Ten Ways to Improve Your Hearthstone Game
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Ten Ways to Improve Your Game
I thought this week we would go over 10 ways to improve your game. A lot of these relate to one another and aren’t applicable to every situation, but they’re important concepts to consider when developing your play style.
1. Maximize Your Mana
Generally if you’re spending all of your mana every turn you’re making stronger, more efficient plays than a player who isn’t. If you have 3 mana available and the choice between playing a 2 drop or a 3 drop, the 3 drop will usually be right. The 3 drop will usually be a slightly stronger card (otherwise you might want to reconsider why you’re playing that 3 drop). It will also be more difficult to play that 3 drop on future turns since it costs more mana. Playing the more expensive card now frees up your mana on future turns.
I find this concept especially important when using the Coin. Identifying the turn on which you will have the most difficultly maximizing your mana is a good way to determine when to use the Coin. Most of the time, the extra mana from the Coin will allow you to maximize your mana on that turn.
Note that it is not always right to maximize your mana. It’s a good concept to keep in mind to make sure you’re making efficient plays, but NEVER make a bad play merely because you have the mana to do so. When your Knife Juggler gets slain by a Fiery War Axe, your pleas of maximized mana will not grant the poor gnome any solace in his futile demise.
2. Accept RNG(J)esus Into Your Life
I’ve said this before, but RNG happens. There’s been a lot of talk about Tinkmaster Overspark and Nat Pagle recently. Should they be banned in tournament play? Do they make the game unfun? Do they discourage skillful play? Those are all interesting questions, but if you want to win, they don’t matter. What matters is that your Pagles fish better and your Tinkmasters tink smarter. The first step to accepting RNG(j)esus into your life is to realize that you have an influence on RNG.
The first decision you make that influences RNG is deck construction. You don’t have to play Tinkmaster or Pagle. Clearly they can be powerful, but you need to accept the devil’s bargain you make when you slide Tinkmaster Overspark into your deck. He’s not always going to tink a Squirrel. It’s usually a very poor play to tink a 5/5 hoping for a Squirrel. If you’re in a situation where you need Tinkmaster to do that, you likely lost the game earlier, and Tinkmaster’s giving you a 50% out another card couldn’t provide. Tinkmaster is really only a good card when you expect to tink a Cairne, Ragnaros, or other powerful minion. With most popular decks at the moment only running one or two reasonable Tinkmaster targets, it may even be time for the all-powerful Tinkmaster to shed his staple status. He’s a good pick if you expect a lot of big Legendaries in the meta, but fairly poor otherwise.
The second decision you make is how you play with RNG during the game. A good example of this is our above discussion of what you’re tinking. Tinking an Earth Elemental is always good value and the RNG doesn’t matter. Tinking an Ancient of Lore is a 50/50 gamble that can lose you the game in certain dire situations. I usually like to discuss Knife Juggler here as well. A key to many aggressive decks is using your Knife Jugglers most effectively. By sequencing your attacks appropriately, you can increase the odds of hitting certain targets. When playing Knife Juggler, I typically envision the best and worst outcomes and play in a way that enables the best outcome. Harvest Golem is a common card that comes up here. If you have a way to kill the front half of a Harvest Golem (without running the Knife Juggler into it) before playing minions, there’s a good chance you can juggle a knife at the back half and save your Knife Juggler. Whenever a situation involving RNG comes up, make sure you think smart and maximize positive outcomes.
One last point on RNG: don’t let it put you on tilt. I’ve seen far too many players rage at unfortunate RNG and lose games not to RNG but unfortunate misplays they make while enraged. Don’t let yourself be a minion with Enrage: Lose the game.
3. Know Who’s the Beatdown
A lot of people have written entire articles on this concept already, and it’s no wonder why. In a game where minions are your primary removal spells, it’s crucial to understand which player is the aggressor. As one would expect, aggressive decks are typically the aggressor and control decks usually are not. Things get a little trickier in aggro mirrors and control mirrors.
As a decision making shortcut, I generally ask myself, “If I attack my opponent’s face, will my opponent have to attack my minions?” If the answer to this question is yes, you’re probably the beatdown. Attacking your opponent’s minions in this situation often means you’re straight up losing the damage you could have done. Your opponent is going to make the trades for you because they have to. Obviously there are some situations where going for the face will allow your opponent more favorable trades. In these situations, it is often right to make trades that prevent your opponent from making the most favorable trades and go to the face with your remaining minions. Taunt is a very direct representation of this concept. It is rare that you don’t want to go for the face with your Taunt minions since your opponent has to attack them.
4. Make Your Opponent’s Turn Awkward
What the heck is that supposed to mean? Essentially, keep in mind that your opponent can only play cards during their turn. Aside from Secrets, there are few to no ways for your opponent to interact with you once it’s your turn. You’ve got all the control during your turn, and you want to ensure your opponent’s next turn will be a little…weird…
With the popularity of certain strategies, it’s usually not that hard to figure out your opponent’s game plan. Make sure you consider what they are most likely to do on their next turn and what their primary goals are for the game. If they’re a Druid playing Force of Nature and Savage Roar, make sure you have enough life or a Taunt or two to survive turn 9. Taunts in general are a really good example of making your opponent’s turn awkward. You want to make your opponent do things they’d rather not. Attacking a Taunt minion is usually one of those things. Another way to do this is by making attacks your opponent would like to do less optimal. For example, if you have an Azure Drake and your opponent has a Chillwind Yeti, pinging the Yeti in an incidental fashion (Hero Power, Swipe, etc.) will make attacking the Drake a far less favorable play since he will also lose the Yeti.
