Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Hearthstone Decks: A Newbies Guide

So, you've joined Blizzards latest release and installed Hearthstone. You may have even played the tutorial and defeated Illidan in epic card based combat. Now you are dumped into a menu and you have no idea where to go from there. Hopefully this guide will help you to get the basics of building decks, and then introduce you to some more advanced concepts of making decks in Hearthstone. So let's start with what you are looking at on the most common type of card you will be using: the minion card.

Minion Cards:
Minions are exactly what they sound like: creatures that you control who fight for you. Each minion card has 4 main things on it, besides the artwork on it. They are:

1. Mana Cost: Every card in the game has a mana cost. Found in the top left, this indicates how many mana crystals will be used up when the card is played. Hearthstone has a mana system that gives you one crystal each turn. If you played the tutorial, then you know all about that. If you haven't, then for now all you need to know is that doing anything requires mana crystals. Deathwing shown in the picture, costs 10 mana.

Deathwing, also known as "Oh, what happened
to my hand? CRAP I NEEDED THAT!"
2. Attack power and Health: A minion's attack power and health are shown at the bottom of the card; attack power on the yellow circle, and the health on the red drop. The attack power does exactly what it sounds like. When you command a minion to attack it will deal the amount of damage listed there. If a minions health drops to zero, it will die and be removed from play. Deathwing has a massive 12 attack and 12 health.

3: Ability Text: Not every minion card has text written on it, however those that do will have it below the name. There are a number of different effects that are in the game, and I will touch on them here:

  • Battlecry: This card will do something when it is summoned to the board.
  • Charge: You can attack straight away with a charge card.
  • Choose One: An ability on Druid cards, you select one of the effects on the card.
  • Combo: Rogue cards can have extra effects if you have already played a card this turn.
  • Deathrattle: This card will do something when it dies.
  • Divine Shield: The first damage this card takes is negated. Basically gives a card two lives.
  • Enrage: Damaging these minions makes them angry, giving them the effect stated.
  • Freeze: Something frozen cannot attack for one turn.
  • Immune: Cannot be damaged.
  • Overload: A card with Overload (2) will use two mana on the next turn, in addition the the mana listed on the top left. Found only on Shaman cards.
  • Silence: Removes any text, buffs, and abilities from a minion. Very useful.
  • Stealth: Cannot be targeted until they deal damage. They can still be hit by AoE.
  • Spell Damage: Increases the damage of spell cards by the amount listed.
  • Summon: This card will bring another minion into play.
  • Taunt: Must be targeted before anything else.
  • Transform: Changes a minion, removing all text and enchantments.
  • Windfury: Can attack twice on a turn.

4: Card Type: Shown in the picture between the attack power and health, the card type will vary from card to card. For example, on Deathwing, it's type is shown as Dragon. There are other types including Murloc, Beast and Pirate cards to list a few. For now, Beast and Murloc types work well with each other in certain decks, and you can be sure that Blizzard will expand on this as they release more card sets in the future.

The heroes that you choose will often affect the minion cards that you put into a deck. For example, a Hunter would definitely want to have a good selection of Beast cards, as many of the spell cards that a Hunter has need Beasts to work most effectively. Alternatively a Mage would have no need to have lots of Beasts, but may take a couple if it works with the deck. This leads right into the differences between the classes, as they can also have an impact on how they play.

Class Differences:

Hearthstone differs from a lot of the other CCGs out there by adding classes to the mix. Each class has a unique ability that costs two mana crystals to use. The abilities are as follows:
  • Mage: Fireblast. This does 1 damage that can be targeted anywhere by the player.
  • Warrior: Armour Up! You gain two armour that acts as a buffer to your health.
  • Rogue: Dagger Mastery. Equips a weapon that can do 1 damage twice.
  • Priest: Lesser Heal. Restore two health where ever the player targets.
  • Warlock: Life Tap. Deals two damage to the player, and allows them to draw a card.
  • Paladin: Reinforce. Summons a 1/1 minion token (the Silver Hand Recruit).
  • Druid: Shapeshift. Gives the hero 1 attack and 1 armour.
  • Hunter: Steady Shot. Deals two damage directly to the enemy hero.
  • Shaman: Totemic Call. Summons a random totem card to the board.
These abilities should always be used if you have no other options on your turn, or if you have the spare mana available. Along with the abilites, all classes have cards that are unique to them. These cards usually work well with the class, and should always be considered when making a deck.

Spell Cards:

Spell cards are the other type of card that you will be using. There are a wide range of spell cards in Hearthstone, that all do very different things. Some cards buff minions, while others destroy enemy minions. There are secrets that get played and only activate after a certain action is taken by your opponent (think trap cards). To give you a better idea, here are a few spell cards available in the game.

So many choices!
As with minion cards, each spell card has a mana cost shown in the top left of each card, and the cards text tells you what it does.


