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February 2, 2017

Table of Contents

‘Playing to Win’ Part One: Defeating the Scrub Mentality


Hello guys! Welcome to my guide. Today we shall be discussing a topic that broadly applies to any game one would wish to play competitively; namely, the mentality we need in order to reach the very top levels of play. This guide does not aim to teach you anything about ‘how to play’ Hearthstone. Instead, this guide aims to make you question the way you think about the game. If your thought process is currently flawed, I aim to show why you should endeavour to change. The “Are You A Scrub” section below is intended to help you decide whether this guide is aimed at you or not.

The structure of the guide looks a bit like this: First, we work out if you are (or are not) a ‘scrub’. Once I’ve done that I will define what a ‘scrub’ actually is (its not what you think!). Next, I talk about what it means to ‘play to win’.  At this point, I hope you will all be open-minded enough to listen to my argument as to why you should play ‘Face Hunter’. Lastly, we have the conclusions & comments. Speaking of comments, feel free to leave some!

There are two more things I want to mention in the introduction. First, I would like to point out that this article is heavily influenced by David Sirlin’s book ‘Playing to Win’, which can be read for free on his website (link in references section). The second thing I would like to point out is that Part Two will talk about several ‘dirty tactics’ we can use to win Hearthstone games. The purpose of Part One is to mentally prepare you for the use of such tactics.

Okay let’s begin! Are you a ‘scrub’?

Are You A Scrub? (Quiz)

MINOR ARTICLE UPDATE (04/03/2015): It has come to my attention that many readers of this article object to being pejoratively labelled ‘scrubs’. In response, I would like to make two things clear: (a) ‘Scrub’ has a special meaning in the context of this article. When you hear me use the word, try to forget the usual day-to-day connotations the word has. (b) I only use the word ‘scrub’ because my article heavily references Sirlin’s ‘Play to win’ book and ‘scrub’ is the term he used to describe a certain sort of player. When writing this article I feared that using my own terminology could have lead to unnecessary confusion. For what its worth, I consider ‘scrub’ an unfortunate term that is unnecessarily inflammatory. 

Below I have listed a few statements. I want you to go through each one and consider to what extent you agree/disagree with them.

  1. I think that some decks/strategies in Hearthstone are just plain ‘cheap’.
  2. Some decks require ‘no skill to play’.
  3. I look down on players that use ‘no skill’ and/or ‘cheap’ decks.
  4. I choose not to play certain decks because they require ‘no skill’ and/or are ‘cheap’.

Of these statements, I want you to pay the closest attention to numbers (3) and (4); if you answered yes to those statements, then this guide was written for you. For those of you that disagreed with statements (3) and (4), you can (probably) safely skip all of Part One since it is likely that you already play Hearthstone with a ‘winning mentality‘. You may however want to check out Part Two since that part of the guide covers a few sneaky tactics you might not have seen before; tactics which –given your answers to my mini-quiz– you may be willing to  employ.

Okay, so let’s get this guide started! The first thing we need to do is define what I mean by the term ‘scrub’. Let’s do that now…

What’s a Scrub?

What is a ‘scrub’ in Hearthstone? Before we start, I want to make three things clear:

  1. The Hearthstone scrub is not necessarily a bad player; they may build/play good decks, understand the meta-game, and play each turn with a good degree of technical proficiency.
  2. The title of this guide is “Playing to Win Part One: Defeating the Scrub Mentality”. I want you to focus on the very last word; ‘mentality’. This is really important; the definition of ‘scrub’ I am using concerns how you think about the game. In short, I’m interested in talking about your attitude, not your rank on ladder!
  3. [LEGAL JARGON, lol] The views and opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily representative of the views and opinions of individual companies, registered users, nor of the owner and/or administrators of

The simplest definition of a scrub is “…a person that does not ‘play to win’ .” In Sirlin’s book, he defines what a ‘scrub’ is in this chapter. If you have time, I would recommend you read it. However, I have also quoted his work at length below (square brackets [] = my editorial notes, BOLD TEXT = my emphasis) :

[…] A scrub is a player who is handicapped by self-imposed rules that the game knows nothing about. A scrub does not play to win.

Now, everyone begins as a poor player—it takes time to learn a game and get to the point where you know what you’re doing. There is the mistaken notion, though, that by merely continuing to play or “learn” the game, one can become a top player. In reality, the “scrub” has many more mental obstacles to overcome than anything actually going on during the game. The scrub has lost the game even before it starts. He’s lost the game even before deciding which game to play. His problem? He does not play to win.

The scrub would take great issue with this statement for he usually believes that he is playing to win, but he is bound up by an intricate construct of fictitious rules that prevents him from ever truly competing. […]

In Street Fighter, the scrub labels a wide variety of tactics and situations “cheap.” This “cheapness” is truly the mantra of the scrub. Performing a throw on someone is often called cheap. […] As far as the game is concerned, throwing is an integral part of the design—it’s meant to be there—yet the scrub has constructed his own set of principles in his mind that state he should be totally impervious to all attacks while blocking. The scrub thinks of blocking as a kind of magic shield that will protect him indefinitely. Why? Exploring the reasoning is futile since the notion is ridiculous from the start.

You will not see a classic scrub throw his opponent five times in a row. But why not? What if doing so is strategically the sequence of moves that optimizes his chances of winning? Here we’ve encountered our first clash: the scrub is only willing to play to win within his own made-up mental set of rules. [And] these rules can be staggeringly arbitrary. […]

The first step in becoming a top player is the realization that playing to win means doing whatever most increases your chances of winning. That is true by definition of playing to win. The game knows no rules of “honor” or of “cheapness.” The game only knows winning and losing.

The scrub has still more crutches. He talks a great deal about “skill” and how he has skill whereas other players—very much including the ones who beat him flat out—do not have skill. The confusion here is what “skill” actually is. In Street Fighter, scrubs often cling to combos as a measure of skill. A combo is a sequence of moves that is unblockable if the first move hits. Combos can be very elaborate and very difficult to pull off. But single moves can also take “skill,” according to the scrub. The “dragon punch” or “uppercut” in Street Fighter is performed by holding the joystick toward the opponent, then down, then diagonally down and toward as the player presses a punch button. This movement must be completed within a fraction of a second, and though there is leeway, it must be executed fairly accurately. Ask any scrub and they will tell you that a dragon punch is a “skill move.”

I once played a scrub who was actually quite good. That is, he knew the rules of the game well, he knew the character matchups well, and he knew what to do in most situations. But his web of mental rules kept him from truly playing to win. He cried cheap as I beat him with “no skill moves” while he performed many difficult dragon punches. He cried cheap when I threw him five times in a row asking, “Is that all you know how to do? Throw?” I gave him the best advice he could ever hear. I told him, “Play to win, not to do ‘difficult moves.’” This was a big moment in that scrub’s life. He could either ignore his losses and continue living in his mental prison or analyze why he lost, shed his rules, and reach the next level of play.

Okay, so now you should have a good understanding of what a ‘scrub’ is. Basically, it’s a player that does not truly ‘play to win’. While the scrub can have a good degree of technical skill, the problem is that his/her very own mind throws up barriers to success.

Most games simply do not understand notions of ‘cheapness’ and ‘honour’, but games usually do understand who wins and who loses. Therefore in games that don’t care about how honourable you are, deciding to act honourably and/or refusing to use ‘cheap tactics’ will make it that much harder to succeed. In short, abiding by some arbitrary code of honour is tantamount to shooting yourself in the foot. In the next section, ‘Playing to Win’, I shall elaborate on some of these ideas. But in the meantime, let’s make a list of things a ‘Hearthstone scrub’ may do:

  • Refuses to play certain decks, on principle (e.g. Face Hunter).
  • Refuses to play certain cards, on principle.
  • Refuses to play certain classes, on principle (e.g. Mage in Arena).
  • Refuses to ‘net-deck’ and/or looks down on anyone who ‘net-decks’.
  • Refuses to use ‘over-powered’ cards/classes/decks.
  • Professes a strong desire to win, yet refuses to spend a single penny/dime on the game.
  • Insists on playing the same deck (despite the meta-game constantly changing).
  • Insists that most/all of his/her losses are due to bad RNG (the scrub rarely misplays).
  • Insists that — despite losing — he/she is more ‘skilled’ than the opponent and/or ‘played better’.
  • Insists that players who don’t agree with the ‘scrubs rules’ are horrible, skill-less, people.
  • …and so on…

In short, the Hearthstone Scrub has a pre-conceived idea about what the game is and how it should be playedIf you look at the list, we can easily see how some of these things could negatively impact performance. For example, refusal to play a ‘cheap’ deck like ‘Face Hunter’ could be costing you lots of wins on ladder (assuming that the meta-game was ‘ripe’ for such a deck).  And similarlyIf you are a tournament player then a refusal to have a deck like this in your line-up may make it that much harder for you to ‘counter-pick’ an opponent.

