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February 2, 2017

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Combating Ladder Anxiety: Becoming Legend

Hi all,

Today, I’m writing a very different type of article, but one that I feel is very relevant to your typical competitive Hearthstone player.

Making it to Legend rank can be incredibly stressful and time-consuming. It gets harder every season as well as the player base gets more experienced and the grind gets tougher.

However, there are ways to make the climb enjoyable and to keep you focused on the way up the ladder.

Harnessing Win Streaks


The first couple of ranks you get the benefit of win streaks to help you out.

As a result, you can make it up ranks even with just a 50% win rate.

At the beginning of a season, it becomes a bit of a mad dash up the ladder as players who made it up to legend or a high rank begin the season at 16 or so.

Most decent players don’t have such a hard time at this rank, even so, there are a couple of tips to make getting through this part of the climb better.

  • Be aggressive. Playing aggressive decks is recommended at the early ranks. The reason for this is that it makes the climb faster. You don’t need to be winning 60% of games to be climbing unlike at rank 5 and up, so playing more games maximizes the chance that you can win a couple of games in a streak to gain that bonus star.
  • Play a lot of games. This is true of any stage of a ladder climb, but at the early ranks, total number of games really matters. It’s the reason that bots are able to climb to rank 5 so consistently even though they play worse than most players at a similar rank.
  • Stick with one deck. This is my advice for the early ranks. Sticking with one deck has the benefit of allowing you to get comfortable playing it which only makes you more attuned to the strengths and weaknesses of the deck. Another benefit, is that it allows you to play faster if you’re used to mulliganing and making early game decisions on a game by game basis.
  • Gauge the meta. At the beginning of a season, the metagame usually goes into a state of flux and players try out different things to try and find their ladder deck of choice. Even if no balance changes are made, we’ve seen it between seasons in the past where players just change their approach. What might have worked well before might be out of date, and this is further influenced by big tournaments where popular winners can bring new decks into the metagame.

Heart of the Grind


Once you reach rank 5, this is where the heart of the grind is.

Win streaks are no longer awarded, and every single game is important in ranking up.

I take every game here really seriously and never underestimate anyone.

Lots of players linger in these ranks even at the end of the season not because they are weak players unable to rank up faster, but rather they’ve been busy and haven’t had time.

I’ve run into top pros like TidesofTime, Freshca and Chakki at these ranks late in the season and there are so many competent players that you have to keep focused at all times.

Here are some tips to push the last bit of the way to legend.

  • Play the metagame. Earlier, I advised you stick with a deck through thick and thin as you make it up the early ranks. This changes when you’re trying to push the rest of the way. If you aren’t winning more than you lose with your deck, you won’t progress. This means that even if you’re an expert Handlock player, you can’t blindly keep picking it and hope to gain ranks against a metagame with 50% hunters.
  • Find a deck that you’re comfortable with. This is quite a fine balance in the latter ranks. You need to find a meta appropriate deck, but if it’s a deck you’re entirely uncomfortable playing, it isn’t going to move you forward. Playing Control Priest because it’s a good counter to Hunter and Shaman is great in theory, but it’s also an incredibly complex and comparatively difficult deck to play. Favored matchups won’t be easy to win despite what the pros say if you aren’t used to playing it and can’t play it to a high level.
  • Focus on one game at a time. It’s such a simple bit of advice yet it’s so effective. This is the same for any competitive sport. Yes, you can see that you’re only 5 stars away from Legend rank, so you play fast and hope that you can make it. This is a big mistake. Throwing a game that you would have won sets you back 2 games not 1. You need to win 2 games to get that win back that you threw away, so focus and don’t give away cheap losses.
  • Be a Tryhard. This has a negative connotation, but really paying attention and eking out every little advantage you can makes a difference. Advanced plays that can give you a slight advantage include watching your opponents’ mulligan, keeping track of the number of cards in your and his deck, and not targeting your opponent with spells you don’t intend to use.

Dealing with Tilt


I know if you’re reading this so far, you’re thinking, “oh you make it sound so easy, it’s so much harder than that.”

Well, believe it or not, getting Legend has never been easy for me. It’s taken me two weeks at the very least to make it to legend, and sometimes in particularly tough seasons, I haven’t gotten Legend until the very last week.

Among those climbs, I’ve had some really disheartening losing streaks including a recent loss streak that totaled 8 games and over the course of a night brought me down from Rank 1 all the way down to Rank 4.

Tilt in Hearthstone is very real. Losing a few games in a row can lead to players making more and more mistakes, and getting extremely salty.

Even the very best players can succumb to a series of bad RNG rolls and lose a few games in a row.

So I’m going to bring it right to you, here are my top 5 most rage-inducing cards.

