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How To Win In The Hearthstone Arena
First Things First: What Is The Arena?
Of those who are familiar with Hearthstone, the game that's popped up on everyone's radar these last few months, many are weary of the Arena-- of one of the game-types that Blizzard offers.
Essentially, once a player enters the Arena at a cost of 100 gold, they pick a random player-character, a semi-random card assortment, and then are matched up with others who have done the exact same thing. The idea is to take your mis-matched spells and minions and ideally win 7 matches (I'll get to why here in a moment). The problem is that once you lose three times, you're done.
Frankly, it sounds a little intimidating. However at a glance it's very easy to see why hoards of people are dissuaded from spending 150 gold just to play more matches. Why? Because to many people, it seems as if the cards that they pick are altogether too random. And it makes sense that players take their logic a step further and realize that if this is true, their likely win-to-loss record will tend towards 3-3. To be honest, beginning level players and those who don't take the time to learn the strategy of the Arena will fall within this range or even below it quite often. Again, I want to educate you so you aren't one of those players.
There are a few other hurdles I'm going to ask you to jump over here in a moment as well. But before I do, I just want to mention the rewards of the arena. You know, to keep you motivated.
Yes, you will have to spend 150 gold each time you enter the arena (unless you are willing to pay for it with real-life cash), but you will, at the very least, leave with a pack of cards regardless of how many of your matches you've won. These packs are consistently valued at 100g, so with the time commitment aside, your not losing too much losing all three of your rounds right away. That 50g difference is actually quite easy to regain, and it's possible to do so with only one win. Below is a link to the Hearthstone Rewards page that will show the breakdown of your loot.
Now, you may have perhaps noticed that once you reach 7 wins, you earn at least 150 gold no matter what. Yes, this means you will be completely reimbursed for the gold you initially spent on top of the pack and other reward once you hit this mark! This is why every serious arena player aims to average at least 7 wins with every run. Then they can infinitely play arena!
However I trust that you've already done some basic math. To get 7 wins, you have to average more than two wins for every one of your losses. This means that you can't just get lucky. You have to plan your way through it, and you have to know some essential Arena strategy that will set you apart from the other participants.
Step 2: Picking Your Character And Your Cards
As soon as you click that little confirm button after forking over your gold, Hearthstone will present you with a choice of three characters. They are completely random. All characters have both advantages and disadvantages, so it's mainly important that you chose one you feel you are well acquainted with. Personally, my favorite classes, in order, are Paladin, Mage, and Warlock. I strongly advise you give more than just one class a chance, as it is very likely that you won't always be provided your favorite character as a choice. And even though some players swear some classes are much better than others, I would advise you so explore this for yourself. It is entirely possible to reach 12-0 with any character.
So I've got my character, now what?
You'll now be prompted to choose from three semi-random cards. I say semi-random because they tend to be class-oriented. For example, only a mage can draft a polymorph. But this isn't always the case. Additionally, your 10th, 20th, and 30th draft are guaranteed to be rare or better cards. You get my point; it's not completely random. You need to make the best choice of the three options 30 times to construct your Arena deck, and this is largely what wins you at least a hand-full of games. A beginner who doesn't know a lot of strategy can still churn out a positive win:loss ratio with a good deck. So, how do you know what to pick? Well, the answer isn't as simple as you might like.
Some people like to blindly follow tier lists that rank each card relative to one another in regards to their supposed performance in the Arena. Ill post another link below that will give you access to one of these. The caveat is that these lists are very subjective, meaning that they're often times ordered by someone's opinion. Plus, their values are often skewed due to the presence or lack-of possible synergies a card can have with others.
[Note: synergies are the way cards can work together to become much better than either one of them alone. To learn different synergies, I strongly encourage you to venture onto youtube and watch other people play in the arena. You will see what cards they use, and how they use them in combination with others]
I alluded to it in the note above, but one of the key features to a strong arena deck is that you have multiple synergistic effects you can access a different points in the game. For example, you'll probably be wanting minion stat-boosting towards the beginning, and increased minion/card volume later on. If this is unclear to you, then keep practicing and it'll become more and more apparent. You'll need to understand, however, that although some synergies sound awesome, they may not be very practical. For example, playing unleash the hounds and cult master may sound good in theory, but to actually play them synergistically rarely ever happens. Imagine the possible scenario. In order to really make use of the cult master, you'll probably want to spawn at least two disposable hounds. This means that at the beginning of your turn, your opponent will already have two minions on the playing field. Plus, since it takes 7 mana just to play the two together, you can assume this will be happening late game-- so those two minions your opponent has probably won't be killed by your hounds. You'd attack and draw your cards, but you wouldn't be able to play them that turn, and your opponent, in all likelihood, would play more minions and gain further board control. It's a difficult situation to come back from. So you'll need to figure out what synergies are out there that you can use to your advantage. You'll want to keep in mind something else though-- board advantage and smart playing.
