A beginner’s guide on how to get into HearthStone

In Fall 2015, I discovered HearthStone and HearthStone’s subreddit. It has been a great source of help and advice at the beginning, and for a few months now I’ve been trying to give back to the community by helping beginners who had questions about how to get better at the game.

The four questions that were asked over and over were:

  • I’m a new player, how do I get into the game? How can I stop sucking and climb over the 18-20 wall? More generally, how can I improve my gameplay?
  • What should I do with my gold or real money? Packs? Arena? Adventures? Which ones? What should I do with my dust?
  • How do I get better at Arena?
  • What should I craft?

I’ve also read the advice that many people provided on the subreddit, and wanted to compile what I found the most useful in a quick post for future reference.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed at the beginning. There are lots of things in the game, lots of different cards, and the game (or rather, the matchmaking system) is rather unforgiving to new players. So you have to take things step-by-step, accept that at the beginning your card collection will suck, and steadily get better at the game by both improving your gameplay and your card collection.

Get familiar with the game

Get familiar with all the classes by leveling each of them to level 10 first (first against the Innkeeper, then against the Expert Innkeeper, then against other players in Ranked, Standard mode – casual’s matchmaking will often pit you against strong players, and Wild makes collection gaps even more difficult to bridge). Even if you don’t plan to use them, you need to understand the basic strengths and weaknesses of each class.
I suggest you use no-dust deck like Sheng’s 0-dust decks, which you can later evolve into Sheng’s budget decks as you get cards, or consider the guides and lists from WingsOfWax (a bit more expansive and competitive). These decks also come along with detailed guides that explain the cards and how to play them. It will give you a solid basis to attack the game with and be competitive on the first levels of the ladder.

Then play for a while with these basic decks while doing your daily quests and unique quests. These are one-offs that will give you rewards (usually gold or packs) when certain conditions are met.

Also, level one of your classes to level 20 to get access to the Tavern Brawl (and get a free pack every week). This will give you a feel for the game that you can’t have otherwise, which will help you a lot going further.

Once you feel you are familiar with the game, it’s time to get to the second step: improving your mastery.

Improve your gameplay

It is actually more important to improve your gameplay (your knowledge and skill at how to play the game) than increasing your card collection. At the beginning, you can beat seemingly much stronger decks with simple ones just because you understand the game very well.

To do so, there are 3 things you can do in parallel:

  • Read beginner guides and resources. This will give you the basics of strategy and understanding of the game mechanics. For now I’m linking to hearthstoneplayers.com resource (which is pretty good), but I’ll add more individual links as time goes on
  • Watch streamers to get a feel of what to do and what not to do. Prefer educational streamers (ie streamers that explain their moves and thought process), like:
  • Once you have an idea of what you should do, time to know if you’re doing it right. Record your games and discuss them with other experienced players (trackers like Hearthstone Deck Tracker are the best way, and I wrote a guide if you need more help). You’ll get to learn tons about how to play the game, especially since the advice will be directed at your specific mistakes, and not simply generic advice on the net.
    Zero to Heroes lets you do just that, and here are two examples of games that got reviewed for illustration.
  • Also see this post from a first-time Legend player about general tips on how to get good and this short guide to reaching Legend.

You’ll know when you have gotten good enough at the game. You’ll be able to predict the moves the streamers will make, and reviewing your games won’t reveal any big mistake.

And one last thing: HearthStone is a card game, so with natural RNG. Some cards again add some RNG to the mix. Being a good HS player means learning to play with this in mind. You won’t win all your games, but you can play in a way that maximizes your chances.

At this stage, it’s time to increase your collection to be able to build competitive decks (this is obviously mostly valid for free-to-play players. If you’re willing to spend money to buy packs, getting cards will be a lot easier).

Improve your collection

There are three main ways of improving your collection (I’m not counting the Watch and Learn quest, which gives you a free pack but pops rather rarely, or the Tavern Brawl that is limited to one pack per week):

  • Buying packs
  • Buying Adventures
  • Getting packs from Arena

The article (and this section in particular) is written mainly with f2p in mind, so using gold instead of real money. If you’re using real money, Adventures are the best bang for your buck. And in any case, never buy an Arena ticket with real money, it’s just not worth it.

Packs

Buying packs is the most obvious way to go by, and what you should start with. Buy 15-20 packs of the Classic expansion, and as much from the latest one (Whispers of the Old Gods). Please note you can earn 13 free WotOG packs by winning some games in Standard, which you should obviously do. This will gradually lets you expand your collection, get to know more cards, and possibly gain access to stronger decks.

Once you’re there, you have two possible paths: Arena or Adventures. There is no consensus on which one you should follow, and it mainly depends on whether you have fun in Arena, or if you are looking for specific Adventure cards.

Arena

First, should you play Arena at all? This is still a controversial subject.

My take is that at this point, if you took things step by step and focused on improving your gameplay, you should be able to do decently (~3 wins) in Arena. Which, if you like the format, is enough to justify doing Arena to get your packs.
Otherwise, it can be pretty frustrating, and the time investment may not make it worth it compared to playing ranked for your quests.

