Hearthstone Mastery: Goals and Game Plan
Greetings! Luís here – though if you come across me in Hearthstone, you’ll meet me as “Ash”.
I’ve been playing games all my life, and writing about them for most of it. But one thing that has been increasingly on my mind over the past few years is the psychology of gaming, the mental states and strategies that can drive a player from beginner to master.
I’m not a Hearthstone master – yet! I intend to be, and I’ll be applying the strategies I’ve learned while mastering other games. If you are reading Hearthstone Players, there’s a good chance you’ve been amassing really good tactical info about the game. Following the strategies I outline in this and future articles – all proven time and again by top performers in several fields – will get you the most bang for your buck from those articles.
So let’s start by…
Step 1: Reality Check and Goals
Or, in other words, finding out where you are and where you want to be.
So where are you? Have you just started Hearthstone? Have you been messing around with it for a while, playing some games here and there, crafting some cards, not paying attention to whether you win or lose? Or maybe you’re at a point where you are diligently keeping track of your stats, know your Win/Loss ratios with and against each kind of deck?
It’s not important. But it is useful.
It’s not important because what I’m telling you is that, no matter your current skill level or resources, you can reach your goal. It’s useful because knowing your starting position will let you craft a better Game Plan (more on that later).
So we come to Goals – both the most fun and most daunting part. Over 5+ years of coaching people across several areas, I’ve found that most people are really afraid to set goals. Mostly because of this: they are afraid they’ll pick goals that are not realistic without realizing it, and then they’ll fail at reaching them.
This is nonsense, and I’m here to tell you why: unless your life or health is at stake, setting a goal is a no-fail endeavor. Even if part of your goal revolves around reaching it on a certain time frame, and you don’t make it – guess what, you at least acquired experience, valuable data that you can use to craft a better goal and a better Game Plan – and have another go at it.
So based on your starting point, choose a goal. Don’t worry about over-reaching. It’s way better to over-reach and fail that to under reach and succeed – long-term, you usually end up ahead with the former.
Everyone will have their own goals, but for the sake of inspiration, here are a few common examples:
- To reach Legend on the ladder (most common)
- To reach Top 100 Legend
- Consistently going infinite in the Arena
- To get good enough to beat all your friends
- Gathering enough dust to craft X deck
- Achieving 65% win rate with X deck.
A coveted prize. Is this your ultimate goal?
Of course you should be mindful of not deliberately setting yourself up for failure. Let’s say you are a decent player but never really took the ladder seriously, and you decide that your goal is to get from Rank 19 to Legend in one week. Well, I’ve not done the maths, but going by zhandalyhs’ awesome guide, that’s not nearly enough time. Is it impossible? Hell no! In any game where luck is a factor (and, directly or indirectly, it is on most) anything is possible. Who knows, the first 100 people you go up against might all D/C or concede (incidentally, if this happens to you, I would recommend you go out and buy a lottery ticket. Just sayin’).
But it is unlikely. With goal setting, you should try for the sweet spot between the guaranteed and the seemingly impossible.
Ultimately, I think it’s up to each player to craft his or her goals. But if pressed for some advice, I’d say the following:
- Focus on fast wins first, then big wins.
Example: “Get good enough to beat friends 80% of the time” —> “Reach Rank 10 – 5” → “Reach Rank 5 – 1” –> “Reach Legend” –> “Reach Top 1000 Legend” → “Reach Top 100 Legend”
- Timed goals are good because it’s harder to stop working on them once the going gets rough. You can’t just say “oh, I’ll do it next month instead” once you hit a roadblock in the middle of the month.
Hearthstone has a monthly ladder so it’s actually very easy to set up monthly goals, and I encourage you to – with following the caveat: get into your mind that if the final day arrives, and you didn’t get there, you have gotten a TON of experience and are a better player for it – you win anyway!
- Stick to one goal. Your time, brainpower and willpower are all limited. Don’t waste mental and logistic resources to work on Top 100 Legend, going infinite in the Arena, and becoming an awesome YouTube commentator at the same time. You can achieve all those things! But one at a time.
Set your goal and commit to it! You can always adjust it down the line, or change it altogether if you’re just not feeling it anymore. But for now, pick it and focus on it.
Step 2: Develop your Game Plan
If your opponent coins one of these in on turn 1, you better have a plan for how you’re going to play that match.
