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How To Build A Deck in Hearthstone

Last updated on Aug 19, 2014 at 13:43 by Vlad 14 comments

Table of Contents

On this page, we will walk you through what we consider to be the essential steps required to build a solid, viable, and competitive Hearthstone deck. Everything we write here applies exclusively to Constructed decks.

The quality and strength of the decks you build will depend on the size of your card collection: the more vast your collection is, the better your decks can be. But do not let this fact discourage you if your collection is limited. You can still build good, viable, and fun decks even with a small collection.

Naturally, and as we will see, deck-building is a complex process that you will probably not be very good at until you have extensive Hearthstone experience. With that in mind, however, it is still a very rewarding activity, and one that will help you get a much better understanding of the game.

1. Why Build Your Own Decks?

With the large variety of decks that are published on various websites (we have many here on Icy Veins), you might be asking yourself why you would even bother making your own decks, when you can just copy some that are bound to be better.

There are several advantages to building your own decks, as opposed to simply (and blindly) copying decks from websites.

  • If you build your own deck, you will be extremely familiar and comfortable with it. This helps you play the deck better, and also allows you to modify it more easily without "ruining" it.
  • Winning games with a deck you built yourself is very satisfying. While winning games is satisfying in general, if you are winning with a deck you created from scratch, you will find it much more rewarding.
  • Building your own decks gives you an edge, especially when trying to quickly get to a high rank on the ladder. This is because you will not have to wait for a good deck to be posted somewhere for you to find, and instead you will be able to quickly build a deck that works well in your environment.
  • Building your own decks makes them ideally suited to your playstyle and preference. Each player has different playstyle preferences. Some players enjoy decks that are fast, others prefer a slower, more controlled pace, and so on. Some players are more interested in making constant trades, while others like to attack the opponent directly to put them under pressure. If you build your own deck, you can create exactly the deck you enjoy playing, instead of trying to have fun with someone else's deck.

Perhaps most importantly, building your own decks allows you to get a much better understanding of the cards, and of their interactions. In the long run, this will make you a better player, both in Constructed and in Arena.

2. Envisioning Your Victory Condition(s)

Before you start adding cards to your deck, you should try to have a mental image of your new deck's victory (or win) condition(s), or, in other words, the means through which your deck will win games. In general, your victory conditions will be one (or more) of the following:

  • Establish and maintain board control, in order to attack your opponent with your minions until you win.
  • Use some combination of cards to produce an unexpected burst of damage or momentum that will kill your opponent.
  • Constantly swarm your opponent with (generally small) minions, ignoring the minions that they play, and killing them before they have time to recover.

The first case will usually dictate a control theme for your deck, so you will not need to have a very clear idea about what cards to use at this stage. In the other cases, however, your idea will probably revolve around a number of very specific, and essential cards.

Once you have an idea, you should try to visualise how it will work out in practice. You should be able, at least in a best-case scenario, to come up with a few reliable ways of defeating your opponent.

After this is done, you can move on to the next steps, and start actually adding cards to your deck.

3. Deciding Which Cards to Include (or to Exclude)

Obviously, this stage constitutes the bulk of the deck-building process. It is here that you will need to make the most interesting and difficult decisions.

This process is tricky, and most new players will rush to add as many "great" cards they can do their deck. This is a mistake, because in Hearthstone, the 30-card deck limit is very restrictive. Even with a limited card collection, you are likely to have vastly more "great" cards than you can fit in a deck. We put "great" in quotations because, often, inexperienced players will make incorrect evaluations of cards, thinking that some mediocre cards are great, and some excellent cards are mediocre.

So, you will need to very carefully evaluate the theme and purpose of your deck. Just because a certain card has worked well for you in the past, or because it has very good stats for its cost, or so on, is not reason enough to automatically include it in your new deck.

3.1. Your Deck's Mana Curve

In the sub-sections that follow, we will walk you through the steps of building a deck. However, there is one additional element you must keep in mind at all times, both before you begin actually adding your cards, as well as during that process. This element is your deck's mana curve.

Your deck's mana curve is the distribution of cards in your deck by their mana cost. This is a very important concept, because this distribution dictates the likelihood of you having cost-appropriate cards in your hand.

To give you a very crude example, if you were to place only 6 and 7-cost cards in your deck, you would have no cards to play during the first 5 turns of the game, which would almost ensure your defeat (regardless of how strong your 6 and 7-cost cards might be).

Even if you include some early-game cards, this is not sufficient. You need to include enough cards for each stage of the game to ensure that there will be good chances for these cards to actually end up in your hand when you need them.

It is impossible to give you exact guidelines, since your class, your deck's theme, and the cards available in your collection will all influence your deck's mana curve. The main idea, though, is that your deck's mana curve should be such that you have cards available to play during each of the three stages of the game (early game, mid game, and late game).

Your mana curve should be something you are constantly considering in the back of your mind. If you are trying to decide between two similar minions, one of which costs 3 and one of which costs 4, this would be the type of decision where the deck's current mana curve would play a role.