So before going into Arena, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Read a few guides to learn how to draft and how the gameplay is different from constructed, and watch streamers to get a feel for it. Then do a few test runs, and depending on your results decide whether you’d like to go down this route or not.

Being good in Arena will let you pay 150 gold to earn a pack AND other rewards, mostly gold and dust. At some point (it used to be when you have at least 7 wins, but rewards have changed with WotOG and we don’t have any clear stats yet), you’ll get more gold than your entrance fee, which lets you get a pack for free and do another Arena to continue the chain.
How to achieve this is the subject of a whole post by itself and long hours of sucking at it, but luckily there are plenty of resources available on the net (including an article on this blog).

Adventures

Adventures are pretty straightforward, and lets you play against the AI in predefined scenarios to earn certain specific cards. Two Adventures are part of Standard today: League of Explorers (LoE) and BlackRock Mountain (BRM). It’s probably better to start with LoE. You get more cards for cheaper, and the majority of the set contains viable cards, as opposed to BRM which just has a few playable cards for specific decks. You can build a pretty good deck built around the LoE cards, and they’re really good for new players.

Understand the cards and build your own decks

The final step, and a difficult one. It’s again the subject of a whole article, and again hearthstoneplayers has some interesting resources.

Other resources

Closing words

Getting into HS is more difficult than it should be. Blizzard has done some nice things to make things easier with WotOG, and I hope this trend will continue in the future.

This said, the HS community is very helpful and will help you get past this initial wall. Set your goals to getting better at the game, and you’ll be able to enjoy it from the start.

How do I get better at HearthStone’s Arena?

In Fall 2015, I discovered HearthStone and HearthStone’s subreddit. It has been a great source of help and advice at the beginning, and for a few months now I’ve been trying to give back to the community by helping beginners who had questions about how to get better at the game.

The four questions that were asked over and over were:

  • I’m a new player, how do I get into the game? How can I stop sucking and climb over the 18-20 wall? More generally, how can I improve my gameplay?
  • What should I do with my gold or real money? Packs? Arena? Adventures? Which ones? What should I do with my dust?
  • How do I get better at Arena?
  • What should I craft?

I’ve also read the advice that many people provided there, and wanted to compile what I found the most useful in a quick post for future reference.

Read guides and watch streamers

The best thing to ease into Arena is to read a bit about it. There are a few good resources on icy-veins at http://www.icy-veins.com/hearthstone/arena-guides

Then, watch streamers (either live or VOD – because of my schedule constraints I only watch VOD, so that’s what I’ll link to here). The ones that were referenced the most often in the discussions were:

You’ll learn a bit about the way you have to think in Arena. And like many things, it works best if you watch actively: pause before a pick (in a draft) or the beginning of a turn (in a game), and decide how you would play (and why). Then unpause and see their choice and their explanation.

Use tier lists intelligently

The go-to references for tier lists are:

You usually use them through add-ons like:

  • Hearthstone Deck Tracker‘s plugin Arena Helper (uses The Lightforge list) which displays each card’s value on top of the HS screen
  • HearthArena which adds an algorithm to evolve the card values based on your previous picks
  • ArenaDrafts companion app which has the possibility of sharing your drafts through the interactive mode, that way someone can help you along the draft.

I definitely recommend using them (especially at the beginning), but do so intelligently:

  1. Decide what would be your pick on your own, and why you would pick this. Try to find a reason. It can simply be “because I love the card”, “it has great stats / mana ratio”, “it sucks the less of the three picks because _____”, etc. But formulate your thinking.
  2. Then look at a tier list, and see what the card rating here. Try to understand why your picks differ. Does the tier list gives a high value to the card because it is stat efficient (eg Chillwind Yeti), but you’re late in the draft and desperately need a 2-drop, which is why you picked a lower value card? In other words, does the current state of your deck from the picks so far justify getting lower card value?

It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong at this stage. The goal is to learn.

Play with a friend in co-op

Playing with a friend forces you to think through your plays, to be able to rationalize what you think and justify your decisions. While this is valid for any game mode, it works especially well in Arena where you have a single short-term goal (get those 12 wins).

Subreddits r/grinninggoat and r/arenahs are arena focused subreddits and there are always people looking for coop partners, so don’t hesitate to have a look there 🙂

Record your drafts and games

And most of all, record your draft + games to review them later. I recommend using Hearthstone Deck Tracker (+ Arena Helper plugin for the draft) on Windows and ArenaTracker on Mac, and I wrote a guide if you need help using them. Then, discuss them with other experienced players.

Zero to Heroes lets you do just that. You’ll get to learn tons about how to play the game, especially since the advice will be directed at your mistakes and take the previous plays into account, and not simply generic advice on the net. For illustration, these are two quick examples of games that got reviewed, and a draft.

And finally, don’t dwell too much on losses. Even infinite players have 1-3 runs.

Have fun!

Seb