Welcome to Hearthstone! *Brag 12 Wins!*

 photo Puyan: I blog at http://thep-log.blogspot.co.uk/ I tweet at https://twitter.com/TheRealP_YAN
Whats all the hype about?

The Basics of Hearthstone

A lot of Poker players including the great Negreanu has said that this is their favourite card game! It has some aspects of poker such as bluffing, playing into strength/weaknessness and future planning, as well as the board control aspect of chess.

The game is a free to play, but more cards can be bought through a micro-transaction structure. The cards are based on World of Warcraft which is another Blizzard game, but that isn't really relevant, it just adds that extra interest to those players that know the game.

Each player draws a card each turn, and effectively starts with 4 cards each.

This is the Hearthstone board;


  • Opponent's/Your Face - The objective of the game is to get your opponent's face life to zero. Once you do this they "die" and you win. Here you can see my opponent is on 26 HP and I am on 30 HP.
  • Minions - These are your "fighters" that you put down on the board. They can hit face, or trade with each other. Games will be primarily all about trading minions with each other for control of the board.
  • Mana - This is the cost of playing a card. The game allocates mana to the players each turn, starting at 1 and maxing out at 10.


Each card will always have these 3 numbers (apart from spells).

  • Mana Cost - This is how much it costs to play the card. If we are on turn 6 where we are allocated 6 mana to spend, we can play this card. However below this amount we cant afford to play it and would have to choose a cheaper card or pass.
  • Attack - This is how much damage a minion does to other minions or face.
  • Health - This is how much life each minion has, when this reaches zero the minion dies and is removed from the board.
  • Text - Most of the time, there will be some special attributes to a card. In this instance, this card has the "deathrattle" ability, which means that it does something once it dies. In this case, it will take a minion from your opponent's side of the board and make it your own.
In fighting for the board it is important to trade efficiently. Like in poker, we want max value for our cards. So on the board above we would prefer to trade our 1/2 into the 1/1 as it will kill the minion and remain alive. Trading our 1/1 into his 1/1 will make both minions die. Another option is to trade our 2/4 into his 1/1, but since we can trade the our 1/2 instead, this means we can hit face for 2 damage instead of 1, thus getting max value face damage.
These are the kind of things that we want to think about when playing Hearthstone. The variety of cards and abilities it has makes the game interesting in this way. There are also spells, which do not put a body on the board, but will do something such as pure damage, removal, or even healing.
Having cards like this means that boards where you are winning cannot just be blindly added to, as a card like this can efficiently remove everything and reset it. Even worse, it can swing round in your opponent's favour once clearing because you would have less cards in your hand then him and he could dominate the board in future turns and win.
There are only a maximum of 2 of the same cards available, so considerations would have to be given in what your opponent has, and possibly baiting out spells and removals like this to win the game. 
Decks are constructed on the basis of various tactics, and these can be quickly worked out by seeing what cards they play in the early game, and then adjusting. The variety of strategies that players use to win mean that there is usually quite a rock, paper, sissors circle that counter each other. But the fact that there isn't a one set way to win makes this game extra interesting.
The strategies are;
  • Control Decks - This strategy is to be more cost efficient in your trades then your opponent to dominate the board and then win in the late game with very strong expensive cards.
  • Tempo Decks - Tempo is used to describe a mana efficient, multiple minion playing style. You flood the board with smaller cost minions instead of one big one.
  • Aggro/Face Decks - These decks use the strategy of using a lot of smaller low cost minions to flood the board and instead of trading and fighting for it, hits face continuously and tries to kill you straight up before they run out of steam.
  • One Turn Kill Combos - Because of certain cards' abilities, it is possible to create huge burst damage. Some decks are based around surviving until the late game and then getting all the cards required to kill their opponents in one turn.
  • The Mill Deck - Basically non existent now, but this strategy was based on the whole idea of making your opponent run out of cards faster then you. When a player runs out of cards, they go into "fatigue" which will do n+1 damage each turn. 


Each player chooses 30 cards to make their deck, and then battle it out!
What is Arena?
Arena is a different game mode on Hearthstone where you draft 30 cards, and then battle it out with other drafters. You have 3 lives, and can only win a maximum of 12 games. However well you do, you will get prizes like more packs, dust (which is used to create cards you want), cards themselves, or gold (hearthstone currency).

Make your choice!
Yesterday I managed to get my first 12 win arena run. Getting 12 wins is very difficult and its a huge milestone for me. You need a good draft, to play well, and most importantly have a lot of luck! I managed to do it with this deck, which is quite good!

Interesting note that I didn't have any board clears really, but the 2 Bog Creepers and Krakens were huge picks which helped me finish off a lot of games. Pyroblast and Fireball gave me an added 16 damage off the bat, and there was some Dragon synergy with the Drake/Blackwing/Faerie Dragon cards. Taunt (a card ability which means that you are forced to trade with this minion before any other) really helps push for lethal (KO) in those end game situations where it can be risky to not trade and to go for face damage.
I had a 9-3 win/loss game a few weeks ago where I was up 9-0 and I decided to go for face when trading was the clear correct decision. It backfired as I was punished and I lost the run there after.
Arena is fun because everyone is in the same boat from the start. In ranked play it can be frustrating because those who have the amazing cards will destroy any new player just starting out who isn't willing to spend a lot of money.
Also, getting good at Arena means that you will get rewards and wont have to worry about earning gold. It costs 150 gold to play, but on average getting 7 wins is enough to get that money back in rewards.

I'd totally recommend Hearthstone of any poker player, its a very interesting game and Blizzard has done an amazing job copying the fundamentals from The Magic of Gathering card game, simplifying it, branding it and adding tons of cool things like the sound effects and card animations.

Some resources if your interested;

Blizzard Channel
No nonsense basic teachings series by Trump
Free to Play to Legend Rank (Grandmaster) by Trump
Mostly Arena Plays by Kripparian
Interesting "Experiments" by Disguised Toast
Pushing Limits and Mythbusters by Hysteria

I do think that its sad that the "video game" way direction of poker is basically gone. I think Full Tilt had some good potential of experimenting with this. I liked the Matrix games where the same players play each other on 4 tables, and a mini league would be made.

I wonder if an Arena style format could be made with poker? You pay to enter The Arena, play hyper heads up, 3 lives and your done, 12 wins max. Everyone who enters gets a variety of prizes depending on how well they do! Have a leaderboard for more prizes/bragging rights etc, what do you guys think? That would be fun...

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