Hearthstone Theory: Resources – Part 2
Hello everyone! Welcome to Part 2 of my article about resources in Hearthstone. If you missed Part 1, you should check it out here before reading this article.
This article will show you how the concept of resources is applied to Hearthstone decks.
If you want to improve a lot at Hearthstone, you have to understand the theory behind the game. From simple questions like: “Why does a Warrior not play Fiery War Axe and smash the opposing Zoolock player twice in the face?” to more complex questions like “Do I use my Paladin hero power, when my opponent played a turn one Northshire Cleric?”, the perfect play in any given situation can be figured out, if you understand the concept of resources.
For this article, I’m only going to focus on resources that Warrior fight for, because they change a lot more than with other decks depending on the match-up or the game state.
What are the Resources in Hearthstone?
I’ve covered resources in my first article; but because it is important to know all of them, I’ve summarized them again for you.
- Card Advantage
Cards are the most obvious resource in Hearthstone. Having more cards than your opponent gives you more options and more possibilities to win the game. For control decks, card advantage is the resource they care for the most. Aggressive decks usually don’t care as much about card advantage, they aim to win the game via the usage of other resources.
- Time Advantage/Tempo
In Hearthstone, Chess, or MTG, Time Advantage is a virtual concept. Time Advantage has nothing to do with the rope or the Chess clock. It is the resource that allows you to play your cards. When a player has Ragnaros the Firelord in their hand but dies on turn five, Ragnaros was a dead card and the opponent generated Virtual Card Advantage from the Time Advantage because Ragnaros never got played.
In Hearthstone, the concept of time – being proactive and reactive – is defined by the word Tempo. To fall behind on tempo means your opponent has the initiative: he is developing his board and playing cards while you are forced to defend and clear his threats.
- Board Presence
There is a big difference between a minion on board versus a minion in hand. Having better board presence means having stronger minions on your side of the field. This usually results in increased tempo which can hopefully lead to card advantage. The three concepts of Board Presence, Tempo and Card Advantage can get blurry at times so it can be tough to figure out who’s winning in a given situation.
- Life Points
A lot of people are not aware of the fact that life is a resource. It’s a resource you can often trade for tempo and cards until you’re on essentially 1 life. Having more cards and better tempo will gradually create an advantage that might spiral into a win. But having 50 life as a Warrior and being behind on both tempo and card advantage will likely lead to a loss.
- What is the relationship between them?
The above mentioned resources correlate in many ways. The 9 hero powers are a very good example of variety in resources. Some generate minions (i.e. Silver Hand Recruits and Totems), while others are spells (i.e. deal 1 damage). If you use your hero power in a given turn, you give up tempo for another resource. Shaman and Paladin trade tempo for free board presence. Warrior’s hero power trades tempo for Armor and Warlock’s hero power trades tempo AND life for card advantage. The reason why you trade tempo for another resource when you use your hero power, is because hero powers are, by design, weaker than the 2 mana it costs to use them. The big advantage of hero powers is that they affect the board without requiring cards which can help generate card advantage or board presence.
As a Paladin, it is better to play Knife Juggler on turn two over your hero power if you think the board presence and tempo is a more important resource. On the other hand, if the key to victory is generating as much card advantage as possible, you could hero power instead on turn two and save the Knife Juggler for combo’ing with Muster for Battle to get value.
Resources don’t always trade one for one. Weapons are a great way to trade life for tempo AND card advantage. You spend a card on one turn to deal damage over a few turns and hopefully take out two or more cards in the process at the expense of your own life. Weapons like Fiery War Axe allow Warrior to compete in the early game tempo efficiently while not setting them back in card advantage.
A deck can usually not win with every resource. However, there are exceptions. Remember the Sunshine Hunter with two mana 2/1 Starving Buzzard? That deck had huge tempo plays in the early game (Mad Scientist into Freezing Trap, then Animal Companion into Houndmaster), could crush the opponent’s board presence with Unleash the Hounds and Hunter's Marks and then could outlast some control decks through the card draw from Starving Buzzard. In addition to that, it also had access to a 15+ damage one-turn burst (four mana Leeroy Jenkins, Unleash the Hounds and Kill Command). The Sunshine Hunter is considered by some to be the best deck to ever exist in Hearthstone (now nerfed) because of its ability to dominate every resource.
