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August 30, 2015

Table of Contents

FTP Journeyman Guide: Yet Another Tavern

This is the sixth part of the Free to Play Journeyman Hearthstone Guide Series. Be sure to check out the other articles in the series here:  Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4 and Part 5.

True Story

“You totally have to try out the new Tavern Brawl, dude.”

“Sigh, more RNG rubbish?”

“No!  Play with the new cards in The Grand Tournament!  Mage vs Hunter.”

“That sounds ok.  I have a 60g quest involving both those classes, with 3 wins left to get to complete it.  I’m in!”

90 minutes later…

“This is complete rubbish.  I needed 3 wins and I’ve only managed 2, losing 8.  I got those wins early with Hunter, but now I can’t even win a Joust with the deck, never mind the game.  And let’s not talk about Mage: 0-3!  Better chance in Ranked!”

45 minutes later…

“Wow, 0-4 in ranked.  Time for coffee and a break!”

I’m sure we’ve all had those days where no matter what you do you just lose.  The opponent has every answer, you never draw the right ones, you only get expensive cards etc etc.  All the good excuses line up and you curse the RNG.

C’est la vie.

The Flow of the Game

If you’ve followed this series you’ll know I like my Japanese Rules Mahjongg, and there’s a term that describes this hopelessness – “the flow of the game”.  In Mahjongg, the flow of the game allows one player to win more often than he really should; he seems to get better tiles than his 3 opponents, and seems to win unlikely hands off discarded tiles that appear to be “safe”.  You seem to stand next to no chance of being able to change this flow – even if he loses a few hands he’s still going to be the guy on top at the end of the session which is what counts.  Sucks to be you, right?

What happens in reality is that the other guy’s good fortune causes you to mentally switch off.  You make errors that don’t appear to be errors, but taken together they create a situation where you put yourself in No Ten (no way to win) without understanding it’s happened.  Each time you make a mistake you are punished to the full.  Eventually your focus is so badly lost that you can’t even prevent yourself making obvious mistakes.  You know, like putting Magma Rager into your deck.  And then actually playing it.

To change the flow of the game you have to change the way you are playing.  You won’t get the tile you think you need, so rather discard that option and search for others among the “rubbish” you draw each turn.  Not only does this free your mind from the cycle of “bad luck”, as a side-effect you discard early the tiles that become dangerous later on.  When you finally manage to get a win from an unlikely starting hand, even if it netts only a small points haul, your luck seems to improve and little by little you change the flow of the game into your favour.

The Art of Not Thinking Clearly

That’s more easily said than done, of course; in Mahjongg it requires godly skill.  But in Hearthstone, well, sometimes when trying to change one’s style circumstances conspire to help even the worst of us.  After those games above I knew my mind was distracted and the flow of the game would never be in my favour.  Adding injury and insult was Ragnaros, standing there beating me with the RNG baton yelling, “INSECT!” every chance he got.  Opponent does something random like playing a card from hand?  “INSECT!”

I belatedly realized I needed the mental sharpness to change the way I was playing.  When I sat back down with a fresh attitude, I started up a new ranked game with Mage.  This was all on my EU account where I’ve played the bare minimum number of games to complete dailies in the last few weeks, so I’d managed to get up to rank 15 only, which really is an embarrassment considering the depth of that collection.

The deck I was using was a fairly standard “Tempo Mage” based around the casting cost curve, cheap spells, Mana Wyrm and Flamewaker.  Mad genius that I was that day I’d lost 3 times already with the deck, pushing me down to rank 16, and had never once drawn Flamewaker, for instance.  I didn’t get it during game 4 either, just so you know.  My opponent was playing a version of Face Hunter, but he clearly didn’t have the best cards for it; he was also rank 16, after all.  (And the next day I played 3 players with Golden Heroes at rank 15 – more’s the shame!)

We traded early blows and my better cards kept him under control even though I wasn’t really “ahead”.  When I hit 8 crystals, I traded what minions were left in order to play Dr. Boom onto an empty board.  Fantastic!