3.2. Step One: Adding Core Cards

You should start by very conservatively identifying the core cards of your new deck (the cards that you absolutely need to have in order for the deck to work).

For instance, if you wanted to create a Rogue deck that relies on doing massive burst damage through combinations of Leeroy Jenkins, Cold Blood, and/or Shadowstep, then these three cards are absolutely essential to your deck, and you should start by including them.

Some decks will have more core cards than others, but unless your deck is very combo-heavy, your core cards, in their strictest sense, will probably not exceed 10.

3.3. Step Two: Adding Class-Specific Cards

The next step is to include the most suitable situational class-specific cards. It is important to go into a bit of detail here, because this is a step where inexperienced players are prone to making mistakes.

Each class has 25 class-specific cards, but there is no deck that ever benefits from having all or most of the class-specific cards in it. There are two main reasons for this:

  • Some class-specific cards are simply not good enough to warrant being played in any deck whatsoever.
  • Not all class-specific cards are suited for all types of decks. Some cards will be excellent if you are playing a control deck, while others are much better for a burst-damage combination, and so on. Including all of them will dilute the theme of your deck.

In fact, most high-end decks utilise less than 10 class-specific cards (and in some cases, as few as 5). The idea here is that you need to be ruthless in filtering out any class-specific cards that are not amazingly good for your deck. You should never just add them just because they exist and they are class-specific.

Most of the class-specific cards you will be adding during this step are answer cards. They will be there to allow you to deal with your opponent's threats, or to create a favourable environment for your core cards.

As a Rogue, this means cards such as Backstab, Eviscerate, Betrayal, or Assassinate.

Also during this stage, you can add another class-specific cards that you are fairly certain will find a place in the deck, simply because of their outstanding value. As a Rogue, such cards would be SI:7 Agent or Deadly Poison.

You still need to go through one or two more steps, so you do not want to have your deck reach its limit already at this stage. If you have more than 20 cards already in your deck, there is a good chance that you have included some cards that do not really belong.

3.4. Step Three: Adding Neutral Minions

To fill out the deck, you will continue by adding the best (appropriate) neutral minions available to you. This will depend on the theme of your deck, and on your card collection, but we will give you some examples.

  • If you have a very aggressive rush deck, you will probably add some cards like Abusive Sergeant or Argent Squire (although there is a chance that these cards already formed the core of your rush deck).
  • If you are looking for ways to draw additional cards, you will probably add Loot Hoarders, Nat Pagle, and/or Azure Drakes.
  • If you have a late-game control deck, you will probably add some powerful late-game minions such as Ysera or Ragnaros the Firelord (again, if these minions were not already part of the core of your deck).
  • You might also include any other minions that are generally excellent, such as the Harvest Golem, Sylvanas Windrunner, Defender of Argus, and so on.

If you can finish off your deck by filling it up with such minions (again, while being quite ruthless, and always analysing whether each minion belongs in this specific deck), then that is great, and the first version of your new deck is complete. If not, you will continue on to the final step.

3.5. Step Four: The Last Few Pieces

If your deck has 26-28 cards in it, and you have completed the previous steps, you will basically want to complete it by adding a few cards that had previously been deemed inadequate. If you were ruthless enough, there is a good chance that you passed up some cards that are very good, just not amazing for your deck. You can now go back and add the best of these cards.

Alternatively, you can add some more answers to your deck to protect you against powerful enemy minions, such as Big Game Hunter, The Black Knight, and so on.

4. Tweaking Your Deck

Your new deck is now complete, but your work is far from over. Building a viable and competitive deck is an iterative process.

As you play games with your new deck, you will need to always be looking for ways to improve and refine it. Sometimes, it might turn out that your entire idea of the deck's chances of success has been wrong (the combo you envisioned has some problem that prevents it from working). Most often, it will turn out that some of the minions or spells you thought would be very good are actually not that good.

As you play more and more games, you need to always see if there any cards that are effectively dead cards in your hand. You will need to remove these cards, as well as any other cards that do not appear to do enough, and replace them with cards that better allow you to respond to the challenges that the deck encounters.

While you do need to make regular changes to your deck, you must not do so too hastily. Any new card you try out should at least have a chance to be played in a handful of games, in order to ensure that your sample size is at least moderately sufficient to make an accurate evaluation of the card.

5. Closing Words

Do not be concerned or disappointed if your deck fails. Some decks will just never work out, while others might be good in theory, but bad in the current meta-game.

As long as you can come up with decks that you enjoy playing, and that challenge you and make you think about the strategy of Hearthstone, then you are bound to have a good time, and to grow as a player. As time goes by, and you become more and more experienced, you will find that your decks will also become better and better.

As we said at the start of this article, it is a long process, and one that you will not be very good at from the start, but do not let this deter you!

6. ChangeLog

  • 19 Aug. 2014: Removed mentions of certain cards that we advised to never use (since the meta-game changed in such a way that they became viable).
  • 29 Mar. 2014: Removed a mention of using Tinkmaster Overspark, since the card is no longer competitively viable.
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