And what about RNG? While it is definitely true that plenty of games are won/lost based on coin flips, the scrub tends to focus only on those elements. For example, the difference between a ‘Pro’ and a ‘Scrub’ is that the scrub will play Ragnaros the Firelord, lose the coin flip and claim that cost the game and move onto the next. Whereas The ‘Pro’ will look back over the game and ask themselves whether relying on the Ragnaros coin flip was truly the best play. The scrub will lose to an unlucky Mind Control Tech whereas the ‘Pro’ would look back over the turns leading up to that situation and ask whether: (a) he could have ‘played around’ that card and (b) assuming it could be ‘played around’, was it correct/incorrect to play around the Mind Control Tech.

Hopefully by now you are beginning to see how this attitude is holding you back! Whenever you queue into a game, you are lugging around all this dead weight with you. My guide cannot unburden you, but I can open your eyes to the problem.

So that gives us an insight into the ‘scrub mindset’ and its flaws. The question at hand now is whether there is a better mindset to have. I believe there is a better way to think about the game. This mentality is called ‘Playing to Win’. But what does that phrase actually mean?

Playing to Win

Definition of ‘Playing to Win’:

‘Playing to win’ is about removing all constraints that have been artificially imposed on a game. Players who ‘play to win’ are willing to do anything and everything (within the rules of the game) that increases their chances of winning.

As you continue reading this guide, this definition will become clearer (I hope!). Let’s start by easing you into this material with a Game of Thrones clip; a fight scene between ‘Bronn’ and ‘some other dude’. Pay attention to the small bit of dialogue around the three-minute mark. Here’s the link. **For those of you that don’t want/can’t watch the clip, all you need to know is that the guy that fights honourably gets his butt kicked.**

Lysa: “You don’t fight with honour”.

Bronn: “No. [But] he did.

One man lived while the other died. One fought with honour while the other did not. It should not surprise anyone that the man with honour died. Why? Well, that’s because you are watching Game of Thrones. :) Joking aside, I would argue that honour functions as a constraint on behaviour. Constraints–by definition– limit the number of strategical options available to you. Broadly speaking, there is a word for those situations where you have fewer possible actions than your opponent; that word is ‘disadvantage’. Worse still, this disadvantage is entirely self-imposed.

We can formalise the fight Scene as a game in the following way:

  • Possible strategies for either player: {swing sword, dodge, block, push innocent bystanders into harms way, kick a candle stand}

…and ‘Bronn’ uses all those strategies in the fight. His opponent however, has a much smaller action profile:

  • Possible strategies for an ‘honourable man‘: {swing sword, dodge, block, push innocent bystanders into harms way, kick a candle stand}

The honourable man must cross out a few possible actions and now as a result has fewer things to choose from.  Ergo, even if we assume both combatants are closely matched in skill, ‘Bronn’ has the upper hand because of his willingness to fight dishonourably. This is what ‘playing to win’ looks like.

In later sections of this guide, I will try to relate these ideas directly to Hearthstone. But for now, I want to make it clear that ‘playing to win’ is about removing all constraints that have been artificially imposed on a game; it is not the same as cheating.

Most games have clearly defined rules. For example, not biting your opponent in a boxing ring is not only ‘honourable’ but specifically outlawed in the sport. Moreover, since biting is likely to result in a disqualification, any ‘play to win’ strategy in boxing probably does not have biting in its repertoire (or if it does, it has significant sections about getting away with it!). In other words, if you ‘play to win’, biting is not a good tactic in boxing because it leads to losses (via disqualification). In short, we should choose not to bite because it leads to losses; ‘honour’ ought to have absolutely nothing to do with it!

It is also worth pointing out that if games want you to fight honourably, then they will– over time– encode it into the rules. For example, if one were ahead on points in a Judo match, an old strategy was to ‘avoid combat until the timer hit zero’. Such a tactic runs counter to the ‘spirit’ of the sport however. Thus, Judo officials — not wishing to reward such tactics — decided to change the rules to make that strategy unplayable (nowadays judges can award penalty points to those judoka who try to stall/avoid combat). We have in fact seen this sort of thing happen in Hearthstone too; the game designers didn’t want the game to be about ‘One Turn Kill combos’. Hence, they changed Warsong Commander, Leeroy Jenkins, and Pyroblast. The designers also wanted to reward players for playing minions. As a result, they ‘nerfed’ a number of the Mage Freeze Spells (e.g Frost Nova).

In the definition of ‘playing to win’, I used the phrase “removing all constraints that have been artificially imposed on a game”. The concept of ‘honour’ usually is an artificial constraint. Before the rule change, Judoka may choose to fight according the the ‘spirit’ of the sport by not running away when ahead on points. But here’s the rub; those ‘honourable’ Judoka probably won fewer matches/tournaments! Post rule change however, they now fight on an even footing with the ‘play to win’ guys. In fact, post rule change, the honourable Judoka may even have a small advantage since they have more experience fighting in this way.

Okay. So now I have defined what a ‘scrub’ is and what it is to ‘play to win’. The next section is about offering a bit of balance to the article; should we really ‘play to win’? Is it really fair to use the derogatory label ‘scrub’ when referring to players who value fun/friends above winning?

Should We Really ‘Play to Win’?

I believe that ‘playing to win’ is not for everyone nor is it something you should do all the time. If your goal is to make friends or have fun, then you may not want to employ ‘play to win’ tactics. Serious competitive players also have something to gain by taking it down a notch or two occasionally. ‘Playing to win’ usually means that you use a fairly narrow set of ‘tried & tested’ techniques to win the game. Playing like this all the time is often counter-productive in terms of innovation and learning new possible strategies. This chapter from Sirlin’s book does a neat job explaining why you shouldn’t ‘play to win’ all of the time.

At this juncture it is probably also worth mentioning that if you search the internet, you will find plenty of articles that criticize/praise Sirlin’s work. Here is a quote from Mark Newheiser (as before, Square Brackets [] = My comments) :

“[…] I take two significant exceptions to Sirlin’s arguments. In short, I believe that there are legitimate reasons for players to play the way he characterizes “scrubs” as playing, and even competitive gamers would not be satisfied with his limited view of how to deal with the given ruleset of a game.
First, I claim there are legitimate reasons other than mental weakness for players to have a “code of honor” in playing games, and it’s perfectly fine to play games for a reason other than winning at all costs. As an extreme case, consider the example of single-player games which may contain a broken move, tactic, or build. Final Fantasy VI contains a glitch where you can cast Vanish then Doom on a monster to perform an instant kill, which even works on bosses thanks to a bug in the game’s programming.
The optimal strategy would be to abuse this as much as possible in order to win and breeze through the game, leading to the question of why you’re playing the game in the first place. Sirlin considers playing to win to be the height of the gaming experience. I disagree. I think playing to be challenged is what makes games enjoyable, which may or may not be reducible to optimizing victory conditions. [Note: Smashthings’ takes issue with this Final Fantasy example; single-player games are, in my opinion, fundamentally different from multi-player games.] 
[…] The point is that players should be challenged to perform at their best, even if that means avoiding the easiest path to victory. This may mean handicapping a game in such a way so everyone has a viable way to play and do well.
[…] My second main objection to Playing to Win is that even among hardcore competitive gamers, I consider it to be perfectly legitimate to “patch” your game among the player base and tweak the rules to explore a different set of possibilities. That applies if you’re using a rule to exclude a broken element of the game, or simply to try out a different set of rules and see where they lead.
The question to consider when evaluating a tactic or game-play strategy is not just “will this help me win?” but “does this make the game more interesting and fun?” If the answer to that second question is no and the tactic is clearly dominant, players may just decide that they’d like to try the game without playing that way. […]”


You can read Mark’s article in full here. As we can see, not everyone agrees with how Sirlin has framed the debate. I quoted Mark because I thought he did a decent job of presenting a counter-argument. For what it’s worth, I actually agree with a number of points Mark makes. However, I ultimately believe two separate groups of players exist (the ‘play to win’ guys, and the ‘let’s have fun’ guys…or ‘scrubs’ as I previously called them). :) When these groups play amongst themselves, there isn’t a problem and everyone generally has a good experience. The problem occurs when these populations clash. The outcome is inevitably lopsided. Let me try and illustrate that for you:

Using Mark’s Final Fantasy example, imagine a ‘speed-run competition’ where organizers do not outright ban the use of the ‘Vanish + Doom glitch’. In this case, the ‘tournament meta-game’ will probably consist of two groups of people: those capable of winning and those that are not. One group (a.k.a. the winners group) will be the glitch-users who end up competing amongst themselves. The other group of people will inevitably have much slower completion times as they try different levelling strategies, character-builds, and so on. While the the Final Fantasy ‘meta-game’ may still be fun and interesting, the ‘non-glitch’ strategies ultimately won’t be able to beat the glitch-users.

