How to get the most out of your game review

Many strategic games like Go, Chess, or Poker put game review at the center of their training programs. The student and the teacher go over the games they have played (or over games played by other strong players) to understand what mistakes were made, why they were mistakes, and how to correct them in the future.

Go game review

When I moved to Hearthstone, I found that no one really did this. Or more precisely, that the people who analyzed their games were doing this on their own or with their training partners, keeping the practice confidential. There were no community dedicated to helping players improve their game by pointing out their mistakes and helping them correct their plays.

I’ve decided to build Zero to Heroes to fill that gap and provide a platform for players to submit their games and get advice from experienced players in a cooperative way.
It’s been running for a few months now, and even though some people have gotten real value out of the comments that were made, most players get less value than they could from the reviews.

The reason is pretty simple: they simply upload their game, read the comments, and move on.

Thought process

When I was preparing for university entrance exams, I remember one of our physics professors telling us a story. He was testing a student on the blackboard, and once the student had solved the problem, the examiner told him he had made a mistake. He went on to correct him, showed the proper reasoning, and in the end arrived at the exact same result. “That’s exactly what I said!”, said the student. He left the room with a disqualifying grade.

The point here is that the reasoning you use to choose your play is way more important than choosing the correct card or the correct trade. It shows you understand why it’s correct, and so will be able to play correctly in a thousand future similar but different situations.

And yet, most of the games that are usually posted only present what happened, without the thought process behind it. So we comment on the plays and try to guess the reasoning behind the actions. But some plays may have been correct for all the wrong reasons, and so go unnoticed.

ownreview

Review your own game

To be able to explain your thought process, you need to review the game yourself first. This is a very important step, and you need to apply a few rules (taken and slightly adapted from a page on how to review your Go game):

  • Control your emotions. If you’re tilted, raging, or simply would rather be doing something else, better wait a bit to have a clear head
  • Be objective and honest. Sore losers are often tempted to prove that they “should” have won the game. This is called trying to “win the review”. A review will only do you good if you honestly seek mistakes and not if you seek to justify yourself. We all know some games are lost or won through chance. What we’re looking for here is “did you play the best you could?”. Winning or losing is secondary.
  • Think ahead. When suggesting possible moves, or going over your moves, don’t stop at the current turn. Ask yourself “if I play that, what are the responses my opponent is likely to have? How will the game develop from then?”. HearthStone being heavily RNG-dependent, thinking about your turn, your opponent’s next turn and your next turn is probably as far ahead as is reasonable.

TL;DR: the checklist

  1. Include basic information like your decklist, your rank/skill and the archetype if it’s not obvious
  2. Review the game yourself first, turn-by-turn, play-by-play.  You’re not on the clock, so don’t hesitate to look guides. Every time you’re not sure about a play you make, note it. When plays are not obvious, write your reasoning process. I can’t emphasize enough how knowing the reasoning that lead you to a specific play is even more important than the play itself. The play is just the manifestation of your thoughts. It’s also a mark of respect to your reviewer – you show them the review is important enough for you to spend time on it
  3. When you get comments and suggestions, make sure you fully understand them. Always ask yourself “why”. What is the reason coining out my 2-drop t1 is better than passing? What’s the rationale? If you aren’t 100% convinced by a comment or suggestion, ask them to clarify the reasoning behind it. Do so politely, in a way that shows you’re curious and willing to improve and open-minded. Sometimes reviewers make mistakes too (we all have things to learn) – just be happy you’ve helped them improve their thinking today
  4. Always thank a reviewer for their time. They could have been outside enjoying the sun, or spending time with their loved ones, but instead they took time to help you. Be grateful.

And then, take some time yourself to help out other players, like you yourself got help. It will make someone else’s day a little better, and help you get stronger in the process.

Zero to Heroes ranking algorithm

We are currently experimenting with a ranking algorithm to help reviewers put the focus on where their help will be the most useful. It rewards:

  • The points mentioned above (doing a pre-review, filling all useful fields)
  • Quality over quantity. It favors having a few reviews open at a single time, and we now have an “I’m satisfied” button you can click on the reviews when you think you don’t need more advice. This will close the review (not show it in the Help Others page) and make your other open reviews rank higher
  • It gives a small bonus to losses, as from our experience over the past year, these are almost always more interesting than wins.

Further reading

(this section will be expanded with readers’ advice)

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

How to record your HearthStone game [PC, Mac, Android]

HearthStone doesn’t have any built-in replay capability yet, and so the only way to share your game and get advice used to be to record and upload it to a video website like YouTube.

It’s now possible to recreate the game in the browser thanks to the logs provided by HearthStone itself: all the needed information is recorded, and viewers like Zero to Heroes let you replay the game. The unique aspect of Zero to Heroes is the focus on the game review: to help you spot your mistakes, learn from them and improve at the game.

Recording and uploading a game is thus now surprisingly simple:

On PC

It’s now possible (and recommended) to record and upload your game without the need of video recording (see here to see a full game). Compared to a full video, the file is so small it is uploaded in a few seconds, and you can interact with the replay (easily move forward / back in the turn, mouse over the cards, and so on). Also, once you have everything setup, all your games will be automatically recorded – no need to fire up a video recording software beforehand.

