Star-Fired Beef

Hearthstone Key Concepts: Basics Addendum

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Last time I talked about some basic strategic concepts for Hearthstone (and similar CCGs). By keeping those concepts in mind while you play, you should see an improvement in your results, even if it means you are closer to winning more games than before. Sometimes the decisions of one turn can make all the difference, but over many turns, and many games, applying those concepts  will help ensure that you are putting yourself in a position to a) reduce your exposure to having the tables turned on you, and b) increase the number of times such crucial turns end up in your favour.

Unfortunately, though, I have to address something I missed in the last post.

Card Advantage: Addendum

It came to my attention that I talked about all the facets of card advantage except the core one! Now, it might actually be really obvious to many people why card advantage is so powerful, but I think it is worth spelling it out anyway.

The core concept of card advantage is simply drawing more cards than you would normally do over the course of the game. The advantage comes when you are drawing more cards than your opponent, and/or you are hitting your most impactful cards faster. There are many ways to do this in Hearthstone, and every deck has class cards available to it that achieve the goal of drawing cards. Neutral minions can provide this ability as well – Loot Hoarder, Novice Engineer, Azure Drake, and Nat Pagle seem to be the most popular ones.

Why is this so powerful? Well, your deck can be loosely described as being made up of three types of cards: threats, answers, and utility. Normally you only get to see around half of your cards – maybe a few more, maybe a few less. The random nature of the game means that you have no control over which threats or answers you draw, nor when. Many a game has been lost simply because you do not have the right answer in your hand when it is needed. When you are going to lose in the next two turns if you can’t do something about that minion, having the right answer two cards down is as useless as it being on the bottom of your deck. Drawing more cards means having more tools at your disposal. Seeing more of your deck gives you more options: your decision-making is done with more information which should lead to better decisions. It smoothes out the randomisation, reducing the pain of a bad draw. You are more likely to have a threat in hand to keep the pressure on; you are more likely to have an answer for a troublesome minion; you are more likely to have that heal or buff in hand when it is needed most, when it will have the biggest impact on the game.

Now, because card draw is so powerful in a game like Hearthstone, there is always a cost involved. Usually it is a mana cost, as with Arcane Brilliance or Nourish. Sometimes it is tied to a condition like deathrattle – which can be silenced – or requires the spell to deal the lethal damage, like Mortal Coil. Sometimes it means a weaker than normal primary role for a card, like Shiv only doing one damage where other damage spells do 3 for the same mana, or Novice Engineer being only a 1/1 for 2 mana when that usually gets you a 3/2 or 2/3 minion. Sometimes it requires another action as a trigger, like Northshire Cleric needing minions to be healed, or Starving Buzzard needing other Beasts to be summoned. Evaluating the worth of a card means taking these kinds of effects into account, and a lot of players might dismiss something like Mortal Coil or Northshire Cleric because they don’t understand the value of this card draw.

Of course, as with all things in Hearthstone, it is not simply a case of ‘always do X’. Pursuing card draw at the expense of power is a recipe for disaster. Judging whether a particular card draw effect is worth putting in your deck is going to depend on many factors, but a big question is whether you are prepared to pay the extra cost for that card draw. Likewise, reflexively nuking anything that gives your opponent card draw is not always going to be the best course of action. If you have control of the game, and your opponent plays a Mana Tide Totem, you may be better off letting them have the extra cards in order to press your advantage, instead of taking a turn to deal with it. It’s going to come down to the game state at the time.

I hope that wasn’t either too confusing nor too patronising. As always, if you have any concerns or questions, I’ll be happy to answer them in the comments. Thanks for reading!

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2 thoughts on “Hearthstone Key Concepts: Basics Addendum

  1. It seems the playful sprites have stopped blocking my entry so hopefully I’ll be able to get in there again and try to take advantage of my new card advantage knowledge. It’s been so long but I think I was having the most success with my Shaman.

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