Welcome to Hearthstone, a comprehensive Hearthstone guide

Guide

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This article is a guide to Hearthstone for newer players. It’s actually a bit more than that, it is a curated collection of guides and useful links. These guides cover all major aspects of Hearthstone and they will definitely help you become a better player.

If you have suggestion for improvements use the comment section below or just contact me (contact details on the about page).

Required reading

Before we start talking about Hearthstone there are some articles I consider interesting and which I think you should read before going further, the main reason is that this way we’ll make sure that we are on the same page and talking about the same things.

Timmy, Johnny and Spike

Hearthstone has been inspired by a card game called Magic the Gathering (MTG for short). The creators of MTG, Wizards of the Coast, regularly publish articles about the design of MTG. “Timmy, Johnny and Spike” is one of the most important articles they’ve published, where they describe a very important design principle for MTG: player profiles they’ve created and which they use when designing new cards.

TL;DR:

  • Timmy: big creatures good!
  • Johnny: my 20-card combo did a million damage!
  • Spike: Winning is everything! Style is for losers!
  • A player is a mix of Timmy-Johnny-Spike, and usually 1 side dominates (Timmy 60% + Spike 40%, 20% Timmy + 80% Johnny, etc.).

For you as a player it’s important to figure out what your main focus will be because depending on it you will have to make various decisions as how to invest your time and money (Hearthstone can be a really expensive hobby if you’re not careful).

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Playing to win

“Playing to win” is a really old article by Sirlin which applies to basically any competitive multiplayer game. His examples come from fighting games such as Street Fighter but the ideas are valid in any game where people compete.

TL;DR:

  • Figure out if you’re playing for fun or to win.
  • If you’re playing for fun don’t feel bad if you lose.
  • If you feel really bad when you lose then you’re really playing to win, so you should just accept it.
  • When you decide that you play to win, use the best tactic allowed by the rules of the game.
  • Don’t allow yourself to get blocked by fake “moral” arguments while playing to win.
  • Also when you play to win, always look for reasons why you lost within your own actions, not outside.

To which I’d add:

  • Don’t burn out. Unless you’re a paid professional, take a break from the grind from time to time.
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Who’s the beatdown

“Who’s the beatdown” is another article about MTG which is also very relevant to Hearthstone.

TL;DR:

  • You need to know the strengths and weaknesses of your deck.
  • Back on these strengths and weaknesses you need to continually assess your role during the game.
  • There are 2 main roles: beatdown (aggressor = aggro) and control (defender).
  • These roles vary from game to game and even from turn to turn.
  • Never go in a game thinking that you will only have 1 role all game long.
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Hearthstone Wiki

Ok, this a bit of a stretch since it’s not exactly “required reading”, it’s more like an encyclopedia. And you should use it as an encyclopedia: as a reference. The place you go when you don’t know something. Such as details about a class or a card or an expansion or many other Hearthstone details I couldn’t possibly fit into a single article.

Without further ado: Hearthstone Wiki.

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Basics of Hearthstone

I could talk about the basics of Hearthstone but someone better than me has already done this: Trump.

Trump is one of the best known professional Hearthstone players, also one of the most popular Hearthstone streamers. He has published a series of videos where he teaches the basics of Hearthstone: “Trump Teachings”. Highly recommended as a newbie to Hearthstone and minion-based card games in general.

You can find the playlist here: Trump Teachings.

I’ll also link the individual videos in case you want to see just some of them (but I still recommend that you see all of them):

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Game modes

Basically everything we’ve discussed so far applies to all game modes in Hearthstone. So now it’s time to discuss about game modes and see what’s different in each one.

Solo adventures aka “Single player”

While fun, this is probably the least interesting aspect of Hearthstone. It contains:

  • a practice mode for absolute beginners
  • a slightly more advanced practice mode for intermediate players (Blizzard lovingly calling this one “expert mode”)
  • and adventures, which are slightly tougher single player battles which give you rewards

Adventures are not free, they cost either a lot of Hearthstone gold or quite a bit of real money. Just remember that you actually have to beat the computer opponents in order to get the rewards, you don’t instantly get the rewards when you pay for the adventures :wink:

Also, because Hearthstone always logs you in to the Blizzard servers, “single player” mode doesn’t work when you have no Internet connection. So no Hearthstone practice for you while you’re offline!

