October 24, 2015
Table of Contents
Deck Construction Series: Breathing New Life into Stagnant Net Decking
Hello everyone! I’ve been playing Hearthstone since open beta and like you immediately became addicted. Hearthstone is a game that for me, was reminiscent of my Magic the Gathering days of the early 90’s.
Immediately upon Blizzard’s initial launch, I was whisked away in nostalgia, suddenly finding myself enveloped in a seemingly simpler time with tunes of Guns and Roses blaring on the radio speakers in the background, and cards of my newly constructed deck falling with ease from my flicked wrist, wreaking havoc upon my best friend sitting across from me. Blizzard did a fantastic job of capturing the euphoria of decimating your opponent the way Magic once did (and still does) through an electronic paperless medium while at the same time adding their own twist of swag. I’ve always had passion for introducing this type of game to the open-minded and watching those new guys fall in love with the game’s simplicity and marvel at their own ingenuity, as they begin to piece together decks of their own.
However, therein lies the problem with Hearthstone—or should I say Hearthstone players. Should you decide to take your game to the ladder, you’ll find game play increasingly has become stagnant due to the million copy cat players who devour the readily available decks others have created. As a result, no one has any originality in deck building and the variety of opponent types your likely to see decreases significantly.
As I make the grind up the ladder every season it’s often easy to spot the people who do nothing more than web deck and bring no sense of uniqueness to their game. My belief is that there is a 50/50 split among people in this group: those who either have little to no experience with playing Hearthstone and simply lack deck construction know how or those who are just too plain lazy to put the work in and come up with a viable deck of their own.
I’ll admit, a good argument exists with people who ask, “why attempt to fix something that isn’t broken?” Lots of people regularly reach the legendary ranks, playing extremely solid decks that define the meta game (all of which have 100’s of variations that can be found all over the web). So, it can be further argued that the need for originality simply does not exist, I however disagree.
This is why: every season I jump onto the ladder I get the feeling as though its sole existence is to cause a scream of rage to get lodged in my throat every time I have to play one more Secret Paladin or hear one more Grim Patron tell me to get everyone in here.
Consequently, I wanted to write a series that is designed for the inexperienced in mind, as well as for the lazy bum who has no problem net decking every season.
If your problem with building a unique, original deck is laziness this is my advice: Schedule a life seminar with Tony Robbins, buy a Toyota Prius, hug a tree and get a haircut hippie. However, if you’re a noob I have your best interest at heart. I’m an out-side the box thinker and enjoy playing against the like-minded opponent who goes against the grain and brings it, with a deck for better or worse, that was conceived within the recesses of his/her own mind. That said I believe it’s high time someone write a deck guide about the core fundamental elements that go into deck building.
I realize there are probably thousands of deck guides available that cover this exact subject matter. However, I’d like to present it in a way, that is easy to understand, covers important concepts and therefore will help both the new comer and you couch potatoes out there grasp the necessary concepts that go into building a great, competitive deck. Due to the overly aggressive competitive nature that is found on the ladder, I think many people resort to net decking out of a sense of desperation.
A unique deck doesn’t stand a chance against those rock solid decks that steam roll opponent’s faces at a very high win rate, however that doesn’t necessarily mean that one of you who is reading this right now can’t build a deck of your own and see it rise faster than Face Hunter in the current meta. The problem is, many of you do not understand what exactly goes into deck building. This series is designed for the individual who would like to build their own unique deck, but don’t quite understand the fundamentals of doing so.
Regardless of which decks that are out there, which decks have gotten the most YouTube hits, or what deck any given “pro” player is using know this: all of them have the same fundamentals, which begs the questions: Why can’t you design a deck that is just as solid? I’d like to take the next few weeks and provide a basic breakdown of what you should be considering and thinking about when venturing into making a unique deck of your own, after all that’s half the fun that exists with games like Hearthstone.
So, if that’s you crank up the volume, throw on Sweet-Child-of-Mine, and strum your air guitar! With a little ingenuity, a dash of imagination, and some melted brass to coat your man (or ahem lady) parts you’ll be brave enough to venture into the unknown–a unique deck of your very own!
Step One: Deciding On Deck Type
Okay, so during this first section of this series we’ll discuss the various decks types you need to consider.
In card games like Magic the Gathering, there exists a triplet of “classic,” oldie but goody deck archetypes: aggro, combo, and control. On top of these basic level decks you’ll find various hybrids and play styles like aggro-control, combo-control, handlock and so on. For the purposes of this guide (again with the noob in mind) I’m writing to cover the basics, to provide a general idea of what goes into deck building. I won’t be overwhelming the new comer with information pertaining to the complexities of every deck type and play style.
