Anticipating Curve Plays in Arena
Greetings, I’m shokunin, an infinite Arena player and a coach at HearthstoneCoaching.com.
The most frequent advice I give to my students, who are aspiring infinite Arena players, is to work on anticipating curve plays and playing your hand accordingly. In order to accomplish this, you need to know what Neutral and Class cards to expect.
You will notice that I only reference Common and Rare cards. This is because the probability of drafting any given Epic or Legendary is very unlikely. For example, you only need to concern yourself with Deathwing when you are so far ahead that it becomes one of the only cards that will cause you to lose.
In addition, I have not listed every card because if you plan for the standard and premium cards in each mana slot, you are already prepared for all the substandard cards. Focus on identifying the Commons and Rares that are the bread and butter of Arena.
Expected Turn 1 Plays
- Zombie Chow: This is the strongest possible neutral 1-drop. Its stats challenge 2-drops independently and usually allows the first player to maintain initiative and board control.
- Argent Squire: Unlike Zombie Chow, this usually requires an Attack buff (e.g. Abusive Sergeant, Dire Wolf Alpha) to threaten 2-drops. However, the Divine Shield helps it stick to the board and trade up later or act as a ping because you usually cannot afford the tempo loss of using Hero Power on Turn 2 to remove the Shield.
- Worgen Infiltrator: This is a strong 1-drop that is frequently drafted because Stealth allows it to trade on its terms, unlike other 2/1 minions which can be countered by a 2/3 minion or removed with a Hero Power ping.
- 2/1 minions: These are threats if you only hold 2-drops with 2 or less Health and you do not have a Hero Power that pings.
- Druid – Living Roots
- Hunter – Fiery Bat
- Hunter – Webspinner: Like Argent Squire, this usually requires an Attack buff to threaten 2-drops. In combination with Glaivezooka the Hunter can efficiently deal with any 2-drop you play.
- Mage – Mana Wyrm: The threat is a followup Frostbolt or Flamecannon. However, the 1/3 stats alone are not a threat to most 2-drops.
- Paladin – Selfless Hero (Rare)
- Rogue – Bladed Cultist (Requires Combo)
- Rogue – Buccaneer
- Rogue – Pit Snake
- Priest – Northshire Cleric: Without coin, strong players may avoid playing a Northshire on Turn 1 since it can be countered by a 3/2 minion or removed with most early-game spells. It can be held for Turn 2, in combination with Power Word: Shield, or played later to draw cards.
- Shaman – Tunnel Trogg: This can become a Zombie Chow with a followup Stormforged Axe or Totem Golem.
- Warlock – Flame Imp: Along with Zombie Chow, this is the strongest possible 1-drop.
- Warlock – Possessed Villager
- Warlock – Voidwalker: Like the other 1/3 minions, it usually requires Attack buffs to threaten 2-drops. Demonfire is a potential followup.
- Warrior – N'Zoth's First Mate
Expected Turn 1 Plays (when opponent has Coin)
The most common use of the Coin on Turn 1 is to play a 2-drop followed by another 2-drop on Turn 2. This allows the second player to take back the initiative since Arena decks often do not have a playable 1-drop in the opening hand (as seen above). However, there are some class-specific openers which you need to be aware of.
- If they Coin a 2-drop on Turn 1, the potential followup threat is Argent Protector which could allow their 2-drop to kill your 2-drop for free. The only ways to avoid this are to remove the minion or to play a minion with more Health than the Attack of their Coined 2-drop (e.g. 2/3 vs. 2/3).
- If they Coin a 2-drop on Turn 1, the potential followup threat is Shrinkmeister which could allow their 2-drop to kill your 2-drop for free. The only ways to avoid this are to remove the minion or to play a minion with more Health than the Attack of their Coined 2-drop (e.g. 2/3 vs. 2/3).
- If they play any 1-drop, the potential followup threat is Coin into Velen's Chosen to kill your 2-drop for free. The only ways to avoid this are to remove the minion or to play a minion with more Health than the Attack+2 of their Coined 2-drop (e.g. 4-Health vs. Northshire Cleric + Velen's Chosen). Otherwise, you will need removal or Silence during a later turn.
- Defias Ringleader
- If they Coin into their Hero Power on Turn 1, the potential followup threat is Goblin Auto-Barber. If possible, play a minion with 3+ Health to avoid your minion dying to their 2-damage weapon.
- If they coin Whirling Zap-o-matic on Turn 1, the potential followup threat is early removal for your minions which will allow the Whirling to deal 6+ damage for multiple turns. The only way to avoid this is to remove the Whirling.
- If they play N'Zoth's First Mate, the potential followup threat is Coin into Bloodsail Cultist. This results in a 1/1 and 3/4 minion and a 2/4 weapon. To avoid this, you can remove N'Zoth's First Mate.