Play aka “Constructed”

Probably the biggest game mode of them all. This is the place where you can make your own decks. And the rest of this guide will be about the “constructed” game mode, except for the 2 sections below.

Probably the most complicated and competitive game mode.

It is separated into:

  • “Casual”, which has a hidden match making ranking system
  • “Play” (also called “Ladder” or “Ranked”), which has a “visible” ranking (ranked or position on the legend ladder for legend players)

Keep in mind that the match making system is far from perfect and in “Casual” you will probably face players with a lot more cards and experience than you. Just relax and try to make the most of it!

In “Ranked” you will start at rank 25 and progress until rank 20. Each win will give you 1 star and once you get a certain number of stars you will advance a rank. Starting at rank 19 each loss will erase one of your stars.

Until rank 5 if you win multiple consecutive games you will get extra stars. As a result it will be easier to advance up to rank 5. At rank 5 opponents start becoming a lot more efficient plus each loss cannot be compensated by win streaks, therefore the competition becomes fierce.

Arena

Arena is the place where you make your deck from random cards. For each deck slot you’re offered 3 cards and you have to pick one. Card rarity matters, so common cards are… common, rare cards are… rare (only several per deck), epic cards are… almost as rare (also several per deck) and legendary cards are super rare (you might make several decks without getting 1).

The best place to look for arena advice is HearthArena. Create an account, use it, and you will definitely get better at arena faster than you’d do it on your own.

Which is important since arena entries are not free, and if you manage to get 7+ wins constantly arena pays for itself.

Tavern Brawl aka “Brawl”

Tavern Brawl is the most casual game mode of Hearthstone. Each week a new game mode appears here with rules and decks made by Blizzard. Since everything is mostly random there’s not much to say about it.

Just select the game mode, read the rules and see what happens.

This mode is also great for beginners, in general, since many brawls offer you predefined decks so you are on equal footing with your opponents regarding the deck.

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The game and the meta-game

When discussing or reading about Hearthstone you’ll often hear about something called “the metagame”. Basically Hearthstone is a game of cards, as we know. Each time you click “Play” and you’re looking for an opponent you’re going to play the actual game, the one where you draw minions and spells, play them and try to kill the enemy hero before he kills you.

But as you get to know more and more about Hearthstone you’ll notice that there is a sort of game outside of the actual game, the so-called “metagame” (“game about the game”). Players are competing to not only out-play each other during the actual games, but even before the game starts.

How do you outplay an opponent you haven’t even met before Blizzard’s match making system pairs you up with him? By selecting the best deck to fight whatever is thrown against you.

There are 4 major parts to the metagame:

  • deck archetypes

  • deck creation

  • deck selection

  • deck tweaking

Deck archetypes and styles of play

Hearthstone has millions and millions of possible decks and probably tens of viable decks. However different and varied they might be, they fall into 3 major deck categories or deck archetypes:

  • Hyper aggressive decks (aggro)
  • Midrange decks (midrange or tempo)
  • Late game decks (control)

You will have to decide which archetype you like most and then create or select a deck of this type.

Aggro

Hunters

This decks archetype wants to finish the game quickly: ideally the opponent is dead before turn 8. Games are fast (~5 minutes) and you’re all in. You either kill your opponent quickly or he comes back and you run out of steam. Good aggro decks have a mechanism to continue even when they run out of steam but this usually only work when the opponent is still struggling to stay alive even in later turns. If the opponent gains some board presence or heals a lot before your “kill point” the game is usually over even if your “steroid” mechanic activates.

Against all other non-aggro decks aggro deck are the “beatdown”. Against other aggro decks they can become a sort of strange “control deck” unless they decide to race each other for face damage, trying to kill the opponent 1 turn before the opponent kills them.

Aggro usually relies on:

  • low cost (80% 1-2-3 mana; 20% 4+ mana) minions and spells, forming a low “mana curve”
  • mass playing (spamming) these low cost minions
  • using minions with charge for instant damage
  • efficiently costed spells for face damage (or minion removal in dire cases)
  • little to no AOE, especially if the AOE does not hit the enemy face as well
  • little to no card draw
  • no taunts or heals

Midrange / tempo

Shaman/Rogue

This deck archetype is in between aggro and control. With a good card draw it can end a game as quickly as aggro decks but if it don’t it still has the potential to handle the late game. Unlike pure aggro decks or pure control decks these decks fill a continuum where they can be almost like aggro or almost like control, depending on how they’re tweaking by their creator.

