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hearthstone Hearthstone Arena Guide: From Beginner to Infinite #4: Trade or Face Part I

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Welcome to the fourth of L0rinda's Arena mini-guides. This guide discusses the basics of whether to trade minions, or to attack your opponent.


Many players looking to improve ask whether they should trade minions or attack face. People often feel that they are missing something obvious, and that it is an easy question to answer. It is actually the underpinning of the whole game, and not trivial at all. This article attempts to set the groundwork for getting the answer correct more often.

The problem with writing such an article is that, even more than usual, there is no simple general rule. I will provide a series of examples to set a framework for you to work with, but I can not stress enough that there will be many many occasions where the example is incorrect in actual gameplay. You should learn the concepts, and not the specifics, presented within each example. To remove some of the exactness, and encourage you to learn the ideas, all of the situations presented take place with both players on high life totals, and with several cards in hand.

Free Kills

A free kill is a an attack where your opponent's minion dies, and yours does not. These are usually extremely beneficial to take as they are a pure form of card advantage, killing off one enemy card at the cost of none of your own.


It is usually correct in this position to take the free kill if you get the chance. Your River Crocolisk will remain as a 2/1 minion, which will be able to either attack another minion next turn, force an opponent to use their Hero Power, or simply deal two damage to the opponent.

Value Trades

A value trade is a trade where both minions die, but you get the better deal. If you consistently take value trades, then eventually your opponent will fall behind as he will have typically spent more mana than you. Over the course of a game, these are the small things that add up to a big advantage later on.


One of the most clear value trades that comes up on a regular basis, is when you have a 2/1 minion on turn one and your opponent is forced to play a 3/2. It is clear that your opponent's minion is better than yours, and yet you can exchange them. You should almost always make this trade.

Defending a Bigger Minion

You should always be aware of what your opponent can do on his next turn with the minions that you can see on the board. Sometimes they are threatening to kill a big minion and you need to deal with that threat.


In this position, although the Mind Control Tech is better than the Bloodfen Raptor, the Raptor will kill the Ethereal Conjurer next turn. Therefore it is more efficient to kill the Bloodfen Ratpor with the Mind Control Tech than it is to go face, even though the trade is not a favourable one at first glance.

Playing Around AoE Spells

Sometimes you are presented the opportunity to play around AoE spells. A lot of the time you should take this opportunity, although you have to be careful to balance this with not giving your opponent's minion Windfury (See below).


Here, you can efficiently kill the Paladin's Guardian of Kings with the Acidic Swamp Ooze and the Bloodfen Raptor. This plays around a potential Consecration while not wasting any damage. These are both important concepts. Losing a board to AoE while your opponent has minions of their own is catastrophic. When you try to repopulate the board, your opponent has a head start on initative. Also, you only have a finite amount of damage you can deal. If you can kill things exactly, it is usually good for you.

Giving an Enemy Minion Windfury

Eventually you have to draw the line and stop trading. One important time to do this is when you will give an opponent's minion Windfury. Attacking a minion with more than one of your minions is also effectively letting the opposing minion attack more than once in a turn.


In this example, you could trade your board into the Faceless Behemoth. There will be occasions when this is correct, but you are letting it kill four of your minions in one go. In this situation you should be looking to smash your opponent in the face, as long as you are not playing into AoE effects. The chances are that he has to find a way to stop you doing 11 more damage next turn rather than take you on in a race.

I am aware that most of the examples in this article have covered trading. As an even more dangerous general rule, trading is better than attacking the enemy. When you remove the enemy board he loses the ability to buff his minions efficiently, which could lead to him gaining the initiative. In the second part of this article, I will discuss several situations where it is correct to attack face. These are generally more complicated, which is why they come in the later article.

The first three parts of this series covered the Vanilla Test, Your Resources, and Why The Board is Important.
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I think you miss an important thing - face is the place SMOrc. You should always face, never trade. 

Great guide as always, this one might even be the best so far.

Will you cover trading in connection to the draft/curve (aggro drafts) in the second part?

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I will at least be mentioning the concept of "Who is the Aggro?". I'm not entirely sure as to the degree of emphasis yet.

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Very helpful! I used to think I was "forcing" my opponent to trade when I would go face and leave a minion, but that didn't always work out for me. I'll be looking closer at value trades from now on.


Also, I wonder if you should mention more detail about preventing buffs from your opponent. Such as, Hunters are more likely to buff Beast minions, same for Warlocks and their Demons; Paladins, Druids and Priests have a lot of dangerous single-minoin buffs, while Shaman and Druid have board buffs; and Mage will only buff via Neutral minions (at least, I'm pretty sure they don't have any buff spells); and so on and so forth. So playing around a potential buff can change depending on your opponent.

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