In a more balanced metagame, a control deck traditionally wins through card advantage at the expense of tempo while a deck like Xixo’s Face Hunter wins through tempo rather than card advantage. When playing a deck, one has to realize what resources are important to fight for; this can change not just between match-ups but during a match as well. A control deck, for example, does not care about card advantage as much against aggressive decks because it understands that it will inevitably win through more powerful cards later in the game. Tempo, board presence and life become way more important resources to fight for as a control deck against aggro.
Control decks should not be afraid of trading card advantage for tempo and life when playing against aggressive decks. Using double Holy Smite as a Priest player against a single Spider Tank can be a good play if it helps to slow down the aggressive player and prevent 3 damage thus prolonging the game. The hope is that the temporary loss in card advantage can be regained at a later stage through more powerful control cards.
Concept of Resources Applied to Control Warrior
This is the Warrior list I play on ladder. It has some unusual choices, namely the double Shade of Naxxramas and omission of Ragnaros the Firelord, Whirlwind and Alexstrasza. I don’t want to delve too deeply, because this article is not a deck guide, but I choose not to play these cards because I think they aren’t ideal. Ragnaros is weak to Big Game Hunter, Whirlwind is a strictly aggro tech that has little value against control decks, and Alexstrasza is simply too slow.
Enter Shade of Naxxramas, which is a very good card in Control Warrior. It is a three drop that can trade against aggressive decks and can provide a lot of value against other control decks by trading up with five and six drops after waiting a few turns. The main appeal of this card is that it improves the Druid match-up a lot.
No more about the decklist. This article is focused on resources so let’s get started.
One major concept of Chess, which is also true for Hearthstone, is that when your opponent has a material advantage over you, the best way to win is to avoid one for one trades and press for a time advantage (tempo) and therefore a quick win.
On the other hand if you have a material advantage over your opponent, it is in your best interest to make one for one trades as often as possible to increase the impact of your material advantage and to diminish the opponent’s potential time advantage.
How is that applied to Hearthstone? In Hearthstone, material advantage means having more powerful cards in your hand/deck. An aggro deck doesn’t like to trade one for one because it slows the game down and diminishes their greatest resource – tempo. They can win more often if they focus on speeding up the game and overwhelming the opposition with tempo. To this end, neglecting trades and going face is usually the correct line of play.
A control deck on the other hand likes to trade more and kill opposing minions whenever possible. This helps slow the game down and increase their greatest resource – card advantage. A control deck knows that unless they get overwhelmed by tempo, their greater value late-game minions will prevail eventually.
Control Warrior is Hearthstone’s purest form of a control deck. It has powerful cost-effective tools to diminish the opponent’s time advantage like Fiery War Axe, Cruel Taskmaster, Armorsmith and a hero power which makes them very hard to kill. This is complemented by an excellent mid-late game which can bury the opponent in card advantage (Death's Bite, Sludge Belcher and badass high value Legendaries).
Your main plan with Control Warrior is to make defensive plays as often as possible, to diminish your opponents time advantage and win in the late game when the opponent has been exhausted of his resources (Even two Mechwarpers can’t match Ysera). Although Acolyte of Pain can create card advantage for you, your main source of card advantage is weapons. Each weapon usually trades for two minions and therefore two cards from your opponent. Because of the weapons and very cheap single target removal (Shield Slam and Execute), Warrior Control does not need a lot of creatures to fight for the board and tempo. Another important feature of Warrior Control is the lack of good and consistent board clear. Outside of the inconsistent Brawl and Baron Geddon to kill smaller minions, Warrior has a very tough time regaining control of the board. So a Warrior needs to fight like a true Warrior against faster decks. He has to be aware of the game state and cannot allow himself to fall too far behind on board. When Warrior completely loses control of the board it is very hard to comeback and win the game. To further understand the concept of resources, and how awareness of them will impact your win percentage, we need to look at specific match-ups.
Warrior vs Zoolock/Mech Mage
Both these decks are built around time advantage (they play many early game minions that give them tempo) and board presence (having more minions on the board allows cards like Dire Wolf Alpha and Tinkertown Technician to get value). They will lose if Warrior diminishes their time advantage and board presence, because that will delay the game and allow Warrior to reach the late game where Warrior is stronger. If the Warrior fails to diminish their tempo and board presence, they will inevitably lose the game.