This guide is written to provide the foundation from which the deck masterpiece can later be built. Virtually anyone can start throwing 30 of the game’s best cards together and run to next Blizz-con Championship tournament and expect to bring home the trophy. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. In fact to quote my grandfather, “If if’s and but’s were candy and nuts we’d all have a merry Christmas!” (Okay, so I lied my grandfather didn’t coin that phrase, but it still applies). Victory, at its bare bones as it pertains to Hearthstone, boils down to one word: Strategy.
Regardless of cards you’ll ultimately end up putting in your deck, success will greatly be determined upon how you plan out each and every strategic victory. Every house, building or solid structure has to have a strong foundation from which to build upon.
Similarly, deck construction gains its foundation based upon the deck archetype the architect chooses. Listed below is a short synopsis of the basic deck archetypes:
Hearthstone Deck Archetypes
This is the deck that exists for the sole purpose of obliterating your opponent as quickly as possible by playing numerous low-cost, high-value minions that swarm and over take your adversary. Think the Discovery channel special about the jungle ants that exist somewhere in some distant, humid, and foggy rain forest that over power and over take an insect twice their size. Yeah, that’s the idea.
This is the other end of the spectrum. These are the decks built like an armored juggernaut, designed to outlast your enemy by making good trades with enemy minions, strategically killing off their threats, and biding your time until you can drop your huge finishers. Think the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope victory brawl vs George Forman in Africa.…yeah it’s a lot like that.
As the name suggests, you’ll be relying on the synergy reactions between multiple cards to produce a lethal or otherwise extremely powerful effect to kill off your opponent in 1-2 turns! This deck is extremely aggravating to be on the receiving end of, as you’ll find yourself well within a turn or two of victory only to end in defeat wondering what the hell just happened? This can be even more angering when playing a game that had been well in hand as you’d been absolutely dominating for the majority of the game, only to have you’re prey snatched from you’re grasp at the last possible moment. Yes, this deck is the reason behind the “rage quit” scenarios. Remember ol’ Wiley Coyote and the Road Runner cartoons? Just like Wiley, despite all your tedious and careful planning, despite your double and triple checking of your rocket pack, expect to have an ACME anvil dropped on your noggin’ mere moments before that pesky road runner was lunch. Damn that road runner.
This is the deck type that combines the best of both the aggro and control universes. This deck is usually pretty minion-heavy but runs slower than a traditional aggro deck but faster than control. It’s The Goldie Locks “just right” ideology, come to life within the confines of 30 cards. The goal here is to establish and maintain board control through your minions, and generate incremental advantage as the game goes on. Slow and steady wins the race here.
One thing to note is that all of these deck archetypes are viable in their own way. In other words, there is no archetype that is greater or more efficient than the next. Each archetype is successful in its own way, the difference being the path that each takes to get to victory and that too is also contingent upon the skill of the player using them.
To put this concept into context, lets analyze these archetypes individually a little bit further. Aggressive decks start out strong, but lose steam quickly over the course of a long drawn out game.
So, if aggro is your cup of tea it is vital to get your opponent within lethal range soon rather than later. Control on the other hand, is the king of the late game. The goal is to survive the early and mid-game long enough to bring out the big finishers late, which is often times easier said than done especially when playing against aggro decks.
The Mid-range archetype is consistent all the way through, the draw back here though is that it doesn’t have that big atom bomb drop to pull out the win. Mid-range is a balancing act that requires you to smash your enemy a little at a time every turn, while surviving the onslaught of your opponent’s deck at the same time. Combo decks are a different animal altogether with the primary goal being to finish the game in a moment of glory with your guns blazing, decimating the enemy all within a turn or two.
Like Mr. White in Breaking Bad, several mitigating factors need to come together one card at a time, in your hand until you have a collection strong enough to make a solid “product” and blow your enemy away. It doesn’t matter which deck archetype you decide on to build your masterpiece, you can win games with consistency with any of them.
The important thing to remember is once you decide on one, stay within the boundaries of the deck type throughout your build. If you’re going aggro, don’t start throwing in high cost minions like Ragnaros the Firelord, as these higher costing cards will slow down an aggro deck’s tempo significantly and you’ll end up defeating yourself before your opponent has the opportunity to.
Moral of the story is: do not go off the rails, select cards that are consistent with the deck type of your build.
As the days and weeks progress, we’ll divulge deeper into each deck archetype, and really assess the meat and potatoes of each one. Then we will start going through the basic types of cards every deck needs regardless of archetype, theme, or win condition.
In the end we will tie it all together and hopefully provide you with the tools and knowledge to start tinkering around with your own collection causing your need to net deck every season to dissipate altogether.
For now, take a second and let this information sink in a bit—let it marinade. Think about which type of deck suits your individual play style or caters more toward your idea of a new deck to try out. Forget about the current meta, what types of decks you’re seeing being played with regularity or what a certain “pro” player is saying worked for him/her. This is about you, this is about originality, and this is about using the cards within your own collection and getting them to harmonize in a singular idyllic note of victory, one game at a time.
Until then, continue to sit back and enjoy the game.