Further imagine that there is £10,000 pounds on the line for first place in such a tournament and twenty players enter. Maybe all of the players get together and form a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ whereby they all state that they won’t use the glitch. To use Mark’s words, this is an example of players coming together to “patch” the game they play. But remember in this hypothetical example, the official tournament rules have not outright banned use of the glitch. Therefore, it is important that you notice how weak that gentleman’s agreement actually is! £10,000 is a lot of money for most people which therefore means that there is a huge incentive for someone to go back on their word and win the tournament via exploiting the glitch. I ask you, “What is the best defence against being back-stabbed?” Be the one holding the knife! 

Maybe Hearthstone would be a better game if everyone entered into a gentlemen’s agreement not to use ‘cheap’ decks. But, the question of whether that would make Hearthstone a more enjoyable experience is largely irrelevant because it will never happen. There will always be that one person who uses ‘the cheap stuff’ in order to win. Some of these players won’t even feel bad about it!

In short, the problem occurs when these two fundamentally different approaches to playing games — these two worlds, if you will — collide. In such circumstances, the ‘play to win’ guys might not leave with friends but they do leave the the trophy! The question to ask yourself is “what do I want from the games I play?”.  If your ambition is to win Major Hearthstone tournaments (and/or reach high Legend rank), then you need to realize what it’ll take to achieve that. You, as a person, might want to do ‘honourable’ and ‘fun things’ in Hearthstone. However, your goals may demand far greater things from you: ‘the will to win’. At which point, you must make a decision: For fun or for glory!

To those of you still reading, I will now attempt to convince you to play ‘Face Hunter’. Let’s begin!

Zoo, ‘Huntards’, and ‘Cancer’

The game has quite a long history of ‘cheap decks’.  Before Curse of Naxxramas, Zoo was the deck catching the most flack (Hunter owns that crown now). These decks (and the users of such decks) are often subject to various pejorative terms. We call these decks ‘cancer’ and Hunter players ‘Huntards’. ‘Huntard’ is a portmanteau of ‘Hunter’ and ‘retard’. If I was an angst-ridden socially maladjusted whiny teenager, I would probably have no such problem with the term. But as a grown man, I personally find the phrase distasteful. Worse still, it is entirely undeserved.

Take any game object (we will call it ‘X’) and you’ll see that there are basically only three possibilities (‘X’ can refer to a class/card/deck/etc):

  1. ‘X’ is ‘over-powered’.
  2. ‘X’ is ‘normally-powered’. (i.e. it’s ‘Balanced’)
  3. ‘X’ is ‘under-powered’.

Let’s look at (3) first. If someone is using an under-powered card/class, do we have any right to complain? Surely most of you agree that it is both unfair and silly to insult anyone that wins a game with an under-powered strategy.

Let’s now consider (2). If some is using a balanced card/class do we have any right to complain? Again, I think it is unfair and silly to insult these people.

Lastly, let’s consider (1). Here it seems like we should have good-cause for insults! If someone is winning games due to the over-powered nature of a deck, then maybe we do have a right to question their skill and berate them for their choices. But the reality is the insults are just a consequence of our own ‘scrub mentality’. If ‘X’ truly is over-powered, then we are the idiots for not playing it!! A refusal to not use ‘X’ just demonstrates the point that we are not ‘playing to win‘.

In short, if something is balanced or under-powered, then we ought to have no genuine grievance. If something is overpowered, then we should be using it ourselves. Thus, displaying contempt for fellow players who also use overpowered decks/cards is nothing short of pure hypocrisy.

Let’s quickly look at ‘Face Hunter’. Katy’s guide for it can be found here (Note: premium membership required). Let’s go through the list of cards and decide whether the deck is overpowered, balanced, or under-powered. Of course, the question of the deck’s power is largely irrelevant if you accept my reasoning above (in which case, you might want to skip ahead to the next section),. However, some of you reading this may need a bit more convincing!  

So what sort of ‘overpowered’ shenanigans is Face Hunter capable of?   

This card allows Face Hunter to do a lot of damage, which obviously makes it a good card for them. But can we say it’s overpowered? When compared to Fiery War Axe, the Hunter pays one extra mana merely for a chance of getting multiple stacks of +1 durability. Seems fair to me!

Just like the bow, this card is really good at getting damage in (the deck probably wouldn’t function without it). So clearly it’s useful but is it overpowered? Again, it doesn’t seem right to call this card unfair when we compare it to a Shaman’s Crackle or Lava Burst, or a Mage’s Fireball.

Well, this gives Hunter a nice combo with Knife Juggler and does a nice chunk of damage. But is it overpowered? Personally, I don’t think it is. The number of dogs is dependent on the number of enemy minions on board and won’t work if your board is full (ergo, the card requires– to a large extent — that you be playing ‘from behind’). If the Knife Juggler combo makes this card overpowered, then presumably we would have to ‘nerf’ Imp-losion too.

Four-damage for 3-mana is pretty good. But is it overpowered? Well, when you compare it to Wolfrider (which is another card in the deck incidentally), the Hunter is paying a fairly hefty price (i.e. effectively giving the opponent a Wild Growth) for a mere +1/+1 in stats.  If two stat-points for a mana crystal is over-powered, then presumably we would also have to ‘nerf’ Felguard too. In short, the card seems fine to me.

  • …and so on…

I could do this analysis for every card in the deck but I hope that’s not necessary. As fair as I am concerned the current ‘Face Hunter’ lists do not use any ‘over-powered’ cards.

In my opinion, ‘Face Hunter’ is a perfectly ‘fair deck’. ‘Fair’ in the sense that when we study each individual card, they all seem to be balanced. Therefore, we do not have good reason to call the deck ‘overpowered’. This is an important thing for you to realize; if a deck is not inherently unfair, then Blizzard is unlikely to ‘nerf’ it. Take a second or two to let that statement soak in. It is important because once you realize that Blizzard is not going to do anything about it, you can move past ‘the whining stage’ and actually do something productive, such as building a counter deck.

This small mental adjustment is a huge deal! You, as a player, are now confronting the issue head on. Meanwhile, some of your peers who believe that the deck is ‘overpowered’ probably also believe that Blizzard is going to step in and ‘nerf’ it soon; ergo, they are waiting for the ‘nerf’ (that’s not coming!) instead of innovating. Basically, your new-found attitude may actually lead to a competitive advantage.

As a matter of fact, once you finally start thinking about how to counter ‘Face Hunter’, you will quickly spot that the deck is easy to beat. Healing is more efficient than damage (e.g compare Shield Block and Healing Touch with Lava Burst and Kill Command). Moreover, the deck really struggles to get past taunts and its reliance on weapons makes it rather vulnerable to Harrison Jones as well. But I digress, let’s get back on topic!

All the reasoning above begs a few simple questions:

  1. “Why do you insult and berate someone for playing a ‘fair deck’ that utilizes a perfectly legitimate strategy?” After all, there is no rule that says you can’t ‘go face’ with everything you have!
  2. If you consider the deck powerful, “Why are you not playing the deck yourself?”
  3. If the deck is powerful and abundant in the current meta-game “Why aren’t you playing/building the counter-deck?”

Presumably you dislike this deck due to your scrub mentality. There is — you say — something ‘cheap’ and/or ‘unskilled’ about the deck and that’s why you don’t want to play it. We could explore why you demand a deck must require skill in order for you to consider playing it. Quoting Sirlin once again, “Exploring the reasoning is futile since the notion is ridiculous from the start.”

Last time I checked [the rules], there is nothing that specifically states ‘only skill decks are allowed’. This, my dearest scrub, is an artificial rule you have burdened yourself with and it is hurting your progress! If you are ‘free-to-play’, then it is absolutely crazy that you refuse to play one of the most effective budget decks in the current meta-game!

There is, of course, another approach I could have taken; I could have tried to convince you that the deck does, in fact, require skill (after all, plenty of players have copied the deck but none have managed to replicate Xixo’s success with it (#1 legend on multiple servers). Ultimately I chose not to because such a discussion is ultimately superfluous; ‘playing to win’ is all about the results, not the why’s and how’s. Simply stated: the question of whether any deck requires a lot/little skill to pilot is completely irrelevant.