Weapons are an integral part of winning with Warrior in this particular matchup. Fiery War Axe and Death's Bite are your most crucial cards against these decks. The cheap minions like Armorsmith and Cruel Taskmaster are also very important, but they are not as important as weapons. Without the weapons, Warrior struggles to fight for the board and keep up with the endless stream of minions. The main appeal of the weapons against aggro is that they are tempo efficient.
You invest mana on one turn and can kill minions immediately followed by an additional swing with no mana cost the following turn. Doing damage like this creates card advantage, but the main appeal against aggro decks is that it kills minions so tempo efficiently. Weapons allow Warrior to trade life for tempo and card advantage. Two resources gained for one. In this particular case, Warrior trades life to gain tempo, card advantage and even reduce board presence. Life is a resource in these match-ups worth giving up because it is not as important as board presence and tempo. When Zoo and Mech Mage have a good board presence and a time advantage, Warrior will lose even if his life points are high.
If either aggro opponent loses the board presence and time advantage early on, they will very rarely win since those resources are its greatest strengths. As an example, using Shield Block is usually saved against other decks for combo-ing with Shield Slam. However, against board presence decks, it is better to just straight up use Shield Block if you have no other play on turn 3 because Warrior won’t have any good spots to use it later.
Card advantage is the least important resource against Mech Mage and Zoolock. Warrior’s strength in the late game will almost always ensure victory if it can hold on for those early turns. So don’t be afraid of trading two cards for one if you diminish their board presence and time advantage.
Warrior vs Druid
This is a more complicated and fun match-up. Games against Zoo or Mech Mage are not that complex and are kind of boring to play. The focus of the game doesn’t shift, you always fight for the same resources, kill their minions, stay alive and play your more powerful minions to win.
Druid on the other hand is much more interesting to play against, because you have to decide what resources give you best chance of winning the game – board control, time advantage, card advantage or even pure life points. Sometimes going ham and focusing on face damage can also be the best play if the game state and the cards in your hand demand it.
The most important resource against Druids in general (it doesn’t matter if they play Ramp Druid, double Combo Druid etc.) is board presence. I’ve told you before that Warrior struggles to regain a lost board – where your opponent has multiple minions and you have none or only one. Druid is even worse than Warrior at coming back from a deficit in board presence. If they lose board control it is very hard for them to come back. Warrior at least has tempo effective tools to regain the board and kill opposing minions while having no minions in play. Druid on the other hand has very tempo ineffective tools to regain board control.
Swipe and Wrath are very tempo negative cards and rather ineffective if they have no board at all. That’s the reason why Zoo is a bad matchup for all Druid decks. Some people think that having a time advantage over Druid as a Warrior is key in this match-up.
They keep the cards Armorsmith and Cruel Taskmaster together in their opening hand, coining Armorsmith on turn 1 and then follow-up with Cruel Taskmaster for tempo. But it’s not what you are looking for against Druid. You want to establish a better board than they have, you want them to have no board at all. These cards really don’t help you do that, because a lot of cards like Sludge Belcher or Druid of the Claw will stop these two cards very effectively and make you lose all tempo.
So what is a Warrior looking for in this match-up and how does it establish a great board presence? First of all, let me repeat the following: tempo is not really what you are looking for in this matchup; board presence is not 100 % linked to tempo. Gaining a superior board tempo negative by turn 6 to turn 8 is perfect, and is what you are looking for. Weapons are very important part in this matchup, therefore keeping Fiery War Axe and Death's Bite in your opening hand is good. Mulliganing Death's Bite without the coin is a mistake. Weapons help you establish a superior board, by diminishing the Druid’s board presence while building up your own board.
Warrior, unlike Druid, has access to tempo efficient minion removal. The most important card after the weapons is Execute; it kills Innervate‘d minions very tempo efficiently and is easier to set up than Shield Slam. Another important card is Acolyte of Pain, because it makes sure that you do not run out of gas while building up a superior board presence. The correct timing of the Acolyte is never easy, sometimes it is correct to play him on Turn 3, because the Druid may feel forced to use removal or Keeper of the Grove on it, which can be a tempo negative play. In other circumstances, it is better to wait until you can benefit immediately from it with Death's Bite or Cruel Taskmaster.
So I have told you how to kill stuff in this match-up and which cards are crucial so that you don’t fall behind on board and don’t run out of gas. But how does a Warrior win? You want to have a dominant board with no chance of a comeback. An example is a 5/5 Shade of Naxxramas, a Shieldmaiden and a Sludge Belcher on your side while the Druid has nothing in play. The Druid may have 7 cards in hand while you only have two, but he’s still in a very bad spot.