If you play a minion on Turn 1, you should be aware of the potential 1-mana and 2-mana removal available to your opponent. A consideration when deciding which 2-drop to Coin on Turn 1 is to avoid 2-damage removals with a 3+ Health minion. Another consideration is that 2/3 minions are better against 2/4 minions on 3-mana while 3/2 minions are better against 3/3 minions on 3-mana.
- Neutral – Elven Archer
- Druid – Moonfire: Not highly picked
- Hunter – On the Hunt
- Paladin – Divine Strength (Requires a minion)
- Paladin – Light's Justice
- Shaman – Earth Shock
- Shaman – Frost Shock: Not highly picked
- Warlock – Mortal Coil
- Warrior – Inner Rage (0 Mana)
- Warrior – Blood to Ichor (Rare)
- Warrior – Upgrade! (Rare)
- Druid – Claw
- Druid – Living Roots
- Hunter – Arcane Shot
- Mage – Arcane Missiles: Against one minion, you have 87.5% to kill a 1-Health minion, 50% to kill a 2-Health minion, and 12.5% to kill a 3-Health minion.
- Paladin – Noble Sacrifice: Not highly picked and Avenge is the most frequently played Paladin secret.
- Priest – Holy Smite
- Rogue – Backstab (0 Mana)
Expected Turn 2 Plays
Standard 2-drops come with either 2/3 or 3/2 stats (e.g. River Crocolisk, Bloodfen Raptor). Notable 2-drops are found below. If the opponent did not use Coin yet, they may use it to play 3-drop into 3-drop (see the next section).
- Acidic Swamp Ooze
- Amani Berserker: It can be a threat against non-ping classes after a 2/3 vs. 2/3 trade and can be activated with the Mage Hero Power.
- Bilefin Tidehunter
- Boneguard Lieutenant
- Faerie Dragon: Can’t be killed by most early removal.
- Flame Juggler: Potential counter to 1-health 1-drops.
- Gilblin Stalker: It is a good target for buffs on Turn 3 (e.g. Shattered Sun Cleric, Velen's Chosen).
- Twisted Worgen
- Haunted Creeper: Sticky minion
- Huge Toad
- Mad Bomber: Against one minion, you have 70.4% to kill a 1-Health minion, 25.9% to kill a 2-Health minion, and 3.7% to kill a 3-Health minion.
- Mad Scientist: It is only a threat in Secret classes.
- Mechwarper: If left alive, it can power out a 4-mana Mech on Turn 3 (e.g. Piloted Shredder, Mechanical Yeti). If Coined out Turn 1, it can power out a 3-mana Mech on Turn 2 (e.g. Spider Tank, Harvest Golem).
- 2-mana Mechs: If left alive, they can activate Tinkertown Technician on Turn 3.
- Druid – Anodized Robo Cub
- Druid – Druid of the Saber
- Druid – Darnassus Aspirant (Rare): If left alive, it can power out a 4-drop on Turn 3.
- Hunter – King's Elekk
- Mage – Snowchugger: This has the potential to shutdown weapon classes.
- Mage – Sorcerer's Apprentice: If Coin is available, you can also play a Frostbolt or Flamecannon on Turn 2.
- Paladin – Shielded Minibot: If possible, mulligan for and play a 2-drop with 3+Health to challenge.
- Paladin – Argent Protector: Can help a 1-drop or Coined 2-drop trade for free.
- Priest – Museum Curator
- Priest – Shrinkmeister: Can help a 1-drop or Coined 2-drop trade for free.
- Rogue – Undercity Huckster (Rare)
- Rogue – Undercity Valiant (Requires Combo)
- Shaman – Totem Golem
- Shaman – Whirling Zap-o-matic
- Warlock – Dark Peddler
- Warrior – Cruel Taskmaster: This is a very effective counter to 1-drops with only 1-Health, but otherwise poor on an empty board.
- Warrior – Sparring Partner (Rare)
- Neutral – Bluegill Warrior
- Druid – Mark of the Wild (Requires a minion)
- Druid – Mark of Y'Shaarj (Requires a minion)
- Hunter – Glaivezooka
- Paladin – Seal of Light
- Paladin – Argent Lance (Rare)
- Rogue – SI:7 Agent (Rare, requires Coin)
- Shaman – Lava Shock (Rare)
- Shaman – Stormforged Axe
- Warlock – Demonfire
- Warrior – Slam
- Neutral – Unstable Ghoul
- Neutral – Explosive Sheep: Not highly picked outside of Mage, who can ping it immediately with 4-mana.
- Paladin – Equality (Rare): Usually combined with Consecration.
