Hearthstone Pro Guide

A Hearthstone Pro Guide

What does it take to Rank up in Hearthstone?

At this point we have been able to utilize Decks from multiple different Classes and obtain enough cards to be able to create many different deck compositions to take on Ranked play mode. With the Legend rank on our mind and our gold purse increasing with every three wins, we are only one good streak away from glory. There are a few more tweaks we need to make to ensure our rise to the top and some things we must consider before truly undertaking this journey. Closely watching the Meta, Adapting our decks less and rolling with the punches, and a little bit of RNG manipulation are all on the docket of things we must conquer to move on. Let's get into it.

Unfortunately, when we play TCGs of any kind we are accepting that things may not go our way at all. Try as they might, no amount of power scaling or balance changes or card bans are going to cut out RNG and the unlucky we can find inside of our decks. Keep this in mind as you read because not everything is going to work every single time, but realistically is the best way to go about achieving our goals in the wonderful world of Hearthstone.

How important is the Hearthstone Meta?

We all have our favorite decks to play and our favorite classes to pick, but unfortunately some decks are just better than others, and some cards are just too poorly synergized with the rest of what we try to accomplish in our decks. Everytime a card becomes “Wild” and everytime a new expansion comes out we need to be studying each card and really consider what it is going to do to the current Deck Lists and Card Tiers. This may seem a daunting or useless task but it is both necessary and easier to do than most would think.

Overtime we learn what to look for in Patch Notes or Expansion updates to where we can easily nitpick and find information on anything we are looking for quickly. The only hard part is understanding what it changes or makes obsolete when it happens. Luckily for a game like Hearthstone there are many things we don’t have to worry about when it comes to game breaking bugs or other little annoyances like in other games.

We are more worried about overpowered cards and unfair advantages or disadvantages that certain playstyles gain or lose as the game is improved upon. 

It gets easier to pick apart the information the more we do it, and even easier to see how it impacts the game the more involved we are in playing the game and moving on from casual to serious players. 

It isn’t always going to be easy all the time for whatever reason there may be, but there are also plenty of other people as invested in the game as we are that will be able to help shed the light over whatever we may not have picked up on. This is also going to help us to improve as players as we see the culmination of ideas presented by the other people playing the game, we can help make our own ideas and decisions based off of what other people have tried or seen happen.

The reason this is necessary is because if we ignore that it is happening then we can end up falling behind when the Meta shifts. Being able to change our Decks that go Wild into something that can hold its own Standard will help ensure we stay caught up with the rest of players vying for the top ranks. Sometimes we misread the Meta or even unfortunately give up on a good idea too soon because of forces within the game keeping us from drawing that one card we needed for our game winning combo. Ultimately however, staying ahead of the curve will allow you to get ahead of the pack in most instances.

Can I adapt my current Deck as the Meta changes?

Adapting our decks may have helped us overcome some of our issues coming into our own as players before, but now it’s time to buckle down and hold strong our belief in the Meta. Along with paying attention to Patch Notes and Expansion details, we need to be ready to throw away an entire playstyle if the Meta shifts enough to discourage its use. There is a difference between adapting to what we see and adapting to what we know, and that’s what we should be talking about now, we aren’t adapting our decks to meet their shortcomings, we are adapting our decks to emphasize their power.

Not every game is going to be you holding out for that five card combo and the enemy trying to rush your life down. Some games will be like that, but ultimately the level of play has evolved to the point where if we play the right counter at the right time we should be able to beat something we used to fear, for no other reason than we learned how to play our own way efficiently. 

When the Meta shifts and we are prepared for it it will positively impact our Ranked play experience. Being able to have the new cards in the right places before our opponents will aid us in winning more often than not. Sometimes we may not even need to change a Deck or focus on a different playstyle because the Meta didn’t pick apart our old one. This isn’t always a good thing though, as Metas change so do our opponents and there’s always a better Deck than our own out there somewhere.