5. Play To Your Outs
Sometimes the conventional best play is actually a sure way to lose. If your opponent gets far enough ahead, there can be situations where you will lose before you can catch up by making favorable trades. In these situations, you should play in a way that maximizes the impact of your remaining outs. Perhaps the only way you can win is to go for the face and top deck a particular Charge minion (I’m looking at you Leeroy). Your best play could be to forego playing a Fire Elemental and instead using your Hero Power to try for a Spell Damage Totem to combo with the Bloodmage Thalnos in your hand and the Lightning Storm you hope to draw. Frequently with my Paladin deck I’ll find myself in situations where I can trade minions to survive a turn or two longer or go to the face and put myself in a position to draw one of my many Charge minions for game. The latter option frequently delivers more wins due to the way my deck is constructed.
Always make sure you’re not only thinking about how you’ll play the next few turns, but how you plan on winning the game. Constructing a game winning scenario is difficult and takes many turns of planning.
6. Pack A Few Surprises
It’s always good to surprise your opponent. How do you think players felt having Force of Nature and Savage Roar played against them before it was popular? I can assure you, they were surprised. And the players playing the combo likely won quite a few games because of it.
The lesson here is that it’s often worth playing a couple powerful cards your opponent won’t expect. If the cards are unexpected, it’s less likely your opponent will be prepared for them. In the right meta, cards like Mind Control Tech, The Black Knight, Big Game Hunter, Crazed Alchemist, Millhouse Manastorm, and many others can be surprising and game winning. If your opponent expects Mind Control Tech, they’re never going to have more than three minions. If they don’t, well…you may get to play a game swinging Mind Control Tech. Which of these cards is good is always changing, but it’s important to play a card or two that will catch your opponent off guard.
7. Research, Research, Research
Not every card is created equal, and some cards are more equal against other cards. It’s always critical to understand the current meta and how you can take advantage of it. This takes some research. Fortunately, you’re off to a good start by reading this article.
Research doesn’t have to be hard, and you probably do a lot of it already. Listen to podcasts, tune in to streams, read articles, browse forums, even playing on the ladder is a form of research. Knowing is half the battle. Once you know what’s popular you can tech your decks appropriately to combat it or play a different deck entirely. Research is also a great way to learn how to improve your technical play.
8. Check Twice
Dude. Don’t be the guy who misses lethal. Even great players can miss when they have game on board (but rarely, they are great after all). Always do your math twice. Don’t snap cast a spell; see if there’s a better target first. Look for unconventional plays. The ability to identify the best play in a unique scenario is one of the greatest defining factors between the good players and the best players.
9. Practice What Matters
It’s an oft used idiom that practice makes perfect. However, I caution you to not just practice, but learn. Just grinding a bunch of games with a deck won’t make you an expert with it. You need to learn why your deck works the way it does, the purpose each card serves, and why certain cards are good or bad in a certain situation. When building my Paladin deck, it was crucial for me to understand that the reason I was playing Equality was to get around Taunt minions. Once I understood that, it was easy for me to switch them out for Ironbeak Owls; a change that improved the deck immensely.
It’s easy to judge success by win percentages, but when you’re practicing, the results of individual interactions are far more important than who wins. Try to identify what cards you need in various situations and why. Think of cards you may not be running that would be good against a popular strategy and try them out. Don’t judge that new card by whether you win or lose, but by how it performs in the situation you chose it for. Was it as good as you expected? If so, it may be worth playing even if you don’t win often. Perhaps it’s a different card you need to change.
10. Build A Community
This may sound cheesy, but playing Hearthstone with friends or finding a community of others who enjoy the game is one of the best ways to improve your game (especially if they’re better than you). Having a group to bounce ideas around with and test those ideas is a surefire way to stumble upon useful information. It also gives you an outlet to do serious testing without putting your rank on the ladder at risk. So get out there, make friends, and play some Hearthstone! We encourage you to head to our forums and ask questions, post your decks, believe it or not your questions help us get better!
[DKMR]varranis streams every Sunday from 10 AM – 4 PM EST at http://www.twitch.tv/varranis. You can find all of DKMR’s streamers on their website with times and the days they stream!
Guide written by [DKMR]Varranis
Discussions about this topic brought to you by Team [DKMR]
Decks to Watch Out For
Here are a few decks that I’ve been seeing on the ladder or in tournaments recently. I’ve seen a lot of my Paladin Aggro deck, and I’ve included an updated build below. Reynad’s Warrior deck has been around for a few weeks now, but it’s still all over the ladder at higher ranks. This is the Shaman Midrange build I played in the recent Hearthstone Players Invitational. I highly recommend this deck for tournaments if you expect a lot of Druid, Warrior Control, or other control or midrange strategies. Note that some players have been using Chillwind Yeti over Unbound Elemental. Lava Burst is an easy answer to Chillwind Yeti or Ancient of Lore and also doubles as reach. ENoR’s Rogue is an example of the “Miracle” Rogue decks littering the lower ranks of the ladder. It’s combolicious, and fairly difficult to play correctly. As I’m sure most of you have noticed, there’s a bunch of aggro on the ladder after the reset. I suggest choosing your deck accordingly.