Hi I’m sipiwi94. I have played chess for 11 years now and have reached legend some seasons in a row now. I discovered that there are a lot of similarities between chess and hearthstone when it comes to improvement. One major thing is that improvement can be split into two different groups: skill and memorizing/things you just need to know. This guide will mostly be about the first part, but here is an example that shows the different. Learning about card advantage and board control improves your skill level. Memorizing a new deck list doesn’t improve your skill level. You will probably perform better, but the skill level is about the same. Both kinds of improvement are important, but in my opinion you should focus on skill as much as possible. This guide will try to give you some tools to help you improve at hearthstone. You will not be a much better player after reading it (hopefully a bit), but if you use the tools that it gives you, you will, hopefully, improve faster than you would without it.
YOUR SKILL LEVEL
This part is more important in chess than memorizing openings etc and I would argue that the same goes for hearthstone. When you use a deck made by a pro you will often experience a high boost in rank. This is very nice and motivating, since most of us have a goal that would now be closer (rank 5, legend etc), but first of all your goal should be to improve – nothing but that. With this mindset you will not be as frustrated if you go down 2 ranks or something like that, since you improved. If your goal was to reach rank 5 you didn’t come closer, or did you? Yes, because you need to be a better player to reach a higher rank. A second point about using a pro deck is that once your deck is outdated you will drop down to about where you were before you found your pro deck. So what happened? What happened was that you experienced a “false” boost in skill level. You didn’t actually become a better player. What makes you a better player is something else. In chess there are two different things that make you better. The first one is reading about certain themes of the game improving your general understanding. In hearthstone this would correspond to understanding the classes (removal, secrets, how they are played etc). The second way to improve in chess is to practice your calculation skill by solving puzzles or playing games. This practices your brain like soccer players do physical exercising. In hearthstone the easiest way to practice this is by playing the game. But you need to be 100% focused. It doesn’t work if you look at facebook in your opponent’s turn, watch television at the same time or whatever people do. After you have played a game being focused try to figure out what mistakes you made. It doesn’t matter if you won or lost, if RNG was on your side or if it wasn’t. There will always be mistakes that you can learn from and doing that is an important part of improvement. Try to solve the puzzle in this link:
The solution becomes clear once you get the right idea. You have to Equality and then use Ironbeak Owl. Now the Boulderfist Ogre is at 7 hp and you can buff him to 28 damage, which is lethal. Regardless of whether you found it easy, hard, or unsolvable the way you thought about the puzzle should be very similar to the way you think when you play.
HOW TO THINK DURING A TURN
- Look at the game This sounds very simple and in fact it is. By looking at the game without thinking about finding the correct play you stimulate other parts of your brain, which often makes you see different things. When I solved the puzzle above it was when I looked at the game that I figured at that Equality + Ironbeak Owl could heal any minion. I don’t think I would have seen this point if I was trying to find the right play (not as fast at least)
- Define a goal for your turn A goal could be to remove a big minion, play around certain removal spells, damage your opponent for as much as possible, survive until late game etc. By defining a goal you can sort out plays that don’t help you achieve it. In the puzzle the goal was very obvious, since you would die if you didn’t kill him. By knowing this you didn’t even think about a lot of plays. This can also be the case in less obvious examples if you are aware of it.
- Find the plays with potential to be good You shouldn’t be critical while selecting these, since you don’t want to sort out the best play. Every player looks at different plays, but by organizing your thoughts like this you don’t miss as many plays. You also avoid looking at the same play multiple times wasting time.
- Evaluate the plays with potential and choose the one you want to play This step is pretty obvious. You evaluate the plays you chose in step
- Which play is safer, more ambitious, weaker to removal, creates the most board control etc. After evaluating each play you choose the one you think is the best. Important things to take into account here are: Do you have a good play next turn (a play that uses all your mana and is useful)? Could your opponent have a good answer to your play and how likely is it
- Why is your play bad? This requires an explanation. In this step you want to pretend that the play you chose is bad and figure out why. This, like step 1, activates a new part of the brain, which sometimes finds things you missed. Sometimes you figure out that you missed something essential that makes your play bad and sometimes you remember that your opponent could have a good, but decide to make your play anyway. If he doesn’t make that play you can expect him to not have those cards, which gives you a lot of information. So this step is not always useful, but it can be very important.
- Make sure that you do everything right Play your cards in the right order!! I think we all have forgotten about cards like Wild Pyromancer on the board, traded Knife Juggler before playing your minions etc. The order in which you play your cards can be essential. A rule of thumb is “card draw” before “random effects” before everything else. Note that this doesn’t mean that the order of “everything else” doesn’t matter. Place your minions correctly!! This is very important if you play against Mage, Hunter, and Rogue (Cone of Cold, Explosive Shot, Betrayal), but just do it in general. It is almost always important, since most decks contains cards that buff adjacent minions (Defender of Argus, Flametongue Totem, Dire Wolf Alpha etc.) Attack in the right order!! This is not important very often, but I still want to mention it. Minions buff each other so think about it.
These steps should eliminate a lot of mistakes. There are not equally relevant each turn, but you will hopefully figure that out yourself once you are familiar with them.