At this point in the Ranks we are among people who are aptly placed and know their fair share about how the game works depending on what Decks are in play. We should as well just from playing so much and studying so much. The game comes down to more players expecting or anticipating what their opponent is going to do next and countering it effectively. This is what causes the games to be unique when you go into the same match again. Our options are always limited to whatever is in our hands at the time. Sometimes we won't be able to counter their end all card, and sometimes we will have to choose whether or not to try and counter them just in case they have something bigger coming in the future. 

When we play we need to remember that if they’re playing within the Meta as we are, then we can beat them and they can beat us regardless of strategy, but if we implement a stronger strategy our odds increase.

The Meta is so important because it dictates what is the strongest and weakest strategies and Decks. When we play against something Meta and we are familiar with what all should be in the Deck we aren’t often thrown off by anything our opponent does because we could easily have seen it coming at any point in the game.It’s less about Mana costs and power thresholds and more about how effective our the combos we can produce and when can we produce them.

The Meta usually incorporates the current strongest decks between all of the classes, normally all of them are included, rarely is one Class just overshadowed by every other Class but is occasionally possible for a Class to not have an S-tier deck.

Is RNG really a wall we can’t get over? 

The biggest issue outside of the players control, for the most part, is RNG. We can get really unlucky and draw the wrong cards in the wrong sequence and get forced on our backs with nothing to play for multiple rounds. This won’t usually happen and isn’t always the biggest roadblock, but it can be. Dealing with RNG is simple enough and sometimes we get over eager and resign before we know that we actually have a play. The timers are there for us to be able to make up our minds not to limit us from unleashing 20 card combos. Take your time and analyze each situation, recognize what options you may have available and you’ll quickly find that there are many different options we set ourselves up for when we made the deck, that we just need one or two more turns to implement in order to keep us alive long enough for our better combos.

Sometimes when we make our decks we know what the main goal is, but forget that we set up these accidental synergies between cards that actually allow for our longevity in any class. Being able to clear board or set up enough defenses to last until our win condition is all a part of the 30 cards we have. It isn’t all about the win condition, it’s about getting there. Yes it is still buffed or nerfed by RNG and which order you draw cards and sometimes, it will mess us up. But there are plenty of ways to work around that if our deck is truly within Meta. 

Look for smaller combos you can implement that will hold you over for another turn or two. This will open up space to work with the RNG and get a few more draws in to make bigger impact combos. Try not to blow cards frantically trying to stay in the game, Think each move over carefully and accept playing from behind if you have to. There have been plenty of 1 health players that knock down a 30 health 30 armor player because the 1 health player had more options at the end in place to secure the victory over the one who has no options left to play and just barely let victory escape from their grasp.

RNG is unavoidable, and that makes it easy to be the target of our blame for being unable to move up further in ranked. However, when we learn how to manipulate and draw out the game just a little longer, we can find that RNG isn’t something to be feared or blamed. Again, RNG is RNG and sometimes it really is why we lost a match. When you know for sure that there was nothing else you could, take a moment to accept it. If you think there was a better way to play then remember that for the next time you’re in that situation again. Otherwise maybe you need to make a change or two to your deck just to have a few more options when the time comes again.

Should I watch Pro matches and Streamers?

Knowing is half the battle and we often times think we know when we actually don't. The sample size of the games we play isn’t enough information to always recognize what deck we are up against. There are so many people streaming and a handful of HCT tournaments every year that we should be watching to improve ourselves as well. Many people don’t often consider this aspect of Card Games but there are professionals that know the ins and outs of every single possible Deck and card combination. If we want to be like them at the top of the rankings we need to watch them play.

It may seem unnecessary for some and maybe that ends up being true, but I know for a fact I couldn’t learn everything about the game if Blizzard put an infographic in my face. It can’t hurt and if we really enjoy the game then that's just an added bonus to watching others play it. This is also one of the only Esports where if you want to emulate the pros, you will find success in the Ranked Ladder. Other Esports have a set idea on how the game should be played and trying to emulate that in our ranked matches in say League of Legends or CS:GO will ultimately hinder our overall performance. Whereas if we copy a deck that a pro is using and play it like they did, we can see huge swings in our overall rank because we are playing something that is among the most powerful Decks out currently. Taking advantage of that should never be shied away from or ignored due to our own pride as a player coming up with our own Decks to get us all the way to Rank 10.

