In our previous installment of the Hearthstone beginner guide, I covered some super-high level tips that are common knowledge for anyone who has any experience in collectable card games that players new to the genre (and Hearthstone) likely haven’t learned yet. I was originally planning on hopping right in with posting and analyzing some decks, but I realized dealing with the in-game economy and how you get the cards for your decks is more important to cover first.
The good (and bad) thing about Hearthstone being a virtual CCG is the instant accessibility to cards. Through a crafting system where you get rid of your duplicate or otherwise unwanted cards you earn arcade dust, and then you can spend this dust to craft the cards you do want. Unfortunately, in this transaction, the house always wins.
Here’s what you’ll get for disenchanting as well as the cost of each rarity level:
Now, while we’re on the subject, something to consider is that golden cards (essentially the Hearthstone equivalent of fancy foil cards) disenchant for (and cost) way more dust. Initially, it might seem like a good idea to convert your gold cards to dust because you can get so much for them, but consider this:
Hearthstone, compared to other CCG’s, is in its infancy right now. Typically in card games rare things always stay rare, meaning if you eventually want a deck of cards that’s all gold, it’s going to be just as hard to chase those cards down as it is today.
Comparatively, dust is reasonably easy to come across right now by burning your extra cards, and if free to play games have taught us anything over the years it’s that the in-game currencies (like dust) often get easier to come by. I’m not sure just how likely it is, but for instance, it’s entirely possible that the upcoming expansion Curse of Naxxramas could make grinding out dust easier.
Of course it’s entirely up to you with what you do with those juicy gold cards, but, I’m holding on to mine as the dust reward seems good, but if I ever want those cards back it’s going to be expensive. Similarly, the methodology I’m using for all cards is to only blow up duplicates. You lose so much value when disenchanting that it just doesn’t seem worth it.
You can’t trade cards with other players, so the only way you’re ever going to get cards is by unlocking them yourself. CCG’s have an evolving meta game surrounded by the overall design idea of intentional imbalance, so even though a particular card might seem terrible now, as the meta game evolves that clunker could turn in to the next killer deck.
Here’s a great video that details how intentional imbalance makes these sorts of games fun, for some additional background:
Obviously, you get extra cards to disenchant by opening packs, which can be bought for 100 gold or whatever IAP pack you feel like dropping cash on, starting at $1.99. The most reliable way to earn gold is by doing your daily quests that you get, and you get 10 gold for every three wins. Just playing every day will get you cards at a pretty decent clip.
Many places online will tell you the best place to get cards is by playing in the arena, which is the Hearthstone equivalent of a limited format used by other CCG’s. You get a choice of three random classes to play, and choose one of three random cards until you’ve got a 30 card deck. Entering the arena costs 150 gold or $1.99.
The thing with the arena is, you can get fantastic rewards, but only if you’re able to reliably win more than you lose. Starting out, this likely isn’t going to be the case, and chances are you’re going to walk away with your free pack for playing and a random reward which can be 25-40 gold, 25-40 dust, or one random card. These rewards scale up with each win, but at 3-5 wins you can come out even while at 7+ wins you earn more gold than you paid to enter.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t do the arena, but if your sole goal is to flesh out your collection both by getting new cards and potentially getting duplicate cards to craft the cards you want, you’re probably better off just getting packs outright with your gold until you learn the game more and are capable of crafting a cohesive deck on the fly and consistently average a win rate of greater than 50%.
The Best Cards to Craft First
So you’ve got a few wins under your belt, you’re starting to do your daily quests with some reliability, and you’re earning dust at a steady pace in the process. The next step a lot of people take is to find a deck they like somewhere like HearthPwn or any of the other deck databases out there and just go nuts crafting it.
I highly advise against doing this, as what is going to happen is you’re going to wind up with tons of crafted cards that are highly class specific. The best way to spend your dust early in the game is by crafting the strong neutral cards that are used in most decks. Doing this you’re going to get the most bang for your proverbial dust buck, as a strong neutral card is going to see play in many classes versus a strong rogue card which obviously can only be used by rogues.
Having a good stock of strong neutral cards is vital to completing your daily quests too, which often have you rotating between all sorts of classes to get gold. With good neutral cards, you can fill out a reasonably decent deck with just those cards, then fill in the holes with whatever class cards seem to fit to grind out your daily quest class-specific wins.
I really, really wouldn’t bother crafting common cards. If you’re sticking with doing your daily quests you’ll have gold coming in at a decent pace and will be opening a free pack every couple days. It doesn’t take long for you to fill out your collection of common cards to the point that you’ll be disenchanting most of the common cards you get, so it’s really not worth crafting them. Stick to rares, as it’s far more difficult to count on opening a specific rare you want compared to eventually getting 2x of every common.
Here’s the rare cards I’d make sure I have two of before anything else. The list is alphabetical, as which of these cards is “better" than the others largely depends on your play style:
Argent Commander – A 4/2 for 6 mana might not seem great, but add charge and divine shield in to the mix and you’ve got a great minion. Divine shield protects him from one damage source, and being instantly usable means you can potentially swing in to kill a minion with much higher attack without trading your Argent Commander for it. Alternatively, you could bash your opponent for 4, and force them in to using two actions to get rid of this guy.
Azure Drake – I think cards that have a battlecry that results in card draw are always great, and a 4/4 for 5 mana that also boosts your spell power is fantastic- Particularly if you can follow it up with any kind of spell. If you can’t, a card in your hand and a 4/4 on the board is more than worth the casting cost.
