Hey guys, Sheng here with another guide. Many of you have requested I do a guide to Arena after reading my Basic Rogue Guide, and I’m here to fulfill that wish.
I’d first like to preface this guide by stating that this is targeted towards players that have trouble breaking 3 or 4 wins in Arena. It’s not a guide for great Arena players who are looking to earn infinite gold from their winnings.
Secondly, I have to mention that I am not an “infinite” Arena player and have only played about 20 Arenas total. There are an amazing number of Arena players on this subreddit that are better than me.
As a crap-brag, I do however, acknowledge myself as a “barely-infinite” player, with a 71% win rate, averaging 6.85 wins per Arena over the past two months. This is enough for me to play at least one Arena a day with the gold I get from daily quests, and this is also what I hope to help you guys achieve.
Due to the size of this guide, I’ve posted the second part of this guide in the comments section.
Table of Contents
- Which Class Should I Choose?
- Which Cards Should I Draft?
- Understanding Your Deck
- The Mulligan
- Controlling The Board
- Card Advantage
- Playing Around Mass Removal
- Finishing Games
- Additional Resources
Which Class Should I Choose?
According to HearthstoneStat’s May Report, the most successful Arena classes by Win Rate are as follows:
- Rogue – 53.61%
- Mage – 53.07%
- Paladin – 51.77%
- Shaman – 51.57%
- Druid – 49.73%
- Warrior – 45.59%
- Hunter – 44.47%
- Warlock – 44.19%
- Priest – 42.51%
Looking at Trump’s win rate with each class, you’d have a completely different skew (he’s excellent with every hero), but overall you’ll notice that the top 4 classes are generally over-represented in Arena games.
The reason for this disparity is that in general, some classes are just stronger than others in Arena due to a combination of strong Basic/Common cards and Hero Power. Thus, it’s not surprising for a good player to encounter 4 Mages in a row towards the end of their 12 win run.
To start, I’d recommend one choose three classes from the Best/Good/Average categories and focus on improving play from those classes to start. Of course, it’s never guaranteed that you’ll get to play the class you’re good with, but starting by mastering a few strong classes in Arena will help your win-rate in the long run.
My personal comfort picks are Druid (77%), Rogue (75%), and Mage (63%).
Which Cards Do I Draft?
So you’ve paid for your Arena ticket, and you’ve chosen your hero. How do you know which cards to draft?
I can recommend two methods of drafting:
The Lazy Way
- Go to Trump’s Arena Tier List and choose the best card from the spreadsheet for your class each time.
Note: I did this the first time I played Arena. Knowning absolutely nothing about the format, I went 9-3.
The Diligent Way
- For your first ten picks, follow Trump’s Arena Tier List. Then take a good look at the cards you’ve chosen.
- What does your mana curve look like?
- Do you have any removal spells?
- Do you have any bombs? Bombs are cards that significantly impact the board when they enter play. Legendaries like Ragnaros are the benchmark for this category. These are considered “win conditions”.
- Choose your next ten cards, but assign greater value to cards that synergize well with the theme you observed from your first 10 cards.
- If you drafted a deck with a fairly low mana curve, place a bit more value on cards that can draw more cards for you, as a deck with smaller creatures tends to run out of cards faster. (Examples would be: Arcane Intellect, Acolyte of Pain, Cult Master, Sprint, Nourish, and so forth.)
- If you drafted a fairly balanced deck from your first ten cards, you can basically continue drafting for value using Trump’s Arena Tier List.
- If you drafted a deck with a high mana curve, then start valuing lower cost minions a bit more. Having a bunch of Ironbark Protectors and bombs are meaningless if you’re dead by turn 8. Also value cards like Innervate/Wild Growth that can accelerate your mana curve so that you can get your heavy minions out earlier.
- Choose your last ten cards, but focus on filling in gaps in your mana curve. However, you should always choose a very good card over a poor card, even if the poor card fits better in your curve.
If you’re unfamiliar with what a “mana-curve” is, you can consult Massan’s excellent guide that describes the subject here: Massan’s Guide to Midrange Arena
In the interest of length, I won’t discuss class specific drafting techniques, but in general classes like Hunter and Warlock do better than their counterparts as rush down decks (because of their hero power), and Druid can more suitable for control (if you’re offered cards like Innervate/Wild Growth).
Understanding Your Deck
So you’ve drafted your cards. What do you do now?
The first thing I do after every draft is write down, or screenshot a picture of my deck. Then, I do a review of the cards I have.
- Do I have an early game? What cards can I expect to play on turn 2 and 3?
- What 4 drops do I have?
- Which removal spells do I have, and how many?
- What are my win conditions? (For a rush deck this would be flooding the board and killing my opponent before he can bring out his big guys. For a mid-range/control deck these would be beefy minions or spells like Boulderfist Ogre, Ironbark Protecter, Pyroblast etc.)