Now that we have goals, we come to the part that sets the winners apart from the losers.
Remember, you know what you want. That already puts you a cut above most players, those that simply dabble here and there. Now this next step will place you among the elite. You’re going to have a plan for getting where you want to be.
I’ve witnessed failure from many people who knew exactly what they wanted. The reason is this: they went out and dabbled, without a clear plan of what to do. It’s that simple.
Who is most often the loser in Hearthstone? It’s the player that is too late in deciding what his win condition is. It’s the player that flits around between beatdown and control, hesitant to commit to a path because he’s never 100% sure of how his opponent will play. As a result, he spreads his resources too thin, wastes cards on a strategy he is not committed to, and then when he loses he realizes “oh, I should have gone all out with X”. Yes, you should have.
Commit this to memory: “A bad plan is better than no plan.” Way, way better.
Take your reality check and your goal, sit down, and think about how you are going to get from one place to the other.
Have plenty of free time but a limited budget? Besides playing a lot, make it a habit to record your games and review them for mistakes. Watch famous players stream.
Should you schedule your play? Some people are aghast at the thought of setting a schedule for play. But you know what? Professional sports players set aside time for practice.
This isn’t because they love playing Tennis so much – believe me, even when you love your job, you wish you weren’t doing it about 30% of the time – but because they realize that even when they love doing something, they’ll end up not doing enough of it if they don’t schedule.
Now I’m not saying you need to be a Hearthstone Pro – that might be your goal or it might not – but whatever your goal, you will benefit greatly for deciding on a set schedule to work towards it.
The key factor here is stickiness – if your goal is to climb the ladder, for example, you shouldn’t just flirt around with the meta deck du jour – choose a couple that research shows are solid, that you like to play, and play the heck out of them, making minor adjustments as needed. Consider your favored play style. The experience you’ll acquire will trump any slight meta advantage others may or may not gain.
So now that you’ve committed to a goal, take the next step. Figure out:
The three key things that will give you the most value for your time / money
Example: Putting down cash for some card packs VS grinding the Arena; paying for coaching VS pouring over match recordings of the Top 20 players.
What are the best tools to achieve your goal
Example: Picking a couple of decks and sticking with them; using add-on software to register your win/loss ratio.
The specific times and amount of time you can block out to work towards your goal
Step 3: Profit! I mean, Action!
See this guy? He didn’t over think it, he didn’t read a whole article on Hearthstone Players and then just not commit. He took action, and sometimes… he gets Redemption and HE LIVES!
You know where you are. You know where you want to go. And now you also have a Game Plan that bridges both. You have a map for Hearthstone Mastery – as you yourself have defined it.
So is it “insta-win” now? No. But you are better armed than 99% of the players out there, and over the next few articles I will assist you in gradually upgrading that Game Plan. Now all that remains is taking action on what you just read.
Believe me, that is the most important thing. As a coach I’ve found that the people who achieve their goals are the people who take action, who develop their Game Plans and go ahead, even when their plans are not perfect (spoiler: they never are).
The people who read articles like this one or all the others on this site, and sagely nod, feeling smarter and more informed, but then don’t take action on what they read – those are the ones that never get anywhere.
So, in the spirit of promoting action, here is your assignment for today:
- Decide what kind of player you are, and where you want to go with your Hearthstone playing. Be as ambitious or as realistic as you desire.
- Make a Game Plan according to the formula above.
In my case, I always aim to get my games to “free to play” status whenever possible.
So I decided early on to set the goal of consistently doing well in the arena, setting for myself the target of reaching 4-3 or above 90% of the time.
My Game Plan was to invest all my mission gold in Arena runs, and to religiously follow Icy Vein’s Arena Tier guides until I knew the value propositions of the cards by heart. Finally, I decided that I would play exclusively Arena for 1-2 hours before bed (or in bed, after the iPad version was launched).
This was my starting Game Plan, and it served me well, but of course I adjusted and added to it along the way. You will too. More importantly, it got me to a place were I don’t even need to consider spending money on card packs. This framework works. It will work for you, too.
Share your Goal and Game Plan in the comments below – and don’t be shy about it, because 99% of the time others will be there to help you out with advice or inspire you – or add me on twitter @Luis_maga and let me know if I can help.
So tell us: what is your goal for next month?