Card Advantage – What is it?

The basic idea of card advantage is simply having more options to deal with your opponent’s threats and deal damage while ultimately getting closer to victory. In general this means that you have more cards than your opponent, whether it be on the field or in your hand.

Common Mistakes Relating to Card Advantage

If you’re new to card games, there are many tempting plays that you can make that are actually really poor decisions in the long run. One example of this is using all of your damage dealing spell cards to lower your opponent’s health down to some amount above 0. What will usually end up happening in such scenarios is that you will find yourself with a large health point lead against the opponent at the start but end up losing a couple of turns later due to running out of cards to play. Usually, if you play a card, you want it to either provide another card for you to play later or remove a card from your opponent. Keep that last sentence in mind as you play or build your deck as it is very important for having a deck that doesn’t run out of moves too quickly.

Another common mistake is using area of effect (aoe) spells too soon. These are cards that allow you to gain card advantage and if you’re using them against only one minion, you’re not gaining much. Save these cards just in case your opponent decides to summon many minions and then destroy them all on your turn. Don’t be afraid to take some damage. It will all be worth it when you punish your opponent for their overcommitment (which is another common mistake that I will explain very shortly) where they find themselves losing 2+ cards to your 1.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term overcommitment with respect to card games, it refers to playing too many of your minions while not having much else to play if your opponent has an answer for all of them (eg. an aoe spell). There are certain exceptions for some specific decks, but in general you’ll need to think about whether or not you need to hold back from putting all of your minions on the field. I’m not saying that you should always hold back, but if you find yourself playing minions as they come into your hand, you may want to reconsider how much your opponent benefits from your play style if they happen to have aoe removal (which most decks will have). This is a very subtle common mistake and it’s very easy to think that victory is near after you have just sealed your own loss.

Gaining Card Advantage

AOE Spells – As mentioned in the previous section, one of the primary ways of gaining card advantage is with mass removal. If you can remove 2-3 of your opponent’s cards for just one of your own cards, that’s a great trade. Try to use your AOE spells in such a way if not better as best as you can.

Cards that Draw – Throughout the card pool there are cards that allow one to draw additional cards when played. They effectively pay for themselves when it comes to card advantage and are usually more valuable than other cards that are similar. Consider the cards Ogre Magi and Azure Drake. They both have the same attack and health and also provide +1 spell power. Their differences are that the Ogre Magi is only 4 mana while the Azure Drake is 5 mana but also has a battlecry of drawing one card upon being summoned. The Azure Drake pays for itself immediately when played and even though it is one mana more than the Ogre Magi, it is significantly better for this reason.

When building your deck, consider the cards that provide field presence while paying for themselves by drawing more cards. Novice Engineer, Gnomish Inventor, and Loot Hoarder are all great examples. Additionally, be sure to identify cards that draw within your class as they will probably be of great benefit for maintaining card advantage and allowing your deck to consistently have more options to play.

Minions – Another way of gaining card advantage is simply to get the most out of your minions. Do your best to make sure that your opponent trades at least one card to destroy one of your minions, and if you can, try to destroy two or more of your opponent’s minions with only one. It might be tempting to attack your opponent directly before your minion dies, but if you really look at the board, you might find a situation where you can destroy one minion with one of your own while still having enough health and attack to destroy another one too. Consider the following scenario with the following board:

Opponent: 5/3 3/3
You: 3/4

If you just attack directly with your 3/4 minion, your opponent just needs to attack with the 5/3 to destroy your minion causing an even trade. But if you consider attacking your opponent’s 3/3 instead, you end up trading at least 2 cards in most situations with your now 3/1 minion. Yes there are situations where racing (trying to get your opponent’s health points down as fast as possible) but those situations are difficult to identify and in most cases, removing the minion will be the better choice.

Weapons – Similar to minions, weapons also provide a very good way of providing card advantage but at the cost of life. The durability on a weapon provides you with an amount of potential card advantage that can be obtained from it. The maximum you can get out of a weapon is essentially the durability-1, assuming you destroy at least one minion with each attack. In those terms, it’s easy to see how useful weapons can be.

Now there is an additional cost that needs to be considered, and that’s the number of health points on your hero. Weapons are a bit more advanced than minions for this very reason. The first step to using weapons well is to consider your hero’s health points as a resource. Do not be afraid to take a little damage to remove a minion. More often than not, that minion will just attack you in later turns for free, causing the damage you sought to prevent in the first place to be done to you anyway. That’s not to say that you should always attack minions with your weapons, since there is a real danger of getting very low on health points and losing to a direct damage spell. Weapons will take some getting used to and will need to be used differently depending on the opponent’s deck to properly manage the hit point cost of attacking minions.

Ways of Losing Card Advantage

Overcommitment

As said before, the more minions you play, the greater risk of losing card advantage to aoe spells. Be aware of this risk.

Over Complicating Strategies

When coming up with the set of moves you want to play on your turn, consider what the end outcome is. Ask yourself these questions: How many cards am I investing to do what I’m trying to do? What do I gain by doing this? What does my opponent lose if I do this? Is there a simpler way of doing the same thing if not this turn but the next turn? Do I need to do this to survive for next turn? These are all valid questions one should be asking when using many cards to remove very few threats.

Not Reading the Card

I’ve watched many people use cards that only last a turn and expect them to persist. The main cards I have in mind are Hunter’s Mark and Power Overwhelming. Hunter’s mark only lasts for one turn, so you need to destroy whatever minion you use it on the turn you play it. Power overwhelming on the other hand will net you a 2 card loss if you do not do anything to the unfortunate minion that has this card cast on it.

Concluding Remarks

Card advantage isn’t a difficult concept to understand, but it can be tricky to keep this in mind when you think you have momentum going for you with the existence of tempting yet subtlety risky plays. Reducing your opponent’s health points to 0 is the winning condition, but to get there, the subtle game of card advantage is playing in the background. Although it’s not always the deciding factor in being victorious, it is still an important concept to understand to really start creating solid strategies.



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