Mind Games in Arena – How to Read and Manipulate Your Opponent
Hello everyone, today I’m going to an often under looked aspect of Hearthstone Arena – your opponent. Everyone knows Hearthstone is a 1v1 game. In Arena you are going to play against real humans on the other side of the screen. Yet many people seem to forget that. You will often see players only think about their turns, their hand and their position in the game whilst forgetting their opponent. Advanced players not only focus on their game plan and win condition but also their opponent’s. Keeping track of opponent’s moves and decisions can reveal a lot of useful information which can be manipulated and put into use later in the game.
Reading the opponent’s hand
In constructed play once you’ve recognized what deck your opponent is playing it becomes quite easy to guess most of the cards in their deck. Once you know what is in your opponent’s deck, it becomes a whole lot easier to guess what is in their hand too. Arena is a whole different beast. There is no way to predict what’s in the opponent’s deck accurately. This leads to it being a lot harder to predict their hand too. In Arena the goal may not always be to predict what exact card the opponent has but rather if it’s a minion, and AoE, a hard removal and ect. Other attributes like mana cost can also be guessed with a fair accuracy. Overall the goal in Arena is to observe the opponent’s actions and plays and get as much information about opponent’s hand as possible. This is best done by stepping in your opponent’s shoes and looking at the game from his perspective. Think what plays would be best for a given turn and see what plays your opponent does in the end.
Keep track of cards
Before going into more advanced concepts like guessing or predicting let’s start off easy. You want to track cards which get put into the enemy’s hand. If the opponent plays a Hydrologist he is going to have a secret and until he plays it, it’s going to sit in his hand. This information is very important and you must keep track of it. The same goes for many others like Stonehill Defender, Cabalist's Tome or Journey Below. All of these cards give the opponent a taunt, spells and a deathrattle respectively. You have no clue about what is in opponent’s deck, however you can keep track of these generated cards so you know what to expect form your opponent. Here is a scenario – the opponent plays Stonehill Defender early on in the game and holds on to the card he got. Later on in the game you need to decide between pushing damage to face or controlling the board. It’s at this moment that it matters the most that you keep in mind that there is still a taunt in your rival’s hand. In this scenario not keeping track of the hand may cost the game. The card that you are going to track most often is going to be The Coin. At all times you want to know if the opponent still has The Coin because it has a big impact in the early game. Overall it shouldn’t be hard to track generated cards, especially if you have a deck tracker.
Keep track of removals
This is one of the most important things you need to track about your opponent. Knowing what removals your opponent has or hasn’t can be manipulated easily and win games. It’s best to divide all the removals in the game into 3 categories. Those are small removal, hard removal and AoE. You want to know whether the opponent has each type of removal mentioned. You do this by stepping in your enemy’s shoes during their turn and think what you’d do if you were in their situation. Say the opponent doesn’t remove your minions or clear the board when it would have been a better play than what he actually did. In that case you can confidently say that the opponent didn’t have the removals which were needed to clear the board. Moving forward you can use that information to lure opponent into bad situations for him. Here is an example to help understand it: you have a full board of minions, many of which have 2 health. It’s turn 8 for the opposing Mage. In this situation its in Mage’s bests interests to remove the board because it’s very threatening. If Mage plays a few minions instead of clearing, you can confidently say that the Mage doesn’t have any 2 damage AoE. This means the opponent doesn’t have Blizzard,Flamestrike or Primordial Drake. And how to use this information to your advantage? Simply spam the board with many small minions.
Keep track of mana cost
Another bit of useful information you want to know. Of course it’s very hard to guess the exact amount of mana something costs in the opposing hand. That’s why we aren’t going to guess what costs what. Instead we will be looking whether the opponent has cards that cost 1 mana, 2 mana, 3 mana and etc. Because in Arena everyone tries to use their mana efficiently, it isn’t hard to see when the opponent doesn’t have drops for that turn. Here is a simple example: opponent goes first and passes on turn 1. From this you can tell that either the opponent doesn’t have any 1 mana minions or they are too situational to be played alone. This mostly applies in the early game, however there are cases when people hero power and pass on turns 5 or 6 too. Making educated guesses comes with experience too and the more you play the more information you will notice about the mana costs of enemy’s hand. How to take advantage of that? Here is an example: you know the enemy Druid doesn’t have a 1 drop. On turn 2 you coin Eggnapper instead of playing a 2 drop. What does it do? It forces the opponent to clear it with his hero power on turn 3. And because he doesn’t have 1 drops he will spend the entire turn clearing your Eggnapper which will put you in a good spot. It isn’t too hard to spot what opponent doesn’t have. Simple things like hero powering where it isn’t impactful tell that there is no 2 drop in the opposing hand. Playing two 2 drops instead of a 2 drop and a 3 drop on turn 5 tell there is no 3 drop in the opposing hand and ect. Mana costs are tied not only with minions but with removals too. In our example with Mage from before. If that example was set when opponent had 6 mana instead of 8, it would look very different. If it was turn 6 and the opponent didn’t clear the board, you can tell the Mage doesn’t have Volcanic Potion, Blizzard or Corrupted Seer. Yet he could still have Flamestrike or Primordial Drake so you need to be careful.
Keep track when cards were drawn
Another good thing to track is when a card appeared in the opponent’s hand. Tracking this is quite difficult, however if you have a deck tracker, you can choose to keep track of when opponent drew each card. There are a few benefits from keeping track of when the opponent got his cards. It mostly comes down to how long certain cards were held. Usually if your rival keeps a certain card for very long, it usually means he either doesn’t have enough mana to play it or it’s a conditional card. If it has been held for a very long time you should suspect a very powerful card which hasn’t had the situation for it like Pyroblast or Primordial Drake. Of course it’s very hard to guess accurately only based on how long a card has been held. Yet it does help by a margin keeping track how long a card has been sitting in opponent’s hand.
Use the information
Now you’ve used the techniques above and got some good information about opponent’s hand. What now? Well now it’s time to put that information to use by manipulating the opponent and putting him in awkward situations by exploiting the weaknesses. Once you’ve acquired the weaknesses of their hand, play against those weaknesses. Figured out opponent doesn’t have hard removal? Drop a big threat. No small removals? Play your Stubborn Gastropod. No AoE? Spam the board. Opponent has big threats in their hand? Save your removal for later. It’s all about exploiting the weaknesses of the opponent’s hand. I do need to mention that often times the predictions and guesses will be wrong and you shouldn’t put everything you have in them. Topdecks also ruin your predictions and information. Many things can go south so don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Yet keep predicting and guessing because it may be the edge you need to win.
Hearthstone is not a single-player game. There are many opportunities to acquire important information from your opponent and use them to your advantage. I hope you will take and put to use at least a few techniques mentioned. That’s all for today. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more Arena articles in the future. Until next time.