to Play: You'll want to use this to kill at least two minions when you play it. Many players don't play around this because it's rare, and not seen that frequently. The dream is to kill a 5 health minion along with two 2 health minions.
- How to Play Around: MINION POSITIONING! Regardless of whether your opponent has this card, you should always try to play around it. When facing Hunter, always try to put your smaller or stealthed minion in the middle, so Explosive Shotcan't get the maximum amount of value.
- Overview: Not a great card by itself, although with Spell Power, this becomes a mini Consecrationfor 2 mana.
- How to Play: You probably didn't draft this unless your other options were poor. Ideally you'll want to play it when you can clear two low health minions from the board. Using your hero power will help bring minions into range.
- How to Play Around: Mage has so many ways of burning your minions that this isn't something you shouldn't lose too much sleep over. Just make killing off minions with a +1 Spell Power bonus a priority, so your opponent can't double the damage he does with this spell.
- Overview: The holy standard of board clear, and the cause of much happiness and grief in arena. When played at the right moment, it can completely reverse the tempo of a game.
- How to Play: Ideally you want to wipe out 3 minions from your opponent's board with a Flamestrike, but two 4 health minions is fine as well. Don't play it when your opponent only has two low health minions that you'd be able to kill off anyway.
- How to Play Around: The number one card you need to watch out for against Mage. This can be the stuff of nightmares if you aren't careful. If on turn 6 your opponent didn't play any minions and pinged your Chillwind Yetifrom 5 to 4 health, then you're looking at an incoming Flamestrike. If you're ahead, avoid dropping more minions than necessary on the board that are under 5 health.
Cone of Cold
- Overview: It's a mix of Arcane Explosionand Frost Nova. By itself it'll mostly stall your opponent's board if you're behind, and if you're ahead, well, you don't need it.
- How to Play: Play it when you can clear at least one minion from your opponent's board. Remember that you can do up to 3 damage with this spell on one minion by casting it, pinging it with your hero power, and then pinging it again next turn after it's been frozen.
- How to Play Around: Don't lose sleep over this one.
- Overview: It's kind of like a Cone of Coldcombined with a Kobold Geomancer, except it doesn't leave behind a 2/2 minion. This spell is actually quite decent, because you're guaranteed to do 2 damage to each of your opponent's minions.
- How to Play: You'll want to play this on turn 6 to clear off two or more of your opponent's minions.
- How to Play Around: It's sometimes hard to see this coming, as it's a less common card, and you're probably too busy being worried about Flamestrike.
- Overview: Second only to Flamestrikein effectiveness. Four mana for 2 damage to all enemies (including your opponent) is amazing value.
- How to Play: Play this when you can clear two or more minions from your opponent's board.
- How to Play Around: Avoid playing more than one two health minion on the board if you're ahead. By late game, it's almost guaranteed that your opponent will have a Consecration, so you don't want to give him a good board to use it on.
- Overview: A good situational card that will let you trade your tokens into your opponent's more valuable minions. It's also great when chained with Consecration, which is a Basic card and something you'll likely be able to draft a copy of. The downside is that your minions get their health reduced to 1 as well, so play this before you cast Consecration.
- How to Play: It won't clear your opponent's board by itself, but it synergizes well with Paladin's hero power. Being able to trade your tokens into your opponent's more expensive minions, or following this spell up with a Consecrationis what you'll seek to do.
- How to Play Around: In constructed, by turn 6 you should always be wary of your opponent pulling off a Equality+ Consecrationcombo. If your board is full on turn 5, and your opponent just creates a token and passes his turn, then you might be looking at this combo coming up. Fortunately this is less common in arena. The lesson is to not flood the board when you're ahead.
- Overview: It'll often act like a Flamestrikefor 6 mana. Thankfully it's an Epic card, so it's not seen too commonly.
- How to Play: There isn't a bad time to play this as the damage is never wasted, but you'll probably want to save this until you can clear at least 2 of your opponent's minions.
- How to Play Around: There's not much you can do if your opponent has this card, and it's also Epic, so less likely to be seen.
- Overview: A Consecrationthat heals! The extra 1 mana cost makes this a little harder to play though.
- How to Play: Play this when you can clear two or more minions from your opponent's board.
- How to Play Around: Avoid playing more than one two health minion on the board if you're ahead. By late game, it's almost guaranteed that your opponent will have a Holy Nova, so you don't want to give him a good board to use it on.
- Overview: I'm only including this because Auchenai Soulpriest+ Circle of Healingis a combo commonly used in constructed. It's much less likely to happen in arena.