Midrange / tempo decks are very fluid in switching between the “beatdown” and “control” roles. They are generally “controlly” against aggro and “beatdowny” against control.

Midrange usually relies on:

  • a mix of efficient low cost and average cost minions and spells (80% 2-3-4-5-6 mana, 20% 6+ mana)
  • playing the best minion for the context, balancing trading with face damage
  • few or no charge minions
  • versatile spells used for minion removal (or face damage if close to killing the opponent, also known as “lethal”)
  • some AOE spells, amount and type varies wildly depending on the deck
  • good to great card draw
  • some taunts or heals, amount and type varies wildly depending on the deck

Control

Warrior/Priest

This deck archetype is the most defensive one: in the vast majority of games their opponent will be killed after turn 8. Games are long (can go up to 15-20-40 minutes) and unless forced by the opponent no single turn is “all in”. Control players like to hedge their bets :smile:

Against most other decks control decks plays the “control” role (no surprise here). Against some specific control decks even control decks become weird “beatdown” decks, much as aggro versus aggro produces weird results :smile:.

Control relies on:

  • high cost minions or spells (50% 5+ mana, 20% 7+ mana)
  • playing the best minion for the context, focusing on board control until very, very late (usually later than turn 10)
  • few or no charge minions
  • strong spells used for minion removal
  • very strong AOE spells
  • average card draw
  • many taunts or heals

Extra

Besides these major archetypes you will hear about various other deck types. These actually fit into the categories above, but they have their own twists:

  • Combo: rely on a very strong combo to kill their opponent; they’re either midrange or control based on their mana curve
  • Mill/Grinder/Fatigue: rely on either destroying key enemy cards (“milling) or prolonging the game so much that their opponent is killed either by a lack of responses for their actions or by fatigue damage

Deck creation

I’m going to start with this one, even though it is by far the hardest part of Hearthstone. You’ve opened Hearthstone, clicked “My Collection” → “New Deck” and now are looking at a blank list which you will need to fill with 30 cards. You’re like a writer looking at a blank page.

Depending on your personality, this case be either a scary moment or a fun one.

If this is a scary moment, I recommend that you skip to the deck selection part.

If on the other hand this is a fun moment, go ahead! Start adding cards and play. Just remember that the initial plan you had for the deck might not work out so don’t feel bad if you lose to people playing decks which have been combat-tested across thousands of games. All that matters is that you have fun. Either by winning a lot of games, or some games in a spectacular fashion or by tweaking your deck until it often does what you want it to do.

One thing to always keep in mind: creating entirely new decks is hard. Hearthstone has millions and millions of players all trying to outsmart each other constantly and some of them have created highly efficient, ruthless, hero-killing machine-type decks. You will meet all of them as you play more and more games.

This article has some good advice about making a deck.

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Deck selection and netdecking

Ok, the next best option to creating your own deck is using a pre-existing deck (this is called “netdecking”). The disadvantage is that you’ll be playing a deck that other players are also playing and as a result your opponents will have probably faced this deck at least once. In case of really popular decks, they’ve probably seen it many times (Hi there, “Face Hunter”!).

There are sites where you can find decks other people are playing. The best sites are ones where decks are tagged by costs (gold and dust) and rated so that you can figure out quickly if many other players consider the deck any good.

At the moment, the top sites for netdecking are:

hearthpwn.com

icy-veins.com

Besides actually selecting a good deck for your favorite class, it is generally a good idea to also see if the deck you selected is actually good against the current metagame. This is quite hard to do and it usually involves a mix of playing games and doing some research online. One of the most helpful sites for this is Tempo Storm’s site (Tempo Storm is a pro Hearthstone team). They publish a weekly review of popular and powerful decks, called the Meta Snapshot.

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Deck tweaking, core cards, tech cards and stats tracking

Whether you’ve created a deck or “just” netdecked one, you will still need to perfect the deck, especially since the game evolves as players gain a better and better understanding of their decks.

