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February 2, 2017

Top Ten Tips for Better Deckbuilding

Introduction

Hi everyone, my name is Louis Reed-Wood, also known by my battletag Louwilliam. I’m here to talk to you today about deckbuilding.

Deckbuilding is a fun, creative, and rewarding experience within the game of Hearthstone – plus, it’s always satisfying to win games with a deck you put together yourself! However, deckbuilding is an aspect of Hearthstone that many players find challenging; some find it overwhelming, and may not know where to begin.

So to help you out, I’ve put together a list with some helpful hints to consider when putting your deck together!

1) Choose a Theory, and Stick to It!

Before building a deck, it’s important to have a general theme for how you would like your deck to work. Are you building an aggro deck or a control deck? If it’s an aggro deck, will you trade minions willingly or hit their face? If it’s a control deck, will you control the board through board clears or through trading minions? These are the types of questions you should ask yourself before putting your deck together.

By having a theory in mind, you can then select cards that fit within that theory. There are many cards that are individually good, but may not work well within your theme. By knowing and understanding the underlying principles of your deck, you can avoid falling into these traps.

For example, Savannah Highmane, King Krush, and are all powerful Hunter cards; but if you intend to build an aggressive Hunter deck, their high mana cost will frequently make them useless.

Similarly, many cards that are popular in aggressive decks (such as Knife Juggler and Shattered Sun Cleric) will often have no place in a control deck.

2) Your Curve is Key

Having a strong mana curve is vital to success.

Generally speaking, your deck should have enough early-game minions or spells so that you can compete for the board early, as taking control of the board back from your opponent is quite difficult.

At the same time, if you don’t have enough mid- to late-game minions, the cards played by your opponent will simply be more powerful than your own. This may force you to trade multiple cards for their one card, which is never a good situation.

A strong curve allows you to be competitive (and ideally, take advantage) at all stages of the game.

A strong curve also makes you more likely to use all your mana each turn, which essentially means you will be making more powerful plays than if you only use part of your mana.

It is difficult to make hard-and-fast rules about what your mana curve should look like, but you want to be able to at least compete with your opponent (if not take advantage) at every stage of the game.

That said, aggressive decks should be built with a low mana curve as there frequently is no late-game; if you expect to win games by turn 7-8, playing cards like Ragnaros the Firelord will be too high-costed to be useful.

Control decks are better at seizing back board control later in the game and want to force the game to last longer, and as such they usually feature a heavier mana curve.

3) Card Draw, Card Draw, Card Draw!

Each card in your hand is a potential play. The more cards you have, the more options you have; therefore, you have a greater chance of making a better play if you have more available options.

Additionally, running out of cards before your opponent does is almost always a recipe for disaster.

This means that it’s usually best to build your deck with enough card draw to make sure you have a good hand size. Card draw is something that is vital to any deck, but many newer players struggle to fully understand.

The amount of draw to include is variable based on your deck, as control decks tend to emphasize card draw more than aggro decks do. It’s also worth noting that card draw is something you frequently don’t need to worry about when playing a Warlock deck, as you always have a way to draw a card.

At the same time, it’s important to recognize that you can have too much card draw. Cards that draw cards are otherwise weak in terms of tempo, as they typically have worst stats. For example, a card like a 1/1 Novice Engineer creates much weaker board presence than a 3/2 Bloodfen Raptor for the same mana cost.

This balance between card draw and tempo will vary from deck to deck, and striking the right balance is a hallmark of a good deckbuilder.

4) Your Deck Should Synergize

An important ability you have in constructed that you lack in arena is the ability to build around various synergies.

A deck that takes advantage of this ability will outperform a deck that simply uses individually strong cards with no harmony. Some of these synergies may be extremely powerful, such as Starving Buzzard + Unleash the Hounds or Force of Nature + Savage Roar, but not all synergies need to be that strong.

If your deck includes a lot of low-cost minions, you may be able to create small-scale synergy with cards like the Knife Juggler, Frostwolf Warlord, or even Sea Giant. If you have a reasonable number of weapons in your deck, it may be worth including cards like Spiteful Smith or Bloodsail Raider.

By building in synergy, your deck will jell better and you will gain a little bit of efficiency.

Generally it is best to select synergy cards that can still be played independently if you do not draw the cards they synergize with. For example, Spiteful Smith is obviously most effective when you have a weapon, but even if you don’t it is still a 4/6 for 5 mana. Even if you have no other minions follow him up, the Knife Juggler can be played as a vanilla 3/2. If you heavily rely on drawing specific card combinations, you will find that your deck is significantly weaker when you are unable to draw those combos.

Another way to make your deck more synergistic is to select cards that synergize with your Hero Power. Since you always have access to your Hero Power and do not need to rely on drawing a card combo, this can be particularly effective. For example, cards that buff other minions have synergy with the Paladin and Shaman Hero Powers, and cards related to weapons work well with the Rogue Hero Power. Give it a try!

Many decks that are currently popular include some sort of finishing combo that deals 10+ damage, such as

5) Build in a Win Condition

When constructing a deck, you should have a general idea of how your deck will kill your opponent. Do you plan on slowly beating them down will small minions? Will you use powerful legendaries to deal massive damage? Your deck can have all the removal in the world, but you can’t win without dealing 30 damage to your opponent (or more, against decks with life gain) somehow.