- How to Play: If you can clear your opponent's minions in a way other than using circle, you should prefer that, as Auchenai Soulpriestturns your hero power into a Fireblast on steroids.
- How to Play Around: Try to get rid of the Auchenai Soulpriestas soon as you can.
Fan of Knives
- Overview: A fairly decent card, but mostly because it allows you to draw a card. Otherwise, it's an Arcane Explosionfor 3 mana.
- How to Play: A great card if you have spell damage on the board. Kobold Geomancer+ Fan of Knivesis 2 damage to all enemy minions that draws you a card. If you spell power, save it for when you can eliminate two or more minions on the board. Otherwise, feel free to use it to kill off one minion, and to cycle a card.
- How to Play Around: Usually won't do too much damage, but you'll want to kill any spell power minions that you see, since Rogue benefits from it a lot.
- Overview: A pretty situational card. I prefer Eviscerateand Backstabover this, as early game, you'll only be able to play it if you're way behind. This is a common card, so it's seen quite a bit in arena. Be sure to position your minions properly to play around it!
- How to Play: Use this when you can eliminate at least one minion on the board.
- How to Play Around: MINION POSITIONING! Regardless of whether your opponent has this card, you should always try to play around it. When facing Rogue, always try to put your smaller or stealthed minion in the middle, so Betrayalcan't get the maximum amount of value.
- Overview: A staple in constructed Tempo Rogue for clearing boards in conjunction with Deadly Poisonand Azure Drake, but not a top pick in arena due to the randomness of the cards offered to you in the draft.
- How to Play: Save this for when you can clear two or more minions from your opponents board. Remember that spell power will increase the damage dealt by Blade Flurry. Make sure to always attack something first before you play this card (if you can), so you utilize all the durability you can from your weapon before destroying it.
- How to Play Around: This is rare, and isn't widely seen, so I wouldn't lose too much sleep over it. Just beware when your opponent has a 1 durability weapon that he's held onto for multiple turns (even when he could attack one of your 3 health minions). It probably means he's looking for a better board to use Blade Flurryon.
- Overview: An awful version of Cleavebecause of its high overload cost. Can be slightly better since there's always the chance of coin-flipping into a spell power totem.
- How to Play: See the section on Cleave.
- How to Play Around: See the section on Cleave.
- Overview: A staple in constructed, which is also amazing in arena.
- How to Play: Use this when you can kill off two or more minions on your opponent's board. Be sure to totem up first for the chance to get a spell power totem if you can before casting this spell.
- How to Play Around: This is a rare card, but something you should watch out for, as it can swing games. This can sometimes be a 3 mana (excluding the overload) Flamestrikewith a spell power totem. If you have too many 2 or 3 health minions on the board, favor trading them with your opponent's minions over using removal spells, and replace them with healthier ones.
- Overview: A decent card, as it can also double as a finisher to kill your opponent. The downside is obviously that it hurts you too.
- How to Play: Ideally, you'll want to play this when you don't have too much to lose. If your opponent has larger minions on the board, trade your smaller minions into them so you can clear them with Hellfire. If you need to play this anyway, make sure to attack with your minions first if they're going to die anyway. The extra few points of damage might just be crucial in late game.
- How to Play Around: It's really unlikely that your opponent will play this on an even board, but if you're way ahead, and his board is clear, stop dropping 3 health minions.
- Overview: A 6/6 body that deals 1 damage to all characters.
- How to Play: Usually you probably don't care too much about your opponent's board state when you play this. It's mostly for the 6/6 body. Just avoid doing this when you'll kill off your own minions, or bring them in range of a Fireblast ping.
- How to Play Around: I'd worry more about that 6/6 on the board than its battlecry.
- Overview: A staple card for Handlock players in constructed. In arena it's seen rarely, but can still be plenty effective. The downside is that you can't trade a smaller minion into a bigger one and then play Shadowflameas it requires the sacrifice of a minion.
- How to Play: Attack your opponent's face and then clear his board. Play this if you're behind and you'll be able to kill at least two of his minions in this process. Remember that you lose your minion AND this card if you play it.
- How to Play Around: You probably won't see it coming, but most of the time it'll be an even trade. He sacrifices his minion AND uses a card to remove two of your cards. Again if you're ahead, don't flood the board.
- Overview: Why would anyone pick this card? This card would be playable if it killed off all your enemy's minions. As an Epic card you'll rarely see this, and even given the choice, you'll probably pick something else due to its potential for blowback.
- Overview: A pretty decent card, although underpowered. You'll need to see what the rest of your draft looks like to determine its effectiveness. If you're the beatdown and have a ton of small minions, it'll hurt you more than it'll help.