If you are a more experienced player, you’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned the 14 damage combo (Force of Nature and Savage Roar) yet. I haven’t mentioned it, because it is the least important part of the matchup. Your best chance of winning as a Warrior is to not think too much about the combo, just do the stuff that is important: establish a superior board presence with multiple minions that the Druid can’t remove easily. If you don’t have a superior board, you are maybe going to lose anyway even if they don’t have the two card combo in their hand. If they don’t have a good board, the chances of you losing the game because of the combo is fairly low since it requires them to have those specific cards and for you to be below 14 life.
It’s not always so easy as Warrior though. Sometimes the cookie cutter approach to establishing board presence doesn’t work because you drew the wrong cards. What you have to do now is shift focus. Plan A is simply not working anymore, so it is time for plan B. Let’s say your plan A of building the superior board does not work, because the Druid Innervates out an early Druid of the Claw and is playing minions every turn for a tempo lead. If you can’t remove the minions and put your own down fast enough, shift the focus from board presence to card advantage. Play the best and most powerful minions that can create card advantage for you (spoiler: it’s Sylvanas or the other big legendaries, but mostly Sylvanas). The reason why this is not Plan A is because it doesn’t attack Druid’s weakness – coming back from a weak board. With big legendaries, Druid finds it very hard to trade cards efficiently and starts to lose card advantage. Ysera is especially tough to deal with due to the high amount of health she has. This plan is a lot weaker to the combo than the previous plan, but gives you the best chance of winning the game when both players have a board you can’t swing away.
Sometimes despite your best efforts, the Druid out-values you, builds a superior board, creates a lot of card advantage and starts to grind you into defeat (this is tough to realize for newer players, but once you’re experienced enough you’ll start to see it coming). There is in fact a plan C to help you win from this position. Plan C is give up fighting for card advantage or board presence, and focus on just the Druid’s life points. You don’t care about cards, or board presence anymore, the most important resource is now direct damage. You may be astonished, but I’ve won quite a lot of games by executing this strategy. All your minions go face (you don’t care if they trade badly, because if you don’t increase your damage output you will lose anyways). Fiery War Axe becomes a Fireball and Grommash Hellscream is the card you’re most looking for to end the game with.
This is one of the match-ups in Hearthstone where recognizing the importance of resources and realizing when they shift is crucial to your win percentage. If you fight for the wrong resources at the beginning of the game: for example playing hyper aggressively to prevent losing to the combo, you will decrease your chances of winning from just pure board presence.
So to summarize:
Against Druid the most important resource is board presence. If that resource is out of your grasp, your best chance of winning is focusing on card advantage. When that does not work either, the Warrior has one last push left: life points. Grommash Hellscream is the most important legendary in Warrior Control, because it allows you to shift the focus of the game from a resource fight it can’t win (for example the battle for card advantage against other control decks) to a straight damage race which it can occasionally win.
Warrior vs Oil Rogue
Oil Rogue is a deck that has become popular recently. It’s a deck with a lot of burst damage out of nowhere, due toTinker's Sharpsword Oil and Blade Flurry. The reason why I selected this match-up is that good pilots of Oil Rogue have a good match-up against Warriors, who don’t play correctly and don’t realize which resources are important in this match-up. The most important resources in this match-up are tempo and life. Tempo is very important because of Sap and Rogue’s extremely high damage output which increases over time if they have a time advantage over the Warrior. So after realizing that these two resources are the most important in the match-up, the Warrior has to adapt his plays accordingly.
Don’t make plays that are or can become tempo negative (Sap targets) and keep your life total as high as possible. So what does that all mean exactly and how does a Warrior play then? Well first of all, killing Rogue’s minions as soon as possible and keeping the board clear with weapons and cheap single target removal is very important. The next step is to realize that Warrior doesn’t need to be aggressive because it will inevitably win the late game due to having better cards and due to Rogue’s limited (but still high) burst capability. So as a Warrior, don’t make any aggressive plays like slamming Dr. Boom on Turn 7, while Violet Teacher is still on the board right next to Azure Drake. If you have a more defensive plays available like killing the Azure Drake with the first charge of Death's Bite and then clearing the Teacher and the little 1/1’s with the second charge on the next turn, this is a preferable line of play. Dr. Boom may get killed or simply sent back to hand, while the Rogue’s board is still intact and dealing a lot of damage. Violet Teacher is a priority remove because it allows Rogues to gain tempo and board presence at the same time.