Before wrapping up this guide, let’s see what the right attitude looks like.

The Right Attitude

Some of you may be aware of the Showmatch Series. Ra-V in a premium article (here) explained his deck choices. In the comments section, there is comment that says:


Soo you play hunter and zoo *claps*

To which, Ra-V responds:


While those are my primary decks by necessity since I’m F2P, if you look through the guides I’ve written, I think you’ll find my abilities are diverse. I don’t apologize for running strong decks, and playing any deck at top level requires great skill and forethought, in my experience, whether aggressive or control in orientation. I invite you to try playing any of my lists to Legend; I think you’ll find it sufficiently challenging to maximize their potential with good game-play.

What we can tell from Ra-V’s response is that he ain’t no scrub!  Notice how utterly unapologetic he is about about playing the best decks in the format/meta-game. He also makes another point; ‘Hunter’ and ‘Zoo’ are not the only decks he plays. In many respects, it is unfortunate that players feel the need to point out that they play other decks too.  If you are the sort of player that likes to ‘rage friend request’ after losing to a ‘cancer deck’, it is worth remembering that your opponent has quite possibly played thousands of games; only a tiny faction of which may have been with one of the offending ‘skill-less cancer decks’ you love to hate.

You play one game against someone using ‘Face Hunter’ and you immediately assume to know exactly what sort of person they are. Doesn’t that strike you as a bit silly?

In contrast to Ra-V, when it came for my Showmatch against YelloRambo, I brought some innovative decks, which you can learn about by clicking here (Note: premium membership required). It is equally true however, that it was been one of the most lopsided battles in the series so far (I lost 4-1). And guess what? The game rewards strong decks, not those that lose ‘with style‘; the game simply doesn’t care how ‘clever’ or ‘unique’ I was. The difference between a scrub and myself is that I knew going into the match my choice of decks put me at a disadvantage. Moreover, unlike a scrub, I was not delusional; when I made my choice I knew that I wasn’t truly ‘playing to win’. And that’s fine.


Okay so that concludes Part One of the guide. Hopefully I have taught you scrubs :) a valuable lesson and have shown you what one must do in order to progress in this game. If you want to play for fun, that’s fine. If you want to win, that’s fine too. But whatever you do, don’t be delusional and think you are ‘playing to win’ when, in fact, you are playing the game with a bunch of arbitrary made-up rules that are weighing you down. Remove the burden and you’ll run faster!

The only things left for you to do now is check out Part Two, like and/or comment on Part One, and finally (but most importantly) reflect on all of those self-imposed rules potentially harming your performance.

A Quick Glance at Part Two

Part two was...drum roll please…finally released today. What is it about? Well, the article focuses on two very simple ideas: if you want to win you should (1) Rope every single turn and (2) always wait for your opponent to mulligan his/her cards away before your own. 

As you can probably tell from that brief description, part two is only indirectly related to part one. The connection is basically the idea that the gut reaction of most players would be to reject the tactics I express in part two. Ergo the job of part one was to mentally prepare you for the rocky road ahead.  

Further Reading & References

About the Author

2x Legend, Infinite Arena Player.  Click here for my YouTube channel and click here for a list of all my published HSP articles.

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  1. Poki says:

    It always amazes me how much arguments comes from debating about games. I liked the article it pretty much nails it all. By definition I probably fall into scrub category at least to certain degree lol. I also fall into beginner hearthstone category. I like the game. Lots to learn there about everything cards strategy etc. I also do think that being aware of that or not we all chose a hero that follows the archetype we are prone to.
    I’ll like my Hunter and Druid decks best for now. My hunter deck is a strange mix I compiled sometimes it will play out as pure face sometimes midrange. Some games I win some I loose. And when playing hunter and win sometimes player gets on my contact list just to say some really nasty comment about me playing hunter. Now I understand the piss off about loosing game I’m no exception there but if playing against priest who took six cards out of my hand and deck altogether by using spells healing capability and all other spells still can’t beat me I don’t think face hunter deck was problem there. And who was cheating in this case who was backstabbing?
    I’m not fooling myself I’m that good in strategy and in the case I think I was just bit more lucky then my priest opponent. I will also rarely play priest coz I’m not that good familiar with spells synergy and my deck is not well build to be honest. Same goes for other decks. Also I do think learning one or 2 decks and upgrading their build at the time is more then enough.
    As for honor if my opponent outplayed me I will gladly admit that by squelching out well played and will let him/her finish my hero in last turn, he was better so he deserves the final cut on my hero. I will never concede. The interesting effect I found it it has on me also by doing that is I don’t get stuck on blaming the rest of the world for loosing. So much of the frustration is taken out. Coz bottom line it’s just that he/she was better.
    And to be honest sometimes I just admire how my opponent beats me in round 6. Smooth and clean game. Perfect kill. I wish will be that good at some point.
    So as long I’m at beginning learning curve I’ll use decks that I feel most comfortable with and I get most succes with. If I’ll get cursed for using hunter so be it. Not my problem. Funny is though my Druid deck is kinda build for similar strategy as Hunter but I never get cursed even thoug my win rate before turn 8 with Druid deck is higher then hunter 😉

  2. batugr4466yo says:

    The author should be banned from this site. This idiot calls us scrubs just because he disagrees with us

  3. CJ says:

    There’s a whole lot of exceptions and exemptions to pretty much everything you said.

    The difference between singleplayer games and multiplayer games is… Nothing. Just your opinion.

    And breaking a gentlemen’s agreement is a good way of getting stabbed in the back in a literal manner. After all once we’ve rationalised ignoring societal norms it isn’t exactly a large leap to, well, ignore societal norms. Like stabbing someone in the back.

    As for the rope thing, sure, you’ll annoy players into winning. Now you aren’t playing Hearthstone you’re playing the people. We do that in poker. Hence why there’s limits on turn times in poker. Some rules you can exploit and get away with, some, like the rope thing… Well that’s the sort of thing which would lead to new rules.

    Finally do keep in mind that this works both ways. For instance I run adblocker and don’t disable it for this site. :)

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is a sad article for people who do not want to evolve as players, but want to clone others… so sad

    • Hikari says:

      The problem is that the game doesn’t provide a proper variety of decks. Some groups of cards sinerge among themselves better, so we can’t just build a random deck based on the game’s builder and just play competitive.

      There were already some expert players that deeply analysed all combinations. They found the best ones and made them public, and end up with a handful of decks that are the optimal. It’s very unlikely that non-expert players would be able to build a deck that’s better than those, even more doing it randomly without the proper effort and time for the job.

      The point in this article isn’t that we can’t play without aiming the win. It’s that, if we don’t exploit the rules and eventualities of the game in order to maximize the win chances, we should not play for the win at all. The article says it’s black or white, do as it says to aim for the win – which many times won’t be fun – or just don’t try to win at all.

    • Hikari says:

      And, as I said before, I disagree with the article.

      First, because playing for the fun is more important than playing for the win. Win is more important for professional players or for limited-time competitions when winning is relevant. But for normal players, what’s the point in spending time playing a game that doesn’t provide fun, just to be in a higher rank he’d not be able to reach otherwise?

      Second, because the article sees game developers as gods. They are overpowered beings who developed the game as it is, and players are just submissive to them. I strongly disagree with it. The game architects and designers made some bad choices and the developers didn’t notice them and just implemented as designed. These errors make exploits available.

      Winning and having fun should be close, while losing should also be fun and rewarding. If the game can be exploited in a way that winning gets easier in a way that’s not fun, and winning and having fun are drifted away, then it’s a huge mistake from designers. And in this case these mistakes are even more troubling, because not only whoever exploits them doesn’t have fun, but whoever plays with these guys won’t have fun either.

      The aim of a game, as a game company desires, is to provide entertainment for the players. Few people will pay to play a game that’s not fun, and most of those will be doing so to earn money from playing it. A game that’s not fun isn’t sustainable.

      So, game designers made some mistakes. These mistakes must be fixed, not be considered as part of the game. And whoever finds these mistakes should not encourage others to exploit them, should report them and demand fixes.

      But I agree that we shouldn’t expect everybody to look other way and not exploit them, and should not complain when somebody does it.

  5. I agree with the article so long as it only applies to Ranked mode. You know, the mode where you are supposed to care about winning. The thing I do not understand is why somebody would play a deck capable of reaching rank 1 legend in casual mode. Why would anybody do that? Is fun, creative, not really good decks, not allowed in Hearthstone at all? Heck, it is easier to play bad decks in ranked than in casual until you reach about rank 7, maybe 6. Am I confined to only playing Arena if I want to have fun?
    Yes, I do handicap myself. I do not play face hunter on principle, and I find face hunter takes less skill than other decks. I wont cry about it in ranked mode, though. If a player frequently reaching 12 wins in arena is a scrub, then so be it.