My opponent then dropped Reckless Rocketeer and Glaivezooka, and smashed me in the face for 8, putting me on 11 to his 17 life.  “INSECT!”

I drew Azure Drake to add to the Frostbolt in hand.  My first instinct was to shoot the Rocketeer with the Frostbolt, attack with all, and then play the Drake.  That is quite possibly the best example I can give of how badly I was playing at this point in the evening.  And I nearly did it too!  Eventually I thought, “Hang on, back to basics; play the Drake first and see what you draw.”  I got Arcane Intellect, which was useless at this point as with 9 crystals in total (5 used) I couldn’t play both it and the Frostbolt.  “INSECT!”

Because the card was “useless” I was still determined to Frostbolt the Rocketeer.  Until I suddenly realised that I could kill the Rocketeer with the Boom Bots.

Now, I’ve used Dr. Boom an awful lot, and this is the obvious play – but it took me until the rope to spot it.  Ideally, after suiciding into the Rocketeer the first Boom Bot’s deathrattle doesn’t target the Rocketeer, dealing 1-4 points of damage to the opponent’s face (he had no other minions).  Then the second bot finishes the Rocketeer off and deals another 1-4 points to face.  The 7 from Boom himself plus the 4 from the Frostbolt and 1 from the hero power meant I only needed 5 damage from the bots to kill my opponent, bang on average and therefore never likely to happen given the flow of the game.  But you still have to try!

So Bot attacked the Rocketeer, died and obviously the deathrattle hit the Rocketeer (for 1, again obviously).  “INSECT!”  I attacked for 8, pinged him for 1 with the hero power, and nearly hit “end turn”.  Then I thought my opponent might kill the Drake and I’d lose the extra point of damage on Frostbolt, so I threw Frostbolt at his face mere moments before the rope ended my turn.

Oookaaaaay.  Let’s just take a moment to study the rationalization behind that moment of genius again, shall we?  A Face Hunter, facing lethal damage from Dr. Boom and his bot, will invest cards to instead kill Azure Drake, and the most important thing to me was to ensure I should not waste the 1 free point of damage on Frostbolt from the Drake’s +1 Spell Damage.  What.   The.  Actual.  F***?  It was only when I saw the freeze effect animate that I thought, “You know, stopping a Face Hunter using his weapon should have been my first thought about using Frostbolt!”  I glanced at Ragnaros; he simply glowered back.

On his turn my opponent played Haunted Creeper, and Kill Command to my face.  Suddenly on 6 life I realised another Kill Command and the hero power would kill me.  “INSECT!”  He used the hero power to bring me to 4 and played…..  Actually, first he said, “Well played” (to which I thought: “The bastard drew the Kill Command!”  “INSECT!”), and then he played…

Quick Shot.

With 1 mana crystal remaining he could have had Arcane Shot to seal the deal, but he conceded instead.

“INS…  oh…”

And breathe…

Now obviously this story would be better if I’d actually motivated to go to face with the Frostbolt for the reason of stopping his next attack because I understood that 11 health is well within the reach of a Face Hunter with 3 cards in hand, a Glaivezooka, and 10 mana crystals.  You know, like the Pro’s do.  This anecdote quite clearly demonstrates how having my deck produce awkward cards or rotten RNG repeatedly over a series of games had reduced my skill level to “total n00b”.  I wasn’t “steaming mad” aka “on tilt”, but I definitely wasn’t using all my faculties.  It also demonstrates that even with the wrong cards at my disposal I should have won the game, because my card power was higher and I’d kept his earlier damage to a minimum (with good play no doubt inherited from walking about for a bit – I have decaf, so clear thought was not attained through artificial stimulants).

Regardless, I won a game I was destined to lose.  Fate dealt me bad cards and got me into thinking killing the Rocketeer with Frostbolt was the correct play.  But I didn’t do that, instead producing the perfect play like a boss.  The ultimate effect of all this was to change the flow of the game.  Because then I went over the the US server to play in what was left of my daily on my FTP account, and I won 3 straight (the first Tavern Brawl with Mage [with which I hadn’t won on EU], and then 2 in ranked with Priest).  They weren’t plain sailing but the mist was finally gone from my mind, and Ragnaros was sulking in the corner.

