Hearthstone was released in 2014 by Blizzard Entertainment, a company most well-known for titles such as World of Warcraft and Diablo. The game quickly won a massive audience thanks to its simplicity, uniqueness, quirky elements, and free cost of entry. In three short years, Hearthstone has amassed over 70 million players. Data from Newzoo finds that Hearthstone is currently the 4th most popular video game that people watch on the streaming service Twitch.
The digital collectible card game has dominated a space where games like Magic: the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokémon, and Legend of the Five Rings once ruled. While games like Magic: the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh are well-known for their high price levels, Hearthstone is free and anyone can pick up the game in a matter of minutes.
With six expansions, nine classes, 1,325 cards, and four different formats of playing, Hearthstone might be easy to learn, but it’s hard to master. Simplicity might be a key selling point of the game, but there are dozens and dozens of unwritten rules that every player should follow if they want to succeed.
Are you looking to get better at Hearthstone? Do you want to win more games and climb up the ladder to Legendary? Here are some great pointers that you need to know:
1. Tailor your strategy to whichever format you’re playing.
Standard and Wild are the two most common Hearthstone formats. Standard contains all the Basic and Classic cards as well as everything released within the past two calendar years. Wild contains everything that has ever been released, allowing you more variety and higher power levels. Standard is the easiest format for new players to get into, as there is a much smaller card pool and much less to learn.
Each format requires a deck that is fine-tuned to compete in that environment. For example, if you are playing in an environment where you face a lot of Pirate cards, you might want to include Golakka Crawler in your deck. Research the top decks in each format and ask how your deck is prepared to deal with those decks.
Another important format is Arena, where you draft your own deck based on Standard cards made available to you. You can use websites like icy-veins.com or heartharena.com to help you decide which cards are best for your deck. Cards like Deadly Poison, Harvest Golem, and Chillwind Yeti might not be used too much in Standard and Wild, but they are all top picks for Arena players.
2. Learn to play around AOE cards.
Area of Effect (AOE) cards, also sometimes called “board wipes” or “nukes,” are cards that affect multiple targets as opposed to cards that affect a single target like Frostbolt. The AOE cards that you need to play around the most are ones that affect all minions (Hellfire, Holy Nova) or all of an opponent’s minions (Flamestrike, Consecration).
Players who decide to fill their side of the board with minions will often be punished when the opponent plays an AOE card to kill all of their minions. Know the mana costs of the most common AOE cards for each class and make sure you don’t put minions on the board than needed.
3. Learn to play around Secrets.
Secrets are spells that activate during opponent turns and are triggered by specific actions. Since you never know what Secret your opponent has until it’s activated, it’s important to make sure that you play carefully around them.
Paladin, Hunter, and Mage are the only classes with Secrets, and they all respectively cost one, two, or three mana. Knowing what each Secret does will help you play around them. If you do an action that might trigger one secret, but nothing is triggered, you can use process of elimination to determine that it might be another Secret.
Paladin has the most diverse Secrets, but the most common ones you would encounter would likely be Noble Sacrifice (2/1 defender that blocks an attacker) or Getaway Kodo (returns a dying minion to hand). Most Hunter Secrets are triggered by attacking, while Snipe and Hidden Cache are triggered by playing minions. Cat Trick is triggered by playing a spell, and Dart Trap is triggered by using a Hero Power. Most Mage Secrets are triggered by playing spells and minions.
Even if you don’t know exactly what Secret the opponent has, you can still play around multiple possibilities by playing your weaker cards. For example, Frozen Clone, Mirror Entity, and Potion of Polymorph are all Mage Secrets that are triggered by their opponent playing a minion. If you decide the play your weakest minion and the Mage Secret activates, it will still have a weaker effect than if you played your strongest minion that turn, regardless of which Secret you triggered.
4. Recognize the power of Silence.
Silencing a minion means that it removes all other card effects and text from it. In other words, the minion becomes nothing more than the Attack and Health printed on the card.