  • Undertaker – What hasn’t been said yet about this card? It is one of the biggest snowball cards in the game and if an opponent gets a perfect draw, it can spiral out of control leaving you with no chance of counterplay.
  • Soulfire – One of the most aggravating cards in the game. It always seems to discard your most important card and when your opponent gets it, it’s always off a top deck to finish you off. Super rage inducing.
  • Defender of Argus – You got lethal on board or in hand? Watch this guy come down and put up a wall of taunts that you can’t bust through. Ugh.
  • Kill Command – Skill-command. 5 damage to face that you can’t play around and of course your Hunter opponent top decks it every game. Losing to it when you’re so close to winning can really put you on tilt.
  • Ragnaros the Firelord – Who else but the king of RNG himself? He always hits the wrong target, gets Mind Controlled or Faceless’d and generally swings games that can leave you saltier than the Dead Sea.

Now that that’s out of the way, look at the list.

They’re just a bunch of cards that can largely be played around, countered or otherwise controlled. You are the one in control of your deckbuilding, in control of how you feel about losing to these cards.

Doesn’t it seem silly now to get upset about losing to these cards? That rage can be channeled into teching your decks better, focusing on countering them and generally not getting as upset about it.

Okay, Camzeee, I get it, but I still have anger problems and get on tilt, what do I do?

  • Take breaks after a series of losses. This is something I recently learned. I would often play through a number of seething losses and continue to lose more. I’d queue the same opponent into the same unfavorable matchup and lose again and again. I’ve since set a limit of 3 losses. If I lose 3 games, I take a break or go play arena. It’s like you’re setting yourself your own mini-constructed arenas.
  • Switch decks. If you’ve been taking breaks, feel okay, but aren’t making any progress, switch decks. Often, just the act of switching decks makes you think differently because you’re presented with a new set of choices in deck approach and can evaporate any tilt you might have.
  • Play arena. I really recommend this. If you’re on tilt in constructed, playing arena gets you thinking more purely about value and the fundamentals of good Hearthstone. It also helps morale, at least for me, because you are more likely to go on nice winning streaks and it can be a good reminder that you’re not a lousy player, just one that’s going through a rough patch of results and luck and that it can turn around.
  • Watch streamers. This is one of my favorite ways to take a break from ladder stress. It keeps you in a Hearthstone frame of mind while being zero stress and you can learn from the pros. I find that after watching a stream even if it’s not the class I’m playing, instantly leads to me playing better the subsequent games. I attribute this to being in the streamers’ frame of mind and also in being more impartial as an observer and making more consistently logical, sensible plays.

Ladder Anxiety


This doesn’t apply to most players, but there are some who find the process of laddering so stressful they choose not to do so at all.

I’ve felt this coming on a few times especially if I haven’t played for a while. Some of the key fallacies that come to mind are:

  • I don’t want to lose any more progress – While it’s true that playing ladder games can lead to a loss in rank, you’ll never know how high you can go if you don’t play at all. You have to take the plunge and get in there for a chance to make it up the ranks. Not laddering won’t fix this problem and you’ll regret not trying much more than trying and not progressing.
  • My deck isn’t good enough – Although it’s true that you need a decent collection of higher rarity cards to make it to Legend nowadays, it’s absolutely not out of reach to make it to legend with your own creation. You just need an open mind, a desire to experiment, and a little bit of luck.
  • I’m not a tryhard, I don’t care – Sure. That’s the oldest excuse ever. If people are discouraged or otherwise don’t believe in themselves, it’s so much easier to say they don’t care and chalk others’ success up to their try-hardness. If you want to be a Legend ranked player, do it, believe you can do it, and care about winning.

Conclusion


I’ve chosen to highlight one of the most controversial cards in the game – Mindgames

The purpose is all about mentality, namely – optimism. Having a positive outlook on Hearthstone laddering is the most important element when it comes to grinding the ladder up to Legend.

Yes, you want to win, yes you want to make it to the top, but you’re also there to have FUN.

You’ll catch yourself sometime cursing, conceding early, sending BM messages, but if you take a second and really think about it, Hearthstone is just about having fun.

Mind Games encapsulates what Hearthstone is really about – hoping for the best draws, throw in a bit of RNG, and not taking it too seriously.

Making it up to Legend should be a natural by-product of playing and improving at the game while having fun in the process. It also helps that a lot of the stress of laddering goes away when you think about it as just another game.

Go out there, have fun laddering. It’s a process to be enjoyed not hated, and believe in yourself!

Enjoyed this article?



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7 Comments

Leave a Reply

  1. Spark says:

    Extremely good article for all these people who think they are stuck at a given Rank.
    I would definitely link it to the load of people asking me “Spark, I’m stuck at Rank 5 what Deck should I play ?” because this question is asked A LOT and the answer is misunderstood.
    Rank 5 to Legend is not a matter of your Decks (at least not more than 50%) but it’s a matter of time, dedication and mental ^^

  2. Anonymous says:

    rezpect.

  3. Diana Cheung says:

    great article… real insight on gamer psychology!

  4. Alex says:

    Really enjoyed this and all your tournament recap articles. Keep it up man!

  5. Ian says:

    Love this article. And you are so right. I have pretty much got to rank 5-7 every season and find myself becoming frustrated at my lack of progress and I start playing too fast and making silly mistakes. Remembering that t’s for fun is something every player needs to keep in mind.

    Well said.

  6. kalvik80 says:

    Nice article