- How to Play: Use it to trigger Executeor bring minions into range for a Cleave. This card only damages minions, so it won't hurt your opponent.
- How to Play Around: Not much you can do here, as it's dirt cheap to cast.
- Overview: A great card in arena, as it's more likely that your opponent will have 2 or more minions on the board at some point in the game. 2 mana is also extremely cheap.
- How to Play: Be sure to kill off whichever minions you don't want Cleaveto target first before you play it. That mitigates RNG.
- How to Play Around: Don't play two 2 health minions on the board early against Warrior. You're just asking for it.
- Overview: A good card if you're behind. A meh card if you're ahead.
- How to Play: Play this when your opponent has board control, and you need to reset the board. Remember to play your minions AFTER Brawlfinishes, unless you really need to wipe everything from his board, and need to gamble that one of your minions will stay alive after the dust settles.
- How to Play Around: If you're way ahead, don't flood the board. It's rare that you'll get brawled, but if you play into it, it's your fault.
- Overview: A new card that came out with Naxxramas! The cool thing about this card, is that it'll trade with a 3/2 and eliminate any other 1 health creatures on the board. Classes with the ability to ping for 1 (Druid, Mage, Rogue), will take greater advantage of his deathrattle.
- How to Play: Play him on turn 2, and avoid playing 1 health minions.
- How to Play Around: There's no surprise when his deathrattle goes off, so don't play into it.
- Overview: 5 mana for a 4/4 and taunt is pretty poor value, but his deathrattle deals 2 damage to all characters, can either help or hurt you. This card would be very good if it only dealt damage to enemy characters.
- How to Play: You'll typically throw him on the board when you're behind, and him to clear your opponent's board. Otherwise he'll be a risk to play on a board when you have multiple low health minions. Playing him and silencing him on the same turn is also quite expensive, and not worth doing.
- How to Play Around: Silence him if you can, if not, you'll have to accept that he'll do 2 damage to all your minions. Try to trade your minions that would die from the deathrattle anyway to kill him. This'll at least let your bigger minions stay alive.
- Overview: 2 mana for a 3/2 is pretty good value, but the passive Whirlwind-esque ability is what makes this an amazing arena card. This card works especially well with Priest because you can heal him back up, or enable his ability with a Power Word: Shield.
- How to Play: Unless you don't have any other 2 drops to play, you'll want to save him for a time where you can use his passive ability to your advantage. It's good to use this in conjunction with other board clear spells as well, like Holy Novaor Consecration, as it might just be able to clear your opponent's entire board with the extra 1 damage to all minions.
- How to Play Around: You'll want to get rid of your opponent's Wild Pyromanceras soon as you can. Especially if you have several 1 health minions on the board.
- Overview: A staple in Freeze Mage decks in constructed, but this is a terrible card in arena.
- How to Play: Play it behind a taunt when you're behind and pray that he can't get through the taunt so you can clear your opponent's board.
- Edit: Redditor TropicalDungeonLord notes that "The best way to use doomsayer is to play it the turn after your opponent plays his first minion. It's unlikely that he will have a way to kill it so early, so you'll get a 1 for 1 trade and the initiative." Thanks Dungeon Lord!
- How to Play Around: Just kill him. He won't activate until your opponent's turn anyway.
- Overview: This card would be terrible if his ability activated at the beginning of your turn, but if you consider 2 mana fair value for dealing 2 damage to all characters, then he's a 5 mana for a 7/5.
- How to Play: Be careful not to play this when you're almost in range for lethal against burst heavy classes (Mage and Rogue mostly), as his passive hurts you as well.
- How to Play Around: Get rid of the Baron as soon as you can.
- Overview: If you're offered Deathwing, then you were offered two other legendaries as well. The combination of his high casting cost, and the fact that he discards your entire hand makes him a fairly difficult card to play. Of course, he looks freaking badass, but he's easily Polymorphed, Hexed, and Assassinateed, as he doesn't force your opponent to discard their hand as well.
- How to Play: Play this when you're desperate, and need a hail mary pass to win the game. If you're ahead there's no reason to blow up your superior board AND lose complete card advantage. Unless... you're one of those players that like to send a message.
- How to Play Around: You can't do much when Deathwingcomes out. It'll only come out when your opponent is behind, so hopefully you've saved some hard removal.
Don't be on the receiving end of this!
I hope this was a good introduction to the commonly seen board clears in arena. This is probably an overwhelming amount of information for a new player to digest, but with games under your belt, you'll become more familiar with the different ways board clear can impact your game. You can also come back to consult this guide in the future as a reference.
As always I'd be happy to answer any questions or comments you guys have.
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