This can be an incredibly powerful effect. For example, if your opponent drops Tirion Fordring, they will have a 6/6 with Taunt and Divine Shield that will give them a 5/3 weapon when he dies. If you Silence that minion, they will still have a 6/6, but without any of the extra effects.
It will also negate any additional effects that might have been added to the minion. If your opponent used Spikeridge Steed or Blessing of Kings on his minion, you can Silence it to get rid of that effect.
Silencing can also get rid of negative effects applied to cards. If your minion is frozen and you really need to get in that one last attack, you can Silence it to enable it to unfreeze it. Silencing also negates the effects of corruption from cards like Corrupt and Corrupting Mist.
If you want to know what effects a minion has, simply hover over it and you’ll be provided with a list of everything that Silence will get rid of.
5. Evaluate when cards would work best for you.
Not all cards are equally great at the same time. A card that might be fantastic early game could be terrible late game. There will be some cards you should play instantly and others that you should hold until the right moment.
For example, a Wild Growth on the second turn will help you accelerate your mana so that you can get out high-cost cards earlier. However, playing Wild Growth when you have eight or nine mana is not very helpful, since you are already close to ten mana and playing Wild Growth at ten mana would let you draw an extra card, which is more useful at that stage in the game.
Similarly, many minions with useful Battlecry effects such as Defender of Argus and Spellbreaker are best played at times when they can affect the board in a way that is advantageous to you. However, there may be some desperate times when you do need a minion on the board and that is the only one you can play at the moment.
One card to keep in mind is Coin, which is given to whichever player goes second. Coin is a zero-cost spell that gives you one extra mana for the turn. You usually never want to use it on your first turn unless you have a powerful effect or are playing a more aggressive strategy that involves flooding the board with minions. Coin can give you a powerful advantage when you need it, so keep it for the right time.
6. Place your minions strategically.
An often underlooked aspect of Hearthstone is how effective minion placement can be. While it’s easy to not care about which minion goes where, it can make a big difference. Cards like Flametongue Totem, Dire Wolf Alpha, and Defender of Argus give buffs to adjacent minions, so where you place them is crucial. Keep in mind that minions spawned from spells and Hero Powers will always appear on the rightmost side of the board.
Minion placement is also very important in rare situations where you have to play around spells like Betrayal and Meteor. If you are expecting your opponent to play a card like that, you need to place your minions strategically.
7. Trade up.
Every card has a value equal to its mana cost. Part of winning the game is utilizing your mana in the best way possible. Since you have such limited resources, you have to make the best use of them as possible. (Note: This doesn’t mean that you have to spend every point of mana per turn, but rather utilize it to what best fits your situation.)
You can gain advantage based on how much mana you spend versus how much mana your opponent spends. For example, if your opponent plays a Booty Bay Bodyguard for five mana and you kill it with a Shadow Bolt for four mana, you spent 1 less mana than they did. If your opponent Bloodfen Raptor for two mana and you kill it with a Backstab for zero mana, you spent two less mana than they did.
This applies to minions as well. Minions that have attack higher than their mana cost (For example, Bloodfen Raptor costs 2 mana but is a 3/2.) are good at “trading up” or killing minions that are worth more mana than they are. Bloodfen Raptor’s three power can kill three mana minions such as Flesheating Ghoul and Ironfur Grizzly. Making these trades will give you the advantage.
In conclusion, Hearthstone isn’t a hard game to play or learn, but there are a lot of little tips and tricks that one can master in order to become a better player. You won’t become a pro overnight, but you can take the time to test different decks and strategies, learn what sorts of decks you’ll play against, refine your approach to the game, and ultimately improve as a player. Hearthstone is a great entry game for those who have never played a collectible card game and can help ease people into more complicated (and expensive) games such as Magic: the Gathering. It’s important to notice your mistakes and take note of what you did wrong and what you could do better. If you lost, ask yourself why you lost. Did you misplay? Was there something they played that you didn’t have an answer for? The more you ask yourself these questions, the better player you will become.