Here’s another example: let’s say it is turn 8 and you as a Warrior have Sneed's Old Shredder, Armorsmith, Acolyte of Pain, Execute and Death's Bite in your hand. The board is empty, neither the Warrior nor the Rogue have anything in play. The Rogue just played Sprint and passed with 7 cards in hand and you as a Warrior have 20 life and 4 armor? What’s the best play?
Do you play Sneed’s Old Shredder on curve with its high health and damage using up your whole turn? No. I’m telling you this is not the right play. The correct play is to drop Acolyte of Pain, Armorsmith, hero power and then pass. Why? Because you are still in defensive mode! There is no need to apply pressure to the Rogue by playing a threat. You will inevitably win, so don’t put yourself at any risk.
Your play of Sneed's Old Shredder is much easier to punish by Violet Teacher into Sap into SI:7 Agent or another minion. Suddenly, the Rogue has a huge time advantage, building up a good board, while you just lost a whole free turn without solidifying your defenses or improving your card advantage. If you make my proposed play, much less can go wrong. The Rogue player can still clear your board and build his own, but it’s far harder for him to do so and you’ll likely gain card advantage from Acolyte of Pain and the additional defense from Armor Up!. Going with the more defensive play will give you a higher chance of winning the game in the long run and is therefore the better play.
The big legendary play can snowball much more easily and put you into a losing position. Board presence is not an important resource against Oil Rogue. Tempo and Life are much more important. Make sure that the opponent does not get the initiative from time advantage at any point of the game. Fight for these two resources and make plays that ensure they can’t leverage these resources which are the deck’s strength. A deck that can’t win a battle for the resources it wants to fight for is in a losing position.
Warrior vs Handlock
Our last example is Handlock. Let’s start with the most important resource in this matchup: card advantage. Both decks are slow, and don’t win quickly. Therefore, they have a lot of time to draw cards and play them. Handlock has access to card draw via its hero power, while the Warrior’s hero power doesn’t provide any card advantage. Handlock on the surface seems to have an advantage over Warrior at first glance because it has an easier time gathering the key resource in the game. However, it’s not entirely true because Warrior plays more powerful cards overall which can make up for the card advantage. Execute and Shield Slam are very potent removal and deal very efficiently with powerful minions. Handlock’s removal: Shadowflame and Siphon Soul are simply not as efficient. Acolyte of Pain can also be a decent draw engine that helps Warrior keep up with Handlock’s hero power. Weapons are also a card advantage producing tool to deal with smaller minions or even bigger minions if Warrior’s life total is high enough.
Both control decks have more early answers than early threats. Armorsmith and Cruel Taskmaster won’t be able to pressure the Handlock player very much against Darkbomb or Hellfire. In general, both decks don’t win this match-up by pressing for a time advantage or board presence. They win by having more powerful cards. The game is a succession of powerful minions being played and removed until one player runs out of answers and loses the board (and likely the game).
Another important aspect of the matchup is the different set of large minions being played. Warrior plays more expensive legendary minions, while Handlock has cheaper large minions – Mountain Giant and Twilight Drake – which they can play as early as Turn 4. Warrior can’t play their big threats as early, so Handlock usually gets the initiative at the start of the game. It’s important to note that while Warrior has overall more powerful cards, Handlock has access to Lord Jaraxxus as their ultimate card advantage trump card.
Warrior cannot win a card advantage battle against Jaraxxus, because 2 mana card-less 6/6’s every turn are too powerful to beat. Therefore the Warrior needs to shift the focus of the game earlier on from card advantage to life. Grommash Hellscream is the perfect card for the job, because all it takes is one turn where the Handlock player is at a low life total without Taunt for the game to end.
I hope you all enjoyed this theory article! For the scope of the article I only covered one deck and some select match-ups that are interesting and highlight the theory behind resources. Even if you don’t play Warrior or never played any of the match-ups, you can still benefit a lot from the article by applying the concept of resources to the deck you play and the decks you face with it. I hope my article helped you do that. If you have any questions or want me to write another resources article featuring different decks, let me know in the comments below!
When you climb the ladder, don’t focus on your rank or your bad luck, focus on the things you can impact: the right plays. And most importantly: have fun!