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February 2, 2017

Table of Contents

Closing that Gap – From Rank 5 to Legend!

Legend rank in Hearthstone is not an easy thing to come by. There are several thousand players who manage to get it each season, it’s true; there are also several million players of the game in general. If you can get through the grind and break into that magical hexagon, you will be part of the top 1% of the game’s players, and that’s absolutely something to be proud of.

So can you do it? Sure you can. It theoretically doesn’t take much to get there; all that is actually required is an ever-so-slightly higher than 50% winrate. If you have this, given an infinite amount of games, you’ll ultimately make it. However, it is admittedly a little more difficult than that in practice. In the final ‘bracket’ of ranks 5-1, you will be facing players who very rarely make mistakes, and who generally have a lot of practice. Depending on when in the season you’re doing the grind to get to legend, you’ll likely be facing mostly former legend players to get there. In most cases, if you can get up to rank five in the first place, you can definitely get to legend; it’s all about refining your style and your gameplay from there.

This guide is going to be aimed specifically at those people who regularly get up to rank 5 or so, but never seem to be able to make the push at the end. For people with lower ranks, it usually isn’t going to be these refining touches I’m about to suggest that are keeping you from legend. For instance, if you’re stuck at rank 15, in all likelihood, you need to work mostly on your mechanics – when to trade minions, when to go for the face, etc.

If you’re stuck around rank 10, it’s probably a combination of making mistakes and not having good enough game sense – that is, making sure not to set your board up for a swipe, or flooding minions on turn 6 against a mage. If you’re stuck at rank 5, you probably need a combination of things to push you over the edge, and that’s exactly what this article aims to give. It’ll be useful for everyone, I think, but if you’re stuck between rank 5 and 1, this one is for you.

Since there’s a lot of factors that go into becoming a legend player, I’m going to break it into two sections: Pre-game preparation, and in-game preparation. That’s right: Before you even begin a hearthstone match, there’s some stuff to think about on the path to legend, and that stuff is arguably even more important than the in-game stuff. Nonetheless, we’ll cover both in detail.

Pre-Game Preparation

Sometimes you need prepare yourself before the game even starts. By learning these points before the game, will help you plug the holes that’s stopping you from reaching that coveted rank.

1. Track your stats

The first thing you want to do when you reach rank 5 is very simple: start tracking your stats. There are a number of excellent stat-tracking services out there, and they all work fine. I personally used Most stat-trackers are actually applications that you download – they read your screen and figure out the results for you, which is great. Hearthstats has a similar app, but I actually stopped using it (or any other app) and just started to manually input my results onto their website because they make it so easy. If you go to the ‘recent matches’ tab under ‘constructed’, there’s a quick entry bar where you select your deck, your opponent’s class, whether you had the coin, and whether it was a win or a loss. In reality, this is all you need.

There are a few reasons why stat tracking is VERY important. The first is that it gives you real data that you can use to understand the meta, instead of just ‘feeling’ it. We’ll get to that soon, though. I think perhaps the more important thing it gives you is a reality check when it comes to numbers. Why do you need a reality check when it comes to numbers? Well, keep reading – I found that having current statistics helped me with every single point I’m about to make to you! This is just a very important thing to get into the habit of, and once you see how useful the information is, I promise, you’ll thank me!

2. Understand that Losing is Okay

When you make the journey to legend, you’re going to lose a lot. Even the best players are generally happy with a consistent 60-65% winrate. That’s really, really good. For most people, your winrate is going to be a lot lower. By the end of my trip to legend this season, mine was 57% overall (from rank 5-1; I didn’t track from when the reset happened). I had several occasions where I lost many games in a row and tanked back down to lower ranks, but then I also had win streaks that brought me up several ranks, too. Keeping track of my overall win percentage was really key to getting it through my head that all of these losing and winning streaks were actually statistically normal.

A 60% winrate in hearthstone, at the highest levels, is tough to get to. But do you know what that looks like? 60% means for every 3 games you win, you lose 2. And most players don’t even have a 60% winrate. This means that you’re going to have to get comfortable losing in order to get to legend. What this translates to is a vast number of games you’re going to have to play.