There is always something that can be learned from those better than us and not taking advantage of that fact shouldn’t be an option. Watching them play may also give us insight as to what we need to do to counter another deck we are having trouble beating in Ranked play, they know what they can do, and we can learn what we should do quite easily.

If you’re looking for a specific Deck to beat or learn there are plenty of youtube videos as well offering all the information you could ever need, some with varying levels of difficulty but more or less if you are able to pick it up you can figure it out. 

Many personalities have different opinions on different balances and how strong things are, you may agree or disagree with them but this comes with any game that is competitive. Try to take different opinions with a grain of salt and understand that even the best of us get tilted. If you find that you enjoy playing Hearthstone, then there is reason to believe you may find some enjoyment when watching others. Between Twitch and YouTube there are plenty of different personalities to watch and many entertainers worthy of your viewership. It may be to help yourself learn more about the games ins and outs but it’s a more fun way to go about it than reading every guide you come across.

How does Tempo work in Hearthstone?

On to some actual gameplay, the way the game works is a little more intuitive than each player takes a turn. Beforehand we would maybe start to panic if we weren’t getting the correct card combos and our opponent seemed to be wreaking havoc on our health. Sometimes we need to play the game around what we have rather than what we need.

Don’t accept a bad beginning to a match as the deciding factor in why we may lose. As noted before, sometimes we have to sacrifice certain potential combos in order to play out the game, knowing which ones are less detrimental to give up will help in last ditch efforts to turn a game around. Losing that Choose One combo we have before we can take advantage of the Get Both perk if we had a perfect hand.

There is never going to be a surefire way to sack cards efficiently, sometimes we may need to sacrifice more than one to make it through the rough patch, but we have to consider the strength in longevity that comes with Hearthstone. If your opponent is beginning to break away from you defensive capabilities than it is time to try out some risky tactics. Focus on fully clearing the board more than you normally would and strategically plan out which cards you can let live and which you need to destroy. This may seem obvious, but essentially since all Decks are not created equally, there is a lot of room to try out things that aren’t tried and true, and leave us a little stranded at the wrong time. Make sure to reign it in when you know you need to, or bust open the less obvious choices when you’re desperate enough to force them to work.

By now we should have a lot of experience on both sides of the situation, making it easier to tell the two outcomes easier to differentiate in value. Use your experience as a guide at this point, the best play you can make is right there. Controlling the tempo of the game is often most doable if you’re the proactive player, or are playing an aggressive deck. It is harder for defensive based decks to control the game if they are constantly drawing the wrong cards or are held off from putting out their damage long enough to cause them to worry. That being said, defensive play styles have plenty of advantages as well, they tend to hold onto more cards making for more optimal combinations, and  can clear boards relatively quick when the situation allows.

When trying to control the tempo of the game it doesn’t really matter which playstyle you have, play to your win condition and try to thwart the enemy at every turn, again, as basic as it is, we sometimes forget how impactful our choices are. Each decision counts and a card played too early or too late can mean a loss we shouldn’t have taken. Like RNG, sometimes Tempo can be a little too far from our grasp. All we needed was one more card, or to have seen what was coming next in order to save that card for something more efficient. There is never a wrong answer, but there is always a best answer and it is always right there in front of us.

 The takeaway.

Card games are more difficult to keep up with rather than actually playing them. Working with the progression of the game instead of complaining about it is sure to result in positive ranked progression. RNG can tilt us or encourage us at all the wrong times and it would be unfortunate to let our emotions take over when we have the power to seek out a real solution. When we play the game we should go into it full of knowledge with a little more room to learn new things as we are going to definitely see new things. When push comes to shove however, remember to play to your win condition, and look to stop any tempo build up your opponent may have. This is it for the Hearthstone guides, good luck in your climb to Legend, maybe I’ll see you along the way, Mage Purists are known to be rather fickle. 

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Cameron Carr

11 November 2019

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