These cards are neither minions or spells, but are similar to each of them. They provide your hero with the ability to attack for a limited number of times.
As with minions, you have a cost in the top left and the attack power in the bottom left. The biggest difference however, is the durability of the weapon listed in the bottom right. When you use the weapon, a point of durability is taken off it. When that number reaches zero, the weapon breaks, and is removed from play. When attacking with a weapon, the hero acts exactly as a minion and will take damage if it attacks another minion (with one Hunter weapon being the sole exception at this time). Using the additional damage that a weapon can give could be the difference between winning and losing. Warriors and Rogues especially benefit from the use of weapons.

So you've chose what class you want to try, and know what the different types of cards are. Now we move on to building a deck.

Deck Building Basics:

Building a deck is a game all of it's own. It takes a good knowledge of how cards work together and how to get the right mix of cheaper cost cards with more expensive ones. While this guide is aimed at new players, it still pays to know the different types of decks that can be made in a CCG. There are 3 main types of deck that can be played: Aggro, Control and Combo.

Aggro decks are exactly what they say on the box. These decks are super aggressive and try to drop a players health to zero as fast a possible. Most players will use a combination of low cost minions, spells and weapons while focusing the majority of damage to the opponents hero and drawing additional cards when they can. Playing an aggro deck is risky. If the opponent can delay to the late game, most aggro decks will run out of legs and find themselves without the ability to deal with what is being thrown at them. If you get the right cards however, you will find that your opponent cannot deal with the amount of damage that you are putting out.

Control decks are the opposite to aggro decks. Generally speaking, where aggro decks are ignore what the other player is doing (to a point), control decks are reactive to what your opponent does (requiring you to "control" the board). This could be by removing minions, utilizing abilities or spells to reduce or heal damage, and finally getting to a point where you can deal lethal damage. I personally love playing control decks. The feeling of satisfaction from making the correct choices to finally win cannot be compared.

Combo decks are generally one trick ponies that use a very special combination of cards to win. Some times called one turn kill decks (or OTK), these decks often use cards that allow you to draw additional cards each turn to try and get the magic combination to win. The skill in these decks comes from being able to delay until you can use the combo. However expect to lose a lot of games with Combo decks, as a run of bad luck can mean you don't get the cards you need to win.

There are also decks that use a mixture of the three main deck types. Called hybrid decks, they are generally not as focused as a deck that is only using one style of play. However that doesn't mean that they aren't as effective. If built efficiently, they can be just as lethal as any other type of deck.

An example of a typical Mana curve.
This one has less 5 mana cards than I would normally like.
One of the biggest things to remember when building a deck is to have a balanced mana curve. A mana curve is a simple way to show how many cards of various costs you have in a deck. You don't want to have a full deck of cards costed at 1- 3 mana (as you would struggle if the game goes longer), or costed at 7 - 10 mana (as you wouldn't be able to play anything until at least turn 7). Having a nice even curve means that no matter what point you are in the game you should have something you can play. The cards you want the most of would normally be between 3 - 6 mana, with a nice curve up and down on either side.

Another important part of making a deck is knowing what cards work well (or synergise) with each other. If you simply throw a bunch of cards into a deck, then there is little chance that anything will work together. This is why I mentioned the 3 main types of deck. As an example, when making my control mage deck, I had a goal in mind. I wanted to use the powerful spell cards that the mage has to both control the board and finish the opponent off. To do this, I knew I needed cards that would buff the power of these spells, minions that had taunt to stop any other minions from damaging me, removal to get rid of any big creatures that my opponent might play and finally big damage spells or minions to finish them off. Once you have a rough idea what you need, you can start to look through your collection for cards that do this, but also synergise with each other so that no matter what order they are drawn in, you have a chance to win by making good choices.

Would You Like to Know More?

So that's the basics, and if you dive in headfirst everything here will start to make sense. If you want more information, there are a number of places that you can go. For starters, Hearthhead is a great resource to know what cards are in the game. All of the pictures in this guide came from Hearthhead. Massive thanks to the guys behind it for that amazing resource. It made writing this guide so much easier!

If you like podcasts, I would highly recommend The Angry Chicken. Garret, Dills and Jocelyn have a great show there, and it is squarely aimed at the casual player that wants to get better. At the time of writing, there are 23 episodes, and each one has a very useful strategy segment that goes into one particular part of the game. Not only that, but they have great synergy (haha).

And last but definitely not least, Hearthpwn has a great decklist sharing tool. I tend to not follow the netdecking trend that has surrounded Hearthstone since day one, as I enjoy building my own decks. However, with that being said, looking at other peoples decks can give you ideas for how to change your own decks to better deal with a particular problem you might be facing. And if you find a particular deck that you think you will really enjoy, you can give it a go.

Building a really strong deck is a rewarding experience. Hopefully you can use the information here to make a start on it, and can get into the amazing world of building a deck. As always folks,


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