In-Depth Analysis of The Coin in Arena
Hi there! Camzeee back here today with another awesome arena guide.
I find using The Coin well is essential to offsetting the disadvantages of going second.
Yes, you get an additional card to start the game with. However, that doesn’t quite compensate for the big loss in tempo you get by constantly playing with less mana than your opponent.
Playing your 2-drop into his 3-drop and your 3-drop into his 4-drop is a sure way that you lose the game (assuming both players curve out well). That’s why using The Coin to break this pattern is so important. Knowing when to use it and how to use it most effectively separates the best arena players from the merely good ones.
Let’s start by looking at tempo in arena.
Getting the Initiative
In arena, tempo is very important in ensuring victory. What is tempo? Tempo in Hearthstone means board initiative. It means having the board in your favor so you can decide how to [favorably] make trades with your opponent.
Usually however, tempo comes at the expense of either card advantage and/or value. While trying to maintain tempo, it is entirely possible to see your hand size shrink (using multiple cards to remove one of his) and consequently feel as though you’re losing control of the game. Tempo plays can be unnerving if you’re not used to them.
I, myself, am naturally a very control-inclined player (i.e. clear the board every turn, get maximum value, etc.) but recognize that sometimes I have to go against that urge and make the tempo play(s). This requires using up a few cards at once to ensure the board remains in my favor or freezing/temporarily disabling a minion in order to get enough damage in to end the game.
The Coin is one of the earliest methods of generating tempo. It can also cost you the game if you don’t kick it in early enough as a player going second.
The turn you play The Coin is a mini-tempo play and it should always be used to give you a stronger position on board. Instead of playing your 3-drop into his 3 drop, you can play your 4-drop instead, hence giving you tempo and the choice to decide how to trade for the next few turns.
However, playing The Coin at the RIGHT time is more important than simply using it to not “waste” mana [with an additional playable card in hand]. Good players understand that tempo is meaningless if you can’t capitalize on it. Let’s take a look at how to use The Coin over the first 3 turns specifically and then delve into deeper, more complex uses.
Below are some nice screenshots to help get a feel for how to use The Coin correctly.
I’m going to start at the beginning with turn 1 on The Coin.
Using The Coin on turn 1 is something I see beginners do very often and mostly incorrectly. It’s not wrong to use The Coin on turn 1, but there are specific situations where it is correct and others where it is not.
Take a look at this screenshot here:
This is an example of when using The Coin turn 1 is absolutely perfect.
Coining out Mad Bomber on turn 1 is the perfect play against the Leper Gnome. Not only does this play have a greater than 70% (1-(2/3)^3) chance of killing the Leper Gnome (generating card advantage), but it also sets up your follow-up play of Bloodsail Raider the next turn.
Using The Coin in the early game is all about planning your subsequent turns. Your thought process should be: “If I use The Coin this turn, do I have a good follow-up play next turn?”
The rest of your hand also dictates the best time to use The Coin. In order to get best possible tempo start in arena, you’re looking for a hand that has mana costs 2-2-3-4 in your opening hand.
However, you won’t be so fortunate a lot of the time. Check out this next shot.
This is a pretty standard looking opening hand but NOT a great time to use The Coin on turn 1.
Though it may look enticing to coin out the Bloodsail Raider, this is not the correct play for a few reasons.
First, you have no follow-up play next turn to use your 2 available mana on outside of removal. I don’t consider having access to removal as “having a play” because your opponent could very easily not play a minion and use his own removal instead (especially considering our opponent is playing Mage). A Frostbolt or Flamecannon takes care of the Raider instantly, is on curve, and leaves you with nothing to play the subsequent turn.
Instead, waiting a turn to coin out the Spider Tank is far preferable if your opponent chooses to play a standard stat 2-drop (3/2 or 2/3) because it trades favorably.
Alternatively, if your opponent doesn’t play anything and uses his hero power, you can just play the Raider on turn 2. Keeping The Coin allows you to potentially make a play with it later down the line while setting yourself up ahead on board without contest.
Coin Hero Power
Coining out a hero power is rarely correct because hero powers are worth less than their 2 mana cost and as a result are unlikely to give you value. On an empty board, I would argue that 90% of the time it is INCORRECT to Coin + Hero Power (Rogue and maybe Shaman are the only exceptions with specific follow-up cards).
