As a new player, the amount of jargon thrown around by the hearthstone community in general can be a little intimidating. There are a lot of posts asking for explanations on the terms “aggro” “Midrange” and “Control” and in general, they usually get 2 answers. One, that aggro is early game, midrange is midgame and control is late game. and two, a few links to popular netdecks.
The intention of this guide is to provide a little more detail as to what each of those three archetypes mean, and what they seek to do in a typical Hearthstone game. There won’t be any decklists posted, but that’s certainly not a hard task for anyone who’s spent more than 2 minutes on this sub to figure out, and hopefully this should give a new player with an idea of how they would go about constructing a list themselves.
Aggro decklists are, as could be assumed by the title, extremely aggressive. Usually the most effective style of deck for a new player to construct, they’re also responsible for one of the two common sources of frustration for new players in the game, as they tend to kill players extremely quickly before they’re able to do anything. That’s kind of the point.
Aggro decks seek to win around turns 6-7, before any extremely large minions can be played. they prize mana efficiency above all else, using minions, weapons and spells that can deal the most damage possible to the enemy player for the least mana. Aggro decks will usually lead off with a minion turn 1, making that style of play fairly easy to spot (Leper Gnomes or Argent Squires are the classic turn 1 aggro minions). Aggro has an advantage against most midrange decks, as they lack the defenses or early minion killing power of control decks. Aggro decks generally will run some kind of charge finisher as their most expensive card, which they will use to close out the game.
The two most common styles of Aggro play are Face (sometimes called Beatdown) and Zoo.
A face deck (e.g. Face Hunter) is characterized by minions almost never attacking other minions. They just drop a lot of low cost minions, often with divine shields or charge to make them annoying to kill, and go straight for the enemy hero. They will often use spells or traps to remove any problem minions the enemy might play, and seek to kill as fast as possible.
Zoo style (usually Warlocks but Token druid can also be seen as fairly close to a zoo in some respects) looks to play a very strong board of cheap minions, and buff them so that they’re harder to get rid of. This deck plays like a more aggressive version of a common Arena deck, using minions like Argent Squire, Abusive Sergeant and Dire wolf alpha to make it so their small minions can trade for much larger enemy minions and overwhelm the opponent before they can drop their huge threats.
Midrange decks are generally what’s being used if you hear someone like Trump talking about “value”. They look to use the most efficient minions and spells to build up a series of small edges over their opponents, and they will use hard removals or a strong finisher combo to prevent an opponent from muscling through with beefy late game minions. a midrange deck wants to win around 9-10, and generally have strong matchups vs the control style of play. Budget midrange decks, when played correctly, demolish the legions of legendaries that new players might otherwise become frustrated by, and are generally considered some of the best budget decks to play for more of a “thinking man’s game” than aggro decks. Trump’s Budget Shaman and Mage runs present an excellent example of midrange in action. Miracle is a unique style of midrange deck that uses spells, not minions, to control the board, and relies on an extreme finisher combo to deal massive damage to their opponent on a single turn.
Run of the mill midrange decks seek to build board control with sturdy, efficient minions like Chillwind Yeti, Harvest Golem or sometimes something fancy like Ancient Watcher comboed with Defender of Argus. They follow up early game defensive walls with a strong board turns 4-5-6, and then look to coast to victory on hard removal spells like Hex, Big Game Hunter or Polymorph turns 8+ which prevent opponents from playing huge threatening minions.
Miracle decks contain as much as 2/3s of the deck just dedicated to spells. They usually use some kind of huge card draw (either the Gadgetzan Auctioneer or the Warlock hero power) to gather up their combo while keeping the enemy board clear with their spells, then on turn 9-10 they drop a huge wombo combo like Leeroy Jenkins, 2x Shadowstep (play him again for more charges), 2x Cold Blood (26 total damage). Most people playing against miracle for the first time see this combo as a one in a million crazy luck draw-but in actuality, it’s not umcommon to draw your entire deck over the course of a game, making it easy to draw into the finisher every time.
Control decks are probably the scariest thing to play against in Hearthstone. In general, they run legendaries. All the legendaries. Their decks are usually dedicated 50% to making sure none of the opponents attempts at aggression stick, and 50% to dropping big huge nasty minions to crush their enemies. Control in general has a strong matchup vs Aggro decks, but struggles against the hard removal spells of Midrange (“I bring Li-riddip” “I can’t wait much long-baaaaaaa”)
Control Warrior is the classic control deck, aka the single most expensive deck to try and amass in HS. He uses mass quantities of armor and cheap removal spells to outlast his foes, then drops any number of the terrifying typical roster of Cairne Bloodhoof, Sylvanas, Baron Geddon, Ragnaros, Alexstraza, and Grommash Hellscream. Yes, the copy/pasted list requires all of those. Control is obviously the hardest style of play for a new player to get into, due to the massive amounts of cards required for a functional deck, but often the incredible length of the games tends to turn players off of control anyway, so it is sometimes seen as just a way to show off your internet swag collection an win at the same time. Often, new players will claim that Control decks are unbeatable, but in reality, just saving a couple hard removals or putting a big game hunter in your list does a long way to take the big, scary teeth off a control deck thanks to their lumbering pace.