People get frustrated because at rank 5, legend seems so close, but they just can’t seem to break into the next rank; In reality, at least half, and usually more than half of your overall games played in a season will be between rank 5 and 1. Get comfy; this season, I tanked down to rank 6 with one deck, and then switched to the deck that I ultimately used to get to legend. From that point, it took me 180 matches to make it to legend, and 106 wins. From where I started the season up to rank 5, I was on a winstreak for a lot of that time. I didn’t track those stats, but I have no doubt that well over half of my season’s matches were played in this bracket.

To give a further example, let’s look at Trump, who publishes his statistics regularly. Trump regularly makes free-to-play decks to climb the ladder. His first deck, the Mage, took 197 wins to get to legend, and 55 hours of game time. His free-to-play shaman and free-to-play zoo decks took 184 wins each. A lot of people track their stats using ‘wins’ as the metric, and I think for first-time legend players, that’s very deceptive.

Let’s assume for a moment that Trump has a 70% winrate, to take into account A) how great he is at hearthstone and B) the fact that he was tracking stats from the very beginning. That means that for his mage deck, he would have played roughly 280 matches in that season in the best case. Now, remember what I said about 60% being great? To get the same result with a 60% winrate, you would need to play 330 matches. Trump is one of the best players in the game, too, which means that in all likelihood, his numbers are below average, even for the free-to-play series.

What all of this means is that you shouldn’t feel sad when you lose. RNG happens, and bad matchups happen. That’s all okay. Even in a best case scenario, for every 3-4 wins, you should be expecting 2-3 losses. If you’re doing better than that, you’re doing exceptionally, and you should realize that.

3. Maintaining a Positive Mental State

Understanding that losing is okay is extremely important for a few reasons, but the biggest one is in keeping a good mental state. People get ladder anxiety and stress out about playing all the time, and it makes sense. If last night, you just got to rank 4 and 1 star, you don’t want your first 2 matches to be losses that put you back to 5. But by playing this way, you’re making it a lot harder to actually achieve your goal.

It is an absolute fact that angry players or players that have a defeatist mindset (“Of COURSE he would top deck the Doomguard;” “No Explosive Trap in my starting hand? Might as well concede”) are going to lose a lot more. Your decisions are going to be clouded by assuming your enemy will outplay you and win.

It’s a very difficult thing to do, but you will be at your best if you can remain calm while you ladder. Everyone does this differently, and so I can’t really prescribe a fix for everyone. But one thing I liked to do was to take a quick break if I lost 3 times in a row. That was a signal for me to step back and think about what I was doing. The other thing I really liked to do was to think very hard about why I lost a given game. Was it just RNG? If so, cool. That’s fine; that happens. However, was there a mistake involved? Did you let your opponents draw more cards than you should have? Did you set up efficient trades for him? That’s when to look more deeply at your play.

The key though, for me at least, is to recognize when you lost to RNG. In those games, you have to do your best to not get angry – it was nobody’s fault. The game has a lot of RNG elements to it, and that’s why even at the highest levels, a consistent 60% winrate is good. You have to be comfortable with the fact that everyone gets topdecked occasionally – even your opponents.

Another good exercise is to record how many times YOU win because of RNG. It’s a bit painful to do, because you’ll realize just how often a top-decked Force of Nature, Doomguard, or even Grommash Hellscream saved you from a loss! Once you realize how often the RNG goes in your favor, it’ll help to soothe the rage that may come over you when it doesn’t.

In-Game Considerations

So, before I get to this stuff, I’d like to direct your attention again to the first half of this article. There’s a lot of stuff I wrote up there, and NONE of it has anything to do with what deck you’re using. That’s because it doesn’t actually matter what deck you use. The only thing that matters is that it’s reasonably consistent, and that it doesn’t have too many bad matchups. Having a few is okay; in fact, when I got to legend this season, I only had a 37% winrate against my statistically most common matchup! That’s fine, though, because I had a roughly 70-80% winrate against 6 of the 9 classes. There’s no deck out there that has a good matchup against everything, and you will have a weak matchup or two. This is completely normal.

