With the influx of new players from the iPhone and Android release, I see a lot of questions regarding advice for players just starting out. Most of my experience is in Arena, so I will be focusing on that. I am by no means at the level of top-tier arena players, but I’m reasonably good (currently, my average stands at ~6.9 wins/run over the last 100 arenas). Hopefully you will find this guide useful, and may help some when you are playing constructed as well.
Many players when asking for Arena advice focus on the draft. However, I believe in Arena, gameplay is much more important than the draft. Good players can take bad drafts and still get good (even great) outcomes. Especially with tier lists and tools such as Heartharena.com available, I think that newer players should focus more of their time improving their game play rather than worrying on whether to pick Azure Drake or Bomb Lobber. Let Heartharena draft your deck, while you focus on playing the game. Once you have mastered actual gameplay, then you can think about the nuances of drafting.
GENERAL ARENA STRATEGY AND TIPS
Controlling the board is the most important part of Arena. Board control is determined by the number and power of minions on the board, as well has having equipped weapons. Although Arena has gotten faster over time and sometimes you will see hyperaggressive decks, for the most part board control is still the most important aspect of Arena.
In most situations, your goal is to clear or weaken your opponent’s board while keeping as many of your minions alive as possible, using as few cards as possible. Your life total is only a secondary concern.
Try to use up as much mana as possible each turn and put as much power on the board as you can. Early in the game, it is more important to build a stronger board rather than drawing cards. On turn 4, if you have a choice between Chillwind Yeti or Gnomish Inventor, usually the Yeti is the right play.
In Arena, decks mostly consist of high value minions and spells of common rarity, so plan accordingly. Combos/synergies are somewhat rare, as are epics and legendary cards. Even playing around specific rare cards is usually not necessarily.
Don’t overvalue battlecries. On turn 2, if your choice is Acidic Swamp Ooze or hero power to the face, you should play the Ooze, even if you are playing against a warrior with no weapons equipped, unless you have a very good reason not to.
It is usually better to play a card then use your hero power, unless you are getting a lot of value from your hero power.
WHAT IS THE RIGHT PLAY HERE? A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE
- Imagine no one has any cards, just their hero power, and go through various trades in your mind. See which gives you the best board at the end. Again, you want your enemy’s board as empty as possible, while keeping as many of your minions alive as possible.
- Think about how your opponent is going to trade back at you. Again, assume cards in hand, hero power only. Figure out which scenarios will give you the best board after their turn. Remember the best 2 or 3 options.
- Take your best options and repeat steps 1 and 2, except this time assume your opponent has a bunch of vanilla minions in his hand (a 2 mana 2/3 or 3/2, a 3 mana 3/3 or 3/4, a 4 mana 4/4 or 4/5, a 5 mana 5/5 or 4/6). Think about what the board will look like after your opponent’s turn and whether you would be able to handle the new threat. Example: Turn 4, you are going first, the coin is already used. Make your trade in your mind and your opponent’s trades. Imagine the enemy then drops a 4/5 Chillwind yeti. Which of your options gives you the best chance of handling the Yeti efficiently on your next turn?
- Do you have a spell or minion with a special ability in your hand that can improve your trades? Early on, it’s usually better to save your removal spells if you can. Minions that buff your other minions are often a good choice early on (like Shattered Sun Cleric), because it not only makes your trades more favorable, it also improves your board by adding additional minions. Example, you are a mage and you have Shattered Sun Cleric and Frostbolt in your hand. It is turn 3. You have a 3/2 Bloodfen Raptor, opponent has a 2/3 Amani Berzerker. You could just frostbolt the Amani Berzerker and attack face with your 3/2, which leaves you with a 3/2 vs an empty board. A superior option is to use the Shattered Sun Cleric on the Bloodfen Raptor and trade the now 4/3 Raptor into the 2/3 Berzerker, which leaves you with a 4/1 and a 3/2 vs an empty board.
- If you don’t have any cards in your hand that will improve your trades, or if you have leftover mana, use the rest of your mana to play minions. Try to use up as much mana as possible. If you have the choice between 2 small minions and 1 big one, I usually drop the bigger one by default, but this is quite situational. As mentioned earlier, early in the game you want to build a strong board not draw cards. Turn 3, if you have the choice between Earthen Ring Farseer and Acolyte of Pain, you play the Farseer, even if you are healing nothing, unless you have a very good reason to do otherwise. Similarly, spells like Arcane Intellect which draw cards should usually only be played when you have nothing else to do with the 3 mana.
If you are a beginner, I would stop here and master the concepts above. For new players, I wouldn’t try to “play around” your opponents potential moves too much for several reasons. First, your opponent may not have the card you are playing around. Second, the optimal way to play around an opponent’s card is not always obvious until you’ve had more experience. Third, sometimes playing around a threat too much can also lose you the game. Once you have got the hang of it, you can move on:
What are you going to do on your next turn?
When playing your cards, make sure you have a good play for the next turn (or even the next 2 turns).Example: turn 4, you have a River Crocolisk, a Bloodfen Raptor, a Spider Tank, and a Chillwind Yeti. You could either play Crocolisk and Raptor, or you could play a Yeti. If you play Crocolisk/Raptor on turn 4, then Turn 5, you can only play Chillwind Yeti (wasting 1 mana) or Spider Tank/hero power (usually using hero power is worse than playing a card, unless you are getting a lot of value from the hero power, like killing a minion or taking down a Divine Shield). If you play the Yeti turn 4, then you can play Spider Tank/Raptor turn 5, which is a much more efficient use of mana.
What if your opponent has COMMON buffing spells and creatures (not rares, epics, legendaries)?