There is merit though to using your hero power if it can remove a turn 1 minion for free. Mage, Druid, and Rogue are the three classes with access to a 1 damage attack hero power.
It’s not uncommon for an opponent to play a 2/1 minion such as Leper Gnome on turn 1. This can prompt a 1 damage dealing class to jump up and coin out a hero power for the removal. However, this is a dangerous play to make because you are essentially giving up tempo in favor of card advantage.
It is the right choice if you have a good curve which is potentially impeded (like a 3/2 for 2 mana facing down a 2/1 Leper Gnome). However, it is NOT a good play if you have no way to keep up with tempo over the next few turns.
Often times, you are better off passing the turn with the intention of playing a favorable 2/3 into the 2/1 or using the hero power on 2 instead, thereby preserving your coin. Because this scenario occurs more often than the above example, I would highly recommend you NOT coin hero power on turn 1 when in doubt.
Playing The Coin on turn 2 is a lot more viable nowadays because of the newly minted 3/4 minions.
When you play The Coin on turn 2, you’re mostly looking to get a tempo lead by having your 3-drop contest your opponents’ 1 or 2-drop and trade favorably. 3/4 minions accomplish this task really well because so few 2-drops have 4 attack.
This can also have the added benefit of setting you up for a nice 3-3-4-5 curve.
Take a look at this shot.
This is a great example of a strong turn 2 coin.
It’s obviously out of the question to coin hero power turn 1 since you have no 2 drop to follow up with and it’s a generally a weak play to begin with. You’re not going to Lightning Bolt face and give yourself away as the next Dennis. Therefore, it’s an easy pass even if you draw a 2 drop.
On turn 2, you have an extremely strong play of coin + Powermace which allows you to remove most 2-drops your opponent might play. Alternatively if your opponent passes, you can coin out Injured Blademaster and save the Mace for his 3-drop.
Your hand isn’t the best since it’s a bit heavy on removal, but using The Coin on turn 3 makes the most sense by far and is thus the best play.
Here’s another more nuanced example.
In this example, I chose to pass my turn 1 even though I had a 2-2-3-4 curve in favor of using The Coin on turn 2 for a 3-drop instead. The reason I chose to do this is multi-part.
First, the two drops that I possessed were solid versatile cards – Youthful Brewmaster and Acidic Swamp Ooze. Coining out either against Rogue is a weak play because of the popularity of Backstab. Granting my opponent tempo is a potential game-losing swing.
In the end, I chose to coin out Unbound Elemental over Imp Master due to its large health and slightly higher attack (accounting for losing the additional Imp to the Dagger). This allows me to have a natural 3-3-4 curve with flexibility beyond that in two great 2-drops and Hex for removal.
Turn 3 is one of my favorite turns to use The Coin. Typically, I find 4-drop minions represent a significant upgrade in stats compared with 1, 2, and 3 mana minions.
It’s not uncommon for an opponent to play a 2/3 on turn 2 followed by a 3/3 on turn 3. Instead of matching his 3/3 for 3, playing a 4/5 for an extra mana off The Coin forces him to play more defensively, taking a tempo hit if he wants to keep the board even (i.e. using removal). If he doesn’t use removal, this gives you an easy 2-for-1.
It’s a very nice play if your deck is strong in the mid-game, which is pretty common in arena decks nowadays. Here’s an example:
In this board state, coining out the Mechanical Yeti is the strongest play available to me if he plays a regulation 3-drop.
Harvest Golem, while a good card, is much slower at retaking the board due to its low attack. It’s tempting to look at this board and see a super smooth 3-4-5 curve play out without The Coin. However, not using it on turn 3 to play the Yeti is a mistake for a number of reasons.
First, your opponent can get that all-important jump in power on 4 mana first. Let’s say your opponent here decided to totem up instead of playing a 3-drop, hit face with the Bloodsail Raider, and pass. You follow up with Harvest Golem and take out his 0/2 totem. Next turn, he plays a 4/5 Yeti and your response is either to Fireball it or play your own Yeti, thereby giving him tempo or card advantage.
This is harder to avoid the later the game goes because the power spikes keep happening. The later you use your coin, the less likely you are to find a good spot for it to make a difference in board influence. It’s better to act quicker and get ahead early.