1. Pick a Deck and Stick With it

I ultimately climbed to legend with a midrange hunter deck (before Reynad exploded the ladder with it, I’ll have you know!), and I stuck with it the whole way after that. As a result, my win rate continually increased every day I played it. On the first day, it was only 52%, but then it got to 60%, and finally 71% on the day I finally got legend. This is the advantage of playing with only one deck – you learn it inside and out. You learn how to mulligan effectively against every matchup, and you learn what you need to do to have the best chance of winning, even in matchups where you aren’t favored.

It’s very tempting when you lose several matches in a row to the same class to want to switch to the counter. Almost always, this is a bad idea. You end up not being quite as precise or effective with it, and you may well stop seeing the deck you meant to counter.

My most common matchup on my climb was midrange hunter, which I saw 49 times. However, my three next most common matchups – warlock, druid, and warrior – were at 37, 24, and 19 respectively (80 altogether). In my case, then, you can see – if I switched to a purely anti-hunter deck (and I was very tempted), I would probably have done less well against the rest of the field, and even though hunter was my most common matchup, it was still a minority of my overall matchups. I had 70+% win rates against all of these other three classes, and so they cancelled out my below-average hunter matchup. This is something to remember when you’re laddering – even your most common matchup is likely not more than 50% of your matches, and if you swap to the counter, you might just be hurting yourself in the majority of cases, even though it doesn’t feel like it.

My policy is to play at least 30 matches before you make any deck changing decisions. This lets you get useful numbers before you actually make a decision. When I was laddering this season, I encountered several of the same players multiple times, and a few of them used different decks every time. Almost invariably, I won almost every time against the people who were constantly deck-switching; I just knew my deck better than they did. So, even if you feel like you lose against a particular deck all the time with your chosen deck, that’s okay; remember that every deck has bad matchups. The key is to just pick a deck and stick with it.

2. Don’t Pick Control

Before I switched to midrange hunter this season, I started with the control warrior. I did this because I thought it would be stable, and it would have a reasonable matchup against everything. I very quickly learned that this was a mistake. Control warrior isn’t a bad deck by any means, and it’s certainly got a decent matchup against most things, but it’s very slow.

When you’re grinding out 200-300 games, taking an extra 5 or 10 minutes is a lot of extra time you have to spend playing. If you’ve been to legend before, that’s different; however, if it’s your first time grinding up there, it’s almost universally better to play an aggro or midrange deck. Slow decks make the losses all the more devastating, and although the wins can be pretty satisfying, you could have played 2 or even more games in the same time with a faster deck.

Understand the Meta

This one, in a lot of ways, is the most obvious thing you need to get legend, and it’s one that a lot of people talk about. In order to really succeed and push through the top ranks, you need to study the ever-changing metagame and actually adapt your deck to it. Now, does this mean that you should change decks to deal with it? NO! It means that you should change out a card or two in your deck to help strengthen your bad matchups if they’re popular enough.

Moreover, this generally also means not just blindly copying professional decks. These decks are built for the specific place where the pros are in the legend ladder, and that might not match what you’re seeing in your climb. This is another reason why recording stats is really important: It tells you in real numbers what classes you’re seeing on the ladder, and it allows you to adjust your deck properly to combat it.

The other important part about understanding the meta is understanding how the other popular decks work. By doing this, you can match up against them more confidently, because you can know their win conditions and do your best to prevent them. As a simple example, When playing against the zoo, it’s important to realize that basically all of their ‘burst’ damage comes from their Doomguards and Soulfires, which means that if they’ve used them both, you’re in a much safer place. Knowing the tools that your enemy has is important in understanding how to play yourself.

3. Do Not Multitask!

The final point of game advice I’m going to give you is this: When you’re going for legend in hearthstone, you have to be invested in the game. You can’t be sitting there reading reddit or some other website while your opponent is making their turn; you have to watch them carefully and get all of the information you possibly can from them. Players will often give away all kinds of information if you’re paying attention, and it can help you to make the right plays.

For instance, if you’re playing against a hunter and you see an arrow come out of their hand and target one of their beasts for a while, whether or not he plays the card, you can be almost 100% sure that he’s holding a Houndmaster in his hand. Why? Because hunters carry very few cards that can target their own creatures, and if he is, that’s probably what it is. If you aren’t looking at the game while he’s doing that, you’ve lost information! Later on, if you’re deciding whether or not to clear out a beast and you decide not to, that houndmaster that you could have known about might just lose you the game. Will not having information like this lose the game for you all the time? Of course not. But Legend is a game of inches, and every win counts. If paying close attention wins you even a few more games over the course of your climb, it’s worth it.