The most dangerous classes when it comes to buffing minions are Paladin, Priest, and Shaman, usually against these classes you want to err on the side of clearing out their minions, even 1/1 dudes and 0/2 healing totems. Especially Priest. Classes like Mage don’t really have a good way of buffing minions outside of the neutral cards, so letting a mage keep a 1/1 Novice Engineer is less dangerous.
Some examples of buffing cards, the bolded ones are probably the most powerful/common in Arena and are probably the main ones to focus on. I usually don’t go out of my way to play around Mark of the Wild for example.
Neutral: Shattered Sun Cleric, Dark Iron Dwarf/Abusive Sargent, Dire Wolf Alpha, Earthen Ring Farseer
Priest: Velen’s Chosen, Temple Enforcer, Divine Spirit, Shrinkmeister (sort of)
Paladin: Argent Protector, Blessing of Kings
Shaman: Flametongue Totem, Bloodlust, Windfury/Windspeaker
Druid: Savage Roar, Mark of the Wild, Power of the Wild, Mark of Nature
Mage: none of note
Rogue: Cold Blood (not that important, just be careful if you are low on life)
Warrior: none of major importance
Hunter: Houndmaster (just to consider if you are going to leave a beast on board)
Warlock: Demonfire (just to consider if you are leaving Demon around)
Consider COMMON Area of Effect (AoE) spells
Try to keep at least some of your minions out of the range of these spells (e.g. vs Paladin keep minions at 3 health or higher to avoid Consecration). You could also consider multi-target spells such as Multi-shot, forked lightning, etc., although these are less punishing. Maybe consider lightning storm, even though it is rare, it’s almost autopick in Shaman drafts. Don’t overdo it when playing around these things though, you can lose by playing too conservatively. Example: The most classic example, on Turn 6 vs mage you don’t want to be putting out a bunch of 4 health minions because they will all die to flamestrike. Try to have at least 1 minion with at least 5 health. When you are making trades, it is usually better to keep at least 1 minion at 5 health or higher, even if it makes your board slightly weaker, and you want to empty out Jaina’s board before flamestrike comes.
Examples of AoE and multi-target cards, the most important ones in bold:
Mage: Flamestrike, Blizzard
Priest: Holy Nova
Shaman: Forked lightning, lightning storm
Hunter: Multi-shot, Unleash the Hounds
Druid: Swipe, Starfall
Is there a key turn coming up for your opponent?
There are certain class cards in Arena that are common and powerful. You need make sure you can handle it if they have one. One side note though, as Blizzard releases more and more cards, the less you will have to play around these things because your opponent will be less likely to have them.
Mage – Turn 7: Flamestrike
Paladin – Turn 2: Argent Protector with minion on board (very hard to play around though). Turn 4: Blessing of Kings, Truesilver Champion, Consecrate
Shaman – Turn 6: Fire Elemental. Turn 4: Fireguard Destroyer?
Priest – Turn 3: Velen’s Chosen. Turn 5: Holy Nova. Turn 10: Mind Control
Druid – Turn 5: Druid of the Claw. Turn 8: Ironbark Protector
Rogue – no noteworthy turns. Turn 5 Assassinate maybe.
Warrior – no noteworthy turns
Warlock – n/a
Hunter – Turn 4: Multi-Shot maybe
Should I start ignoring the board a bit and going to the face?
Situations where you should consider this include the following:
- If you have a bunch of 2-4 drops left in your deck and no big minions.
- If you are hopelessly behind on the board or in terms of card advantage.
- If you are a Hunter or a Rogue (or sometimes Mage). Rogues are particularly fragile creatures. If you wait too long to end the game, you will die from hitting all these minions with your dagger. It is very rare to go full aggro-face from the start, but when you start getting to midgame, it is something to start thinking about.
- If you are very confident you can end the game next turn
- There is no reasonable way that the opponent can do anything bad to you
Other special considerations:
- Mind Control Tech – If you’re way ahead, maybe think twice about putting out that 4th guy. If you have 3 solid minions vs an empty board, you usually don’t need that 4th one. Don’t go crazy playing around it though, it is rare after all.
- Unleash the Hounds – Just to consider before summoning that 1/1 silver hand recruit
- Taunt minions – Am I screwed if Annoy-o-Tron or Senjin Shieldmaster arrives?
- Life total – Rogue, Mages, and Hunters can potentially have high burst damage, even in Arena, so keep an eye on your life total when playing against these classes. If you are getting low on health, you may want to sacrifice your minion to finish off that 5/1 minion rather than using your weapon.
- Against Rogue opponents – think about Betrayal. Put non-targetable minions like faerie dragon in the middle if possible. Otherwise, position your minions such that as few minions die as possible to Betrayal. This usually means the minion with the lowest attack in the middle. Do not put Emperor Cobra in the middle, remember it will kill anything it touches. If 2 minions will always die to Betrayal no matter which order they’re in, put your most valuable minion in the middle.
- Against Mage opponents – Cone of Cold. Put a stealth or non-targetable minion in the middle. Place your powerful minions away from each other so they can’t both be frozen at the same time.
- Against Hunter opponents – Explosive Shot. Put a stealth or non-targetable minion in the middle. Or, put the minion with the lowest amount of health in the middle and minions with more than 2 health on the sides. They can usually figure out a way to take out 2 of your minions, but you should be able to prevent them from taking out 3.
- Playing as Shaman – If you have flametongue totem in your deck, you want to put your expendable/lower health minions in the middle or right, your stronger minions on the left. Your totems from your hero power will appear on your right. You want to set up a situation where your totems line up on the right side of your Flametongue Totem and you can sacrifice them into your enemy minions. When the first totem dies, then next one will slide over and get the buff. Immediately to the left of the totem, you have your weaker dudes like your 2/1 or 3/2’s. Same idea, you use them to kill minions, the next one to the left will slide over.
I hope this is a helpful guide. Feel free to leave any comments or questions.