Yes, I don’t have another 4-drop minion to play as a follow-up to the Yeti but I think it’s justifiable considering I can always hero power, play Fireball, or even play the Explosive Sheep if need be. I could also top deck a 4-drop! Because a lot of arena decks are heavy on 4-drops, it’s not entirely unthinkable.
The Coin has the additional advantage of being classified as a 0 mana spell. This means it is excellent for triggering specific card effects to generate a positive effect.
Mana Wyrm has a simpler effect to understand. The Coin combos with it by giving it an attack bonus. This means that you can coin out another spell to give it an instant +2 attack, giving it greater leverage. In the absence of another spell, The Coin can still give Mana Wyrm +1 attack while helping out with your curve.
Wild Pyromancer is more tricky to use The Coin well with. I sometimes hold onto The Coin and Wild Pyromancer despite having good curve plays in order to get the most effective usage later down the line. It’s especially potent in Priest where you can play the combo in conjunction with Power Word: Shield for large Area of Effect (AoE) clears. Think ahead and plan for when Wild Pyromancer can be utilized most effectively. Sometimes, it’s better to play it as a 2 mana 3/2 and that’s okay too.
Other more niche spell-based uses of The Coin include combinations with Gadgetzan Auctioneer and Violet Teacher. Both of them have great effects and can set up some big plays when combo’ed with The Coin . Save The Coin if you’re able to compete for board position without suffering a large loss in momentum/tempo in order to get value off these minions.
I wish I could be more in-depth for this section, but the truth is it really depends on the board state. Going through multiple specific scenarios in the later stages of a game is unlikely to help overall arena game-play.
I’m dedicating an entire section to Rogue because it is the strongest class with The Coin due to the class’s trademark ‘combo’ effects as well as its tendency to play for tempo.
Cards with the combo mechanic benefit greatly from using The Coin and the two most common ways to use it are in conjunction with Defias Ringleader and SI:7 Agent. Both of these cards are a lot stronger when used in ‘combo’, thus making The Coin the perfect card to enable this effect.
It’s no big secret that one of Rogue’s strongest openings is turn 1 coin + Defias Ringleader for a 2/2 and 2/1 in play. If you have this opening, it is recommended you follow through 90% of the time and only pass if you have an incredible hand including SI:7 and Backstab for ultimate combo potential. Other combo cards like Eviscerate and Cold Blood like it too, but you usually want to combo them with another card for use later in the game.
The Coin is also great for getting additional hero powers out earlier or later in the game which can set you up for weapon buffs from Deadly Poison or the +1 attack from Goblin Auto-Barber. This is one of the extra special uses for it in Rogue because it effectively gives you a discount on the card by not requiring you to hero power up first.
If you have an Auto-Barber in hand, don’t be afraid to coin + hero power to set up for your next play or dagger up on turn 2 anticipating a turn 3 Deadly Poison combo into Defias Ringleader. There are a number of combinations available and as Rogue it’s your job to set these up to get maximum value as often as possible.
The important thing to remember when you’re playing Rogue is to plan your turns in advance. Rogue is often cited as the most difficult class to play in the game due to the higher than average amount of decision making required. Knowing when to attack or not attack with the weapon is tricky and using The Coin to not only get good value out of cards but also to snag big value combos comes from experience and good decision making.
Play more with Rogue and learn how to get the most value out of your combo cards while maintaining great tempo to your play and you’re on your way to arena success. Personally, I find Rogue the MOST rewarding of any arena class if played well and utilizing The Coin is a big factor in that.
Using The Coin optimally in each game is important in deciding who gets momentum and when, especially in arena.
Typically, I find playing The Coin is strongest either on turn 1 if you have the right curve, or turn 3 where you can take advantage of that 4 mana power spike. Consider both highly for your use of The Coin. I would also recommend using your coin before turn 4 if possible because the more you wait, the less you can usually get from it.
It is much harder to arrest momentum on turn 6 or 7 than on turn 2 or 3. That said, if you have a combination lined up with spell effects, feel free to hold onto it as long as you aren’t conceding a large board presence in the process.
I hope this guide was informative and in-depth enough to your liking. Feel free to comment below if you have questions or queries, I’m happy to answer any and all of them.
Until next time avid Hearthstoners!