The moral of the story is simple: loss streaks are not solely about ill-fortune.

FTP Face Hunter, Naxx2 BRM1
Class Cards (15)720
Hunter’s Mark 1
Timber Wolf 1
Webspinner 1
Explosive Trap 2
Quick Shot 2
Scavenging Hyena 2
Animal Companion 3
Kill Command 3
Unleash the Hounds 3
Neutral Cards (15)
Abusive Sergeant 1
Leper Gnome 1
Haunted Creeper 2
Ironbeak Owl 3
Arcane Golem 3
Harvest Golem 3
Shattered Sun Cleric 3
Wolfrider 3
Loatheb 5
Argent Commander 6

The Hunter Returns

It occurred to me after I had posted my previous article that I should have presented the “new” version of my Hunter deck having unlocked Quick Shot.  I’d not actually played any games with it at the time which was why I resisted, but since then it’s proven fairly stable at the 17-18th rank level.  Now that the season is getting on the top decks are largely absent from these levels which gives a bit more scope for upward velocity.

It’s a typical Face Hunter deck outside the complete lack of weapons, is missing a few duplicate copies of key cards like Arcane Golem and Leper Gnome, and then there’s the obvious absence of Mad Scientist and Knife Juggler.  Not much to say other than to remind everyone it’s a face deck so the vast majority of plays should involve hitting the opponent in the face with the minions, though Arcane Golem should be saved as a finisher because giving the opponent the extra mana crystal too early could lose you the game right there.

The importance of this deck to my arsenal is that it’s no longer a “Tempo Beast” deck, which is kinda where everyone starts.  This means it has a bit of “oomph!” and can perform a few tricks if necessary, even though the missing cards mentioned above would add a lot of gas to the deck.  In the words of Shakespeare, “Wherefort art thou, Knife Juggler?”  Which is why our next stop is going to be Curse of Naxxramas Wing 4, where all the goodies live.

Interlude: Cheaplock

Class Cards (6)1080
Power Overwhelming 1
Flame Imp 1
Voidwalker 1
Neutral Cards (24)
Abusive Sergeant 1
Argent Squire 1
Clockwork Gnome 1
Leper Gnome 1
Worgen Infiltrator 1
Acidic Swamp Ooze 2
Annoy-o-Tron 2
Dire Wolf Alpha 2
Haunted Creeper 2
Knife Juggler 2
Loot Hoarder 2
Youthful Brewmaster 2
Ironbeak Owl 3

Speaking of Face, I want to introduce you to a deck that, although I use it on my EU account, is perfectly collectible for most.  It “requires” only 2 rares – a playset of Knife Juggler.  You’ve heard about Knife Juggler, yeah?  Not really, no, it’s only mentioned in every article you write!  It has to be just about the best investment of 200 dust in the game.  The rest of the deck is commons or basic set cards.  Looks like a pile of trash, right?

This is my “The Meek Shall Inherit” quest deck.  The quest objective is to play 30 minions that cost 2 or less.  The deck has 28 such minions, which includes 2 Youthful Brewmaster to give it a “virtual” full house.  The warlock’s hero power allows you to draw into more minions that can generally be played in the same turn.  I average playing 14 minions per game, which means that quite often I can get the 40 gold reward in only two games even if I lose both.  The games are also completed in a ridiculously short time.  If that isn’t pure value, then I ask you, sir, what is?  Should I miss the target of 30, no matter – whatever other deck I choose to play will give me the less than a handful of 2 cost minions to complete the quest, so I can play a “real deck” to finish the quest off in one more game while developing my ranking.

