In this final part of my beginner’s guide to Hearthstone, I want to share some tips on how to improve as a player.
I used to be a casual player back when I started in 2018. I never put in the time and effort to develop my understanding of the game until the beginning of 2019. The drive to become a better player has kept me going since.
Since the Year of the Dragon was released in April 2019, I have reached the rank 1-5 bracket multiple times, the highest being rank 3. That was down to only playing meta-viable decks, as well as improving my game sense and decision-making.
I play mostly in ranked mode because I want to play against serious players—those that want to climb as high as possible in ranked. Although I am busy with my life, I still try to beat my personal best rank every season (which is every month).
So, here are some of the important lessons I have learned over the past year to become a better Hearthstone player.
Manage your expectations
This is my number one tip for all Hearthstone players who are serious about improving. If you don’t manage your expectations, you will get very frustrated at the game—and possibly quit. Why?
Hearthstone is a card game where the card draw is, generally, not within your control. If you have a good starting hand or a favourable draw in the early turns, your odds of winning are great. Conversely, having a bad starting hand or drawing cards that you don’t need significantly increases the likelihood of you losing.
Probably the most frustrating scenario is when the opponent draws the one card needed to stabilise (what we call a lucky topdeck) just when you are about to win—and your opponent goes on to win the game from there.
If you keep whining and complaining about how lucky your opponent is or why you keep having bad luck with your card draw, you will eventually hate Hearthstone.
Also, if you think that the ONLY way to win is by having a specific combination of cards in your hand, you won’t improve as a player.
Yes, the card draw phase is down to luck. But always remember that everyone has games where they draw poorly too. You aren’t a “special case” player who is always jinxed.
The decision-making behind making the best use of the cards that are currently in your hand, regardless of how bad they are, is what you have to develop in order to improve at Hearthstone.
Play to your outs
Following on from good decision-making with your hand, you must also remember that you are actually playing with your entire deck—not just with your hand. What does this mean?
Time and time again in Hearthstone, you will find yourself in a situation where—with the cards currently in your hand—you can swing the game in your favour IF you manage to draw one specific card from your deck.
So, the challenge here is: Can you set up your board or hand in such a way that if you draw that one specific card, you will go on to win the game?
Here’s an example:
You are playing Mage. You only have one spell in hand (Fireball). Your opponent is currently running low on health, but has a strong line of minions on the board. It seems like you have no way of taking back board control.
You could use the Fireball to remove one of your opponent’s minions now. But doing so may result in you not having enough burst damage to kill off your opponent later on.
So, you play to your outs. You keep the Fireball in your hand, and accept that you will take extra damage from your opponent’s minions this turn. You are hoping that you will draw another Fireball or burst damage spell (e.g. Frostbolt) in the next turn, allowing you to do the required damage to kill off your opponent.
This is the essence of playing to your outs in Hearthstone. You can’t control your card draw, and you might not draw what you need. But you are giving yourself the best chance of winning the game IN CASE you draw that crucial game-changing card.
Avoid decks that rely on randomness
This is just a personal opinion: I don’t like decks that primarily rely on generating random cards or minions to win the game.
This includes adding random cards to your hand, transforming cards in your deck, transforming minions on the board into something random, and more.
These decks (e.g. Thief Rogue and Evolve Shaman) are inconsistent. You never know what you’re getting from your random generation. Yes, you may get something powerful that wins you the game. But there is also a good chance that you get useless junk.
And for the only meta-viable Mage deck in the game as of Descent of Dragons, Highlander Mage has tools to generate completely random spells—usually as a last ditch attempt to escape defeat. It is really annoying if they succeed, but don’t forget that these random spells can also cause players to lose the game instantly.
I also like to point out that decks that rely on randomness tend to not be meta-viable, and thus are not recommended for climbing ranks.
Know your opponent’s decks
Lastly, know your enemy. If you can recognise what deck the opponent is playing early, you will be able to make better decisions on how to spend your resources in hand.
Sometimes, you can anticipate what the opponent is playing even before the game starts. Since Highlander Mage is the only viable Mage deck in Descent of Dragons, you can presume that any Mage opponent will be a Highlander Mage.
Anticipating what deck the opponent is playing at the mulligan stage is crucial because you can make more informed decisions, giving you a chance to have the best possible starting hand.
If you suspect your opponent is going to play an aggressive deck, you want to keep defensive tools like cheap spells or weapons to remove minions early.
If you anticipate that the game will drag late (i.e. facing a control deck), you might consider holding onto your high value—albeit higher mana cost—cards so that you can play them at the earliest opportunity and thus, creating a big impact earlier.
It is also important to know what all the core cards are for each meta deck. This will greatly aid your decision-making in-game, especially when it comes to taking risks.
Using the Hunter class as an example: If you know that the opponent’s deck has Deadly Shot, play more minions alongside your most important minion to lower the probability of it dying. If you know that the opponent’s deck has Unleash the Hounds, don’t play many minions on the board.
At the end of the day, having a good understanding of the meta is still all-important. Even mastering your own deck won’t take you far if you don’t know how to deal with the most popular decks in the meta.