  6. jt says:

    Patrick Hoban gives this a thumbs up

  7. Pentatonic says:

    Thank you for writing this; absolutely blew my mind. I look forward to applying this and changing a lot of my own limiting beliefs.

  8. Hikari says:

    Still about rules and cheating.

    if game designers change the rules, what will you think? Exploiting rules may not be cheating in some way, but it doesn’t mean either that designers wanted that to be done.

    I could use a lot of examples, I’ll use again the rope burn, because it can be used against any kind of player and can be damn annoying. I’m sure game designers didn’t want a player to be annoyed by another player. That’s why we can’t chat in-match, just use those half dozen talks. If we could freely chat, anybody could yell and cry on us. We’d be bored, irritated, we’d need to block players, report, ask for ban, etc etc etc.

    So, why did they design the game so that each turn has the same time limit? So that people could foresee what others’ think and rope burn to avoid being foreseen? Of course not, they just wanted to give a time limit so we had enough time to think while not being able to afk. They even added those thinking talks to make it less boring to wait while remembering to hurry up. Yes, they even added messages to hurry up the slow thinkers!

    Now people experienced in turn-based and card games come and exploit the *lack* of thinking they had. They predicted a problem and created a measure to avoid it, but didn’t predict another problem and let the game design open for it to be exploited.

    It’s the same of the old WoW. When it started, the game was hugely casual friendly. But then came the farmers and started taking all resources and controling game economy. Then we had raid players using their powerful and rare gear to pwn pvpers. Blizz had to handle all those exploits and that made the game less fun. Then I quit it.

    Another example. In SC2 there was an arena game I loved, Evolution Arena. But it had a flaw, we had a mothership that was invincible and had some spells. 2 of them could be used together, with proper timing, that allowed its user to combo against a huge amount of units. The second attack of the combo was strong but meant to be avoidable by quick thinking and running while it was being casted, but with the instant-cast first attack of the combo this time was not available. Of course they weren’t designed to be used that way, but it was easy to discover and was so exploited that made the game unplayable. Any victim of that exploit could lose his whole army and not be able to recover. And game creator dropped SC2 without fixing it.

    There was another SC2 tower game that had a tower so unbalancely powerful that everybody was agreeing to not use. We were able to convince every new player to not use it.

    Remember what I said in the other comment. Nobody wants, or should want, to make a game boring so that other players leave it. We want more people playing, even more pro players. Wining must not be more important than having fun, you liking it or not.

    So, I’m not saying to play with honor or to create own rules that the game system is not aware of. I’m saying that game designers and developers aren’t gods and are unable to predict all situations and combinations possible. And just because they left flaws in the game and are late to fix it – specially because an unthinked fix could break it even more – doesn’t mean these flaws should be exploited.

    Rule exploits aren’t worse than bug exploits, aka cheats.

    • Smashthings says:

      Let’s think about your SC II Tower example.

      Of course you are well within your rights to ask new players to not use it, and in the spirit of “fun” they may abide by your request.

      But what if they don’t? Do you have any genuine cause for complaint? your “n00b” opponent is doing something perfectly legal in the game rules.

      Your anger should, imo, be focused on the designers for not patching a broken strategy.

      And lastly, the problem with saying that games should be all about fun you encounter a very basic problem: that fun is ultimately subjective.

      When the N00b is crushing you due to his/her willingness to use OP strats they are quite possibly having a lot of fun. (Trolls often enjoy trolling)


      and regards spectators. Sure people like excitement, but nonetheless. people tend to support (and watch) boring 0-0 Premier Leagues fixtures more that they like to watch a pub team win 30-0.

      How many people watched Floyd Maywheather vs. Manny Paccio? — Boring as hell but both men made a fortune.

      Meanwhile, two unknowns knocking seven bells of shit out of each other was probably watched by 6 old blokes and Gerald the ginger cat.

      In short, I would argue that people want to watch the best play more than they want to see excitement.

      Me playing golf (drunk) is way more entertaining than Tiger Woods, but the pro golf tours have nonetheless declined to invite me.


      Finally, if you read some of my other stuff, you will realise that I encourage people to rope every turn not because it annoys people (although, that is a minor upside) but because getting lost in deep thought can be a very fun thing indeed.

      If I spend 2 minutes on my turn thinking about loads of stuff and you spend 10 secounds, then one has to realise that I am playing Chess and you are playing Checkers. And guess what? I’m probably having a lot of fun playing Chess…and thus I’m not going to stop.

      • Hikari says:

        Yes he’d not be cheating. But if that turret was used, all others would be underpowered. Therefore everybody would always use the same unbalanced tower. So, it’s funnier to abdicate from 1 turret type and have the variety of all others than to abdicate from the fun of the variety to have a boring game of 1 type of tower.

        The noob still doesn’t have experience in the game, but soon anybody notices that the game can’t last long if that turret is used. Game will get boring for those using it to win, and game will be boring for those not using it and having a certain loss. Everybody would just leave.

        Games are not played to win, win is a reward for those who play it better. Games are played to have fun, and win must reflect that. If win =/= fun, the game won’t succeed. Pro gamers are charged to win and bind their wins on their sponsors. But they’ll lose their sponsors if nobody plays and watches the game, even winning.

        Using the mothership combo in Evolution Arena is also “legal”. But sadly a great game died because of it.

        SC2 designers made a big mistake when they focused on e-sport. The game lost a lot of players because ladder was boring. They didn’t wanna compete. HearthStone was born without that issue, we can play ranked or casual games.


        My “anger” should be focused on Blizz, who creates a game development platform for amateurs to cheaply implement their ideas, and doesn’t reward the best game creators. For hundreds of thousands of games created in SC1, WC3 and SC2, only Dota was able to survive, and did that by leaving Blizz and having its own platform! Desert Strike was by far the most popular game in SC2, and Blizz never did ANYTHING to compensate its creator or even to keep him in the game! Even marketplace was never released.

        The problem with trolls is that they aren’t sustainable. A game/community composed solely by trolls will die. Trolls don’t have fun over trolls, they do over normal people. That’s why they aren’t welcome.

        Why didn’t we all wanna use that tower? Because the fun came from strategy on choosing towers. Why didn’t we all wanna use the mothership combo? Because it takes the evolution out of the game and become a mothership arena. It’s not fun at all, the game was broken.

        And if somebody rope burns thinking useful stuff, that’s ok. The issue here is the flaw in the game design. As you pointed, chess has a time limit, that stops somebody from wasting time by penalizing overthinkers and rewarding fast thinkers. You can overthink in a turn, by paying the price in future turns. HearthStone doesn’t have this balancing feature, leading to potential loss for quickthinking and full reward to overthinking.

        Then, when both players rope burn just to stop the other from telegraphing useful info, then something’s wrong. Anyway, instead of rope burning just for the right of doing it, the player should try to bluff somehow. Rope burn with no thinking instead of bluffing is… noob!

  9. Hikari says:

    Well I think I got what you want to say.

    It’s silly. So, you’re againt cheating, but you’re favorable to exploit game rules. In UFC, it’s called “keep the rules book under the arm”. It means a guy that’s able to win exploiting the rules, that spends more time studying them than training his skill.

    Still on UFC, commentators say that because, let’s face it, every game maintainers want people paying for it. Be it pay directly to play, or watch commercials. It means that, if players do boring play, nobody will want to watch it, and nobody will want to play it.

    When I watch Legends tournaments, lots of times I get myself clapping on wonderful fights. It’s exciting. Yes, cheering for somebody to win is fun, but in the end it doesn’t matter at all for the watcher and for the maintainer who wins. What really matters is that watchers have fun and keep watching, so that maintainers earn money.

    In old WC3, I remember the team 4Kings. They used techniques you point here. There was a human in the team that was unbeatable. He was master in rushing, and the poor guy that played against him had to choose to either rush back or build a deffense. Yes, his strategy was ALWAYS the same and totally predictable, and still pretty much unbeatable. Yes he won most of his games. But know what? Yes, honor was considered, not by the WC3 game, but by the watchers. His games were so boring that I stopped watching them. Waste of time.

    Now you think about pro players. There’s one think they need (or should be needing) more than wins: watchers. They desperately need lots of people watching them, so that their sponsors are watched too. What happens if a pro player wins everything and has a boring play? Nobody will watch him, and he’ll lose sponsors.