In order to perfect your deck you will need to understand it so first of all you should play it as is. This is called “piloting the deck” in Hearthstone slang.

The first important step is to figure out which are the core cards and the “tech” cards of the deck.

Core cards

The core cards are the cards without the deck simply does not function as designed. If you remove them it does not mean that the deck is necessarily “broken”, instead it might just mean that you turned your deck into another deck.

Examples of core cards:

Core Cards

  • Molten Giants for Handlock
  • Grim Patrons for Patron Warrior
  • Tirion Fordring for Midrange Paladin

Tech cards

“Tech” cards are cards used as a counter to something, they’re the “technology” you use against a specific threat. Unlike core cards they can be swapped in and out of a deck depending on the type of opponent you’re facing most.

Examples of tech cards:

Tech Cards

  • Black Knight against decks with lots of taunts
  • Ironbeak Owl against enemy minions with taunt, strong deathrattles or against buffs
  • Harrison Jones against decks with powerful weapons

Be careful while changing tech cards in a netdeck as a good netdeck has been most likely been tweaked through tech cards to cover the deck’s weakness. Try to ask a more experienced player or the deck creator before changing tech cards.

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Stats tracking

So now you know what kind of deck archetype you want to play, what exact deck and what core cards and tech cards you want. At least you think you do :)

In order to make sure that your decisions are correct you should track your stats. Hearthstone is a casual-friendly game and as a result it does not offer stats tracking in order to not frighten newcomers such as yourself :)

But if you’re not scared of practicing in order to improve your game, there are third-party stats trackers. Unfortunately the mobile versions of Hearthstone do not have stats tracking, so if you want to track your stats on mobile you will have to do it the old fashioned way with pen & paper or Excel spreadsheets.

If you play the desktop version, especially on Windows, then you’re in luck.

The Hearthstone Deck Tracker is the most common tracker in use right now. Once you’ve installed it and configured it (which can be tricky), it will automatically track your results with various decks. It offers a lot of powerful features such as:

  • in-game card tracking for yourself and your opponent (it shows % chances for you or your opponent to draw a specific card)
  • game history separated per deck
  • and a ton of other features

Really useful and powerful, definitely recommended if you’re the competitive, Spike, type.

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Basic decks

Courtesy of Sheng from hearthstonecoaching.gom, a set of good basic decks.

These deck won’t take you to legend (unless you’re super smart or super lucky or both :smile:), but they are a good place to start. Each deck comes with an explanation of why a specific card was selected over another one and the reasoning is solid.

Especially at the beginning I recommend that you play a bit with these decks while you level up your classes and try to get a feel for each class until at some point you will probably arrive at a play style you like or a class you like. Or both.

I also recommend that you do not make any serious investment decisions regarding Hearthstone before you play a bit with all these decks. Otherwise you might regret your initial decision terribly later on :smile:

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Budget decks

Now we’re getting to the more volatile sections. These decks were after the release of the Grand Tournament (TGT for short) expansion.

It is very important to note that unlike the basic decks, which are completely free, these require more resources. And this is where “budget” becomes very important.

Hearthstone has been designed to be “free to play” (F2P). This means that it can be played for free. But actually making such a complex game and hosting it for millions of players for many years is not cheap. As a result not everything in Hearthstone is available immediately. The major thing players care about are cards. Out of the total number of cards, hundreds and hundreds, only a small number are available for free.

The rest have to be paid, with either your cash or your time. In Hearthstone time = gold.

Based on the amount of cash and time you have you could either spend hundreds of dollars on the game to get a full collection ($1000 should do the trick) or spend hundreds and hundreds of hours (it could be even thousands of hours).

Of course, you don’t need a full collection to play, but to really enjoy the experience you will probably need at least 1-2 somewhat competitive decks per class.

And if you are here, then you probably want to improve, so you are competitive, you are “Spike”.

Again, courtesy of Sheng, a set of good budget decks.

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Budget management

You might be wondering: “What budget management are you talking about?”. Well, your wallet.

Hearthstone is a free game. Actually it is a “free to play” game (or F2P). When you start playing it is free and if you’re only playing it rarely it remains free.