Getting to legend isn’t impossible, and if you can get to rank 5, you definitely have the ability to make it there. It’s a question of mental preparedness, good game-sense, and above all, a lot of patience and perseverance. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask here or on twitter (@DreadmakerHS). Additionally, below I’ve put together a video related to this – It’s long and frankly a little dry, but in it, I discuss my own trip to legend in a little more detail, and talk at length about the importance of tracking stats and being prepared mentally. Thanks for reading!

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Leave a Reply

  1. Anonymous says:

    im currently going rank 1 to 4,4 to 1 etc…and sometimes i just wanna kill myself well i didn’t realize it was so hard to get legend i thought it was just me who was too slow and sucked but by reading his very interesting article i guess i was wrong,it takes alot to reach it…well thank you for this,it motivates me again even if today if he last day…hehe guess it’ll be for he next saison

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m a desperate player stuck around rank 10 :'( ..your article will help me even tough you say it’s aimed to people at 5. Specially points “Maintaining a Positive Mental State” and “Do not multitask”, thanks!

  3. WhelpLaid says:

    Where’s the video?

  4. WM2K says:

    Good article. I hit legend the other day as well for the first time and pretty much most of your points ring true. I used to track my stats but I felt that often they could be misleading so I stopped. I think the key idea here is pick a strategy (preferably tier 1) and play it over and over. Even if your choice isnt theoretically the absolute “best” at the time the experience you have with a deck will increase your ev more then trying to constantly counter the meta. As long as your strategy is tier 1 ish you should get there given enough games played well.

  5. Daarky says:

    Hi, great article! I am aswell laddering with a midrange hunter deck and am at rank 6 so far. One of my problems is, that i dont really know what to mulligan against which class (i often aim for the obvious webspinner oder low mana stuff in general) or what to pick with tracking (in cases where i get hounds or leeroy, which i just cant give away even if i dont need them in that moment)
    Do you have any tips for those special occasions?
    I also would be interested in your decklist 😛

    Thx for the article and any tips and keep up the great work! :)

    • Giordy says:

      Why don’t you check out Spark’s Midrange Hunter guide? :)

    • Dreadmaker says:

      Mulligans are one of the hardest parts of the game, and they mostly come with experience. As a rough guide, I’d do what you’re doing – aim for low mana stuff. A perfect opening hand is a webspinner, mad scientist, and animal companion, for instance. Anything like that that gives a 1,2,3 or a 2,2,3,4 in the case of the coin is wonderful. Now, there’s definitely more nuance to that in particular matchups, of course, but that’s a good base to build from.

      I can’t really give specific mulligan advice for all the classes here, but is there a particular one you’re having trouble with?

      As to tracking: I don’t use it! It’s valuable, yes, and it’s a great card for deck thinning. However, I found that the psuedo-miracle of the buzzard and all of the low cost beasts was more than sufficient for draw during my climb.

      I second Giordy’s sentiment: Spark’s guide is great, and now he’s updated it to include the last wing’s content. The list I used while laddering is actually just about the same as his updated version now; the only difference was that I actually included one less explosive trap and one more oasis snapjaw. Oasis snapjaws have always been near and dear to my heart as a hunter player, because with the houndmaster, it becomes a very cheap 4/9 taunt, which a lot of decks really struggle with. It’s great for board control even without the taunt, too! But that was entirely personal preference and based on the meta of the time (maybe a week and a half or so ago now), so I’m not sure I’d recommend it now. I recently participated in a tournament where i had almost exactly Spark’s list, but I swapped 1 explosive trap for a misdirection; people are so used to the 2 explosive/2 freezing combo these days that they don’t even think about misdirection! It did some work for me; you might try that out!

      In any case, good luck on the ladder! If you have any more questions, you can ask here or on twitter (@DreadmakerHS), and I’d be happy to help :)

  6. LightsOutAce says:

    This is some good stuff! I want to add a comment on win rates that Dreadmaker touched on in the comments:

    Win rates only matter from rank 5 to legend, and that’s where you should start keeping track. Below that people are generally making bad plays, playing bad decks, or both. Accurate matchup stats begin at 5. For example, the last 2 seasons I’ve lost a grand total of 4 games between rank 12 and 5, but I don’t use that info to make statements.