Defender of Argus – A 2/3 for 4 mana isn’t great, but the battlecry this dude comes packed with is killer. Drag him between two existing minions on the board and you’re not only swinging in for a combined two additional damage, but those guys just got beefier and gained taunt. Defender of Argus is almost always a pain for your opponent to deal with as he can turn two seemingly insignificant minions in to threats and road blocks.
Sunfury Protector – This guy is a cheaper Defender of Argus that doesn’t buff your minions, but still provides them taunt. The Sunfury Protector is great at buying you time, as well as protecting a higher value minion. Late game if you’ve got a card you can get out for 8 that likely won’t survive the next turn, you can spend that extra 2 mana on this guy to give the other minions on the board taunt to make sure your high value cards stick.
Sunwalker – A beefier Argent Commander, here we’re trading charge for more health and taunt. This card is very annoying to get rid of, as even if you silence it to remove the divine shield and taunt, a 4/5 is still a sizable threat. If your opponent already used their silence, it’s going to take two, or potentially even more, minions to get the Sunwalker off the board.
Wild Pyromancer – As mentioned in our previous guide, card advantage is everything in CCGs and Wild Pyromancer is a great way to spice up your mass-damage spells without costing as much as +1 spell damage cards typically do. Additionally, if you’re playing a class that doesn’t have many options when it comes to removing a battlefield full of enemy minions, Wild Pyromancer is a great answer- Particularly if you’ve got a way to keep him healed as he damages himself and your minions as well.
The above cards are by far the most flexible and useful in most decks, these cards can be good if you’re running the right kind of deck or other cards to support them:
Ancient Watcher – A 4/5 for 2 mana is insane, but the whole “Can’t Attack" thing is a real wet blanket. It turns out, this card can be ultra-useful if you’ve got the right stuff in your deck to pair it with. It can trigger the battlecry of Knife Juggler. All silences can target friendly minions, so you can drop this guy and a Ironbeak Owl and have 6 points of attacking power. Alternatively, powering up this guy can keep your opponent from using mass-silences like Mass Dispel, and either of the above guys who can give adjacent cards taunt can turn Ancient Watcher in to a real problem for your opponent, considering if they silence the taunt they still have a 4/5 coming their way to deal with.
Gadgetzan Auctioneer – If you’ve got a deck that plays lots of spells, you need card draw or you’ll totally run out of gas and will be playing off the top of your deck. A 4/4 for 5 isn’t bad, but when all your spells now essentially have “Battlecry: Draw a card," Gadgetzan Auctioneer can create some seriously silly combos.
Knife Juggler – A 3/2 for 2 mana is great, and either playing Knife Juggler on turn one with the coin or turn two by himself can be really strong plays to fish out whatever targeted card removal your opponent might be holding. Alternatively, he’s cheap enough to hold on to for when you’ve got a bigger combo coming up like any card that summons multiple minions like Mirror Image, Feral Spirit, Unleash the Hounds and more. Each of those minions summoned will trigger his battlecry, and since it’s totally random, Knife Juggler can knock out annoying minions that are buffing others but might be protected by a minion with taunt.
Once you’ve got those cards, look at picking these even more situational but still really great neutral cards:
Arcane Golem – A 4/2 minion with charge is great for smashing in for loads of damage with your other minions on the board, and at 3 mana it’s low costed for the damage it does… But it comes with the significant drawback of ramping your opponent’s mana pool. This can be a really bad thing or a not-that-bad kind of thing depending on what your opponent is playing. If they’re running an aggressive deck that’s more dependent on card draw than it is mana, giving them an extra crystal isn’t that bad. If they’re not doing much but holding on to a full hand of cards to bust out some combo, unless you’re swinging in for lethal damage giving them extra mana isn’t a great idea.
Imp Master – A 1/5 for 3 mana is pretty decent, but things get even better when Imp Master starts dumping out free 1/1 minions every turn, particularly if you’ve got buffs that apply to them. If you’ve got a way to heal Imp Master, it can turn in to a real problem for your opponent.
Injured Blademaster – The battlecry makes this card a 4/3, which isn’t terrible, but once he starts soaking up heals this guy just gets crazy. He’s great in Priest decks, as well as any deck that runs cards or minions that heal other minions. Heal this dude up, apply whatever buff cards you got, and he’s a crazy force to deal with. It’s super situational though, as if you don’t have a way to keep him alive, there are better minions to be had for 3 mana.
Mind Control Tech – Like most luck-based battlecry minions, this guy can be really good or do absolutely nothing worthwhile. Four minions is a lot to have out, but like Mind Control, there’s no restrictions on what minion this guy can steal. Grab some legendary your opponent just summoned and Mind Control Tech will suddenly become your favorite card.
Twilight Drake – Best played with decks that have loads of card draw, Twilight Drake can be super beefy if you’re holding on to a bunch of cards. If you’re not, for 4 mana, a 4/3 isn’t great, a 4/2 is pretty bad, and a 4/1 is even worse if you just pulled this card off the top of your deck and have nothing else to do but play it.
Violet Teacher – Often with decks that run heavy with spells, you’ve got to cut out minion support to have what you need while still staying at 30 cards. Violet Teacher can do a great job at filling this hole, as playing it then a couple spells can fill your side of the board with minions. It’s down here in the super situational list because obviously if you’re not playing many spells there’s way better cards than this for 4 mana.
Those cards are a great place to start, and while crafting a ton of these rares will cost you a load of dust, these cards are flexible enough to be usable in most decks. Again, until you really figure out what class you like best, I wouldn’t really get too invested in to building loads of class specific cards.
Next up we’ll look at a few typical Hearthstone deck archetypes and examine both what makes them work as well as how to play against them. Stay tuned!