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)

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

Decision Making in HearthStone, analysing puzzles #5

Welcome back on this series where I create puzzles to highlight interesting concepts of HearthStone. This will probably be more entertaining for beginners, but I guess it can still be fun for long time players.

Puzzle #4, dealing with secret paladin

Last time I left you a puzzle as a kind control priest vs a secret paladin. It’s terrorizing the ladder these days and you’ve got an opportunity to win the game after the paladin played it too easy and let your Reno on board. Find the lethal.

Puzzle

Puzzle #4 find the lethal as control priest vs secret paladin

The paladin just played the [Mysterious Challenger] bringing 4 classic secrets into play ([Redemption], [Avenge], [Noble Sacrifice] and [Competitive Spirit]) along with a [Leper Gnome] directly buffed by [Coghammer]’s battlecry. The [Wild Pyromancer] was dropped through the deathrattle of a [Piloted Shredder] and the [Secretkeeper] was buffed by [Keeper of Uldaman].

On your board: [Reno Jackson] at 1 HP.

On the opponent board: [Mysterious Challenger], [Shielded Minibot], [Wild Pyromancer], [Haunted Creeper] at 1 HP, [Leper Gnome] buffed by [Coghammer]’s battlecry and [Secretkeeper] with 3 HP.

In your hand: [Ironbeak Owl], [Mass Dispel], [Velen’s Chosen], [Shadow Madness], [Auchenai Soulpriest] and [Light of the Naaru]

You sit at 2 HP while the paladin is at 9 HP. If you choose to draw, you draw a [Deathlord].

Solution of the puzzle

  1. Velen’s chosen on Reno. 7 mana left
  2. Use shadow madness on Pyromancer. His ability triggers, kills the creeper and redemption triggers. 3 mana left
  3. Silence the Leper Gnome with the owl. 1 mana left
  4. Attack with both minions for 6+3 damages face.

Discussion

Why does it work?

It’s really important to know that [Noble Sacrifice] won’t trigger on a full board because there is no place for him to appear. The idea is then to kill the [Haunted Creeper] to get minions on the board. [Redemption] will trigger, bringing back the creeper from the dead. So killing the creeper adds 2 minions on the opponent board. It has to happen after you have stolen the pyromancer. Else it would create an empty place.

The second thing to know is that if you use [Shadow Madness] on a [Wild Pyromancer], his ability will trigger. Indeed, his text says “after you cast a spell” and shadow madness is entirely resolved only after the pyromancer gets on your board. So the minion is stolen and just after, the ability triggers. It’s the same interaction when you steal a [Flamewaker]. This does not work if the minion’s text says “whenever you cast a spell” since when you cast the spell, the minion is still on the opponent board. So stealing a [Summoning Stone] with [Mind Control] won’t give you a 10 mana minion. Same idea when you cast a AOE against a [Knife Juggler] and a [Imp Gang Boss], “whenever” interactions will be resolved before the minions die.

Another funny interaction with shadow madness is that if there is no place for the minion to go back to its side of the board at the end of the turn, it will die on the stealer side. So using this, you could steal the leper gnome, kill the creeper with auchenai and go face. But it would be only 4+2+2 damages.

By the way [Avenge] triggers during the solution but it doesn’t matter much.

 

Takeways

  • [Noble Sacrifice] does not trigger on a full board.
  • Understand the difference between “Whenever” and “After” keywords

Puzzle #5

To be continued. It will be probably in standard format.

*Puzzles are created using http://www.hsdeck.com/puzzle/. Very nice site for creating puzzles

5 basic tips which will help you win more games of HearthStone

It takes a while to be very good at HearthStone. You have to know the cards, the meta (the most played decks at a time), and you have to actually play well. These 5 basic tips won’t make you a legend in one day, but could help you progress some ranks.

Know how to build your deck

Building a good deck is very important. Even a very good player will have a hard time winning with a bad deck.

So what’s a good deck? It is NOT a deck full of legendaries. We’ve already spoken about legendaries and they do not make you win games just by themselves. It is NOT a deck full of blasts either.

A good deck must be balanced and have a good mana curve. The idea is to have cards you can play at every turn. Depends of course on your draw and your style: aggressive, midrange or control. But if you’ve got only one turn-2 drop for example, the chance to have it in your starting hand is very thin, so your early game will most often be weak. Even for control decks which focus more on the late game. Look at a control warrior deck, it has four T2 drops: 2 [Fiery War Axe], 1 [Armorsmith] and 1 [Cruel Taskmaster]. A good deck will also contain at least one draw potential, taunts and heals for control, at least a silence for aggressive decks etc…

Blizzard recently implemented deck recipes, it should help new players to have balanced decks. Else the solution is to use popular decks on the net, like on HearthPwn for example. Good guides will also propose cards as replacement to the ones you may not own.

Know your win condition

You have to know how to win against the different classes. You usually do not play the same versus aggressive decks as versus control decks. You must have a plan. You have to know several things:

  • what to mulligan for
  • the best cards against your opponent in your deck
  • the cards from your opponent that you need to be careful about

Of course you don’t know directly during the mulligan what your opponent is playing but you can expect the most classic decks.

For example against paladin I always mulligan as if he plays a secret paladin deck.

What is also very important is to know the win condition of your opponent to play around it. It means also to know when to use your removals. If you blow your removals on the wrong threats, either you manage to get enough momentum to finish before the threat comes into play or you just lose to it. For example, against Freeze Mage, you need to remove [Archmage Antonidas] the turn after it comes into play.

Take your time to play

A lot of new players don’t take the time to think when they play. Each turn you have more than one minute to decide what to play. I’m not telling you that you need to wait for the rope each turn. Plus the rope is usually stressful so it doesn’t help.

Even if you have what looks like a simple turn, you have to think about what your opponent can play and also plan your next turn according to it. Sometimes you will plan your turn in advance while your opponent is playing and that’s great but you should not forget to take your draw into consideration before playing. Taking your time to play will greatly reduce the number of your misplays.

Overall it helps you play around the cards of your opponent. Deny a board clear by putting a sticky minion out, denying card draw, playing [Loatheb] or a taunt at the right moment…

Don’t think that for aggressive decks, there is nothing to think about. On the contrary, they usually have around 7-8 turns to take the game, or they start losing the game, so every turn is important.

Have the proper state of mind

You need to forget your losses. Being mad about a previous loss won’t help you win games. You need to have your thoughts on the current game to take the best decisions. Better take a pause after a frustrating game.

You have also to accept that some games won’t be winnable. It can be due to RNG, or due to the fact that you had a bad draw and your opponent had the perfect curve. Anyway it happens. Actually you should feel better losing like that instead of losing because you misplayed. If there was nothing you could do, you cannot be mad about it.

Finally, when you’re playing, you cannot do something else, be it watching TV or reading an article on the net… Your mind should be focused 100% on your game for you to be efficient in your decisions.

Review your games

This is a good habit to take: check the replays (or possibly videos) of your losses, and try to find a way to play differently and not lose. Sometimes you would play the same so an advice from someone else can help. An external and fresh point of view will be able to challenge decisions that your mind decided not to question.

This is what we propose to players on Zero to Heroes: a simple way to progress and understand their mistakes.