  7. Tribalek says:

    I´m one of those players with Ladder Anxiety. I always stop at rank5. I already been rank5 for like 4 season in a row. I also always get rank5 first week. And then I stop and only play arena and casual. In my mind I already know I can get legendary very easely. But its just that the struggle I can see ahead stops me. Its not worth the time somehow getting upset. Knowing player imput is so little

    I watch streams and see the same decks over and over again. Like now its like 80% hunter on ladder. And I dont even think legendary means anything anymore. Seeing rank2200 players playing bad decks, bad plays and still get there by work ethics. I actually got GM in sc2. Because I knew it was hard to get. Eventhough I has the same ladder Anxiety issues. But It fels like a real accomplishment. I dont have that with HS.

    I´m already looking at other e/sport games to get that feeling back I had in sc2. But cant find in HS. I guess card games arnt for me. Sadly…

    • Dreadmaker says:

      I can see the angle you’re coming from, but honestly, if you got to GM in starcraft and you got through the ladder anxiety then, there’s no reason to not do the same at rank five in hearthstone. Yes, there certainly are rank 2200 legend players using bad decks and making misplays, but it’s because they’ve largely stopped caring. Legend gives you the freedom to test new deck concepts against high-level players without fear of repercussions, and so some people certainly take that to heart. They weren’t always bad players; they’re just currently apathetic ones. Getting to legend, I think, does actually mean something; what happens after that, though, is up for debate.

  8. fisheatcorn says:

    Great article, lots of advice for those making the climb for the first time! One thing I would like to mention: Just as anyone with a win rate higher than 50% can reach legend given enough time/games, a player with 40-50% win rate can make rank 5 due to win streak bonus stars. Given that, not necessarily everyone who can reach rank 5 can reach legend.

    From personal experience is that there is quite a difference between Ranks 1/2 compared to say Ranks 4/5 in terms of skill as well (most likely due to this ability to get to rank 5 with lower win rates). I feel that rank 1/2 players will certainly beat rank 4/5 players more often. The main thing is to keep improving, recognise your mistakes and learn the matchups you face on the climb.

  9. Spark says:

    Glad that my deck helped you on the climbing and really great article overall 😉 I see so many people in my friendlist stuck at those Ranks and always sending me MP “Oh my god I can’t believe he drew that etc..”
    I really think that a lot of people have those mentality issues ^^
    I also kept track of my stats this season and ended up with a 77% from Rank 15 to Legend with the Hunter (which is an insane winrate and I never realized that in the past I guess). And I really feel that those stats helped tweaking my deck through the climbing and being aware of the meta 😉

    • Dreadmaker says:

      Yes, your deck was great, especially after a few tweaks to fit the meta up there (which is always the case, of course). Remember with a 77% win rate that you probably had closer to 100 while you were climbing through the lower ranks – I must have had 90ish or so on my way from about 18-10. That’s one of the reasons I chose to track at 5; it was a much more accurate reading. That said, I had a similarly insane win rate on the last day of my climb, so there’s something to be said for that as well!

      Glad you liked it!

  10. dreamcrusher says:

    I had been looking for an article like this for literally weeks. So, of course it gets published the day AFTER I finally made it to Legend Rank. Personal sour grapes aside, this is an EXCELLENT article. I had to learn all the things in this article the hard way … so if you’re reading this article while trying to reach Legend for the first time ever, then congratulations! The advice in this article is mostly spot-on; take it to heart!

    • Dreadmaker says:

      Thank you for the feedback! And I apologize for not getting it out a day sooner haha! Getting to legend the first time is always a struggle, but it’s pretty rewarding to figure it out yourself, too :) Congrats on Legend!

  11. Makuly says:

    Great Article :) love it!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Good article. These are really good tips to share.

  13. lenoriel says:

    Nice article Dread! I’m one of those players stuck in Rank 5-4, doing the yoyo.
    This article re-energized me to finally reach Legend!

  14. Giordy says:

    Great article! Good job 😉