- How to practice using these steps One way of practicing was to play while being 100% focused on the game. Another way is to find very skilled streamers that explain their plays. But don’t just watch the stream and nodding at their plays when the streamer explains them. You have to decide what you would do in their situation while they are thinking. This makes you learn by practicing the 6 steps and you learn something when your play is not identical to the streamer’s. If the streamer plays too fast for you look it his videos so you can pause until you figured out how you want to play the turn.
THIS GAME IS ABOUT INFORMATION
A very important thing in this game is to get information out of the cards played and the cards that are not played.
- What cards are left in your deck? This information can be very important. It is always important when there are only few cards left in your deck, but it is also important in general when you need to know what answers you have for his 12/12 Van Cleef or whatever your opponent might have. If you already used all you late game cards against a control warrior you know that you have to try to end it quickly etc. There is a lot of information to be found if you ask yourself what cards are left in your deck.
- What cards did/didn’t your opponent play? Did/didn’t your opponent play all of his board clears, did/didn’t he play his late game threats, what kind of deck contains the cards he plays etc.
- What cards didn’t your opponent play even though it would be good to do so? This is very useful, since you don’t have to play around those cards the next turn/turns.
- How did your opponent mulligan? If he threw away many cards it is less likely that he has a good starting hand. The cards he kept also give you a tell. It could tell you many things depending on what deck you play and what deck your opponent plays, but generally it is early game cards or essential cards in the matchup. Pay attention to whether or not your opponent has played the cards he kept in his starting hand.
- Looking at cards, almost playing at cards etc. Sometimes you can get information out of paying attention to what cards your opponent is hovering over with his mouse and what cards he is about to play, but not playing anyway. I don’t do this, since people can bluff making the information you get unreliable. But it can give you very useful information, especially at lower ranks. Two examples are: If a mage “almost casts” a spell on your minion turn 2 it’s probably Frostbolt and if your opponent “almost casts” a minion turn 3 pointing it at his other minion it is most likely Shattered Sun Cleric. Whether you want to use this information or not you should make sure not to give your opponent tells this way.
SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN DO
- Use as much mana as possible This lets you play more cards overall, which gives you more board control, which lets you trade more efficiently etc.
- Encourage your opponent’s mistakes This game is about two things. The first one is to make the best play every turn. The second one is to make your opponent fail at this. The latter is something that people often forget. There are several things you can do to make him fail. One thing you can do is to use cards like Blood Knight, The Black Knight, Big Game Hunter, Mind Control Tech, Harrison Jones. Your opponent rarely expects you to use these cards, which could turn out to be a mistake. You can also use cards that are hard to play against. Sylvanas Windrunner and Cairne Bloodhoof are good examples. Even taunts are sometimes hard to play around. You can also try to predict what your opponent will do and make that play bad because of the cards you have in your hand.
- Don’t make the best play. Make the play that gives you the highest winning chances. An example is that you are in a bad spot and your only chance to win is to go all face and hope that he doesn’t have some cards that will just make you lose on the spot. You might lose 90% of those games, but if going for efficient trades loses 100% of the times it’s still something. This game is about risk/reward.
- Play as many classes as possible This will make it easier to face each one of them. If you don’t have the cards you can do it in arena.
- The best play isn’t always the one that gives the best result. You might run into the perfect counter to your play, but if it’s very unlikely don’t be frustrated. You still made the right decision!
MEMORIZING TO VICTORY
I will now spend a little time talking about what is important to memorize and how to improve well doing it. When you play chess you have to memorize openings (the best moves possible at the start of the game), BUT it is very important that you understand why every move is the best. In hearthstone it is very important that you have a good deck, BUT it is very important that you understand why it is a good deck. When you find a good deck on the internet best case scenario is that there is a description telling you what every card is doing in the deck and a video with some game play. If there is a description DON’T use it. The way you learn is to look at each card yourself, trying to figure out why each card was chosen instead of others. Afterwards you should look at the description to find out what points you missed. Play some games with the deck (at least 20 I would say). This will teach you a lot about the deck and if you can’t make it work in 20 games find another. You still learned a lot especially if you face the deck.
The meta game is also necessary to learn about and can teach you surprisingly much about the game. What is the most popular deck right now? What counters it and why aren’t those cards/decks played? How can you change your deck making it more effective against the meta? Instead of just playing the same decks as everyone else you should try to understand why these decks are popular. This improves your skill and you will also be one step ahead if you change your deck accordingly.
So what makes you a better player? Practicing, thinking, focusing, understanding.
Take your time when you play. You have 90 seconds per turn every second you don’t use is lost.
Use the 6 steps mentioned above. (Maybe copy paste them to a note so you have access to it while playing)
- Look at the game
- Define a goal for your turn
- Find the plays with potential to be good
- Evaluate the plays with potential and choose the one you want to play
a) Do you have a good play next turn
b) Could your opponent have a good answer to your play and how likely it is
- Why is your play bad?
- Make sure that you do everything right
a) Playing order
b) Minion Placement
c) Attacking order
Get as much information as possible out of what happens in the game.
Learn from the things you have to memorize.
If you do all this I am quite sure that you will improve fast, but there is one last thing, which is very important: Have fun! Don’t forget why you play this game. This game is not about topping the ranking lists it’s about having fun and if you have fun improvement will come soon enough.