    Now think what happens with a game where many players do boring gameplay, like the rope burn. Most players will just start conceding when they see it happening, then stop playing. How good it is to win matches on a game with a dozen of players? Yugioh from Miniclip can give you a clue.

    Resuming, what really matters is to have the hiher amount of players and watchers possible. Think that wining at all cost is what matters is narrow your mind and not understand what makes a game last for a decade.

    • Hikari says:

      1 more think about UFC.

      In it, players use gloves to avoid cutting the skin. But there are no gloves in elbow. Nudges are allowed, they are harder to handle than punches, but when done they are more damaging because elbow is smaller and tougher than fist, and they cause the exact cutting effect that gloves are used to avoid.

      So, for years, there have been debates about how to rule nudges, at least how to avoid cuts. Unfortunately, apart from those debates that haven’t made changes to the rules, your logic is applied here. Nudges are used and no pro wrestler dares to claim to “honorably” not use them.

  10. ellestar says:

    >> Last time I checked [the rules], there is nothing that specifically states ‘only skill decks are allowed’. This, my dearest scrub, is an artificial rule you have burdened yourself with and it is hurting your progress! If you are ‘free-to-play’, then it is absolutely crazy that you refuse to play one of the most effective budget decks in the current meta-game!

    While this is true, an important point is that any rush deck doesn’t teach player to play Hearthstone better as effectively as other decks – i mean, if anything, you don’t even see many enemy cards entering play, or their combo, interactions, the way some specific decks work in their fullest.

    So, while i fully agree with original Sirlin article, and his book, i think your article focuses on specific things a little too much and may give wrong ideas to players. To play better you need to know the game better, not just to pick a netdeck or facehunt that you don’t want to pick.

    In other words, you go in the opposite direction, and instead making people focus on breaking mental barriers to improving themselves (which was the idea of an original Sirlin article) you’re suggesting to play Facehunt “so not to be a scrub” or “to get wins” (not to improve), which i found silly – you effectively suggest to impose another mental barrier on your readers.

  11. Bio says:

    I agree with what you wrote, the only time I feel I need to “play with peersonal rules” is when I’m playing with friends or introducing a new player to a game. There isn’t a bigger way to turn someone away from a game than to beat someone when they don’t yet grasp the concepts of the game. However, I want to point out one flaw with an example you give to speedrunning a game.

    Where you say ” imagine a ‘speed-run competition’ where organizers do not outright ban the use of the ‘Vanish + Doom glitch’. ” that’s like saying when a boxing competition does not outright ban biting. That situation simply never exists so your examples after that are null. There is no such thing as just “speed running” a game. each and every game falls into categories, so there would be two separate category runs for your ff6 example, the vanish+doom would fall under glitch abuse, so you would have an any% run with glitch abuse category, and an any% no glitch abuse catagory, the two runs are incomparable since they are in different categories.

    Other than that, really nice article.

  12. Conser says:

    Oh, hey. Look at that. It’s some face huntard that’s saying you’re a scrub if you think something like face hunter is a cheap and brainless deck even though it’s true. And yes, it is true. Every time I play a face huntard, they just vomit their hand onto the field with little to no thinking required.

    • Smashthings says:

      My position is more nuanced than that: I’m saying that it is a mistake to refuse to play the deck because it’s brainless.

  13. Aaron Chan says:

    When is Part 2 coming out?

  14. The main problem with this idea is that you right off the bat juxtapose two different kind of ‘scrubs’: the ones who cannot adapt to the game which leads them to lose and blame the system, and those who do not adapt to the meta but still play to win. From your definition both (very different) types of players are the same kind of scrub.

    I think we can all agree that a victimist player is a scrub. This type of player always blames the game or the rng or the system when things go badly. They believe they are great players but they lose because the oponent has good luck, because the oponent plays a ‘cancer class’. These are the guys who in real life blame their dad for the carreer choices they took, they think society does not value their greatness. They feel entitled.

    But then you go on saying that someone who does not accept the established meta is a scrub too. Someone who sees that face hunter is the most viable choice and still doesn’t play it, for you this is a scrub.

    Well, I see things a lot different. What you call a play-to-win player I divide in two kinds: the fotm-scrub and the real playtowin player.

    You are advocating that a flavor-of-the-month player is a real playtowin guy because he simply checks what the meta is and rolls with it. Sure, he might have a good run while facing other fotmscrubs but when facing a real p2w player they collapse.

    A real p2w player for me is the one who challenges both the game and the meta. When everyone is rolling face hunter he comes with a counter to it. He is able to defeat both the fotmscrubs and the meta. He is a creative player. See, the real scrubs are blaming the system in general, but the ones crying that a certain class or certain card is OP are the fotms when they face a creative player. A creative player (a real winner) does not bend the rules to win (does not use a glitch, does not score a goal with his hand), he uses the system to show both scrubs and fotms that it is possible to win without freaking going off their ways to win. And they are winners not only because they are creative and are at the top, they are real winners because they are remembered as winners-without-an-asterisk. Sure, everyone remembers who won that World Cup, but it ALWAYS has an asterisk – he won it by cheating, or as many soccer fans like to put it, by exploiting a loop-hole (if they don’t see you is not really cheting). So we all know that it cannot qualify as a ‘good’ win.

    Creative players are always at the top and they are the ones setting trends. For you the choice is – do I want to win most of the time? Ok, I will be a fotm scrub. Do I play for fun? Ok, I be a scrub.

    From my point of view – Do I want to win? I am creative. Do I want to win most of the time? I will be a fotm scrub and follow what others are coming up with. Sure, both types have fun, but creative ones are way better.

    • Isloor says:

      There’s a credit you’re not giving to those that make small, but valid micro-optimization a to the FotM decks, that play them well. The FotM shouldn’t be viewed as a negative (or a positive). Its simply part of the meta. And then you, as the player, have to decide how to participate in any given meta, and optimize your wins. Most people that win do so with a highly optimized and synergistic deck with good matchups, that can be called “tier 1”, or somewhat hatefully as “FotM”.

      Creativity absolutely has its place, but there are not infinite creative decks that can compete in any given meta. Most people optimize their wins through selecting the strongest tier 1 deck they can field, whose playstyle they feel the most qualified at (ie some people prefer control, no matter what the meta, and would willingly sacrifice an edge in win rate and matchups to play an archetype they feel they have mastered).

      Creativity itself is not a virtue, except if it translates to wins. Assuming you’re playing to win.

  15. Anonymous says:

    “Further imagine that there is £10,000 pounds on the line for first place in such a tournament and twenty players enter. Maybe all of the players get together and form a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ whereby they all state that they won’t use the glitch. To use Mark’s words, this is an example of players coming together to “patch” the game they play. But remember in this hypothetical example, the official tournament rules have not outright banned use of the glitch. Therefore, it is important that you notice how weak that gentleman’s agreement actually is! £10,000 is a lot of money for most people which therefore means that there is a huge incentive for someone to go back on their word and win the tournament via exploiting the glitch. I ask you, “What is the best defence against being back-stabbed?” Be the one holding the knife! ”

    Or you could just say, “I’m not going to agree to not use the glitch it’s against the rules.”

    I agree if you are going to be super serious about hearthstone, play whatever deck you want, but this has literally nothing to do with breaking a verbal agreement that you shouldn’t really be making in the first place.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Face hunter kinda exploits the fact. You need very very specific cards to counter face hunter. And even if you have them in your deck. You also need them at the right time. Playing double zombie chow, healbot, sludge belchers. Still doesnt secure my win against them. I’m favorite, probably. Meanwhile I have to take full turn to calculate and think. While they hit face and pass turn, EVERY turn. Within a second. It just turns into a heavy RNG fest. More so then any other deck.

  17. gotliebj says:

    I’m not opposed to playing hunter. I’ve played plenty of “unfair” magic decks because I wanted to win. But let’s not pretend that it takes skill to succeed with face hunter. I think zoo was more difficult to play than people have it credit for, but face hunter matches pretty much come down to your draw versus theirs. Furthermore, face hunter is a high variance deck and variance always benefits the weaker player. So realistically it isn’t even to your advantage of you’re a superior player to play a deck like face hunter. I simply do not believ that face hunter gives a superior player the best chance to win. I feel the same way about mech mage. On a side note I feel in a game where variance already has too much impact on outcomes a deck like face hunter is unhealthy. Of course blizzard loves this because they want to minimize the skill gap so they can pullin as many players as possible.

  18. Smashthings says:

    P.s There is currently a Reddit discussion which can be found here:

  19. penis says:

    One flaw in your argument is in the “fairness” of the individual cards of the Face Hunter deck which is not the overpowered thing: it’s the hero power. As long as it stays the way it is, Hunter will always be a viable meta choice.

