Beginner’s guide to Hearthstone: Play styles

We know that the win condition in Hearthstone is to reduce your opponent’s health total from 30 to 0. So why don’t I only attack his hero (also known as going face) and kill him off quickly? Great game plan, right?

No. Just, simply, no. This is one of the most common mistakes that beginner players make.

Even aggressive decks in Hearthstone is NOT just about going face. In most cases, you will realise that if you don’t deal with the opposing minions, your opponent will eventually clear your minions and take full board control with his minions.

Hearthstone has a variety of play styles—being aggressive is just one of them. Different deck types have different strategies, and that’s what makes Hearthstone a really intriguing and fun game. It is crucial to understand the common play styles in Hearthstone.

Tempo

Tempo (or momentum) is the most fundamental concept of playing Hearthstone. Having more minions on the board than your opponent means you have board control, and thus tempo.

The challenge here is to decide how to remove your opponent’s minions without sacrificing all your own minions. Spells and weapons in your deck should be used to do this job in order to keep your minions alive and healthy.

Another aspect of a tempo play style is mana efficiency. You generally want to spend allMage spell your mana each turn. This is called playing on curve. And this is important during the first few turns as you want to try and create a board presence early.

Tempo can quickly swing between you and your opponent during the game. You may have an army of low-health minions on the board, but all it takes is one area-of-effect (AoE) spell from your opponent (e.g. Mage’s spell: Flamestrike) to wipe everything out, resetting the board state in the process.

As a beginner player, it is a good idea to master the concept of playing for tempo and maintaining board control before you focus on other playstyles.

Deck types

There are 3 main deck archetypes in Hearthstone: Aggro, Midrange and Control.

1) Aggro. Short for aggression. This play style involves playing many low-cost minions in the early game (Turns 1-4) and trying to kill off the opponent quickly. Low-cost minions are weak in general and, thus, easy to remove. Therefore, you still need to kill off your opponent’s minions in order to preserve your minions as best you can.

2) Control. This is all about surviving till the late game (Turns 9-10+). Developing minions during the early game is not a priority here. Instead, control play style focuses on removing the opponent’s minions in the early game. Once the late game arrives, control decks make use of a continuous flow of powerful minions to overpower the opponent.

3) Midrange. I feel that this play style is not well-defined; however, midrange decks are most powerful during the mid-game because they aim to utilise strong minions and spells at that point to kill off the opponent before the late game arrives. Although midrange decks can still contest in the late game, they don’t have as many resources, as compared to control decks, to do so.

Aggro decks fair poorly against control decks because they spend most of their key resources (Low-cost minions) in the early game, which control decks can easily kill off.

However, aggro decks are good against midrange decks since midrange decks do not normally have good removal tools to deal with the early board pressure.

In short: Aggro beats Midrange, Midrange beats Control and Control beats Aggro.

Mulligan

Before the game starts, both players enter the mulligan phase where they decide whether to keep their starting hand, or to shuffle certain cards back into the deck and (hopefully) draw something better.

The player going first decides his starting 3 cards while the player going second decides his starting 4 cards.

So why am I only mentioning about the mulligan phase now, and not in the previous post? That’s because the deck type you are playing directly influences the cards you mulligan for.

Mulligan
Mulligan screen before the game starts

In general, you want to mulligan for your low-cost minions (i.e. Those that cost 1-3 mana) so that you can play them in the early turns.

However, the mulligan phase isn’t usually straightforward. There are other considerations for your ideal starting hand such as:

  • Whether the cards in the starting hand synergise with each other.
  • Whether you need your removal spells to deal with crucial minions that your opponent might play in the early game.
  • The deck you suspect your opponent is playing.

Once again, you need to be familiar with the meta in order to make informed decisions during the mulligan phase. HSReplay has statistics on the best cards to mulligan for the various popular deck archetypes in the current meta.

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