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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Hearthstone - New Player & Beginners Guide by sebZeroToHeroes

For some time now, I've seen new players come here and ask again and again about how to get into the game. There are many resources around on the net (including on this subreddit), but didn't find any single one I could easily reference to and that took things step by step in a logical order.
I've thus started writing a blog post to answer this question, and that has been reproduced below.
I'm mainly looking for community advice on how to make this more complete; or more easily understandable, or even fix some mistakes I might have made.

Thanks for your help!

In Fall 2015, I discovered HearthStone and HearthStone's subreddit. It has been a great source of help and advice at the beginning, and for a few months now I've been trying to give back to the community by helping beginners who had questions about how to get better at the game.
The three questions that were asked over and over were:
  • I'm a new player, how do I get into the game? How can I stop sucking and climb over the 18-20 wall? More generally, how can I improve my gameplay?
  • What should I do with my gold or real money? Packs? Arena? Adventures? Which ones? What should I do with my dust?
  • How do I get better at Arena?
I've also read the advice that many people provided on the subreddit, and wanted to compile what I found the most useful in a quick post for future reference.
It's easy to be overwhelmed at the beginning. There are lots of things in the game, lots of different cards, and the game (or rather, the matchmaking system) is rather unforgiving to new players. So you have to take things step-by-step, accept that at the beginning your card collection will suck, and steadily get better at the game by both improving your gameplay and your card collection.

Get familiar with the game

Get familiar with all the classes by leveling each of them to level 10 first (first against the Innkeeper, then against the Expert Innkeeper, then against other players in Ranked, Standard mode - casual's matchmaking will often pit you against strong players, and Wild makes collection gaps even more difficult to bridge). Even if you don't plan to use them, you need to understand the basic strengths and weaknesses of each class.
I suggest you use no-dust deck like Sheng's 0-dust decks. These decks also come along with detailed guides that explain the cards and how to play them. It will give you a solid basis to attack the game with and be competitive on the first levels of the ladder.
Then play for a while with these basic decks while doing your daily quests and unique quests. These are one-offs that will give you rewards (usually gold or packs) when certain conditions are met.
Also, level one of your classes to level 20 to get access to the Tavern Brawl (and get a free pack every week). This will give you a feel for the game that you can't have otherwise, which will help you a lot going further.
Once you feel you are familiar with the game, it's time to get to the second step: improving your mastery.

Improve your gameplay

It is actually more important to improve your gameplay (your knowledge and skill at how to play the game) than increasing your card collection. At the beginning, you can beat seemingly much stronger decks with simple ones just because you understand the game very well.
To do so, there are 3 things you can do in parallel:
  • Read beginner guides and resources. This will give you the basics of strategy and understanding of the game mechanics. For now I'm linking to hearthstoneplayers.com resource (which is pretty good), but I'll add more individual links as time goes on
    • You should start with Trump's Teachings, which does a great job at explaining the basic concepts of the game
  • Watch streamers to get a feel of what to do and what not to do. Prefer educational streamers (ie streamers that explain their moves and thought process), like:
    • Trump
    • Kibler (prefer his stream here, as the YouTube channel contains more highlight moments from his stream rather than more traditional gameplay videos)
    • Savjz (prefer his stream here, as he doesn't have that much YouTube content)
    • StrifeCro
    • ThijsNL
    • Dog
    • wowhobbs
    • Kripp
  • Once you have an idea of what you should do, time to know if you're doing it right. Record your games and discuss them with other experienced players (trackers like Hearthstone Deck Tracker are the best way, and I wrote a guide if you need more help). You'll get to learn tons about how to play the game, especially since the advice will be directed at your specific mistakes, and not simply generic advice on the net. Zero to Heroes lets you do just that, and here are two examples of games that got reviewed for illustration.
You'll know when you have gotten good enough at the game. You'll be able to predict the moves the streamers will make, and reviewing your games won't reveal any big mistake.
And one last thing: HearthStone is a card game, so with natural RNG. Some cards again add some RNG to the mix. Being a good HS player means learning to play with this in mind. You won't win all your games (you need to accept that most pros win only slightly more than half of their games), but you can play in a way that maximizes your chances.
At this stage, it's time to increase your collection to be able to build competitive decks (this is obviously mostly valid for free-to-play players. If you're willing to spend money to buy packs, getting cards will be a lot easier).

Improve your collection

There are three main ways of improving your collection (I'm not counting the Watch and Learn quest, which gives you a free pack but pops rather rarely, or the Tavern Brawl that is limited to one pack per week):
  • Buying packs
  • Buying Adventures
  • Getting packs from Arena
The article (and this section in particular) is written mainly with f2p in mind, so using gold instead of real money. If you're using real money, Adventures are the best bang for your buck. And in any case, never buy an Arena ticket with real money, it's just not worth it.

Packs

Buying packs is the most obvious way to go by, and what you should start with. Buy 15-20 packs of the Classic expansion, and as much from the latest one (Whispers of the Old Gods). Please note you can earn 13 free WotOG packs by winning some games in Standard, which you should obviously do. This will gradually lets you expand your collection, get to know more cards, and possibly gain access to stronger decks.
Once you're there, you have two possible paths: Arena or Adventures. There is no consensus on which one you should follow, and it mainly depends on whether you have fun in Arena, or if you are looking for specific Adventure cards.

Arena

First, should you play Arena at all? This is still a controversial subject.
My take is that at this point, if you took things step by step and focused on improving your gameplay, you should be able to do decently (~3 wins) in Arena. Which, if you like the format, is enough to justify doing Arena to get your packs.
Otherwise, it can be pretty frustrating, and the time investment may not make it worth it compared to playing ranked for your quests.
So before going into Arena, make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. Read a few guides to learn how to draft and how the gameplay is different from constructed, and watch streamers to get a feel for it. Then do a few test runs, and depending on your results decide whether you'd like to go down this route or not.
Being good in Arena will let you pay 150 gold to earn a pack AND other rewards, mostly gold and dust. At some point (it used to be when you have at least 7 wins, but rewards have changed with WotOG and we don't have any clear stats yet), you'll get more gold than your entrance fee, which lets you get a pack for free and do another Arena to continue the chain.
How to achieve this is the subject of a whole post by itself and long hours of sucking at it, but luckily there are plenty of resources available on the net (including an article on this blog).

Adventures

Adventures are pretty straightforward, and lets you play against the AI in predefined scenarios to earn certain specific cards. Two Adventures are part of Standard today: League of Explorers (LoE) and BlackRock Mountain (BRM). It's probably better to start with LoE. You get more cards for cheaper, and the majority of the set contains viable cards, as opposed to BRM which just has a few playable cards for specific decks. You can build a pretty good deck built around the LoE cards, and they're really good for new players.

Understand the cards and build your own decks

The final step, and a difficult one. It's again the subject of a whole article, and again hearthstoneplayers has some interesting resources.

Closing words

Getting into HS is more difficult than it should be. Blizzard has done some nice things to make things easier with WotOG, and I hope this trend will continue in the future.
This said, the HS community is very helpful and will help you get past this initial wall. Set your goals to getting better at the game, and you'll be able to enjoy it from the start.

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