    • Smashthings says:

      I remember the days when Hunter was considered the worst class with the worst hero power (it doesn’t help with board control!, everyone used to cry).

      Personally, I don’t think hunter HP is OP.

      But…let’s suppose that it is for a moment. You now know what class you should play until the Blizzard nerf!!

  20. Anonymous says:

    You’ve made legend two times? Your attitude should be how to focus on playing. Not defending face hunter decks which by the way are bad for the game based on how much RNG there already is.
    -From a 12x legend, 0 with hunter.

    • craazytime says:

      that was me^

    • warnerve says:

      12x legend my reply is who cares dude……

      • warnerve says:

        and let me throw in plenty of bots make legend and they don’t care either. Actually playing against bots is nice because they don’t spam stupid emotes and try to friend you after they lose so they can talk smack and then remove you.

    • Dan says:

      12x legend. Still a scrub.

      • Transylvania says:

        You do know that scrub isn’t much of an insult right? Pray I be wrong, but those defending this article can be more likely much immature than use scrubs with immature ways of thinking.

  21. modded says:

    Great article mate!

  22. Giordy says:

    Great guide, buddy! Kudos!

  23. Great article that actually applies to most aspects of life, like getting a job, a girlfriend, having success with a band or almost anything you can think of.
    Usually, if you complain about something, you lose, but you will get lots of “pats on the back” by other people who do nothing to “win” and just complain.

  24. Isloor says:

    Fantastic article. I ran into my share of scrubs in my Madden days, and you’re so on target with your remarks, its funny. There were always “cheap plays” or “overpowered players” or “Madden momentum” that was to blame when poor players lost (funniest when poor players that I knew and could ridicule for weeks lost spectacularly badly). Yet they insisted that it wasnt bad football (go for it on 4th and 15) and that they were victims of bad luck.

    Underneath it all, I prepared restlessly. I knew my players, i practiced my plays so that i knew what plays my specific team of players could run consistently, knew my play book in and out, studied my opponents players and tactics for matchups to exploit. I was absolutely obsessive. I didnt leave things to chance.

    People willingly handicapped themselves, and blamed everything else when they lost.

  25. thegull says:

    So basically what I got from this article is: I like to play face hunter and I am really really really really upset that people criticize me for it. I know that playing the deck provides more advantages than any other deck in terms of ease (a relatively low skill requirement compared to other decks) and pace (much quicker speed of play).

    Anyone who doesn’t also choose to play cancer hunter is a scrub by definition.

    Now that’s one hell of a booby trap argument you’ve laid there. Agree and be someone who ‘plays to win,’ disagree and be a scrub.

    My question is: why the intellectual dishonesty? Why not just say that face hunter offers much more reward for far less risk, and be done with it? Why not stick to the part about how in a tournament setting hunter tend to have strong matchups against the most likely decks? Why the rambling about what constitutes a scrub?

    You’re also the kind of guy who probably advocates diving for penalties in soccer, aren’t you?

    The part about ‘honor’ is probably the most offensive part of this article. What a short sighted and narrow minded take that one was. So you’ve chosen to be the one who ‘wields the knife’ and win the 10,000 pounds. Wonderful. You’ve now lost any such future opportunities by rendering yourself persona non grata within the Final Fantasy community (your example) by going back on your word. A classic case of the chickens coming home to roost.

    Needless to say, I can’t wait for the next installment of how to be dishonorable and play to win, damn the consequences!

    • Smashthings says:

      When I wrote this article I was expecting to take a bit of heat. I’ll try and address a point or two.

      ******** “You’re also the kind of guy who probably advocates diving for penalties in soccer, aren’t you?” ********

      Since you mention “soccer” let me ask you a question: Who won the 1986 World Cup?

      How did Argentina win? Well, part of the answer to that question is they were better at football than the rest.

      The other part of the answer? Maradona cheated and got away with it (he scored a goal with his hand). England lost that game 2-1.

      At the end of the day, people remember those who win, NOT who was unjustly swindled through luck, malice, or bad misfortune.

      Diving in soccer is technically cheating and as I mention in the Article ‘Playing to win’ is not the same as ‘playing to cheat’. But with that said, if you happen to get taken out by a hard tackle why not exaggerate your injuries slightly? Why not make you cries of pain a little louder than they need to be? If such behaviour helps the team win and you care about winning then that is what you should do.

      • Smashthings says:

        oh one last thing. In the “right attitude” section I tried to make the point that Face hunter players usually play a tonne of other decks as well (my youtube channel has clips of me playing a wide variety of different things).

        So basically, if you think my article is about trying to justify/make myself feel better about playing cheap decks you are grossly mistaken: My results with the deck “justify” me playing it. I have no need to moralise.

      • thegull says:

        Diving for penalties is definitely a ‘spirit of the rules’ thing, which is why it’s classified under simulation and is pretty much never called. You can’t call everyone on the pitch for exaggeration, which everyone does, sometimes justifiably.

        But back to your Final Fantasy example, there is no way to justify going back on that gentleman’s agreement. I will even grant you that diving for penalties and employing the dark arts in and around the penalty box on set pieces is one thing, but explicitly saying you’ll do one thing and then going back on your word is another- that’s just unforgivable.

        • Smashthings says:

          The moment you suggest that a little exaggeration in order to win is “kind of okay” you will find yourself falling down a slippery slope: If I am about to be tackled, why don’t I learn to jump at the last moment such that they knock me flying!? …and if thats okay why not take it a little step further….and so on…

          As for the gentleman’s agreement. Well, its worth pointing out that you can’t write everything in article… there is always stuff you must leave out.

          In this case, I didn’t discuss the nuance of “one shot prisoner’s dilemma vs iterated prisoner’s dilemma”.

          Basically if you treat the game as a ‘one-off’ things like reputation are unimportant.

          Whereas, if you are going to play multiple times then reputation becomes increasingly important.

          In the article, my FF tourney essentially assumed a “one shot” situation. Whereas you are considering the situation from a the perspective of an ‘iterated’ game. Either approach is genuinely valid.

          And sure, its true…if you are likely to be invited to the next 10 tournies by not glitching (and you are likely to win more than 10K over those tournies) then yes: you should keep your word.

          But: what if you suck at the game and don’t plan on entering another tourney for said game? In this case, there are not that many incentives to keep you honest… Might as well make a quick buck while you can!

          • BattleNetBret says:

            Wow I was okay with the article but the fact that you are attempting to justify bending the rules just took away all credibility you have. There is never a situation where cheating or overall bad sportsmanship is justifiable. When you teach players to be disrespectful and do anything it takes to win even if it means screwing over your opponent you taint the community and create a toxic environment. Respect and etiquette should always be promoted as the rightful player should win not the player who takes shortcuts ie: Screen cheating in tournaments.

      • gotliebj says:

        Your argument is a naturalistic fallacy. Because things are a certain way doesn’t mean they ought to be a certain way.

        • BattleNetBret says:

          If he came from other card games he would know innovation has won many tournaments. Just because some decks are most commonly played doesn’t mean all the great decks have been made or even thought up. Innovation can provide a huge advantage when done right.

          • dragonbornrito says:

            Or it could leave you horribly embarrassed as you 0-2 drop. Innovation leads to new decks, but you can’t just look down on people who don’t want to brew their own decks when decks that already exist can win.

    • Isloor says:

      You realize that people that are winning are rarely upset by the people who lose and complain, right? As mentioned in the article, honor is the frequent crutch of the losers.

      Its not about face hunter, zoo, mech Mage, or whatever the latest nerd thread is complaining about. Its weak players that don’t adapt to the meta that make up names like “huntard” and “cancer zoo” to taunt those opponents that they can’t beat, in the hope that those opponents will simply stop playing strong decks. That you want the competition dumbed down is the definition of scrub.

      I made a face hunter deck this week. Because I found the deck I was playing was being too effectively countered by the meta I was running in to. I have about 7 decks I rotate between. I do genuinely enjoy the priest and shaman play style, and if I believe they’ll be competitive in the meta I’m facing, I’ll play them. But if the meta gives those decks bad matchups, I switch.

      If you adapt, you can keep winning. If you don’t, you can keep whining, but don’t expect the winners to be bothered by it.

      • gotliebj says:

        I don’t usually lose to hunters and mages. Doesn’t mean in not sick of playing against them. It’s not fun or compelling gameplay. They don’t usually “have it” but that doesn’tean I want to just auto-lose because they do.

        • EpicShuffle says:

          I didn`t realize that your opponents decks choices had to live up to your definition of “fun” or “compelling.” Maybe their idea of fun isn’t the same as yours, or maybe they are sick of seeing whatever deck you are playing. The point is, if you want to limit other people based on your feelings, you have to be open to letting other people`s feelings limit you as well.