Leeroy Jenkins + Shadowstep, Force of Nature + Savage Roar, and + Rockbiter Weapon.

While it is by no means necessary to have a powerful finishing combo, it’s worth considering; the amount of damage many of these combos deal can catch your opponent off-guard, or force them to play sub-optimally to avoid being killed.

However, if the combo requires more than two cards, including it in your deck will probably be unwise. It may be difficult to draw into a combo that requires three cards, and until you have the entire combo the individual pieces will be dead cards in your hand. Generally, the strongest decks are capable of winning without their big combo; the combo is just an added threat. But the choice is yours!

6) Each Card Must Have a Purpose

There is no card that should be included in every single deck. Every possible card you can include does something slightly different from any other card, and with that comes a purpose for every card. Consider why you are including a card in your deck. Does a card help you secure board control? Does it protect your weaker minions? Does it eliminate a major threat? Is it a finisher? If you can identify why you have included a card in your deck, it will help you to decide whether or not there is another card that performs that function better.

Or, you can determine if there are cards that serve that same purpose in addition to a second purpose. For example, a Polymorph acts as single-target removal; but a Fireball will in many situations be useful as either single-target removal OR direct damage to finish off the enemy. Identifying this dual purpose may lead you to including only Fireball in a Mage deck.

As I mentioned, every card in Hearthstone is different (albeit sometimes very slightly), and so every card has a slightly different purpose. This leads me to my next point…

7) Don’t Dismiss Unpopular Cards!

Just because a card isn’t very useful in most decks doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be useful in your deck. Every card has a possible situation where it does something useful, and although some might be very situational, they may just work in your deck!

Until very recently, people considered Shieldbearer to be a very bad card. But now Shieldbearer is being used in Warlock zoo decks as a method of protecting low-health minions. I’m not saying you should include bad cards in your deck; I’m just saying that failing to consider cards simply because they’re unpopular means you’re missing out on some cards that could possibly be useful.

Traditionally ‘weak’ cards also have the added benefit of surprising your opponent. Don’t dismiss possible cards before giving them a chance!

8) Consider the Meta

Your deck may be great in a vacuum, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You want your deck to be able to beat other popular types of decks. Incorporating cards that help you to counter other decks is important, as they will help to give you the edge over your opponent. For example, if a large number of decks are playing Divine Shield minions, you may want to include Blood Knight in your deck.

It can be difficult to figure out what the meta is, and how to counter it. One method is simply to play a lot of games to amass a good sample of the meta. Another would be to create a network of friends or teammates, within which you can discuss what sorts of decks you are seeing frequently and what works against them.

Another method is to use web-based resources (although if you are reading this, you probably are familiar with this method!). Employing one or more of these methods will help you to shape your deck so it can be made stronger against popular decks. Of course, you want your deck to be strong against a variety of matchups, which brings me to my next point…

9) Make Your Deck Viable Against a Broad Range

While a deck that is excellent against every single matchup would be nearly impossible to build (but let me know if you find one), a deck that is strong against a wide array of matchups is certainly possible. You want your deck to be strong (or at least competitive) against as many different decks as possible. Unless you are playing in a tournament, ‘sniping’ a specific deck will rarely result in success.

Cards that are good against both aggro and control are cards you usually want to include. Most classes have a few cards that are good in almost every matchup, such as Druid of the Claw, SI:7 Agent, and Water Elemental. You also may need to add a few cards in order to improve specific matchups; for example, Taunt minions tend to be useful against aggro, and single-target removal is frequently quite strong against control.

10) Test and Refine

No deck will be perfect the first time you put it together. Like a rough draft of a written work, editing and revision will improve the final product. You should play some games with your initial deck, and try to closely analyze those games for possible improvements; perhaps you need more early-game presence, or more card draw.

If you lose, try to determine WHY you lost, and make adjustments accordingly. If possible, have a friend play a variety of decks against your deck to test it against an array of matchups.

Conclusion

I hope this list has given you some ideas for how to improve your deckbuilding. New decks keep Hearthstone fresh and interesting! This is the first Hearthstone article I have written, so if you’d like to leave some feedback in the comments it would be greatly appreciated.

If you would like to contact me, I can be reached at louisreedwood@gmail.com. Happy deckbuilding!

Article by Louis Reed-Wood (a.k.a. Louwilliam)

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5 Comments

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  1. chevex117 says:

    Wow this is great. I thought I had read everything there is to read about deck building but this article really enlightened me. I love the line where you say to identify WHY you put a card in your deck. If I can’t articulate a reason why a card is in my deck then it probably doesn’t belong there. Also, as you said, it allows me to then take that reason and see if another card fulfills that need in a better way.

    I also love the emphasis on WHY you lost. That is my absolute biggest handicap right now. I don’t take losing well so my instinct after a loss is to put it out of my mind and focus on the next matchup. I now realize how much that’s hurting me. I need to embrace my losses and analyze them if I’m ever going to improve.

    Thanks for the article!

  2. SylarHRG says:

    Well written! Would love to see a follow-up to this in a part 2 on deck building with perhaps more specifics

  3. Mahousse says:

    Very good and well written article ! It could be improved (from a beginner point of view) by adding some specific ccg terms definition.

  4. Chad Tompkins says:

    We’ll written this will be very helpful to ppl that are new to ccgs.