To make this easier, I’ll include an example from a Druid draft I had yesterday:
- (2) Acidic Swamp Ooze
- (2) Dire Wolf Alpha
- (2) Frostwolf Grunt
- (2) Knife Juggler
- (2) Novice Engineer
- (2) River Crocolisk
- (3) Big Game Hunter
- (3) Earthen Ring Farseer
- (3) Raging Worgen
- (4) Defender of Argus
- (4) Gnomish Inventor
- (4) Violet Teacher
- (5) Druid of the Claw x2
- (5) Silver Hand Knight
- (5) Stranglethorn Tiger x2
- (6) Argent Commander
- (7) Ancient of Lore x2
- (8) Ironbark Protector x2
- (0) Innervate
- (1) Claw
- (2) Power of the Wild x2
- (2) Wild Growth
- (2) Wrath
- (4) Swipe x2
After drafting these cards I noticed that:
- Wow, I was really lucky to draft so many quality cards.
- Half my 2 drops are of poor quality.
- I don’t really have many 3 or 4 mana minions.
- I have many 5+ costing minions.
- I have a Claw, Wrath, and 2 Swipes for removal. Ooze and Big Game Hunter are noteworthy as well.
By noting these things, I was able to formulate a general strategy on how I should play my games.
- My deck sucks early.
- Only Ooze, Knife Juggler, and River Crocolisk are good plays on turn 2. Even then, Ooze is often best kept until your opponent plays a weapon if it’s against a weapons class. As for the rest, Dire Wolf Alpha is best played when minions are on the board, and Novice Engineer basically cycles you a card.
- I don’t have many 4 drops. I only have Gnomish Inventor, Defender of Argus, and Violet Teacher.
- My deck is awesome late game.
- 2x Ancient of Lore is massive card advantage, and Ironbark Protectors are extremely hard to deal with.
- I should play like a Ramp Druid. Survive the early and mid-game, and beat down my opponents late.
(This deck ended up going 12-2, with both my losses from rush-down/tempo decks that killed me before turn 9.)
After having committed some of your deck to memory (and with it available as a screenshot, or written down somewhere), we can move on to the actual games.
So now you’ve gotten a fairly good idea what it is that your deck does, and how your deck wins games. How do you translate that into wins in the Arena?
In general, there are 4 steps that lead to victory:
- Control The Board
- Gain Card Advantage
- Avoid Mass Removal
If you can follow these steps consistently well, then you will win many games.
In my opinion, the mulligan is one of the most difficult parts of the game to master. Choosing which cards to keep and which cards to throw away for each matchup is often the difference between winning and losing.
To continue from the example of my Druid deck, I realized that because my deck was late game oriented, and I needed to keep cards that:
A. Accelerated my mana curve (Innervate, Wild Growth).
B. Let me play something on turn 2, 3, or 4.
In general, you want to mulligan cards that are 5 or above, and look for playable 2, 3, and 4 drops.
Being able to play something on each turn early is crucial.
Controlling The Board
There are three key tips to controlling the board. They are as follows:
- Play your minions first.
- …Which forces your opponent into unfair trades.
- …Which eventually clears your opponent’s board.
The reason why the player that goes first has a higher overall win rate is because the player that goes first has the tempo advantage by being able to play a minion before his opponent. (This is why Blizzard added the Coin, which mitigates this somewhat.)
Having board control means that you can decide the trades before your opponent.
Imagine a scenario where you’re the person going first. You play a Worgen Infiltrator (a stealthed 2/1 minion).
If your opponent only has a 3/2, he can either use his hero power and skip his turn 2, or accept that his 3/2 will die to your 2/1.
Because you had board control, you forced your opponent into making a suboptimal choice, give you the upper hand.
So in general, you want to play cards on every turn early so you can establish a tempo advantage to force these trades.
In general, if you are ahead, you should always seek to clear your opponent’s board before attacking his face (assuming you don’t have lethal). This is because there are many conditional cards that will allow lesser minions to trade up to kill your more valuable minions (Dark Iron Dwarf, Argent Protector, Blessing of Kings, and the list goes on…). You want to leave no avenue for your opponent to recover.
Following those steps will eventually lead you to…
Gaining Card Advantage
If you’ve controlled the board from the start of the game, then by mid and late game, the total number of minions you have on the board and cards you have in your hand should be greater than that of your opponent’s.
Over time, your opponent will run out of cards, and you will win.
However, even with Card Advantage there is one thing you need to look out for…
If you watch great Arena players like Trump stream, you’ll notice that they’ll often hold back from playing minions they have in their hand when they’re ahead. This is because they don’t want a Flamestrike, Consecration, or Holy Nova to completely reset the board, getting rid of the card advantage they’ve worked so hard to earn.
Instead, they keep enough minions on the board to pressure their opponent, but hold back minions in case mass removal is played.
I would highly recommend newer Arena players to learn the casting cost and damage of the most popular AOE removal cards.
A few of them are (this is off the top of my head, so I may be missing a few):
- Lightning Storm
- Holy Nova
- Explosive Trap
- Explosive Shot
- Multi Shot
- Fan of Knives
- Blade Flurry
Note: If you want to play around Betrayal and Explosive Shot, I would recommend players to put their smaller minion in between their larger ones (against Rogue and Hunter), so it mitigates the potential damage these spells can do.
Finishing games is a piece of cake if you have card advantage and board control. Just force your opponent to run out of cards, and you’ll eventually win. Most bad players don’t recognize this and go for the face, but good players recognize that one doesn’t win until the health bar goes down to 0, and until then they will fight tooth and nail for board advantage at the expense of their life total.
In conclusion, I really hope this guide was helpful for some of you guys out there struggling with Arena right now.