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Hearthstone Arena: From Beginner to Infinite #1: The Vanilla Test

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Welcome to the first of L0rinda's Arena mini-guides. L0rinda starts off the series with a simple card evaluation method.

16097-hearthstone-arena-from-beginner-to

The purpose of these mini-guides is going to be not only to teach you how to play better Arena, but also how to self-improve outside of the guides. I will be starting with the very basics and building up over the coming weeks to more complicated concepts.


The most important thing to realise about Arena is that you cannot rely on card synergy, particularly at the start of a draft. This means that the cards need to be evaluated on their stand-alone value far more than in constructed play. In this first article I'll be discussing how to evaluate cards on the most basic level, as this will be a useful building block for the future. When you first start playing Arena, evaluating all of the cards is a daunting task. For that reason I want to introduce you to something called the Vanilla Test.

A vanilla minion is a minion with no text. Examples of this can be seen below:
 

wfWM9L9.png


For any evaluation, you need a starting point. The Vanilla Test uses vanilla minions as a base. As these minions have no text, they provide a base level for us to compare minions of different mana costs. You can then ask if an upside on a card is worth the stats loss, or if a downside is worth the stats gain.

Let's start with an easy example. You have to decide between Goblin Sapper or Spider Tank. The Goblin Sapper has a point of power less than the Spider Tank and in return it gets the ability to be a 6/4 if your opponent has six cards in hand. While you can imagine that this card has potential in some constructed situations, it should be clear that the upside in Arena, where people are playing their hand as it comes, is very limited. This means that the Spider Tank is almost always the better card. However, this is not the main power of the Vanilla Test. The power comes in comparing cards of differing costs.

To show what I mean, let's consider Dark Cultist versus Priestess of Elune.
 

stLz5Zi.png


At first glance the cards are not very similar, but using the Vanilla Test it soon becomes apparent which is better. The Priestess of Elune gives up a point of power and three points of health compared to a Boulderfist Ogre. In return, she heals you for four health. That's a lot to give up, as healing your own face tends to only delay the inevitable and not develop your board. I think most players would agree that you would prefer the better stats of the Boulderfist Ogre. Against that, compare Dark Cultist to Spider Tank and the Cultist is actually better than the vanilla card outside of any Mech synergy. The Cultist is ahead of the vanilla minion, while the Priestess is behind. This means we can declare the Cultist better than the Priestess.

Comparing cards in this manner gets harder as the cards get closer together in power level. You will need experience to decide which abilities suit you better than others, and over time you will find you get better at doing this. You will also learn to adjust the value of cards based on small synergies your deck might pick up as the draft progresses. While you are gaining this experience, you will probably find a Tier List helpful. There are several available lists, our one, by Sottle, is available here. Hopefully using the Vanilla Test, you will be able to see why certain cards are rated the way they are. Over time you will be able to make your own evaluations, so remember to only use the list a crutch and not an absolute.

Part 2 of the series can be found here
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That's a great guide, but it might be confusing for newer players why Sen'jin is better than Venture Co. Mercenary, when Sen'jin loses one stat and Mercenary gains two stats (I've met such players). Also, new players tend to think that Tournament medic is a good card because it has all 9 stats and has a beneficial ability (I see way too many of them on 0-2 wins). Of course, it seems silly to better players, but the pro players aren't the target group, I suppose. Will you cover that in your following articles, or is just too specific to be included?

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I have a rough outline for the coming articles but any feedback is very likely to be included.

I have a feeling this particular point will gradually get tidied up in the near future, but if not, I'll be sure to bear it in mind as it is definitely a valid point.

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Attack vs health stats is a topic I would definitely like to see covered. I'm not a pro player but I think that's the drawback of certain minions that have 1 attack?

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I guess Murlock Raider would be the 1-mana point, and that 7/7 the 7-mana point?

Those are fine. You can use an imaginary 7/8 for the 7 point if you like. After reading these comments and some feedback from other places, I'll be covering those bits again, likely in the third installment.

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So, why is the Bloodfen Raptor (3/2) better than the River Crocolisk (2/3)?  Is it because it can trade up?

 

That being the case, why is the Chillwind Yeti (4/5) better than the Lost Tallstrider (5/4)?  Does health become more important at higher mana costs?

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So, why is the Bloodfen Raptor (3/2) better than the River Crocolisk (2/3)?  Is it because it can trade up?

 

That being the case, why is the Chillwind Yeti (4/5) better than the Lost Tallstrider (5/4)?  Does health become more important at higher mana costs?

You can use Bloodfen Raptor or the Crocolisk. I chose it so it didn't lead people to believe that the pattern was 100% relevant.

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So, why is the Bloodfen Raptor (3/2) better than the River Crocolisk (2/3)?  Is it because it can trade up?

 

That being the case, why is the Chillwind Yeti (4/5) better than the Lost Tallstrider (5/4)?  Does health become more important at higher mana costs?

Usually, an arena deck has less 1-drops (2/1s) than 3-drops, and most of 3-drops are 4/3. This is why Raptor trades up more often than he trades down. 

Tallstrider is worse than Yeti because of 4-dmg effects, such as Bomb Lobber, Soulfire or Flamestrike.

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I am by no means a pro player, and have seen many many guides like this, i know all the basics, favourable trading, good cards, when to face, weapon holding, using life as a resource but I just can't seem to win games, its so frustrating to me that I know these things and I don't know why I lose, I seem to never draw cards that impact the board, and when I do my opponent always clears them. I'm not saying I'm super ultra unlucky and that's the only reason why I lose games, and when people coach me while I'm playing I win, I just can't put my finger on what misplays I do.. I want to get proper coaching but I don't want to spend money. I can never seen to find the right plays, and other people can. Does anyone know how to help me?

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