However, as you keep playing more and more you notice that the odds are stacked heavily against you, especially if you play the constructed game mode. And Blizzard has made sure that you can’t advance without a huge time or cash investment. When I say huge, I mean hundreds and hundreds of hours of grinding and hundreds and hundreds of dollars invested, if you’re not careful.

This section deserves its own article, but here are some basic rules regarding budget management:

Quests

Try to do all your daily quests. Use the tiny “x” in the corner to dismiss quests you know you cannot do or it takes you a very long time to do (for example quests with a class you barely have cards for). Also dismiss quests worth 40 gold if you are feeling confident that you could do a 50-60-100 gold quest with another class.

The gold really adds up after several weeks or month. Don’t miss out on it.

A great resource for figuring out how to get gold/dust in Hearthstone is the wiki page. I’d recommend not spending your initial gold/dust until after you’ve read this page. I know I wasted quite a bit of resources before I read it :disappointed:

Aventures

Adventures are better bought with real cash, if the cards in them are considered good by the community. Buying them with gold is very inefficient, by design. It is a good idea to determine how many pieces of these adventures you actually want to buy (pieces = adventure “wings”).

Card packs

Card packs are not a really good investment except for the initial phase where you want to kickstart your collection. Ideally you only want to buy packs, preferably with gold, when an expansion is out.

Arena

Getting a decent set of arena skills, allowing you to get at least 4-5 wins per run, is a very good idea. Arena rewards you with a random pack from the Classic, Goblin versus Gnomes or The Grand Tournament sets. It is the best way to fill your collection on a budget, together with quests.

Golden cards

Short version: don’t. They’re very expensive to create. If you have extra golden cards, always disenchant them and get useful cards you’re lacking. Don’t disenchant golden epic or legendary cards if you don’t have them already, because you will lose dust in the conversion process if you’re ever forced to re-craft them.

Disenchanting

Always disenchant the extra copies. That means anything more than 2x for common/rare/epic and anything more than 1x for legendaries. The extra copies don’t help with anything. Except for bragging that you have 5 Malornes.

Also, don’t disenchant “bad” cards in the beginning. You have way too little experience to decide correctly what a bad card is. Plus many “bad” cards suddenly become useful when a strong deck is created which has them.

As I said, this section deserves its own (probably huge, article).

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How to progres

Practice, practice, practice

Kind of obvious: as you play more you become better and better at Hearthstone.

However, something many people miss is that past a certain point you need to practice in a systematic manner. For this you will need a big, overarching goal and a set of steps to achieve it.

For example:

  • Goal: achieve legend.
  • Steps:
      1. craft a Tempo Mage deck
      1. learn to play it by playing some casual games
      1. start playing on the ranked ladder, tracking your stats
      1. based on your stats tweak your deck if your win rate over a larger number of games is low (50% or less)
      1. if after tweaking your win rate still stays low, change decks
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Watch streams or videos

Another way to become better is to watch better players. Watch their games and ask yourself after each play:

What would I have done differently? Why did he play the turn this way? What would have happened 1-2-3 turns from now with my play and with his play?

StrifeCro

  • Deck preference: control & combo.
  • Presentation & playstyle: relaxed & slow.
  • Game modes: constructed.
  • Favorite classes: Mage, Warlock, Paladin.

StrifeCro Youtube StrifeCro Twitch

Trump

  • Deck preference: control.
  • Presentation & playstyle: relaxed & slow.
  • Game modes: constructed, arena, brawl.
  • Favorite classes: Paladin, Warlock.

I’d recommend also watching his teaching for Hearthstone decks. Even though some of them might be out of data as expansions appear they still cover a wide variety of playstyles.

Trump Youtube Trump Twitch

Kripparian

  • Deck preference: N/A.
  • Presentation & playstyle: serious & slow.
  • Game modes: arena.
  • Favorite classes: Mage.

Kripparian Youtube Kripparian Twitch

Kolento

  • Deck preference: control.
  • Presentation & playstyle: serious & slow.
  • Game modes: constructed.
  • Favorite classes: Priest.

Kolento Youtube Kolento Twitch

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And for the daring souls that got this far…

And I’d like to thank everyone who had the patience to read this far! You rock!

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