Disclaimer: Of course there are times when the above synergy can be useful. But this isn't often. The chance of you having both cards in your hand when you need them is also slim.
Another thing to keep in mind is the curve of your deck. By that, I mean the number of cards for each mana-cost you have in your deck. While drafting cards, the game will actually show you these numbers via a bar graph. Some people say that the ideal shape of the bars is a bell-curve. That is, you will have mostly cards that cost between 3-5 mana and only a few that cost 1 or 7+. This makes sense since mid-ranged cards can be used throughout a larger portion of the game and still have a significant impact. There are other variations of the curve though. Some rogue and hunter players like to try and beat their opponents early on in the game and have a lot of high-impact low-mana cards that they will dish out almost as soon as possible. These decks tend to have a downward slope, with the peak in the 2-3 mana range. The opposite can be true for decks that aim to be most powerful late game.
Either way, you should always watch your decks curve and insure that it reflects the overall playability of your cards.
Step 3: Playing Smart & Board Advantage
If you're confident that you've got a good set of cards at your disposal, you're really only half way there. You also need to be able to play your cards smartly, which certainly has several different dimensions to it. The first and perhaps most import aspect of your arena play is maintaining a board advantage.
Many players may have noticed that there are times when they are able to overwhelm their opponents, or they are overwhelmed themselves, with a hoard of minions that seem to come from nowhere. Usually, there is a reason that this occurs, and that's because one player has been conserving their minions on the board and not trading high-value targets for low value ones. The idea is to get rid of as many of your opponent's minions off the board while keeping as many of yours on. Duh, right? Well, even though it sounds obvious, some players just flat out can lose focus of this, or the decision is so ambiguous that one choice doesn't seem much better than the other. If you haven't seen this yet, you will. I beg you. Please, please, please. When you get to these moments, sit back and think about things. Act like the game is chess. You should be trying to imagine how the next several turns will play out. Yes, this means you should have a decent idea of what kind of cards your opponent may have. This comes with practice, understandably.
For example, it's turn 6 and your mage opponent has just put out an 8/8 something. Now, you have a few small minions on the field and a salty dog (7/4) in your hand. You should not play the Salty dog because the likelihood of that mage having a flame strike (4 damage to all enemies) and that he will choose to play it turn 7 is somewhat high. It is sometimes worth while to look at your opponent's hand to see if there is one or two cards they have been holding onto for awhile. If they do show this sort of behavior, they could very well have a higher-mana trump card that they're waiting to play. These cards are usually easier to guess.
Likewise, if you're the one playing as a mage: You may be tempted to use that polymorph in your hand on his 4/5 Chillwind Yeti, but imagine how much sweeter it will be when you polymorph the Ragnaros the bastard was lucky enough to draft. While removal cards can be nice, make sure you're getting the full value out of them.
Be weary when playing mages or druids, as their hero power allows them to do +1 damage on the board each turn if they choose. Calculate this into your anticipation for the next few turns.
Know When To Take A Risk
Admittedly, the nature of the Arena means that there is always a deal of luck involved. On top of that, you're playing a card game that can revolve around luck anyways. So despite all your abilities and cunning thought processes, you're going to need to know when to take big risks and when to hold your cards close. Sometimes the right move can actually be to play into that turn 7 flame strike board-wipe. It just all depends on that gut feeling you'll develop as you advance your hearthstone career. Again, I strongly encourage you to watch players like Trump on youtube and mimic some of his strategies until you have some of your own. And I also want you to go out and keep trying. Even after reading this little tutorial and many others, you probably have a few more 1-3 runs ahead of you. Just keep working and keep these things in mind as you go. Good Luck!
If you have any questions, leave them down in the comment box below and I would be more than happy to answer them!