          Aside from that, when does any person want to lose, let alone due to their opponent just having the answer? Does it hurt less when your control opponent topdecks the answer or threat that you can`t deal with, as compared to your aggro opponent? If anything, I would argue that aggro decks are the most consistently designed – threat after threat, with a generally low curve; midrange, control, and combo decks all have a higher chance of drawing the wrong cards (threats, answers, combo parts) in the wrong order. Those decks all try to extend the game longer to give time for the right pieces to show up.

          In other words, if you lose to aggro as a non-aggro deck, it is more correct to say that you lost because you didn`t draw an answer than that they “just had it.” That is either due to chance, misplaying, or deck design; 2 out of 3 of those are in your control. Your opponent did what they needed to do to win, scraping together 30+ points of damage; it may make you feel better to believe that there was nothing you could do, but I find that to rarely be the case. Either way, I imagine your opponents should get a bit more respect and sportsmanship than what has been reflected in many of the comments here (that`s right, it doesn`t mean anything to argue for the spirit of the game, honor, and sportsmanship if you never actually give respect to your opponent).

      • Transylvania says:

        If you are not bothered by it, why are you even making a response?

  26. Falathar says:

    Good article. One funny thing is that Hearthstone’s aggro decks take a lot more skill to play than the Magic the Gathering aggro decks. When you compare the amount of decisions between f.ex Burn/ Zoo in Magic to Face Hunter/ Zoo, anyone who plays both games will realize that Hearthstone’s aggro decks are more complex to play. Sadly Burn and Zoo are quite popular and beloved decks in the Magic community, while their counterparts in Hearthstone get a lot of hate.

    I think it’s in our responsibility as Hearthstone writers, to raise awareness that aggressive decks are not stupid, they are just easier than control decks.

    • Smashthings says:

      Thank you for the kind words Falathar

      My only experience with Magic is playing the “Duels of Planeswalker” games. Thus, I’m probably not qualified enough to judge whether aggro in HS or aggro in MTG takes more skill.

      Another more subtle point is that there is a confusion as to what “skill” actually is. The player that picks ‘Face Hunter’ because it fits the meta is probably more “skillful” than the player who insists on playing a hard-to-play deck like ‘Handlock’ in spite of the deck being a poor meta choice.

      But, I think the community doesn’t see it like that: in the eyes of many ‘skill’ in Hearthstone is mostly located at the ‘deck-level’ (e.g. Control Warrior = Skill, Face Hunter = little Skill) and ‘play-by-play-level’ (e.g. should I play Dr. Boom this turn?) and not so much at the ‘meta-level’ (e.g. How can I best counter what decks my opponent(s) are likely to play).

      Of course, what most forget is that when It comes to pro-level competition the decks are basically the same and all the players have a similar amounts of skill when it comes to making individual choices within a game. Ergo, the only ‘skill’ a pro can learn to truly thrash the competition is make excellent meta-level choices.

      This idea of “skill at the meta-level” just doesn’t factor into people opinions when they discuss aggro decks such as a face hunter. Which I think is a shame, and does need to be addressed. My article only briefly eluded to this idea.

      Anyway. For what it is worth Falathar, I do agree that aggro is a lot less ‘brainless’ then many in the community would lead us to believe. And yes, I do feel that us writers have a responsibility to educate as best we can.

      With this all said, in this article a central point I wanted to make was that the “aggro takes skill/no skill debate” can be side-lined entirely: the only thing that matters is if the deck wins consistently or not.

      Oh and by the way people, some of the discussion in the comments section of this premium guide is actually relevant to this article:

      Only I could write comments the length of articles, lol. :)

    • thegull says:

      I don’t think it was ever in question that aggressive decks are ‘easier’ than control decks. It’s for precisely that reason that people tend to dislike them.

      The biggest reason why people dislike aggro decks (since, let’s be honest, that’s the ACTUAL theme of this article and series) is because you get WAY TOO MUCH reward for almost no risk, whereas control decks, which tend to require the most skill and resources to create, receive FAR TOO LITTLE reward.

      I call people who play huntard decks scrubs not because they play huntard, but because they try to pseudointellectually rationalize playing huntard the way the author of this article just did.

      • Giordy says:

        So? If you get more reward by playing aggro just play aggro yourself. After reading the whole article, you made a scrub comment, lol.

      • Falathar says:

        As a better player you get more rewarded for playing control decks. When playing control decks, you play longer games, which result into more decisions for you and your opponent. So more opportunities for you and your opponent to make good or bad plays. Pre Rank 5 I win about 80 % of Control Warrior mirrors and win about 65-70 % of Face Hunter mirrors. In general I have a better shot of winning with Warrior than with Face Hunter, but Warrior games are sometimes very long and yet you still lose against bad players. With Face Hunter, you rank up blistering fast if you are a good player, so from my point of view I merely play control decks pre legend rank, because it is not worth it. You play a 20 min game, your opponent makes some bad plays and 20 % of the time you lose anyways due to RNG.

        Another big appeal of Face Hunter is that one major misplay of the opponent leads to an immediate loss, where with Warrior or Priest it will maybe take you several minutes to benefit from the opponent’s misplay.

      • modded says:

        The only reason the reward is higher for aggro decks is because the ladder is tilted to benefit wins/hour as opposed to absolute win rate. Aggro is far less prevalent in tournaments because winning is the only things that matters, instead of just winning more than you lose. Fix the ladder system, and aggro will become less prevalent (though it will still be popular as those decks are cheaper). Also, Control decks tend to have more comeback mechanisms than aggro decks meaning a skilled control player has far more outs than an unskilled aggro player, as an aggro player is usually hoping you don’t draw and play a few cards as they don’t have any answers.

    • gotliebj says:

      You’re insane. Any deck in magic takes more skill to play effectively against a competent opponent than anything in hearthstone. There are just exponentially more decision points in a game where the defending player assigns damage and actions take place at more than just sorcery speed.

      • Smashthings says:

        Interestingly enough MTG Pro Cifka in a gosu gamers interview suggested that HS is more complex (and less random) that MTG

      • Falathar says:

        This is just ridiculous^^ Ever played Burn and Zoo? They are sooooo dumb when compared to Hearthstone.

      • Falathar says:

        Chess is also a sorcery speed game, I guess that is what makes it less skilled than Magic.

        • craazytime says:

          First of all chess and magic are not easily compared while magic and hearthstone are very easily compared. I played magic in highschool, I qualified for nationals twice (never could afford the trip, 2006 and 2009 mid atlantic regionals) multiple day 2 GP’s and multiple t8’s in PTQ’s and states. I also have made legend in hearthstone every season since beta. Burn red in magic is infinitely harder then hearthstone because you have to plan each spell based on what mana your opponent has open and what their kill conditions are. The VERY ACT of sideboarding brings in infinitely more decisions and therefore skill into a game like magic (ranked #2 in games most needing brainpower to win, chess is ranked #4 for you clown trying to be sarcastic and were still wrong) , I don’t know who this guy Pifka is but sounds like he was paid. No one else would say that. Also straight from the lead developer of hearthstones mouth, there has to be enough randomness to allow the worst player to beat the best player sometimes. Here are some quotes concerning luck from the lead developer “Bad players will never think they can win, and they will stop playing.”

          “Your game can’t thrive if it doesn’t have luck.”

          “You’d be fucking crazy to try and make it a commercial success.”

          In magic the better player will win 99 out of 100 times easy.

          So get off your high horse and lets all stop pretending hearthstone is anything more then a convenient (but entertaining) time sink. And please for the love of god stop playing face hunter you simple simple man.

          • Smashthings says:

            “In magic the better player will win 99 out of 100 times easy.”

            99/100!? Turns out that Mana flood/ mana screw is a lot less common that I thought.

            BTW Stanislav Cifka won one or two major events in his magic career. His opinion is probably worth listening too :)

    • Anonymous says:

      You’re insane. Any deck in magic takes more skill to play effectively against a competent opponent than anything in hearthstone. There are just exponentially more decision points in a game where the defending player assigns damage and actions take place at more than just sorcery speed.

  27. Your definition of a Scrub is flawed. I’m pretty sure that a Scrub is:
    “a guy that can’t get no love from me, hangin’ on the passenger side of his best friend’s ride. Tryin’ to holla at me”

    • Smashthings says:


      • Anonymous says:

        I reached rank 2 with huntertard. didnt go to one cus i didnt want to trick myself in to believing that wus skill that won me the game. in short sad retard aggro kiddies are fooling themselfs there good without a reward whatsoever.