You heard about this cool Warcraft-themed collectible card game called Hearthstone, and you figured you’d give it a shot. The first steps were easy; you got the beta key, installed the game client, and completed the sweet tutorial. Great! …Now what? Some more practice? Jump right into Play mode? Start an Arena draft? Don’t worry – I’m here with some tips that’ll help speed your progress from beginner to pro, or at least not-quite-so-terrible beginner.
Step 1 – Practice
“We’re talking about…practice?”
Yes, we’re talking about practice. Even if you’re a card-game expert, Hearthstone’s classes have an unlock and XP system. In order to use a class, you have to beat it once to unlock it. Once a class is unlocked, you can play as it to earn XP for that class; every 2 levels up to level 10, you’ll earn a basic card for your deck.
Those basic cards aren’t enough for anything but entry-level play, though; to compete at the higher ranks, you’ll want lots more cards, which come only from card packs. Card packs can be purchased directly via in-game gold or real money, or earned indirectly through Arena play, which costs gold/money to enter. (If you’ve got the cash to spend on cards/Arena, more power to you, but I’m going to focus on gold-only options for this guide.)
So, you need XP and gold. Luckily, the game’s practice-mode AI is terrible, so that’s where you’re going to start. The default decks each class starts with are pretty bad, but the AI plays worse, so you should have no problem beating it once you’re used to the mechanics of the game. You start with Mage unlocked, so I’d recommend playing practice games with it until you reach level 10. (If you have your heart set on another class, feel free to play it once to unlock it and switch to that one.) Before leaving Practice mode, your goal is to beat every basic and expert AI hero once. In the current beta, there’s no visual indication that you’ve beaten an AI, so I’d recommend going in order. Doing so will net you three achievements (Ready To Go, Level Up, and Crushed Them All!) which gives you 200g and a free card pack. If you want some additional practice before facing live competition, you can level every class to 10, which will net you an additional achievement (Got the Basics!) and another 100g.
Step 2 – We Can Build It; We Have the Technology
Remember how I said the basic decks suck? Now that you’ve leveled a class to 10, you can do better. I’ll be posting a Basic-only deck list for all classes, but to start, here’s one for Mage with some tips:
Arcane Missiles x2 -This randomly chooses any enemy minon or the opposing minion to hit for 1 damage three times. Only use to kill minions, do not use on enemy hero unless it’s the last bit of damage to get a kill.
Frostbolt x2. See above. Don’t be afraid to freeze something nasty.
Acidic Swamp Ooze x2 - Basic 2-mana minion. Battlecry is a nice bonus but difficult to land.
Bloodfen Raptor x2 - Basic 2-mana minion.
Shattered Sun Cleric x2 - Try to use the buff to allow a minion to survive a trade with an enemy minion. Don’t be afraid to waste the buff, though, if you only have 3 mana and he’s the only 3-mana cost creature you have.
Razorfen Hunter x2 - Basic 3-mana minion.
Chillwind Yeti x2 – Basic 4-mana minion (deceptively strong for the cost).
Fireball x2 - One of the best spells in the game. This with your hero ability can kill just about any minion, or just finish the enemy off.
Gnomish Inventor x2 – Weak stats for the cost, but great around turn 4 since it draws you an additional card. Trades well with opposing 2-mana 3/2′s.
Polymorph x2 - Save for nasty creatures; anything 6+ mana, or something with a buff.
Sen’jin Shieldmasta x2 – Best defensive creature in the game for the cost.
Water Elemental x2 - Freeze is great for slowing enemies down so you can finish them off with direct-damage spells.
Gurubashi Berserker x2 - Deceptively strong – use your own hero ability on it to make it a nasty 5/6 with the chance to grow more.
Boulderfist Ogre x2 - Basic 6-mana minion.
Flamestrike x2 - Your game-winning spell. Many mage games are won by surviving until Turn 6/7, then dropping a Flamestrike to wipe the enemy’s board of creatures. Don’t ever use to kill a single enemy unless desperate.
This deck isn’t going to get you to Rank 1, but it’s solid enough to win 60-70% of your games against other new players, and has a good shot against players with more expensive decks. As you earn some cards, you can start swapping out; first candidates to drop are the Raptors and Hunters for something like a Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Harvest Golem, or Raging Worgen.
Step 3 – Play (and win, hopefully)
It’s time to play some live competition in Play mode! You have two options here. First is “ranked,” aka “ladder.” In this mode, you start at Rank 25, and attempt to reach higher ranks (and eventually, Legend) by winning matches against opponents trying to do the same. This mode can be somewhat difficult to start off with, so I’d recommend starting in “casual” mode. These games are unranked, so you’re much more likely to see a less competitive array of players here. Once you get a few games under your belt, you’ll unlock another two achievements very quickly (First Blood and The Duelist) and score another free 100g and card pack.
This mode is also where you’ll first start earning gold for your play (not counting achievements). While you earn a small amount of gold by simply playing and winning, you can earn much more via that day’s daily quest. Daily quests are given to you once per day (even if you don’t login that day), and you can have up to 3. These quests typically reward between 40-60 gold and take 3-5 wins to complete, with a couple having different requirements. (Hearthhead has a complete list here.) Note that you can “reroll” a daily quest once per day by clicking the X in the quest box, which randomly chooses another quest; I’ll typically reroll a 40g quest to attempt to get a 60g one.
Ready to spend some of this gold? Before you go crazy and start buying packs, see the next section.
Step 4 – Enter the Arena
The Arena is Hearthstone’s version of Magic’s “sealed” or “draft” format. Unlike Play mode, where you can select cards for your deck from the entire card pool, the Arena has you draft your deck via a series of 30 “best-of-3” choices. (For example: Water Elemental, Fireball, or Chillwind Yeti? The one you select goes into your deck; the others are discarded.) Once your deck is created, you challenge other decks created via the same means to see how many wins you can achieve. Once you hit 3 losses (or 12 wins), your run is complete and you receive a reward, which is always 1 free card pack and some additional gold, crafting dust, or cards.
I will have many many more things to say about Arena in the coming weeks, as this currently is my favorite mode of play. Your first run is free, but after that they cost 150g; you’ll want to do well to earn as much gold as possible for future runs. It can be pretty overwhelming to get started, though. Until I get a guide written, check out Trump, vivafringe, and freethnkr’s guides for some tips on drafting cards, and focus on solid play over tricks and traps.
Step 5 – Spend!
The part that everyone likes. Currently, the math works out pretty simply. You can either buy a pack for 100g, or buy a Arena run for 150g that comes with a free pack when you finish. Overall, if you can maintain a 4-win average on your runs, you’ll earn more than 50g per run, making Arena more cost effective than just buying packs; if you can keep a 7-win average (much more difficult), you can earn more than 150g per Arena, essentially making your packs “free.” Personally, I think Arena is a better place to spend gold, but that’s because I prefer the format. (I’m nowhere close to an average 7-win player, though I’m over 4.) If you try Arena and don’t like it, feel free to just play the regular mode, and buy a pack with daily quest winnings every few days.
That’s wraps this guide up – you’ve earned several achievements, racked up a few hundred gold and some free packs of cards. You’re well on your way to a successful Hearthstone career. Whether you choose to scale the ladder to being a Legend ranked player, or just try for that dream 12-win arena run – it’s up to you. Have fun!