You have two programs that let you do that today

Hearthstone Deck Tracker

  1. Download and install Hearthstone Deck Tracker (and optionally download Arena Helper if you want to record your Arena drafts). It’s a free software that will add an overlay on top of the Hearthstone window to track stats during the game. Please see the FAQ if you want to know everything HDT can bring to your game.
  2. You can then either download the Zero to Heroes HDT plugin or upload your files manually (continue reading to know how)
  3. Launch HDT. You can also launch Hearthstone directly from HDT if you like.
  4. Play a game – it will be recorded automatically.
    1. If you use the Zero to Heroes plugin, the game is uploaded automatically to your Zero to Heroes account, and you can stop here
    2. If not, the game is automatically uploaded to hsreplay.net. This is fine if you just intend to watch the game, but if you’d like to analyze the plays and discuss your choices with others, you’ll probably want to import it to Zero to Heroes (see the Import from External site section below)
    3. Otherwise, the recorded game will be a .hdtreplay file in C:\Users\<user_name>\AppData\Roaming\HearthstoneDeckTracker\Replays. Note: the AppData folder is hidden. If you can’t see it, just manually type \AppData after your current path in the Windows Explorer bar
  5. You can then upload it online to discuss your plays with other players. Zero to Heroes already lets you do that:
      1. Go to http://www.zerotoheroes.com/s/hearthstone and click on Upload
      2. Select Game Replay, and choose your file (or drop it in the zone)
      3. You can then review your game and add comments if you want to.

Overwolf

Overwolf is a multi-game application that has Hearthstone support. Once you complete your Hearthstone session, you’ll have the possibilities to see the replays of all the games you’ve played during this session.

While we’re working on making sharing as easy as clicking a button, you can already upload your games quite easily to Zero to Heroes. To do so:

  • Go to %localappdata%/Overwolf/ZeroToHeroes/Replays (you can just paste that in the Windows Exporer address bar). You’ll find all your game replays there
  • Then go to the Zero to Heroes upload page: http://www.zerotoheroes.com/s/hearthstone/upload/replay
  • From here, you can drag and drop the game you want to share.

Arena Tracker

  1. Download and install Arena Tracker. It’s a free software that will add an overlay on top of the Hearthstone window to track your games or provide advice on your arena drafts. The site itself provides all the installation instructions you need.
    1. Note: you won’t be able to easily have Arena Tracker and Hearthstone Deck Tracker installed at the same time, so choose the one you like best 🙂
  2. Launch Arena Tracker. The first time you’ll be asked for some information.
    1. Play a game – it will be recorded automatically. The recorded game will be a .arenatracker file in the HS Cards/GameLog folder of your Arena Tracker directory
  3. The upload procedure is the same as described above – except that you have to select the .arenatracker file instead 🙂

ArenaDrafts

ArenaDrafts.com automatically records, well, your arena drafts. They have tons of cool features (like sharing live the current pick/draft to get real-time discussions), and have a detailed guide on how to upload the draft to Zero to Heroes.

Import a game from an external site

You can also import games or drafts from some external sites (HearthArena, ArenaDrafts and HSReplay are the most popular today). To do so:

  • Go to Upload > External site
  • Paste the URL of the site you wish to import from
  • Et voilà!

capture

Game logs

It is now possible to simply take your game log file and upload it online:

  1. Enable logging
  2. The log file is then located at <your_hearthstone_installation_folder>/Logs/Power.log or Power_old.log
  3. Important: the file is erased when you restart HearthStone, so take care to upload your games before relaunching the game
  4. The upload works as described for the previous section of the guide. The exception being that, since you will most likely be uploading several games at once, the upload screen will look like this:
  5. Once the upload completes, the Title, Player and Opponent names and classes will be automatically prefilled – you just need to add the info for the game level.
  6. By default all games are uploaded as “private” (only you can access them), and you can change the visibility either on this screen or later on for each individual game

On Mac

  • Arena Tracker now allows Mac users to record and upload your games! The installation procedure is the same as in the above section and described on the official site.
  • You can also upload your game logs, as described in the section above

Since patch 7.1, logs aren’t available on Android anymore, so for now we don’t have a good solution to record and upload games.

On Android (tablet and phone)

Log files

The easiest way to replay your games. There are two steps to this:

  1. First time only: Enable logging as described on this reddit post. The content of the newly created log.config should be this:

    [Achievements]
    LogLevel=1
    FilePrinting=true
    ConsolePrinting=true
    ScreenPrinting=false

    [Power]
    LogLevel=1
    FilePrinting=true
    ConsolePrinting=true
    ScreenPrinting=false

  2. Play HS normally. Your games will be logged in the Power.log file from your hearthstone Log folder (exact installation path depends on the file explorer you’re using, but it’s always something like Android/data/com.blizzard.wtcg.hearthstone/files/Logs)
  3. Important: the file is erased when you restart HearthStone, so be sure to upload your games before relaunching the game
  4. You can then upload your logs as described in the above section of the guide.