- Rogue – Betrayal: It often serves as a single-target removal instead. Carefully position your minions.
- Warrior – Cleave
- Warrior – Revenge (Rare): Hard to play around because you almost never intentionally hold back damage in Arena.
Expected Turn 3 Plays
- Divine Strength on their existing 2-drop and another 2-drop from hand is very strong (similar to the Argent Protector with Coin opening). The only ways to avoid this are to remove their 2-drop or to play a minion with 2 more Health than the Attack of the 2-drop (e.g. 1/4 vs 2/3).
- Spider Tank: A premium 3-drop because it can kill other 3-drops for free.
- Ogre Brute: A premium 3-drop because it can kill other 3-drops for free.
- Nerubian Prophet: A premium 3-drop because it can kill other 3-drops for free. (Variable cost, only if held since Turn 1)
- Jungle Panther: One of the few 3-drops with 4-Attack that can challenge the two above. Potential buff target.
- Shattered Sun Cleric: It buffs a 2/3 minion into a 3/4 usually resulting in a free kill. It buffs a 3/2 minion into a 4/3 which can kill a 2/3 for free.
- Scarlet Crusader: Potential buff target if the Shield is not removed.
- Silent Knight: Potential buff target.
- Harvest Golem: Sticky minion.
- Raging Worgen: Potential buff target and can be activated by the Mage Hero Power.
- Tinkertown Technician: Requires a Mech.
- Imp Master (Rare): 2/5 worth of stats at the end of turn.
- Mind Control Tech (Rare): Whether to play around this later in the game is situational.
- Silithid Swarmer (Rare): Requires Hero to attack this turn.
- Druid – Druid of the Flame
- Druid – Mounted Raptor
- Hunter – Animal Companion
- Hunter – Carrion Grub
- Hunter – Desert Camel
- Mage – Spellslinger
- Mage – Twilight Flamecaller
- Paladin – Aldor Peacekeeper (Rare)
- Paladin – Muster for Battle (Rare)
- Paladin – Steward of Darkshire (Rare)
- Priest – Dark Cultist
- Priest – Velen's Chosen (Requires a minion)
- Rogue – Unearthed Raptor (Rare)
- Shaman – Tuskarr Totemic
- Shaman – Feral Spirit (Rare)
- Shaman – Unbound Elemental (Requires Overload)
- Warlock – Darkshire Councilman
- Warlock – Imp Gang Boss
- Warrior – Bloodsail Cultist (Rare)
- Warrior – Fierce Monkey
- Warrior – Ravaging Ghoul
- Neutral – Wolfrider
- Hunter – Eaglehorn Bow (Rare)
- Mage – Forgotten Torch
- Paladin – Rallying Blade (Rare)
- Paladin – Seal of Champions (Requires a minion)
- Rogue – Deadly Poison (Requires a weapon)
- Rogue – Perdition's Blade (Rare)
- Shaman – Powermace (Rare)
- Warrior – Bash
- Warrior – King's Defender (Rare)
- Hunter – Unleash the Hounds
- Hunter – Powershot (Rare)
- Mage – Twilight Flamecaller
- Rogue – Fan of Knives
- Shaman – Lightning Storm (Rare)
- Warlock – Demonwrath (Rare)
- Warlock – Spreading Madness (Rare)
- Warrior – Ravaging Ghoul
Expected Turn 4 Plays
Standard 4-drops come with 3-5 Attack and 4-5 Health (e.g. Burly Rockjaw Trogg, Lost Tallstrider). 5-Health is a critical threshold in Arena since 5+ damage removal is uncommon. Notable 4-drops are found below.
- Piloted Shredder (Consider Doomsayer, Explosive Sheep, Unstable Ghoul, Patient Assassin, Dire Wolf Alpha, Flametongue Totem, Mana Wraith, Nerub'ar Weblord, Darnassus Aspirant, Lorewalker Cho, Wrathguard)
- Aberrant Berserker
- Chillwind Yeti
- Mechanical Yeti
- Sen'jin Shieldmasta
- Dark Iron Dwarf
- Cult Master
- Druid – Mire Keeper (Rare)
- Druid – Wildwalker (Requires a Beast)
- Druid – Keeper of the Grove (Rare)
- Druid – Savage Combatant (Rare)
- Hunter – Houndmaster (Requires a Beast)
- Hunter – Infested Wolf (Rare)
- Mage – Water Elemental
- Mage – Goblin Blastmage (Rare, requires a Mech)
- Paladin – Blessing of Kings (Requires a minion)
- Paladin – Murloc Knight
- Paladin – Keeper of Uldaman
- Priest – Auchenai Soulpriest (Rare)
- Priest – Holy Champion
- Priest – Lightspawn
- Priest – Shifting Shade (Rare)
- Rogue – Tomb Pillager
- Rogue – Southsea Squidface
- Shaman – Draenei Totemcarver (Rare)
- Shaman – Fireguard Destroyer
- Shaman – Flamewreathed Faceless
- Shaman – Master of Evolution (Rare)
- Shaman – Rumbling Elemental
- Warlock – Voidcaller
- Warrior – Arathi Weaponsmith
- Warrior – Bloodhoof Brave
- Druid – Poison Seeds (Not highly picked)
- Druid – Swipe
- Hunter – Multi-Shot
- Mage – Cone of Cold (Carefully position your minions)
- Paladin – Consecration
- Priest – Shadow Madness (Rare, 3 Attack or less)
- Priest – Shadow Word: Horror (Rare, 2 Attack or less)
- Rogue – Blade Flurry (Rare): Hard to play around and usually needs to be combined with a weapon buff to be effective.