But that isn’t why I’m telling you this.  I’m telling you this because the deck wins much more often than it appears to have any right to.  It’s pretty much a pure Face deck – you ignore just about everything the opponent plays.  I say “just about” because you don’t want him to have a minion or two whittling away at your minions, so sometimes you do need to “trade up”, especially with Abusive Sergeant and Dire Wolf Alpha.  Don’t forget the above-mentioned Brewmaster to recast the Sergeant.  Power Overwhelming can also provide a lot of reach.  Just keep “tapping” so your hand is never empty.

The dust cost seems quite high at 1080, and that’s because the vast majority of the cards are commons and those 40s really add up fast. Regardless, I expect many people have enough similar cards to achieve a similar end.  An honourable mention goes out to other cheap stalwarts like Novice Engineer, Young Priestess, Sunfury Protector, and even Elven Archer.  If you’ve cracked open some cards from The Grand Tournament you might even try Lance Carrier.  There is also scope to add in a murloc sub-theme, or splash out and play some 3-cost minions for a full-on Murloc-lock!

Give it a shot, and may you too be surprised by the power of little men in great number.

The Tavern Warrior

FTP Warrior - Naxx2 BRM1
Class Cards (16)2100
Inner Rage 0
Whirlwind 1
Execute 2
Battle Rage 2
Cleave 2
Commanding Shout 2
Slam 2
Cruel Taskmaster 2
Fiery War Axe 3
Warsong Commander 3
Neutral Cards (14)
Bloodsail Raider 2
Unstable Ghoul 2
Acolyte of Pain 3
Tauren Warrior 3
Dread Corsair 4
Gnomish Inventor 4
Grim Patron 5
Loatheb 5
Emperor Thaurissan 6
Ragnaros the Firelord 8

Yes, you’re right.  I cheated.  The truth is that my dustable card count is getting high (giving me over 1000 dust available), and I’ve opened 40 Classic packs now (a few Watch and Learns to go with the Tavern Brawl weekly login reward). The average player opening that many packs should have opened 2 legendary minions and also be at the point of nearly being able to craft a 3rd.  So I no longer view it necessary to always put 0 legendary minions in my decks; I’m going to occasionally make an exception for 1, in this case Ragnaros the Firelord.  Yes, indeed, Ragnaros is this week’s super-secret sub-theme, and for spotting that you win a the special prize of a virtual pat on the back!  Bravo!  Well played.  Do note however that this is a temporary thing to help cover up for the key cards that I’m missing to make a “proper” Patron Warrior deck.  Ragnaros is merely a finisher – he isn’t the key for the existence of the deck.  In fact, I’ve never won a game with this deck when I summoned him, which is taking irony to the limit.  “INSECT!”

The “serious” Patron Warrior has a primary combo involving Warsong Commander and one or both of Grim Patron and Frothing Berserker.  This combo is supplemented with effects that deal damage to everything on the board (Whirlwind, Unstable Ghoul, and Death's Bite), as well as one-off boosters (Inner Rage and Cruel Taskmaster).  Emperor Thaurissan costs less to cast than the combo, and has the effect of being a 5/5 that makes the combo cheaper.  Often the opponent will spend so much resource killing Thaurissan that he has no answers to the combo.  The rest of the deck involves drawing into the combo (Acolyte of Pain and Battle Rage) and staying alive long enough to cast it (Armorsmith, Execute, and Fiery War Axe).  As you can see, every card has a purpose.

However the purpose of most cards in the average FTPer’s deck is to ensure the deck’s card count reaches 30.  With time and patience even that can be overcome (Raging Worgen for one).

Like Mad Scientist, Death’s Bite is obtainable in Wing 4 of the Curse of Naxxramas.  That’s like killing two birds with one stone, or making 3 extra Patrons with one Bite.

Buh dum tiss, I’ll get my coat….

Next Installment

I thought I’d have time for Arena this episode, especially considering The Grand Tournament is now out, but I’ll leave that for next time.  I’ll have a look at the goodies that will come from the new end of season reward, and I’ll show you the power of this largely finished battle station when I walk you through the legendary-heavy possibilities of my Druid collection, with an eye towards cards in The Grand Tournament.

As ever, thanks for your time.  Comments and criticism most welcome.


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