- Warlock – Hellfire
- Warlock – Shadowflame (Rare)
Expected Turn 5 Plays
- Corrupted Healbot (Rare)
- Pit Fighter
- Stranglethorn Tiger
- Clockwork Knight
- Spectral Knight
- Silver Hand Knight
- Antique Healbot (Most beneficial for Rogue and Warlock)
- Azure Drake (Rare)
- Sludge Belcher (Rare)
- Stampeding Kodo (Rare)
- Druid – Druid of the Claw
- Druid – Druid of the Fang (Requires a Beast)
- Mage – Ethereal Conjurer
- Rogue – Shado-Pan Rider (Requires Combo)
- Rogue – Ogre Ninja (Rare)
- Paladin – Stand Against Darkness
- Paladin – Tuskarr Jouster (Rare)
- Priest – Darkshire Alchemist
- Priest – Upgraded Repair Bot (Rare, requires a Mech)
- Shaman – Thunder Bluff Valiant (Rare)
- Warlock – Doomguard (Rare)
- Warlock – Floating Watcher (Usually played on Turn 7 with Hero Power)
- Neutral – Abomination (Rare, not highly picked)
- Druid – Starfall (Rare)
- Hunter – Explosive Shot (Rare, carefully position your minions)
- Priest – Holy Nova
- Priest – Excavated Evil (Rare)
- Rogue – Dark Iron Skulker (Rare, undamaged minions only)
Expected Turn 6 Plays
- Druid – Mech-Bear-Cat (Rare)
- Hunter – Savannah Highmane (Rare)
- Hunter – Ball of Spiders (Rare)
- Mage – Faceless Summoner
- Priest – Temple Enforcer: Try to clear the Priest’s board by Turn 6 or leave only low-attack minions.
- Shaman – Fire Elemental: Try to keep important minions at 4+ Health.
- Shaman – Thing From Below (Rare, variable cost)
- Warlock – Dread Infernal: Trade off 1-Health minions or keep your minions at 2+ Health.
- Warrior – Shieldmaiden (Rare)
- Neutral – Argent Commander (Rare)
Expected Turn 7 Plays
Class 7-Mana Drops
- Druid – Knight of the Wild (Rare, variable cost)
- Paladin – Guardian of Kings
- Rogue – Sprint (Not a drop, but played late game)
- Warlock – Fearsome Doomguard
- Warrior – Obsidian Destroyer
- Mage – Flamestrike
Expected Turn 8 Plays
Class 8-Mana Drops
- Druid – Ironbark Protector
Expected Turn 9 Plays
Expected Turn 10 Plays
Rule of Thumb
Maximum Health for Common Drops = Minion’s Mana Cost + 1
This is the most damage you need to remove a single minion of a given mana cost. Notable exceptions are found below.
- 2-drop = 3 Health (e.g. River Crocolisk)
- 3-drop = 4 Health (e.g. Spider Tank)
- 4-drop = 5 Health (e.g. Chillwind Yeti)
- 5-drop = 6 Health (e.g. Pit Fighter)
- 6-drop = 7 Health (e.g. Boulderfist Ogre)
- 7-drop = 8 Health (e.g. Bog Creeper)
- Neutral – Captured Jormungar
- Neutral – Eldritch Horror
I hope this guide helps you improve at planning your turns for the Arena. I often hear stories of players complaining about getting blown out by a Legendary or a topdeck in the late game of an Arena match. What they don’t recognize is that often these situations can be completely avoided by anticipating and countering the standard common plays via the mulligan, early game openers, and strong midgame play.
If you’re looking for one-on-one help becoming an infinite Arena player, hitting Legend rank, or reaching your Hearthstone goals, you can find me and other top caliber coaches at HearthstoneCoaching.com. We’ve provided over a thousand hours of coaching to students around the world.